Registering a name and device can take about six months minimum, and often much longer. It depends on many factors. The process goes something like this:
You start by approaching your local herald, bringing with you whatever ideas and documentation you may have. Don’t worry if you don’t have any — heralds love working with their clients to make up something really spiffy. If you have any books or web site URLs that might help, bring them, but be aware that your herald may be wary of some documentation. A book with a title like 1001 Faerie And Elf Names For Your New Baby by Ms Crystal Moonchild will not carry the same weight as, for example, Elizabeth G Withycombe’s Oxford Dictionary Of English Christian Names.
Once you and your herald have worked out a suitable name and device, it’s usually a good idea to take them both away, pin copies to your cubicle wall at work and your fridge at home, and live with them for a month to ensure you really do like them. While you’re doing this, your herald will wisely be double- and triple- checking the new designs with the various resources available for such a purpose. With luck, by the time you’ve become quite convinced that this is exactly who you wish to be within the Society, your herald will have confirmed that there are indeed no problems of style or conflict, and you’re ready to go.
The next step is to make the appropriate number of copies. Hand these to your herald, in an unsealed A4 envelope with suitable postage to reach the Rocket Herald. Rocket is one of the Crux Australis Principal Herald’s deputies, and is in charge of the whole process of handling submissions. See the former Rocket’s advice on what mistakes were commonly made in submissions to her; avoiding them will shave months off the time it takes to get your submissions registered.
The next step involves the Kingdom commentary period. This is where heralds throughout Lochac (and some from well beyond) come together to look at all the submissions and try to beat them into registerable shape. Sometimes they can’t do this; some submissions will be returned for style problems or conflict, which usually means the herald who authorised them didn’t check quite thoroughly enough, or (blush) made a silly mistake somewhere. (I would be much sterner about this if I hadn’t made some truly awful mistakes in my time…)
If your submission is returned, Rocket will send you a polite and detailed letter explaining what you can do to fix it. As soon as you receive this, get back in touch with your herald, who will also have received news direct from Rocket, and together you can do what needs to be done to fix it. Don’t feel that you’re being singled out and persecuted here! Names and devices are sometimes found to be unregisterable for the oddest of reasons, but in every case the heralds in the College want to do everything they can to make it all better. But they care about the standard of heraldry in the Society, which is always improving, and they would rather encourage you to improve than register something that you and they might regret!
Presuming the local College of Heralds in Lochac approves of your name and device, they now travel on to the College of Arms, a large collection of heralds who comment on name and device submissions. There are some amazingly educated heralds in this group, but the earlier comments about wanting to do everything to make you happy still apply. Over the next four months, these heralds will discuss your submissions. Quoting the former Crux Australis Herald, Baron Uberto Renaldi, here:
The SCA-wide heraldic community is the College of Arms. Each kingdom has its own College of Heralds. The commenting period for each submission is four months [but if the Laurel Sovereign of Arms requires it] it has another four months of commentary allowed on it. … Laurel sets a cut-off date by which comments must be made, and formally considers the submission at their meeting about a month later. It might be worth mentioning that it usually takes 5-6 months for the decisions from each of Laurel’s meetings to be prepared and distributed, which explains why submitters can get a letter in October saying “your submission was considered at Laurel’s meeting in May…”.
This is still true — I’ve sneakily edited Uberto’s comment to reflect a slight increase in the time taken nowadays. Because nearly everything is done online, you can see the results of the College of Arm’s deliberations, but not the comments, on OSCAR, the Onlined System for Commentary and Response.
Once Laurel has ruled, your name and device will be included in a Letter of Acceptance and Return. With luck, it will be in the Acceptance section, not the Return section! You will receive a letter from Rocket informing you that your registration is successful, and from then until the end of time, they will belong exclusively to you.
If you’ve made multiple submissions — usually a name and a device — and one is returned but the other is OK, you will only need to redo the ones that didn’t work. If your name is OK and your device has problems, your name will carry on up the pipeline as usual. If your device is OK but Laurel rules that your name has problems, she will form a holding name (such as John of Politarchopolis, or Jane of Lochac) and your device will be registered under that name. You can resubmit your name, and your holding name will be replaced with your new SCA name (if the resubmission is within three years, no resubmission fee will be charged to the Kingdom).
If all goes well, this process will take no more than ten months, and often as little as six. I submitted my own device in November of 2000 and it was registered in the LoAR of April 2001, which I heard about in June. This is about typical for the registrations I’ve seen. Naturally, if things seem to be taking a very long time, consult your herald and see what the holdup is. Submissions don’t often go missing, but if they do it’s usually possible to find them or, if worse comes to worst, resubmit them and give them a bit of a hurry-on.
Author: Karl Faustus von Aachen (with corrections by Wakeline de Foxley, Uberto Renaldi, Tamsyn Northover, Eleyne de Comnocke and Alexander a la Fontayne). Last updated: 6 February 2014 (AS XLVIII).