Pelt; Hide

Hide (Accepted)

Hide (Accepted)

A pelt is the skin of an animal, removed from its body and laid flat by default.  In period armory, the usual pelt seems to be of a squirrel or other small animal, as found in the Zurich Roll, c.1340 [406].  In Society armory, the most common pelt is blazoned a “hide”, and is considered a cowhide (as illustrated).  Other beasts’ hides are blazoned explicitly.  In each case, the part of the hide that attached to the beast’s head is to chief by default.  For related charges, see fleece.

Vuong Manh bears:  Gules, on a hide Or a roundel enflamed and depicted as a t’ai ch’i vert.

John FitzWilliam bears:  Sable, a hide argent.

Sveinn Raudskeggr bears:  Gules, on a bear’s hide argent a bear’s pawprint purpure.

This entry was posted on May 23, 2014, in .


Pair of lips (Accepted)

Pair of lips (Accepted)

Lips are the folds of flesh surrounding the mouth, essential for speech and useful for evoking emotion.  They were originally justified for Society armory by the use of other body parts in period armory (eyes, heads, feet, &c).  However, the open mouth – including lips and teeth – is a period charge, found in the canting arms (Italian bocca) of di Bocardi, mid-15th C. [Triv 79].

Saundra the Incorrigible bears:  Per bend sinister argent and azure, a pair of lips gules and three increscents argent.

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

Leg; Foot

Leg couped (Period)

Leg couped (Period)

Legs are the limbs used for locomotion.  Any legged creature may contribute a leg to heraldry; legs from humans, eagles, lions, bears, deer and horses are found in period armory.


The default leg is the human leg.  The human leg is severed well above the knee; it should be specified whether the leg is couped (as in the illustration) or erased.  By default, the human leg is shown bare; it may also be clothed in men’s hosen, as in the canting arms of de la Hose c.1275 [ANA2 550], or be shod in sandals or shoes.



Lion's jambe erased (Period)

Lion’s jambe erased (Period)

Eagle's leg couped à la quise (Period)

Eagle’s leg couped à la quise (Period)

Some animals’ legs have special terms in blazonry.  A lion’s leg may be called its “gambe” or “jambe”; as a charge, it dates from at least 1413, in the arms of von Litaw [Conz.Const. cliiii].  (A dragon’s leg may also be called its “jambe”.)  Birds’ legs may be severed “à la quise”, at the thigh; this usage is found c.1480, in the arms of Lancaster [DBA2 383].  Lions’ and dragons’ jambes are erect by default, with their claws to chief; humans’ and birds’ legs are foot down by default.  The illustrations show a lion’s jambe erased and an eagle’s leg couped à la quise.




Foot couped (Period)

Foot couped (Period)

Bird's foot bendwise erased (Period)

Bird’s foot bendwise erased (Period)

A “foot” is the section of the leg below the knee.  Human feet are found, dating from c.1295 in the arms of Shrigley [ANA2 453]; they are detached from their legs at the ankle, and have their toes to dexter by default.

Of animals’ feet, the most confusion has arisen with birds’ feet:  a common mistake is to blazon the foot as a “claw” or “talon”, which properly refers only to the toenail.  The bird’s foot is a period charge, as found in the arms of von Grünau, 1605 [Siebmacher 58]; it includes no part of the thigh, but only the unfeathered portion below the joint.  The illustration shows a bird’s foot bendwise.

The majority of beasts’ and birds’ feet (as distinct from legs) are erect by default, with the claws to chief; only human feet seem to go downwards by default.  For related charges, see claw (crab’s), sole, triskelion.  See also ham.

The Order of the Jambe de Lion, of An Tir, bears:  Checky Or and argent, a lion’s jambe bendwise inverted erased sable.

Pascal Foljambe bears:  Azure, a leg couped Or.

Anlaug Dalesdotter bears:  Or, three armored legs azure.

Emma Barfoot bears:  Sable, a foot couped and in chief a bar argent.

Lothar von Katzenellenbogen bears:  Or, in saltire five lion’s jambes couped at the shoulder gules.

Cett Donegal bears:  Gules, three eagle’s jambes erased à la quise contourny argent.

Wulfwen atte Belle bears as a badge:  In pale a tentacle vert issuant from a boot sable and maintaining a spoon fesswise reversed Or.

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

Horn, animal’s

An animal’s horn is a hard, pointed projection that grows from certain animals’ heads.  The type of animal must be specified in the blazon.  The most common forms in medieval armory are deer’s horns, ram’s and goat’s horns, and bull’s horns, each discussed below.

Attire (Period)

Deer’s attire (Period)

Deer's massacre (Period)

Deer’s massacre (Period)

Deer’s horns, or antlers, have special terms to describe them.  A single deer’s antler is termed its “attire”, and is found in German heraldry as early as c.1275, in the arms of the Counts of Württemberg [ANA2 476].  Its default orientation is fesswise, with the stump to dexter, but there are numerous period examples of a deer’s attire in other orientations, or even bent in a circle.  The deer’s full rack of antlers may be termed a “deer’s attires”, or a “massacre”; if joined to a scrap of flesh, these may also be called a “deer’s scalp”.  The set of attires is shown as found on a deer guardant:  spread symmetrically with points to chief.  The exact number of points is not blazoned, but left to the artist.

Ram's horn (Period)

Ram’s horn (Period)

Pair of ram's horns (Period)

Pair of ram’s horns (Period)

Ram’s horns are found in German armory as early as c.1340, in the arms of Frowenvelt or Frauenfeld [Zurich 136].  They could be depicted singly, or in pairs; when in pairs, they tended to be shown curving away from one another.  A single ram’s horn could be oriented in one of several ways; the illustration is taken from the arms of von Widerspach, 1605 [Siebmacher 82].  Goat’s horns were drawn very similar to ram’s horns, but tended to have less curl, as in the arms of Kotwitz von Aulenbach [Siebmacher 107].


Pair of buffalo's horns (Period)

Pair of buffalo’s horns (Period)

Unicorn's horn (Accepted)

Unicorn’s horn (Accepted)

Bull’s horns, or buffalo’s horns, are found in German crests as early as the 14th Century [Gelre], and as charges in the arms of von Pfiltz, 1605 [Siebmacher 51].  They are drawn in a highly stylized manner; indeed, the German stylization sometimes caused the charge to be blazoned by French and English heralds as “elephant’s trunks”!  Horns that are intended to be drawn more naturalistically would be better blazoned “cow horns”, the English practice.  Society armory also has an example of a “bison’s massacre”, two short horns issuant from a scalp, as seen in the arms of von Sachsennhein, 1415 [Conz.Const. clxxx].

Of horns unique to the Society, the most common is the “unicorn’s horn” or “alicorn” (also sometimes blazoned a “narwhal’s horn” or “narwhal’s tooth”).  No period examples have been found of it as a separate, independent charge.  The unicorn’s horn is palewise, point to chief, by Society default.

Andreas Lucernensis bears:  Per pale argent and sable, in pale three stag’s attires reversed gules.

Guinevere Whitehorn bears:  Per bend azure and sable, a stag’s attires argent.

Hafr-Tóki bears:  Sable, a stag’s antler in annulo conjoined to itself Or.

Ellen of Two Lines bears:  Vert, a ram’s horn Or.

Angelica de Boullanger bears:  Vert, a unicorn’s horn couped bendwise argent.

Otmar von Erhingen bears:  Quarterly argent and sable, a pair of bull’s horns counterchanged.

This entry was posted on February 11, 2014, in .


Heart (Period)

Heart (Period)

A heart is that organ which pumps blood through the veins.  It is drawn in a stylized shape, much as found on modern valentines.  The heart is found as an heraldic charge as early as c.1330, in the arms of Douglas [Wagner 50; also Gelre 64].  Mundanely, its “proper” coloration is red; Society practice would simply blazon it “gules”.  See also seeblatt.

The Order of the Dragon’s Heart, of the Middle, bears:  Argent, a heart vert scaly argent.

Malinda Angelanne Hohen van Kester bears:  Per fess embattled azure and argent, a heart gules.

Sabiha al-Zarqa’ al-Karakiyya bears:  Sable, in chief three hearts argent.

Teresa Maria Isabella Castro bears:  Or, six hearts sable.

This entry was posted on February 10, 2014, in .

Head, monster’s

Dragon's head couped (Period)

Dragon’s head couped (Period)

Keythong's head erased (Period)

Keythong’s head erased (Period)

Monsters’ heads follow the same conventions as animals’ heads.  There are some special items of note:  for example, the dragon’s head is severed at the shoulders unless otherwise specified; the term is sometimes used to denote the prow of a Viking drakkar.  The male griffin or keythong’s head is shown with rays and spikes issuant, to distinguish it from a standard griffin’s head.

Most of the other characteristics of any monster’s head may be found in the entry for that monster.



Musimon's head couped (Period)

Musimon’s head couped (Period)

The illustrations show a dragon’s head couped, a keythong’s head erased, and a musimon’s head couped.

Zenobia Naphtali bears:  Per chevron Or and sable, three griffin’s heads erased and sinister facing counterchanged.

Erik Wulfriksson bears:  Azure, a dragon’s head issuant from base argent.

Carol Stewart of Horsehill bears:  Vert, a musimon’s head erased argent, horns wreathed Or and sable.

Isabella d’Hiver bears:  Azure, a unicorn’s head couped argent collared gules.

This entry was posted on February 10, 2014, in .

Head, human’s

While the use of human heads as crests was very popular from the earliest rolls, their use as charges on shields came later, as in the arms of Gundelsdorf, c.1340 [Zurich 431]. Some human heads are affronty or guardant by default, but others aren’t; it depends on the type of human.  As a general rule of thumb, men (Saracens, blackamoors, &c) face dexter by default, while children, maidens, &c, are affronty.

Savage's head couped (Period)

Savage’s head couped (Period)

Maiden's head (or bust) (Period)

Maiden’s head (or bust) (Period)

The “savage’s head” and the “wild man’s head” are shown with a wreath of leaves on their heads, since the leaves on the rest of their bodies are not in evidence. In other respects, the characteristics of a human head are those of that type of human, and are described under human figure.

As with animal’s heads, human heads must be specifically blazoned as couped or erased; couped heads are far more common.  While the dexter-facing heads are couped at the neck, children and maidens are sometimes shown as a bust, showing the shoulders (and, in the maiden’s case, the bosom).  This is not an ironclad rule, and seems to be artistic license; if the shoulders are meant to be included, they should be blazoned.

Head of St. Cybi (Accepted)

Head of St. Cybi (Accepted)

Janus head (Period)

Janus head (Period)

One instance exists in Society armory of “heads of St. Cybi”.  St. Cybi was a 6th Century Cornish bishop, and is shown as a tonsured monk with a mitre.


The “Janus head” is taken from representations of the Roman god of beginnings and endings.  We’ve an example from period Italian heraldry, in the arms of Banda, c.1550 [BSB Cod.Icon 276:15; cf. also Woodward 201].



Cherub (Period)

Cherub (Period)

Seraph (Period)

Seraph (Period)

Also included in this category are the heads of humanoid monsters, particularly those which exist only as a head.  Preeminent among these is the “cherub”, or “cherub’s head”:  a child’s head cabossed, with two wings.  Cherubim are found in the canting arms (Italian angeli, “angels”) of Dianiolli, c.1550 [BSB Cod.Icon 272:277]; Legh, 1576 [84] likewise describes the cherub’s use in armory.

The “seraph”, or “seraph’s head”, is a child’s head cabossed, with six wings; Guillim, 1610 [83] gives an example of its heraldic use (misblazoning it as a “cherub with three pairs of wings”).  In the Society, the seraph’s “proper” coloration is with pink skin, red hair, and rainbow-colored wings.  The seraph should not be confused with the “standing seraph”, a variant of the angel, which is shown with a full body; as an heraldic charge, the standing seraph appears to be unique to the Society.

Gorgon's head cabossed (Period)

Gorgon’s head cabossed (Period)

Demon's head couped (Accepted)

Demon’s head couped (Accepted)

The “gorgon’s head”, taken from the monster of Greek myth, is a woman’s head with serpents for hair.  As an heraldic charge, it’s shown in Bossewell, 1572 [III.22º].  The gorgon’s head is almost invariably cabossed, but the posture should nonetheless be blazoned explicitly.  Finally, there is the “demon’s head”, horned and ugly, much like a Notre Dame gargoyle; this appears to be unique to the Society.


For related charges, see hat, helm, hood, mask, skull, wind.


David of Moorland bears:  Vert, on a bend Or three Moor’s heads couped sable.

Owain of Holyhead bears:  Vert, three heads of St. Cybi proper aureoled Or.

Talanque bears:  Azure, a horned demon’s head erased Or.

Petra Malusclavus Africana bears:  Per pale azure and gules, a gorgon’s head cabossed argent.

John of Coventry bears:  Bendy gules and argent, a Turk’s head affronty couped proper impaled upon a spearhead couped sable.

Staffan Arffuidsson bears:  Azure, three seraphs Or.

Sabina de Almería bears:  Or, a cross flory, on a chief purpure three Janus heads argent.

This entry was posted on February 9, 2014, in .

Head, animal’s

Boar's head couped (Period); boar's head couped close (Period)

Boar’s head couped (Period); boar’s head couped close (Period)

Fox's mask (Period)

Fox’s mask (Period)

Animal’s heads are an ancient heraldic motif, dating from at least 1255:  the boars’ heads in the canting arms of Swinburne [Asp2 220].  Almost any beast found in heraldry may have its head used as a separate charge; indeed, in several cases (e.g., the boar), the use of the head predates the use of the whole animal.

Most animal’s heads face dexter by default; the exception is the owl’s head, which is guardant by default.  The line of division is specified, i.e., whether the head be couped or erased; the head is usually severed where the neck meets the shoulders.  A head “couped close” is severed just behind the ears, with no neck included; the illustration compares a boar’s head couped with a boar’s head couped close.  The exact manner of severance is worth no heraldic difference.

A head “cabossed” or “caboshed” is guardant, with no neck showing.  Some animals have special terminology for this posture:  Fox’s heads cabossed are called “fox’s masks”, cat’s heads cabossed are “cat’s faces” (ditto leopards).

Pelican's head erased (Period)

Pelican’s head erased (Period)

Lion's head jessant-de-lys (Period)

Lion’s head jessant-de-lys (Period)

A pelican’s head includes its neck and part of its breast, distilling blood.  A lion’s head “jessant-de-lys” is a lion’s head cabossed, with a fleur-de-lys issuant from the mouth and back of the head; this is an ancient usage, found in the arms of Cantelupe c.1298 [ANA2 473].  Other beasts’ heads jessant-de-lys are found in Society armory, but such usage is considered a step from period practice.

In other respects, the characteristics of any animal’s head are those of the animal, and may be found under the entry for that animal.

The Baron of Coeur d’Ennui bears:  Argent, a laurel wreath vert within eight boar’s heads couped in annulo gules.

The Order of the Lions of Atenveldt bears:  Per pale azure and argent, a lion’s head cabossed and a bordure Or.

Sabina de Lyons bears:  Gules, three lion’s heads cabossed argent.

Adelaide Walcheman bears:  Azure, a peacock’s head couped Or.

Malak Boga bears:  Quarterly Or and ermine, four bull’s heads cabossed sable.

Aénor d’Anjou bears:  Purpure, a lion’s head jessant-de-lys Or.

Hanor Blackwolf bears:  Or, three wolf’s heads couped contourny sable.

Ursula Messerschmitt bears:  Vert, a bear’s head cabossed argent.

Fandral Silverfox bears:  Sable, a fox’s mask argent.

Lianor de Matos bears:  Or, three stag’s heads erased gules.

This entry was posted on February 9, 2014, in .


Hand (Period)

Hand (Period)

Fist (Period)

Fist (Period)

A hand is a human appendage used for grasping and holding; it is found in the canting arms (French main) of Malmains, c.1275 [ANA2 469].  The default hand is the dexter hand, the default posture is apaumy and couped.  Sinister hands are very frequently found in period armory, as well.  While Society armory grants no difference between left and right hands, current practice is to explicitly blazon the handedness.  The hand is unclothed by default; sometimes it is found issuant from a cuff, which fact is blazoned.

Hands are found in other postures besides apaumy.  The hand may be “clenched”, forming a fist; indeed, this form may be simply blazoned a “fist”, as in the canting arms (German Faust) of Fausten, 1605 [Siebmacher 211].  A variant of this form is a fist with the index finger extended, as in the arms of Angiolini, c.1550 [BSB Cod.Icon 278:273].

Pair of hands in birkat kohanim (Period)

Pair of hands in birkat kohanim (Period)

Hand of benediction (Period)

Hand of benediction (Period)

A pair of hands “in birkat kohanim” has the hands slightly tilted towards each other, the fingers spread but with the index and middle fingers together, as well as the ring and little fingers.  This hand gesture is used as a Jewish blessing.  The motif is found in period armory, in the arms of Rabbi Abraham Menachem Rapoport, d.1596 [Nathan Ausubel, Pictorial History of the Jewish People].

Similarly, a “hand of benediction” is a gesture used in Christian blessing:  the hand is apaumy, with the thumb and two fingers upright, the other fingers curled into the palm.  It’s quite frequent in books of hours, and is depicted in modern heraldry texts [Guide 131], but makes very few appearances in period armory:  e.g., the crest of Boyd, 1582 [Dunvegan Armorial, fo.253], or the attributed arms of Prester John, c.1530 [BSB Cod.Icon 391:55].  A vested arm ending in a hand of benediction is found in the episcopal arms of Sechau or Seckaw, 1605 [Siebmacher 12].

Hand of Fatima (Accepted); hand of glory (Disallowed)

Hand of Fatima (Accepted); hand of glory (Disallowed)

Of postures peculiar to the Society, there is the hand “aversant”, the opposite of apaumy, with the back of the hand to the viewer.  Other hand variants include the “hand of Fatima”, a two-thumbed hand, a symbol of Islam; and the “hand of glory”, a hand enflamed, which is not permitted in Society heraldry.

In British heraldry, a sinister hand apaumy gules is used as the augmentation for baronets; and the “hand of Ulster”, a dexter hand apaumy gules, is a reserved charge in Irish heraldry.  For these reasons, Society armory disallows the use of red hands apaumy on white backgrounds, when they appear to be in the form of an augmentation.

For related charges, see arm, foi, gauntlet.  See also glove-puppet.

Mia Sperling bears:  Sable, a hand ermine.

Molly Gill Brae bears:  Argent, a hand fesswise vert.

Chrystofer Larchmont bears:  Gyronny vert and Or, a dexter fist erased gules.

Iaenbryht Græghar bears:  Per pale gules and vert, in chief a hand in benediction argent.

Hadrardus Blach bears:  Gules, on a bend argent a sinister fist and a dexter fist both fesswise with index fingers extended sable, in chief a compass rose bendwise argent.

Sulima ibn Jafar bears:  Azure, a hand of Fatima couped between three goblets argent.

Jethro Stille bears as a badge:  Per fess azure and Or, two hands in birkat kohanim and a double-headed eagle counterchanged.

This entry was posted on February 1, 2014, in .


Foi cuffed (Period)

Foi cuffed (Period)

A foi is a pair of hands clasped in friendship.  It’s been found in period Italian armory, in the arms of di Amadi, mid-15th C. [Triv 50]; the Italian term, fede, has the same meaning as the French foi (“faith”).  Given its mention in Woodward [205], the Society uses the French term.  The foi has its hands in fess by default; the illustration has the hands wearing cuffs.

Brandrick Slaywrock bears:  Vert, a foi bendwise couped Or.

Azalais de Dia bears:  Azure, a foi within an orle argent.

Guillaume de Saint Michel bears:  Azure, an armored foi in chevron issuant from the flanks, on a chief embattled argent three roses proper.

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