Please join me for year 5 of the Æthelmearc Sign a Day!!
Monday through Friday I post one SCA-specific Sign a day. On Sunday, I post the review from the week before. I start by posting Society-wide signs, then move on to Æthelmearc specific signs, then finish up with ASL signs for common words said in Court. Come learn to understand what I am signing in Court or start your journey to become a Silent Herald!
Our Silent Herald Gytha in action at Yule in the Barony of Delftwood (Photo by Fred Flouton, 2017)
By Mistress Gytha Oggsdottir
Ever wondered in Court what that Herald was doing who was waving their hands around and making faces? Good chance that is me, Mistress Gytha Oggsdottir, Kingdom Silent Herald. What is Silent Heraldry? Silent heralds in the society are heralds who express auditory information into visual information. Silent heralds use sign language, lip movements, facial expressions, gestures, and body language to convey what they hear. Silent Heralds convey information, primarily through sign, to the broadest audience possible, regardless of their degree of hearing loss. The reality is many of us in the society are getting older and our hearing is getting worse. Plus, many of the halls we have Court in have bad acoustics.
One of the things I strive to do as the Kingdom Silent Herald is to teach as many people as possible SCA signs. The SCA uses a lot of jargon and non-modern words. This means as a Society we have had to create signs to represent the words, titles and awards we use in Court. In fact, Deaf members who are fluent in American Sign Language, also have to be taught the signs. The Silent Heralds use the grammar rules and patterns of ASL to create SCA specific signs. ASL is a living language that changes and morphs as society does, so SCA signs have morphed and changed over the years.
So how do you learn SCA signs? I teach my sign class at most Æcademies. I run a Facebook page called Æthelmearc Sign a Day – where I post a single signs Monday through Friday and post a review post on Sundays. We just finished reviewing Society signs and are about to start Æthelmearc specific signs. On Youtube you can see all the Society and Æthelmearc Sign videos on the playlist ASL/Silent Heraldry hosted by the Æthelmearc website’s Ætube.
Do you want to become a Silent Herald? It’s fun, and easier than you think! Society’s requirements are you know how to fingerspell and are willing to be up in front in Court. Knowing the Award signs is also highly encouraged. If that is all you know, you can still convey a lot of information – just pointing to the award recipient and signing the award they are receiving tells the audience a lot if they were unable to hear what was said. Please feel free to email – firstname.lastname@example.org, message me on Facebook under Gytha Oggsdottir or grab me at an event or practice to ask questions or find out more about Silent Heraldry.
Why in the world is that person standing up in court flailing around?
If it’s a Silent Herald, what she or he is doing is translating what is happening in court into American Sign Language (ASL). How much he or she translates depends on the amount of sign that herald knows. Why she or he translates is for many reasons:
Our society is getting older. More and more of us are losing some to all of our hearing.
Acoustics in many halls are terrible. How often are you in the back of the hall and can’t hear what is being said in court?
We want our dream to be accessible to all.
But what if you are hard of hearing or sitting in the back of court and you do not know sign language?
Luckily, ASL is a very expressive language and many signs are similar to gestures you would use to explain something. Even not knowing sign, many people can gain a better concept of what is happening in court by watching a Silent Herald. I am often approached by people who say they do not know sign, yet my presence as a Silent Herald made court more understandable.
I cannot count how many times people have told me that they wish they knew sign language. I am also approached by people who do know some sign but do not feel like they know enough to become a Silent Herald themselves. This made me start thinking about how I could help spread the knowledge to others. I started teaching at scholas and academies, but that was clearly not filling the need.
I then came up with the idea of a sign-a-day Facebook group and created it. (Æthelmearc Sign A Day) The concept behind it was that it was a place where I would post a link to a video each day showing a sign. I would start with signs that the Society created for ourselves, then move to signs specific to Æthelmearc, and finally move to signs that are used often in court. In this manner people could get exposure to the signs that are used by Silent Heralds.
My hope is through this Facebook group that more people will learn ASL. That more people will understand what Silent Heralds are signing. And perhaps that one or two will be willing through the knowledge gained to stand in the front and sign themselves.