Tortoise (Period)

Tortoise (Period)

The tortoise is a slow-paced, armor-shelled reptile.  It may also be blazoned a “terrapin”; it is sometimes blazoned as a “turtle” in the Society, though the term is modern for the reptile (it referred in period to a type of dove).  While the terms are zoologically distinct, they are heraldically synonymous.  The tortoise is a period charge, found in the arms of Esslinger, 1605 [Siebmacher 51].

Society armory also has examples of the “natural sea-tortoise (or turtle)”, which differs from the tortoise by having flippered feet.  It shares the same defaults as the tortoise, and is considered an artistic variant only.

The tortoise is tergiant fesswise by English default, and tergiant palewise by Continental default; Society practice follows the Continental default.

Geoffrey Maynard of York bears:  Per fess engrailed Or and azure, in chief a tortoise tergiant vert.

Aoife inghean Eoghain bears:  Argent, three tortoises azure.

William de Grey bears:  Vert, three natural sea-turtles Or.

This entry was posted on June 5, 2014, in .


Serpent erect (Period)

Serpent erect (Period)

The serpent is a cunning reptile, the embodiment of sin to the early Christian fathers.  It is also blazoned as a “viper”, or more modernly, simply a “snake”.  Its most famous example is in the canting arms (Italian biscia) of Visconti, Dukes of Milan, dating at least to 1413 [Conz.Const. cxlviiº].

The standard heraldic form is of a non-descript venomous serpent, but sometimes an exact species is mentioned:  the “adder” and “asp” are specified in mundane armory, while the “cobra”, the “rattlesnake”, and the “natural python” (among others) are found in Society armory.  (These latter, not being found in period Europe, carry a step from period practice.)  Early depictions of the serpent (still seen in the Visconti arms) give its head a wyvern-like crest.

Serpent nowed (Period)

Serpent nowed (Period)

Serpent involved (Period)

Serpent involved (Period)

In period armory, serpents may be found “erect”, as in the above cited arms of Visconti; “nowed”, or knotted, as in the arms of von Löfitz, 1605 [Siebmacher 156]; and “glissant”, or gliding forward, as in the arms of von Elchingen, c.1450 [Scheibler 93].  When glissant or erect, the serpent’s body is frequently drawn wavy, sometimes exaggeratedly so.

In the Society, we have examples of serpents in annulo, head biting the tail; this posture is variously blazoned as a serpent “in annulo”, “in annulo vorant of its own tail”, or “involved in annulo”.  This latter usage, with “involved”, doesn’t match that of period heraldry:  there, a serpent involved is coiled in a spiral, head outside and in chief, as in the arms of Throckmorton, d.1570 [Woodcock & Robinson, Heraldry in Historic Houses of Great Britain, p.74; cf. Parker 529].

None of these postures seem to be the default; the serpent’s posture must be explicitly blazoned.  For related charges, see eel, man-serpent, naga, Norse beast, pithon, sea-serpent.

Þorfinna gráfeldr bears:  Argent, three serpents nowed gules.

Ragnachar Radagaist bears:  Vert, a serpent in annulo argent.

Fiora Forte bears:  Vert, two serpents erect respectant and entwined, the dexter argent and the sinister Or.

Matheus le Vaus bears:  Quarterly argent and azure, a serpent glissant palewise counterchanged.

Lillias Dubh bears:  Argent, a serpent involved sable.

This entry was posted on June 3, 2014, in .


The term “reptile” here applies to all large, scaled, cold-blooded creatures; not just true reptiles, but amphibians as well.  Any reptile known to period Europeans may be used in the Society – though, if the reptile is not itself European, its use may be considered a step from period practice, as is the case for the alligator.  (An exception would be made for non-European reptiles actually used in period European armory, but no examples have been adduced.)

For specific entries, see: frog, lizard, serpent, tortoise.

This entry was posted on June 2, 2014, in .


Lizard (Period)

Lizard (Period)

The lizard is a small, agile reptile with a reputation for speed.  It’s a period charge, found in the crest of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, 1455 [Bromley & Child 148], and in the canting arms (Portuguese lagarto) of Lagartos, c.1540 [Nobreza xxxviiº].

The lizard is statant by default, as in the illustration.  In Society armory, however, it’s frequently found tergiant.  It is also sometimes blazoned as a “natural salamander”, since it forms the basis of the usual depiction of the salamander.  The lizard’s cousin, the “newt” or “aske”, was used as the badge of Christopher Aske, 1536 [Siddons II.2 16].

Similar footed reptiles, such as the “chameleon”, have also been employed in Society armory.  Also included in this category are what may be termed the giant lizards:  the “crocodile”, the “alligator”, and the “Komodo dragon”.  These are still permitted as of this writing, but those from outside the scope of period Europe (e.g., the alligator) are deemed a step from period practice.

Emmanuelle de Chenonceaux bears:  Ermine, a lizard tergiant azure.

Vespacia Capricornica Kareliae bears:  Pily bendy Or and vert, a natural chameleon gules.

Fiona di Varanus bears:  Gules, a pale cotised Or, overall a Komodo dragon embowed in pale vert.

This entry was posted on April 19, 2014, in .


Frog (Period)

Frog (Period)

The frog is a four-legged amphibian, whose strong hindlegs make it a renowned jumper; it’s classed as a reptile by heralds.  The frog is a period charge, found in the canting arms (Italian rana) of di Cagaranis, mid-15th C. [Triv 103].  The category includes the heraldically indistinguishable “toad” (termed a crapawd in Randall Holmes’s Roll, c.1460):  toads are found in the arms of Repley, c.1520 [DBA3 439].

Both frogs and toads are tergiant by default, as in the illustration.  Frogs sejant are also found, in the canting arms of Frosch, 1605 [Siebmacher 210].

Ailís inghean uí Ruairc bears:  Argent, three frogs vert.

Karl Ulfson bears:  Argent, a frog sejant affronty azure.

Hieronymus de Hansworst bears:  Sable, a frog salient to sinister argent.

This entry was posted on January 29, 2014, in .