Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry

The Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry (often called simply the PicDic) was first conceived in 1986, well before the Internet or search engines.  At the time, many of the charges used in Society armory were, shall we say, unique to the Society; with no way to readily identify them, their blazons could neither be reproduced nor checked for conflict.  The Laurel Sovereign of Arms at the time, Master Baldwin of Erebor, encouraged two of his staff to compile all the unusual charges then registered.  Those two staff members were al-Haadi abd-al-Malik Husam ibn Khalid (then called Akagawa Yoshio), and myself.  The Pictorial Dictionary was the result.  Two editions of the book were published in paper form; now it’s being posted online.

In this 3rd Edition, I’ve tried to make the PicDic a more useful reference:  I’ve tried to cite sources for every charge, either as a period charge or a period artifact.  If a charge is unique to the Society, the defining instance of the charge is considered the source.

Each charge illustration will have one of four labels, based on rulings from the Sovereigns of Arms:

  • Period:  A charge documented from period heraldry, usually from actual usage or from a grant or a roll.  Charges from period tracts fall into this category as well.
  • Accepted:  Not found in period heraldry (at least not yet), but accepted for Society use, probably from evidence as a period artifact or the like.  Though be careful:  an Accepted charge could simply be a charge only registered many years ago, which hasn’t yet been Disallowed.
  • SFPP:  A Step From Period Practice.  Not documented to period, as a charge or anything else; its use is discouraged but still permitted.
  • Disallowed:  Not permitted for Society use.  Usually, such a charge is neither found in period armory nor known to period Europeans.  A disallowed charge may have been permitted in the early days of the Society, but is not currently.

So, to take some beasts as concrete examples:  the lion, obviously, is a period heraldic charge, across Europe and from the earliest rolls.  The walrus is not a period heraldic charge, as far as we know; but it was found in Europe in period and was known to period Europeans, and so is quite acceptable for Society use.  The Bengal tiger, from Asia, was not a European beast; its use in Society armory carries a step from period practice.  Finally, the panda was neither a European beast nor known to period Europeans; it therefore is not permitted for Society use.

Additionally, some charges are labelled Reserved, permitted only for certain submitters:  crowns, for example.

Finally, the boilerplate:

The Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry.  Images and text copyright © 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Bruce Miller.  All rights reserved.  Content may be reproduced without prior permission for the purposes of heraldic submission in the SCA.  Those who believe in courtesy (if nothing else) to living authors will refrain from piracy.

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