I’m a member of the authenticity chorus, except for one thing.  I would like to see general acceptance of the use of SCA cultural symbols (laurel wreaths, pelicans, and lesser awards, personal heraldry motifs).  I do not believe they detract from the quality or authenticity of a piece, if they are done in a considered way, which is appropriate for time, place, and item.  In our kingdom’s judging criteria, the only mention of SCA cultural motifs is a statement that “For purposes of competition, SCA awards or documents will be considered period texts.”

For example, I found the Carew-Pole Nightcap (English, 1600-1620) on the Extreme Costume webpage of

.  When I first saw the drawing, my mind immediately leapt from feathers to laurel leaves, and I offered to make one for an upcoming costumer’s elevation.

I researched other caps, coifs, forehead cloths, shifts, samplers, etc, and decided there was enough variety of flowers, vines, leaves and other motifs that a laurel leaf wouldn’t be out of place.  (I’ve got a number of images saved from the Victoria & Albert Museum.)

I scanned the bay laurel leaf out of Gerard’s Herbal, (1) used the computer to manipulate it so it replaced all the feathers with leaves, and replaced the little trefoils with “garbs”, shocks of wheat which were part of the recipient’s device.

Excuses why the cap doesn’t look better
Then, no one mentioned a desire for the cap, I thought it wasn’t needed, so I put the project on the back burner.  I did find a nice yellow Irish linen for the cap (reused from a modern shirt), and got some green silk floss (Rainbow Gallery Grandeur Silk Pearl #5).  I figured I’d make it some day – a good gift idea is still good, even if delayed.Surprise, 24 hours before the ceremony, I was told it WAS wanted.  Insert me rushing home after 10pm, to cut, mark, and begin stitching, all by hand.  I finished all the garbs, and outlined one row of laurel leaves.  I used more reused garment linen for the lining, and was finished it while waiting for court to begin.  (Did I mention I was autocrat for the event, too?)  Then, they decided that it was not needed, since the recipient was getting a humongous metal helm/wreath thing.  However, I still presented my quickie cap after court, and it was appreciated.  (No one can wear 20 pounds of decorative metal all during feast.)  I said I wanted it back to finish it, and 8 months later, I finally got it back.  Now 3 months after that, I still haven’t finished the embroidery, or even started.  So here’s how it looks now, and you’ll have to use your imagination.
I’ve been researching 6th C Eastern Kent, and the shield-on-tongue belt buckles, just screamed for a bit of heraldic decoration.  After all, they are escutcheons!, and some are decorated.  My exemplars are from Finglesham. (2)
I took a bronze casting workshop at Lilies, from HL Guillaume de la Sudeterre, (amazing craftsman!) and made a buckle.  I tried to add a shell motif to the tongue.  It still needs work, like a complete recasting, but all of the design motifs of that time period can either be carved into the wax, or punched into the metal.  Using my shell isn’t that far out of range.  Another resource                     

Last whip on this horse  Another example from 6th C Kent is these weird “D-Bracteates”.  That’s just their title, not because they are shaped like a D.  They are usually gold, and made by repousse or stamping thin sheet metal, and I don’t believe modern society has any clue what the design was supposed to symbolize.  We can make guesses, but we really don’t know.  I look at it, and believe I can make one that really is a Torse, which is an AoA level service award here in Calontir, and which I was awarded last year.  (Didn’t get any medallion, and I want one to wear with my future 6th C Kent outfit that fits the style.)

The problem, as I see it, is I expect to have to defend my use of SCA symbols, even though I’m using them in ways which fit the artistic style of the period. We also don’t know why cultures chose certain symbols to use, until middle and later period.  We know about the symbolism of pilgrim badges and taking the cross, but is there any defined symbolism for the viney embroidery in very late period?  We can guess, but is there any written evidence explaining their motif choices?

Often times, critics will say, “They (insert any culture or time period) didn’t use heraldry.”  But at the same time, those same critics may be wearing medallions which are not in keeping with their chosen time-period.  I’m not implying that we all have to have a bunch of award pendants, just to suit our dressing whims for the day.  However, if I make use of SCA heraldry and other cultural symbols on pieces I make using appropriate materials, techniques, and artistic style, I don’t want to be downgraded on my authenticity.

Am I just over-sensitive, what have you seen in other kingdoms?  Any comments are appreciated.

1  Gerard, John, and Thomas Johnson. The Herbal: Or, General History of Plants. New York: Dover Publications, 1975.
ISBN – 048623147x
Reprint of the ed. printed by A. Islip, J. Norton, and R. Whitakers, London, under title: The herball, or Generall historie of plantes. Includes indexes.
Text composed in English, published in 1597, revised and enlarged by Thomas Johnson in 1633.
vii, 1630 pages. : b/w illustrations ; 32 cm.
Indexes by Latin, English, Obsolete,  and Welsh names, as well as by “vertues”.
Somewhat difficult typeface to read.
2  Chadwick, Sonia E   1958   The Anglo-Saxon Cemetery at Finglesham, Kent: A Reconsideration   Medieval Archaeol 2, 1-71.