The Origin of the Name of "Cynnabar" Originally writen April, 1996.
Did you know that Cynnabar's name was originally rejected by
Laurel King of Arms? Indeed, we might have been referred to the
Shire's original name, "Dearne Ansilet," until the group came up with
something new, had not the conflict been resolved. I discovered this
while digging through the Seneschal files, so let me have the honor of
telling you the events as I can put them together...
Although we were originally called the Shire of Dearne Ansilet,
name was rejected by the Office of the Laurel King of Arms in 1980.
Thus the search for a new name began. There are four basic criteria
for an SCA name:
1. Originality; creativity.
2. Authenticity and linguistic correctness.
3. Appropriateness to time and place.
4. Avoidance of conflict with prior use in history, the SCA, and
Back then, the group had developed into a persona that they
to articulate. The group felt like a fortified Italian city, located
near two strong neighbors (The Barony of Northwoods and the Dark
Horde), but open to trade and on good terms with both. They wanted a
name that was simple, ancient and with an Eastern flavor.
After four months of discussion, the name Cynnabar came into
The Science officer (back then, the Arts and Sciences was divided into
two separate offices) discovered that under Ann Arbor was a large
deposit of mercury, which, in its red sulphide form, was called in
From the _Oxford_English_Dictionary_ II 419, 1970 by the Clarendon
CYNNABER: cinnabar, cinnambre: (1) the red crystalline form
mercuric sulphide, HgS (2) the pigment; vermilion (1382 Wyclif,
_Jer._ xxii 14 "peynteth with cynoper") (3) A rhombohedral mineral ore
(1599 Hakluyt, _Voyages_ II, 229 "great quantitie of quicksilver and
cinaper") (4) a locality in the Kingdom, somewhat near Northwoods (5)
Dragon's blood (1398 Trevish _Barth._De_P.R._ xix, xxvii 878; Hakluyt,
op. cit. II 331 "sanguis draconis cinnabaris") (6) Alcheme, a source
of quicksilver; the way to make butter of antimony was by use of
mercury from cynnaber (1610 B. Jonson Alcheme I iii 616 "cinaper").
Oh, well, yes, (4) wasn't really in the dictionary. The group
in for fun (and acknowledged their playfulness) when they wrote their
submission to the Laurel King of Arms.
But the important point they took from the definition is the
to "dragon's blood." As Cynnabar seemed to be in the virtual center
of the Middle Kingdom, and the dragon is the symbol of the Middle
Kingdom, the name received unanimous approval from the group.
The group searched long and hard to find any conflicts with
historical, SCA, or literary use. Unfortunately, one slipped through
In 1976, Edward Bryant wrote a science fiction novel called
_Cinnabar_. You might remember Edward Bryant from other novels such
as _Fetish_ and _Things_To_Do_In_Denver_When_You're_Dead_.
No one in Cynnabar, excuse me, in Dearne Ansilet, had
ever heard of this novel. In an effort to get the name Cynnabar
passed, the group wrote an appeal letter to the Laurel King of Arms (from
which most of the information in this article is taken), stating:
1. The choice of Cynnabar was made without any influence or
to the novel.
2. They do not know of any fame that the name of the Shire would
garner from being associated with the novel. Indeed, in the two
years they had been actively using that name in the Middle Kingdom, no
one ever made the connection to the novel.
3. They got the name from sources based on ancient meanings, not from
4. Mr. Bryant did not invent the name Cinnabar, a fact which he
clearly mentions in the book, so no one could accuse the group from
stealing an original name from him.
The letter went on, suggesting that if Cynnabar got rejected,
then the following alternate forms are available: Cynnaber, Cinaper,
Cynoper, Cinnambre, Cinnabaris ("of Cinnabar").
The group also went one step further. They wrote to Mr. Bryant
asked his permission for use of the name. Here is his reply:
"Pursuant to our telephone conversation of today, let
me extend to you
all appropriate permissions in regard to use of the place-name
'Cinnabar'. I have no objection to the Burgh of Cynnabar's use of the
name so long as the Burgh collectively conducts itself with honor and
imagination. Please convey these sentiments to whichever parties you
feel needful of knowing."
The letter was signed by the then officers of the group:
Daibhid "ruadh" MacLachlan, Seneschal
Eliahu ben Itzhak, Knights-Marshal
Elen O'Dynevr, Exchequer
Angelica of Lostwithiel, M. of Arts
Melisande de Marmande, Pursuivant
Ian MacIan of Annandale, M. of Sciences
As a final bit of information, the designation of "Royal
used to reflect, as does the tower, the urban nature of the group, and
the traditional autonomy (with respect to the Barony of Northwoods) of
this group in Ann Arbor.
I hope you have all enjoyed this journey into the past. I can't
in my records when the name of Cynnabar was accepted. I assume it was
1983, but I have no proof. Any information on this topic would be
Last Updated: 28 June 98
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