Tuesday, June 28, 2011

KWHSS 2011: Chevron and friends

Another class I went to was on the triangular ordinaries and field divisions used in armory- and how we might not know them as well as we think. These shapes are: chevrons, piles, chausés and chapés. I should give some definitions before I plunge into the "period practices" the teacher discovered were actually misconceptions.
Chevron: a V-shaped ordinary that, by default, runs between the dexter and sinister edges of the field and points up. The Sewell arms illustrate what is considered a "good" chevron in SCA armory. It runs about half the length of the shield and is what would be considered medium thickness. 
Pile: an elongated triangle ordinary extending from the top of the field almost to the bottom. The corners do not reach the corners of the field. In SCA armory, piles tend to be very thick.
Per chevron: a V-shaped field division dividing the field in half. The corners of the V are typically below the per fess line and the point extends almost to the top.
A pile
Chaussé (or shod): a field division extending from the top corners of the shield to the bottom point.
Chapé (or caped): a field division extending from the per fess line to the center of the top edge.
Inverted: flipped along its horizontal axis
Throughout: runs the entire length of the field

With the modifications of inverted and throughout, the line between one field division/ordinary and another can get pretty blurry. A pile inverted throughout looks a lot like a field divided per chevron throughout looks a lot like  field divided chapé.


A recent precedent stated that a chevron must divide the field approximately in half, be approximately half the height of the shield, and that nothing but small charges should be able to fit above the point (or below if inverted). This ruling was made to standardize how people draw them because there was a lot of variation. What the teacher of this class discovered is that variation is period. She found flat chevrons, tall chevrons, thick and thin ones, and sizeable charges above the points (sometimes as extensions of the point itself). Basically...whatever creates a balanced look given the rest of the charges is what was used. English armory tends to have flatter, thicker chevrons than continental armory. So if you have an English persona, it's more period to do that- otherwise, it's more period to follow the recent precedent more closely. Swiss love throughout per chevron divisions and chevrons.
In regards to piles, she found that thick piles are very late period. For the rest of their history, they're thin. They're also rare and mostly found in English armory. None of the rolls she examined contained piles inverted.
If you're German and have a piece of armory exhibiting a triangle pointing up, you probably have your field divided chapé.

KWHSS 2011: Period Armorial Style

I just got back from the Knowne World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium 2011 and it was excellent.I mostly went to heraldry classes, but attended two scribal classes as well. I have a lot of information to relay, so I'll break this into several posts. I'm also only giving a very rough sketch of what the teachers went over. If you get a chance to go to this symposium or these classes elsewhere, I highly encourage it.

The first class was on period armorial style. If you were to take a random roll of arms from period and another from the SCA and put them side by side, there would be a lot of differences in what is and is not common. This comes about because after a millennium of time (give or take a few centuries), people's sense of aesthetics is going to change. 
One of the first examples you learn about as a herald is the sense of balance or symmetry. If I were a medieval person with two animal heads side by side on my device, I would have them both facing the same way- probably to dexter. Your average SCA person is going to think the shield looks more pleasing when the heads are either both facing each other or both facing out. Think of it as cutting and pasting vs. reflecting.
 They liked odd numbers in period. My artist fiancé likes to say that odd numbers (particularly three) have good composition. One, three, and five were all common numbers of charges to have in a single charge group. If on a chief, three was most common. That means that if I have bear heads on a band at the top of my shield, I probably have three of them (all facing the same way).
Semys were pretty common in period. A semy is when you take an object, draw a bunch of them, and scatter them across the shield- usually evenly spaced, but sometimes there was some shifting around the edges to fit things in. Objects at the edge of the shield which would be cut off can either be cut off or removed completely- both happened in period and both have been done in the SCA. Some common semys in period are: billets (rectangles, you don't see this much in the SCA), crusily (a certain type of cross), ermine (the fur group including pean, erminois, and counter-ermine), roundelly (circles), and de lys (fleur-de-lys).
The shifting to fit things in the space given I mentioned was common. They liked to fill space and it's considered good heraldic practice to do so today. If I have three mullets (stars)- two in the top half of my shield and one in bottom, the bottom one might be a bit bigger since it has that entire space to fill. If I have a rampant lion (standing on one hind leg, all other feet in front like it's attacking something) on a pale (a vertical bar down the middle of the shield), I'm going to stretch it so it extends the entire length of the pale. And likewise if it's a passant lion (one front limb up, the rest on the ground as if walking) on a chief, again, I will stretch it so that it extends the length of the chief.
The teacher has a Hungarian persona so we learned about Hungarian armory as well: They didn't use chevrons at all. They liked to put crowns on animals. Crosses were not used as ordinaries. Trimounts (three mountains) with a critter on top were common, often with a blue and green field to make a landscape picture- something you don't see in the Anglo-Norman armory SCA heraldry is based on.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Phrygian caps

A couple days ago, I made my first piece of Sarmatian garb- a Phrygian cap. While the name may be unfamiliar, you've all seen them worn by the members of a certain village of blue people.
The association was ever so lovingly pointed out by my fiancé and his best friend. I don't care if it looks silly; it amuses me and I like it. So there. :P
Phrygian caps have been around a long time and worn by many different peoples. The Phrygians in Anatolia are the namesake of the cap, but it spread to other cultures as well. The Greeks associated it with barbarism- which, in the original sense, means "not Greek" and implies an Eastern influence. Among the Romans, it became a symbol of liberty because freed slaves wore it. This association led to its use by French revolutionaries. Their caps were red and bore rosettes. It has since seen use in American and Latin American symbolism for the same reason, including on the seal of my home state.
Basically, it's a tall cap with an asymmetric, rounded apex, usually made in a material soft enough that it flops over. The apex is very blunt. The pointiest I've seen it is on a bust of Queen Dynamis of Bosporus.
According to Salisbury (2001), the cap is actually her royal headdress. The apex is pointier and curvier than most caps you can find pictured. The stars are something I haven't seen elsewhere. 
It also has a trim. The trim is optional- not all caps had it. Both are options for a Sarmatian persona, as illustrated by Köhler (1871).
Köhler's Sarmatians had floppy hats as opposed to Dynamis', which stands up straight. The Dacians on Trajan's column had Phrygian caps which stood up straighter. Given that Sarmatians were raiders and some were also allied with the Dacians during the Dacian wars, it's not a stretch to assume that Sarmatians could have worn hats that stand up too. By the same token, one could also choose to have the back of the hat extend down to cover the neck like the Scythian pictured in Brezinski and Mielczarek (2002). Ear flaps are another modification that was worn, as seen in a hat from Duro-Europas in what is now Lebanon, though I haven't found a record of them among Sarmatians or their contacts. I could just be missing it, so keep it in mind. A pattern for that hat can be found here.
Whether it's floppy or stands up is probably in part due to the fabric and in part to the cut. Wider fabric up top means the hat is less able to stand on its own (since it isn't given shape by your head that high up). If your hat is thicker leather, felt, or felt-lined, it will be stiffer than if it's only made out of linen, wool, or thinner leather.
Köhler indicated that both male and female Sarmatians wore Phrygian caps. Some classical authors say they would go bare-headed (in Brezinski and Mielczarek [2002]), so if you would feel silly wearing a Smurf hat, your outfit would still be complete without.

I had some cheap felt lying around and decided to try making my hat out of it. It's more suitable for the version that stands up. I also chose to make the kind that doesn't extend over the neck or ears. I cut it bigger than it needed to be so I'd have room to play around, then pinned it in various ways until it held the shape I wanted. Because of the shape and size of my fabric, I had to make it in two pieces (normally it would be in one piece). I stitched the edges together with blanket stitching like the Duro-Europas hat. The apex is more concave than I intended, but I'm otherwise happy with how it turned out. Now that I know what shape and size works for my head, I'll make another later on with nicer fabric and put trim on it. I'll make it taller and less concave in the front as well. I'll probably make a floppy one at some point, too.
You can use the third picture below as a base for your own. The dimensions are 11.5 x 8.5 in.


Brezinski and Mielczarek (2002), Men-at-Arms: The Sarmatians 600BC-450AD, Osprey publishing.
Harris, J, 1981, The Red Cap of Liberty: A Study of Dress Worn by French Revolutionary Partisans 1789-94, Eighteenth-Century Studies 14.3, p. 283-312.
Köhler, 1871, Die Trachten der Völker in Bild und Schnitt.
Salisbury, JE, 2001, Women in the Ancient World.