[ANSTHRLD] Wreaths and Territorial Arms

Bob Wade logiosophia at yahoo.com
Sat Jul 12 20:08:02 PDT 2008

Thank you to all who responded to my question about arguments supporting negating the requirement of a Laurel Wreath in Territorial Branch Devices.  Some counter-arguments:

Anachronistic Argument:

“Requiring a Laurel wreath is a non-heraldic, non historical, non-authentic bureaucratic requirement … English baronies don’t have to use Lions.  French shires don’t have to use fleurs-de-lys.  Castilian cities don’t have to use castles.” (Robin)

Consider instead the model of ecclesiastical heraldry.  “The arms of abbeys and colleges are generally those of their founders, to which the abbeys usually added some charge of an ecclesiastical character, as a crosier, mitre, or key.” (Parker under ‘Arms-Arms of Community’)  The only instances of using books as charges I’ve found in period heraldry belonged to Universities.  As a non-profit organization, a visual appeal to the parent organization through the addition of a standardized charge does not seem to me to be anachronistic.  (Calling cities “Baronies” seems more so, as does having subsidiaries with Onomastic roots in Norse, Welsh, Old English, etc being referred to collectively in Latin as “Ansteorra”.)

Style/Complexity Argument:
“Requiring a Laurel wreath … usually forces more complex (and therefore worse) heraldry.  It makes it harder for new groups to design armory, and harder for people to create banners and other heraldic bearings
It is, in every relevant way, a violation of the College's charge to encourage good, authentic armory.” (Robin)

I disagree with equivocating “more complex” and “worse”.  (Robin and I both have single charge fieldless Badges.  We also both have Devices with a charged chief.  Being more complex, is the heraldry of our Devices worse than that of our Badges?  No, the RfS classifies all four pieces of armory as “simple”.)  Yes, complexity is a necessary evil when uniqueness is required in a large sample size, but I don’t think we have nearly approached the Modest Proposal crisis point.  Territorial submissions need not be overly complex.  On the other hand, I do think we could do better in teaching and enforcing style during the submission process.  “Or, two billets and a laurel wreath vert” is authentic (Tudor) heraldry, but the more complex “Or, two billets in pale environed by a laurel wreath vert” has better medieval heraldic style and “Or, a laurel wreath within billets in orle vert” has even better authentic style.  Similarly, it’s not
 the complexity of armory that makes creating some banners difficult but the complex outline of the charges – that argument disappears if the required charge was “overall a bend Or”.

Utility Argument:
“It doesn't serve the people, or the branches, or the CoA, or the corporation, in any relevant way.” (Robin)

This argument is the hardest to counter because it is so subjective.  Unfortunately, it also seems to be the true source of the debate –the Anachronistic and Style/Complexity Arguments and Counter-Arguments are merely side issues to how we feel.  I believe “As a Laurel, I'd never add a laurel wreath to my own device, even if I were allowed to, because it's association with group status is just too strong for me personally to get past.” (Sara) best expresses the depth some of us feel.  I think the most objective our side of the argument can get is “… the different kingdoms do get referred to as the Laurel kingdoms in a verbal comment off of the Society arms.  That is a traditional term but its purpose is simple; to verbally show the binding of the sovereign kingdoms under the common structure of our society.  That this is visibly represented by the wreath on kingdom arms makes some sense.  The extension to the local group arms is more of a
 stretch but has some SCA logic to it.  It especially makes a visible statement at events where multiple medieval re-creation or re-enactment groups gather.  The arms with laurel wreaths make finding SCA groups much easier.  That has a useful purpose.  Again, is it enough to be worth protecting?  Or requiring?” (Etienne).  My best response to date is a purely subjective one – I’ve lived in two Kingdoms, three Baronies and multiple Shires and Incipient Shires over the past thirty plus years.  They’ve each been my home and their populace my friends.  To me, the Laurel Wreath symbolizes them individually and collectively.  I hope by continuing to require it, others can make the same association.



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