Ansteopality Revisited

Tim McDaniel tmcd at
Sun Oct 20 18:17:24 PDT 1996

(A reply to the Ansteorran mailing list in re principality names; CCed
to Master Talan Gwynek, a name expert.  I'm sorry to drag you into
this, Magister!)

On Sun, 20 Oct 1996, Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace / dennis grace
<amazing at> wrote:
> The herald who suggested that we consider analogs and heraldic form
> BEFORE attempting to derive a name was, I believe, deluding himself
> with the belief that SCA heraldry is somehow the primary
> consideration in such matters.

You happen to be incorrect as to my beliefs in this matter.  I do not
believe that SCA heraldry is "the primary consideration", if "primary"
means "most important".  In fact, I think that the support of the
populace is the most important matter.  (May I also note that I don't
at all appreciate being called "deluded", and may I suggest you use
something milder, such as "mistaken"?)

Let me attempt to moderate and restate my point.  Too many personal
name and branch name discussions occur in the absence of any evidence
about period usage.  Too often this causes problems when the name is
to be registered.  Generally, a name to be registered must be
compatible with period naming practices in its elements and
construction.  (Mind you, this is with a great deal of leeway for
reasonable inference from known patterns.  For example, document to
period "Charles Edward Stewart" and a couple of other examples of dual
given names in very late-period English, the first names "Isobel" and
"Margaret", and the last name "de Forbeys", then "Isobel Margaret de
Forbeys" will be registered.  There are other modifications; I give
the general principle.)

By Corpora, among other requirements, the third requirement for a
principality is "A name and device registered with the College of
Arms." (V.a.2.c).

Therefore, while registrability may be not be the *primary* concern, I
think it should be kept in mind during the design process.

I was indeed wrong to imply that basic research should be done before
*any* discussion.  However, people should be aware of the future use
while they discuss names, and shouldn't get their heortes set too
firmly on one single, complete name before the research is completed.

I think that discussion of what name elements and allusions ought to
be made is a fine idea -- "referring to lions is great", "what about
'hearts'?", "references to Hell?", ...  This gives a lot of
flexibility in playing with ideas, brainstorming, transmogrifying, ...

In particular, "something with lions" sounds OK to this poor
uneddicated Norman.  "Caer Leon" has the problem Mistress Mari noted,
of having been too famous in period to be usable for us.  "Kingdom of
Leon" would be a wonderful name -- so wonderful that it was actually
done in period, and thus is unavailable.  However, adding an adjective
or making "Leon" an adjective ("Valley of the Lion", if that were
plausible) would clear the conflict.

> Second, I like this [Prince of] Hell idea.  Sort of.  Yeah, the
> heralds would have fits, and they'd never pass the name.

Um, but I don't think it's not the *heralds* you have to worry about
on this one.  I suspect it's the *seneschalate*.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't we have, a few years ago, a
case in Texas where a child was taken from its mother partially
because the mother's SCA paraphernalia was called "Satanic"?  I was
told last year that a whacked-out preacher from El Paso triggered a
police investigation of the SCA, based on charges of Satanism and
"'medieval' has 'evil' in it".  And someone wants to formally *take* a
Satanic name?  *You* try to rent a hall in South Texas for the
coronation of the Prince of Hell and meeting of the Legions of Hell.
I want to be playing Putt-Putt Golf several counties away at the time!

I only speculate that His Grace, the former minister and current
kingdom seneschal, would go utterly BALLISTIC for the disaster such an
attempted name would be.  The BoD would certainly distance themselves
from it so fast you'd see a redshift.  And I personally think they'd
be completely right if they did.  The heralds would simply never get
the chance to unlimber RfS I.2 and IV.2.

> Regions with inhospitable climes have long been designated Devil's
> This and Hell's That and Such-and-Such Inferno.

Hrm?  Unfortunately, I don't have copies of Ekwall and Mills like I
thought I did.  However, a check in the _National Geographic_ atlas
shows that almost all such names are in the New World.  (Most in the
U.S., but given the publisher, that's to be expected.)  Mind you, that
only means that they're post-1492, not that they're post-period, but
for one example I'll bet "Devil Mountain, Alaska" is post-period.  I
would start research with the few Old World names as more likely to be
fruitful for a period name.

I note some examples:
   Devilsbit Mountain, Ireland.  (Note: it might be a false etymology
       to assume that this is related to "Devil".  It might be, say, a
       Gaelic name that's been Englished.  Then again, it might not; I
       simply have no data.)
   Devil's Bridge, Wales.
   Devil's Glen, a pass in Ireland.
   Sierra del Diablo, Mexico.
   Mount Diablo, California (and the Diablo Range).
   Ile de Diable, French Guiana ("Devil's Island").
   Hellifield, England.  (Bet you $5 this has nothing to do with
       the church's Hell, but with someone with a last name starting
       with "Hell-" or "Hall-".)
   Hell, Norway (ditto).
   Hella, Iceland.
   Hellebaek, Denmark.
   Helleland, Norway.
   Hellevad, Denmark.
   nothing pertinent starting with "Satan".
Someone could find a historical atlas to find when some of these names
were coined, and dig into the topic further.

However, for the reasons above, I think that even derivatives of a
Satanic theme would be a Very Bad Idea Indeed.

Something referring to heat, sun, et cetera, however, seems pretty
reasonable to ignorant me:

    [Shire of Sigelhundas] Some commenters wondered whether the name's
    meaning [``sun-dogs''] was reasonable, but given such Anglo-Saxon
    terms as sigelwaras ``sun-men'' (their term for Ethiopians), we
    saw no reason not to accept the construction.  The Saxons probably
    would have used the term to refer to African dogs, not to the
    refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the upper atmosphere,
    but I suspect the submitters know that [dogs were used in the
    armory].  (Shire of Sigelhundas, Laurel acceptances, July, 1992,
    pg. 2)

With Atenveldt's Principality of the Sun soon to be dissolved, I'm
told, I would expect translations of "Sun-land" would become
available.  (Something similar to their armory would be excellent too:
it's "Argent, a fireball proper within a laurel wreath azure".  It'd
be polite to ask first, though.)

Since nobody else has said they've contacted Master Talan, I'll CC him
on this e-mail.  Magister, do you have any quick suggestions for name
patterns based on heat, brightness, sunlight, et cetera?  Can you
correct any misapprehensions I still have, or give sage advice?

(Let me clear up one common misconception now.  I'm told there are
examples of <meteorological term> + <geographical noun> names, names
of the form "Mist Bay", "Thunder Hill", "Windy Island", and the like.
>From what I've heard, no evidence has yet been found for plain
meteorological names.  In other words, "Principality of Sunland" would
be fine, I suspect, or "Hot Valley", or "Sun River", or ..., but plain
"Principality of the Heat" would no longer be registerable as a new

Daniel de Lincoln
                             Tim McDaniel
                        Reply-To: tmcd at
    mcdaniel at is wrong tool.  Never use this.

More information about the Ansteorra mailing list