The Battle Hymn of the Submitter (Your Name Has Been Returned)

Heralds in the SCA are smart, skilled, hard-working volunteers whose dedication to the needs of the populace is second to none. I am proud to be a Herald, and I love my colleagues-in-arms.

In every kingdom, however, there are a few volunteers whose confidence outpaces their expertise, and whose efforts cause headaches for their submitters and more work for the rest of us. They are common sources of misinformation about the College of Arms, typically from outdated, misremembered, or fabricated notions of the submissions process. And while they all mean well, their actions and attitudes create terrible experiences for the populace, who replace the name of the individual volunteer in their memories with the more universal “The Heralds.”

The song below is dedicated to every submitter who received bad advice and poor service from one herald, and chose to continue to seek help from the College of Arms. Your faith and trust in us is worth more than gold, and we heralds appreciate you.

While the anecdotes in the story are exaggerated for comedic effect, they all have a story behind them. That said, the song is written for heralds, and as such there will be references and in-jokes that might not click with an audience outside of the heraldic community. If you’re interested, I have provided footnotes.

The Battle Hymn of the Submitter
(To the tune of John Brown’s Body)

There was a young submitter who attended Pennsic War.
She made the trek to Heralds Point across from Cooper’s Store.
She read aloud a letter as she sauntered through the door:
“Your name has been returned.”

You should go consult the Heralds (x3)
Your name has been returned!

The clerk took down her info as he listened to her plea
About the problems with the herald in her barony.
“He’s worse with onomastics1 than he is with armory,
And my name has been returned.”

“My herald’s lack of knowledge is impossible to gauge
His Dunning-Krueger confidence just causes me to rage
He said the Silmarillion was in Appendix H2
And my name has been returned.”


“He claimed that onomastics was his field of expertise
And said the name he gave me would be registered with ease.
The given name was Québécois3, the surname Japanese4
And the name has been returned.”

“The next name we submitted was Rhiannon ingen Cael
Ben Yehudah de la Luna ap Llewelyn Saint Michel
Al-Ibrahim von Dusseldorf Kowalski of Bhakhail5
And the name has been returned.”


The heralds gaped in horror as they listened to her plight,
Until Alys6 volunteered to help and said “Let’s make this right,
Choose a single time and culture and let’s concentrate our might,
So the name won’t be returned.”

They finalized the paperwork much faster than they planned,
But our newly named submitter bid the heralds “Understand,
That the local guy’s incompetence has gotten out of hand:
My device has been returned.”

Chorus: “Your device has been returned”

“Though I wanted simple armory, my herald told me ‘No,
All the easy stuff got registered a century ago7.’
The complexity of his design was seventeen8, and so
The device has been returned.”

“He drew a dove upon a billet checky Or and gules
Between some cockatrices clad in motley like a fool’s.9
He said ‘If you can sing it, then it’s not against the rules!10
That device has been returned.”


The heralds listened patiently ‘til all had been revealed,
Then advised her “Pick a charge and draw it thrice upon your shield11,
And if we find a conflict, you can just divide the field12
So your arms won’t be returned!”

The Laurel Queen of Arms13 then wandered to the artist’s shack14,
Where she found the local herald using crayons15 in the back.
He was the last to learn that he was going to get the sack.
His warrant’s been returned16.

Final Chorus:
You should go consult the heralds,
Take some classes with the heralds,
Learn to be a better herald,
Your warrant’s been returned!

  1. Onomastics: The study of naming practices
  2. Appendix H is a section of the College of Arms Administrative Handbook commonly called the “No Photocopy” list, which includes books and other resources which most commenting heralds were expected to own, and are thus usable without having to provide a copy of the cover page and source page in question. The inclusion of JRR Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion” as a naming resource shows that he’s working with an understanding that Elvish names are still allowed, which hasn’t been the case for decades.
  3. Québécois is a dialect of French that originated in the 17th and 18th centuries in Quebec, and is thus outside of the scope of the SCA’s timeline.
  4. Combinations of two languages in a single name registration require that the two cultures had substantial contact with one another in period. For more information on what name combinations are allowed, please see SENA Appendix C, Regional Naming Groups and Their Mixes.
  5. This name combines Irish Gaelic, Hebrew, Spanish, Welsh, French, Arabic, German, and Polish names, along with an SCA branch locative byname. It has a similar problem as the name in the previous stanza, with the added problem of combining more than two cultures into a single name. In this eclectic mix of names are nods to a few prominent heralds who frequent Heralds Point.
  6. Alys Mackintoich, who was Pelican Queen of Arms (in charge of all name registrations for the Society) when I was Wreath King of Arms (the same, but for armory), and is one of the best name heralds I know. While she lives in the East Kingdom, her work frequently keeps her from Heralds Point. You can find her blog here.
  7. As of this writing, May 1, 2024, the SCA will have been in existence for 58 years exactly. Our herald is prone to hyperbole. Also, he is fundamentally mistaken; there is plenty of simple heraldry available for registration.
  8. “Complexity” is a concept in SCA heraldry that serves as a rule of thumb for whether a design has too many elements to be reasonable as a period armorial design. The complexity of a design is calculated by counting the number of tinctures (e.g., red, white, green, yellow, etc.) with the number of kinds of charge (e.g., lion, sword, bordure, etc.). Without documentation, the maximum complexity generally allowed in a piece of armory is eight. Seventeen is thus far too complex. For more information, see SENA Section A3E2.
  9. This line is a reference to the chorus of a famous SCA song, The Heralds’ Complaint, by Baldwin of Erebor.
  10. There is, as of the date of this writing, no such policy in place with the College of Arms. However, the badge Baldwin describes in the song was, in fact, registered to him in April of 1980, as both a practical joke and a singular honor for his years of service as Laurel King of Arms.
  11. A very common and simple period heraldic motif that is rarely used in the SCA is to have three iterations of the same charge (as previously mentioned, a charge is a thing on the shield, like a lion or a sword), with nothing else. Because it’s not commonly used in the SCA, it’s a go-to fix to find simple, clean heraldry with a period aesthetic.
  12. A relatively recent rules change states that two armorial designs that are otherwise identical do not conflict with one another if one has a plain field and the other has a divided field. This new rule has made it very easy for submitters to clear conflicts that arise during the consultation process. See SENA A5F1.
  13. The top herald of the Society; the Boss.
  14. Heralds Point at Pennsic has a separate tent where volunteer artists work to draw and color devices and badges for submitter review and approval away from the noise and distractions of the main consulting tent.
  15. Forms colored with wax-based media such as crayons have long been disallowed because the wax melts and ruins both scanners and files. The artist’s tent at Pennsic Heralds Point has no crayons, meaning this particular herald brought them in with him.
  16. In other words, Laurel is taking away his authorization to work as a member of the College of Arms in any official capacity. Not every kingdom warrants heralds, but Æthelmearc (the kingdom where Pennsic is held) does.