Wes Hál!

Greetings! I am Lord Hubert de Stockleye (aka Wulfhere of Eofeshamme), a Herald at Large in the Kingdom of Calontir which is part of the medieval research and re-creation group the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). My legal name is Berry Canote. Let me tell you about this blog. When I returned to the SCA a couple of years ago I did something I had not done my previous times as a member. I designed and submitted a device (called a coat of arms by those not in the SCA). In the process of coming up with different designs, seeing what could be done, and what could not be done I developed an interest in heraldry. This blog highlights many of my designs as well as gives tips on name research. For more information please read the About this Blog Page. There if you are a SCA member you can learn how to register one of these designs as your own device as well as get acquainted with what I do. Finally, feel free to browse the links list. A note of caution, I am still very new to this so you are encouraged to consult another herald. In the time since I have started this blog I have begun writing on other topics of interest to me so expect to see other topics on the Middle Ages. Note: This is not an official Society for Creative Anachronism site. The views expressed here are my own.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Heraldry in War

I recently offered to teach a class at an event called, "Heraldry in War." The aim of the class was to show that the origins of heraldry were rooted in the need for identification on the battlefield. Below, is the handout:

Heraldry in War

By Lord Hubert de Stockleye


Many people may not realize it, but what they commonly think of as a coat of arms had its origins in war. They think of arms as being decorative, something you put on your stationary or over the mantle of your fireplace. We in the SCA know differently however. We know that heraldry had its origins in warfare.

History of Heraldry

From ancient times onward combatants in war have used emblems to signify who they were. Egyptian artwork shows pictures of standards with various emblems upon them. They were apparently used to designate rulers or other important people.  Ancient Mesopotamian art shows a similar usage of emblems. In the Book of Numbers it is described how the Twelve Tribes had standards upon which were emblems designating their tribe.  Later the Greeks and Romans would use standards and ensigns to designate units and high ranking individuals. An example of such a use is the eagle of Augustus’ Xth Legion. With the Greeks we begin to see emblems appearing on shields. The Romans made use of emblems on the shields of individuals to designate which unit they belonged to.
What we think of as heraldic devices were first seen during the reign of Charlemagne. Seals and banners with emblems denoting individuals came into use at that time. Medieval European heraldry evolved out of these usages of symbols to identify combatants in battle. The Leges Hastiludiales of Henry the Fowler in 938 CE required combatants in tournaments to show four generations of the use of ensigns to enter. The earliest evidence of a specific individual being awarded arms is in 1128 when the arms of Geoffrey IV of Anjou were given to him by his father in law King Henry I of England. Seals depicting heraldic devices appeared less than a decade later in England.
In the decades that followed the use of heraldry spread. The Crusades while not the cause of the spread of the usage of heraldry certainly contributed to the need of it. King Richard the Lion Hearted was the first English king to use a heraldic device officially, and is thought to be a reason for others adopting heraldic devices. Sometime between 1240 and 1250 the Glover's Roll, the first known Roll of Arms was compiled. A Roll of Arms is a pictorial depiction of the heraldic devices of nobles and knights. Since the idea of arms was to identify a person, there became a need to ensure that each set coat of arms was unique, and by the 15th century France and England had both formed a College of Arms to ensure that no two people used the same heraldic device.

The Purpose of Heraldic Devices

The purpose of a heraldic device is much the same in the SCA as it was in the Middle Ages, to identify a combatant. And as such certain rules are used to ensure that a fighter can be identified from across the field. This means that the symbols or charges on the shield should be big and bold. Size matters when it comes to charges placed on a shield. If they are too small they cannot be identified.
Contrast also determines whether a device can be identified across the field. It is because of this within heraldry there is a rule called the Rule of Tincture. The Rule of Tincture is that no metal can go on a metal, and no color on a color. The colors are black, blue, green, purple, and red. The metals are yellow and white which represent gold and silver.
Complex designs are also not easily identified on the field of battle. For this reason, simple designs are preferred. Because of this our College of Arms has a complexity count to prevent a device from becoming too complicated.  The more simple a device is the more readily it is identified.
Finally, just as what done in the late Middle Ages, the College of Arms registers devices to ensure that each one is unique. The reason for this is so that two people are not confused on the field of battle because their arms resemble each other’s too much. While it is not required to register your device it is greatly encouraged. Should anyone ever enter a Crown Tournament for example using the same device, the one whose device has been registered would get to use it during the tournament.

Badges and Banners

Badges in battle play a role similar to heraldic devices except instead of identifying someone as an individual, they identify someone as a member of a unit, be it a household, shire, barony, principality, kingdom, or similar group. Everyone knows when they see the gold striking falcon on a purple tabard on someone that that person is a member of Calontir, either part of our army or a herald or someone else giving service. Banners perform a similar function. When someone sees a banner flying over an army they can readily identify who they are by the badge used on it. Thus if you see the gold striking falcon on a purple banner flying over an encampment you can rest assured that they are Calontir folk. 


Just as in the Middle Ages, heraldry plays an important role in warfare in the SCA. It allows both combatants and spectators to identify who is on the field. It is allows us to follow our favorites even when they are concealed by armor. It also allows us to identify units and armies during a battle.


Fox-Davies, Arthur Charles A Complete Guide to Heraldry: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd. – 1950
Jones, Robert W. Bloodied Banners: Martial Display on the Medieval Battlefield: Boydell Press 2010
Reynolds, Ernest Introduction to Heraldry:  Methuen and Company Limited – 1958
Wagner, Anthony Richard Heraldry in England: Penguin Books -1953
Woodcock, Thomas S. The Oxford Guide to Heraldry: Oxford University Press - 1988

Woodward, J. A Treatise on Heraldry: British and Foreign: with English and French Glossaries: Nabu Press - 2010

Escorts in Court

Recently in the Kingdom of Calontir Facebook group the subject of ladies being escorted into court came up. It was not the first time the topic had been brought up in the group, and no doubt will not be the last. Calontiri feel very strongly about the custom, so there was no lack of carefully worded responses about how it is done here.

 It is the custom of many kingdoms for ladies to be escorted into court. In some kingdoms, the custom has almost reached the point that it is felt a lady must have an escort into court. The result of that has been that total strangers will rush to escort a lady just so that she does not have to go before the Crown alone. That is not the custom here in Calontir. It seems more often than not ladies go before TRM unescorted. Calontiri are proud of their independence, and like to be recognized for who they are without distractions it seems.

I first noticed the custom of escorting ladies into court in 2000 when I moved to Ansteorra. I am sure I had seen it done before, but I first noticed it then and there. At that time it struck me as odd, and I had questions like, "Why would a lady need an escort in court in a kingdom where all are friends, and there are no foes?" In my two years active in the SCA in Ansteorra I came to appreciate the custom though, and I thought it added to the pageantry of court. I came to see seeing a lady escorted to TRM as a beautiful thing.

It loses its beauty to me when you have lords jockeying for position to escort a lady they hardly know. The appeal to me is in seeing a close friend escort a lady before the Crown.  I personally would be very uncomfortable escorting someone I do not know into court. I would not be willing to impose myself on someone. To me, escorting someone into court is a very personal thing, something best not to be done by strangers. It is something that to me should be done by a trusted friend. Granted, if a random lady were to ask me to escort her into court I would feel honored, and would gladly do it and be proud she asked, but it is on her to ask. Knowing the women of my shire, were I to be insistent on escorting them into court, I would probably get a sound beating about the skull.

It comes down to personal preference really. Some no doubt want an escort into court, others not so much. But to me the honor should always go to those closest to the lady. Being called before TRM is a very personal thing. And it can be nerve wracking. All the attention is on you. You are before sometimes hundreds of people. There are people that dread being called into court. When I have gone before TRM I have fears like, "What if I trip on the way? Am I bowing at the right times? Am I bowing deeply enough? How do I respond to what TRM are saying to me?" When I received my AoA I was shaking. It was my first time before the Crown and I was as nervous as I have ever been. As a man I am expected to go before the Crown alone, but I can think of nothing that could make the situation worse than being escorted by someone I do not know. At the same time, the hand of someone I know well and trust would have been welcome when I received my AoA. I have no doubt that it is no different for many ladies. And it is for that reason, you will not see me offering to escort ladies I do not know into court. At the same time, I may well offer a lady I know well an escort if she appears nervous or it is her first time before the Crown. My main concern is that I must not seem insistent or impose myself into a situation not called for.

This is how I have reconciled the custom of other kingdoms with that of Calontir. I do not want the custom of ladies being escorted to go away, but at the same time I feel there needs to be rules. My three rules are: 1) Do not impose yourself upon a lady you do not know just for the sake of her having an escort. 2) Only offer to escort those you know well, and that you know trust you. 3) Women do not need escorts unless they want them.

Saturday, April 1, 2017


Recently, I became interested in paternosters. The paternoster is the ancestor of the modern Roman Catholic rosary, a string of beads used to count prayers. Essentially, they are prayer beads. Hindus, Catholics, and Muslims all make use of prayer beads making it difficult to trace their origins. It is not known if their use in several religions is a case of borrowing from one religion to another, or a case of independent development.

Among Catholics, it is said Saint Anthony used pebbles to count his prayer. Saint Anthony was an ascetic living in the third century A.D. which would make the practice of counting prayers very old. Paternosters became common around 1000 A.D.  They are mentioned in the will of Godgifu of Mercia (the legendary Lady Godiva) in 1041 A.D. It is believed originally, they were used to keep count of recitations of the 150 Psalms, but in the eleventh century the Carthusians and Cistercians allowed laymen to recite the Pater Noster (Lord's Prayer) instead. Later, the Ave Maria (Hail Mary) prayer was recited in the count of the beads as well. As the Middle Ages wore on, variations were developed.

Thus paternosters developed to have small beads and large beads. The large beads are called guads and are used for counts of the Lord's Prayer. The smaller beads are used to count Hail Marys. Generally, there would be a string of ten Hail Mary beads to one Lord's Prayer bead, but sometimes the count was five Hail Mary beads to one Lord's Prayer bead. The length of Paternosters varied. They could consist of 10. 50, or 150 Hail Mary beads or any count in between. They developed in two forms. One was a circle of beads, not unlike a necklace, and then here a linear form, a straight line of beads.

Paternoster beads were made of any number of substances. Wooden beads were common as were clay beads, but glass beads and semi-precious stones were used as well.  Tassels, saints' medals, pouches, crosses, or any number of things could form the ends. The paternoster thereby became a fashion accessory, a way to display one's wealth as well as one's piety. In medieval sculptures and paintings as well as literary references, the beads could be worn in a variety of ways. Some seem to dangle from the belt, others were worn around the wrist or the neck or were pinned to one's dress or tunic using a broach. No doubt those not wanting to display their beads carried them in a pouch.

Any modern medieval reenactor would do well to carry with them a paternoster. If one is acquainted with beading, paternosters are not difficult to make. There is a list of the types of beads used at Rosalie's Medieval Woman (link below). The article, "The Medieval Rosary" (link below) provides information on their construction. A variety of threads for cords were used among them being silk, cotton, wool, and hemp. Personally, I favor silk for its strength. Some people tie knots between the beads. This has the advantage that if the strand breaks, one is likely to lose only one or two beads. However, it is also time consuming in construction.

Pictured below is the first paternoster I made. The red beads are coral. The larger green beads are agate. The cross is from Raymond's Quiet Press. The tassel I made myself, and is the first one I ever made.

Further Reading

Historical Rosary and Paternoster Beads

Rosalie's Medieval Woman: Paternosters & Rosaries

The Medieval Rosary

Beading Tutorials

How to Make Tassels

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Life Happens

A year ago this month, I was in a car accident. My car was totaled. So I spent the next few months obtaining another car, and recuperating. It was a major setback, physically and mentally, and I lost time spent with the SCA. In the past year, I have only made it to three events. It was disappointing. But it took a while to get the insurance money to buy a new car, and then there was the issue of finding one. When I did find a car I could afford and I liked there was a snag hit with the title. When all was said and done it took months to have my new car titled. Once I did have the car licensed and titled I still had to allow for the rest of the healing process to complete before I felt up to attending events.

That is not to say I was doing nothing. My warrant as Amlesmore Herald was up in March. I decided to continue on as a herald at large as it was clear the shire would need me for another office. The Shire of Amlesmore is a small shire, so folks willing to hold office are at a premium. Our seneschal's warrant was up in June so in June I stepped up to become the new seneschal. It was a bit of a learning curve. On one hand being a very active herald accustomed to name and device research and filing paperwork as well as correspondence I was ideal as seneschal. I already knew there would be paperwork, and it had to be filed in a timely manner. I have had no problem helping get events on the kingdom calendar, filing reports, and helping get flyers submitted to kingdom. But being a seneschal is so much more than just paperwork. It also means one has to constantly, at least in a small shire be on top of things. In addition to the usual administrative duties I find myself being event planner, counselor, cheerleader, brainstormer, troubleshooter, gofer, secretary, leader, follower, did I mention cheerleader? And the list goes on.

And there was a lot to be done. The shire decided to hold two major events a year which meant we have to be ready for those. We had a major three day demo coming up. Vacant offices had to be filled. And after a period of dormancy over the winter we had to become active again. I didn't hit the ground running, but after a few months in office, I'd like to think the shire has things under control. We held our demo, we held our annual moot, started planning on next year's two major events, and we have become more active as a shire. We even did a whole redesign of the shire website to make it mobile device friendly. On top of that, we submitted a name change for the shire. The shire originally wanted to be called the Shire of Amleth Moor. This name was rejected due to the mixing of Danish and English which is not allowed. The name Amlesmore was suggested so that was settled upon. The name Amleth Moor was resubmitted several years ago and rejected on the same grounds again.  After consulting with senior heralds I struck upon the name Amlethsmor, which is wholly Old Norse. Only time and the blessings of God will tell if it is accepted.

And all the while, I was continuing doing consultations and research as a herald at large while trying to help plan a local fair here in town. What I learned is that being seneschal is a whole lot of work. Being a herald is as well, but you are not pressed for time. You can pace yourself and take however long it takes to document a name or help a client with a device. You move at your clients' paces, and I have found clients tend to be in no rush to register names and devices. The only things you had to be timely about was keeping appointments with clients, submitting forms, and doing reports. You do not have such luxuries with being a seneschal. Some things HAVE to be done by the next business meeting, and instead of dealing with a limited number of clients (who all basically want the same thing, a name and device and/or badge) you are dealing with many different individuals all needing or wanting different things. In essence, you have to learn to multitask. I have found though I enjoy it all I love my shire, and love handling business for them. It keeps me on my toes, and I enjoy serving the kingdom and the people of the shire. If I had to do it over, yes, I would take on the office of seneschal again.

Unfortunately, being seneschal means I have to curtail some things. I have cut back on heraldic consultations, allowing other heralds in the group to take up the slack (in addition to myself, and the shire herald, we are blessed with a former principal herald, and a herald in training). I no longer check Letters of Intent as often as I probably should. I am not in charge of planning next year's fair in town. And as you know, this blog has not been updated since April. Which is the whole point of this post. While I will try to make posts once in a while, they will be far from frequent. I must dedicate my time to being a seneschal.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

All For One: A Commentary on Branch Bickering

I first left the SCA in the mid 80s due to bickering between branches. Some shires just couldn't get along. I left before even getting my AOA, and looking back I can see I personally was part of the problem. I feel guilty over it, but the individuals I wronged are no longer in the SCA, and therefore not there for me to apologize to.

I have come to the conclusion since that if one unfairly criticizes another branch of the SCA he or she is attacking a whole kingdom. After all, SCA branches are not individualized entities, but part of something greater. An individual that unfairly criticizes another canton, shire, or barony is like the finger that criticizes the foot. The finger does not stop to think the foot, while different is needed to move the rest of the body of which the finger is a part.

Unfortunately, I have seen cases where one person has a problem with one or two members of another branch so they take it out on the entire branch, sometimes over things that happened long ago of which new folk were not a party to.

Giving another canton, shire, or barony a hard time, making things difficult for them is not chivalrous behavior. Indeed, it is the opposite. Groups and individuals within a kingdom should seek to help each other. That is the chivalrous thing to do. People should put aside issues in the past, and instead make sure every branch succeeds at what they do. If anything else we should refrain from such behavior least we drive new folk away.

The SCA is in addition to an educational organization a social one. And its social interactions are supposed to be of a chivalrous nature. SCA members should go out of their way to be kind to one another, to help one another, esp, when they are members of the same kingdom. There is no room for grudges, for rivalries, for petty jealousies. I wish when I had first joined the SCA 40 some odd years ago I had realized that then. I certainly do now.