Siege Diaries 6/10/2021

Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: If someone else was strong enough to do it, why can’t I?

I really like the emphasis on avoiding the zero sum game in the associated meditation for today. That is, when seeing someone doing something amazing, instead of being jealous or wanting to “beat” them, asking what’s holding ME back? The answer to that is not “I’m capable of ANYTHING!” or that kind of rose-coloured world view, but to understand just what went into that amazing thing. For truly amazing feats, the answer is usually “years of work and practice” (not even mentioning things like privilege and the like.) The important lesson here is that I must be willing to put in the work to do the thing. I have made choices over the years to prioritize some things over others. We all do that. If I cannot do something, that’s because, for the most part, I have made a choice not to make it a priority.

Today was International Heraldry Day. I had a blast sharing much of my SCA heraldry, and it reminded me of the entire arc of my heraldic adventures in the SCA. I was unusual–I passed my original name and device on the first try, before my first year in the SCA was complete. The device was almost exactly what I’d wanted, although there was originally a book in the middle. It was a counter-ermine background, with a gold pall (Y shaped ordinary) with a green crescent at each end of the Y. Within a year or two, however, I knew that I wanted the crescents to be red–although it took me a lot longer to officially make that change (2003, to be precise). I also changed my original name, Rigunth af Bern, to the Anglo-Norman Nicolaa de Bracton of Leicester, after just two years.

My adventure with badges, however, was a lot more complicated. I originally attempted to pass a pomegranate, which was returned for conflict. I tried a group of five of them. That didn’t work either. That was about the time I started to realize that I wanted a badge involving a star. So I tried a red mullet, voided with gold. Conflict. I tried a simple red mullet on a gold background. That didn’t work, either. Part of the issue is that there is a heraldic seal–tinctureless–that was making just about everything with a single mullet of five points conflict. That’s when I had the idea to try a comet–one with a red head and a gold tail. That finally worked, and it was registered in 2006–and became my first tattoo in 2007, for my 40th birthday. This has subsequently become associated for me with my service as a herald, and my heraldic title, Rouge Estoile Herald Extraordinary.

Since then I have had a flood of additional badges. I have a dog with a firebrand that’s based on cover art for New Order’s song “Ceremony.” I have the cat herissony, registered in 2014, that’s become my unofficial mascot (and the badge for my “college”–the group of dependents I’m working with). The same year, I decided to pull the trigger on a new device that also incorporated stars and the number 5, plus my favourite colours of red, gold, and black. The red and gold turned out to be exceedingly common in Anglo-Norman heraldry, and I briefly considered not using the black bordure, but decided to keep it, partially to distinguish that device from modern Chinese and Soviet designs, which are also red and gold and feature stars. The five-pointed mullets are also very English, as is the arrangement of the five individual charges in two rows of two, with a the fifth at the base.

Of course, now I’m drifting to the Rus’ side, and using the name Nika Dmitrieva doch’ Zvezdina. My lovely Anglo-Norman arms now are actually canting arms, because “Zvezdina” is derived from the Russian word for “star.” Two years ago, I received an Augmentation of Arms, which is a black shield shape in the middle of my arms charged with a crossed coronet and quill. And I also registered another badge, this time the eight-pointed star distilling a goutte de sang (or blood droplet). This badge is also now a tattoo. The number eight has several significances for me. One of them is its similarity to the compass rose, a reference to a sense of a moral compass, the pursuit of the virtues as cures for the vices. The star’s lower half is red, as if it has shed blood. The blood droplet itself is a reference both to the blood droplets associated with the symbol of the Order of the Pelican, that is, a willingness to serve those things that are important to the point of shedding of figurative lifeblood. It is also a reference to Shostakovich’s 8th symphony (hence, eight points), and a famous quote he said about the transition into C major out of the bleak 4th movement, where he mentioned “how much blood” that C major had cost–once again, figuratively speaking, but being composed in the midst of WW2, some striking imagery. This is my own personal badge.

I like the ability we have in the SCA to choose things that are meaningful to us as armoury, and especially to use them on banners, jewellery, clothing, and other items.