Picture the scene: you’ve got your name picked out, your badge forms coloured in, and you’re itching to get your device painted on your shield. You go to your local herald, and as you’re discussing the process, the question of how long your submission has comes up.
This article will go into the submissions process and how long each stage takes, what happens at each stage, and what to expect. As always, if anything is an outlier, please contact your consulting herald, Principal Herald of your kingdom, or your Submissions herald of your kingdom if anything seems amiss or you’ve waited longer than expected.
The start of our pipeline starts with handing your submission over to your local herald or submissions herald (or if you’re at a war, the herald in charge of the day). Provided all of your ducks are in a row (payment, any copies of documentation if they’re needed, and you have all of the forms/coloured appropriately), your forms will go to the next step.
From here, your forms will go to your submissions herald. Most kingdoms have an internal submissions herald, who handles all incoming submissions and prepares them for an internal letter of intent on the herald’s commenting website, OSCAR (or the Online System for Commentary and Response). Preparing this letter involves scanning in the submissions forms, retyping the details on the form into OSCAR, and then publishing it.
A letter of intent is a gathering of a month’s worth of submissions, prepared for members of that kingdom’s college to check for conflicts with a previously registered item, typographical errors in the submission, or to attempt to further document more difficult submissions. This process should take no more than a month from submission – so, if a gentle submits an item for consideration, that submission should be on the next month’s letter of intent for their kingdom. Any commentary made on an item is kept confidential. I repeat: any commentary made on an item is kept confidential. This is done so that any commentary made on an item in an unbiased way cannot be taken personally by the submitter.
Once the kingdom level commentary (and kingdom-level decision meeting) has occurred, the next stage is for the kingdom level letter (known as an Internal Letter of Intent) to be published by the submissions herald (in some kingdoms, this is done by a separate herald, known as the External Submissions Herald) to the next level, which is then known as an External Letter of Intent. At this stage, the submissions herald will take the information from the kingdom level commentary and with the submitter’s permission, may make small changes (like replacing a letter for spelling) and then will submit this letter again on OSCAR, this time for the entire College of Arms to see and comment on.
Much like the previous level, this letter receives commentary from heralds, though unlike the previous level, this commentary can be seen by all heralds who have an OSCAR account, are logged in, and who have permissions from their Principal Herald. Generally, a way to get this is to provide consistent commentary that adds to the conversation (it isn’t Reddit or social media – the College of Arms and the Sovereigns of Arms need feedback that can help them with their decisions). Commentary at this stage may find more than just conflicts – things such as style (does the submission contain name elements from disparate times and locations or does the submission combine too many modern elements?), typographical errors, additional documentation for items found in period, etc. Again, commentary is still kept confidential. This level lasts for another two months.
Once an External Letter of Intent has finished this month, this letter, along with nineteen other kingdoms’ worth of external letters, go to decision meetings. These meetings, held virtually, are where Wreath and Pelican Sovereigns of Arms decide, based on precedent (both historical and Societal) on the registerability of submissions. The position of Wreath decides on heraldic devices, and the position of Pelican decides on names.
Now, most submissions make it past this part without too many issues. If an item is discussed in a decision meeting, it is usually due to a question along the way, though even this is dependent on the Sovereign running the meeting. These meetings can take many hours in not only preparation, but the actual discussion of the items, and again, commentary in these meetings is kept confidential.
Once the submission leaves the respective decision meetings, it then goes to a three-month long proofing group consisting of heralds; our equivalent of peer review. As these letters may contain typographical errors, last minute decisions, and the possibility of changes of decisions, these decisions are kept confidential. There are two proofing sessions: one for catching the last chance for conflicts or weird heraldic precedents that could have been missed in commentary or the decision meeting, and the other to catch typographical errors. Proofing takes anywhere from four to six weeks. Once a letter has been proofed twice, it then is published. (it is a bit of a joke that asking when a letter gets published will push it back a few days or weeks, but seriously, the schedule for publication of letters does hinge on the fact that all heralds are volunteers and while we try to keep to a schedule, life and events sometimes get in the way.)
So, let’s recap. Let’s say you’ve submitted your heraldic item to your submissions herald in January. It has then gone onto the February internal letter for a month, and then published on the March external letter for another month of commentary. By the time the Sovereigns see your submission, four months has already elapsed, and adding another three months for proofing, and you’re looking at it being nearly August. Add one more month to prepare the letter for publishing, and voila! Like a baby taking nine months to be born, your heraldic submission has been published and is official.
However, a few things can gum up the works. Not having the correct payment, finding a conflict at a late stage in the commenting process, having improperly filled out or coloured forms, or even submitting your heraldic paperwork at an SCA war can cause a longer-than-anticipated wait to occur. All heralds, like any other office in the Society, consist of volunteers who spend their time and energy to not only help create the submissions, but also in commenting, researching, and checking devices. Sometimes, thanks to the volume of submissions during the war season, heralds are stretched thin – but this is where you can help. If you have an interest in becoming a commenting herald, please contact your Principal Herald to get started. Commenting heralds should have some knowledge of how the heraldic system works, but also be willing to learn what the rules are as we use them.
And that is the heraldic pipeline. Most submitters will find that while the wait is hard, many heralds will note that there are ways to streamline the process, listed below.
- Ensure your paperwork is all together. This means that if you need extra documentation that requires photocopies, have those ready to go and printed off.
- Have your consulting herald (the person helping) run a conflict check ahead of submitting. (Or, if you want to be very thorough, have a few experienced heralds check, too.)
- Make sure you have paid the correct amount.
- Consider submitting your heraldic forms outside of war season. Some heraldic letters do get broken up into smaller chunks to be easier on commenting heralds to research and digest, which means that there is possibility for delay.
- Consider submitting your forms electronically (by email) as well as the paper forms. (Though, check with your kingdom to make sure that this is a valid way of accepting forms.)
I hope this helps demystify the process on what a typical submission process looks like. Ideally, your consulting herald should help keep you abreast of any information, including where it is in the process (but never the commentary!), but in the event that you can’t remember your consulting herald, or you submitted on your own, contact your Submissions Herald for assistance!