An Tir Achievement Customs

Document history:
First compiled and composed by Torric inn Bjorn, May XXVIII/1993
Edited and revised by Elizabeth Braidwood and Frederic Badger, May XXXIV/1999
Rewritten and revised by Frederic Badger, October XXXIX/2004

This document was originally based on the result of a meeting that was held at the 1993 An Tir Kingdom Heraldic Symposium. Attendees included: Laurel Sovereign of Arms Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme, Kingdom Staff heralds including Black Lion Drogo the Forgetful, representatives of the Scribal authority including (we believe) then-Chief Scribe Eleanor the Clumsy, and other interested parties.

Further information was added in discussion with Black Lion Principal Herald Guerin de Bourgogne, and arranged and updated by Zenobia Naphtali, Elizabeth Braidwood, Celdae the Seeker, and Frederic Badger.

And finally, this document was rewritten and revised by Black Lion Principal Herald Frederic Badger in October, 2004.

What is an Achievement?

An 'achievement' is a full formal display of a coat of arms. This form of display is normally used in formal situations, and can be used for decorative elements, banners, and of course on your scrolls. An achievement is your device surrounded by all the extra elements accorded to you by your rank in the SCA. Most of the elements are optional and do not have to be displayed.

The achievement always contains some sort of shield shape, upon which the arms are rendered. It may also contain other elements which surround the shield. The rank of the owner of the arms determines what kind of elements may be used in the achievement. Each Kingdom has its own customs for achievements, and this document only covers those which are found in An Tir.

The basic summary is that there are three levels of awards in the Society. At each level there is a basic set of items you are entitled to display in your achievement, and then some awards carry with them additional items you may display with your achievement.

The first level of award is the Award of Arms level which gives you a helm, torse, and mantling to add to your achievement. A Court Barony carries with it an AoA if the bearer does not already have one, and allows you to display a baronial coronet in your achievement.

The next level is the Grant of Arms level. It is not the custom of the Kingdom of An Tir to give out a Grant of Arms by itself, as it is in other kingdoms. In An Tir the Orders of Jambe de Lion, Goutté de Sang, Grey Goose Shaft, Hastae Leonis, and White Scarf all carry a Grant of Arms with them if the bearer does not already have one. The Grant of Arms level awards adds the option of a Crest to top your helm. Each of these orders may be displayed as a medallion in your achievement.

The next level above this is the Patent of Arms level, which must be accompanied by entry into one of the peerage orders. By Society-wide rules the Orders of Chivalry, Laurel, and Pelican all carry a Patent of Arms, as do the Royal Peerages of Viscounty, County and Duchy. At the Patent of Arms level you are given the option of displaying Supporters with your achievement, and additional items based on the specific award.

Each of these carries its own set of items of display, which are listed below.

List of Achievement Options by Award and Level

Non-award level

Award of Arms level

Court Barony (Award of Arms Level)

Grant of Arms level

Orders of Jambe de Lion, Goutté de Sang, Grey Goose Shaft, Hastae Leonis, and White Scarf. (Grant of arms level)

Patent of Arms level

Order of Chivalry (Patent of Arms Level)

Order of the Laurel (Patent of Arms Level)

Order of the Pelican (Patent of Arms Level)

Viscount/ Viscountess (Patent of Arms Level)

Count/Countess (Patent of Arms Level)

Duke/Duchess (Patent of Arms Level)

Branch Arms




The helm is placed on top of the shield, touching, not floating above it. The style of helm is up to the recipient, and it can be taken from a non-heraldic period for purposes of persona display. Atop the helm can be set torse, crest, and mantling if the bearer is entitled to it by rank. When the helm has a crest the helm should be turned the direction of the crest, i.e. if the crest is a lion's face affronty, then the helm is affronty, and if the crest is a lion passant the helm is facing to dexter.

Different award levels have different metals/colors:


This is a twisted cloth roll of usually two colors that holds the mantling on to the helmet. The colors are generally drawn from the main color and metal of the device, just like the mantling.


The chapeau or 'cap of maintenance' is reserved for Pelicans (gules turned up argent plumetty gules, goutty de sang.) and can be used in place of the Torse, or Helm.


Royal Peerages, and Landed and Court Baronies are entitled to use coronets appropriate to their rank in achievements.

If an award entitled a coronet, the coronet may be used in place of the torse to hold mantling on the helm. Another form of display is to omit the helm, mantling and crest, and rest the coronet right on top of the shield. When this is done, the coronet extends all the way across the top of the shield and is a major part of the design. The coronet should rest on the top of the shield, and not 'float' above the shield.


The crest became a medium of heraldic display in tournaments, and has been codified into heraldic achievements since then. A good early period crest is something that could conceivably have been placed on top of a helmet. Later period crests became more fanciful and outlandish.

Crests should face the same direction the helmet faces.

It was relatively common in some places and times in period for the crest to be the same or derived from as the wearer's fieldless badge. In an achievement using a crest, it is not uncommon for period art to omit the torse, so that the crest just flows seamlessly into the mantling as was shown in early period and German style.


The compartment is an optional piece of 'ground' on which the achievement rests. Any person of any rank may use a compartment. However, based on period artistic, and general aesthetic, practices, they are recommended in achievements using supporters, and not recommended in achievements without them. Supporters look more 'natural' standing on something solid than floating in air, and the piece of ground looks somewhat superfluous in an achievement without supporters.

Common compartments are grassy hills (sometimes with flowers), a watery ford (when supporters are fish or sea-monsters), or an architectural construct (such as a carved stone platform.) Such a platform may also be an area for displaying the Motto, as if it were carved in the stone (see MOTTO). The compartment area may be used for other sorts of heraldic or personal allusion or as seems appropriate to the recipient. For example, a mountain range or a desert plain may represent a person's home area.

Tokens, awards, insignia and artistic elements honoring branch founders can be worked into the overall design of the achievement but it is best to keep the whole achievement simple. If there is a desire to work such things into the design they can easily be put into the Compartment area below the shield. There is plenty of artistic room at the bottom to display tokens of awards, or symbols honoring people.


Any person of any rank may use a motto. The motto is usually found over the top of the achievement, or underneath the achievement. The motto is generally drawn on a scroll, but may take other forms and be worked into the compartment.


Mantling has its history in the head coverings of knights on crusade, and had been adopted as a form of heraldic display. In earlier period display the mantling consisted of a simple cloth flowing off of the helmet, but in later period display the mantling had become extremely stylized, with multiple cuts in the cloth, and tassels at the ends. Sometimes in later period armory the stylization would take on the form of acanthus leaves, blown ribbons, or other shapes. The mantling should be of a color and metal, usually taken from the primary metal and color of the device.

There are examples of period achievements that flow out of the crest as a complete unit, such as a demi-lion atop a helm with the skin of the lion flowing into a mantling of the helmet.


The shield (also called an escutcheon) referred to here is the shield shape upon which the main display of arms is found. While the standard shield shape for armorial display is the 'heater' shape (like an inverted triangle with rounded sides, similar to the shape of a flatiron 'heater'), other shield shapes have been used for armorial display depending on the place and time of the display. A good survey of these shield shapes over time and place can be found in Neubecker's Heraldry -- Sources, Symbols and Meanings.

In period, women occasionally used a lozenge-shaped shield for armorial display, a practice which was more common in later period than earlier. However, during the majority of the SCA's times and places, women used the same kind of shield, helm, mantling, etc as did men.


Streamers are a late period and post-period substitution for mantling, in achievements for women where the arms are drawn on a lozenge-shape rather than a shield shape, and there is no helmet and mantling. They look like ribbons. In most cases in our period, women used the same shield, helm, mantling, etc, forms as did men, and use of streamers are discouraged.


A supporter is a thing or things 'supporting' the shield of the arms. Most often the supporters are animate creatures such as lions, dragons, fish, or humans. There is considerable variation in display of supporters in period depending on the style of the display. There were several types of display involving supporters including formal and artistic. In formal displays the supporters were most often seen in pairs, and in artistic displays the supporters became part of the artwork featuring the arms as a centerpiece.

When you have a set of supporters, they fall into several categories:

Examples of single supporters include:

Sets of supporters do not have to match each other. Earlier in the period when supporters are used they most often match, and in the later end of this period they often do not match. Supporters may have chains around their neck with tokens representing group awards, honors, or what have you, but this practice is discouraged in favor of placing the item on the compartment.

The use of 'A lion, tail forked and nowed Sable' as a supporter is restricted to the Kingdom or Royal arms, and to holders of the Honor of the Lion of An Tir and is not available for general use.

Revised and Updated by Frederic Badger
Black Lion Principal Herald 10/19/2004