Friday, February 02, 2007

Arms and the Heraldry Geek

I've been moving the furniture around a bit at Clarion Hall... the blog, not the bricks and mortar location. And it occurs to me that I need to do something about the little picture of me in armor. That is a bright new tabard circa 1997 with my arms of the time, and it is no longer accurate.

I'm on my third set of arms at this point. I began in the mid 80s with a design I felt was handsome. It was, let's see now, ahem, Azure, a tyger statant between in chief an arch of five estoiles and in base a clarion argent. Pretty, but you can tell from the lengthy blazon, not the epitome of medieval elegance. Too many charges, and the arch of charges isn't medieval. It would never be registered today, as the standard of scholarship in the SCA College of Arms is much higher. Also, the tyger is the badge of the East Kingdom, and therefore inconvenient.

So I wanted something simpler, or at any rate more appealing. By the early 1990s, I was an active herald, and knew a lot more. So I put together some nicer designs and took them to a couple of events at which I buttonholed every senior herald I could find. I just showed them the designs and asked them which they preferred, thinking I would rely on their collective taste. Without much fuss, they all preferred Per pale argent and azure, three clarions counterchanged. So that's the one I registered. I was very pleased with it; it would have not have looked out of place on a battlefield circa, oh, say 1350. That was what I was looking for - elegant and authentic.

Funny story: what I really wanted was the much simpler Azure, three clarions argent. Ok, you perhaps have to be a herald to understand why a smile comes to my face merely to type a four word blazon. That's a design that wouldn't have looked out of place just as early as they began to use clarions in heraldry, probably about 1285 (according to Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme and Akagawa Yoshio, the authors of the fine SCA heraldry publication A Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry, and I imagine they're right). But somebody named Robin Clarian had Per chevron azure and argent, three clarions counterchanged, and I thought, foolish young lad, that it conflicted with the simpler design. But a couple of years ago, I decided to try to find Robin Clarian and see if he would grant me permission to conflict with his elegant arms (which are actually one of the examples in the Pic Dic, and well they might be.) But when I put the word out, a helpful herald in the CoA pointed out to me that I had failed to understand a subtlety about the rule of conflict. Suffice to say that there actually were two clear differences between Robin Clarian and my preferred design. Oh joy!

So I registered Azure, three clarions argent, somewhat gleefully.

People have occasionally asked me why I picked clarions. Do they have some special meaning for me? Am I a musician? No. No damn reason at all, except they date from 1285 and are distinctive. And I like the sound of the word: clarion. They were also called claricords and claricymbals. And clarions are suggestive, to me, anyway, of chivalry and horns blowing in a stricken field.

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