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 – email@example.com, 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.