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flags-art - 7/12/94


"Display of Mundane Heraldry in the SCA" by Ioseph of Locksley.


NOTE: See also the files: banners-msg, arms-humor-msg, heraldry-msg, heraldry-bks-msg, mottoes1-msg, Herald-Embro-art.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.


Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: locksley at indirect.com (Joe Bethancourt)

Newsgroups: rec.org.sca

Subject: Flags at Pennsic

Date: 27 May 1994 02:26:45 GMT


I was asked to post this....it was a TI article not too long ago.





-Ioseph of Locksley OL,OP, &c


        I must begin by saying that even though I am an old, used Laurel

King-of-Arms, any statements I make concerning heraldic practice are purely

MY opinion(s) and NOT necessarily those of the College of Arms of the SCA,



        Now that we have that out of the way......as all of us are, I hope,

quite aware, Society heraldry is meant for SCA use only. It's registration

within the Society grants no mundane rights, and, in some parts of the

mundane world, such as Scotland, it's use in the wrong context could get the

unaware medievalist in much deep hot water.

        "Mundane" heraldry has much the same position in the SCA. If one

really holds a Grant from Scotland, England, Spain or other such recognized

Colleges of Arms, then, maybe, you could use it in the Society, altho this

question has been sedulously avoided by the SCA College. The first Clarion

King-of-Arms of the SCA (the late, and lamented, Master Randall of Hightower)

once said: "Real Arms are defended by Real Steel. DON'T use them."


        However................(there's always a "however" to everything.

Have you ever noticed that?)


        There are numerous heraldic items (I do NOT call them Arms or Devices

because they're NOT) from mundane history that can be used with impunity in

the SCA. The most commonly seen is the Scots Clan Badge. This always takes

the form of an heraldic badge encircled by a strap-and-buckle arrangement, as

ONLY the Chief (recognized as such by Lyon King-of-Arms of Scotland) wears

simply the plain badge without the strap and buckle....and ONLY that mundane

Clan Chief wears that badge with feathers in it.  


        It normally appears on the bonnet, but can be used to pin up the

Great Plaid on one's shoulder. Ladies wear it according to their fancy, but

NEVER on a bonnet, as that is an article of man's apparel...remember, one of

the charges against Jeanne d'Arc that led to her burning was that she wore

men's clothing.....and it is not appropriate to paint this badge on your

shield, as that is the rightful place for your personal SCA device/Arms.  


        Perhaps the most common "generic flag" that can be used by anyone is

the "national" flag. At the end of this article is a list of such, with the

"nation" that used it. Note that some of these nations no longer have an

independent existence, but DID exist in the period covered by the SCA. Be

advised, however, that I have only listed those that I personally have

authenticated as being used in the Middle Ages/Renaissance as "national"

flags and NOT as Royal Arms. Confusion exists on this matter even among

heralds, so go carefully and softly in your own research, and double-check



        These flags can be used independently, or in the hoist of a Standard,

as is explained in any decent heraldic text, and can thus indicate your

persona's national origin, or even century of origin if the viewer is up on

their historical heraldry. Under NO circumstances should you combine an SCA

Kingdom's National Ensign (if it has one) with one of these mundane designs

on a standard. Not only is it poor heraldic usage, it is wrong heraldic



        Have a good time with these, because, in period, an encampment would

be liberally decorated with both the "national" banner and the banner of the

ruling Noble. For a large household, this would be a nice project for each

member to build a "national" flag. Some SCA Kingdoms have their own

"national" flag, and this could be added in, along with the flag of the SCA,

for an incredibly pretty display of perfectly period heraldry.

        A Cavalier persona has yet another option. It was quite common for

the Cavaliers, and the Roundheads, to fly flags with odd, very personalized,

designs that were NOT heraldic at all, usually in company with personal

mottos, slogans and so forth. I fly one, illustrated here, that gives my

feelings about the question of the SCA's period ending at 1601 or 1650 CE.  

The motto translates as:


        "Thanks be to God for we have got the Arquebus, and THEY have



        But, being in Latin, or at least a nice Dog-Latin of the period, it

looks quite nice, and says what I want to say....bugs the Heralds, too! If

you want a look at such flags, check out the Regimental Flags of the English

Civil War. Very interesting things!  


        Such mottoes or slogans can say pretty much anything...if it is at

all wierd, or possibly offensive, or out-of-period.....say it in Latin.  


        The SCA makes no bones about it's attitude towards matters of

Religion, but this part of life played a LARGE part in peoples' existence in

the real Middle Ages and Renaissance, so the lack of proper displays of such

things has always bothered me.....yes, I know that the PROTESTANTS out there

are jumping up and down about "graven images being a vain and useless

thing..." but.....look at any Central and South American religious festival.  

You will see Gonfanons being carried that have, essentially, not changed

since the late Middle Ages. These hanging banners ( NOT flags ) usually

display an ornate representation of the Saint, or of Mary, or whoever, with

certain things added that are their attributes or symbols, such as Mary's

traditional blue robe and Halo, or the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Nazareth, and

so forth.  


        This opens up a whole field of interesting possibilities....obvously

the Roman Catholics have a whole mess of stuff they can use, but what about

the Neo-Pagans out there? (Yes, there are a LOT of them in the SCA)


        How about a representation of Freya, with halo and cats at her feet?

Or Thor as a medieval knight, but rather than carrying a sword he would hold

a hammer, with a background of storm-clouds and with two goats to either side

of him.......or how about three Ladies, one young, one middle aged holding a

baby, and one old? The possibilities are endless, but remember to pattern

them on the Christian banners, to keep to the "authentic" part of the

SCA...after all, in most of Europe pre-1650 paganisim was a Capital



        And for you Protestants......you fall into pretty much the Cavalier

style of flag, if not the period, so make some yourselves and have a good

time, too! I recall seeing one period flag as: "Or, above a Death's Head

between two thigh bones argent the motto "No Popery" gules."


        Just remember not to be offensive by it, as religion is a touchy

subject with many people, and mundanes might not understand our sometimes

warped senses of humor. If you can render a Pagan Goddess or God to look like

an ordinary Saint, until very close inspection accompanied by knowledge, then

you have done it right.  


        The bottom line in any of this, as in any SCA endeavour, is RESEARCH.  

Research your persona. Check and double-check what "nation" you would be

associated with, and check and double-check what flag(s) would be

appropriate, and be VERY wary of Royal Arms masquerading as "national" flags.  


common error that many people, even in the mundane world, fall into. It never

ceases to make my teeth itch to see someone at a Highland Games flying a flag

of the Scottish Royal Arms....those are the PERSONAL arms of the Queen (at

the moment) and NOT available for just anyone to use! The modern Union Jack

is NOT a national flag, and is out-of-period anyway, though the older Union

Flag would be appropriate for a post-1606 persona.....unless you are a

Scottish Nationalist.  


                              THE FLAGS


NOTE: This incorporates the suggestions made by Master Bruce

      Draconarius, Principal Herald for Caid, in Tournaments

      Illuminated, Fall 1989, Issue 92. Thank you, Master Bruce!  


Wales: Per fess argent and vert, a Dragon passant gules. nb: this is

        possibly out of period, as the blazon was not official until

        1958 CE. The design is ancient enough that I would accept it.  


Ireland: Vert, a Harp Or.  


Cornwall: Sable, a Cross argent (modern, but acceptable...)


Denmark: Gules, a Dannebrog Cross argent.  (this is the oldest national

         flag in use, dating from circa 1219 CE)


Sweden: Azure, a Dannebrog Cross Or. (post 1500)


Netherlands: A tricolour per fess of orange, argent and azure.  (adopted

             1579, the orange was replaced by red in 1650)


France: Azure, a Cross argent. (This is argued by Master Bruce

        Draconarius, but period illustrations show this used as a livery

        badge on French soldiers.)


England: Argent, a Cross gules.  


Scotland: Azure, a Saltire argent.  


Burgundy: Argent, a saltire gules.(nb: now used by the State of Alabama,

          USA) Argent, two staves raguly in saltire thruout

          gules.(better for period style and usage..)


Switzerland: Gules, a Cross humetee argent (1339)


Russia: Argent, a saltire azure (late 1500's) Argent, a mounted St.

        George, bearing argent a Cross gules, slaying the Dragon, all

        proper (usually represented with a lance with heraldic

        pennoncel, but sometimes with sword and shield with the Cross on

        the shield and/or surcoat.)



                         OTHERS OF INTEREST


       (Not National flags, but good generic stuff for the SCA)



Pirate flag: sable, a skull and crossbones argent, or some such

             variation in white on black or black on white. Some nice

             mottoes, NOT in Latin, would also be appropriate.  


"Viking flag": Argent, a raven displayed sable. The period authenticity

               of this one is very much arguable.....  


Arab flags: usually come in green, white, black or red, with quotations

            from al Qu'uran (Koran) on them. The most common quote is

            "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of

            God!" The background tinctures usually denote a ruling

            dynasty, but not always.  


Generic Barbarian: Dig up a skull of a Horse, or Cow, and mount it on a

                   pole with nice "festoonies" made up of horsetails,

                   strips of leather or cloth, scalps &c. Bells are a

                   nice touch, too.  If you can get hold of one of the

                   plastic reproductions of a sabre-toothed Cat's skull

                   it would be nifty! There's a place in North Carolina

                   that offers them....expensive, but the looks of shock

                   on people's faces would be worth it!  


                  - copyright 1988 W. J. Bethancourt III



locksley at indirect.com           PO Box 35190       Locksley Plot Systems

White Tree Productions      Phoenix, AZ 85069 USA         CyberMongol Ltd


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>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org