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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Heraldic Primer Part 4

This is the fourth part in a series on Heraldry. You can find parts 1, 2, and 3 on this blog under the heraldry label.  It is my way of giving genealogists a basic over view of what they are looking at when confronted with heraldic items in their search for family.  In this section I will cover common postures for sea creatures, insects, and reptiles.  You never know when you will find words for a heraldic achievement and not pictures.

As in four-legged creatures these categories also have standard postures associated with specific creatures and commonly seen animals as well.  For instance the dolphin and the lucy (the traditional name for a pike) are usually shown upright or swimming.  While reptiles are not common in heraldry, serpents are and frequently they are shown tied in knots or twisted around a staff.  In the case of insects, bees are very popular as a symbol of industry and are usually seen from the top with their wings spread. 

Below you will find the postures and more detailed explanations for them under each fauna category.  You will notice that in some cases there are specific words for specific creatures defining their posture.  These terms only define them and no other creature in their category.  Just like “pride” is used to define a peacock showing its feathers from the avian category.

Water Creatures
If it swims in fresh or sea water you may find it in heraldry.  While the dolphin is one of the more common animals you will see depicted there are many others as well.  Whales and various other types of fish are popular.  Crustaceans such as lobsters, crabs, and escallops can be seen on arms and you may also find a kraken (squid) or an octopus. 
Body curving inward on itself
An “S” shaped curve to the body mainly seen in dolphins

Body in pale, the head to the top or chief

Body in fess, the head to the right or dexter of the arms
Body in pale, the head to the bottom or base

 Insects and Reptiles
This category is the least common of creatures seen in heraldry.  Serpents, or snakes, are seen frequently to represent medicine when entwined around a rod or staff.  Reptiles are seen in top down views typically on heraldry.  This posture is known as tergiant.  Insects without wings are also shown typically  in this top down posture and are labeled tergiant as well.  If an insect has wings, however, they are called volant and not tergiant.

An upright or sitting position
Involved, Voluted, Encircled
Coiled to form a circle
Tied in a knot

Bee volant

Turtle tergiant

Emmet, or ant, tergiant

In part five of the series I will cover the types of flora found in heraldry.

*Heraldic Clipart from “Free Heraldry Clipart Site

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