Portative organ

Portative organ (Accepted)

Portative organ (Accepted)

A portative organ is a musical instrument, a small pipe organ used in processionals; it was carried at the waist on a strap, with one hand working the bellows and the other hand playing the keyboard.  It was a period instrument, dating from the 13th C. [Baines 269], but does not appear to have been used in period armory.  The portative organ is affronty by Society default, with the keyboard to the viewer.  See also organ pipe.

Cecily of Elfhollow bears:  Per fess azure and vert, a fess wavy Or between a portative organ and a New World dogwood blossom argent seeded vert.

Arend Adler bears:  Per bend azure and gules, a portative organ argent.

This entry was posted on May 27, 2014, in .


Panpipe (Accepted)

Panpipe (Accepted)

A panpipe is a musical instrument consisting of a row of tubes of increasing lengths, bound together at the ends, and played by blowing across the openings; it’s sometimes more fully termed a “set of panpipes”, or on occasion a “syrinx”.  It was considered a “rustic” or folk instrument in period; it’s seen in a late-14th C. illustrated copy of the Romance of the Rose [Baines 248].  No examples of panpipes have been found in period armory.

The panpipe is palewise by Society default.  The placement of the longest pipe (dexter or sinister), and the number of pipes, seem to be artist’s license; four or seven pipes are most common.  For related charges, see clarion.

Franque ui Cruthnye bears:  Ermine, a pale engrailed sable between a sword and a syrinx vert, on a chief engrailed sable seven estoiles argent.

Alys Chauntrey bears:  Vert, three panpipes Or.

Iuliana Morosini bears:  Argent, a panpipe azure.

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

Organ pipe

Organ pipe (Period)

Organ pipe (Period)

An organ pipe is a long metal cylinder, with a fipple (“whistle slot”) at the lower end; it’s the part of the organ from which the sound emerges.  It’s a period charge, shown in Bossewell, 1572 [III.13º], and found in the arms of Williams, c.1520 [Walden 296; also Guillim1 199].

The organ pipe can be found alone (as in the illustration), or in a “range” of several pipes mounted together [Franklyn 246]; the number of pipes is then specified.  The organ pipe is palewise, conical end to base by default.  See also portative organ.

Melodia Beaupel bears as a badge:  An organ pipe argent.

Elfrida Scholastica Eliensis bears:  Per bend azure and Or, a range of three organ pipes and a Wake knot counterchanged.

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

Musical instruments

Society heraldry accepts as charges those musical instruments known before 1600, and a wide variety have been registered.  In some cases the blazon makes a distinction purely for the artist’s sake; there is no heraldic difference between, e.g., a rebec and a gittern, and it would take a medieval musicologist to tell them apart.  When in doubt, it’s best to be general, rather than specific:  e.g., “fiddle” instead of “viola da braccio”.

In general, musical instruments are affronty by default, with the strings or fingerholes facing the viewer.  For specific entries, see:  bagpipe, bell, clarion, cornetto, drum, flute, gittern, guitar, harp, hautboy, horn (hunting), hurdy-gurdy, jew’s-harp, krummhorn, lute, lyre, organ pipe, panpipe, portative organ, psaltery, rackett, recorder, sackbut, sitar, trumpet, viol, whistle (mariner’s), zil, zither.

This entry was posted on May 22, 2014, in .


Lyre (Period)

Lyre (Period)

Cithara (Accepted)

Cithara (Accepted)

A lyre is a stringed musical instrument of the zither family, played by the ancient Greeks.  It had a sound box, with two projecting arms joined by a yoke; strings were stretched from the sound box to the yoke.  The use of the lyre was revived in the Renaissance, as a symbol of the classical arts; it was then drawn in a stylized manner (as in the illustration), unlike the actual artifact.  The lyre was a period charge, granted as a crest to the Worshipful Company of Musicians in 1604 [Bromley & Child 180].

Similar to the lyre are the “cithara”, a larger and more solidly built variant, with five to eleven strings; and the “crwth” (plural “crythau”), a Welsh instrument of similar construction.  The lyre, cithara and crwth all have the same default orientation:  strings palewise, facing the viewer, and the soundbox to base.  For related charges, see harp.

The East Kingdom Musician’s Guild bears:  Azure, in fess a panpipe argent and a cithara Or within a bordure argent.

Boadicia Artemisia bears:  Argent, a Greek lyre sable.

Fiore Pescara bears:  Gules, three lyres Or.

Rhonwen Y Clermont o’r Mwntduog bears:  Per fess indented argent and sable, five crythau three and two counterchanged gules and argent.

This entry was posted on May 17, 2014, in .


Lute (Accepted)

Lute (Period)

A lute is a stringed musical instrument, popular throughout Europe from the 13th Century onward [Grove 15:334].  Its rounded back and angled pegbox distinguished it from the gittern and other stringed instruments; it had from four to six courses of strings, depending on period, and was played with a plectrum.  The lute was not a common charge in period, but an example is found in the canting arms of the Seigneur de Lusse, mid-16th C. [GAC fo.404r].  The lute is affronty by Society default, with its pegbox to chief.

Variants of the lute include the “kobza” or Ukrainian lute, similar to a standard lute but with a very short neck; and the “mandolin”, which was developed post-period, and is no longer permitted.

Duncan of Bannockburn bears:  Azure, three lutes bendwise sinister Or.

Bryan McDonal O’Cathasaigh bears:  Per pale sable and gules, two lutes argent.

Bogdan Kobza bears:  Per chevron azure and argent, two Ukrainian trident heads Or and a kobza sable.

This entry was posted on May 17, 2014, in .


Krummhorn (Accepted)

Krummhorn (Accepted)

A krummhorn, or crumhorn, is a J-shaped musical instrument, a double-reed woodwind; unlike the hautboy, the krummhorn’s reeds are enclosed in a mouthpiece.  It dates from the 15th Century; the illustration is taken from Virdung’s Musica Getutscht, 1511 [Montagu 90].  The krummhorn’s mouthpiece is to chief by Society default.  For related charges, see cornetto, recorder.

Eochaid the Musical bears:  Gules, in saltire two krummhorns argent.

Giannetto Bello bears:  Gules, on a pale nebuly endorsed argent a krummhorn sable.

This entry was posted on February 18, 2014, in .


Jew's-harp (Period)

Jew’s-harp (Period)

A jew’s-harp is a musical instrument consisting of a simple frame with a vibrating central prong; it’s held against the teeth to play, using the mouth as a resonating cavity.  It was also known as a “jew’s-trump” in period, and a “mouth harp” in modern times.  The jew’s-harp is a period charge, found in the arms of Brenntl, 1548 [Vigil Raber’s Armorial of the Arlberg Brotherhood of St. Christopher, fo.120]; the instrument itself is illustrated in Virdung’s Musica Getutscht, 1511 [Montagu 91].  The jew’s-harp has its prong to chief by Society default.

Barak Raz bears:  Per pale sable and azure, a jew’s-harp Or.

Torleif Sverkerssen Hvide bears:  Gules, three jew’s-harps inverted Or.

Zoe Doukaina bears as a badge:  Argent, a jew’s-harp purpure.

This entry was posted on February 14, 2014, in .


Hurdy-gurdy, crank to chief (Accepted)

Hurdy-gurdy, crank to chief (Accepted)

A hurdy-gurdy is a stringed musical instrument, with a rounded wooden body and a keybox.  The hurdy-gurdy is played by turning a rosined wheel with a crank; the wheel rubs the strings and acts like a violin’s bow.  It’s a period instrument – the Sforza Book of Hours, c.1490, shows an angel playing a hurdy-gurdy – but no examples have been found in period armory.

The hurdy-gurdy has no defined default orientation, so it must be blazoned explicitly (e.g., “crank to chief”, as in the illustration).

Goerijs Goriszoon bears:  Per bend Or and sable, a sword bendwise and a hurdy-gurdy bendwise, crank to base, counterchanged.

Gardner of Elyg bears:  Argent, a skeleton statant affronty sable playing a hurdy-gurdy azure.

This entry was posted on February 12, 2014, in .


Hunting horn (Period)

Hunting horn (Period)

A horn is an artifact, made from an animal’s horn, from which it gets its name.  The default horn is a musical instrument, more fully blazoned a “hunting horn” or “bugle horn”; it is found in the canting arms of Hornes c.1275 [ANA2 476].  It’s usually shown hung on cords, and may be garnished in bands of another tincture; these are considered artistic details.  In mundane armory, the hunting horn’s default orientation has changed over time; the Society default is fesswise, embowed to base, with bell to dexter.

Drinking horn (Period)

Drinking horn (Period)

Another use of the horn is as a drinking vessel; this is blazoned a “drinking horn”.  Unlike the hunting horn, it has no mouthpiece, and is not corded; it was usually shown unadorned, but in at least one instance was depicted with feet (so it could be set on a table without spilling), in the arms of Müris, c.1340 [Zurich 94].  In medieval heraldry, it seems to have had the same default orientation as the hunting horn; in Society armory, its default orientation is palewise, embowed to dexter, with bell to chief.

Pairs of drinking horns are common in Saracenic heraldry, where they are referred to as “trousers of nobility” [Mayer 19]; but the motif is blazoned in most European contexts as “a pair of drinking horns”.  By Society convention, a pair of drinking horns is “addorsed” (i.e., with the convex sides facing each other) by default; a pair of drinking horns “respectant” will have their convex sides outward.  A “pair of drinking horns” is thus distinguished from “two drinking horns”, each in its default orientation.

Shofar (Accepted)

Shofar (Accepted)

Spiral hunting horn (Accepted)

Spiral hunting horn (Accepted)

Of the horns with special names, the best known is the “shofar”, the ram’s horn blown on Jewish high holidays.  Depictions of the shofar date back at least to the 4th Century, as seen on a Roman bowl now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Though not found as a period heraldic charge, as a period artifact, the shofar is registerable in the Society.

There’s also the “spiral horn”, more fully blazoned a “spiral hunting horn”.  This isn’t made from animal horn at all, but from metal:  essentially a flat spiral trumpet, the ancestor of the modern French horn.  The illustration is based on an artifact dated 1570 [Montagu 107]; as a period artifact, the spiral hunting horn is registerable in the Society, though no heraldic examples have been found.

As with the hunting horn, the shofar and the spiral horn have their bells to dexter by Society default.  For related charges, see cornetto, sackbut.  See also inkbottle, tooth.

The Shire of Darton bears:  Sable, a hunting horn within a laurel wreath Or.

Magnus Birchleg bears:  Gules, a drinking horn bendwise sinister argent.

Rivka bat Schmuel Alfasi bears:  Per fess indented azure and gules, in pale a shofar, bell to sinister, and an estoile of eight rays Or.

Nikolaj Zrogowacialy bears:  Barry argent and azure, a spiral horn of three spirals reversed Or.

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