Sunday, October 6, 2013

A step into a different type of heralding

I've never considered myself a book herald, and honestly, I don't find the discipline terribly rewarding, and much of its nomenclature is alien to me. its not that I don't appreciate it, or respect its purpose in the SCA, but let's be clear, I have never heavily studied the art.

But, as usually does happen with me, (in and out of the society) my personal wishes are not the only  forces that shape my path.

Following a meeting two weeks before Triumph, I was stepped away from a heraldry planning session when Lady Derega stepped up to our herald, Lord Lucas.

"Did you want to help with site heraldry?" he asked her.

"No, I have a totally different question." She walked over to him and showed him the submission forms for the arms she was working on. "Emma just said I can't submit these." She sounded more than a bit frustrated, and I didn't blame her. Those arms had been put together at King's college months before, researched to death, and the submission was only delayed because of some logistical issues on the part of the herald. She was eager to get it into the college and approved, but now there seems to be yet another hurdle to get over.
The conversation lasted only a few moments longer before the meeting was abruptly ended. Several things came together just then, necessitating us to depart. The Students had a demo to prepare for, we were at out 9 pm agreed upon departure time, and the Stillwater Multi-Arts center was wanting to close on time. The meeting disbanded into two groups, those who were going to campus to set up, and the rest of us, a smaller group, for whom a late night was just not an option.

For my part, my wife my son and myself were all due up before sunrise the next morning, staying up late, slinging signs and list-field poles would serve no one any good.

The "refugees" from setup congregated at our usual post-meeting haunt, the local Mazios. As it happened, I wound up sitting across from Derega, who was still none to happy with her heraldry situation.

She'd spent a huge measure of time at the consulting table at King's College, and the work she'd put into the design was impressive, especially for someone as relatively young to the SCA as she was. Evidently Emma has seen her, or spoke with her at the beginning of the meeting and explained that something about her design was not acceptable and that she would have to change it.

Three things really worked against her here, and all three were visibly grating on her. First, we are just a couple months in the school year, and her schedule (not unlike Mine, my wife's and my son's, coincidentally, though for different reasons all), was more or less wall to wall activity, with no break. School, work, SCA... and so forth. She was tired, stressed, generally frustrated already, and now Emma came in and more or less landed an off-handed comment about "this won't work".

That really is the second major complaint for me; Derega walked away from the encounter with only enough to know what she had wouldn't' work, and not any more. Not the worst way to approach the issue, but it sure was up there. And finally, the amount of work she did put into it was considerable. I remember watching her pouring over heraldry books for some hours at King's College, documenting examples, taking extensive notes... the works... and now, as far as we were concerned she just got hit with a technicality.

Most of dinner for us was casual chatter, none of us were overly energetic. The days were long, the nights were longer, and usually not for any enjoyable reasons. Conversation, as I recall, was light, inconsequential, and a lot of us just enjoying what chance we had to forget the day. We departed that night, and when I got home I wound up going to bed relatively early (at least for me).

Wednesday was another long day for me; up early, long hours at work, and then a long drive back. But, like the Wednesday before, it was also archery.

It's probably been over five years since the last time I donned armor, a combination of health, time, money, goals and politics were what finally worked me away from that life in the SCA, and while I don't regret the decisions that led me away, I do miss it.

Archery, however, does appeal to me in many of the same ways, but without  a lot of the drawbacks that heavy combat brought with it. There is no win or loss with the bow, just a goal, a tool, and a distance to bridge between them. For me, its not hard to understand the characteristics of the art that lead to Japanese to take it up as a form of meditation. Wednesday afternoon was the meditative period I needed, and the socialization as well.

At the moment, a typical Mooneschadowe shoot consists of about 5 minutes off shooting, and about 15 (and at times more) of recovering arrows that never hit the target. While we're all walking about trying to decide which clump of grass has the missing arrows, a lot of talk is exchanged, and usually, its a lot of venting about the day, or talk about life or... whatever. Just a chance to get to know the person next to you a little better if nothing else.

We also had a new member there, a recruit from the college intramural archery team who thought what we did sounded cool. She was there, like most new members, wide eyed and starting from the beginning, but was friendly and welcomed without hesitation from us. Derega spent some time coaching her on shooting techniques while I tried to get my grouping down at the 30 yard Target.

We finally closed the day out in time to break down the range and head our separate ways. As I took down one of the targets and walked it back to Degera's car, I felt refreshed mentally. The focus of the range helped me to clear my thoughts, and the work helped me to burn off extra energy.

Something of an informal ritual following Wednesday shoots is for a handful of us to meet and have a quick dinner together. Tonight was no exception, with our newcomer, myself, my 7 year old son (who also shoots, albeit only occasionally), and Derega.  Normally I pick my wife up, but she was swamped with school work that night, so we both opted to let her have some extra peace while I grabbed dinner.

It was only once we were all sitting down and talking that I started to see the stress that Derega hadn't shed with the rest of us at the range. She was still burned out, and when she got on to the topic of her heraldry, she started to visibly shake, and more than once I heard her voice crack.

I know that now, in the sterile environment of words on paper it seems easy to dismiss her tears as silly, but trust me, her emotions were quite warranted. Beyond all of what I mentioned before, she was now just two weeks from Triumph, and she would be running all of the archery there, so... add that to the list of life, work, SCA and whatever that she was carrying around. We were all feeling it to one extent or another, I think that I was more hardened against the worst of it all after a decade and a half in the middle of it. Derega was scantly into her second year, and less than six months as an officer.

(addendum: to clarify... those tears were not those of a fragile woman. Derega has become to be one of the most determined and focused people I know. The sight of her that shaken didn't speak of weakness, but of someone who was willing to push herself forward where others would likely crumble. Fatigue created frustration which created more fatigue and so on.... a cycle she not only survived, but eventually overcame.)

For all my voice heraldry, I've never been any good at all at book heraldry. But still, I knew how the college of heralds works, and I know who to talk to, which was more than anyone else at the table could say.

"Can I see your submission form?" I said, somewhat interrupting her as she vented about the whole messed up situation.

"Um, sure." she reached into her bag and pulled out one of the colored sheets.
"I'll tell you what," I said as I took out my phone and snapped a photo of  it. "Let me take this to the herald's Facebook group and see what they say."

Derega seemed taken aback at the offer."Okay..." she said, I'm sure not wanting to get her hopes up.

"Look, the first thing we need to do it get some details about why Emma thinks this won't pass, and then we need to see what we can do to make it passable. What do you remember of what Emma did tell you?"

She tried to recall, but the conversation was too distant, and her frustration too high. The poor girl started to tear up again at the whole mess.

I reached across the table just then and took her hand, "Hey, listen to me." I reassured her. "Let me tackle this for a while. There is no reason for you to beat your head against a wall right now. I know who to talk to and who to ask questions of."

She took a second to compose herself, and then smiled. "Thank you."

I laughed, "Thank me after this is over," I quipped.

While we were talking  I was concentrating on heraldry, and remembering why I got into heraldry all those years ago. it was an interesting reflection.

For me, it was more than just being loud and easily heard; there was an art, a pageantry, a beauty to it that helped set the SCA apart from the world around it. It wasn't one eureka moment, but a gradual progression away from others things, and towards heraldry for me. I did it, in large part to help make others look better.
I guess, in many respects that was why I was stepping in to help Degera here, to help her look better, with a registered set of arms to show with her AOA.

Dinner concluded, and we went our separate ways, my son and I went home where I went to Facebook and posted the photo on the herald's chat group. Not long after, the first replies starting coming.

The first hangup was the black bird on a red background, color on color. I wasn't overly worried about that... the new provisions allowed  for an exception if we could document three cases of it in period. I knew that Derega had such documentation.

The line of division was another point, but I wasn't too worried about that as they were more concerned with the drawing. So long as the crenelations were redrawn larger, and with fewer of them, we would probably be in good shape.

The bird, however... another story. Evidently "migrant" is a modern invention, thanks to early heralds in the SCA. That was going to require some fancy footwork, and more expertise than I had at the moment.

I had something to work with at least. Something that I could take back to Derega and begin working with.

It would still be a long process, but at least we had a direction to go.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"


Jennifer said...

The April 2013 LoAR Cover Letter ( may be helpful, scroll down to the "From Wreath: Individually Attested Patterns and You" section.

I'm leery of the documentation, having not seen the current version, just because I've not seen anyone yet manage to document a black charge on a red part of the field (that's a low-contrast combination) *with* a high-contrast charge/field combination on the other part of the field. I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm just saying I haven't seen any successful documentation of that overall pattern yet.

I'd really like to see her device submission sail through without any hiccups!

Anonymous said...

I know the article wasn't to boast your helpfulness. I dont know you as well as some, but I do know you.. While I read it I remembered a REALLY shy, fairly new guy that wanted to learn voice heraldry a little bit.. You walked "him" around for quite a while and figuratively held his hand until he was ready to fly on his own.. I'm thankful this world has people like yourself in it. - ex-Lorenzo Martin