Q&A: Registering Names and Devices with Mistress Alys Mackyntoich
Why would I want to register my name in the SCA?
Having a correct medieval name adds to the ambiance of events. In addition, you must have a registered name in order to register a device. Unique medieval heraldry can be used for banners, penons, shields, livery, etc. Your SCA name and heraldry provide you a unique opportunity to redefine yourself.
What are the requirements for picking an official name?
An SCA name must have two elements. The elements should be from the same language, or from two closely related languages. There is a table in the Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory (SENA) that tell us which languages can be combined.
An SCA name must use period spellings. History books often modernize spellings to make them “easier” for modern readers. Modernizing is more common with older spellings than with later-period ones.
What are the requirements for registering a device?
A device must follow period models for heraldic designs and be free from conflicts with other registered SCAdian armory. We no longer check for conflicts against all real world heraldry. Only famous or significant heraldry (including modern flags of countries) is relevant for conflicts.
Can you give us examples of period names that sound unusual to a modern ear? (Humorous or otherwise…)
There are a lot of period names that sound surprising to modern ears. For example:
- Mongo: This is both a Scottish and a Mongol name
- Miriel: It may look Elvish, but it can be documented to 13th century England.
- Barberella: This name can be dated to c. 1210 in England.
- Wendy: Although this name was once thought to have been invented in the 19th century, I recently found evidence of it in late-period England.
- Han: No, not Hans. Han, as in Solo. A few years ago, for an April Fool’s heraldry session, I documented “Han Shott Furst” as a period name.
- Uriel: The name of the angel of death was used as a male given name in late-period Germany.
What is the difference between a device and a badge?
For administrative purposes within the SCA, a “device” is the primary piece of visual art used to define you in the Society. If you have an Award of Arms, your device can be referred to as your “arms.”
A “badge” is any other piece of visual art associated with you. You can have up to six pieces of armory – so one “device” and five “badges.” Badges are usually simpler than arms, but not necessarily so. If you have alternate personas, their devices/arms are called “badges” for administrative purposes, even if they look like devices/arms.
When you’re talking about period practice, the answer is a little more complicated. Speaking quite broadly, a device/arms defines you. The only people wearing it should be you or your herald. A badge identifies things that are yours. Your household, your dependents, etc. display your badge. That’s something of an over-simplification, but details varied in period depending on era and culture.
What online or book sources would you suggest for research?
There are now a number of excellent online name research sources. Some of the best are:
- The SCA Heraldry Page
- The Medieval Name Archive
- The Academy of St. Gabriel
- The Viking Answer Lady
- PASE Database (Anglo-Saxon and Old English)
- PBW Database (Byzantine)
- Family Search Historic Records The June 2011 Cover Letter from the Laurel Sovereign of Arms of the SCA College of Heralds permits the use of extracted data as name documentation. Only certain of the Batches of records are usable as documentation. Those Batches are: C, J, K, M (except M17 and M18), or P. When citing an IGI record be sure to include the Batch number. [May 2013 Cover Letter ]. The Family Search Records are effectively a no-photocopy source as long as the Batch number is included.
- British History Online British History Online has searchable primary source records. Some of them have modernized spellings; some modernize only given names and the text but leave the bynames in the original spellings; some preserve the original spellings completely. Look over the source carefully to determine whether a spelling is period.
Are there any on-line resources to show me what period heraldry looks like?
Yes. Universities and libraries have digitized a lot of period heraldry manuscripts in recent years. You can find a lot of pictures of period heraldic style. Here are some that I recommend:
- The Bigot Role
- The Caerlaverock Roll
- The Cheshire Visitations
- Siebmacher’s Wappenbuch
- The Stirling Roll
- Wappenbuch Bayere
Where can I find someone to help me pick a name or design a device?
There is now an “Ask a Herald” application linked off of the East Kingdom website, under the “Getting Involved” pull down menu. This application connects you to a herald for research and paperwork help. It’s not the same as actually submitting a name or device.
How does the registration process work and how long does it take?
The registration process starts when the Kingdom Submissions Herald (that’s me), receives paperwork and submission fees. Fees are $8.00 per item. You don’t need a herald to help you prepare the paperwork, but I highly recommend it.
The forms can be found here.
Once I receive the forms, I enter the submission information for the name, device or badge into an electronic program called OSCAR. Once a month, I release a “letter” on OSCAR with all of the submissions received that month. You can see the letters here.
For about a month, heralds within the East Kingdom and some from outside the East will comment on the submissions on the letter, checking documentation, doing additional research, and checking for conflicts with existing names and devices. At the end of the month, I decide whether the submission needs to be returned for further work or should go up for further commentary at the Society level. You can see the Letters of Decision here.
If I decide to send the submissions up, they go into another OSCAR database for review and commentary by heralds throughout the Society. That process takes about two more months.
At the end of that review and commentary process, the chief armory herald (Wreath Sovereign of Arms) and the chief name herald (Pelican Sovereign of Arms) hold meetings with their staffs where they make decisions to accept or reject submissions. These meetings discuss submissions from throughout the Society, not just the East.
After the meetings, Pelican and Wreath write up their decisions in a Letter of Acceptances and Returns. The writing process takes about a month or so. The public can find and read the LoARs here.
Overall, we average about 8-9 months these days from submission to decision.
If you submit your name or device or badge at Pennsic Herald’s Point, it will actually take longer than if you submit it another time of year. The East gets, on average, about 175 submissions out of Pennsic. We can only reasonably handle commentary on a maximum of 50-55 submissions a month. It takes us until nearly Christmas to work through the Pennsic deluge of submissions and the resulting backlog of submissions that I receive after Pennsic.