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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Heraldic Primer Part 6: Inanimate Objects

Up to now I have told you about the various common flora and fauna that can be seen on heraldic devices as well as ordinaries, colors, and line divisions.  In this post I am going to touch on inanimate objects, and with my usual disclaimer, there is no way I can cover them all in one short post.  Please realize that there are hundreds of charges that are in this category and I would suggest you do further research on your own from the sources I listed in my first post if you can’t find an object you are looking for.  Or try your favorite search engine; you may be surprised by what you can find.

An inanimate object is my way of describing a charge that is not living, or animate.  This category can include clothing, weapons, armor, musical instruments, tools of a trade, household goods, ships, buildings, or even celestial bodies to name a few.  It also includes body parts of humans such as hands, legs, arms, and heads.  
These objects generally reflect the person they represent.  For example a soldier may use a sword to represent his military prowess or a miller a mill rind to represent his trade through history.  In modern day heraldry an electrician may use the sun instead of a light bulb to give his arms a more ancient feel.  While these inanimate charges tend to lean to the ordinary objects found in everyday life there are exceptions.  For example the DNA double helix was first granted in 1966 as a charge that can be used on a person device.  Also there have been satellites and computers granted as heraldic charges in the recent past.
Charges like doors, gates, towers, walls, arches, and other types of architectural features are found commonly in heraldry.  Parts of armor that would have been worn into battle, with or without the corresponding body parts, are popular for showing strength.  For weaponry there is a large listing of various items used.  For example, every part of the arrow may be depicted on a device including multiple arrows and archery equipment.
Overall, the charges you will see more than anything else are items that would be used every day.  These charges can tell a lot about a family, person, or guild by the tools they choose to display.  Not only tools and instruments used in and around the house are seen, but also tools for very specific trades.  Examples are: bellows, baskets, shuttles, rakes, glazier tools, blacksmith tools, beehives, goblets, farrier tools, and stools.

For an amazing pictorial description of crowns, coronets, helms, and ecclesiastical charges I suggest you check out this page from the University of Notre Dame.  It is very well done and very in-depth.  In addition they also have a page on common types of crosses used in heraldry .  Both of these charges are common in heraldry of nobility and pious individuals.  There is a very large variety and I could spend an entire post talking about these two subjects alone.

Below is a listing of common inanimate objects, not including geometric designs that are found in heraldry or many of the charges listed above. 

In addition to the examples above there are still a plethora of other charges that may be seen.  Once again I encourage you to see what else you could find in books and online.  Next time: geometric designs.  This should be our last building block post before we can start putting it all together.  

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