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Field-Herldry-art - 5/29/02


Field Heraldry by H.L. Alden Pharamond.


NOTE: See also the files: voice-herldry-msg, banners-msg, heraldry-msg, heraldry-bks-msg, p-heralds-msg, Sinister-Hand-art, arms-humor-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org




by H.L. Alden Pharamond


One of the most visible and (I feel) one of the most enjoyable aspects of heraldry is what we in the SCA call Field Heraldry.  In this article, we will discuss the field herald, what he (or she) is, what he does, and how he does it.


The field herald is, first and foremost, the Voice of the Crown (capitals intended).  Just like any other herald, he speaks with the authority of the Crown (or ruling noble) behind him.


A herald's next duty serves the same purpose as a sports announcer does mundanely.  He lets everyone know what's going on, who's fighting whom, and who won.  By the way, this isn't something the SCA invented.  Field heraldry was a very necessary, and (sometimes) lucrative job.  It was not uncommon for the tournament contestants to hire their own herald, or pay off the herald in charge.  The better the pay, the better they sounded when they were announced.


Another duty of the field herald, just as much fun but slightly less appreciated, is that of town crier and medieval alarm clock.  Announcements, wake‑up calls, and the like fall to us by virtue of our volume.


So "Hey", says you, "this sounds like fun! How do I do this?" Well, the first requisite of a field herald is to BE ABLE TO BE HEARD.  So if you have a loud or carrying voice, or have been told you're a loudmouth (two different things), you might be qualified.


However, before you start heralding, there are three fundamentals that apply to every aspect of verbal (field and court) heraldry.  These are Projection, Presence, and Preparation. After we have dealt with them, we will get to actual field heraldry and announcements.  




As we already stated, volume is a necessity for the field herald.  So our first topic will be How To Be Loud. "Projection" is a term commonly understood by actors and singers; it is the combination of posture, breathing, and use of vocal cords to produce the most volume with the least effort.  It is difficult to explain projection without demonstrating; if you have trouble, seek out a herald, or someone with performing experience.  And now, after telling you how difficult it is to explain projection, I will attempt to do so...  


First, make sure your posture is good.  Stand up straight; chest out, stomach in, shoulders back, head up.  This provides a straight path for the air and sound.  Now that you're standing there looking like a recruiting poster for a military academy, what comes next? Simple.  Relax.  Don't slump over, just stay where you are and relax your position.  You can't herald if you're all tensed up.  

Next, you have to find your diaphragm.  This is the layer of muscle under your lungs that helps you breathe.  Take the edges of your hands, and rest them under your ribs, just above your beltline.  Now, cough hard.  You should feel that layer of muscle jump. This is what you want to use when you herald.  You want to push up from the bottom of your lungs, not just get all the air out of them.  Believe it or not, your lungs act as a resonating chamber for the sound; that's why it's so loud. When you herald, you should push the air the same way as when you cough, but with more control.  Breathe fully and evenly; don't gasp or try to force it all out at once (you might succeed!).


Now we move on to vocal cords. The first thing most people want to do to "herald" is clamp down with their throats to make the sound.  This is sort of like trying to drive your car with the emergency brake on.  It isn't very effective, and it hurts your car besides.  Your vocal cords use the air, and modulate it to the sounds you want. Don't tighten up your throat; it will constrict the sound, and turn your vocal cords into rags.  You're using far more air when you herald than when you talk, so you need less contraction of your vocal cords.  Keep an even column of sound and air moving up from your diaphragm.  In general, keep your tone near your normal speaking voice.  If you have a rather high‑pitched voice, you can drop it down a little to get more carrying power.  DON'T vary the pitch too much from your normal tone; this can permanently damage your voice! If you're starting to have trouble at your normal pitch, it's probably time to stop for a while; your voicebox is getting tired.  Remember that although technique and posture will help, your diaphragm and vocal cords are muscles. They will only get stronger with use.  Everything I just talked about takes a lot longer to learn and perfect than it took to read.  Use the opportunities that you're given to practice.  For example, the next time your children are up the street goofing off, instead of yelling at them to come home; stop, gather yourself together, and PROJECT! You'll be surprised at the results (and so will your kids!).


There are other things that affect volume as well, such as clothing.  Keep your clothing loose in the chest, so you can get full expansion.  Avoid heavy cloaks; they pull your shoulders down, and compress your lungs.  Don't wear high heels; they will affect your posture adversely as well.  Keep your throat well lubricated; water, coffee, lemonade, and soft drinks are good.  Lemon drops also work well.  Don't drink milk and then try to herald.  It coats your vocal cords, and clogs up your throat.  


Another important part of projection is using the wind and terrain to your advantage.  Always try to stand upwind (with the wind at your back), or on a high point (or both).  It is a courtesy to avoid turning your back on the Crown if you can help it; however, you must aim your calls to the largest concentration of people.  When they are spread out, such as around a list field, and there is no wind: center yourself as best you can, and hold your head up a little higher.  This will help your voice to carry all around rather than in one direction.  Remember to keep your head up when speaking or reading.  


One last part of projection is technique.  This is not what you say (this comes later), but how you say it.  There are two styles of heralding that I know of; these I will label Gregorian and Imperative. Gregorian heralding has a sing‑song tone, and the words are more drawn out; while Imperative sounds more like normal, but urgent, speech.  Of the two, I prefer the Imperative style.  While Gregorian sounds very pretty and impressive (like a Latin Mass), many people complain that they cannot understand what is being said.  I have heard very good heralds do Gregorian, and often I myself cannot understand them.  Imperative, however, is easy to understand, because it has the same inflections as ordinary conversation.  


In either case, it is important to stress the accented syllables (and words).  As an example: "OY‑yeh, OY‑yeh! My LORDS, LA‑dies, and GEN‑tles, pray at‑TEND!" Just say it to yourself, then repeat it out loud, with feeling.  This makes your voice carry farther, and also keeps it from fading into the background noise.  




This next section, although small, is just as important as all the others.  It involves the way you conduct yourself, and execute your duties, otherwise known as (you guessed it) Presence.  When you put on your baldric, pick up your staff, open your mouth, or whatever, you are a HERALD.  As the Voice of the Crown, you are expected to act in a manner that will not embarrass Their Majesties.


It is also the herald's job to enhance the mood that the SCA is trying to create.  A perfect illustration of this is a quote from Baron Robin of Gilwell:


"Out there, standing in a cow pasture, are a C.P.A.  and an auto mechanic, wearing dresses, and hitting each other with sticks. The herald's job is to turn that into chivalric combat on the field of honor."


See what I mean?


Now, everyone is nervous the first time they walk out on the field, but you must be in control of the situation. You don't have to look apologetic because you interrupted someone's story of how the computer crashed last week, or because two fighters off to the side have to stop their warm-up.  You are there to get things going, and if you behave like it's not important, no‑one will pay any attention to you. Before every fight, and for every announcement, the field is yours.  


I would caution you, however, that having "presence" does not mean acting "stuck‑up". Don't try to be pompous or self‑important.  Remember: "Take the job, but not yourself, seriously." If a tournament is going on in the pouring rain, and two fighters in plate armor walk out on the field, there is nothing wrong with belting out in your best heraldic voice: "Fighters salute your rusty and honorable opponent." Just keep in mind that there is a time and a place for everything, and the final round of Crown tournament is probably not it.  If you're not sure, play it safe and stick to your normal litany.  


Another bit of information here: Historically, in order to preserve the dignity of the office, and herald could not be challenged for any reason pertaining to his duties, and quite often not at all.  They also traditionally carried no weapons while performing their duties.  These tenets carry over to the Current Middle Ages as well.  If some hot‑headed fighter doesn't like your pronunciation of his name, and throws a gauntlet down at you, you may VERY POLITELY refer him to the King. This is also a reminder of the importance of maintaining proper dignity; that self‑same King will be the one crooking His finger at you if you embarrass Him.



This, in my observation, is the most neglected area of field heraldry.  Too often, it is approached on a "catch‑as‑catch‑can" basis, and as more and more mistakes get made, it destroys the flavor of the Dream we are trying to create. Preparation covers many areas, and most of them will be itemized in the following sections.  But there are a couple of things we can discuss in general.  


Before you start to herald, particularly in the morning, you need to warm up.  Stretch out your back, neck and shoulder muscles.  Remember that your vocal cords are muscles, too. Yawning, talking, humming, and singing are all good warm-ups for your voice.

Pay attention to how you're dressed.  We discussed the clothing that hinders projection, but don't forget what's good for your body.  Keep your head covered by wearing a wide hat, or at least a wimple, in the sun.  Keep your throat and chest warm in the cold (scarves and sweaters are good for this.) As a herald, you will stand out there far longer than the fighters, so take care of yourself.  


While we're on the subject of clothing, let's discuss your heraldic attire.  There are many types of heraldic regalia and insignia.  The most common of these are the green baldric (sash) with crossed gold trumpets on the front (worn from the left shoulder to the right hip), and the green tabard (a sideless & usually sleeveless tunic) with crossed gold horns on the front and back.  These often have specific meaning to indicate heraldic rank, however the most important thing about heraldic regalia is that you be recognized as a herald.  In my opinion, any regalia is better than none at all.  While you should wear the appropriate heraldic garb for your rank, if the only thing available is the regalia of someone of a different heraldic rank than you are entitled to, wear it! (Those industrious souls out there might consider making an extra baldric or two to loan out.)


The other important item is your herald's staff.  It serves several functions.  First, it draws attention to you.  Second, it allows you to indicate an individual or area more clearly. Third, it protects you, just like a marshal's staff.  And lastly, it looks nice! (Remember that mood we were trying to create?) By all means, make one! A length of clothes pole is better than nothing, but rattan is safer.  Smooth it out, and paint it green.  If you want to top it off with ribbons and bells, or a gold ornament, so much the better.  


A large part of preparation is organization.  It is extremely important to have all of your heraldic activities coordinated.  If heralds (or other people) just wander around announcing things on their own, some people will get the wrong information, others will get no information, and Very Important People with Very Important Titles will get Very Irritated.  Someone has to make decisions, write the announcements, assign heralds to specific areas, et cetera.  Who is this bastion of sanity and control, you ask? The answer is the local herald. When a local group is holding an event, that group's herald should be the one in charge.  If this individual can't be there, or won't have time to run the heraldry, it is his/her responsibility to find a replacement.  


"But I don't know what to do!" wails the poor Cornet who finds Crown Tourney laid in his lap.  That is the purpose of this guide, but we all know that new problems always arise. When (not "if") they do, seek out someone with more experience than you have.  This may include a senior herald, the List Mistress, or even the Head Marshal.  They've been in the same situations before, and can help you out.  If you can handle a problem yourself, by all means, do so; but don't get in over your head.  


"So what do the rest of us do?" comes the chorus from every other herald.  Answer: Offer your assistance.  When you get to an event, seek out the Autocrat, and ask him who is in charge of the heraldry.  Remember that this poor individual is very busy, so try to catch him/her at one of the slightly less hectic moments.  If you get no coherent answer, and the local herald will not be there, offer your services to the autocrat.  Quite often you will be gratified at the response!


More will be said about this later, but the upshot of it is: if you take on the title of "herald", you must take on the responsibilities as well.  Learn to think of yourself as a herald, not just someone who can do field heraldry.  




We have discussed all the little points of field heraldry, and now we'll start to put them together.  In this section we will address the actual heralding of a tournament.  


First, we must define some terms. Too many times, heralds will interchange certain terms and confuse everyone. Learn these terms and their definitions as applied to heraldry, and then stick to them.


--Ruling Noble: A noble hosting an event; such as a territorial baron hosting a baronial champion tourney.  Hereafter I will use the Crown (King & Queen) as examples, but remember that any other ruling noble commands the same respect.


--List Master/Mistress: The one who runs the tournament, also your boss.  (S)he is the brain, you are the hands and voice.  Hereafter referred to as the L.M.


--Field Marshal: The people on the field responsible for safety.  The Head Marshal (usually the one with the most experience) is in charge of the field whenever there are fighters on it.


--Fight: When two individuals contend on the field, until one fighter falls (only once).


--Bout: When two individuals fight one, two or more fights, and then leave the field.  


--Round: The series of bouts involving all fighters, or those remaining in the tournament.  


--Pairing: The matching of two fighters against each other in a tournament (by means of skill, chance, or evil intent).  The pairings are usually drawn by the L.M.


--Single Elimination: A form of tournament in which a fighter is eliminated from the tournament by a single opponent in a single round (may take more than one fight.)

--Double Elimination: A form of tournament in which a fighter must be defeated by two (usually different) opponents in separate rounds to be eliminated.  


--Bye: When an odd number of fighters participate, one is left over after the pairings are drawn.  To keep things fair, this individual will usually fight someone not competing in the tournament, so that he will be as tired as the others who have fought in that round.  A loss in the bye may (or may not) count as a loss in the tournament.


--Round Robin: When three fighters (A, B, C) remain in the final round, "A" will fight "B", "B" will fight "C", and "C" will fight "A", until a clear winner is determined.


--Swiss Five: A type of tournament where all fighters fight in all rounds, usually with different weapons, and accumulate points by the number of victories they have.

And so, we're back to that dirty word again, Organization.  The first thing to do is set up a Herald's Point. This is an area, usually a separate pavilion, strictly for the heralds.  It should be set up close to the L.M., and easily accessible to everyone else, particularly the Crown.  This is where the heralds rest, drink, etc., so that they are available if necessary.  Having now set up a gorgeous green & gold pavilion with heraldic insignia and trumpets all over it (or as close as you can get), find out from the L.M. how the list will be run.  I will list the most common questions to ask, and some comments about them.  


WHAT KIND OF TOURNAMENT IS IT? Single elim., double elim., Swiss Five, etc.  (sometimes no‑one knows until just before the list starts.)


HOW MANY FIELDS ARE THERE? Two or more fields can be a problem for heralds.  More on that later.

IF THERE IS A BYE, WILL A LOSS COUNT? Often referred to as a “destructive” or “non-destructive” Bye.


DO DOUBLE KILLS COUNT? Often they will be re‑fought once; if it happens again, it counts as a loss against each fighter.


The information from these first four questions will be passed on to the fighters at the beginning of the tournament.  The next questions you may have to answer yourself, but they are important to give you a clear overview of your needs and resources.


HOW MANY HERALDS DO I HAVE? The more heralds there are, the easier it is on everyone.  If you don't have enough, make an announcement and ask for more heralds.


WHO HAS THE MOST EXPERIENCE? This person is your emergency back‑up and problem solver.


WHO HAS THE LEAST EXPERIENCE? New heralds may need training, and should have someone experienced keep an eye on them when they go on the field.


HOW MANY ROUNDS ARE THERE? For a single elimination tournament, a fair estimation is that about half of the fighters will be removed from every round, i.e.: Forty fighters in the first round will become twenty in the second round, then ten (3rd round), then five (4th round), and three (or two) in the fifth and final round.  Be sure to add one round for a double elim.  tourney.


Take the answers to the last five questions, and build up your roster of heralds: who will do which round, on which field, etc.  Remember here that the first round is the hardest.  As far as we are concerned, it is almost half of a single elim.  tournament. Switch out heralds halfway through the first round, if necessary.  Make sure your new heralds get some practice before the tournament, and have someone nearby while they're heralding, to help out if need be.  Give the final round to someone with good presence; everyone watches the final round.  


Okay, now we know how the list will run, so let's do it.  By some magical process (known only to the L.M.), the pairings are drawn, and written onto cards.  As soon as you can, look at all the names.  This DOES NOT mean in the middle of the list field while announcing them! Read all the names slowly, out loud, with titles, and make sure that you can pronounce them.  If you can't, don't fake it! Ask the L.M., or go find the fighter, and get a proper pronunciation.  Then practice it! I can't stress this enough.  Pronunciation (or lack thereof) of names is the biggest complaint made about heralds, and most of the time there is no excuse for it.  (Allowances are made for Welsh, Chinese, and other languages that require prehensile tongues, but you should still make your absolute best attempt.)


Now that you (hopefully) have the names down pat, put the cards back in order.  If you're not sure about the order, check with the L.M.  (S)he should have a list of the pairings to check against.  Make sure that the higher rank of each pairing is announced first. Note that personal relationships, such as "squire" and "cadet", are not titles.  The proper form is NOT: "Squire Sniffle of Snort", but "Sniffle of Snort, squire to Sir Mugwump".


Let's take a moment to discuss multiple fields.  First of all, one herald cannot run two fields.  There should be at least one herald per field.  If one herald is announcing all of the pairings, announce the pairings for that field, on that field.  Then walk to the next field, and continue.  If each field's herald is announcing his own pairings, do them one field at a time.  When the first herald is finished, he points to the next field, and those pairings are announced.  After the entire list has been announced, then move fighters to their respective fields.

Never, NEVER, NEVER, announce over another herald. If someone else is heralding, raise your staff in the air to indicate that you are next, and then make your announcement as soon as the other herald is finished.  This applies to the calls to arm, the introductions, and announcement of the victories.  The other calls on the field are usually made more quietly, for the sake of the fighters only.  


Now we're ready to walk onto the field.  In the back of this section, there is a sample of a standard field litany.  Find this, because we will refer to it frequently from here on.


Okay, here we go.  You've got your baldric/tabard on, your staff firmly in one hand, and your cards (in order), firmly in the other.  Take a deep breath, and stride confidently to the center of the field.  Put the staff in the crook of your arm (you'll need both hands for the cards), choose your direction, and herald the first line (the Oyeh). This should be one of your loudest calls, because you have to cut through all the noise.  Then it says, "Pause and Wait".  Don't wait for two, or three, or five seconds.  WAIT UNTIL EVERYONE IS QUIET.  This can take up to thirty seconds to happen; just wait calmly.  


At this point the L.M. may want you to announce the conventions of this particular tournament (remember those questions you asked?) A sample: "At the pleasure of Their Majesties, this tournament will be fought single fight, double elimination.  Double kills will be re‑fought once; a second double-kill will result in a loss for each fighter.  His Majesty has requested that the first round be fought using sword and shield only.  There will be three fields; Azure (point to it), Vert, and Gules.  Please pay particular attention to which field you are fighting on."


Continue with the next line of the litany.  Fill in the blanks appropriately: "In this, the first round of the 287th Ansteorran Crown tournament, the pairings on the Azure field are as follows.  In the first bout, Duke Arglebargle of Gargle will fight Sir Mugwump the Plump." I would add here that the litany I included is a general one, designed to work for almost any situation.  As you become more comfortable with it, you can change some of the phrases to add a little variety.  


Place the first pair of cards at the back of the pile (or flip the page), and announce the second pair. Continue this to the last pair.  Your cards should now be in order again.  The next field's pairings (if there is a next field) are then called, and so on. Now, assuming that things are starting immediately, you will call the first three pairs to: Arm and take the field (first pair); Arm themselves (second pair); and Make Ready (third pair).

At this point, you may have one, two, or sixteen fighters approach you with all manner of questions, such as: "Who is Sir Mugwump?" "Who was I paired with?" "What number was my fight?" or "Do double kills count?" Unfortunately, you usually do not have the time (or information) to help these people.  If this is the case, politely refer them to the L.M.  


So, what do I do with all these cards?  There are several ways to handle them.  The first method is to keep the first three pairs of cards, return the remainder to the L.M., After each bout, you will return the current pair to the L.M., get one more set.  This way, the cards don't get dropped, lost, or scattered.  Sometimes where will be "list pages"; children, or other helpful people, whose job it is to run the cards back and forth.  If there are, this makes your job that much easier. In this instance, you have total control of the cards; it is your responsibility to let the L.M. know who the victor was in the previous bout.


The next (and most common, and, unfortunately, worst) situation is that the herald gets to hold on to all the cards for the entire round. If this is the case…well…keep a firm grip on them, if you have a pouch or a folder you can put them into, so much the better. If you are going to hold onto the cards, beg the L.M. to make a list of the names in order on a single sheet of paper at the List table. That way, if they do get dropped (and sooner or later, they will!), there is a way to re-construct the list.  If this is the way the cards are handled, the winning fighter of each pairing is usually required to return the cards to the L.M.  If this is the case, be sure to announce that at the beginning of the Tournament along with all the other tourney information.


The third method is gaining popularity; unfortunately, it requires some forethought and preparation. This involves using hard-backed photo albums that will hold two cards per page, and simply flipping the pages to read the cards. This works very well if you have them available; I highly recommend that every group buy several such albums to keep for tourneys. The fighters are usually enlisted in this situation, as well, to carry the pairings back to the L.M.


Okay, now that we’ve dealt with those cards in your hand, let’s continue the tourney!  By the time you finish all of your pairings, the first two fighters should be on the field.  Make sure you find out who is who.  If you're not sure, approach one of them and ask his name.  Now you make the introductions.  When you say each fighter's name, hold your staff over his head, or point in his direction.  The introduction is for the benefit of the populace; it should be loud.  


Next come the salutes.  These can be a little quieter than your initial calls, as they are for the fighters only. A note here: often the Crown wants to wander around, or has business elsewhere.  Sometimes they will assign someone, such as the L.M., to accept the salutes for them.  This is when you use the last sample on that line of the litany.  If no‑one has been designated, you salute the thrones (the Royal Presence).  If you happen to know exactly where Their Majesties are, and you can see them, you may direct the salutes there, but don't waste time looking. Continue with the salutes, but make sure that the genders you use are correct. You might feel a bit silly if you say: "Salute the lady whose favor you bear", and one or both fighters are ladies.


Finish the salutes, give the field to the marshals, and leave the field.  Note the caution there.  Fighters can get really pumped up, and occasionally the phrase "Lay On", or even extra stress on the word "Begin" is enough to set them off.  When you leave the field, make it fast.  You don't have to run, just leave by the quickest route.  Stay close to the field; don't go wandering around.  The fight may be over in two blows (sword to helm, and helm to ground).  


Remember that you do not determine when the fighting is over.  That is the marshal's job.  Wait for him to verify with the fighters, and call you onto the field.  He should indicate the winner to you (sometimes the most "obvious" fights are the ones that you need to be sure of.) THEN you may announce the victory.  Get the name right, and hold your staff over the winner's head.  It is a good idea to let the marshal know beforehand that you will wait for him to call you onto the field.  Some of them don't know that they are supposed to.  If it is obvious that he isn't going to call you onto the field, go ahead and announce the victor, and speak to the marshal later.  If there are two fights per bout, do not announce the winner of each fight.  It's confusing, and makes too much noise.  Announce only the final outcome of the pairing.

Return those cards to the L.M. (if necessary), and make sure (s)he knows who won.  This is no insult to your heralding ability.  The L.M. is very busy, and doesn't have time to listen.  Then announce the calls to the field for pairings 2, 3, and 4; etc.  Repeat all of this until there are no fighters left, it's too dark to see, or your voice gives out.  TA‑DAAA!! You've just heralded a tournament! Congratulations!


Now let's talk about odd situations.  In some very high‑persona tournaments, the fighter may be heralded onto the field.  In this instance, he should have his own herald, but you may be that herald.  This is the toughest test of your presence.  You will start at the edge of the field, leading the procession in a slow march.  Your job is to call attention to the fighter, and make him sound as good as you can. Start by calling "Make Way! Make Way for _________!"  Then proceed to list his accomplishments, real, imagined, serious or silly, depending on the situation.  Announce the weapons he will bear, and blazon his device, if he has one.  During all this you will make a slow circuit of the list field, and end up in front of the Crown (or ruling noble).  You bow, and step aside to allow the fighter and his entourage to bow.  He may have you address the Crown on his behalf; make sure that you get the speech right.  Check all of this with the fighter first; find out his awards, how his device is blazoned, what he wants you to do, etc.  


Occasionally heralds will speak for the fighters in a challenge match, and this can be great fun.  Praise your fighter's virtues, but avoid insulting his opponent (at least directly).  Your opponent's herald, however, is fair game for insults, character assassinations, et cetera (within the bounds of honor and good taste, of course).  


I will address one more situation you may encounter, and a far more serious one.  If a fighter is injured on the field, STAY OFF! Stay at the edge of the field and help keep the populace back, if necessary.  If the marshal calls for medical aid, repeat the call so that it is heard.  Simply call "Chirurgeon!" Be available to act as a runner, if necessary.  




This is the other duty that falls to the field herald, by virtue of his brass vocal chords.  The difference here is that Field Heraldry is important to set the mood, whereas Announcements are needed to get important information to the populace.  Once again, it is your responsibility to get things going.  Announcements fall into two groups: normal announcements, and Wake‑up calls.  Before we get to these, however, there are two abilities that we need to discuss.  These are the Tact Filter, and the Sense of Priorities.



This is a small portion of the brain that every experienced herald has.  Some individuals acquire it naturally; others have it "surgically" implanted.  If you ever make a major faux‑pas as a herald, you'll understand what I mean; you'll never make another one.  


This allows the herald to turn the most rude or abrupt statement or summons into a polite and genteel, if urgent, request or proclamation.  As an example, the King tells you: "Why is there only one bathroom for 500 people? Get that d‑‑n autocrat over here now!" When put through the Tact Filter, this becomes: "Oyeh, Oyeh! Would the Autocrat please attend His Majesty at his encampment immediately."  Likewise: "I'm gonna banish that fighter! Stop the tournament and call a belted circle", becomes "There will be a twenty minute break in the tournament.  Will the Chivalry please attend His Majesty." Now these are worst‑case scenarios, but they are also when the Tact Filter is most necessary.  It's difficult to set guidelines on this, but the most important points are: Don't repeat abrupt statements word‑for‑word; Be polite; and Don't give out unnecessary information.  Try to phrase your announcement as neutrally as possible.  Don't give people anything to gossip about.


There are some key words and phrases that can help, such as: Request, Would, Pray Attend, Wishes To See, As Soon As Possible.  Basically, these all translate into "Please".  A discreet and tactful herald will earn the respect and gratitude of the Crown; as for the indiscreet and tacky herald… well, I leave that to your imagination.




A "sense of priorities" is the ability to determine the importance or urgency of a particular announcement, regardless of how agitated an individual may be about it.  You're the closest thing to a loudspeaker available, so people will come to you.  You have to judge how necessary the announcement is, and when to make it.  For instance, someone comes up to you in the middle of a tournament, and quietly tells you that there is a tent on fire.  This is grounds for immediately calling for a crew to go put out the fire!


At the other end of the spectrum, however, is the frantic person who just got the archery butts set up, and wants to start the archery competition RIGHT NOW! Most likely, this announcement can wait until the end of the round, or at least a break in the fighting.  Avoid making announcements between bouts unless they're really important, particularly with multiple fields.  It disturbs the tournament, and many people won't listen.  It is best to make announcements in a group, so people will only have to listen once.  Keep a pad & pencil with you, or have one at the Herald's Point, to write these down.  If you're not sure how important the announcement is, or even if it should be made (sometimes they shouldn't), then speak to the senior herald, the Autocrat, or even the Crown.  It's important to remember here that none of this applies to the Crown; everything Their Majesties say is important (even though it may seem deadly dull.)


In certain cases, it is expedient, and even necessary, to dispense with ceremony and flowery speech.  These are emergency situations, such as fires, medical emergencies, etc.  Remember to stay calm, and phrase what you say so that it will not panic anyone.  It's just as irresponsible to shout "Fire!" at a crowded list field as in a crowded movie theater.  




Almost all announcements are "official"; that is, they are necessary to the running of the event, or are words from the Crown.  However, you may be approached by a vendor or tavern keeper, and asked to mention their wares in your announcements.  There is a historical term for this action; it is called Advertising.  If you are asked to do this, it is wise to remember that you are the Voice of the Crown, NOT the Voice of the Kingdom.  In performing this service, you are not serving Their Majesties, but assisting an individual in selling his wares.  As with any other specialized skill, it is perfectly acceptable to request some sort of recompense for your time and efforts.  I would suggest barter, credit, or payment‑in‑kind rather than any sort of monetary settlement (Don't ask for cash, ask for breakfast!) With that one caution, I leave the rest to your fertile and avaricious minds.

This has pretty much covered all regular instances of announcements.  The only other major point I would remind you of is: Think it through! Set what you're going to say firmly in your mind first, before you open your mouth.  Your announcement will be much clearer, and people will understand you that much easier.  All that's left to discuss now is the dreaded Wake‑Up Call.




Just as before, it is the local herald's duty to organize and execute the wake‑up call.  If you can't get up early (or can't wake up early), make sure someone else will do the job.  There are four things that the "morning herald" needs; an alarm clock, a watch, and a notepad & pencil.  (An understanding lady or lord helps, too.) You need to be up and around at least 20‑30 minutes before wake‑up call, so set your alarm for 1/2-hour prior.  There are several things you need to do before you make the call, and this is why you need the extra time.  


The first thing to do is check out the site.  You can do this while sipping your morning coffee (juice, soda, beer, or hemlock).  See where the major concentrations of camps are, and plan accordingly.  You CANNOT wander to the middle of the list field, announce to no-one in particular that it's 7 o'clock, and stagger back to bed (I've seen this done).  You will probably need at least one, and more likely several repetitions of your wake‑up call.  If you have a large site, or a lot of wide‑awake heralds, you can use one herald for each area or camp.  It also helps to know the important areas of the site; i.e.: list field, bathrooms, kitchen, feast hall, etc.  Everyone will ask you where these places are, and this way you can appear wise and all‑knowing (instead of sleepy and ignorant, which most of us really are.)


Next, seek out that font of knowledge and responsibility, the Autocrat.  Find out the schedule, and make sure it is accurate.  (If Armor Inspection won't begin until 10 A.M., then obviously the list can't start at 8:30.) See if there are any important announcements to be made in conjunction with the wake‑up call. There is almost always one, and there may be several.  Take a pad and pencil with you in case you need them.



There is a slight difference between heralding a tournament, and heralding a Wake‑Up Call.  The difference is that (surprise!) most people are asleep! When they wake up, they are generally not very alert.  The most important thing to remember is to herald slowly, and CLEARLY.  Before you begin, just like on the field, you need to center yourself in each encampment.  Don't face directly at a tent, or stand right next to one.  (If you do, I suggest that you practice your 100‑yard dash; herald‑killing is a venerable SCA morning pastime.  Besides, it's rude to shout into someone's tent.)


One problem you may encounter is people housed in cabins.  Unless you have the kind of voice that can penetrate the average wooden wall, you will need to knock on each cabin, and quietly make the wake‑up call to whoever answers the door.  




Now we're ready to make the call. There is a certain order of announcements that makes people happiest.  I will list these, followed by examples, and any other comments I can think of.


‑‑OYEH: "Oyeh, Oyeh; my lords, ladies, and gentles, pray attend." The standard opening; this is what will wake most people up.

‑‑TIME CHECK: "It is now eight A.M., and this is your wake‑up call." Remember that watch you needed? The first thing most people want to do when they wake up is look at the clock.  This saves them the trouble, and also assures them that they haven't slept through the event.


‑‑MUNDANE ANNOUNCEMENTS: "The Autocrat kindly asks that you move your vehicles to the parking area as soon as possible." Any kind of mundane problems need to get taken care of first.  Be sure to be polite, but firm (remember your Tact Filter.)


‑‑SCHEDULE ANNOUNCEMENTS: "Armor inspection will begin at nine o'clock on the list field, which is across the river." "Morning court of Their Majesties will begin at ten o'clock at the Royal Pavilion." ALWAYS remember to announce WHEN and WHERE an event is happening.  Be clear and concise.  


‑‑MORNING MEETINGS/ACTIVITIES: "There will be a belted circle in thirty minutes   in Their Majesties' encampment." "There will be a children's Arts & Sciences workshop at the orange and chartreuse pavilion, beginning at ten o'clock.  A fee of one dollar is asked to cover the cost of materials." Again, remember When & Where, and give any necessary details.  


‑‑ADVERTISEMENTS: "The Spiffy Gryphon Tavern wishes it known that they are serving coffee, sausages & hot breakfast rolls for the mere sum of two dollars." (Remember that the quality of your payment can definitely affect the quality of your announcement!)


‑‑FINISH: "This concludes the morning announcements", or more simply," Thank You".  This lets people know that they can stop listening.


Having finished, you quickly move on to the next major area, and repeat.  When you're done, pat yourself on the back, and go have some sausages at the Spiffy Gryphon.  


An alternate method of the Wake-Up Call is called a Rolling Litany.  It requires several heralds, but is well-worth the effort. Each herald is stationed at one area, just within earshot of the previous one. Herald #1 (at one end of the camp) then does the first part of the call, such as the OYEH, and TIME CHECK.  He then stops, and Herald #2 repeats it.  This continues until all heralds are finished, or the calls are out of hearing range.  Herald #1 then makes the next announcement, which goes on down the line, and so on.  This works well, and sounds really impressive.  If you have enough heralds, I suggest using this method whenever possible.

This concludes our discussion on Field Heraldry.  I hope that it will aid you in your endeavors, and help you lend your events the grace and polish necessary to make them truly memorable. I wish you all good luck, good health, and good voice.  


In Service, I remain

Alden Pharamond.



Copyright 1986, 2001 by Paul DeLisle, 804 N. 7th Street. Temple, Texas, 76501. <ferret at hot.rr.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

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