Duties of the Branch Herald
This article describes your responsibilities as a branch Herald. The basic duties can be summarized, in no particular order, as follows:
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
The First Responsibility: Contact Your Superiors It is frequently stated, but it cannot be overemphasized: the very first responsibility of every new Herald is to contact your superior officers immediately and let them know who you are. They need to know how to send you information about rule changes, fee increases, and so on. So write a letter of introduction and send copies to your regional (or principality) Herald and to the Polaris Herald. Don’t wait until the next report is due!
What should you write? Well, most important, you must give your mundane name, SCA name, full mailing address, and telephone number, email address if available and state that you are the new Herald. Give the name of your group, too. Include a letter from your seneschal confirming that the group has chosen you as the new Herald. Finally, tell a bit about yourself. How much do you know about Heraldry? What books do you or the local library have?
Write Reports The senior Heralds have to be kept informed about the Heraldic activities and level of Heraldic knowledge in every group. The way to keep them informed is to write reports on a regular schedule. It is very important that your superiors receive your reports by the deadline; they have their own reports to write, and missing a report can affect your group’s status. You’ll find more information about the reporting deadlines and what to include in your reports in the article Writing Reports.
If your address (regular or email) or phone number changes don’t wait until your next report—let the regional and kingdom Heralds know immediately, in case they need to contact you.
Field Heraldry The field Herald is the one who makes official announcements at events and announces the names of the fighters at a tournament. The local group’s Herald does not have to do ttheir themself, but he should find volunteers and let the autocrat know who is currently on duty.
Book Heraldry Book Heraldry includes the study of armorial devices and names, and the rules of the Society concerning the registration and use of devices and names.
• You should have at least a basic understanding of Heraldry. • You should have some understanding of period naming practices, and be able to help a client find information specific to their or her chosen culture and time period. • You should study SENA (Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory), which is found on the SCA website at http://Heraldry.sca.org/sena.html. • You should know what devices and badges are registered to the members of your group, and discourage people from displaying or using devices that are not yet registered to them.
Court Heraldry The court Herald is the person who plans the agenda for Court and acts as a “master of ceremonies” during Court— calling people forward, reading scrolls and proclamations, etc.
Baronial Courts are the responsibility of the Barony’s Herald, while the most senior Herald present usually handles Royal Courts. This depends, though, on a number of factors, such as the preference of Their Majesties or Their Highnesses, and the senior Herald’s willingness to give others the experience.
Branch Heralds are strongly encouraged to offer their services to assist with Royal Courts that happen within the boundaries or their group or events that are sponsored by their group.
Courtesy and Precedence You should be familiar with the rules and customs regarding courtesy, precedence, and awards. You should know how one is expected to behave in the presence of Royalty and Peers, and how they should be addressed.
You should know the various awards of Northshield and the Society, why they are awarded, and what their relative rank is. You should know the correct titles and forms of address for recipients of the various awards.
You must keep track of all awards received by the members of your group and maintain an Order of Precedence for your group. An Order of Precedence is a listing of people who have received awards, what the awards were, and when they were given, sorted either by SCA first name or by descending order of rank. You can also include the specific reason for each award; however, ttheir is optional. The Order of Precedence must be made available to the members of your group. You may want to put it in the group’s newsletter occasionally.
Teach Teach your group the basics of Heraldry and period naming practices. If you don’t know much about Heraldry or names, help them find good reference books. You should also warn people about what books not to use. (Can you say “No ‘name-your-baby’ books”? I knew you could!)
Teach people about proper courtesy and precedence, and how to recognize the various symbols of rank, so that they will know when and how to show proper respect to Royalty, Peers, and Nobility. If your group has a Chatelaine, it is appropriate to coordinate ttheir instruction to benefit newer members.
Teach people about the awards structure of the Society and Northshield, so they will know which awards are an appropriate reward for a person’s accomplishments and thus be able to recommend that person for an award. Teaching others how to complete an award recommendation on the Northshield website is of great help!
Teach people how to create a profile on the Northshield website. Their Majesties (and others) use the information there to identify interests and anticipated event attendance. Help with Submissions Help people design their devices and choose their names. Make sure they fill out the submission forms correctly, or help them do so, and help them find proper documentation. (If you draw the device for them, make sure they see the drawing and are satisfied with it before giving it to them to send it in.)
Don’t just quote the rules — explain why it works that way. Use modern examples: point out the color combinations on traffic signs — white on red, black on yellow, etc. — which make them legible at a distance, just as a medieval fighter’s shield had to be recognizable across a field.
All submissions should be sent to the Keythong (Submissions) Herald by the submitter themselves, along with the appropriate fees. Be sure to ask them for a copy for your records if you do not prepare the forms directly. DO NOT accept money, as the fees should be sent directly to the Keythong Herald by the submitter.
Remember that you cannot reject a name or a device. If, in spite of all your arguments, a person insists on submitting their name or device as is, then you must allow them to send it on to the Kingdom Submissions Herald. At worst, it will be returned a couple of months later with an explanation confirming your opinion, and you can then work with the submitter in fixing the problems. If a submission is returned, and you don’t understand the reasons, ask your regional Herald for help.
Be Available It does no good for your group to have a Herald that never attends meetings and is hard to find. Attend local meetings and events as often as possible. Bring submission forms and Heraldry books. Wear a Herald’s baldric or tabard at events so that you can be found. If your group does not have such a garment consider making one.
Keep Records You must keep proper records and files of everything pertaining to your office, including copies of all reports that you write and all letters that you receive from other Heralds. Keep copies of all device and name submissions for your group (not individuals!). These documents should be retained whether they have been registered, returned, or are still in progress. Copies of your submitted reports should be sent to your branch Seneschal.
Your Final Responsibility Although there are frequent reminders of an officer’s first responsibility, little is said about the final responsibility. Someday you will cease to be the Herald for your group. Maybe you’ll get “promoted” to regional Herald, maybe you’ll move away, maybe you’ll become the new seneschal, or maybe you’ll just feel the need for a rest.
When that time comes, you still have one final duty: to find a suitable replacement. A Herald is a mandatory position for a Barony and must be filled in order for that Barony to function officially.
Ideally, you will have had at least one deputy whom you have trained for the duties, who is willing to take over as the branch Herald. If not, you’ll have to look for volunteers who are willing to learn, and give them whatever training and assistance you can. Make sure your replacement is acceptable to the members of your group — a Herald that everybody hates isn’t going to get much cooperation.
When you do have a replacement chosen, write a letter to your regional Herald and the Polaris Herald to let them know who your replacement is, including their SCA name, mundane name, address, and phone number and make sure your replacement sends a letter too.
Finally, remember to turn over all your records to the new Herald, along with any reference books, tabards, et cetera, that belong to the group. They’re their responsibility now, and they will need them in order to do their job properly.