A Field Guide to my.cat

The my.cat file at oanda.sca.org is the canonical reference to the categories and features used in the armory descriptions that serve as an index to the armory stored in the SCA’s armorial database.

Those armory descriptions are used when looking up armory based on its visual appearance, and when checking new submissions for possible conflicts with similar existing registrations.

This document provides information about how to interpret the my.cat file by reading it directly, but if you don’t care about the internal details, you can consult the Category Codes and Feature Codes pages to find the same information presented in an easier-to-read format.

For more information about my.cat, especially in the context of conflict-checking, consult the East Kingdom Heraldic University classes “Armory Conflict Checking Using the Complex Search Form” as taught by Yehuda ben Moshe (Video | Handout) or the similar class taught by Marie de Blois (Handout).

Armory Descriptions

Each armory registration in the Society’s armorial database is indexed by tagging it with one or more armory descriptions.

Each armory description contains a heading and optionally several associated features, separated by colons. Multiple armory descriptions are separated by pipe characters.

As an overly simplified example, a device of “Gules, a lion argent” might be tagged with two armory descriptions: “GU|CAT:primary:1:rampant:argent”. (In practice, the actual descriptions would be more complicated.)

All of the elements used in armory descriptions are defined in the my.cat file.

Headings, Categories, and Features

There are three types of terms defined in the my.cat file:

  • Headings
    •  These are the primary codes used for indexing armory, such as “GU,” “CAT” and “FIELD DIV.-BENDY*3”
    • They’re always written in capital letters and sometimes use non-intuitive names or punctuation.
  • Categories
    • These are human-readable charge names and blazon terms, such as “gules field” and “domestic cat” and “beast, lion.”
    • They come in two types: some are associated with headings, and some are cross-references that point to other categories.
  • Features
    • These are attributes that refine or describe the headings, such as “argent” and “embattled” and “rampant.”
    • They are grouped into feature sets, like tinctures, line styles, and animal postures.
    • There are relationships between the terms within some feature sets; for example “argent” and “Or” are both considered “light” tinctures while “sable” and “azure” are both considered “dark.”

Structure of my.cat

The my.cat file is a plain text file which you can view in your web browser, or download and open with a text editor or word-processing application.

(Some operating systems may be confused by the “.cat” file extension, so the same file is also available as my.cat.txt which some people may find easier to view or download.)

The my.cat file stores one definition per line, and uses a few punctuation characters as special delimiters to separate elements on each line: the vertical pipe character “|”; the colon “:”; the dash “-”; the comma “,”; the less-than “<“; and the equals sign “=”.

Internally, the my.cat file is divided into three sections, each of which has a different meaning and structure. You can recognize these sections by the different punctuation characters they use.

  • The file begins with feature definitions (approximately 350 lines) which always start with a “|” character followed by a feature-set name, a colon, and a feature name optionally followed by related features.
  • Next comes a list of category-heading definitions (approximately 450 lines) which always start with a word or phrase followed by a “|” and an all-caps word or phrase.
  • Finally is a list of category cross-references (approximately 2,750 lines) which always start with a word or phrase followed by ” – see” (or ” – see also”) and then a list of related categories that were defined in the previous section.

The rest of this document will cover each of those sections in greater detail. Because features can only be used in conjunction with categories, they will be covered at the end despite their appearance at the beginning of the file.