This summary of Heraldic Symbols was extracted from WWW.HERALDRYCLIPART.COMVisit them for Wonderful Clip Art for making your own coats of arms!
The word Symbolism is defined as the practice of representing things by symbols, or of investing things with a symbolic meaning or character. Armorial Gold Heraldry Services attempts, in the spirit of the old armorists, to suggest the probable derivation of some of the more ancient symbols, the origin of which may perhaps have been forgotten by the families who still display them.
Heraldry in its present form, commenced to be displayed in the early part of the twelfth century, but many of its figures and symbols were derived from remote ages, and of these some appear to have come from Mythological beliefs from as far back as the Egyptians, with many from ancient Rome, Greece, the Druids and Celts and many more historic cultures, too numerous to mention. Then came many symbols from the crusades and of the military and civil life of that period. After these came certain merchants’ marks, and figures emblematical of the arts, agriculture, and the chase (the hunt). Some figures and devices were introduced with the sole intent of shadowing forth the bearer’s surname; these are called ‘canting or punning arms’, ie: a fish for FISHER, or an arrow for ARCHER or a Crane for CRANE etc.
Tournaments brought into regular heraldry many devices that had been gloriously borne in those brilliant pageants, and successful wars contributed numerous decorations to the personal insignia of the victors. A later and more learned age derived fresh symbols from classic story.
Symbolism has become interwoven with history and daily life of our race for at least 8 centuries. What is now deniable, has to be charitably accepted as having been credible and estimable in those enlightened ages, when the crudest ideas gained acceptance among the highest intellects and foremost heroes of whom the world could boast. It is only by taking a broad-minded view of the limitations of knowledge in the past, that one can derive pleasure from the study of ancient armoury.
Coats of arms were in general use long before surnames became fixed; and it may be remarked that surnames are themselves often symbols, whilst the earliest form of writing was nothing but a methodized symbolism.
A synoptic from: “A Treatise on the Meaning and Derivations of Armorial Bearing”
by W. Cecil Wade, first edition manuscript 1898.
Milton said it best when he wrote:
“And if aught else great bards beside
In sage and solemn tunes sung,
Of turneys, and of trouble hung,
Of forests, and enchantments drear,
Where more is meant than meets the ear.”
CHAPTER ONE-THE LIVING
ALERION: An eagle displayed (wings spread) but without beak or claws; denoted one who was injured in a war and thus was prevented from fully asserting his power.
ANGEL: According to Dionysius the Areopagite, angels were
divided into nine orders: Seraphim, Cherubim, and Thrones, in the first circle, Dominions, Virtues, and Powers, in the second circle, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels, in the third circle. They denote dignity, glory, virtue and honour; missionary; bearer of joyful intelligence.
ANT: Denotes great labour, wisdom, and providence in one's affairs; diligence and industriousness.
ANTELOPE (heraldic): A mythical beast with the body of a stag, the tail of a unicorn, a tusk at the tip of the nose, tufts down the back of the neck, chest, and thighs. One of the most ferocious of beasts, wild and untamable. Beware to all beholders.
ANTELOPE: The word comes from Medieval Latin anthalopus and from Late Greek antholops. It was only the Egyptian elite who was allowed to hunt various species of Antelope and Ibex and considered them magical, and even had amulets made in their shapes. In Heraldry, Antelopes seem to appear more often in the arms of royalty but not exclusively so. The symbol represents action, agility and sacrifice and a very worthy guardian that is not easily provoked, but can be fierce when challenged. In Sumerian mythology, the antelope was both a lunar and solar animal. As a solar creature it was sacred to the God Ea who was sometimes called Ea-Onnes ("the antelope of Apsu and of creation") and the God Marduk. In its lunar form the antelope or gazelle was sacred to the Goddess Astarte. In Egyptian Lore, this animal represented Osiris and Horus, but was also sacred to the Goddess Isis, and it was sacrificed to the desert God Set. In most of Asia Minor the antelope was considered to be a lunar animal and associated with the Great Mother. In India it was an emblem of Shive, the chariots of Chandra.
ARM (bare): Signifies a labourious and industrious person.
ASS: The ass has enjoyed a marked favour above all other beasts of burden in many ancient countries. In Heraldry times it was the symbol of patience, peace and humility.
BAT: Has strong associations with darkness and obscurity, as a creature of the night. In Christian terms, the bat is viewed as "the bird of the devil" an incarnation of the Prince of Darkness. The bat is a symbol of the challenge to release the old and create the new - death and rebirth. They symbolize the facing of fears - entering the dark on the way to the light.
BEAR: A creature of enormous strength yet it survives on fruit and fish. Their habit of hibernation during winter months has held the Bear as a symbol of resurrection for hundreds of years. It was the royal emblem for the kingdoms of Persia and Russia, and the Celts considered the Bear the symbol of the great warrior; it is associated with Arctic of Muri, the Celtic Goddess of the bear cult who was usually depicted in the form of a Bear. It is said to be betoken on one who possessed policy equal to its great strength and it is also the emblem of ferocity in the protection of kindred. In Heraldry, the Bear is most often depicted muzzled. In Scandinavia, there was a firm belief in the ability of some people to change into or assume the characteristics of bears. Our English word "berserk" comes from this legend. It was thought that if a warrior was to don a bearskin shirt (called a bear-sark) which had been treated with oils and herbs, that the warrior would gain the strength, stamina, and power of the animal.
BEAVER: Once treasured for its fur, the Beaver is known for its engineering feats. The first bearer was likely one of industry, of acute adeptness and unrelenting perseverance. Beavers are known to keep busy year round building, repairing, and modifying dams and canals. These master builders have long been emblems of industry, cooperation, and community. The Beaver's work ethics helps to keep the entrances of his home under water making it more difficult for an invading predator. Since Beaver lodges have two entrances, they are reminders that when a door (an opportunity) is blocked, another usually presents itself. In Christian symbolism the Beaver represents chastity and the willingness to sacrifice anything that hinders one's walk with God. This icon is also a symbol of vigilance and self-sacrifice, and was often used in Heraldry as a symbol of protection and dedication.
BEE: In Christian tradition, the Bee was the emblem of Christ, of his forgiveness (the sweetness of his honey), with his justice (through its sting), and Christian virtues, because of the exemplary way worker bees behave towards their queen. It is an ancient Minoan symbol of the soul; Melissa the bee is the symbol of the Goddess of Regeneration. It is also an ancient belief that bees were begotten of bulls. An emblem of Regal power (the Egyptians) the Bee denotes a well governed industry, resurrection, steadfastness and obedience.
BIRD CLAW (or leg): Symbolizes that the 'preyer' upon others has been preyed upon.
BLOODHOUND: Similar to a talbot and was representative of the hunt, the Bloodhound was introduced into Europe long before the Crusades, and was associated with the aristocracy and clergy. It is said that the clergy were responsible for the dog's careful breeding and purity of strain, and is why this hound was called "blooded hound," the hound of noble ancestry. Denotes pertinaciousness or one who perseveres in hunting the enemy and always being mindful of his foes.
BOAR (WILD): Artemis, the goddess of hunting, is the most closely linked with the Wild Boar. Artemis was the virgin goddess of the moon and the twin sister of Apollo. The Wild Boar's strength, courage, and ferocity, made it a worthy adversary for the hunter. To the Celts, the Boar was an emblem of war and represented a fierce combatant when at bay, and it is said the Boar ceases fighting only with its life. In the ancient Celtic system the Boar is associated with the South and the element of Fire. It is connected with the life giving power of the sun. The Boar (and its not so wild cousin the pig), are probably the most important totem animals of the Gaelic Celts, particularly in terms of their connections with the Underworld (the mythological place of departed souls), as providers of spiritual nourishment. The Wild Boar symbol was often used as an armorial bearing of a warrior. When just the Boar's Head is used it signifies a token of hospitality; it was often the fee mentioned as due to the King as the condition of feudal tenure.
BUCK (STAG): The Stag is the male deer; the male of the hind. As an
emblem it is indicative of life (fabled to live over 1000 years),
symbol of wisdom, regeneration and growth, and virility. Because its
antlers resemble branches, the Stag has been associated with the
'Tree of Life' and because of the way it renews its antlers, it is
used as a symbol of regeneration. During the middle Ages, the Stag
was often shown with a crucifix between its horns where, in
Christianity, it represented purity and solitude and was the enemy
of Satan, the serpent. The Celts believed the Stag guided souls
through the darkness (the world for departed souls). The stag also
was associated with warriors and hunting in Celtic culture and in
Greco-Roman mythology where it was an animal sacred to Artemis. In
Buddhism, the golden stag represents knowledge and the Chinese
regard it as a symbol of virility and happiness. Heraldic writers
say of the Stag: "One who will not fight unless provoked, a lover of music and harmony who well foresees his times and opportunities". The Vikings used the stag as a symbol of royal status and the Romans used it as an icon of masculine values.
BUFFALO (WATER): Buffalo is the name commonly applied to the American Bison but restricted to certain related African and Asian mammals of the cattle family, the Water Buffalo, or Indian Buffalo. It is a large, extremely strong, dark grey animal, standing nearly 6 ft at the shoulder and weighing up to 2,000 lbs. Its widely spread horns curve out and back in a semicircle and may reach a length of 6 ft. For many centuries it has been domesticated as a draft animal. Wild Water Buffalo are extremely fierce and have been known to kill fully- grown tigers. The water buffalo is a symbol of power, wealth, and comfort. Farmers have found them indispensable, and in many parts, water buffalo make human survival possible.
BULL: This ancient symbol of valour and magnanimity represents male fertility, a fiery temperament, and a role as the dedicated father. The Bull was a sun-god in many cultures and was often used in Heraldry to denote kingly power. The Bull is equated with the god Thor (God of thunder, war, strength, and fertility of Norse mythology). Sin (the moon and vegetation-god of Mesopotamia mythology) is regarded as lord of the calendar and was depicted as riding on a winged Bull (his sacred ANIMAL). To the Celts, the Bull represented divine power and strength; to the Druids it was a symbol for the sun and the pro-creativity associated with its forces. The Bull played an important part in the symbolism of the Minoans; according to legend, King Minos had a son who was called the Minotaur because he was half Bull and half human.
BULL'S HORNS: Denotes strength, power and fortitude; horns were used also as divine power. The bull's horns represented fertility of the earth, growth, and generation, analogous to spring, when the earth is fertile and everything is growing abundantly. Bulls were revered as the masculine counterpart to goddesses in the ancient Mediterranean.
BUSTARD: A type of wild turkey aggressively hunted for its meat with the aid of greyhounds. The great or bearded bustard is the largest game bird in Europe weighing upwards of 25 lbs. and a metre tall. It inhabits the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, and was formerly common in Great Britain. An ancient emblem of Hungary and is symbolic of the hunt, and said to be betoken on one of noble prominence and grace.
BUTTERFLY: The Greek emblem of Psyche or the Soul. The Soul, considered collectively, has the care of all that which is soulless, and it traverses the whole heaven, appearing sometimes in one form and sometimes in another. Butterflies represent frivolity, the soul's ascent to immortality, and freedom.
CAMEL: Highly valued in Middle Eastern cultures and represents stamina, obedience, and temperance. It is a classical symbol of Arabia where it is regarded as ennobled by God. Prized by the Bedouin desert nomads, it was used as a beast of burden, for riding, and as a draught animal. "Kaswa, Al" was the name of Muhammad's favourite Camel. It fell on its knees when the prophet delivered the last clause of the Koran to the assembled multitude at Mecca. In ancient Persian texts and in the Zohar, the serpent in the Garden of Eden is said to have been a flying a dragon-camel; such Camels are also thought to be Eden's guards. A Camel was a sign of wealth in the ancient world; their rich trappings, even during the Renaissance, were used to indicate royalty and prosperity. The three wise men are usually shown riding Camels to Bethlehem where the beasts knelt to worship the Christ Child; according to legend, the wise men's Camels journeyed to Bethlehem without food, water, or rest in order to reach the Child in only twelve or thirteen days.
CANNET: A duck without beak or legs. Signifies one who has to subsist by virtue and merit. The symbolism is suggested to be the same or similar to that of a 'martlet'.
CAPON: A cockerel, castrated to improve the flesh for use as food. The Capon looks like a rooster but without wattles. It's been called a Capon since the times of the ancient Romans. Capon was the preferred course of ecclesiastic people and princes and is a symbol of hospitality and virtue.
CAT (CAT-A-MOUNT): Represents a mountain or wild cat and signify liberty, vigilance, forecast, and courage. The Roman goddess of Liberty was represented as holding a cup in one hand, a broken sceptre in the other, and with a cat lying at her feet. No animal is so great an enemy to all constraint as a cat. Held in veneration by the Egyptians under the name of Ælurus. This deity is represented with a human body and a cat's head. Diodorus tells us that whoever killed a cat, even by accident, was by the Egyptians punished by death.
CHERUB: In Jewish, Christian, and Islamic literature, a celestial winged boy's head that, functions as a throne bearer of the deity. Derived from ancient Middle Eastern mythology. Denotes dignity, glory, and honour; symbol of a missionary; bearer of joyful news.
CHOUGH (Cornish): A species of crow with red legs, called "the king of crows and was betoken on one manifesting military stratagems to the great disadvantage of his enemies. It is also said the Cornish Chough indicates one who is watchful for friends and kindred.
symbol of vigilance, and also an emblem of St. Peter. It denotes
great courage, and as the herald of the dawn, it is often used as an
emblem of watchfulness. It signifies a hero in the field or an able
man in the senate. It is said the Cock, crows three times before the
death of a person. As the Cock was always connected in symbolism
with the sun gods of Death and Resurrection, it has found its
appropriate place in the four Gospels in the prophecy about Peter
repudiating his Master before the Cock crowed thrice. The Cock is
the most magnetic and sensitive of all birds, hence its Greek name
"alectruon". In the Zoroastrian Avesta, the Cock is called Parodarsh
"he who foresees" the coming dawn, and is also termed the drum of
the worlds, for he crows in the dawn that dazzles away the fiends of
the Avesta: thus he shares with the dawn the honour of the victory.
COCKATRICE: A heraldic monster with the head, beak, comb, wattles and legs of a cock, a barbed tongue and the wings, tail and body of a wyvern. It is said the Cockatrice is hatched from a cock's egg by a serpent. Since It had the "Medusa-like" gift of killing anything that looked upon it, the Cockatrice was often depicted as an emblem of protection and used by many who bore it to instil deadly fear on the enemy. It is mentioned in several passages of the bible and is the emblem of terror to all beholders.
CONEY: Also known as the pika or mouse hare or rock rabbit, the
Coney is an old world rabbit. 'Coney' is from the Hebrew 'shaphan'
meaning "the hider", and is an animal that inhabits the mountain
gorges and the rocky districts of Arabia and the Holy Land. It is
about the size and colour of a rabbit, though appearing clumsier in
structure has no tail and is not to be confused with a Rabbit or
Hare. Its feet are not formed for digging, and therefore it has its
home not in burrows but in the clefts of the rocks. It is quite
likely that a scriptural reference to conies was intended. An
often-quoted proverb says: "The Conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks" (Proverb. 30:26; Ps. 104:18). The proverb refers to the Coney's gregariousness and wisdom for he who realizes his weaknesses can better prepare to thwart his enemies; this strategy results in the weakness becoming the reason for his strength; one should never underestimate a Coney.
CORBIE (THE RAVEN): The Raven was considered a symbol of virility or wisdom by many medieval cultures. An ancient Norse saga describes the use of Ravens by ocean navigators as guides to land, and Norse mythology describes Ravens as scouts for Odin. The Gaelic name for the raven is 'Bran,' also the name of a Celtic God; Bran offers initiation, protection, and the gift of prophecy. To the ancient Germanic tribes, Ravens were a symbol of sacrifice, for they were known for "receiving and rejoicing over sacrificial victims." The Raven was associated to thought and memory, and thus was a source of wisdom and prophetic knowledge, most particularly where such knowledge concerned omens of war. Like their relatives the crows, Ravens were known throughout Europe as death birds and otherworld messengers especially if you were doomed to die in battle. It is said that dead warriors on the battlefield were called 'feeders of ravens' in Skaldic verse. The all-powerful Viking leaders however, were known to bear the sign of the Raven upon their banners as a token of victory. Esteemed by the Romans and an ensign of the Danes, the Raven denotes prophetic counsel and is the sentinel of successful endeavours. A bearer using this device may have done so to commemorate a great battle or noted experience where a family member was killed. To the Christians, the Raven was a symbol of the Jews, of confession and of penance.
COW: The Egyptian goddess Hathor was the goddess of fertility and agriculture and she was also known as the cow-goddess. In Norse mythology, the Cow was also a symbol of fertility and a symbol of the goodness that nourishes. It is also a symbol of the harvest.
CRAB: Symbolizes force and energy expressed through emotions and imagination, and a desire to store memories and possessions. An ancient Zodiac symbol.
CRANE: The word literally means long-shanks; it comes from the Welsh, gar, "the shanks" Garan is the long-shanked bird, contracted into g'ran, which eventually became 'crane'. Although sometimes confused with herons, cranes are more closely related to rails and limpkins. Cranes are known for their loud trumpeting call that can be heard for miles and for the rhythmic dances they perform during mating season, when both males and females can be seen jumping high into the air. The Crane symbol is said to be representative of long life, fidelity, grace, prosperity and peace. The ancient Greeks revered the Crane as a guide to Hades, the immortal kingdom of the dead. Legend has it that when the Greek poet Ibycus was murdered by unknown robbers, Cranes pointed to the killers by mysteriously circling over the head of one of the guilty. This old proverb has been referred to as 'The Cranes of Ibycus'. In mythology, they are often messengers for the gods, and are thought to have great intelligence and vigilance. The Crane is associated with the Greek Goddess Demeter (the Roman Ceres), goddess of the harvest, and also the Celtic god Pwyll, king of the underworld (the mythological place of departed souls).
CROW (ROOK): The emblem of long life; a settled habitation and a quiet life.
DESTRIER: The Knight's warhorse. This most valuable of the Knight's horses was bred exclusively for fighting, were almost twice the weight of a normal horse, very strong and extremely fierce; it is said they often used their hooves or teeth in battle. They were trained to walk rather than trot and would charge at a canter rather than at a gallop. A knight would only mount his Destrier for battle or tournament. For more casual use, the knight would ride his 'courser' for wayfaring journeys, and his 'palfrey' when leisure was the undertaking; preparedness for martial encounter; a valiant defender of the sovereign.
DOLPHIN: In the times of heraldry the Dolphin was known as the king of fish. It is said that those who used it as a symbol had a fondness for music and that the emblem was one of charity and affection towards children and kindred. Often referred to as "The Sailor's Friend", Dolphins were judged from ancient times to be intelligent, skilful and devoted to saving lives. Romans used the Dolphin to signify the soul's journey across the sea of death to the Blessed Isles. The Christians began to use the image of the Dolphin as a specific symbol of Christ, the 'guide' of souls across the waters of death. The Dolphin was associated with many mythological gods including Eros (shown riding a Dolphin), Aphrodite (as well, riding a Dolphin), and Taras of Tarentum (shown on a Dolphin). Greek mythology abounds with tales revolving around the Dolphin, man's guiding light of the sea. The Dauphin of France used the Dolphin as his icon to represent protection for his fleet and salvation for his country.
DOVE: A symbol of innocence, gentleness, and affection and in art and in the Scriptures, the symbol of the Holy Ghost. Ever since the Dove returned to Noah's ark carrying the olive branch, it has been considered the messenger of peace and a harbinger of good tidings. In church windows the seven rays proceeding from the Dove signify the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. It also symbolises the human soul, and as such is represented coming out of the mouth of saints at death. The Slavs and Greeks pictured the human soul as a Dove, which helps to explains why Doves are found on some pagan monuments; Doves with human heads may be found on Greek tombs. Since the Dove was believed to be incapable of malice towards any creature, it is said that Jesus sent His disciples into the world after instructing them to "Be as wise as serpents and harmless as Doves". Over the centuries, the Dove has been used to represent many things. It is the emblem of temperance, the symbol of innocence, the token of inspiration, and the ensign of peace. The Dove also represents fidelity in marriage, chastity and patience in suffering.
DUCK (the drake, sheldrake, wild duck, teal, mallard): Denotes a person of many resources.
DRAGON: Its head is that of a serpent, with a forked tongue and ears. The body is that of a lion, but it is represented scaled, and the large wings are webbed and pointed, and resemble those of a bat. The legs are also scaled, and the feet are represented with webbed talons. The dragon is the most valiant of all living creatures because of his sharpness of sight and therefore it symbolizes the defender of treasure and worldliness. The Anglo-Saxon word "dragon" is derived from the Greek, "to see clearly", hinting at the Dragon's gift of prophecy. Although Dragons were often born out of destruction and chaos, the dragon to some cultures was an emblem of good fortune & perfection. Found in many cultures it became a symbol for volatility, the search for secret knowledge, finding your way through all things, Alchemy, the elements, eternal change, discovery of hidden treasures and the protector of all you possess.
EAGLE: A noble device signifying a person of action, ever more occupied in high and weighty affairs, and one of lofty spirit, ingenious, speedy in apprehension, and judicious in matters of ambiguity; true magnanimity and fortitude of mind; a symbol of power and sovereignty. The Eagle also symbolizes courage, freedom, and immortality. It proudly served as an emblem of the might and unity of empire for Babylon, the Caesars, Charlemagne and many Holy Roman and Byzantine emperors as well as for Russian czars, Aztecs and Napoleon. The heraldic Eagle appeared in Persian and Egyptian battle ensigns and on the flags of the Roman legions. The Romans called the Eagle the "bird of Jove, and carried it on their standards, into battle. If a legion lost its Eagle, it was in disgrace until the Eagle could be recovered. It was the Roman custom to let an Eagle fly from the funeral pyre of a deceased emperor, bearing the god's soul to heaven after a period of earthly incarnation as the emperor. Early Christians honoured the Eagle as a symbol of hope, of strength and of Resurrection. The latter is based on the early belief that the Eagle, unlike other birds, periodically renewed its plumage and its youth by flying near the sun then plunging into the water. The majestic Eagle was central to many mythologies and sacred writings of humanity. The ancient Greeks revered the eagle as a symbol of the god of lightning, and it is said they nailed Eagles to the peaks of temples to serve as magic lightning rods; Scandinavian myths also associate the Eagle with lightning and storm. The Hittites (an ancient people living in Anatolia and northern Syria about 2000-1200 B.C) used the double Eagle as an emblem of sovereignty.
EEL: (grigs) The symbol of fertility; illusiveness.
ELEPHANT: This heraldic symbol denotes great strength, greater wit and greatest ambition. The Elephant was the ensign of Cyneus, king of Scythia, and Idomenes, king of Thessaly. Elephants are the bearers of kings and queens and so a symbol of royalty, prosperity, temperance, dignity, and power. In 250 BC, Pyrrhus, the king of Epirus (now North Albania), with an army of 25,000 men and 20 Elephants won a hard-fought victory over the Romans at Heraclea. At a crucial phase of the battle, Pyrrhus ordered his Elephants to charge and it was too much for the Roman legions. The Romans had never seen Elephants before and called them 'Lucanian Cows'. The Elephant was the totem animal of the god Shiva, the Destroyer, who seeks to banish illusion and to encourage a clearer perception of reality.
ENFIELD: Mythical beast which has the head of a fox, the chest of a hound, the talons of an eagle, the body of a lion and the hindquarters and tail of a wolf; said to have protected fallen chieftains' bodies for proper burial.
ERMINE: The fur most frequently used in heraldry. It derives its name from the Ermine or 'mus Armenicus' (so call from being found in the woods of Armenia), a small white animal whose fur it is. The black spots are supposed to represent the tails of ermines, sewed to the white fur for its enrichment; a symbol of dignity.
EYE: It is generally a symbol of the watchful and protective power of the Supreme Being; also providence in government.
FALCON: Is derived from the Latin falx, meaning sickle, a reference to the Falcon's wing shape in flight. Egyptians associated the Falcon with the 'Eye of Horus'. The god Horus was believed to appear in the form of Pharaoh's Falcon or as a Falcon-headed god. The mythology states he could see everything at once because one eye was the sun and the other was the moon. It is written that Falcons were permitted to ride on Pharaoh's nape as his protector and divine spirit. Falcons were used in a royal sport known as falconry. Is the art of training Falcons (or hawks) to pursue and attack wild fowl or game; falconry started in ancient China and Persia and soon became prevalent with the royals of ancient Egypt; the Falcon was associated with the Egyptian sun god 'RA' and later the Christians adopted it as an emblem of the saviour. A venerable symbol of majesty and power, heraldic writers add that the Falcon denotes someone eager, or hot in the pursuit of an object much desired; if seated on its 'rest' or perch it may signify a bearer who is ready and serviceable for high affairs.
FLAMING HEART: The Heart is a symbol of charity and a flaming heart (heart flammant) denotes ardent affection.
FLY: Beelzebub, the God of Flies was considered the patron deity of medicine and was supposed to ward off flies from his votaries; he was one of the gods of the Philistines. The Greeks had a similar deity, Zeus Apomyios; symbol of adventurousness.
pre-Christian times the Fox was seen as a symbol of the gods of the
forests and mountains. This changed in Christian times, to where the
Fox was seen as a demonic creature. The Fox appears extensively in
myth and fable; it is one of the great tricksters. It was associated
with Enki, the Sumerian god (lord of abundance), and Bacchus, god of
wine as he considered the Fox the protector of the vines. In Japan,
it is a "Spirit of Rain" and an attribute of the rice deity Indari.
Synonymous with the terms: tod, reynard or a genet, the Fox is the most famous of tricksters and signifies one who will use all that he may possess of wisdom and wit in his own defence, and denotes one of strategic talents and fertility of resources.
FROG (toads, tadpoles, and powets): In ancient Egypt, frogs were regarded as a symbol of fertility. The frog became the symbol of Hefnu. Soon Heket, the water goddess, had the head of a frog. The grateful Egyptians wore frogs as talismans to attract her favours of fruitfulness and fertility. A symbol of resurrection; one easily stirred up to anger whereunto he is naturally prone of himself.
GAD-FLY (gad-bee, horse fly): A fly that so stings the cattle as to make them gad or run madly about; it makes a humming noise when flying and has a sting both great and stiff. May denote one who should never be underestimated because of the size of his army or his physical stature.
GAMB (Jambe): The fore-leg of a lion, bear or other beast, from the knee joint; if couped or erased near the middle joint, it is called paw. Ancient symbolism signified that the bearer needed only a show a glimpse of his strength to the enemy, for this enemy to surmise the wholeness of his ferocity.
GOAT: The Goat-Gods Pan and Dionysius in Greek Mythology represent the forest and unbridled nature; lust in the case of Pan, and drinking and fertility in the case of Dionysius. The Goat is said to signify one who wins through politics and wit rather than war and confrontation. The Goat was a popular symbol in Christian art for the damned. This symbolism was based upon Christ's depiction of Himself at the Last Judgment as a shepherd dividing his sheep from the Goats. The constellation known as Capricornus is one of the oldest of the astrological interpretations. Saturn rules it and its symbol is the Goat. Deities associated with Goats include Aphrodite (Greek goddess of love, beauty and fertility, and the protectress of sailors) who rode Goats, Artemis (the virgin goddess of the hunt) to whom Goats were sacrificed, and Agni the Vedic (Hindu) fire-god who rides a Goat. The baby Zeus was hidden in a cave and suckled by a female Goat named Amalthea. The Goat is said to be the emblem of the martial man and is an icon representing perseverance and vitality.
GOOSE (grey-lag, wild goose, gander): A symbol of resourcefulness; an Egyptian symbol of vanity; an ancient military symbol of imminent victory.
GRASSHOPPER (locust): Denotes nobility and wisdom; paintings of the Christ child holding a grasshopper are symbolic of the conversion of the Gentiles; the locust, on the other hand, was the symbol of a destroyer or great warrior.
GREYHOUNDS: Are one of the oldest breeds of dogs, and appear in art and literature throughout history. The breed was developed nearly 5,000 years ago in Egypt. Known in England before the 9th century, the Greyhound was bred and raised by the aristocracy. For 700 years it was illegal under English law for a commoner to own a Greyhound. It was used to hunt small game, especially hares. In ancient Egypt the Greyhound were not only companions, but they were revered and almost worshipped; they were cherished so much that a birth of one was second in importance only to the birth of a human boy. When a pet Greyhound died the entire family mourned by shaving their heads, fasting and crying. When Greyhounds died, they were buried, mummified, and placed in the tomb of their owner. Often the tombs were decorated with figures of favourite Greyhounds. Greek mythological figures were often portrayed with Greyhounds and Hecate, goddess of wealth, is often shown with a Greyhound. The same is true for Pollux, protector of the hunt. The ancient Romans also had an appreciation of the Greyhound; their Gods and Goddesses, were shown with Greyhounds. The middle ages were a time of famine, and the Greyhound almost became extinct. The clergymen saved them from starvation and bred them for noblemen. The Greyhound is said to denote majesty, courage, vigilance, swiftness and loyalty, and they were emblematic of nobility.
GRIFFIN: This chimerical creature has the head, wings, and talons
of an eagle with the body of a lion, and is said expressed the ideal
combination of swiftness, strength and intelligence. Historically
the Griffin has been emblematic of valour, vigilance and death
defying bravery. Guillim, an often quoted heraldic writer says this
about the Griffin: " sets forth the property of a valorous soldier whose magnanimity is such that he will dare all dangers, and even death itself, rather than become captive." This creature is as old as the time of the Phoenicians, was sacred to the sun, and kept guard over hidden treasures. It is symbolic of watchfulness, courage, perseverance, and rapidity of execution. In legend, the creature was a symbol of superbia (arrogant pride), because Alexander the Great was said to have tried to fly on the backs of Griffins to the edge of the sky. During the middle Ages, Christian nobles searched for Griffin's eggs or "grypeseye" which they mounted and used for cups, believing they brought health to any beverage.
HADDOCK: In Scotland the haddock is considered to be a very lucky fish. It is thought that the faith, in the attributes of the haddock, are as a result of the belief that this is the very fish that was chosen to feed many people. Black spots can be seen around the gills, which were said to indicate the places were Christ held the fish as He distributed them to the people as told in the parable of the 'Feeding of the Five Thousand'; signifies good fortune and bountifulness.
HARPY: A mythical beast with the face and breasts of a virgin, the body, wings and talons of a vulture. In this mythology they are known as 'snatchers' and although found mostly in German heraldry, it will also be found used in other countries. The German name for it is 'Jungfraunadler' and the symbol is notoriously present in the shield of the Rietbergs, Princes of Ost-Friesland. In heraldry it is said they signify one ferocious when provoked. In Greek mythology the Harpy was an implement of vengeance and also symbolized justice. Originally created to signify the horror and fury of the storm, the Harpy has been delivered to us always as a symbol of sudden death and is to some, a symbol of the feminine principle. According to Greek legend there was actually three Harpies, Aello, Ocypete, and Celaeno. They were the children of the sea god Thaumas and the gods used them as their tools of justice to keep their faithful obedient. Should one go against the will of the gods, the Harpies would be dispatched, fly over the offender, attack and violate them, tear them apart and then eat them.
HEAD: (Saxons, Saracens, Turks, Moors, Blackamoors, Savages, Maidens, Infants etc.) A Human Head stands for honour, there are many variations; a Saracen's head represents a Bedouin tribe from Sinai, the term was more generally applied to Arabs and Muslims during the Crusades and may denote one who fought in the Crusades against this tribe. A Saxon on the other hand was a member of a West Germanic tribal group that inhabited northern Germany and invaded Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries A.D. with the Angles and Jutes, and the head may symbolize some great battle against them. In the middle Ages, the Europeans called all Mahometans (Muslims) Moors, in the same manner as the Eastern nations called all inhabitants of Europe Franks.
HIGHLANDERS: Were from a mountainous region in Northern Scotland. Famous for its rugged beauty, it consists roughly of that part of Scotland north of the imaginary line from Dumbarton to Stonehaven, excluding the Orkneys, the Shetlands, and lower coastal areas. The Scottish Highlanders were regiments of the British army, originally recruited in the Highlands of Scotland; among them are the First Battalion Royal Highlanders, founded in 1729, commonly called the Black Watch, and the Gordon Highlanders, founded in 1787 by George Gordon, 5th duke of Gordon (1770-1836). The Highlanders (as a people) are of Celtic descent, and a small number of them still speak Gaelic, an ancient Celtic language. In early days, the ruggedness of the land led to the separation of the Highlanders into small groups called clans. A chief rules each clan, and the members of a clan claimed descent from a common ancestor. The traditional garment of the Highland clansmen is the kilt, which is suitable for climbing the rough hills. The Highland soldier is representative of an unbreakable spirit, is an emblem of bravery and an icon of courage.
HEDGEHOG: It collects its stores for the winter with its prickles and is symbolic of a provident provider.
HERON: A symbol of contemplation, vigilance, divine wisdom, and inner quietness. Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, employed a Heron as one of her divine messengers; symbol of righteousness; Herons are images of the eternal struggle of good against evil.
HERRING: Seems to be found borne principally on shields of families with phonetically similar names. An ancient fable does though state that if the first herring picked out were female the nets would be full for the rest of the year, with good health and financial security ensured for the families of the fishermen; hospitality and abundance. Eating a herring in three mouthfuls including the bones with salt was once believed to induce visions of the future.
HIND: A female stag; symbol of peace and harmony. See Buck.
Mitanni and the Hittites used Warhorses and chariots in Anatolia, in
Syria by about 1600 BC. The Greeks viewed the horse as a heroic
symbol, a wonder beast ridden by great warriors and by the gods. The
belief in the magical power of the Horse is common to all peoples of
Indo-European descent whose ancestors in the Palaeolithic had
belonged to Horse totem clans and later, in the Neolithic, were the
first to tame Horses, breed and ride them. In the Medieval period a
well-equipped knight needed at least four different types of Horses:
(1) a charger, (2) a palfrey, (3) a courser, and (4) a battle horse. To many, the Horse was a symbol of war and a black horse would mean calamitous war. Horses were a potent symbol from almost every world religion and mythology; many of its myths express the Horse's innate clairvoyance and ability to perceive the magic within humans. Some view the Horse as the symbol of strength, virility and lust. It is a symbol for loyalty and devotion, such as the faith it has with its master, and it also represents the warrior spirit, bravery and courage. Heraldic writers say that Horses (and those who used it as an emblem) represented the readiness for all employments for king and country.
HYDRA: A venomous monster of the Lernean marshes, in Argolis. It had seven heads (some say nine), and Hercules was sent to kill it. As soon as he struck off one of its heads, two shot up in its place. The stench from the Hydra's breath was enough to kill man or beast. Borne by those said to have fought the greatest of battles.
IBEX: Also called a Steinbok, the Ibex is a wild goat that is said to be the stock of the tame goat. The Ibex is a creature that dwells in the mountains, has large knotty horns reclining on its back, is of a yellowish brown colour, and has a black beard. It is mentioned in the Bible as one of the clean animals that the children of Israel were allowed to eat. The Arabs know the Ibex as the Beden; they live in small herds of eight or ten and are still found in Palestine. The extremely strong and often fabled horns of the Ibex were generally acknowledged, as a symbol of renewal and rejuvenation and the Ibex itself is a harbinger of spring and a unifier of nature. Because of the Ibex's healing influence it soon faced extinction as unfailing powers were attributed to its antlers, blood and parts of his heart. Medieval pharmacies used the dried and pulverized blood as an ingredient in many medicines. In the late middle Ages the number of Ibexes continued to decrease, calling for Emperor Maximilian to put them under protection to prevent possible extinction. Known as the 'great stag' to the Sumerians, the Ibex became known as not only symbol of healing but also of nobility as it was they (only) who were permitted to hunt them.
JESSANT DE LIS: A fleur-de-lis shooting out from the mouth of a leopard or a lion. Conferred by Edward III during his wars in France, as a reward to some of the leaders who served under him in his victorious campaigns. The lion of the English arms is swallowing the lily of the French coat.
KINGFISHER: also known as the Halycon, the Kingfisher is a long-time symbol of peace and prosperity. It has many legends and superstitions surrounding it with many originating in ancient Greece; the body of the Kingfisher -if dried - could ward off thunderbolts and storms. It is said the Kingfisher is the promise of abundance, of new warmth, prosperity and love about to unfold within your life. In Greek mythology Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus (king of the winds), found her husband drowned and cast herself into the sea; the gods rewarded her devotion by turning her into a kingfisher, and Aeolus forbade the winds to blow during the "Halcyon Days" (the seven days before and the seven after the winter solstice, when legend has it that the kingfisher lays its eggs). Kingfishers are associated with Pallas (one of the Titans,a race of godlike giants who were considered to be the personifications of the forces of nature), Hera (the queen of the Olympian deities, the eldest daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and wife and sister of Zeus), and Thetis, one of the Nereids, the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris who dwell in the Mediterranean Sea. These beautiful women were always friendly and helpful towards sailors fighting perilous storms. The Kingfishers are beloved by sea-nymphs (in Greek mythology, nymphs are spirits of nature, and they are minor female deities and the protectors of springs, mountains, and rivers).
KITE: As we
read in the book of Etymologies of Isidore: The kite (with its distinctive forked tail), milvus, derives its name from mollis volatu, weak in flight (it glides through the air). The kite signifies those who are tempted by effete pleasures; also acuity of vision; the Egyptians held the kite in high honour and the symbol may signify that the first bearer was one who accomplished a great deal with little effort.
KNIGHT: Those who served the feudal
kings bore arms, and persons admitted to this privilege were the
king's Knights; as this distinction was limited to men of family,
the word became a title of honour next to the nobility. It
symbolized prowess in the field of battle; dependability beyond
doubt or question; never fleeing from the face of his foes; generous
to all, and always and everywhere a champion of the right and the
good. The Knight or chevalier was the professional soldier of the
middle ages. No Knight was thought to be properly equipped without
at least three horses: the battle horse, or dexterarius,
which was led by hand, and used only for the onset, the palfrey or
courser, for the route, and the pack-horse for the luggage and
belongings. The Knight also required several attendants:
one to conduct the horses, another to bear the heaviest weapons, particularly the shield or escutcheon, one to aid his master to mount his battle horse or to raise him if dismounted, and a fourth to guard prisoners who were sought for high ransom.
LAMB: An emblem of the Redeemer; symbolizes gentleness, innocence, and purity; sacrifice.
LAPWINGS (pewit, plover, tyrwhitt, sea-pye): An ancient bird said that to protect its young, by luring the enemy from its nest by flying away and crying loudest when furthest from its nest; an Old World wading bird of the family Charadriidae, characterized by a markedly slow beat of the wings, dark, glossy plumage, and distinctive white markings. Denotes one who protects the young with cunning and ruse rather than force or confrontation.
LARK (skylark): An old World bird characterized by an unusually long, straight hind claw. It was symbolic merriment as the lark sang hymns at the gates of heaven; the lark was the bird that announced the coming of the day. Because of the bird's boundless energy, it is said the lark is also the symbol of hope, happiness, and of good fortune; creativity.
LEG (usually in armour): Is emblematical of strength, stability, and expedition.
LEOPARD: In heraldry, represents those brave and generous warriors who have performed some bold enterprise with force, courage, promptitude, and activity.
LING: (cod, hake, whiting ):
These fish all belong to the family Gadidœ. The Hake is more slender, and sports a larger head than the cod but otherwise the drawing does not usually distinguish the many varieties. The symbolism for cod is generally accepted to be the same for the Ling.
LION: An emblem of majesty, strength, and justice, military
might and deathless courage, the Lion was indeed a foe to fear. The
French heralds call the lion passant a leopard; accordingly Napoleon
said to his soldiers, "Let us drive these leopards (the English)
into the sea." In heraldry any Lion not rampant is often called a
lion leopardé. The Lion is also an emblem of the resurrection;
according to tradition, the lion's whelp is born dead, and remains
so for three days, when the father breathes on it and it receives
life. Another tradition is that the Lion is the only animal of the
cat tribe born with its eyes open, and it is said that it sleeps
with its eyes open; although not completely true the Lion does sleep
watchfully and lightly. The Lion in the arms of Scotland is derived
from the arms of the ancient Earls of Northumberland and Huntingdon,
from whom some of the Scottish monarchs were descended. The Lions in
the arms of England: They are three Lions passant guardant, i.e. walking and showing the full face. The first Lion was that of Rollo, Duke of Normandy, and the second represented the country of Maine, which was added to Normandy. These were the two Lions borne by William the Conqueror and his descendants. Henry II added a third Lion to represent the Duchy of Aquitaine, which came to him through his wife Eleanor. Commonly referred to as "the KING of the beasts," it is a symbol of kingly power and might, but as the lioness it is commonly related to the Great Mother and to protection.
The following is the symbolism associated with the more popular lion positions typically blazoned:
Rampant Guardant: Erect on his hind legs; full face; emblematic of prudence.
Rampant Reguardant: Erect on his hind legs; side face looking behind; emblematic of circumspection.
Saliant: The act of springing forward on its prey; emblematic of valour.
Sejant: Sitting, head in profile. Justice
Sejant Erect: Sitting, rising to prepare for action; face in profile, tail erect; emblematic of counsel.
Sejant Affronté: (as in the crest of Scotland):
Statant: Standing with four legs on the ground; able for battle. With tail erect, ready for battle.
Couchant: Lying down; head erect, and tail beneath him; emblematic of sovereignty.
Coward or Coué: With tail hanging between his legs. Represents cowardice.
Dormant: Asleep, with head resting on his forepaws.
Passant: Walking, three feet on the ground; in profile; emblematic of resolution.
Passant Guardant: Three feet on the ground; full face. The "Lion of England."; resolution and prudence.
Passant Reguardant: Three feet on the ground; side face turned backwards.
Rampant: Erect on his hind legs; in profile; emblematic of magnanimity.
LIZARD: Lizards are seekers of the sun and may symbolize the human soul seeking the light; also borne to ward off evil; may symbolize death followed by resurrection. It also symbolizes safety and welfare because it can lose it's tail and regenerate it.
LOBSTER (crayfish): The Crayfish and Lobster were often used to symbolize the Zodiacal sign of Cancer the Crab; water symbol. Denotes tenaciousness; one that moves quickly; also regeneration, steadfastness, resoluteness.
LUCE (hake, pike): Now commonly called the pike. Luce comes from the Latin Luci-us which is from the Greek lukos (a wolf) meaning the wolf of fishes. Bestowed on one not to be set at naught or underestimated.
LYNX: Stealthiness and cunning; vigilance, alertness; the lynx is a predator that was once believed to have incredible powers of vision. During the middle Ages, people thought it could see through walls. In representations of the five senses, the lynx is used to symbolize the sense of sight. One of the Argonauts who sailed with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece was named Lynceus because of his exceptional powers of vision. To be "lyncean" or "lynx-eyed" is to be sharp-sighted.
MACKEREL: From the Latin " macula", for spot, the Mackerel, known as the Holy fish, denotes abundance and was an ancient Christian totem. Originally a pagan symbol of fertility and continuity, the Mackerel are also superb, swift swimmers. Its symbol may be representative of the bearer's name or his profession, or may involve a memorable or significant experience. The Mackerel was one of the most abundant food fishes in the North seas and several species are found throughout the world today. They are emblematic of affluence, profusion and were often used as symbols in groups of three to represent the Holy Trinity. The Emblem was often one used by royalty. The ancient expression "a mackerel sea", tells of a sea in stormy ripples believed to be caused by an very large school of Mackerel just under the surface. This was a sign that the Mackerel had arrived (and usually the herring along with it), and it indicated that better times were indeed ahead. "Have faith young man, the Mackerel are here...there is little now, to fear" (E. Vance Hale).
MAGPIE (jay): In Celtic lore, the magpie was a bird associated with fairy revels; in Scandinavia, magpies were said to be sorcerers flying to unholy gatherings, and yet the nesting magpie was once considered a sign of luck in those countries. In Old Norse myth, Skadi (the daughter of a giant) was priestess of the magpie clan. In England, the sighting of magpies is still considered a good omen.
MAIDEN: Word comes from the Middle English, from Old English mægden, m[AE]den, diminutive of mægeth; akin to Old High German magad meaning maiden and also the Old Irish word mug which meant serf. It usually signifies an unmarried woman, a young unmarried woman or a virgin as in, 'Maiden innocence'. The Greek and Roman Maiden Goddesses of Diana/Artemis were goddesses of fertility, and probably the best-known association with deities the Maidens enjoy. Maidens in heraldry denote purity and redemption and virtuousness. It is said that only a young maiden could capture the Unicorn as it was attracted to chastity and purity, so the noble huntsmen would take a maiden with them when hunting this shy and wild creature. The ancient Celts and many other cultures tell of folk and mythological tales involving the Maiden; the folkloric maidens, in many Indo-European and Asian fables and legends were said to be capable of being transformed into swans.
MARTEN (Weasel, Kuna): Martens are larger, heavier-bodied animals than weasels, with thick fur and bushy tails and were valued for their fur. In heraldry, however, there is usually no differentiation between it and the weasel. An ancient emblem of Slavonia, The kuna, is similar to a ferret or mink, and was traded as a pelt in Roman times. They are known for their boldness and their tendency to attack and defeat animals much larger than themselves. Therefore they have become symbols of spiritual warriors who, in spite of their physical weakness, are able to defeat the Devil. It is said that they denote fickleness and inconstancy, but also parental love, vigilance, and watchfulness; a symbol of the hunt; a worthy adversary of distinction, and the symbol borne by those affirming that duty hath no place for fear; sometimes called the marten-cat.
MARTLET: (Martlet, Merlette,
Martin): a bird resembling a swallow, with thighs but no visible legs representing the martin. It is a mark of Cadency and was used as the symbol of the fourth son, because its footlessness symbolized his inability to inherit, and walk on, his ancestral lands. May signify one who had to subsist by virtue and merit, not inheritance; also denotes promptness. It is said that the use of a martlet indicates that the first bearer of the arms had acquired nobility through his own exertions or by patronage, with the absence of feet on the heraldic martlet signifying the lack of ancestral foundations for his nobility. There is some dispute as to what kind of bird it really is. In English heraldry, it is a swallow; in German heraldry, it is said to be a lark. It was apparently, in its original purpose, a small blackbird and the species of the bird was interpreted in various ways depending on the country. The word 'martlet' does exist in English as the name of a swift or martin and appears to have been confused with the French 'merlette' (merle) because of its similarities to the word 'martlet'. However, it is also said that the charge first appeared as a small blackbird in 1185 in the arms of Mello in Normandy and subsequently in canting arms of 'merlot', indicating that the intention was to represent the French blackbird called 'merlette'. The legend of the martlet is most appealing but readers should determine their own interpretation, as history seems to be confused about the dubious origins and myths of this marvellous bird.
MERLE (merlette, blackbird, thrush): the blackbird in ancient times was called Medula, because it sang rhythmically. Others say that it was called Merula, because it flew on its own. It represents those tainted by the blackness of sin; a symbol of temptation. However, the sight of two blackbirds sitting together is a symbol of peace and a good omen.
MERMAID (siren): The Syrians and the Philistines were known to have worshipped a Semitic mermaid moon-goddess. The Syrians called her Atargatis while the Philistines knew her as Derceto. The symbol of the mermaid with her comb and mirror in hand seems to first be depicted during the middle ages. This came to represent vanity and female beauty that could cause the destruction of men. A symbol of eloquence and to some it represented a safe-voyage.
MEW (sea gull): The sounds of the sea mew represented a guide to the lost sailor and an indication that land was near; symbol of hope.
MINERVA: The Roman goddess of wisdom, medicine, the arts, science and trade, and also of war. As Minerva Medica she is the patroness of physicians. The Roman Minerva was especially the protectress of commerce and industry and of schools. It was only later that she assumed the character of a warrior-goddess. The Roman goddess first appeared in Etruria and was perhaps a goddess of the thunderbolt. She was then introduced into the Capitoline Triad, with Jupiter and Juno. According to Roman tradition the cult of Minerva originated in Falerii in 241 BC. One of her earliest temples was built on Mons Caelius and bore the name Minerva Capta. There was, however, a temple already consecrated to Minerva in Rome on the Aventine. According to one tradition Minerva was one of the gods brought to Rome by Numa. Minerva is commonly represented with helmet.
MOGUL (carp): The Mogul allied to the Carp, is used as a badge of dignity called the MAHI MARATIB, which dignity is said to have originated with the Mogul dynasty founded in 1206. It is said to signify youth, bravery, perseverance and strength.
MONKEY (baboon): The amusing antics of monkeys make them a symbol of mimicry, agility, buffoonery, cunning, satire, and the unconscious. It is said that they conceal their sage-like wisdom and magical powers with their humorous antics. Ancient Egyptians also esteemed the monkey, particularly the baboon whose morning screeches were believed to be prayers to the sun god rising in the sky. Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom and scribe of the gods was depicted as a dog-faced baboon and was thought to be as quarrelsome and lecherous as he was wise.
MOOR-COCK (red grouse): The male of the moorfowl or red grouse of Europe is borne by several families in allusion to their names. Birds in general are almost universally exalted and accepted as symbolically beings associated with the soul, as messengers of the gods, carriers of souls, as oracles, or seen to possess the spirit of loved ones. They are also symbols of good or evil and a universal emblem of freedom.
NIGHTINGALE: An emblem of love, righteousness, poetry and education. Throughout the ages, people have sought the meaning of the nightingale's song. In medieval times, it was thought that this bird sang all night long with its breast pressed against a thorn to keep itself awake because of its fear of snakes.
OPINICUS: A beast with the body and fore legs of a lion, the head, neck and wings of an eagle, with the tail of a camel; a medieval monster, emblematic of a valiant protector that could defy all dangers, and embolden the weak.
OSTRICH: First domesticated by the ancient Egyptians and Romans who used them to pull their triumphal chariots. The parent does not sit and hatch it's eggs, but lets the sun do its work while it guards them vigilantly. Denotes willing obedience and serenity and is also a symbol of meditation.
OTTER: Related to the minks and weasels and having webbed feet and dense, dark brown fur. Otter hunting was once a favourite pastime and the fur was quite prized by those of noble blood. The otter is a symbol of grace and empathy. It is said the otter is also emblematic of a man who lives life to the fullest measure; it may also represent a person of great dexterity and adroitness.
OUNCE: A fierce animal granted to a warrior who had proven an ability to devise and execute stratagems and cunning to the great disadvantage of the enemy. Usually borne as a snow leopard, which is smaller than a leopard, with a tawny white top, grey bottom and strewn with spots.
OWL: Usually shown full-faced or
guardant, a hawk-like creature, the owl is the bird of Athena
(Minerva), Greek goddess of wisdom and favourite daughter of Zeus.
Athena is best known for her embodiment of reason, strength and
wisdom and for assisting others on their heroic journey for
self-mastery and understanding; since this centuries old connection
with Athena/Minerva the owl has been used to denote one who is
vigilant, prudent and of acute wit.
PANTHER: The heraldic Panther is
often depicted spitting fire from its mouth (and sometimes from its
nostrils and its ears), bearing hind legs similar to a lion and
front legs similar to an eagle. It is said that a Panther symbolizes
a beautiful woman, though fierce and intense, is very tender and
loving to her brood, and will defend them with the hazard of her
life and soul. The Panther has been associated with Jesus; in the
'Abodazara' (early Jewish commentaries on the scriptures), it is
listed as a surname for the family of Joseph. It tells how a man was
healed "in the name of Jesus ben Panther". The Panther was also
associated with the Greek God of wine, Dionysus; one story tells how
Dionysus was nursed by panthers, and he is sometimes depicted riding
a chariot drawn Panthers. The Early Egyptians were known to
sacrifice Panthers to various gods and its skin was a symbol of
strength and resurrection in their funerary rites. Throughout the
ancient world mythological characters wore Panther skins; Astarte,
the Phoenician goddess of procreation and birth, rode on a panther.
Some people believed that the panther once sacrificed himself so
that he could give humankind the gift of spiritual awakening in the
form of his skin. In Indian culture the Panther is feared and
respected, and historically regarded my many cultures as the
protector of the universe.
PARROT (popinjay, perroquet, papagay,
papingay): In olden times called the popinjay, it was
early bird in English and French heraldry. It was an Egyptian symbol
of wisdom and of good counsel and in wealthy Roman households; it
was the function of one slave to care for the family bird, which was
often a parrot. In Medieval and renaissance Europe, it was only
royalty or the very wealthy who kept parrots
An old game bird related to the pheasant and the grouse.
A symbol of the Sacred King as it is said that the partridge gathers
its own under its wing and even permits it to be injured in order to
decoy predators from its helpless nestlings. Said to denote cunning
LAMB: or Holy lamb is depicted passant, carrying a flag
charged with the cross of St. George, and a circle of glory over its
head. It is a symbol of faith, innocence, bravery, gentleness,
purity, and resolute spirit.
PEACOCK (peafowl): Sacred to Hera
(Juno), daughter of Titans Cronus and Rhea, wife and sister of Zeus.
A medieval symbol of the soul, signifying beauty, power, and
knowledge and is also a religious symbol of resurrection.
flying horse of Greek mythology. Pegasus was born of the blood of
the decapitated Medusa, and mounting the Medusa's head upon Pegasus
enabled Bellerophon to slay the Chimera. It is said that one day
Pegasus pranced around so frivolously that his hooves created a
spring called Hippocrene, which was alleged to have magic power in
its waters. If one were to drink water from this spring, one would
be gifted with the art of poetry. The Pegasus is symbolic of poetic
genius and inspiration, vision and refinement.
Christian symbol of charity and sacrifice. It owes its stature as an
emblem of sacrifice to its long beak and sack where it stores small
fish to feed its young. In the process of feeding, the bird appears
to open its own breast with its bill. The reddish tinge of its
plumage and the redness of its beak prompted the legend that it drew
its own blood to feed its young; if shown feeding her young ("in her
piety"), it symbolizes filial love.
PHEASANT: This ancient game bird was
named from Phasis, a stream of the Black Sea. Because of its
evasiveness and dexterity, the Pheasant became a favourite game bird
of the ancient Romans. Denotes an alert person of many resources.
The mythical bird that lives for 500 years, builds its
own funeral pyre, is consumed by the flames, and rises anew from the
ashes. This bearing symbolizes the rising and setting of the sun, as
well as immortality, resurrection, and life after death.
used as messenger carriers by the early Persians, Egyptians,
Phoenicians and later the Romans. Betoken on one who is virtuous and
also denotes peace and wisdom.
PORCUPINE: Symbol of invincibility.
The badge of King Louis XII of France (1498-1515) who used as is
motto: Cominus et eminus (from near and afar), an
allusion to the myth of Porcupines throwing their spines at their
(shrimp): It is said that Shrimp were called one of the
old men of the sea. Shrimp got this name from their long antennae
and curved spines, which made them, resemble old men. For this
reason shrimp have come to symbolize long life, and the prayer that
one could live long enough for one's spine to curve like that of a
PROBOSCIDES (probisces): Elephant
trunks; usually represented in pairs; the elephant symbolizes
longevity, strength, royalty, dignity, patience, wisdom, happiness,
and good fortune.
PYTON-PITHON: A monstrous serpent in
Greek mythology, and the Child of Gaia, the goddess earth. It was
produced from the slime and mud that was left on the earth by the
great flood of Deucalion. It lived in a cave and guarded the oracle
of Delphi on mount Parnassus. No man dared to approach the beast and
the people asked Apollo for help. He came down from Mount Olympus
with his silver bow and golden arrows. With using only one arrow he
killed the serpent and claimed the oracle for himself. After that,
he was known as Pythian Apollo. In memory of this victory, Apollo
started the Pythian games, which were held every four years. The old
name of Delphi, Pytho, refers to the serpent. Note: In
Heraldry use Pithon for winged serpents, and Python for non-venomous
constrictor snakes of the boa family. The Pithon or Pyton signifies
QUAIL (bobwhite): In mythology and
legend the Quail is widespread and appears in many different
cultures. It was a fighting bird and so depicted courage and victory
in battle for the Romans. The term 'quail' was one of endearment;
the bird was sometimes given as a gift from one lover to another. In
Greek legend the jealous Hera turned Leto into a Quail; she was the
mother of Apollo and Artemis, so the bird was associated with them
also. Asteria changed into a Quail to escape Zeus. The bird is
connected with Heracles/Hercules. The Phoenicians sacrificed the
Quail to Melkarth when he defeated Typhon (Sephon), as darkness. It
was also sacrificed to the Tyrian Baal. The Quail was also a game
bird and was symbolic of the hunt. The Quail was the protector to
Germanic farmers who captured them and penned them inside houses as
protection against lightning strikes.
RAM: A male sheep. In Celtic
symbolism, the Ram is believed to be a symbol of fecundity and
rebirth. The Ram was revered by the Persians and sacred to the
Egyptians as a symbol of fife, dominion and stability. It is also
said to represent leadership and authority. The symbolism of the Ram
has great antiquity. The cult of the Ram flourished in the Middle
East beginning about 2000 BC. For example, the chief god of Upper
Egypt was Amon, a highly spiritual deity whose name means "occult"
or "hidden." He was originally represented as having the head of a
Ram and was worshipped in Roman times as Jupiter Ammon. Isaiah
prophesied that the Rams returning to Israel with God's scattered
children would joyfully offer themselves upon the altars of the
Millennial Temple. The most famous Ram in the Old Testament is the
one Abraham found trapped by its horns in a thicket on Mount Moriah
where he had gone to sacrifice his only son Isaac. [Gen 22:1-14] An
angel stopped the hand of Abraham just as he was about to kill his
boy and the Ram was sacrificed instead. This story is known as the
akedah (binding) and is a reminder of the obedience of the
patriarchs. Aries, the Ram, is the first sign of the zodiac and is
related to dawn, the spring, and the beginning of life. The Ram has
played an important role in the religion and mythology of many
RAVEN: See Corbie
fierce and voracious animal. In Hinduism the Rat is the most
powerful of the demons and represents foresight and prudence and as
such is the vehicle of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god (of wisdom,
prosperity and successful endeavour), and is an object of
veneration. It is also regarded as the symbol of industry and
prosperity on account of its ability for locating, acquiring, and
hoarding abundant supplies of food.
RATCH-HOUND (small hound, beagle):
Once widely used, either singly or in packs, to hunt
hares; symbol of the hunt, loyalty, courage, and vigilance.
stag with double attires; one erect and one pendent; extremely
strong and has great powers of endurance; hunted by the ancients,
for both meat and hide; symbolic of persistence, and resoluteness.
The word Rhinoceros comes from two ancient Greek words -
"rhino" meaning horn and "ceros" meaning head. They are descendants
of ancient times and bring with them the energy of comfort in one's
own solitude. The Rhino is unpredictable, and can turn and charge
with great agility and ferociousness especially when aroused or
agitated. Rhinoceroses have poor eyesight but acute senses of
hearing and smell. Most prefer to avoid man, but males, particularly
bad-tempered during the breeding season, and females with calves may
charge with little provocation. Some historians believe that the
horn of the Rhinoceros, former uniceros, is in fact the horn of the
legendary unicorn, symbol of chastity. The horn of the Rhino is not
made of bone but of skin and hair tissue called keratin and was used
by many cultures as an aphrodisiac; the skin of the Rhino could not
be pierced by sword or lance and this lead to many legends written
about the Rhino. "Thou shalt not conquer my army, as it likens to
the skin of the mighty Rhinoceros and cannot be pierced with lance
or saber." A symbol of tenacity, vigour and concord, and may
ROBIN: An old world bird resembling
the thrush and originally called Ruddock' or 'Redbreast'; symbol of
domestic peace and tranquillity; also the mariner's bird of hope.
SALAMANDER: Fabled to live in fire.
Francois I. of France adopted it as his badge and his motto is
roughly translated to mean 'I nourish the good and extinguish the
bad'; a symbol of bravery, purification, protection, immortality and
survival. It is said that the word comes from the Persian for
From the Latin, salmo, to leap; the leaping fish. The
sacred Salmon represents the ancient sanctity of water, its power to
destroy and create. At another level it may stand for the troubled
human soul, in its perpetual struggle to reconcile itself to itself;
a symbol of perseverance. Legend states that the magic Salmon gained
the power of wisdom by consuming the hazel nuts that dropped into
sacred springs. Betoken on one of wisdom, knowledge and constancy.
a Bedouin tribe from Sinai, the term was more generally
applied to Arabs and Muslims during the Crusades and the device is
generally in commemoration of the wars undertaken by European
Christians between the 11th and 14th centuries to recover the Holy
Land from the Muslims. Pope Urban II received Alexius' call for
assistance, but decided to use that call to advance a more ambitious
plan. Jerusalem, on the East coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the
modern nation of Israel, is considered holy land to Christians, Jews
and Muslims, but in 1095, the city was controlled by Muslims. The
message from Alexius presented Urban with an opportunity to retake
the holy lands from the Muslims. The pope called for a "War of the
Cross," or Crusade, to retake the holy lands from the unbelievers.
The Crusaders were ultimately unable to reclaim their holy lands,
but the wars had another effect. Western Europeans had left their
homes to fight in a distant war. The stories of the returning
Crusaders encouraged their countrymen to look beyond their own
villages for the first time. Saracen is from the Arabic sharakyoun
or sharkeyn (the eastern people), as opposed to Magharibë (the
western people- i.e. of Morocco). Any un-baptized person was called
a Saracen in medieval romance; in the Greek language, they are
called Surakenos, and in Spain they are referred to as 'moors'.
Indifferently termed, the Wild-man, or Woodman, the
Savage is a large man wreathed about the head and loins with leaves,
and generally carrying a club. The Savage, in heraldry, represented
the forest and the wild, remote from human residence and
improvements; the Savage, although uncultivated, was nonetheless
feared and as such, was often used to denote protection. He is the
icon of the untamed and the unpolished but he is fierce, ferocious
and of savage spirit. The emblem is also a reminder that
Christianity can tame the savage. The Savage represented one
uncorrupted by the vices of civilized men and signified truth,
fidelity and gratitude to their friends. The bearer was attempting
to allude that even the feared Savage was at his disposal and would
fight to defend his honour. The Savage was usually depicted as a
very large almost Herculean man and the club was his defence. It is
also important to note that the bearer also may have used the Savage
as an emblem to allude to his family name.
The Scorpion is the symbol of both wisdom and
self-destruction. The Scorpion's sting could also be directed at
enemies and so amulets in the form of Scorpions were worn in many
cultures as a protection against evil. It was thought that the
Scorpion produced both venom and anti-venom. In some areas this made
it an emblem of resurrection and constancy. Selket, the Egyptian
goddess and protectress of the dead had the head of a scorpion.
Usually only the paw or the head of the Seal is found
borne. This sea animal was known throughout antiquity. The Seal was
a regular inhabitant of the Greek coast at that time and regarded as
a good omen and harbinger of promise. Seal-calf milk was prized as a
remedy for the 'falling sickness'.
SERAPH (seraphim): An order of
angels distinguished for fervent zeal, unconquerable will, and
religious ardour and vivacity. It is said the word Seraph comes from
the Hebrew verb saraph ('to burn'). They are depicted with three
pairs of wings. One pair of wings is for flying, one for covering
their eyes (for even they may not look directly at God), and one for
covering its feet.
SERPENT (snake, asp): A popular
symbol in heraldry the Serpent has always been a symbolical Deity,
because it feeds upon its own body. It's been used since antiquity
as a symbol of healing because when old, it has the power of growing
young again, by shedding its skin. It was sacred to Aesculapius, and
was supposed to have the power of discovering healing herbs. The
ancient Greeks and Romans revered the symbol as a guardian spirit; a
noted symbol of wisdom, cunning and sagacity.
some cultures the Shark is a demon, both worshipped and feared as
the ruler of the seas. It is symbolic of persistence and
perseverance because Sharks have no swim bladder and must swim
perpetually to keep from sinking to the bottom.
waterfowl somewhat larger than the ordinary duck. A Canting arms as
it is said that this bird was introduced into English heraldry to
accommodate Sheldon, Lord Mayor of London in 1676. He bore three
Sheldrakes on his shield.
SKULL: Privateers used the symbol to
intimidate the enemy and their flag was designed to conjure up fear
and dread. The ancients used the skull on burial sites to indicate
that the debt to nature had been paid; a symbol of mortality and
dissolution; fear and intimidation.
SNAIL: Snails were eaten by
primitive man and raised for food by the Romans. In heraldry, it is
a rare device signifying deliberation and steadfastness. The Snail
shell was the Egyptian symbol of infinity.
curlew): An old world bird of the sandpiper family with a
distinctive 'piping' call. It was emblematic of a beacon announcing
imminent danger or representative of an experience or expedition of
a periculous nature. The Snipe and others in the species 'pipe' when
rising to flight and are generally silent when at rest.
seen occasionally in heraldry, the sole may be a symbol
of plenitude, liberality and charity. The fish symbol has been used
for millennia worldwide as a religious symbol associated with the
Pagan Great Mother Goddess, and was also a noted symbol of early
A mythical beast of ancient Egypt with the head of a man
and the body of a lion, frequently symbolizing the pharaoh as an
incarnation of the sun god Ra. The Sphinx was not peculiar to Egypt
as it was also a deity throughout the Middle East and Greece. The
name 'Sphinx' (in fact) is derived from the Greek sphingo, which
means "to strangle". The legend states that if a man could not
answer the riddle of the Sphinx, the Sphinx would then strangle him.
In Greek mythology the Sphinx was a winged monster with the head and
breasts of a woman and the body of a lion. In ancient Assyrian
myths, the Sphinx usually appears as a guardian of temple entrances.
The Sphinx is shrouded with mystery and secrecy and when the symbol
is used in heraldry it usually denotes guardianship, divinity, and
To Ancient Egyptians and Greeks, the Spider was symbolic
of the fates who constantly wove at the web of each person's
destiny. To the Christian, the Spider's web was representative of
human frailty and the temporary nature of earthly existence and
riches. In Greek mythology Arachne, challenged Athene, Zeus'
daughter, to a weaving contest, and hanged herself when the goddess
destroyed her web. Athene then changed her into a Spider, condemned
for eternity to hang at the end of her thread. In heraldry the
spider symbolizes tenacity of purpose, heedfulness, and cunning.
The squirrel's common name can be traced back to the
ancient Greeks, where Aristotle used the word "skiouros," skia
meaning shade, while "oura" meaning tail. Thus the meaning "he who
sits in the shadow of his tail" was recorded. It is said, centuries
later, the French created a noun "esquirel" to describe this animal.
From this the word "squirrel" was derived. It was a symbol of the
'soul' in Nordic myth and in medieval times it denoted one who was
provident toward the future. It is also said that the first bearer
was a lover of woodland, trustworthy and with a strong sense of
duty. The squirrel's nest is called a 'holt' and the squirrel emblem
may be an allusion to the family name of 'holt' as it appears in
some of their arms.
SPANIEL: A Spanish dog, from the Old
French Espagneul. The Spaniel is thought to have originated in Spain
and was perhaps introduced to ancient Britons by the Roman legions.
They were outstanding hunters that were both submissive and servile
to their masters but fierce adversaries if challenged; a symbol of
the hunt signifying loyalty, integrity and trustworthiness.
FISH: In Christianity it represents Mary guiding the
faithful through the storms of love. Seen in Europe as a symbol of
the undying power of love.
STARLING: The word means small star.
This common bird resembles a blackbird, but has triangular wings.
Branwen was a Welsh Princess, mistreated by her Irish husband. She
trained a Starling to take a message to her brother Bran in Wales.
There followed a great war between Wales and Ireland in which Bran
and all but seven of his men were killed. The Starling is associated
with warriors due to its aggressive manner with other birds.
many cultures a sacred bird and one lavished with symbolism. Storks
are the sworn foes of snakes, hence the veneration in which they are
held. Storks are also ancient fertility symbols and are typically
associated with springtime and birth. In Germanic states, storks
found human infants called "stork-children" dwelling in caves hidden
in rocky steeps called "Adeborsteine" or "stork-stones," and carried
them to their expectant parents. They are said to feed their elderly
parents, therefore storks have long been symbolic of filial piety or
gratitude. They are emblems of immortality and longevity, vigilance,
contemplation, prudence, piety, meditation, and chastity. Aristotle
taught that the jealous male bird would put an unfaithful mate to
death for her transgressions. Christians regarded the stork as a
symbol for Christ and His disciples because it was the terror of
snakes that represented Satan and his demons.
ancient times, they were both feared and worshipped; a symbol of the
Greek goddess Aphrodite who was the goddess of love, beauty and
fertility. The Romans considered Sturgeon the best tasting fish in
the world and always served it on a bed of roses. The Sturgeon also
known as the 'royal fish, was a favourite dish in medieval times.
All catches were the property of the King, unless the rights had
been granted to a local Lord and all catches should have been
reported to the Coroner who would send the actual fish, or certainly
the value of it, to the King. Denotes longevity, permanence and
stability, and bestowed on one of Royal favour.
male Swan is called a cob, the female a pen, a young Swan a cygnet.
Like the peacock and pheasant, the Swan was an emblem of chivalry;
every knight chose one of these birds, which was associated in his
oath with God, the Virgin, or his lady-love. In Greek mythology,
Zeus took the form of a Swan to seduce Leda. The Swan has erotic
associations as an emblem of Aphrodite/Venus. Swans drew the Chariot
of Venus. The most famous belief about the Swan is that it only
sings when it is about to die. The legendary Swan's song has caused
this bird to represent music and poetry, especially that which is
divinely inspired, passionate or tragic. The beauty and roundness of
the Swan's body caused Nordic people to allude to it as the height
of female grace and beauty. A Swan with a fish in its mouth
represents the Devil snatching up and consuming the unwary
Christian, and two Swans with their necks entwined stand for two
lovers or friends united in a companionship.
is said that the Scandinavians believed the Swallow hovered over the
cross of our Lord, crying "Svala! svala!" (Console! console!)… and
was thereafter called svalow (the bird of consolation). The Swallow
was sacred to the Penates (Roman deities of the household), and
therefore to injure one would be to bring wrath upon your own house.
The Swallow has always been regarded as a harbinger of spring, a
symbol of abundant harvest and happiness.
tail of a deer is called a 'single', that of a boar is called a
wreath, that of a fox is called the 'brush' and that of the hare is
called the 'scut'. In Heraldry you find the tail of a lion or of a
beaver most prevalent, and to show the tail only was representative
of an amulet of good fortune, believed to endow the bearer with the
traits and characteristics of the animal.
to be an ancestor of the Bloodhound, the ancient Talbot (a name of
Norman origin) is depicted white or sometimes golden brown. It is a
hound that existed in medieval Europe, having long pendent ears and
noted for his quick scent and his eager pursuit of game. It is said
that the Talbot thrived on the hunt rather than the kill. By the
1600's, this strain of hound had died out as a breed. A forerunner
of the modern fox and staghounds, they apparently had most
remarkable powers of scent and were betoken on one of courage and
forecast, vigilance and loyal fidelity. Used primarily for tracking
and hunting, it is said however, the British had talbots run
alongside coaches on the ancient highways; this might explain why so
many pubs bore its name. In Medieval times, 'Talbot' appeared to be
common name for any hound; in a quotation from about 1449, the king
referred to John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury as 'Talbott, oure good
dogge', perhaps as a play on his name, or perhaps an allusion to the
family coat of arms.
TEAL: A small dabbling duck, the
ancient Teal were known for their swiftness and were popular as game
birds. Representative of the hunt, the Teal fowl also signified
earnestness and quickness of action.
TIGER: The Tiger often took the
place of the lion as King of Beasts in Eastern mythology. It's
symbolic of royalty, power, and fearlessness, and was known to be
dangerous if aroused. In China the Tiger is Lord of the 'land
animals' and is an emblem of authority and power. The Chinese have
long held the Tiger in high esteem and regard; in folklore, they
called it "Hu-Fu" or 'tiger seal' and is considered undisputedly the
king of all animals and one of the few important celestial beings
after the dragon and phoenix. It is the emblem of some military
officers, typifying war, might and courage. Evidence dating from the
Warring States of China shows that the token used by emperors and
generals for military manoeuvres was structured in the form of a
Tiger. In Japan, although it is a mythical animal only, it is said
to live a thousand years and was adopted as an emblem of the warrior
class. In India, Durga rides a tiger, and Siva is often shown
wearing a tiger skin. Bacchus (Roman god of wine) had his cart drawn
by tigers, and tigers drawn by artists crouching at the feet of
Bacchus, are documented well. Since antiquity, the fearless tiger
has played a significant role in royalty and the military, and for
centuries was the emblem of authority and power.
food and sport fish of the carp family, the Tench is a stout,
small-scaled fish with a barbel at each corner of its mouth and a
thick, slimy skin. The ancients believed that the Tench was able to
cure injured fishes and was often applied to human wounds; a symbol
of forgiveness, regimen and sovereign remedy.
songbird symbolic of solitude and poetry. The poet identified with
the Thrush by the semantic double meaning of the verb 'to sing',
which literally means to utter sounds and to write poems as well; a
symbol of concord.
TORTOISE (turtle): Once prized as a
major source of meat for sailors in the 17th and 18th centuries, the
Tortoise is a symbol of longevity, patience and practicality;
strength and time. It is also one of independence because it takes
its home with it and is well protected. The name Tortoise (Lat.
testuoo) is given to the ancient Roman protective shelter formed by
soldiers with shields overlapping above their heads when attacking a
fort. As the feminine power of the waters the Tortoise was an emblem
of Aphrodite/ Venus; also of Hermes/Mercury in Greco-Roman myth;
sacred to 'pan' among the Arcadians and killing it was prohibited.
Also, because of its hard shell, it was representative of one who
was invulnerable to attack.
TURKEYCOCK: The Turkey was tamed by
the American Indian cultures in Mexico and taken from Mexico to
Europe by Spanish conquistadors early in the 16th century. By 1524,
the Turkey is known to have reached England and, by 1558, it was
becoming popular at banquets in England and throughout Europe. It is
a symbol of festivity, hospitality and resourcefulness. If only the
feathers are borne, it is a symbol of pride and of distinction.
Japan it is called Kirin, and in China Ki-lin. The name is based on
the Hebrew word re'em, in early versions of the Old Testament
translated as "monokeros", meaning "one horn", which became
"unicorn" in English; a fabulous and mythological, and magical
beast. Ctesias (Greek historian, B.C. 400) describes the Unicorn as
a beast with the legs of a buck, the tail of a lion, the head and
body of a horse, and a single horn in the middle of its forehead.
Fable has it the horn is white at the base, black in the middle, and
red at the tip. The body of the Unicorn is white, the head red, and
eyes blue. Unicorns were elusive and mysterious creatures, said to
be the personifications of innocence and purity, and as such were
often identified with virgins. According to the legends of the
middle Ages, placing a virgin in his haunts was the only way to
catch a Unicorn; upon seeing the virgin, the creature would lose its
fierceness and lie quiet at her feet. This is said to be an allegory
of Jesus Christ, who willingly became man and entered the Virgin's
womb, when He, was taken by the hunters of blood. The one horn
symbolises the great Gospel doctrine-that Christ is one with God.
Aristotle called it the Wild Ass; Pliny, the Indian Ass; Lobo also
describes it in his History of Abyssinia. According to a belief once
popular, the Unicorn by dipping its horn into a liquid could detect
whether or not it contained poison. Amongst royalty and with the
nobility in the middle Ages, it became quite fashionable to own a
drinking cup made of the horn of a Unicorn.
This unique bird derives its name from the Latin vultur,
and although it does not kill its own prey, it is considered a
raptor and a predator. It has a magnificent wingspan and an ability
to soar effortlessly for great lengths of time. It is one of the
most misunderstood birds, and yet it was one of the most powerful
and mystical in many cultures. Tutankhamun the famous Egyptian
pharaoh displayed the Vulture's head and the risen snake (cobra) as
the symbols of his ruler-ship. The first letter of the Egyptian
alphabet is represented by the Vulture symbol and is pronounced
"ah". The Vulture is a very powerful emblem and is a promise that
all hardship was temporary and necessary for a higher purpose. In
Greek mythology, the Vulture is the descendant of the Griffin, and
was the symbol of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, good and
evil, a guardian and an avenger. The Greek god Aries, son of Zeus
and Hera and the god of war used the Vulture as his bird symbol. The
Vulture is the avenger of nature spirits. Ancient Assyrians believed
the Vulture or griffin was the Angel of Death, and the union between
the day and night. The Egyptian Goddess Maat is usually depicted
carrying a Vulture and was considered the personification of the
order of the world.
WEASEL: A ferocious fighter
considered by some to be poisonous and unlucky. Ancient peoples
believed that Weasels would attack by the thousands to avenge the
death of a single Weasel. To counter this and instead of setting
traps for the Weasel which threatened their livestock, they held
Weasel festivals on St. Matthew's or St. Catherine's Day to honour
these fierce creatures. They are symbolic of boldness and
resoluteness due largely to their reputation of battling much larger
enemies. The Weasels have long been considered spiritual warriors.
This marine giant is strongly linked to the biblical
story of Jonah and is an emblem of righteousness, repentance and
Usually borne in pairs on either side of another charge
and denote protection.
WOLF: Webster's (1828) describes the
Wolf as "a beast of prey that kills sheep and other small domestic
animals; called sometimes the wild dog, the Wolf is crafty, greedy
and ravenous. From mythology and story telling from all parts of the
world, the Wolf has carried a sense of contradiction: a
wild and fearful animal that can represent death and Satan; but at
the same time a companion to the goddess Artemis and Scandinavian
god, Odin. Throughout ancient history the Wolf was admired and
respected as a symbol of strength, intelligence and courage.
Neolithic artists duplicated its image on cave walls. Shamans sought
its power. Even Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, were reportedly
nurtured and raised by Wolves. Eventually, this noble legend became
the "bloodthirsty savage" of European lore. Many cultures included
the crafty Wolf in their legends; Vereticus, king of Wales, was
converted by St. Patrick into a Wolf; it was an emblem of the tribe
of Benjemin; the Chinese saw the Wolf as a guardian of the heavenly
palace; in Japan the Wolf was admired for its ferocity, tenacity and
swift attack, and considered the wolf to be from heaven and to be
From the Middle English woodcock, of origin in the Old
English words wudu for wood, and cocc for cock or bird. Highly
esteemed as game birds and said to be a bird easily caught. Usually
borne as a pun on the family name.
WOODPECKER: The Woodpecker is the
guardian of the forest and heralds the rain and storms. Since Picas
the Roman god of agriculture was famous for his divination skills
and was associated with the Woodpecker, this bird became a symbol of
The Druids considered the Wren 'supreme among all birds.'
It was the sacred bird of the Isle of Man, formerly a shrine of the
dead and the dwelling-place of the Moon Goddess who cared for pagan
souls. In Scotland it was the Lady of Heaven's Hen and killing a
Wren was considered extremely unlucky; however in England and in
France the Wren was hunted on St Stephen's Day, where an ancient
Christian ceremony took place. It is said that hunters dressed in
ritual garb, hunted and killed a Wren, then hung it on a pole,
taking it on a procession though the village demanding money and
fortune. The Wren is generally accepted as a totem of good fortune
WYVERN: The word Wyvern is an
alteration of Middle English wyvere for viper, it is also from Old
North French wivre, and a modification of Latin vipera. A mythical
beast usually represented as a 2-legged winged creature similar to a
dragon (much like a cockatrice but with the head of a dragon) and
with wings and a barbed serpent tail. Considered a sign of strength
to those who bore the symbol the Wyvern is an ancient token
associated with Mercia and the old kings of Wessex. Mercia was one
of the kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England, consisting generally of the
region of the Midlands. It was settled by Angles c.500, probably
first along the Trent valley. Its history emerges from obscurity
with the reign of Penda, who extended his power over Wessex (645)
and East Anglia (650) to gain over-lordship of England, South of the
Humber River. Later, the Wyvern symbol was adopted by other
societies including the Slavs and the people in the South-West
Baltic. The Wyvern is symbolic of valour, strength, protection,
warden-ship and dominion.
are some of the more common heraldic symbols and their meanings as
suggested by some historians and heralds. Heralds have been known
not to agree with meanings and interpretations. There are literally
thousands of charges and devices. Here are some of the most often
mentioned in blazoning.
ACACIA BRANCH OR LEAVES It is said
that the gods were born underneath the goddess Saosis' Acacia tree,
north of Heliopolis. Horus (Egyptian God) was supposed to have
emerged from an Acacia tree and as such this symbol was betoken on
one to signify eternal and affectionate remembrance both for the
living and the dead.
ACORN Denotes antiquity and
strength. Acorns hold high significance as a Scandinavian and a
Celtic symbol for life, fertility, and immortality.
TOOLS Implements of husbandry representing one who
laboured in the earth and was dependant upon providence; see also
Scythe and Sickle, Plough.
ANCHOR The Christian emblem of hope
and refuge; awarded to sea warriors for special feats performed; the
Greeks and Romans referred to the anchor as sacred as it was always
dedicated to some god. The anchor was given to Clement of Rome and
Nicolas of Bari. Nicolas of Bari is the patron saint of sailors.
Also signifies steadfastness and stability. In seafaring nations,
the anchor is a symbol of good luck, of safety, and of security, and
thus of trust and confidence.
ANNULET The emblem of fidelity; a
ring worn as a sign of Knighthood (Roman);it stood as the symbol of
nobility and jurisdiction, and was the gage of royal favour and
protection; also a mark of Cadency of the fifth son. See Cadency.
ANTLERS Strength and fortitude; once
used as a symbol of divine power in Assyria, Mesopotamia and Egypt.
ANVIL Denotes honour and strength;
chief emblem of the smith's trade.
APPLE Denotes liberality, felicity,
and peace; temptation, fertility. In Greek mythology, Hera received
an apple as a symbol of fertility upon her engagement to Zeus.
ancient and honourable symbol sometimes referred to as the emblem of
affliction; martial readiness; if with a cross it denotes
affliction; a bow and arrow signifies a man resolved to abide the
uttermost hazard of battle.
AXE See Battleaxe and Hatchet.
'Bague' is the French term for finger ring and is an emblem of
fidelity (see annulet).
BANNERS Signifies a special action
or service in which the bearer was captured, or a reward for gallant
(Cannon) Bestowed upon those who have dared their terrors
in sieges and battles.
BAR, BARRY, OR BARRULET One who sets
the bar of conscience, religion, and honour against angry passions
and evil temptations.
BARRY WAVY It is said that troubles
keep us in continuous exercise and reminders of providence, as waves
in a storm at sea.
BATON The baton was a token of
authority and used as a badge of office; symbol of title or rank.
RAM A heavy beam of wood with a head of ram at its point
(others were iron tipped) used in ancient warfare to batter down the
walls and gates of a place under siege. The battering ram was
frequently in a wagon covered with drapery or hides, ornamented with
fringes and even with devices. Awarded to the first bearer for
gallant service to the sovereign or for a military victory; also
assertiveness in conquest.
BATTLE AXE A fighting axe signifying
execution of military duty. It is said that the Celts first
introduced the first metal axe-heads of a distinctive shape with a
hole for mounting the handle. This is no doubt why archaeologists
refer to them as 'the battle-axe people'.
BAY LEAVES A
wreath of bay was conferred on the Poet; it is also the victor's
BEACON From the Saxon 'becnian'
meaning 'beckon' or come together; the Mariners' symbol of hope.
Betoken on one who is watchful, or who gave the signal in time of
BELLS Bells were believed to
disperse storms and pestilence, drive away devils, and extinguish
fires; hawk's bells denote one who was not afraid of signalling his
approach in peace or war.
BEND Representative of a scarf or
shield suspender of a knight or commander; signifies defence or
protection. See Ordinaries.
BERRIES A symbol of liberality,
felicity, and peace; (applies to most other fruit as well).
gold roundle representing a Byzantine coin. Denoted one who had been
found worthy of trust and treasure. See Roundles.
Represents letters folded for transmission; denotes a man who
obtained credence, knowledge and faith in his words and deeds and
was secret in his affairs.
BISHOP'S MITRE Denotes Episcopal
jurisdictions and authority. If tinctured in black the Mitre is that
of a Bishop (or Abbey), in red, that of a Cardinal, green, that of
BOATS (Ships, Lymphads, and Galleys)
They symbolize notable expeditions by sea, by which the first
bearers had become famous.
BOMB (Mortar) One who has dared the
terror of such a weapon in battle
BOOK If open, symbolizes
manifestation; if closed, counsel; usually represents the bible.
(bordure) A sub-ordinary-This bearing is of great
antiquity and is often adopted as a difference between relatives
bearing the same arms; or an augmentation of an honour.
(water-bouget) A charge representing an ancient leather
vessel used for carrying water to an army or to a besieged place. It
consisted of a yoke with two leather pouches appended.
known as pilgrim or shepherd's staff. Usually borne in reference to
early pilgrimages to Jerusalem.
BOW A warrior ready for battle;
always prepared for any challenge.
BOW AND ARROW Denotes a man resolved
to abide the uttermost hazard of battle, which to that end has
furnished himself to the full.
BRIDGE Signifies the cares and
patient stability of magistrates or governors, who must endure the
assaults, taunts, and envy of the discontented and vulgar.
A sprig of this Anglo-Saxon medicinal shrub was chosen, as the badge
of the royal house of Plantagenet, who are said to have derived
their surname from the circumstance of one of their ancestors having
worn a branch of broom is his helmet. Denotes humility.
Ancient and honourable bearing signifying victorious fidelity in
(Burgonet) a steel cap or helmet, anciently worn by
infantry. So named after the Burgundians, (French
Bourguignons) who were first to use it.
BUSH (brush) A term used for the
tail of a fox. A Good luck amulet attached to personal possessions.
In ancient times it was believed that it endowed the bearer with the
cunning of the animal
As the original object of armorial
bearings was to distinguish one iron- encased warrior from
another, it was also necessary to provide distinctive bearings for
different members of a family all entitled to bear the paternal
arms. This gave rise to the use of Marks of Cadency, or
differences (called by the French 'brisure').
Label: - A
bearing closely resembling the strap with pendants which form the
saddle crossed the horse's chest. It is the oldest mark of
difference, but sometimes borne as a charge. As a difference, the
princes of the royal house used it. The number of points did not
necessarily mean anything, although the label of three points was
supposed to represent the heir during the lifetime of his father;
five points, during the lifetime of his grandfather; seven points,
while the great-grandfather still lived, etc. According to the
modern system, the elder son of an elder son places a label upon a
Crescent: - A bearing resembling
the half moon with the points turned up. When used as a mark of
cadency it denotes the second son.
Mullet: - A bearing resembling a
five-pointed star. It is sometimes called a spur rowel, but it was
in use long before the rowel spur. When used as a difference it
denotes the third son.
Martlet: - A fanciful bird
somewhat resembling a swallow, but having short tufts of feathers
in the place of legs. When used as a difference it denotes the
Annulet: - A ring borne on an
escutcheon. Originally it stood as the symbol of nobility and
jurisdiction, being the gage of royal favour and protection. In
describing the arms the colour of the annulet should always be
expressed. When used as a difference, the annulet represents the
Fleur-de-lis: - Heraldically this
is a flower, and stands at the head of the flowers of heraldry.
Its origin is unknown, one "authority" claiming that it was
brought down from heaven by an angel for the arms of France. It is
also said to mean the flower of Louis (Fleur de Louis), and was
certainly used by Louis VII. It is undoubtedly the "flower of the
Lilly." Originally the royal banner of France was semee-of-lis
(completely covered with fleurs-de-lis); but from the time of
Charles VI it has consisted of three golden fleurs-de-lis on a
blue field. The fleurs-de-lis did not at first meet with much
favour in England, and did not become popular, in fact, until its
assumption by Edward III. George VI, on his accession, abolished
French quartering, in the English royal arms. When used as a
difference the fleur-de-lis represents the sixth son.
The Rose, which is popular in English heraldry, is generally borne
singly and full-faced, with five petals, barbs and seeds. When
used as a difference it denotes the seventh son.
Moline: - So called because its shape resembles a
millrind (the iron clamp of the upper millstone). It is borne both
inverted and rebated, and sometimes saltire-wise or in saltire.
When used as a mark of cadency it represents the eighth son.
- A double quatrefoil: a leaf of eight points. When
used as a difference it denotes the ninth son.
CADUCEUS: The mace of Mercury, with
wings attached, and entwined with two snakes. Denotes balance and
the union of opposing forces. It is a symbol of peace and healing.
CALTRAP: French heralds called it
Chausse-trap. It Is an abbreviated form of Cheval-trap: an
instrument thrown upon the ground to injure feet of horses. One who
demonstrates ingenuity and resourcefulness when faced with a
CANNON (and Cannon Balls): Said of
one who has dared their terror in sieges and in battles.
ARMS: Canting, or punning, arms, are derived from the
literal meaning or from the sound of a name. They are bearings in
the nature of a similarity alluding to the name of the bearer. Thus,
the Castletons bear three castles, and Pope Adrian IV. (Nicholas
Breakspeare) bore a broken spear, The Keyes bore keys and Wells used
a water well and Archer bore arrows etc. and the list is extensive.
Although individually these charges may have specific historical
symbolism it may be that the first bearer had in mind a pun on the
name, and nothing more. There are however some instances where
apparent 'canting arms' where not only an allusion to the name but
had true symbolic meaning to the bearer. In most cases its indeed
impossible to know which of these gleanings apply.
CANTON: - A
Subordinary-Bearing of honour; when borne charged, it often contains
some very special symbol granted by the sovereign in reward for the
performance of eminent service.
CAP OF MAINTENANCE: Granted to
British peers and Scottish feudal barons (see "Chapeau").
Symbol of admiration; hope and joy.
CARPENTER'S SQUARE: Given to those
that in all their works there shall nothing be found done either
rashly or by adventure.
CASTLE (tower, chateau): The emblem
of grandeur and society, and has been granted sometimes to one who
has faithfully held one for his king, or who has captured one by
force or strategy. The castle of Western Europe was a Norman
creation, stemming from the 10th and 11th-century 'Norman Mound'
castles. A castle that became the model for many English and Norman
castles was the formidable castle built at Arques in Normandy by
Henry I of England. In the Middle East the Crusaders developed great
castles with double circuits of curving outer walls and towers or
turrets to overlook all sections of the wall. Early in the 13th
century the medieval castle, a mixture of Norman, English, and
Byzantine elements was born.
CATHERINE WHEEL: Said to have been
used in the martyrdom of St. Catherine, and therefore it is the
emblem of one who is prepared to undergo great trials for the
CHAINS: Reward for acceptable and
weighty service; with crowns and collars, this suggests the bearer
bore the chain of obligation or obliged others because of services
CHALICE: The receptacle of spiritual
forces. It is associated with the element of water. Shown upright,
the cup is ready to receive; shown inverted, it symbolizes birth and
realization; a symbol of faith.
CHAPEL: When St. Martin divided his
military cloak (cappa) and gave half to the beggar at the gate of
Amiens, he wrapped the other half round his shoulders, thus making
of it a cape (capella). This cape, or its representative, was
afterwards preserved as a relic and accompanied the Frankish kings
in their wars, and the tent which sheltered it became known also as
cappella or capella. In this tent Mass was celebrated by the
military chaplains (capellani). When at rest in the palace the relic
likewise gave its name to the oratory where it was kept, and
subsequently any oratory where Mass and Divine service were
celebrated was called capella, chapelle, chapel. Often awarded for
special services to the church or as a revelation of faith.
Granted to British peers and Scottish feudal barons. It is a cap
generally of red velvet turned up with ermine, formerly peculiar to
dukes (whence it is sometimes called a duciper), but now often used
to place crests upon instead of a wreath.
circular garland, usually woven of 4 flowers (equally spaced),
leaves, and foliage, that traditionally indicated honour or
celebration. The wreath in ancient Egypt was most popular in the
form of a chaplet made by sewing flowers to linen bands and tying
them around the head. In ancient Greece, wreaths, usually made of
olive, pine, laurel, celery, or palm, were awarded to athletes
victorious in the Olympic games and as prizes to poets and orators.
In Rome, laurel crowns were bestowed as a mark of honour, especially
on civil officials and returning warriors. The heraldic chaplet is a
crown of joy and admiration, honour and celebration.
Heraldic symbol of a fortress signifying protection and strength; a
representation of the chess piece resembling the cronal of a lance.
May have been granted to one who successfully shielded a leader in
an engagement of war or notorious enterprise.
CHEVRONELS: - Diminutive of the
Chevron-Represents military stripes of merit worn by gallant
CHIEF: see Ordinaries
A five leafed flower signifying hope and joy. In French civic
heraldry, the cinquefoil is sometimes used to represent the plant,
narcissus, commonly called the cinquefoil. In Scottish heraldry this
symbol is called a fraise. Cinquefoils were held by the ancient
heralds to represent various flowers according to the colours in
which they were borne.
CIVIC WREATH: One who saved a fellow
citizen's life or shown patriotism in defence of one's native land.
(Glaymore): The word is derived from the Gaelic
claidheamh (a sword), and mór (great); large two-handed sword
popular in Scotland during the 15th, 16th and even the 17th
centuries. These swords were popular also in Germany and in the
Swiss states during the 15th and 16th centuries, although the term
Claymore seems to have been restricted to Scotland. Said to denote
one who was of high military honour, equity and justice.
Represents the ancient clarion. An emblem well becoming one who has
bravely followed its sound in war; ready for the fray.
heavy stick, usually thicker at one end than at the other; also
known as a cudgel; usually borne as a weapon of defence by savages.
If shown as a separate charge or device it may have represented some
special enterprise or experience to the first bearer; symbol of
guardianship and propugnation.
COATS OF ARMS (TERMS)
WREATH,(French: tortil, also
bourrelet): the wreath, technically speaking, is the twisted band
composed of two strips of lace and silk by which the crest is
joined to the helmet; the colors are usually the two principal
colors of the shield. It is sometimes referred to as a ‘torse’. It
was, perhaps, copied by the crusaders from the wreathed turbans of
HELMUT, sometimes called a Helm,
in French, a Casque. There were many different types and styles
over the centuries. Note: the Helmet is not officially or
traditionally part of a coat of arms
SUPPORTERS, It is generally
accepted that Supporters had their origin from tilts and
tournaments, wherein the knights caused their shields to be
carried by servants or pages, under the disguise of Lions, Bears,
Griffins etc, who also held and guarded the escutcheons, which the
knights were obliged to expose to public view some time before the
lists were opened. The French refer to supporters as “supports”
and “tenants”, the former applied to animals, the latter to human
SHIELD, (Anglo-Saxon: Scyld):
borne on the arm to protect the bearer in battle and to be
recognized by his compatriots in the midst of the fight.
COMPARTMENT, a compartment is a
carved panel, sometimes stone or earth and grass, or a period
scroll; it’s placed below the shield and it is where supporters
CREST, (French: cimier): a figure
anciently affixed to the helmet of every commander, for his
distinction in the confusion of battle. It’s the portion above the
MANTLE, (Mantling, or Cappeline).
In French it’s called a Lambrequin. It represents the lambrequin,
or covering of the helmet, to protect it from the sun or rain.
Typically, the colors are the primary colors of the shield. Note:
the Mantle is not officially or traditionally part of a coat of
(SCROLL), a long strip of parchment bearing the motto.
When no motto is available, the name is often found here. The
motto can be below or above the shield. Note: the escroll is not
officially or tradionally part of a coat of arms.
(DEVICE), anything borne on a coat of arms, whether
upon the field, as was more usually the case in ancient arms, or
upon an ordinary, or indeed upon another charge. In French it’s
COLOURS, TINCTURES, METALS
YELLOW; known as 'jaune'; symbolizes generosity and
elevation of the mind; one of the two metals of Heraldry. 'Or' is
from Latin aurum): the chief of the tinctures; it is called Sol by
those who blazon by the sun and planets.
2--ARGENT, SILVER OR
WHITE; sometimes fancifully called Luna in the arms of
princes, as also Pearl in those of peers; peace and sincerity.
3--RED OR GULES, (fr.
gueules): the term is probably derived from the Arabic
gule, a red rose; introduced by the Crusaders. Some historians
feel the word is derived from the Latin gula, which in old French
is found as gueule, i.e. the "red throat of an animal." Others,
again, have tried to find the origin in the Hebrew word gulade,
which signifies red cloth. Symbolizes a warrior or martyr;
military strength and magnanimity.
4--BLUE OR AZURE; bright blue, the
colour of an eastern sky, derived from the Arabic 'lazura';
denotes truth and loyalty.
5---GREEN OR VERT; (fr. sinople):
The French are said to have called it Sinople, from a town in Asia
Minor (Sinope) from which were brought the best materials for
dyeing green, or silks and stuffs of a brilliant green colour;
signifies hope, joy, and loyalty in love.
SABLE; derived from animals with black feet called
Sable; signifies constancy or sometimes grief; mysteriousness.
PURPURE; royal majesty, sovereignty, and justice. It is
the most majestic of colours. It has also been referred to as
'plumby' and 'porprin'.
8--ORANGE, TAWNY OR TENNE;
occasionally called 'brusque'; denotes worthy ambition. It is very
rarely found mentioned, but was one of the colours forming the
livery of the royal House of Stuart
9--MAROON SANGUINE OR MURRAY;
blood colour, called by heraldic writers in the arms of princes
Dragon's tail, and in those of lords Sardonyx; symbolizes patient
in battle, and yet victorious.
COLUMBINE: Called the dove plant,
columbine was also thought to be the favourite plant of lions and
thus was known also as Herba leonis. It was highly regarded for its
medicinal values. In religious symbolism, the columbine signified
the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; the five petals of the flower
formed little doves. Denotes courage and love.
pillar): Signifies fortitude and constancy. A serpent
coiled around a pillar would signify wisdom and fortitude.
seen as harbingers of devastating invasion, war, and conquest; also
may signify the remembrance of a great battle.
The emblem of life amongst the ancient Semitic races, much like the
Crux Ansata or key-cross among the Egyptians. See Pine.
CORNUCOPIA (or horn of
plenty): The ancient symbol of the bounty of Nature's
COUPEAUX: Usually described as a
mountain of three coupeaux or hills. Can also be 6 or 10 hills. The
reference to the first bearer was representative of locale and not
to any other symbolism. Many communes had arms where coupeaux were
blazoned, referring to the geographical nature and site of the
commune, castle or domicile. It is doubtful the coupeaux had any
other significance. Whether it was a mount of 3 coupeaux or 10
simply meant that there were more hills or hillocks involved. One
herald impressed that the hills represented challenges accomplished.
CRESCENT: (or increscent): Said to
signify one who has been enlightened and honoured by the gracious
aspect of his sovereign; symbol of 'hope and greater glory'.
crook: The shepherd's watchfulness; Christian faith;
pastoral authority; also Episcopal jurisdiction; service in the
(properly called an Arbalest): (Fr: arbalète, Ger.
Armbrust, Crossbow) First introduced early in the 14th century, the
crossbow consisted of a bow mounted on a stock that could be cranked
or pulled into place using more leverage than could be used on a
conventional longbow. The result was a very high-powered, lower
trajectoried weapon of great destructive potential. It fired a bolt,
a shorter version of an arrow; an emblem of war and of great power.
Cross-Baptismal: This Greek cross
is superimposed on a Greek "chi", the first letter of the Greek
word for "Christ." It forms a cross with eight arms. Since the
number eight is symbolic of rebirth or regeneration.
Cross-Calvary: Was originally
rejected by Christians because it was a pagan symbol. Some earlier
uses of this symbol was as a sceptre of Apollo; with the phrase
"Ptolemy the Saviour"; and a sign of life to come in the Egyptian
religion of Sarapis.
Cross Celtic: One of the most
ancient of cruciforms; this cross was used by the Celtic
Christians in Great Britain and Ireland. Symbolizes the unity of
heaven and earth.
Cross Constantine's: (Labarum)
Good omen; Christianity.
Cross Crosslet: Signifies the
fourfold mystery of the cross.
Cross Eastern: Used primarily in
the Russian Orthodox Church. The upper bar represents the
inscription, abbreviated "INRI" that Pilate had placed above
Jesus' head. The meaning of the slanted bar is lost in legend. One
story holds that Jesus' legs were of unequal length, another that
the earthquake that came at His death caused the cross to tilt.
Another explanation (probably the correct one) is that the slanted
bar forms St. Andrew's cross. St. Andrew is believed to have
introduced Christianity to Russia.
Cross Embattled: This heraldic
cross calls to mind the battlements of a fortress or castle, and
thus may have been used as a symbol of the "church militant" (the
church at war, as opposed to the church triumphant).
Fitchee: (cross pointed at base) A combination of cross
and sword; symbolizing unshakeable faith.
Fleurette: Much like the cross fleurie/fleury, this
cross is a reminder of the Trinity and of the Resurrection.
(Patoncee): Represents one who has conquered.
Fourchee: This design reflects Christian piety and was
popular as a decorative cross in medieval heraldry. The design
ties to the age-old trust in the pagan magic of the forked stick.
Formee (see Pattee): Denotes military honour.
Cross-Greek: one of the original
forms used by Christians. (The Latin cross was not in popular
usage until the eighth and ninth centuries.) Before Christianity,
the Greek cross was an emblem of Hecate as the Goddess of
Crossroads. The vertical was male; the horizontal was female -
making it a plus sign of one-plus-the-other.
Jerusalem: This complex form is composed of a central
cross made of four tau crosses representing the Old Testament law.
The four smaller Greek crosses represent the fulfilment of the law
in the gospel of Christ. This cross appeared on the coat-of-arms
Godfrey of Bouillon, the first ruler of the Latin Kingdom of
Jerusalem. It was embodied in the heraldry of the Crusaders.
Maltese: The badge of Knights; from the island of
Malta, home of one of the world's oldest Goddess temples. This
design directs attention to the centre, possibly to indicate
earth's geographical centre, Omphalos, and site of the Goddess's
Cross Moline: The mutual converse
of human society; said to represent a millstone.
Pattee: Was popular in medieval heraldry. It was a
combination of the Christian (Greek) cross and Wotan's. This
cross, also known as Cross Formee, was often shown as the insignia
of the god Frey.
Cross Patriarchal: This is an
ecclesiastical cross that is often seen carried by the patriarchs
in works of art. The upper bar represents the inscription placed
on the cross by Pilate; adopted by cardinals and archbishops as a
Cross Pommee: This cross
represents the Assyrian god Asshur, who ruled time and seasons. He
was pictured with the faces of a man, lion, eagle, and bull, his
four totems. The cross with circles was later used on Jewish
Potent: Was a symbol of ancient Mesapotamia. The cross-
potent, with a circle was the sign of the Assyrian heaven-god Anu.
This cross is also called the Windlass, a term linked with it in
the Middle Ages.
Cross Raguly: Denotes difficulties
Cross-of St. Andrews: According to
tradition, St. Andrew felt unworthy to be crucified like his Lord,
so he begged that his cross be made differently. It is a symbol of
humility and suffering.
Cross Tau: Made from the Greek
letter "T", is the simplest of all crosses. It is often used as
the cross of Prophecy, or Old Testament cross, because it is the
traditional sign that Israelites made with lamb's blood on their
doorposts in Egypt on the night of Passover. A tau cross is often
pictured as the pole on which Moses lifted up the brazen serpent
in the wilderness.
CROWNS: Are symbols of monarchy,
state and power and denotes dignity and accomplishment. The
etymology is as follows Middle English coroune, crowne, from Old
French corone, from Latin corona wreath, crown, from Greek korOnE
culmination, something curved like a crow's beak, literally, crow;
akin to Latin cornix crow, Greek korax raven. The use of the crown
as a symbol of monarchy is of ancient tradition in Egypt and the
Middle East. In ancient Greece and Rome, however, crowns sometimes
made of leaves, were simply wreaths, awarded to victors in athletic
tournaments or bestowed on citizens in recognition of an
extraordinary deed. In medieval and modern times, the crown is
generally made of metal, often gold or silver and inlaid with
ANTIQUE OR ANCIENT: The ancient
crown is often used to represent the days of the Saxons and at
times the feudalistic period. It is usually depicted in Gold.
CROWN:represents the crown anciently worn by Oriental
princes. Baron’s Coronet: is a plain circle of gold having six
large pearls upon it, four which are seen in a drawing. Sometimes
referred to an antique crown (as well).
CHARLEMAGNE: this crown having
been borne by five kings of England as Arch-treasurers of the Holy
DUKE'S CROWN: is a circle of gold
richly chased, and having upon its upper edge eight
strawberry-leaves; only five are shown in the drawing, two of them
being in profile. The cap is of crimson velvet lined with white
taffeta and turned up with ermine. At the top is a gold tassel. A
coronet without the cap, and showing but three leaves, is called a
Ducal (or Crest)coronet, and frequently a Ducal crown. Rarely a
ducal coronet is shown with cap.
EARL'S CORONET: is a rim of gold
richly chased, on the upper edge of which are eight
strawberry-leaves, and the same number of pearls (5 showing on a
drawing) set upon high points, so that it is readily distinguished
from the coronet of the marquis.
HANOVER CROWN: the electorate of
Hanover having been constituted a kingdom, the bonnet which had
hitherto been placed over the insignia of that state was exchanged
for a crown, in pursuance of a royal proclamation dated June 8,
IMPERIAL CROWN OF ENGLAND: the
Royal Crown of England is adorned with gold crosses pattée and
fleur-de-lis, cap is of crimson velvet, turned up with ermine, and
surmounted by a cross pattée.
IMPERIAL CROWN OF GERMANY: is
properly the crown peculiar to the German emperor.
CROWN: formed of battlements masoned.Said to have been
given by the Romans to the soldier who first ascended the walls of
a besieged fortress. Symbolizes a defender of a fortress, token of
civic honour; one who first mounted the breach in the walls of a
CORONET: this coronet features a rim of gold richly
chased, supporting four strawberry-leaves and as many large
pearls(or rather balls of silver-2 showing in a drawing) upon
NAVAL CROWN: a circle, having upon
its upper edge four masts of galleys, each with a topsail, and as
many sterns placed alternately. Some heralds say it was invented
by the Emperor Claudius as a reward for sea service. Denotes one
who first boarded an enemy's ship; distinguished naval commander.
PALISADO: (Vallary) a name given to a form of crown
with, as it were, palisades upon it, and hence said to have been
given by the Roman generals to him who first entered the enemies'
camp by breaking through their outworks. It is also called
vallary, from the Latin vallus, which generally means the palisade
surmounting the vallum.
VISCOUNT'S CORONET: a chased
circle of gold supporting twelve, fourteen, or, as some say,
sixteen pearls, but usually only seven visible.
armour defence for the body. First Introduced during the third
quarter of the 14th century and it became the premier defence of the
15th century. Consisting of a breast and back-plate, hoops of steel
to defend the hips known as faulds, and tassets to defend the upper
or front surface of the thigh. During the 14th century, the
breastplate was often made from a single piece of steel and the
back-plate from a brigandine, but during the 15th the breastplate
was generally made in two or more pieces and the back in many
pieces. It represented one who was unassailable, one of strength and
(pillow): Marks of authority.
yew): Evergreen tree emblematic of death; the Egyptians
considered this evergreen symbolic of hope in an eternal life beyond
DAGGER (dirk, rapier,
and skean, or skene): Justice and military honour.
dancetty: a zigzag line of partition, differing from
indented only in the indentations, being larger in size. Denotes
water and may signify an important sea voyage.
HATCHET: symbol of the execution of military duty. See
DECRESCENT: One who has been
honoured by the sovereign; hope of greater glory (a crescent with
horns to the sinister).
DELF (SQUARE): Popular in German
heraldry. To some ancients, the square was the earth, as opposed to
the heavens. Because of its geometric perfection it denoted honesty
and straightforwardness, equity, morality and integrity.
gads): Falls right however they be cast; emblems of
constancy and equity.
DROPS (Guttees): One who has endured
torrents of liquids in battle depending upon the colour of the
liquid; sometimes used for the purpose of differencing.
gold--may indicate a generous deed or spiritual richness if borne
on a cross.
Azure/Blue: tears--shed in a great
battle over a lost compatriot or family member or the bearer shows
some great work unaccomplished and deplored his unavailing
efforts; also grief, loss.
Vert/Green: oil--symbolizes olive
oil; peace and concord as in the olive branch.
denoting that while engaged in battle it rained down upon the
Sable/Black: pitch or tar--boiling
pitch or tar was often poured down upon the assailants of castles.
Gules/Red: blood--referring to
some bloody conflict in which the first bearer was engaged.
DRUM: Readiness for war.
Used by ancient fisherman to catch eel in the mud where a net would
not do. Signifies such action of merit, wherein both strength and
policy are conjoined.
ELM TREE: Represents the power and
mystery of nature; demands respect and reverence; the home of the
gods; tree of sleep and denotes wisdom.
ESCALLOP (shell): This is the badge
of a pilgrim, also a symbol of the Apostle St. James the Great.
Denotes one who has made long journeys or voyages to far places; a
ESCARBUNCLE: May owe its origin to
the ornamental metalwork on the shield that was added to strengthen
it. Denotes supremacy.
ESTOILE: Celestial goodness, a man
of noble personage. See Star.
FALCON'S (HAWK'S) LURE: Denotes one
who was fond of the highest pursuits. Hunting and Falconry were such
pursuits in the days of Heraldry. The bell signifies a signal to
recall the absent from afar.
FASCES: the Roman fasces, consisting
of a bundle of rods (elm or ash) bound round the helve of a hatchet.
The bundle of rods bound together symbolizes strength that is
lacking in the single rod. The axe symbolizes authority and
(Plume): Ostrich feathers. When three or more occur, they
are termed a plume or in French, a panache. When more than three
heights (rows) occur, the term pyramid of feathers is used. Denotes
willing obedience and serenity.
FER DE MOLINE (Millrind, inkmoline, mill-ink,
millrine) : Represents the iron which supports the upper
millstone of a corn-mill, and carries the eye which rests upon the
end of the mill spindle. Denotes divination, luck, protection.
(shacklebolt, shackbolt, or manacle): A 'handcuff,' or
prisoners' bolt. Signifies victory; one that has taken prisoners or
rescued prisoners of war.
Fire: Ancient symbol of a ruler;
also symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit's
actions; denotes zeal; was anciently connected with the universal
worship of the sun.
FLAG (standard, banner): see Banner
OR FLANCHES: A sub-ordinary given by a king for virtue
and learning, and especially for service in embassage (the message
or commission entrusted to an ambassador).
representing an ancient lancet or bloodletting instrument; the fleam
of St. Luke, denoting that the bearer may have been a physician. (A
fleam is a sharp lancet, which was used to open veins).
its celebrity to the classical fable of Jason's expedition to
Colchis in the ship Argo to obtain it; ancient honour from the
Knightly Order of the Golden Fleece.
FLEUR DE LIZ: Originally the white
Lily, and applied in early heraldic treatises to the white flowers
attributed to the Virgin Mary. Later the term was used also for the
flower of the French royal arms, and subsequently to any
conventionalized flower of this form and of any tincture. Denotes
purity; light; represents sixth son as mark of difference or
distinction. See Cadency.
FLOWERS (lily, poppy, daisy, tulip, sunflower,
lily-flower, etc): The flower and the blossom are both
symbols of young life. Flowers are associated with the sun, because
the arrangement of its petals is reminiscent of the shape of a star.
The flower is generally representative of beauty, hope and joy.
hay): Denotes laboriousness. Express image of a trade
very vital to man, and their exquisite skill issued out of the
plentiful fountain of God's abundant spirit; may denote an estate
owner whose lands included agricultural farms; always willing and
able to lend a helping hand.
FOUNTAIN: Represents a well or
spring of water. Occasionally borne as an illusion to the first
bearer's name, i.e.: Wells, Sykes, Weller etc.
(saw): The frame-saw was the instrument used by
tree-cutters to fell trees in the days of heraldry. It may have
special significance to the bearer as it relates to a great
experience encountered; may also signify determination and the
dependance on providence for the event.
Usually represented by the cinquefoil (Scotch term for a Cinquefoil
is a 'strawberry) but occasionally represented by strawberry leaves
fructed (bearing fruit). An Anglo-Saxon symbol for a wanderer. The
French word for strawberry is 'fraise' and growers are called
(apple, pear, pineapple, fig, pomegranate, hazel, walnuts
etc.): Signifies liberality, felicity and peace. Refer to
FUSIL: In its natural form and
sense, is a spindle belonging to a distaff (the staff from which the
flax was drawn in spinning) but in its conventional form it is an
elongated lozenge. Denotes laboriousness; always with work in hand.
(Gammadion): An ancient figure to which different mystic
meanings have been applied; said to have been known in India and
China long before the Christian era. Signifies power, energy, and
(Lymphad): An ancient ship with one mast; a feudal
ensign; notable expedition by sea, by which, perhaps, the first
bearers had become famous. See Ship.
GALTRAP: see Caltrap.
sheaf of wheat, or corn. It represented that the harvest of one's
hopes had been secured.
GILLY-FLOWER (July-flower): The
Gilly-Flower was originally a lily and was bright crimson in colour;
an emblem of chastity, innocence, and purity.
glove of mail (iron). The custom in the Middle Ages, when one knight
challenged another, was for the challenger to throw his gauntlet on
the ground, and if the challenge was accepted the person to whom it
was thrown picked it up. Signifies one who is armed for the
performance of martial enterprise.
GLOVE: Falconer's or Hawking-glove.
When the quarry is bolted the hawk flies fast in pursuit and seizes
its prey with its talons, overpowering it through sheer strength of
grip. If it misses, it is trained to return to the falconer's glove
for a piece of meat. Usually borne on a shield by a bearer who was
indeed a Falconer or one who successfully completed an enterprise
involving a Falcon.
GOLDEN-FLEECE: a ram stuffed and
suspended by a collar round his middle. See Fleece.
purple roundle. Signifies a wound in battle. See Roundles
Collared around the neck; symbolic of high dignity.
ancient symbol of hospitality and youthfulness; vineyard.
drops, varying in colour, according to what is intended to be
represented. See Drops.
GYRON: Two straight lines from the
dexter fess and chief points, meeting in an acute angle in the fess
point; a symbol of unity; the joining of forces to defeat an
otherwise stronger enemy or cause. Gyron - from the Spanish 'Gyron',
a triangular piece of cloth sewed into a garment. The usual number
of pieces is eight, but there may be six, ten, or twelve or sixteen.
HALBERT (pole-axe): A weapon of the
15th and 16th centuries having an axe-like blade and a steel spike
mounted on the end of a long shaft. See axe for symbolism.
(marteau): The hammer signifies that the gate will not
yield without opposing resistance, as if it needed the repeated
metal stroke, equal to the insistent in order to force the Gates of
Justice and Charity. It is a symbol of honour and is also a symbol
of the smith's trade.
HARP: Henry VIII was the first to
assume the harp as the Irish device, and James I. to place it in the
third quarter of the royal achievement of Great Britain. Denotes a
well-composed person of tempered judgment; contemplation; mystical
bridge between heaven and earth.
HARROW (Herse): used in husbandry
(agriculture, farming). A farm implement consisting of a heavy frame
with sharp teeth or upright disks used to break up and even off
ploughed ground; to inflict great distress or torment on; see
HATCHET: See Axe.
(tree): In Celtic tradition, the Salmon of Knowledge is
said to eat the 9 nuts of poetic wisdom dropped into its sacred pool
from the hazel tree growing beside it. Each nut eaten by the salmon
becomes a spot on its skin. The Hazel tree provided shade,
protection and baskets; may signify knowledge, wisdom and poetic
LURE: A decoy used in falconry, consisting of two wings
joined with a line, to the end of which is attached the ring.
Usually denotes one who is fond of the highest pursuits, such as
hunting and falconry. See Falcon.
HELMET (helm): Resting on the chief
of the shield, and bearing the crest; indicates rank:
Gold, with six bars, or with the visor raised (in full face) for
royalty. Steel, with gold bars, varying in number (in profile) for a
nobleman; Steel, without bars, and with visor open for a knight or
baronet; Steel, with visor closed (in profile), for a squire or
HILT: The handle of a sword. See
HOOK: (fish): The
symbolism is typically that of "fishes" however the fishhook may
also symbolizes the agency whereby one investigates the unseen; one
who despite not knowing his enemy's strength will venture forth with
HOLLY: Holly is associated with the
death and rebirth symbolism in both Pagan and Christian lore. In
Arthurian legend, Gawain (representing the Oak King of summer)
fought the Green Knight, who was armed with a holly club to
represent winter. It is one of the three timbers used in the
construction of chariot wheel shafts. It was used in spear shafts
also. The qualities of a spear shaft are balance and directness, as
the spear must be raised to be thrown, the holly indicates directed
balance and vigour to fight if the cause is just; symbol of truth.
HORSESHOE: Signifies good fortune
and was used as a safeguard against evil spirits.
A symbol of time and time expiring; an ancient pirate symbol; death,
HUNTING-HORN: A signal horn used in
the chase. Denotes one who is fond of high pursuits.
HURT (heurt, hueurt,
hurtle-berry, huckleberry): a blue roundle; some claim
that it represents a wound or hurt, while others say it is a
representation of the hurtleberry also knows as the wortleberry; see
INCRESCENT: A special honour
received by the sovereign; hope of greater glory. See Crescent.
pen): An ink-well. Signifies the liberal art of writing
and of learned employments.
INESCUTCHEON: a coat of arms borne
as a shield (escutcheon) of Pretence; superimposed upon a shield of
arms in testimony of the claim of a prince to the sovereignty of the
country so represented, or if by a private person, then as a sign
that he had married the heiress of the family indicated.
IRISH BROGUE (Dutch boot, boot, antique boot,
shoe etc.): An Irish boot of un-tanned leather; the shoe
being a sign of dignity, and the shoeless foot a mark of servitude.
The brogue is an Irish symbol of respect.
Protection and healing; strong and lasting friendship; the ivy and
vine were by the Romans consecrated to Bacchus, as the Myrtle to
Venus, the poplar to Hercules, wheat-ears to Ceres, and Reeds to the
(spear, tilting spear, lance, dart,): If a stranger kept
the point of his spear forward when he entered a strange land, it
was a declaration of war; if he carried the spear on his shoulder
with the point behind him, it was a token of friendship. Bestowed
only on the valiant and well deserving soldier. It is the emblem of
knightly service and signifies devotion to honour.
(Jasmine): Is the white quatrefoil and signifies hope,
joy and a demonstration of attachment.
JESSANT DE LIS: A fleur-de-lis
shooting out from the mouth of a leopard or a lion. Conferred by
Edward III during his wars in France, as a reward to some of leaders
who served under him in his victorious campaigns. The lion of the
English arms is swallowing the lily of the French coat.
Protection against thieves, witches and evil; healer.
as emblems of guardianship and dominion. Denotes liberation,
knowledge, mystery, and initiation. Silver (Argent) keys usually
refer to temporal power, while Gold (Or) ones refer to spiritual
power. In Christianity, it is the emblem of St. Peter as the
guardian of the gate of Heaven, and the key may either confine or
LABEL: See Cadency
ladder): A military ladder with curved top. Denotes one
who was fearless in attacking; used in warfare only by extremely
brave soldiers; when born up against a tower, it symbolizes
awareness to stand carefully on guard as the castle is continually
assailed by our spiritual and corporal enemies.
LADY'S SLEEVE (maunch,
manche): Used in heraldry from the custom of knights who
attended tournaments wearing their ladies' sleeves as a pledge of
workers, Roman, Ancient): If not used for the purposes of
profession (tin worker), lamps of this sort were used as vessels of
light, and as beacons to ward off evil.
LANCE: see Javelin.
(falot): Ship's Lantern; watchful; cautious; a great
navigator of tormented seas.
LATHS: a bundle of laths is borne by
the 'bricklayers' company', and also by the 'woodmongers' company,
but not by any family that I know of.
LAUREL LEAVES: (branch) In ancient
times these leaves were used as remedies against poison and were
used as tokens of peace and quietness. The branches were held in
honour in the temples of ancient Greece.
LEAVES (Bay, Ivy, Oak,
Olive): Oak leaves: antiquity and strength,
Olive leaves: peace and concord, Ivy leaves:
strong and lasting friendship, Bay leaves: the victor's
LIGHTNING: The classical
preservatives against lightning were the eagle, the sea-calf, and
the laurel. Jupiter chose the first, Augustus Caesar the second, and
Tiberius the third. Bodies scathed and a man struck dead by
lightning were said to be incorruptible; and anyone so distinguished
was held by the ancients in great honour. The bolt of lightning is a
traditional symbol of sudden illumination and the destruction of
ignorance; it also represents a punishment of humans by the gods
from the skies.
LILY: Emblem of chastity, innocence,
and purity; see Cinquefoil.
LIME TREE (linden tree): the
Crusaders brought the lime tree to France and Italy in the 13th
Century. It is a symbol of life and vitality and energy;
LINES OF PARTITION:
There are many lines of partition between
the fields. Some have documented symbolism others were merely
added for artistic purposes or for purposes of distinguishing one
shield from another. Nebuly or Nebulee-- signifies clouds or air,
Wavy or Undee--sea or water, Engrailed--earth or land,
Invected--earth or land, Indented--fire, Dancettee--water, Raguly
or Ragulee--Difficulties that have been encountered,
Embattled--fire or walls of a fortress or town, Dovetail --
Strength, Rayonnee -- Sun, Radiant, Potent -- Determined through
adversity LOCK (padlock): Symbolizes
guardianship and dominion. See keys.
LOTUS FLOWER: The lotus flower
appeared in legends originating both from India and from ancient
Egypt. The lotus is a flower that opens and closes each day. In
ancient Egypt the lotus also known as the sacred water lily was
frequently represented; it was associated with the life-giving power
of the Nile River and with Osiris, lord of the dead. It is a symbol
of purity, virtue and honesty.
LOZENGE: Denotes honesty and
constancy. Held to be a token of noble birth. A Lozenge that is
shown voided is called a mascle.
LYMPHAD (Lymphiad): See Galley or
(Harp): The lyre was the attribute of the Greek god
Apollo. Hermes, who later became the messenger of the Greek gods
and, as Mercury, became the god of merchants and thieves in Rome,
stole some oxen from Apollo. The dispute was settled when Hermes
gave Apollo his own musical instrument, the lyre; symbolic of one
who was well-composed and tempered judgement; contemplation.
Originally a short mass weapon of battle not unlike a heavy club. A
mace is an ensign of dignity and a symbol of authority and power.
After the third quarter of the 14th century the club end was often
made of metal and enhanced with metal flanges or spikes.
AUTHORITY: During medieval times, the Royal
Serjeants-at-Arms were distinguished by their power of arrest
without a warrant. To an increasing extent, their Maces - originally
ordinary weapons of war, similar to a club became their emblems of
authority. They were stamped with the Royal Arms; and in an age in
which few men could read or write, the Serjeants effected their
arrests by showing their Maces and not by producing any form of
written warrant. Maces have since evolved to larger and more ornate
Royal Arms and an arched crown surmounted by an orb and cross.
ventail, hauberk, haubergeon): Defensive armour.
Interwoven links of iron wire riveted together to form a kind of
defensive metal cloth, highly resistant to slashing but less
effective against piercing or crushing wounds. During the latter
14th and 15th centuries sometimes the riveted links were interposed
with solid links that had been stamped to halve the production time.
Specialized armourers made Mail, and because it was easy to make, it
was manufactured all over Europe. First introduced by the Romans
during the latter days of their empire; symbol of protection; a
great warrior ready for battle or symbolic of a great battle won.
MANACLES: See Fetterlock
ancient times human figures were often cut out of the root, and
wonderful virtues ascribed to them. It was used to produce fecundity
in women. Another superstition is that when the mandrake is uprooted
it utters a scream, in explanation of which Thomas Newton, in his
Herball to the Bible, says, "It is supposed to be a creature having
life, engendered under the earth of the seed of some dead person put
to death for murder." Mandrake are also called 'love apples', from
the old notion that they excited amorous inclinations; hence Venus
is called Mandragoritis, and the Emperor Julian, in his epistles,
tells Calixenes that he drank its juice nightly as a love-potion;
symbol of love, fecundity, gallantry and benevolence.
MANTLING (or Cappeline, in French call Lambrequin) this device of the painter/designer was created
to give prominence to the coat of arms and crest and is considered in theoretical heraldry to represent the lambrequin,
or covering of the helmet, to protect it from the weather.
Typically, the colors of the mantling are the principal color(s) and metal of the Coat of Arms. See coat of arms section.
lozenge that is perforated or voided. Mascles represent the links
that composed chain armour and may also represent the mesh of a net.
If shown to represent a mesh of net it denotes persuasion; if shown
to represent the links in chain armour it denotes protection.
millrind): Signifies the mutual converse of human
society, since the stones are never used singly, but in couples,
each standing in need of the other's aid for the performance of its
MIRROR: Represented oval and with a
handle: The mirror is a reflection of the soul; it does
not lie, it is absolute truth. It is "man's knowledge of himself,
the clear shining surface of divine truth, the gateway to the realm
of inversion" (Cooper, 106). Taoists regard the mirror as the
mechanism of self-realization, and Christians view a spotless mirror
as an image of the Virgin Mary. For the Chinese, it is sincerity,
and for the Buddhists it is the soul in a state of purity.
MOON: See crescent.
Antique helmet, originating in Spain in the 15th century and worn by
infantry. When depicted on the shield, it denotes strength and
protection; an ensign of a great battle won; also wisdom; security
and safety in defence.
MORTAR & PESTLE: A vessel in
which substances are crushed or ground with a pestle. The bearers
were Knights of the Pestle and Mortar; Apothecaries or druggists,
whose chief instrument is the pestle and mortar, used in compounding
(orb): A globe surmounted by a cross, used as a symbol of
monarchical power and justice; part of the regalia of sovereigns.
(rising or hillock): On which crests are often under set,
and usually for artistic purposes. Although occasionally, they were
used to represent burial mounds and symbolized either remembrance,
or protection by the device or charge resting on the mound.
Sometimes referred to as a Compartment.
MOUNT (mountain): Symbolizes
constancy, permanence and enlightenment; an ancient symbol of the
communication between heaven and earth.
MULBERRY: From the Greek moros (a
fool); so called, we are told in the Hortus Anglicus, because "it is
reputed the wisest of all flowers, as it never buds till the cold
weather is past and gone." Denotes wisdom and the sagacity of good
(star): Usually 5 pointed however, in French heraldry the
mullet is a six-pointed star. It usually represents the rowel of a
spur. The mullet is also the mark of distinction of the third son.
See Cadency. Is also said to denote some Divine quality bestowed
from above. See Star.
MUSHROOM: An ancient symbol of good
MUSKET (pot-gun): The musket was the
largest matchlock requiring the use of a rest to support its weight
of 20 pounds. It is believed the Duke of Alba introduced the
matchlock musket into Spanish service in the mid-16th century. By
the 17th century, the English matchlock musket weighed 16 pounds and
was10 gauge. (Gauge is the diameter of a gun barrel as determined by
the number of lead balls in a pound that exactly fit the barrel).
Denotes readiness for battle, warden-ship; a rampart of honour.
(tabors): Emblems of festivity and rejoicing. A tabor is
a small drum worn suspended from the waist. Often played with one
hand while the other fingers play a hole-whistle, which is called
MYRTLE: Usually borne as an oval
garland representative of the victors at the Julian Games; a cipher
symbolic of victory. Also a symbol of conviction and faith as the
ancient Jews believed that the eating of myrtle leaves conferred the
power of detecting witches; and it was said that if the leaves
crackled in the hands, the person beloved, would prove faithful.
spike): Borne in token of poignant suffering undergone by
the first bearer.
NARCISSUS: Flower with six petals.
Narcissus was the son of the Greek river god Kephissos; symbol of
vanity, arrogance; also a symbol of confidence and self-reliance.
NESTS: A symbol of security and
safety. The Pelican feeding her young in a nest is frequently found
on European shields and crests.
NETS: It is said that the term fret,
or rather fretty, should be used to represent the nets; an
Honourable bearing, symbolizing persuasion, and often granted to
commanders for valiant service to their sovereign in a Great War, or
(aureole, circle of glory): A halo-- a circle of radiant
light around the heads of God, Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a
saint: type of aureole, gloriole, or glory. It indicates
divinity or holiness, though originally it was placed around the
heads of kings and gods as a mark of distinction characterizing
authority and power.
NOAH'S ARK: In Christian ideology,
this bearing was a way of saving believers from the "engulfing sea
of godlessness" (Biederman, 17). In Heraldry, the Ark symbolizes
hope and survival, prospects and aspirations.
TREE: An oak was often the guardian tree of a family. It
is the emblem of virtue and strength and resiliency. Long associated
with thunder gods such as Thor in Norse mythology; denotes
steadfastness, endurance. Known as the holy oak by ancient
Christians, denoting worship.
OAR: Signifies power, skill, and
knowledge; a sign of respect and salutation. Often granted for
successful enterprises at sea.
OCTOFOIL: An eight leaved flower;
also called a double quatrefoil. A mark of cadency of the eight son.
OGRESS: (same as a
pellet): see Roundles
OLIVE TREE: This popular bearing has
much symbolism. Chastity. In ancient Greece the newly married bride
wore an olive-garland. Fecundity. The fruit of the olive is produced
in vast profusion; so that olive-trees are valuable to their owners.
Merit. In ancient Greece a crown of olive-twigs was the highest
distinction of a citizen who had deserved well of his country.
Peace. An olive branch was anciently a symbol of peace. The
vanquished that sued for peace carried olive branches in their
hands. And an olive-twig in the hands of a king (on medals), as in
the case of Numa, indicated a reign of peace. Victory. The highest
prize in the Olympic games was a crown of olive-leaves. It is said
that Athene (Minerva) and Poseidon (Neptune) disputed the honour of
giving a name of a certain city of Greece, and agreed to settle the
question by a trial of which could produce the best gift for the new
city. Athena commanded the earth to bring forth the olive-tree.
Poseidon commanded the sea to bring forth the war-horse. Athena's
gift was adjudged the better, and the city was called Athens, hence
the origin of the Olive Tree.
ORDINARIES: Are certain charges in
common use in arms, and in their simple forms are bounded by
straight lines. Their number has never been precisely agreed upon,
but most heralds recognize nine principal ones, which they call
honourable, namely, the cross, the chief, the pale, the bend, the
bend sinister, the fesse, the bar, the saltire, and the chevron.
occupying the whole of the top and one-third of the total surface
of the shield, and it has often been granted as a special reward
for prudence and wisdom, as well as for successful command in war.
The chief betoken a senator or honourable personage borrowed from
the Greeks, and is a word signifying a 'head', in which sense we
call capitaneous (so named for caput, the head), a chieftain. And
as the head is the chief part of a man, so the chief in the
escutcheon should be a reward of such onely, whose high merits
have procured them chief place, esteem, or love amongst men.
Cross--Faith; service in the
Crusades, (see crosses)
Saltire Cross or St. Andrews
Cross-- symbol of resolution; reward of such as have
scaled the walls of towns.
Chevron-- Protection; granted as a
reward to one who has achieved some notable enterprise. Said to
represent the rooftree of a house, and has sometimes been given to
those who have built churches or fortresses or who have
accomplished some work of faithful service.
Fesse--Represents a military belt
or girdle of honour. The word Fesse is a French word; and
signifies the loines of a man. The girdle of honour may seem to
have been in ancient time given by Emperors, and Kings, and their
Generals of the field unto soldiers, for reward of some special
service performed by them. This Ordinary has been anciently taken
for the same that we call Baltheum militare or a belt of honour.
The bestowing of this military girdle was reputed very honourable
because none were to receive it but men of merit. If a knight was
disarmed of his Military girdle by his demerits and offence, he is
there-with-all deprived of all Military privileges.
Bar - For
one who sets the bar of conscience, religion and honour against
angry passions and evil temptations; denotes some high excellence
in its first bearer.
Pale - Military strength and
fortitude; bestowed upon those who have impaled or otherwise
defended cities, or who have supported the government of their
sovereigns, and for standing uprightly for their prince and
Bend - Bearing of high honour;
represents the scarf or shield suspender of a knight commander
signifying defence or protection; granted to those who have
distinguished themselves as commanders. The symbolism also applies
to the Bends diminutives the Bendlet and the Cotise.
continued....PALE One of
the nine honourable ordinaries. It is a vertical line, set upright
in the middle of the shield and occupying one-third of the field. It
seldom contains more than three charges. Said to denote military
strength and the governor of a powerful legion.
Diminutive of the Pale. See Ordinaries
PALL A figure having the form of the
letter Y. It consists of half a pale issuing from the base, and
conjoined in the fesse point with half a saltier from the dexter
chief and sinister chief. It is said to represent a liturgical
vestment worn over the chasuble by the pope, archbishops, and some
bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. It is betoken by the pope on
archbishops and bishops having metropolitan jurisdiction as a symbol
of their participation in papal authority; secular tradition of
emperors and other high officials wearing a special scarf usually of
velvet as a badge of office.
PALM BRANCH In pre-Christian times
the palm was regarded as a symbol of victory, justice, and high
honour. It is the symbol of Saint Anastasia. The palm branch became
an insignia for all those who, martyr or saint, deserved victory
TREE Betoken on one as a reward for justice, as justice
is long in coming to the virtuous. It is a symbolic tree of
paradise. Denote righteousness and resurrection.
STAFF A palmer is a pilgrim privileged to carry a
palm-staff; originally a branch of a palm tree carried by a palmer
in token of his having been to the Holy Land. Palmers differed from
pilgrims in that a pilgrim made his pilgrimage and returned to
public or private life, but the wandering palmer spent his life
visiting holy shrines, and lived on the benevolence of God. Betoken
on one of faith.
PANSY A colourful flowering plant.
Pansy divination was said to be a method of fortune telling
supposedly used by the Knights of the Round Table. It involved
randomly picking a petal off a pansy and looking at its markings.
Denotes love, freedom of thought and reflection, and also of good
PARTI PER Arms divided by lines of partition (raguly, embattled, rayonnee etc) are referred to as ‘Parted (or Parti) per’. Most contemporary Armorists drop the word parted (or Parti) and use “per” only. It is said these types of partitioned shields took their origin from the parti-coloured coats which were actually worn as garments when Heraldry first arose. The symbolism lies in their tinctures, furs or patterns, and charges (if any are so blazoned) and not in the partition type or style; partitioning a shield in such a way was also a means of 2 or more branches of the same family being represented on one coat of arms or a reference to kinfolk such as the house
of the father and the house of the mother etc. The primary aim of Heraldry was to produce the most striking effect at a glance,
and the shield attitude (partitions) being adopted merely as a means of distinction between one coat and another.
(broad arrow) Barded head of a dart, javelin or arrow,
pointing down, with long barbs that are engrailed on the inner edge.
The order of the golden pheon was a kingdom level award given to
those Outlands archers who the crown felt exhibited great skill in
target archery, or who greatly enriched the kingdom through service
in the practice of archery. Denotes dexterity and nimble wit;
readiness for battle.
PIGEON Were used as messenger
carriers by the early Persians, Egyptians, Phoenicians and later the
Romans. Betoken on one who is virtuous and also denotes peace and
PIKE A long spear usually of ash,
with a small piercing head. The point was made first of flint, later
of bronze, and ultimately of steel; the spear has been in use since
prehistoric times, originally as a missile or lance type weapon. Up
to 20 feet in length, they were popular with the Scots, Swiss and
Flemings during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. Although the
symbolism is the same as the lance; it is also said of the pike to
be symbolic of the swift and straight current which carries away the
PILE A Sub-ordinary-Fitted for an
engineer or for one who has shown great ability in any kind of
construction; represents the large pieces of wood used by engineers
in the construction of(military) bridges or of buildings on insecure
or marshy ground. When only one pile is found borne on a shield it
very much resembles a pennon or small pointed flag, and it may be
that this was intended when only one is represented.
PINEAPPLE Originally called
pineapple because of its shape and external appearance to that of
the cone of the pine tree. As early as 1492 Christopher Columbus
found pineapple growing at Guadeloupe and carried it back to Spain
to Queen Isabella. Ancient sea captains would place a pineapple on
their gatepost when returning from a long journey, to let their
neighbours know they were home. It became the symbol of elite social
standing and hospitality.
PINCERS Honourable emblem of the
PINE CONE (pine-apple) The ancient
Greeks and Assyrians viewed the pinecone as a symbol of masculinity
because of its phallic shape. It formed the apex of the thyrsus
staff, which represented both fertility and immortality. As the
emblem of Artemis, it represented feminine purity. It was also the
emblem of the Roman goddess Venus (Aphrodite). In Christianity, the
pinecone forms the crown of the Tree of Life. Symbolizes immortality
PINE TREE (Fir) The tree of life and
humanity. A pine tree in the forest symbolizes long-suffering,
steadfast friendships, and enduring fame. According to Virgil, early
Romans decorated pine trees with little masks of Bacchus (a
fertility god). As the wind blew the masks around, Bacchus was
believed to grant fertility to every part of the tree the masks
faced. It is said to symbolize immortality, resiliency, longevity,
(music) Festivity and rejoicing. See musical pipes.
PLOUGH An implement of husbandry.
Betoken on one who laboured in the earth and depended upon
providence for the event.
PLUME See feathers
weight used on a level. It symbolizes equity and upright action;
denotes a virtuous person.
POLEARM Any of a number of weapons
with a cutting or slashing blade at one end attached to a long pole
for a handle. The halberd, guisarm, bill, bec-de-corbin, and poleaxe
are all specific kinds of polearms, rising in popularity during the
15th century and into the 16th amongst the infantry. As charges they
are generally symbols of power, guardianship and authority.
polaxe) A staff weapon used by Knights. The blade was an
axe-head, usually balanced by a hammer-type head, and surmounted by
a steel spike. Used from the fifteenth century for foot combats. The
shaft was of ash other hardwood, mounted by an ax blade that had a
forward point for thrusting and a thin projection on the back for
piercing armour or pulling a horseman off balance. The poleaxe and
halberd were specialized weapons for fighting armoured men-at-arms
and penetrating knightly armour. It is said that pole in the name
refers not to the staff, but to the Old English word poll which
meant head. Betoken on one of dignity and repute; readiness for the
ordeal of battle and the defence of purpose through allegiance to
the sovereign; loyalty, conviction, unconquerable will.
POMEGRANATE From the Old English
Pomgarnet, the garnet no doubt for the crimson coloured seeds of the
pomegranate; sacred to Hera (Greek mythology), the daughter of
Cronos and Rhea, and queen of the Olympian gods. She was worshipped
as the goddess of marriage, women, and childbirth; her sacred
emblems were the apple, pomegranate and peacock. The biblical name
for the pomegranate was the rimmon, which is derived from the word
rim, meaning to bear children. An ancient symbol of fertility and
also of fecundity
POMEL see hilt
represented in heraldry as a sanguine (blood) quatrefoil. The poppy
has been the symbol of the dead and of sleep since antiquity. The
poppy was a flower dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Nix, who was
the Goddess of the Night. They were also dedicated to Thantos, God
of Death and his twin brother Hypnos, God of Sleep, as well as his
Son, Morpheus, the God of Dreams. The seeds were offered to the gods
during death ceremonies. Over time, the poppy became a symbol of
sacrifice and of remembrance; also signifies hope and joy.
gate) The frame of wood, pointed at the bottom, used to
guard a castle gate, always emblazoned with chains on either side.
It was one of the royal badges of the Tudors. Portcullises were
generally controlled from an interior room on the gatehouse, raising
and lowering it as required; symbol of security and protection.
pottery) The function of most of these vases was to hold
water, wine, and oil. Said to be a symbol of liberality and of
POTENT Similar to Vair. Composed of
figures shaped like the ends of a crutch, arranged in rows, and of
alternate colours. Mark of dignity.
PRIMROSE (Quatrefoil) The bearer of
PYRAMID It is said that the pyramid
represented the primal hill upon which Ra (God of the sun, and one
of the major gods in Egyptian mythology) climbed out from the waters
of Nun (the primeval water that encircles the entire world, and from
which everything was created, personified as a god). It is also said
to represent the rays of the Sun falling upon the earth, providing
sustenance for the Ba (the soul) of the king within. It is a rare
device in heraldry but some writers say it is borne as a symbol of
duration and longevity.
QUARTER A Sub-ordinary--Bearing of
honour for brilliant military service.
QUIVER In ancient times, arrows were
usually made of reed and fitted with metal heads. They were carried
in leather quivers, and sometimes horse-drawn chariots were also
fitted with quivers. A quiver is depicted in ancient Egyptian and
Assyrian reliefs as holding approximately 30 arrows, or
approximately 50 arrows when attached to a chariot; ensign of Diana,
Roman goddess of the hunt and protector of children (Artemis is her
Greek counterpart). It is both a symbol of the hunt and one of a
RAINBOW A symbol of transfiguration;
in Norse mythology the rainbow is Bifrost, the bridge between
Midgaard, the world of men and Asgaard, home of the gods; a symbol
of peace and concord and a sign of promise.
small sword used for thrusting. See Swords.
slea) Instrument used by weavers and may indicate the
trade of the first bearer.
REEDS A long hollow knotted grass
sacred to the mythological river gods. Syrinx was an Arcadian
river-nymph who was pursued by Pan. To escape him she fled into the
waters of her river where she pleaded the gods for help, and they
changed her into a reed. Disappointed, Pan cut the reed into pieces
of gradually decreasing lengths, fastened them together with wax and
thus produced the shepherds flute, or "pipes of Pan", upon which he
plays; lover of music and with a methodical disposition.
RIZOM Is the fruit of the oat and is
a symbol of harvest, hope, and were used as emblems of the faithful.
ROCKS Safety and protection; refuge
ROSE The early Greeks and the Romans
inexorably linked the rose to love, beauty, purity and passion. The
Christians adopted the Rose as a symbol of Mary, the mother of
Jesus, and hence became a symbol of motherhood and purity. When
shown stalked and leaved it has the added symbolism of protection
because of the thorns. The Rose is the emblem of England and still
the two counties (Yorkshire and Lancashire) replay the Wars of the
Roses on the cricket field each English summer. In heraldry the Rose
is used as a mark of distinction for the seventh son. The Red Rose
is one of the badges used for the House of Lancaster and is
mentioned severally in the early days of heraldry in the reigns of
Henry IV and Henry V. The White Rose was used as a badge by Richard
Duke of York by his son Edward IV and was adopted by his
descendants. The Jacobites also adopted it as an emblem. The Rose
can be shown as a heraldic rose or as a natural rose; symbol of
providence, divination, love, beauty, purity and passion.
(roundels) The old heralds have attached various names
and significations to these round figures. When of gold they were
called Bezants, and represented ancient Byzantine coins. This
bearing has been said to denote one who had been found worthy of
trust and treasure. The white roundle is called a Plate, and denoted
"generosity." The green was called a Pomme or pomeis, and had the
same signification as the apple, when purple it was called a Golpe,
and denoted a wound; when blue it was a Hurt or wortleberry, known
in ancient times as a hurtleberry; when black it was a Pellet,
Ogress, or Gunstone, and represented a cannon ball; when red it was
called Torteau, and signified the communion wafer or Manchet-cake;
when Tawney it was called an Orange, and signified a tennis-ball. A
Guze is sanguine in colour and represents an eyeball.
This shrub has long been said to aid in the inclination to love.
When Venus, the love goddess, was sprung from the foam of the sea,
rosemary (or sea dew) would thereafter have amatory qualities.
Rosemary is also an emblem of remembrance. In Hamlet, Ophelia
says Theres rosemary, thats for remembrance. In the
language of the flowers it means fidelity in love.
small wheel with radiating points, forming the extremity of a spur.
A mullet, pierced, is said by some to represent the rowel. The spur
was one of the essential tools a knight possessed as an equestrian,
and they became one of the dominant symbols of knighthood. Prior to
the late 13th century simple "prick" type spurs were in wide use,
but during the last two decades of the 13th century and into the
14th the "rowel" spur gained wide popularity.
(Solleret) Armour for the foot, usually consisting of
articulated plates ending in a toecap. Plate Sabatons seem to have
made their appearance in the middle of the 14th century, remaining
in common use throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. In the early
14th century, the foot was defended by chain mail.
symbol of the martial men that serve on horseback in the field for
that by the means, and of the stirrups affixed, they may be able to
sustain the shock of their adversary, as also the more forcibly to
SALADE (Sallet, Salet) A helmet that
rested entirely upon, and generally covered only the top half of,
the head, and the rear of which tapered to a point and projected
behind the head; a common helmet of the 15th century. Denotes wisdom
and security in defence.
SAVIN TREE Refers to the ancient
juniper tree. In Lothian, in Medieval times, giving birth under the
savin tree was a euphemism for miscarriage or juniper-induced
abortion; symbol of female virtue and a religious symbol of
protection and of life.
SCALES The scales of justice, order
and balance have been symbols of righteousness since early times.
Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice (Greek Themis), Rashnu, the
Persian angel of justice and Nemesis the goddess of divine justice
and vengeance, are all associated with the scales.
staff used by the ancient Pharaos as a symbol of kingship and is
also a religious symbol of temporal power; throughout the ages borne
to represent sovereignty and dominion.
SCIMITAR A Curved Turkish sword. The
Scimitar was Mohameds ensign and then it was changed to a crescent
which has been the symbol of Islam ever since. When borne in
heraldry, it usually represents an expedition and possibly a battle
or conquest of an enemy whose principal weapon was a scimitar;
emblem of battle and conquest.
SCRIP Refers to a Palmers purse used
to carry one ration of food for one days pilgrimage. The first
bearer was likely a palmer and the symbolism of the scrip suggests
that God will always provide, and his that faithful servants will
never go hungry.
SCYTHE (sickle) A hand tool
traditionally used for cutting grasses and grains, consisting of a
long, curved blade sharpened on one edge. The sickle is virtually
the same but with a short handle. As with all farm implements and
other instruments of husbandry these signify the hope of a fruitful
harvest. It is said that the sickle, (and later the scythe), was a
symbol of the cruel, unrelenting flow of Time, which in the end cuts
down all things.
SEAX A Saxon sword much like the
Turkish Scimitar but with a circular notch on the back of the blade.
There is much dispute as to the purpose of this notch. It is said by
some that the notch lightened the blade without losing strength,
while others are of the opinion that the notch made for a more
devastating weapon, while still others maintain that since the seax
is both weapon and tool, the notch aided the bearer to accomplish
some non military task. Regardless of these mixed opinions Heralds
are united in their view that the seax, as with all swords, are
representative of justice and military honour. See Sword.
SEMY or SEMEE
refers to a regular pattern of charges in staggered rows. They should look as if the shield was cut from a piece of patterned cloth with partial charges at the edges of the shield. The Number of the charges on the shield in this fashion is not relevant. As far as symbolism is concerned, the "semy"
has no particular symbolism but the individual charge does. For example, A SEMY DE LIZ, would have the symbolism associated with the "fleur de lis".
Semee's were generally adopted and used to emphasize the particular charge, and of course for artistic impression and distinctiveness.
Instrument used primarily for measuring the altitude of the sun and
which enabled ancient mariners to determine their geographical
position. The mariners most prized possession was often his sextant.
This measuring instrument was indispensable to all navigators, and
long symbolized adventure and the discovery of new horizons; an
emblem of direction, watchfulness, guidance and protection. The
sextant is also closely associated with progress, because it expands
the boundaries of knowledge and extends the limits of understanding.
SHACKLEBOLT (manacle, fetterlock)
SHEARS Weavers shears; used in the
process of dressing cloth and may be emblematic of the bearers
trade. The Greek goddess Clotho, the Spinner, spun the thread of
life; Lachesis, the Dispenser of Lots, decided its span and assigned
to each person his or her destiny; and Atropos, the Inexorable,
carried the dread shears that cut the thread of life at the proper
(chain shot) A chain-shot was two cannon balls joined by
a chain which when fired from a cannon revolved upon the shorter
axis and were hence effective for mowing down masts and rigging.
There were also other forms of shots including the bar shot which
was a bar attached to two mortars and also the mysterious chain-shot
shown in the margin, sometimes called the star-shot because of its
(trefoil) The word shamrock comes from the Gaelic seamrag
for three-leafed. The trefoil pattern has been discovered in
Mesopotamia and also on the royal couch of Tutankhamen (of the
ancient Pharaohs). It was a symbol of three sun-disks fused together
to represent the unity of the gods of the sun, water and earth. The
trefoil is also the national symbol of Ireland. According to legend,
Saint Patrick planted shamrock in Ireland because the three small
leaflets represented the Holy Trinity. The trefoil in Arabia is
called shamrakh and in Iran it was a sacred emblem of the Persian
triads. Denotes omnipotence, providence and perpetuity.
SHEAF May refer to a sheaf of arrows
called a quiver or a sheaf of wheat or corn also called a garb.
Chief--An honourable ordinary occupying the whole of
the top and one-third of the total surface of the shield, and it
has often been granted as a special reward for prudence and
wisdom, as well as for successful command in war. The Chief
betoken a senator or honourable personage borrowed from the
Greeks, and is a word signifying a ‘head’, in which sense we call
capitaneous (so named for caput, the head), a chieftain. And as
the head is the chief part of a man, so the Chief in the
escutcheon should be a reward of such onely, whose high merits
have procured them chief place, esteem, or love amongst men.
Pile--Fitted for an engineer or for one who has shown
great ability in any kind of construction; represents the large
pieces of wood used by engineers in the construction of (military)
bridges or of buildings on insecure or marshy ground. When only
one pile is found borne on a shield it very much resembles a
pennon or small pointed flag, and it may be that this was intended
when only one is represented.
The Pale-- The term is from Middle
English, from Middle French pal meaning stake, and from Latin
palus for one of the stakes of a palisade or fort. It typically
represented Military strength and fortitude and was bestowed upon
those who have impaled or otherwise defended cities, or who have
supported the government of their sovereigns, and for standing
uprightly for their prince and country.
Gyron--From the Spanish ‘Gyron’ and of Germanic origin,
a triangular piece of cloth sewed into a garment. The usual number
of pieces is eight, but there may be two, four six, ten, twelve or
sixteen. It is said to denote Unity and an inseverable bond, as in
many souls with but a single thought, or several hearts that beat
as one. The Gyron, of course, limited in Scotland to the Campbells
only, is rare in all countries other than the lands influenced by
early Flanders that is to say Spain, Austria, Belgium etc. The
Gyron has also been referred to as an Esquire. An Esquire was a
candidate for knighthood, the term is from esquier, akin to French
ecuyer and Italian scudiero, and some armorists believe that the
Gyron was originally bestowed upon them (an esquire) as a sign of
nobility and rank.
The Fesse--Represents a military
belt or girdle of honor. The word Fesse is a French word; and
signifies the loines of a man. The girdle of honour may seem to
have been in ancient time given by Emperors, and Kings, and their
Generals of the field unto soldiers, for reward of some special
service performed by them. This Ordinary has been anciently taken
for the same that we call Baltheum militare or a belt of honour.
The bestowing of this military girdle was reputed very honourable
because none were to receive it but men of merit. If a knight was
disarmed of his Military girdle by his demerits and offence, he is
there-with-all deprived of all Military privileges.
(barre)--The Bar is one fifth of the field as compared
to one third for the Fesse. This charge is of more estimation than
is well considered of many that bear the same. There are differing
opinions as to the symbolism of this charge. Said by some to
represent a gatehouse of a castle or fortified town and therefore
a symbol of protection and defense. It is also said that the Bar
is for one who sets the bar of conscience, religion and honor
against angry passions and evil temptations, and that it denotes
some high excellence in its first bearer.
Chevron--The term is from 14th century Middle English,
from Middle French, rafter, chevron. It generally denotes
Protection and was granted as a reward to one who has achieved
some notable enterprise. Said to represent the roof-tree of a
house or the zigzag moulding, or group of mouldings, common in
Norman architecture. It has sometimes been given to those who have
built churches or fortresses or who have accomplished some work of
faithful service. Worn by gallant soldiers.
Bend--The Bend seems to have his denomination from the
French word Bender, which signifies to stretch forth, because it
is extended between those opposite points of the shield. Yet in
ancient Rolls we find the Bend drawn somewhat archwise, or after
the resemblance of the bent of a bow. Notwithstanding this,
according to some armorists, it does represent a Ladder set aslope
on this manner, to scale the walls of any castle or City, and was
bestowed on one of the first that mounted upon the enemies walls.
The bend is a bearing of high honor and to some it represents the
scarf or shield suspender of a knight commander signifying defense
or protection, granted to those who have distinguished themselves
as commanders. The symbolism also applies to the Bend’s
The Cross--Referred by some as the
crux a cruciando, because of the unspeakable torture and torment
which they do suffer, who undergo this kind of death, the Cross
was first adopted in general heraldic use by those who had
actually served in the Crusades. The hundreds of smaller crosses
borne in coats of arms are not considered ordinaries but simple
charges. The Cross shown in the margin is taken to be the true
Cross, which is taken to be the true shape of the Cross, whereupon
our blessed Saviour Jesus Christ suffered; whose godly observation
and use was in great esteem in the Primitive Church. This bearing
was first bestowed on such as has performed, or at least
undertaken, some service for Christ and Christian procession. The
Cross is the express badge of a Christian that he bear the same
according to the prescript rule and will of his Lord and Master.
Although Crosses may signify tribulations and afflictions there is
comfort to be found in them to those that make a right use of
them, and do undergo the burden of them cheerfully.
Saltire--The term is from Middle English sautire, which
is from Middle French saultoir or saulter to jump, or from Latin
saltare. In the days of old the Saltire was made of the height of
man and was driven full of pinnes (metal pegs), the use whereof
was to scale the low walls of towns; from this interpretation the
Saltire was bestowed upon one who was successful in accomplishing
such a military mission. The Saltire is also known as St. Andrew’s
cross as according to legend is that shape because the apostle
Andrew petitioned the Roman authorities who had sentenced him to
death not to crucify him on the same shape of cross as Christ, and
this was granted. St. Andrew is Scotland’s patron saint and the
Saltire is today its flag and national symbol; from this
interpretation the Saltire is in recognition of Scotland, its
patron saint, faith and resolution.
The Bordure (border)--Frequently
adopted as a "difference" between relatives bearing the same arms
and also used as an augmentation of honour. It is said that Moses
commanded the Israelites to wear about the skirts of the garments,
to put in mind of their duties touching their observation of his
precepts in respect that the people were yet rude, and unexercised
in obedience, therefore was the ordinary prescribed to them. This
practice of differencing was adopted in Heraldry, for
distinguishing not only of one nation or tribe from another, but
also to diversify between particular persons also, descended out
of one Family, and from the same parents. As previously noted, the
Bordure may also signify an augmentation of honor bestowed on a
person often in Royal favour by their Sovereign.
Tressure--The Orle and the Tressure are considered
diminutives of the Bordure and bring with them similar symbolisms.
The tressure ‘fleury counter-fleury’ (shown in the margin)
however, was adopted by a Scottish King to commemorate that close
alliance which existed between France and Scotland for so many
ages. It is said that this tressure was anciently given to
Achaius, King of Scots, by Charlemagne, in order to signify that
the French lilies should defend the Scottish lion; as such the
tressure has historically long been a symbol of preservation or
Flasques--Said to be given by a
King for virtue and learning, and especially for service in
embassage (the message or commission entrusted to an ambassador);
for therein may a Gentleman deserve as well of his Sovereign, as
the Knight that serveth him in the field. The shape is called an
Arch line of the Latin word arcus, that signifies a bow. The word
Flasque is derived from the Latin flectus which signifies to bend
Flanches--This is said to be one
degree under the Flasque yet it is commendable armory. The word
Flanch is derived from the French flans, which signifies the
flank, of a man or beast. It is said by some that both the Flanch
and the Voider are diminutives of the Flasques. Although all are
ancient degrees of honor few modern day armorists differentiate
Voiders--This is the reward of
given a Gentlewoman for service by her, done to the Prince; but
when the Voider should be of one of the many furs or doublings,
such reward might the Duchess have given to her Gentlewomen, who
served her most diligently. It is said that these are called
Voiders after the French word voire, which signifies a looking
glass or mirror, which in Ancient times were commonly made in that
The Canton--Termed a Canton
because it occupies but a corner or cantle of the escutcheon. It
is said that the Canton is a reward given to Gentleman, Esquires
and Knights, for service done by them, and not to a baron. Other
armorists maintain that the Canton may well beseem an Earl or a
Baron receiving the same at his Sovereign’s hand. Nevertheless,
the Canton is bearing of honor and when borne charged, it often
contains some very special symbol granted by the sovereign in
reward for the performance of eminent service. A canton may be
borne on the sinister side but is rare and the symbolism remains
Quarter--The Quarter is said for the most part given by
Emperors and Kings to a Baron (at least) for some special or
acceptable service done by him. Unlike the Canton (taking only a
small corner of the shield), the Quarter comprehends the full ¼ of
the shield as shown in the margin. As with the Canton, the Quarter
may be borne on the sinister side but is indeed rare.
SHIP Bearings of ships are often met
with in Heraldry. They symbolize some notable expedition by sea, by
which the first bearer had become famous. The single-mast Galley and
the Lymphad or Lymphiad seem to be the most prevalent. There are
also full sailing ships, pirate ships, Viking ships and much more.
If a ship is borne without a mast it is said to denote tragedy at
sea. The ship was also an early symbol of the church as a place
where the voyagers of faith could gather and sail over the rough
areas of life to the good destination God had for them. Other
cultures believed the ship was like a planet or star revolving
around its centre, it is the earth and the image of life. Man is
navigating the ship as a symbol of life, determining both its centre
and its course.
SHUTTLE The shuttle is a simple
stick on which the crosswise or weft yarn is wound. Associated with
the Egyptian goddess Neith who was the patroness of weaving. The
deceased received her divine power by means of the mummys wrappings,
for the bandages and shrouds were considered gifts of Neith. The
bearer or an ancestor was likely a weaver; the shuttle has come to
signify swiftness of action and destiny.
SPADE A tool
of agriculture and construction denoting subsistence, production and
creation; symbol of honest labour.
SNAFFLE-BIT That part of a horses
bridle usually jointed in the middle, with a ring at each end to
which a rein and cheek strap are attached; symbol of horsemanship
denoting control, influence and jurisdiction.
noosed rope or wooden leg harness with which to hobble a horse and
control its gait. Used in Chivalry by knights to train horses for
tournaments and other tasks. It has no specific symbolism other than
its definition and is not borne as a separate device.
Pike and Lance.
SPEAR-HEADS See Pheons.
(globe) May refer to the extent of a persons knowledge,
interests, or social position; ones geographical domain or area of
power, control, or influence; symbol of a fertile earth. The
ancients attributed perfection to the spherical shape and considered
the sphere as the symbol of perfection.
SPINDLES An instrument of the weaver
trade used to wind fibres in a continuous thread or yarn. In Europe
from the 14th to the 16th centuries the distaff and spindle were
gradually followed by the spinning wheel. It is said that the term
Wife is from the verb to weave, the Saxon wefan, or German weben,
and denotes one who works at the distaff or spindle. When a girl was
spinning her wedding clothes she was simply a spinster; but when
this task was completed and she was indeed married, she became a
SPUR Attached to the heel by straps,
the spur was one of the prominent tools a knight possessed as an
equestrian, and they became one of the ascendant symbols of
knighthood. Prior to the late 13th century "prick" type spurs were
in wide use, but during the last two decades of the 13th century and
into the 14th the "rowel" spur gained wide popularity. It is said
that the mullet device represents the rowel but I must say that the
mullet existed long before the spur. Said also to signify
preparedness for military engagement or readiness for an encounter
of consequence; impulsiveness. If shown with wings as in the margin
it has the added symbolism of covertures or protection and wings are
hieroglyphics of celerity.
STANDARD A flag or ensign. The
ancient military standard consisted of a symbol carried on a pole.
In medieval times the standard was not square like the banner but
rather elongated, much larger, and featured a narrow, rounded and
slit end (unless the standard belonged to a prince of the blood
royal). The Royal standard, which ranged in size from eleven yards
for an emperor to four yards for a baron, was usually divided into
three portions - one containing the arms of the knight, another for
his cognizance or badge, and the other for his crest - these being
divided by bands, on which was inscribed his war cry or motto, the
whole being fringed with his livery or family colours.
STAPLE It is
said that the staple usually refers to a door staple and although
this charge is borne frequently for the sake of the play upon the
family name, such as Staples, Stapleton and the like... it is
however borne in other instances. When this is the case, the staple
signifies reunion, communication and coherence.
STAR As a
light shining in the darkness, the star is often considered a symbol
of truth, the spirit and of hope; its meaning depends upon the
number and sometimes the orientation of its points. It is the ensign
of knightly rank; a star of some form constitutes part of the
insignia of every order of knighthood. The star is the "presence of
the divinity". It is a symbol of constancy, celestial goodness and a
noble ensign. Many cultures throughout antiquity have used the star
as a talisman or national insignia. In heraldry its also known as a
mullet star. See Mullet.
STAVE (pilgrims stave) See Palmers
(spire) From Old English stepel, tower; or German word
staup (high tower) representing the heights of human aspiration and
sublimation, of the path towards God.
STUMP (stock of tree) It is said
that if the top or boughs of a tree be cut off, but the root is
standing then there is hope of a new growth, a new beginning. When
the root is plucked up there remains no hope of reviving and this
was symbolic of fearful warning. A limb or bough of a tree was often
used offensively to scale walls and also defensively to impede the
STIRRUP The adoption of the stirrup
is commonly held to have caused a revolution in the use of the horse
for war, a revolution which led to the feudal age and the dominance
of the armoured knight, mounted on a great warhorse; noble symbol of
the knight signifying gallantry, preparedness, horsemanship and
STOOL Also known as a Trevet or
Trestle in reference to its three tripod style legs. Amongst the
heathens, Apollos priest was said to give answers from the oracle
sitting on such a stool. Denotes wisdom, knowledge; hospitality.
(surcote) A garment worn over the armour to protect it
from sun and rain, and usually blazoned heraldically. During the
14th century they were gradually shortened from their 13th century
lines. They started during the first quarter of the century ending
at the knee, and ended the century ending at the edge of the hip.
During the 15th century they were shortened further, and eventually
abandoned in favour of a large tunic worn over the cuirass. The
surcoat bears no particular symbolism that this writer could find
other than the obvious symbolism associated with the arms or crests
that may be embroidered on the surcoat.
SUN Usually borne in its glory, or
splendour, as shown in the margin. Associated with Helios, the young
Greek god of the sun. Revered by many cultures as a token and ensign
of power, glory, illumination, vitality, and the source of life on
RAY As with other symbols of the sun, a single ray also
denotes power, glory, illumination, vitality, and the source of life
(swepe, balista) The engine anciently used for casting
stones into fortresses. It was the more formidable engine of
warfare, similar to the catapult or mangonel. As a heraldic device
it was used to commemorate a siege that the first bearer was famous
for and to warn enemies that they should be heedful. This most
powerful of weapons also denoted military strength, resoluteness and
The sword symbolizes power, protection,
authority, strength, and courage. It is a symbol of knighthood and
chivalry. European Knights during the period of Crusades, used
swords that were less bulky and blades tapering for thrusting as
well as hacking. Swords of the Teutonic Knights featured downward
quillons that first appeared around the 11th century. To them,
swords were the symbols of truth and honour and were bestowed on
one of stature. In heraldry, differentiation of the type of sword
is rare, however, you will find reference to the scimitar, the
seax, the sabre, the claymore, the rapier, Irish sword etc. The
usual form in Heraldry is a long straight blade, with a cross
handle. Quillons can be pointing downwards, upwards, s shaped,
with cruciforms (cross shaped), fleur-de-lis tipped and more.
Pommels can be round, square, ring-shaped (like the Irish sword)
or other shapes. A sword can also be blazoned wavy, which may be
symbolic of the Christian flamed sword. The changes in warfare
associated with the introduction of firearms did not eliminate the
sword but rather proliferated its types. The discarding of body
armour made it necessary for the swordsman to be able to parry
with his weapon, and the thrust-and-parry rapier came into use.
The advantage of a curved blade for cutting was early appreciated
in Asia, where it was long used by the Indians, Persians, and
others before its introduction to Europe by the Turks. The Turkish
scimitar was modified in the West to the cavalry sabre. At the
other extreme of Asia, the Japanese developed a long-bladed,
slightly curved version with a two-handed grip, with which an
elaborate duelling cult, as well as ancestor worship, became
small drum formerly used to accompany oneself on a pipe or fife. See
TAILS The tail of a deer is called a
single, that of a boar is called a wreath, that of a fox is called
the brush and that of the hare is called the scut. In Heraldry, you
find the tail of a lion or of a beaver most prevalent, and to show
the tail only was representative of an amulet of good fortune,
believed to endow the bearer with the traits, and characteristics of
TASSELS A tassel that was commanded
by God to be worn on the borders of all Jewish garments. It became
not only an emblem of Christianity but, one of authority, repute and
TAPER-CANDLESTICK Has a spike, or,
as it is technically termed, a picket, upon which the taper is
placed; a symbol of the Church, which should be a light in the
world. A symbol of any light-giving agency .The light which
"symbolizes the knowledge of God is not the sun or any natural
light, but an artificial light supplied with a specially prepared
oil; for the knowledge of God is in truth not natural nor common to
all men, but furnished over and above nature."
(targe) The Scottish Targe was a small circular shield,
used by highlanders as a defence against both arrows and hand
weapons. It was light and manoeuvrable, often concealing a left-hand
held dirk (dagger). It was leather-covered wood with metal mounts, a
central spike and leather arm straps symbol of a defender
and the martial man; a Scottish emblem.
TEA PLANT (or leaves) tea was
considered to have an aura of the gods and was used as a combination
of medicine and elixir. In China, in the eighth century, it entered
the realm of poetry as one of the polite amusements. The earliest
samples of tea reached England somewhere between 1652 and 1654 when
King Charles II ended his exile in Holland and re-established the
English Monarchy. When used as emblems the tea plant or leaf, denote
wisdom, resolution and strength.
TEAZEL The head or seed-vessel of a
species of thistle; bearing a large flower head covered with stiff,
prickly, hooked bracts. This flower head, when dried, is used for
raising a nap on woollen cloth and is a symbol of the weaver trade.
To the faithful they were known in some regions as Our Ladys Little
Brushes, calling to mind Marys motherly care for the Infant Saviour.
ROYAL This is the Royal war tent, which is more
ornamental than a sperver and should have a split pennon flowing
towards the sinister. The device was bestowed upon one as a laurel
and achievement of war; a noble insignia. See also Pavilion.
An instrument used in thatching. In Europe thatched homes evolved
during medieval times. Thatching is the use of straw or grasses as a
roofing material. In 1300 the great Norman castle at Pevensey
(Sussex) bought up 6 acres of rushes to roof the hall and chambers;
the marquee of a thatcher.
THISTLE The Order of the Thistle
represents the highest honour in Scotland, and it is second only in
precedence to the Order of the Garter. It was to reward Scottish
peers who supported the kings political and religious aims. The date
of the foundation of the Order is not known, although legend has it
that it was founded in 809 when King Achaius made an alliance with
the Emperor Charlemagne. It is possible that the Order may have been
founded by James III (1488-1513), who was responsible for changes in
royal symbolism in Scotland, including the adoption of the thistle
as the royal plant badge; symbol of independence, strength,
protection and healing.
THORN TREE Believed to be the plant
from which Christs crown of thorns was made from. See Thorn.
of) The origin and character of the thorns, both
tradition and existing remains suggest that they must have come from
the bush botanically known as Zizyphus spina Christi, more
popularly, the jujube-tree. This reaches the height of fifteen or
twenty feet and is found growing in abundance by the wayside around
Jerusalem. The crooked branches of this shrub are armed with thorns
growing in pairs, a straight spine and a curved one commonly
occurring together at each point. The thorn tree and the crown of
thorns are symbolic of Christ and of martyrdom.
(perch) Usually signifies a hawks perch, consisting of
two cylindrical pieces of wood joined in the form of the letter T.
It was the symbol of a falconer or hawker.
Twisted bar, normally with rays of lightning behind it.
If shown winged as in the margin it is the symbol of Zeus, supreme
god of Greek mythology. In ancient mythologies, (Norse, Roman,
Greek, Egyptian, etc.) the lighting bolt would be hurled by male sky
gods to punish, water, or fertilize the earth or its creatures. It
is a symbol of power, defiance of danger, and fortitude.
pole carried by Bacchus/Dionysus (the twice-born, the god of the
vine), and by Satyrs, Maenades, and others who engaged in Bacchic
festivities and rites, and was sometimes terminated by the apple of
the pine, or fir-cone.
TIARA The triple crown of the popes,
known as a tiara, dates from the 14th century and is surmounted by a
globe and a cross (an orb). It is a symbol of sovereign power, also
honour, and especially the reward of martyrdom.
SPEAR See Lance.
TINES (tynes) A prong or point of an
antler. The symbolism is that, that relates to the animal bearing
the antlers. It is however said that the more tynes, the more power,
strength and wisdom.
TOBACCO PLANT (and leaf) so named
from Tabaco, a province of Yucatan, in Spanish America, where it was
first found by the Spaniards. To the early Europeans, tobacco was
first seen as a "cure-all" medicine and used to treat all kinds of
disease. It was (ironically) a symbol of healing and purification.
TOMB-STONE Derived from the Greek
tymbos [burial ground]. Denotes constancy, inspiration, bereavement;
tun) Large cask for holding liquids, especially wine,
ale, or beer. See Barrel.
TORCE (torse, wreath) A wreath of
twisted skeins of silks of two alternating tinctures, usually a
metal and a colour, depicted supporting a crest, often upon a helmet
but occasionally borne separately. The wreath is also an ancient
head ornament of the Saracens and Turks and may represent a notable
expedition involving these tribes.
TORCH (flambeau, fire-brand) A light
to be carried in the hand, consisting usually of twisted flax or the
like soaked with tallow, ignited at the upper end. It is a symbol of
the source of illumination, enlightenment, and guidance; often
referred to as the torch of learning.
TORN An ancient name for a spinning
wheel. It is said the spinning wheel was probably invented in India,
though its origins are obscure. It reached Europe via the Middle
East in the European Middle Ages. The Saxon, or Saxony wheel,
introduced in Europe at the beginning of the 16th century,
incorporated a bobbin on which the yarn was wound continuously; the
distaff on which the raw fibre was held became a stationary vertical
rod, and the wheel was actuated by a foot treadle, thus freeing both
of the operators hands. Another of the many weavers symbols often
found in heraldry. Other than being an emblem representative of the
trade, the spinning wheel has no heraldic symbolism that the author
TORTEAU A red roundel. See Roundles.
TOWER A castle tower. See Castle.
TREFOIL A three-leaved figure
usually slipped at the base and symbolic of perpetuity.
FLORY COUNTER-FLORY Preservation or protection. The
tressure fleury counter-fleury was adopted by a Scottish King to
commemorate that close alliance which existed between France and
Scotland for so many ages.
TRESTLE A stool of three legs. Can
be shown in different ways. See Stool.
TRIANGLE The triangle was a symbol
for God. In Christian symbolism it stands for the Holy Trinity. It
is also a symbol for power and, as such, related to danger. But
according to the law of the polarity of meanings of the elementary
graphs, it also means success, prosperity, and safety. The Hittites
used it to mean well, good, or healthy.
TRIDENT The staff of Poseidon (in
Greece) and the staff of Neptune (in the Roman Empire) are referred
to as tridents. Poseidon was the younger brother of Zeus and master
of the seas, rivers, and earthquakes in Greek mythology. The symbol
was representative of seniority and supremacy by sea. In the
Euphrates-Tigris region and along the eastern Mediterranean coast
the trident has since time immemorial been a symbol of thunder and
lightning. In Christian art the trident is an attribute of lesser
devils and the Evil One, the staff of the Devil.
stylized hillock of three mounds in base; was probably rendered in
the earliest coats of arms as a natural mountain having three
summits; popular in Italian Heraldry. See mount and mound.
tool used to work mortar and symbolic of the stone masons trade.
This emblem serves as a reminder that we should always endeavour to
build and improve ourselves; it is also a symbol of unity and peace;
an ancient symbol, of the Freemasons and also of the church.
Throughout Europe trumpeters had become a powerful, organized body
of musicians employed directly by the king as a symbol of his own
importance and also to entertain the court. The tradition of an
elite trumpet corps stretches back to the middle Ages. The trumpet
was used also.
TURNIP The ancient Celts made candle
lanterns out of hollowed out turnips, in the days when few
households did not have enough glass-sided metal lamps to provide
one for each of the family members to carry. Older children and
young adults carried these lanterns (fastened to wooden staves) out
into the night to light the path from the local graveyards to the
dwellings, so that the departed souls did not lose their way in the
darkness; symbol of remembrance.
VAIR Blue and white bell-shaped
objects; said to be the skin of an animal of the weasel kind called
varus which was once used for the lining of military coats (fr.
vairé), generally written vairy when definite tinctures are named;
when no tinctures mentioned one assumes argent and azure. As with
all heraldic furs the Vair is a mark of dignity.
VANE A plate
placed on a spindle, at the top of a spire, for the purpose of
showing by its turning and direction, which way the wind blows;
symbol of promise, guidance and safety.
VASE (urn) The Vase or Urn is a
symbol for the receptacle of the spirit (ashes of the dead), and
since a vase may also contain living elements such as flowers, it
may symbolize natures bounty awaiting fulfilment. The vessel
generally denotes openness, and validity. Historically, ceremonial
urns containing consecrated elements such as oils, wine, etc were an
intrinsic feature in religious rituals of consecration as well as
divination to the gods.
VINE Usually depicted as a grape
vine, this charge symbolizes promise, frolic and bounty.
Europe, the violin can be traced back to the 9th century, with its
origin possibly in Asia. The violin emerged in its definitive form
between 1520 and 1550 in northern Italy. It symbolizes harmony and
stability in life, music, contentment and joy. Believed by some to
be one of the most perfect instruments ever invented and hence a
symbol of perfection.
WAGON (war-cart)a symbol of
WALLET see Scrip
Different nuts had their own specific symbolic qualities, for
example the walnut was considered good for the brain because of its
sympathetic shape. It was to some, an evil talisman but to other a
symbol of intellect; stratagem.
WATER-BOUGET see Bouget
(fish-weel, fish basket) a device used to catch fish; fertility,
WELL The well was viewed as a shrine
dedicated to the miraculous emergence of living water, and in most
cultures was a symbol of generation, purification, and the matrix of
WHEEL The wagon wheel is symbolic of
transportation, successful journeys and expeditions, and also
WILLOW Known as the tree of
enchantment to some and a totem of grief and mourning to others.
Eastern cultures revered the willow as a symbol of beauty, grace,
endurance and strength.
WREATH Generally a symbol of victory
and to some, immortality, although a laurel wreath is a symbol of
triumph, an oak laurel signified strength, rosemary, remembrance
YEW Known as the sacred yew, it can
signify both death and longevity. Bulls sacrificed to Hecate in Rome
were wreathed in yew. In Ireland, as wine barrels are made from yew
staves, it is considered the coffin of the vine. Its prime use
however was in bow making and dagger handles. Old British legends
suggest that yew trees were planted in churchyard burial grounds to
help resurrect the dead. It is known that the yew is the latest to
reach full maturity, lives longer than the oak and has extended
powers of endurance and resistance to decay and corruption. As a
symbolic tree of faith and resurrection, it is said that Old England
referred to it as the witchs tree.
YOKE A symbol of agriculture,
servitude and obedience. Throughout the Old Testament, the yoke is a
symbol of oppression. We find it as early as the story of Jacob and
Esau, with a prophecy that at some time in the future Esau will gain
the dominion and "break the yoke" from off his neck. (Genesis