Heraldic "Meanings"

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Chris Green
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Chris Green » 20 Aug 2015, 16:40

... just another amateur putting out unreliable information on the internet ...


Quite unlike us then.
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Mike_Oettle
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Mike_Oettle » 20 Aug 2015, 20:00

Joe McMillan wrote: “Now: all that said, I think the absolutist position that colors and charges have no fixed meaning is also unrealistically dogmatic.”

That also is a point I agree with. What has been established, though, is that they do not have universal meaning. What makes heraldry interesting is establishing what meaning there is in it.
In the case of each distinct coat of arms there are meanings attached — not usually to colours, although they also have meanings assigned in certain instances, but to particular charges, ordinaries and arrangements of charges and ordinaries.
I have derived a great deal of pleasure from tracing these meanings, and anyone who has perused Armoria can affirm this.
I also enjoy finding connections between different coats of arms — the variations in family arms, the charges from family arms that find their way into civic and other corporate arms, and so on.
But in each case there is a bit of spadework involved, which adds to the fascination the subject has for me.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.
[Proverbs 14:27]

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Chris Green
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Chris Green » 20 Aug 2015, 20:57

But in each case there is a bit of spadework involved, which adds to the fascination the subject has for me.


The spade-work is necessary because any "meaning" that the arms may have had was conjured by the original armiger. His heirs may have been aware of that meaning and nurtured it. What they could not properly do is assign novel and completely different meanings by reference to some list, and even worse suggest that the original armiger must surely have meant the arms to mean that. For a third party to assign such meanings is simply presumptuous.
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Ryan Shuflin
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 21 Aug 2015, 14:07

I think the biggest misunderstanding regarding heraldry is regards to meaning. A coat of arms is itself a symbol combined from other symbols, meant to symbolize the armiger. The fallacy that arms can be read as a code, should, IMHO, be disproved in the first lesson on heraldry.

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JMcMillan
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby JMcMillan » 21 Aug 2015, 14:53

But arms sometimes (not always) can be read as a code. The trick is to recognize when they can and when they can't. The problem with the lists is that they imply that symbol X always represents concept #24. Sometimes it does, sometimes it represents something else, and sometimes nothing at all, but you have to know the context to recognize which is which. For example, someone referring to a list of symbols may interpret a flaming heart in a coat of arms as a sign of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and if borne by a devout Catholic that's a pretty reasonable guess. But when found in the arms of a Huguenot family such as the Boudinots of New Jersey or the Hugers of South Carolina, or those of the Calvinist Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony, such a significance is not only unlikely but absurd.

Image
Boudinot

Image
Huger

Image
Plymouth Colony
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Iain Boyd
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Iain Boyd » 22 Aug 2015, 12:59

It is possible that the two Huguenot families referred to in the last post acquired arms before becoming Huguenots, in which case, they would have been Catholic. Consequently, the flaming heart could refer to a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Genealogical and heraldic research is required to confirm the possible symbolism of their arms.

If the flaming hearts do not refer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, then, what is the possible symbolism and why would these Huguenot families have adopted such overt Catholic symbols?

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Iain Boyd

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JMcMillan
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby JMcMillan » 22 Aug 2015, 13:29

While the origins of the devotion to the Sacred Heart can be traced to the Middle Ages, its mass popularity really dates only to the late 17th century in the context of the Counter--Reformation.

I'm aware of no evidence that would date the Boudinot or Huger arms prior to this period. In fact, the Huger arms were granted by the English kings of arms in 1771. The burning heart as a metaphor for a soul enflamed with zeal for God is a widely used image in Protestant preaching, both Calvinist and Methodist,

This is my point: that a burning heart is not an intrinsically Catholic symbol, any more than a key is intrinsically a symbol of the apostle Peter.
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Ryan Shuflin
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Ryan Shuflin » 24 Aug 2015, 16:56

Good point. What I meant by code was that Argent, a Cresent Azure means a chaste and loyal crusader. Etc. This is especially true for charges that are symbols in themselves.

As far as certain geometric shapes meaning certain abstract ideas, that is hogwash.

While these lists are in many places, I doubt the symbolism they list was ever used but in a small fraction of arms.

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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Martin Goldstraw » 25 Aug 2015, 12:43

Ryan Shuflin wrote:Good point. What I meant by code was that Argent, a Cresent [sic] Azure means a chaste and loyal crusader. Etc.


I have yet to see any evidence that any early coat of arms was chosen because the charges had such meanings. It may well be the case that many who had been on the crusades chose a crescent to symbolize the fact (because it has Islamic and pre-Islamic use), it may well be that crusaders came to be seen as chaste and loyal (we're entering into the realms of romanticism here anyway with such descriptions) and it could even be strongly argued that white is seen as a representation of purity but to then make a leap into fixing for all time a meaning to all argent shields and shields containing crescent as charges as having he same route symbolism is a leap too far.
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