What Do I Use for Arms if my Persona Wouldn't Have Used Arms?
By Arval d'Espas Nord (Josh Mittleman)
Heraldic arms began appearing in several parts of Western Europe in
the early to mid-12th century; by the last quarter of the century
they were widely used, especially in England, NW France, and the Low
Earlier cultures and many later cultures did not use arms as such,
though some of them decorated shields and banners. Not all forms of
decoration or even all forms of personal insignia are heraldry; and
thus for many cultures, there simply is not such thing as
historically authentic heraldic arms.
This historical fact leaves you in a difficult position: It is customary
for everyone in the Society to bear arms, but no arms are appropriate for
your persona. There are three basic solutions to this problem, any of
which is reasonable; you need to decide for yourself which approach is
best for you.
- Don't use arms. Your culture didn't use arms, so you won't either.
If your primary goal is accurate persona development, then this
approach makes the most sense for you. If your culture used other
kinds of shield decorations, then you might use them; but you would not
register it as arms or use it as if it were your arms.
- Use arms designed according to Society custom. When in Rome, do as
the Romans do. Wherever you were born, you now live in a land where
heraldic arms are customary, so you will follow the custom. Design
and use arms which fit the standard medieval style popular in the
Society. A slight variant is to use arms appropriate to the culture
closest to yours that did use arms, i.e. if you have a persona from
15th century Russia, which had no native heraldry, you might use
Polish- or German-style arms.
- Use arms designed to fit medieval style, but with design-elements
chosen to match the shield-paintings and personal insignia of
your culture. People in many cultures used decorations on their shields
or banners and may have used certain kinds of personal insignia.
Some of the motifs that they used are compatible with medieval
armory, so you can design medieval-style arms which are also
appropriate to your culture. This is not easy and requires some
serious research; but you may find it a compromise that suits
your needs, and you may be proud of the result.
The most creative approach to this problem that we've encountered came from
My persona has a coat of arms, which isn't period for the 11th century. I
blame my descendents -- they must have acquired the arms and then claimed they
date from the time of the Conquest, which is why they get attributed to me.
This page maintained by Jim Trigg (known
in the SCA as Blaise de Cormeilles),
Last updated 9 Nov 2004.