Heraldic "Meanings"

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Martin Goldstraw
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Martin Goldstraw » 05 Aug 2015, 08:51

It is quite possible that the websites of the average Bucket Shop heraldry for every surname merchants receive more visits per year than the website of The College of Arms but that does not make the information they convey more valuable or indeed valid.

The assignment of fixed meanings to charges and tinctures never was a valid concept.
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JMcMillan
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby JMcMillan » 05 Aug 2015, 14:48

Q: Is it true that baseball uniforms are white for the home team and gray for the visitors because the home team, being at home, is chaste and the visitors, being on the road, are not?

A: No.

Q: The internet says it is.

A: The internet is wrong.

Q: But people believe the internet.

A: People are wrong.

Q: Then what does it symbolize?

A: It symbolizes that the team in white is home, and the team in gray is the visitors.
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Chris Green
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Chris Green » 05 Aug 2015, 18:24

I am closing this thread as it is beginning to endanger our sanity.
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Chris Green » 07 Aug 2015, 09:18

Ed H is obviously quite worked-up about this subject as his recent PM to me accuses me of being "arbitrary and capricious" in locking the thread.

By all means continue to discuss the subject if you feel the urge. But let us be quite clear - there is going to be no "IAAH approved" list of meanings such as that produced by a certain "for profit" organisation of Knoxville TN.

It is dangerous to give credence to the idea that CoAs, their tinctures , or charges "mean" something. If a client wants a new CoA designed that means something particular to them and wishes to use some list they have found on the internet, that is up to them. But it only confuses newcomers to heraldry to suggest that "meaning" in heraldry is either relevant or of any importance. It isn't - except to the person who gave it the meaning.
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Chas Charles-Dunne
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Chas Charles-Dunne » 07 Aug 2015, 10:49

I agree with Chris, but would go further. These bucket shops are a cancer on the subject and have not done one scrap of good - ever. Really, what is the difference between fleur-de-lys.com and the con-artist trying to sell the Brooklyn Bridge. Both are selling something that does not belong to them. They are fraudsters and are inventing lies to line their own pockets.

If there was any true justice in the world, they would be swept away and never be allowed to practice their foul trade again.
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Chris Green » 07 Aug 2015, 11:00

One has only to google "heraldic meaning" to see where the issue has arisen in modern times: heraldic artists of assorted merit and bucket shops who wish to attract custom from the non-heraldically knowledgeable public. Their lists of "meanings" seem to me to be nothing but a lure - "Look potential client, we know you find heraldry attractive but confusing; we can help you - look everything has a meaning!"

For those with an interest in the roots of heraldic meaning, may I recommend "The Symbolism of Heraldry" by W Cecil Wade, published in 1898

https://archive.org/stream/symbolismsherocad00wadeuoft#page/n0/mode/2up

and "The Pursuivant of Arms (or Heraldry Founded Upon Facts)" by J R Planché, Somerset Herald (1851)

http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b284443;view=1up;seq=11
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Edward Hillenbrand » 07 Aug 2015, 13:59

I will not engage in a flaming war on this forum. I did send Mr. Green a PM calling his actions arbitrary and capricious for locking down a discussion he did not like. I stand by that statement. There were other parts to the email that I will not disclose since it was private; I will say those statements were respectful.

Since this topic is so toxic to some people I will end my participation in it with just one final observation: didn't the College of Arms just approve a CoA using 35mm film. And the meaning of that for us is quite clear? Now go and ask anyone under 21 if they have ever seen an actual reel of film, or any film for that matter. Think ahead 100 years and the meaning of those arms will be lost.
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Chris Green
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Chris Green » 07 Aug 2015, 15:17

... didn't the College of Arms just approve a CoA using 35mm film. And the meaning of that for us is quite clear? Now go and ask anyone under 21 if they have ever seen an actual reel of film, or any film for that matter. Think ahead 100 years and the meaning of those arms will be lost.


Indeed. And even on the day that the Grant of Arms was made, most people would have struggled to recognise that the "white squiggly bits" were intended as 35mm film, without 1) access to the blazon, and/or 2) knowledge of the grantee's former trade. But the fact is that 35mm film is 35mm film and 100 years from now people will be able to find out what it was used for by googling or looking at Wiki (or whatever one searches for wisdom with in 2115). That is not the same as claiming that because the Corbould arms are principally vert and or, they mean "generosity and elevation of the mind" together with "hope, joy and loyalty in love", oh and a connection to water since dancetty represents that.
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby JMcMillan » 07 Aug 2015, 15:26

Actually the ACH is a non-profit corporation. I'm surprised, however, that they addressed this issue the way they did. If one starts with their FAQ page, here's what it says:

Many individuals submit their application but aren't quite sure what they want to include in their arms, and ask us to tell them which elements to include that specifically define elements of their life, their character, their family, etc. The truth is, there is no definitive "dictionary" of heraldic meanings. [emphasis added] Over time, certain symbols have been "assigned" traditional meaning in heraldry, and for those individuals who wish to start from scratch in their designs, here is a LIST OF HERALDIC "MEANINGS". This is not to say that these are the College's definitions for such symbols, but merely those which are commonly recognized in heraldic usage.


What would have been more correct is to say that heralds (including official heralds--see the discussion in Dennys's The Heraldic Imagination) have been assigning meanings to various tinctures and charges, but that these meanings generally have had little to do with actual heraldic practice. The medieval mind did a lot of associating colors with various vices and virtues (Michel Pastoureau, the eminent French heraldist, is also probably the leading scholar of the history of colors in this regard), but the fact that green had a generally negative connotation at the time didn't prevent the Dudley earls of Leicester and Warwick from bearing a green lion in their arms.

In fact, the ACH page proceeds to quote the FAQ from the rec.heraldry newgroup, which does a much better job of explaining things:

Without knowing the circumstances of the original grant, it is difficult to say whether a coat means anything at all, except that someone (grantee or herald) liked the design. Some arms ("canting" arms) contain a charge whose name is related to the surname of the bearer (e.g. de Trumpington: Azure, crusily, two trumpets pileways Or). This can be taken to the extent of becoming a rebus puzzle -- the Borough of Congleton bears Sable, on water in base barry-wavy azure and argent, on a tun between two conger eels argent, a lion statant-guardant Or, which decodes to Conger-Leo-Tun.

In the Middle Ages, bestiaries, popular tales and folklore contributed greatly to the association of specific animals with specific characteristics or virtues, some of which persist to this day (owls are wise, elephants have memory, etc). It is quite possible, for any given coat, that the original bearer chose an animal with such associations in mind.

Often a coat will contain charges alluding to the original grantee's career or interests; for example medieval merchants and guildsmen often included the tools of their trade. These may become less appropriate as the coat is passed down through the generations, or their significance is forgotten. Quite elaborate schemes can be developed: a former Governor General of New Zealand has a coat based on the theme "a cat among the pigeons", which is apparently how she sees her career.

Some charges were taken from the arms of a bearer's feudal lord or protector as a mark of loyalty. For example, the Maltese cross in the arms of several towns in Switzerland is a reference to the Knights of Malta, who were once sovereign in that area. The frequency with which the bar, a type of fish, appears in coats of arms of the former duchy of Bar in Eastern France can only be explained in this way. Also, imperial eagles which appear in many Italian coats were originally meant as a sign of allegiance to the Imperial party in the conflicts which tore medieval Italy.


The problem with this issue in general is that all the tinctures and many of the charges are assigned multiple "traditional" meanings.

For example, in the Middle Ages, green was variously given the meanings of lust, felicity, pleasure, beauty, shame, death, and youth. In the post-medieval period, various heraldic authors have piled on the qualities of hope, honor, courtesy, abundance, joy, fertility, and liberty. Argent has been variously assigned the virtues of peace, prosperity, amity, purity, joy, truth, frankness, integrity, virginity, fairness, beauty, temperance, equity, piety, religiousness, work, innocence, justice, childhood, and hope.

Same with charges: the crescent may be a moon, a symbol meaning "increase" or "growth," an emblem of the Virgin Mary, an allusion to the name Diane/Diana, a symbol of Islam, or the English cadency mark for a second son.

So "Vert a crescent Argent" means....what?

Sometimes, as Freud supposedly reminded us, a cigar is just a cigar.
Joseph McMillan
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Chris Green
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Re: Heraldic "Meanings"

Postby Chris Green » 07 Aug 2015, 16:49

Actually the ACH is a non-profit corporation.


I was referring to fleurdelis.com.
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