Why You Should Attend

Known World Heraldic Symposium – Questions and Answers

What is a Known World Heraldic Symposium?

A Known World Heraldic Symposium (or KWHS, for short) is the annual meeting of the College of Arms of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Held sporadically in the 1970s, they have been an annual event since 1987. They typically take place over a weekend sometime in June or early July, and attract heralds of all levels from all over the Society.

Because travel can be expensive, and to give as many people as possible the opportunity to attend one, the annual KWHS are held in different places each year. For example, the 1998 KWHS will be held in Tucson, Arizona. The 1997 KWHS was held in the Rochester, New York. In 1996, the KWHS was held in Birmingham, Alabama. in 1995, the site was Denver, Colorado. Each KWHS is hosted by a local SCA group.

What happens at a KWHS?

Though each one is unique, the “typical” KWHS consists of: sightseeing for early arrivals on Friday during the day; a general “mixer” on Friday evening, where people get together to make and renew acquaintances; a Saturday schedule of classes on heraldry, onomastics, and the scribal arts; a dinner Saturday evening; and a Laurel “roadshow” meeting Sunday morning.

The Friday sightseeing usually includes visiting important local sights, and often includes side trips to new and used bookstores and/or fabric shops.

The Friday evening mixer is just that, an informal social get-together (usually garb is optional), sometimes with a cash bar depending on the facilities available, where attendees can say hello to old friends, meet new ones, and participate in informal discussions of just about every topic imaginable.

The classes on Saturday cover a wide range of topics related to heraldry, armory, onomastics (names and naming practices), and calligraphy and illumination. It is possible to obtain a good idea of the scope of the classes offered each year from the Proceedings published of past KWHS, or from a collated index of past Proceedings, available from Free Trumpet Press West.

The Sunday morning Laurel roadshow meeting is a meeting wherein one can see the final registration process take place. Laurel reviews the commentary and registers or returns submissions from one or two kingdoms. This is not a “demo” meeting in the sense of being something created for the KWHS; the submissions are real, the commentary is real, and the items registered go into the Armorial and Ordinary.

And, of course, throughout the entire course of the KWHS there are informal conversations on all aspects of heraldry, onomastics, etc., from the early arrivals Thursday evening through late Sunday.

Why should I attend a KWHS?

To meet others with similar interests. This is the College of Arms’ annual convention, an opportunity to get together with people you correspond with but would otherwise never see in person, to renew old friendships and make new ones, to attach a face with some of the commentary you read every month, to learn what the person who writes the commentary is really like.

To learn is another excellent reason to go. (Yes, I know this should be a really obvious one. But it’s one that sometimes gets forgotten.) There are classes on all kinds of aspects of heraldry, in and out of the SCA, on onomastics, and on the scribal arts. It is also an opportunity to see the end results of the entire submissions process.

To teach is yet another. I don’t mean just in the classroom, either, though that’s a really good place to start. An awful lot of teaching goes on in the halls and hospitality rooms, in the restaurants and in the parking lot in informal discussions and debates. No matter who you are, you have something to share with the rest of us.

Also, of course, there is the otherwise extremely rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with Laurel and Laurel staff, to hear first-hand from them where the CoA is going, and to have the chance to participate in discussions about the College’s future in the near and distant term.

How can I find out when and where the next KWHS will be?

Laurel announces the site and date of each year’s KWHS a year in advance. Laurel will also announce the date in the Cover Letter for the Letter of Acceptances and Returns immediately following the prior year’s KWHS.

Additionally, announcements are usually made in correspondence from Laurel to the College of Arms, in Tournaments Illuminated, and in various kingdom newsletters some months before each year’s KWHS. Or you could simply write to your kingdom’s principal herald or to Laurel to inquire (addresses for each should be in your kingdom’s newsletter). Such information is also available in various sites on the Internet, including the Laurel web page (www.sca.org/heraldry).

What if my group wants to host a KWHS?

Bids to host a Known World Heraldic Symposium are sought by the Laurel Sovereign of Arms, usually beginning about January of each year for the KWHS to be held the following year. A complete bid should be sent to Laurel, and a synopsis of the bid should be sent to the membership of the College of Arms. Bids are usually accepted until May. That way, members of the College of Arms can write to Laurel with their preference, and Laurel will announce the successful bid at that summer’s KWHS. This gives the successful bid a full year to prepare for the event, and allows the members of the College a full year to make plans to attend.