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Glossary

sable

sable

Sable or black is represented in heraldry through closely crossed lines. It also appears in medieval Arthurian literature, where black shields and armours are sometimes worn by enigmatic and unknown knights, who attempt to disguise themselves. It symbolizes constancy, prudence, and intelligence.

saints

The most common human characters which appear as charges on a shield, the saints occur frequently in municipal coats of arms, where they signify the protection given to a particular city by its saint.

salamander

The salamander is associated in heraldry with the phoenix, and usually depicted as surrounded by flames. Due to the legends surrounding it, according to which it was immune to fire or even capable of quenching it, it signified resilience, strong faith, generosity and courage.

salient / saltant

salient / saltant

This term applies to a beast which is in the act of springing towards its prey, with the hind legs drawn and the forepaws in the air. The term `springing' is used for docile animals while `saltant' describes smaller animals. It symbolizes eagerness and courage.

saltire (couped)

saltire (couped)

The saltire represents the cross upon which St. Andrew was crucified, and as such was an emblem of both such virtues as piety, sacrifice and of military victory and warrior spirit.

scimitar

scimitar

The scimitar is a variety of curved sword originating in the Middle East, and probably occurred in heraldry as a result of the crusades. It symbolizes warrior spirit and sacrifice.

scorpion

The scorpion is usually represented in an erect attitude in heraldry, and occurs for instance in the arms of Luigi di Gonzaga, one of Charles the 5th's generals. It symbolizes resilience, strength and fortitude.

scythe-blade

scythe-blade

This instrument is an infrequent charge, and has various symbolic connotations. It may stand for virility, fertility and rebirth but is also a traditional iconographic attribute of Death, who comes to reap the harvest of souls.

segreant

The term `segreant' applies to mythical creatures such as the dragon or the griffin, and is the counterpart of the attitude `rampant' for beasts. When such a being is described as `segreant', it stands for power and courage.

sejant

sejant

This term applies to a beast sitting on its hindquarters, either with the forepaws erect (sejant rampant) or with both forepaws on the ground. It signifies justice and vigilance.

sejant affronté

sejant affronté

A variant of the `sejant' attitude, the beast depicted affronté faces the viewer instead of the dexter side of the shield. This attitude, which may be found for instance in the arms of Scotland, suggests majesty and power.

sheep

sheep

The sheep shares some characteristics with the ram and the lamb, though not all. Unlike the ram, the sheep has no horns. Unlike the ram and the lamb, the sheep also has no tail. A frequent related charge is that of the Golden Fleece that Jason and the Argonauts stole from Colchis. The sheep can appear in a variety of postures, such as statant and passant. The sheep is more commonly found in French than in English heraldry. The Bighorn Sheep appears in North American arms, such as the coat of arms for the Town of Oliver, in British Columbia, Canada. A common version of the sheep is the Paschal Lamb, which represents Christ and dates to the 15th century arms of the Bishop of Brixen. The Paschal Lamb appears passant, haloed and carrying a crucifix across its back. While young lambs appear in more secular arms, especially in Welsh arms, the Paschal Lamb is a charge very strongly associated with Church arms, such as those of bishops and popes. The sheep represents agriculture and sheep-herding. As the ram or lamb, it represents Christ, courage, resolve, and a willingness to engage in holy war.

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shield

shield

During the 12th and 13th centuries, this weapon began to bear elaborate and stylized designs that directly alluded to the social position of its owner, his possessions and his familial heritage. Due to its simple form, the shield became the main shape used as background in heraldry.

shoe or brogue

shoe or brogue

One of the day-to-day objects which appear as charges is the shoe or boot. It may be emblazoned as an Irish brogue (a pointed short boot), as a Dutch boot, etc. It stands for resilience and luck.

siren

The siren or mermaid occurs either as a charge or, more frequently, as a supporter. It symbolized wisdom, enlightenment but also temptation and vanity.

snake

snake

The snake or the serpent is a frequently represented in heraldry, and despite its early negative connotations in Christian thought, it symbolizes wisdom, subtlety and prudence.

spur

spur

The term `spur' designates a mullet (or star) pierced in the middle. As part of the knightly paraphernalia, the spur symbolizes warrior spirit and chivalry.

squirrel

squirrel

The squirrel was fundamentally important to heraldry from the very beginning because it supplied one of two furs for the field of a shield - vair. Vair appeared on one of the earliest known coats of arms, that of Geoffrey Plantagenet, Count of Anjou. However, the squirrel's image is also a frequent charge, crest and supporter, though the latter is not strictly according to the medieval rules, because a supporter traditionally should be rampant. The squirrel appears more commonly in German than in French arms. It is also popular in Polish heraldry. It always appears sejant, cracking a nut. In Norse mythology, the squirrel was a symbol for the soul. In addition, Ratatoskr was a squirrel messenger that ran up and down the the Norse world tree, Yggdrasil, conveying slanderous messages that fostered dissension and chaos. As with other animal charges, the heraldic squirrel is used in a punning way, such as the red squirrel on the arms for the English Nutshall family. The squirrel represents providence for the future, dutifulness and trustworthiness.

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stag

stag

The stag has a rich history in medieval literature and art, from where it passes into heraldry in the 14th century. It was a highly admired animal, due to its frequent mention in the Scriptures and the important role in played for instance in the stories of several medieval saints' conversions, which occur in Jacobus de Voragine's 13th century seminal work, The Golden Legend. Furthermore, it is associated with the figure of Jesus: its ritual death in the stag hunt, which is increasingly seen as the royal hunt par excellence, is likened to the Passion. It is positively valued in theological works, which underline its virtuous character, and provide numerous exempla, or narratives with a moralizing scope, in which the stag features prominently. It is used as a symbol of goodness, purity and virtuousness, traits which appear in such medieval works as the Physiologus (one of the most significant medieval treatises concerning animal lore and symbolism), which compare the stag's perpetual enmity with the snake and its vanquishing of this negatively-valued animal with Christ's struggle against the Devil. It may also symbolize faith and repentance, but most commonly, it is seen as a symbol of the virtuous and noble person. Two white stags appear for instance as heraldic devices during King Richard the II's reign. A single stag appears as the main charge on the coat of arms belonging to the Palffy family, an extremely important noble family stemming from now-a-days Slovakia.

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statant

statant

This term describes a beast standing, pointing towards the dexter side of the shield, with all paws on the ground. It is more common for supporters than charges, and signifies warrior spirit and strength.

statant guardant

statant guardant

A beast described as `statant guardant' is standing and facing the viewer. It symbolizes warrior spirit, strength and watchfulness.

stork

stork

The stork is frequently represented in heraldry with its wings closed and its right leg raised. It appears for instance in the coat of arms of John de Egglescliffe (14th century), who was a bishop of Connor and later Llandaff. It symbolized piety, gratitude, dutifulness and generosity.

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subordinaries / mobile ordinaries

The so-called subordinaries are geometrical figures similar to ordinaries, differing mostly in the fact that they do not stretch from one edge of the shield to another. They can be either fixed - with a regularly allocated place on a shield -, or mobile - occurring in different areas.

sun in splendor

sun in splendor

As the sovereign of the daytime sky, the sun appears in heraldry in its entire splendor, thus signifying sovereignty and glory.

supporters

In heraldry, the supporters are those characters - animals, humans, imaginary beings, etc. - which are placed on the exterior of either flank of the shield and hold it up to the viewer. Their choice can often be dictated by historical reasons or local connections.

swan

swan

The swan appears in many attitudes, either as charge or as crest. It is commonly depicted either with its wings closed, "rising", or couchant. Its medieval association with martyrdom and Christian resignation has led to is use as a symbol of humility, piety and modesty.

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