To the Kingdom and College of Lochac, greetings from Karl Faustus Crux Australis.
I thought I might do something different this month. Once again, hiccups in the commenting system have caused Lochac to fall off the monthly Letter of Acceptances and Returns, so to fill up space in your “drab, wretched lives” (© Tom Lehrer) I thought I might share with you the secret road map that has been guiding my term as Crux.
This is a song I wrote years ago, to the tune of The Last Saskatchewan Pirate, by The Arrogant Worms. It’s all about my experience as a herald, slightly exaggerated. I mention this, not just because I am inspired by Joss Whedon to throw in a musical episode when things are getting a bit quiet, but also because I have seen it as kind of a list of all the things that needed fixing in the College of Heralds, so whenever I was looking for something to mess around with I used this as my source of ideas.
It has footnotes to help you follow along.
The Last Lochacian Herald
Karl Faustus von Aachen, 1998
To the tune of The Last Saskatchewan Pirate by the Arrogant Worms
Well, I used to be a newbie, had a lot to fill my days,
A-cooking and calligraphy and archery displays,
But one September morning as I sat amid the crowd,
A double-peer espied me and she told me, “Gosh, you’re loud”.
A voice like I’d been blessed with was a useful tool
To let it stay un-utilised, I’d surely be a fool!
I ought to see if anyone could fit me in a role
Confucius say, no man can dig himself out of a hole!
Then I thought: who gives a damn if there are tender ears around?
I’m gonna be a herald and make loud, obnoxious sounds!
’Cause it’s an oh-yay, oy-vey, mispronounce a name,
Lose your registration and never take the blame
And it’s an oh hey, no way, everyone look out,
When you see the golden trumpets and you hear the mighty shout.
Well I learned the way to run a court, and let my voice be heard
Occasion’ly the king would talk, but really that’s absurd
The heralds are the royal voice, all eyes are shining onto
And kings are gone in half a year, so we do what we want to.
A superduke politely tried to register a name,
We gave him books in Greek and Dutch and said, “Just play the game”
Fill out your forms in triplicate, be sure it’s fully checked,
It shouldn’t take us more than half a decade to reject.
Well, Blazon is our language, it’s a form of mangled French,
You’d think it was invented to impress a comely wench.
But listen up, I’ll tell you all the reason why it’s used:
It’s ’cause it makes it easier to keep you all confused!
A herald’s staff, a tabard green, and nerds for company
We sit around inventing rules to thwart the royalty.
Your favourite charge is disallowed, by Laurel Queen’s decree;
If you wanna get your coat of arms, you gotta get by me!
Well the herald life’s appealing but it’s also pretty hard.
You have to watch the fights and write the winner on a card.
And when you call a Gaelic name to combat for the round,
You need to gargle gravel first, to get the proper sound.
Now first remove is coming, there are servers I should call;
I stand up straight and pompous at the far end of the hall.
I’m trained in voice projection, the better to be heard:
And so you know I’ll flerble grarble borgle every word!
1. Based on a true story. It was September Coronet in Politarchopolis, 1992, when some loud and allegedly witty comment I’d made was overheard by none other than Mistress Rowan Peregrine, Blessed Be Her Name. Granted the option to pull rank and tell the newbie to shush, she instead made a constructive suggestion: why not put my voice to good use? I did, and here we are. I follow her example even now, which is why I’m on the lookout for voice heralds at every event. Every herald with the rank of Pursuivant or above has the mystic power to create new heralds, either by the traditional nine-month-gestation method (which is risky; you could end up with a marshal instead!) or else by tapping them formally on the shoulder and intoning the ceremonial words: “Oi, sunshine, you like heralding, do you? Right then! You’re a herald!” After which they’re invited to email me and get on the roster.
2. Folly does, of course, remain an option even for heralds. The piece of advice I give budding court heralds in particular is this: court heraldry consists of 20% performing, and 80% knowing when not to.
3. Though it’s harder to teach voice heraldry via the internet, there are resources out there for learning all aspects of the role. This is one of my goals for the rest of my term: encouraging heralds to improve their fellows’ skills in the area of vocal work.
4. It’s harder to shirk blame now. Heralds are invited to join OSCAR, the Online System for Commentary And Response, which lets them not only see how their clients’ submissions are going but also add comments to theirs and others’. I’ve tried to emphasise that every submission should have a rostered herald listed as consulting herald, and heralds are required to subscribe to the Blazons mailing list and encouraged to join the Lochac Heraldry Chat group on Facebook, because that enables us to keep the channels of communication open. And best of all, there’s the open secret of OSCAR 181: the page listing every single submission from every kingdom, from the moment it arrives at the submission herald’s PO Box until the announcement, a scant few months later, that it’s been accepted (most of the time). Anyone can look at that, and get in touch with their herald if they see any errors or omissions.
5. The golden trumpets are a pet peeve of mine. I much prefer heralds to wear the arms of their kingdom, barony, shire, canton or college, as appropriate, rather than the badge of the College of Heralds. A judge in a law court, after all, wears the robes of the court, not the clothes she graduated from law school in. I wrote about this in CAMEL in November 2013.
6. One innovation that predates my term is the little document than Canon Herald, my deputy in charge of awards, sends to each new Crown Prince and Princess. It explains a few useful things about how we record awards, lets them know of their options as far as communicating with the College of Heralds, and also mentions any people who they should not give awards to, like the handful who for personal reasons don’t wish to be called up in court, and the slightly larger number who have been ejected permanently from the SCA. This little document sets a useful precedent: it tells the new prospective royalty that Their heralds are at work, and makes sure the appropriate email addresses are there in their inbox. The channels thus opened tend to remain that way, which is a good thing for the kingdom.
7. Nowadays we have a lot of online resources, the chief of which for names is the Medieval Names Archive. It’s also possible to search genealogical records, with some caveats, to find actual historical records. It’s still a good idea to involve an experienced name herald, for which the Lochac Heraldry Chat group mentioned above is an excellent resource, but for just noodling about and experimenting with ideas, there are more resources out there than ever before.
8. You’ll be aware by now that filling forms out in triplicate is a thing of the past. Now that everything is handled online once it gets to Rocket Herald, we don’t need multiple copies any more. By all means make sure you and your consulting herald have copies to hand for the sake of paranoia, but the umpteen extra copies for submission are no longer required. One colour and one outline copy of armory, one copy of forms and documentation, and that’s it. And see my April CAMEL (coming soon) for a rant on how to reduce that quantity even more!
9. That’s changed too! We can now reject (or more likely accept) your submission in under six months, thanks to changes at all levels of the College of Arms. Which means something important: if you submitted something more than six months ago and you haven’t heard back about it, contact your consulting herald to find out what’s going on!
10. Confusion is still possible, which is why I promote the Lochac Heraldry Chat group, as mentioned previously. Heralds are available to reduce your confusion. The language of blazon and the process of conflict checking can be tricky, but there are experts happy to help, In Our Copious Free Time (© Tom Lehrer, again).
11. See footnote 5. I had too much exposure to the Canberra Raiders hype machine as a youngster; green and yellow just annoys me.
12. OK, this is still true. But we’re loveable nerds!
13. The College of Arms tries to maintain and improve its standards of authenticity, but this doesn’t only mean banning things. Pentacles, for example, used to be banned because they might cause offence, presumably to easily-offended Christians and/or Moslems. It was pointed out that religious bigotry is one of the aspects of the middle ages (and, sadly, of the modern age) that we make a point of not recreating, and that pentacles were used in period heraldry all over the place, often as a Christian symbol! So the restriction was lifted, and there was much rejoicing… oh, except that it’s not called a pentacle, due to some historical confusions, so call it a mullet voided and interlaced.
14. I’m always on the look-out for good tutorials on Gaelic pronunciation, because my gods it’s complicated! The Lochac College of Heralds website is becoming the place to go for this sort of thing, and I plan to improve it further over the coming months.
15. Yeah, this bit will never change. Ah well!