ARMORIAL GOLD HERALDRY SYMBOLISM LIBRARY
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BADGER: This often fierce animal, cousin to the wolverine, is a symbol of tenacity, and protection. They protect there young at any cost and have been known to fight off wolves, and even bears. Badgers have powerful forelegs which enable them to dig through the ground easily and swiftly to capture prey such as hares, squirrels and the like. A male badger is called a boar, a female a sow, a young badger a cub, and the collective name for a group of badgers, is a clan. The German word for Badger is Dachs, and the famous dachshunds were originally bred to hunt them in a once popular sport practiced by the nobles of olde. In many cultures, the badger is symbolic of aggression. Although rare in early heraldry, the badger is enjoying somewhat of resurgence in modern heraldry, as enthusiast discover its historical symbolism.
BAGUE (ring): 'Bague' is the French term for finger ring and is an emblem of fidelity (see annulet).
BAGWYN: A mythological beast similar to the heraldic antelope, but having the tail of a horse, and long horns curved over the ears, with a tusked snout, cloven hooves and a tufted body. It is said the Bagwyn was the dexter supporter of the arms of CAREY, Lord Hunsdon, in Westminster Abbey. The curved horns and horse’s tail appear to be the main difference between it and the heraldic antelope. The Bagwyn is a symbol of action, decisiveness, and guardianship.
BANNERS: Signifies a special action or service in which the bearer was captured, or a reward for gallant service.
BALLS (Cannon): Bestowed upon those who have dared their terrors in sieges and battles.
BAR, BARRY, OR BARRULET: One who sets the bar of conscience, religion, and honour against angry passions and evil temptations.
BARRY WAVY: It is said that troubles keep us in continuous exercise and reminders of providence, as waves in a storm at sea.
BAT: Has strong associations with darkness and obscurity, as a creature of the night. In Christian terms, the bat is viewed as "the bird of the devil" an incarnation of the Prince of Darkness. The bat is a symbol of the challenge to release the old and create the new - death and rebirth. They symbolize the facing of fears - entering the dark on the way to the light.
BATON: The baton was a token of authority and used as a badge of office; symbol of title or rank.
BATTERING RAM: A heavy beam of wood with a head of ram at its point (others were iron tipped) used in ancient warfare to batter down the walls and gates of a place under siege. The battering ram was frequently in a wagon covered with drapery or hides, ornamented with fringes and even with devices. Awarded to the first bearer for gallant service to the sovereign or for a military victory; also assertiveness in conquest.
BATTLE AXE: A fighting axe signifying execution of military duty. It is said that the Celts first introduced the first metal axe-heads of a distinctive shape with a hole for mounting the handle. This is no doubt why archaeologists refer to them as 'the battle-axe people'. The Battle-axe was both a useful tool and a deadly weapon. Battle-axes were used by Germanic barbarians against the Roman empire, the Scottish fighters of William Wallace and the Gallowglas Celtic mercenaries. These weapons were carried not just for battle, but also as symbols of status and wealth. The Viking battle axe was inherited from the Frank's wars with the Romans and remained an ever-present Viking weapon.
BAY LEAVES: A wreath of bay was conferred on the Poet; it is also the victor's laurel. The bay was anciently considered, as well as the olive, a sign of peace, and a branch of it borne between contending armies betokened an immediate cessation of hostilities. But it was pre-eminently the symbol of victory. Despatches from a victorious army to the Roman senate were usually bound up in bay leaves; ships, tents, the fasces of the general, the swords and javelins of the soldiers, were decorated with them; while the victorious general himself wore around his brows the coveted wreath. Garlands of bay/laurel were bestowed upon the successful competitors at the Pythian games. A wreath of bay leaves was also worn by the priestess of Delphi, and one of her incantations consisted in chewing some of the leaves and throwing them into the sacred fire. It was believed that the bay tree, being under the especial protection of Jupiter, was never subject to any danger from his thunderbolts. The victor's garland and the poet's crown. Symbol of victory, recognition, peace.
BEACON: From the Saxon 'becnian' meaning 'beckon' or come together; the Mariners' symbol of hope. Betoken on one who is watchful, or who gave the signal in time of danger. The modern-day lighthouse is a symbol of the latter. A pole used as a standard or ensign set on the tops of mountains as a call to the people to assemble themselves for some great national purpose.
BEAR: A creature of enormous strength yet it survives on fruit and fish. Their habit of hibernation during winter months has held the Bear as a symbol of resurrection for hundreds of years. It was the royal emblem for the kingdoms of Persia and Russia, and the Celts considered the Bear the symbol of the great warrior; it is associated with Arctic of Muri, the Celtic Goddess of the bear cult who was usually depicted in the form of a Bear. It is said to be betoken on one who possessed policy equal to its great strength and it is also the emblem of ferocity in the protection of kindred. In Heraldry, the Bear is most often depicted muzzled. In Scandinavia, there was a firm belief in the ability of some people to change into or assume the characteristics of bears. Our English word "berserk" comes from this legend. It was thought that if a warrior was to don a bearskin shirt (called a bear-sark), which had been treated with oils and herbs, that the warrior would gain the strength, stamina, and power of the animal.
BEAVER: Once treasured for its fur, the Beaver is known for it's engineering feats. The first bearer was likely one of industry, of acute adeptness and unrelenting perseverance. Beavers are known to keep busy year round building, repairing, and modifying dams and canals. These master builders have long been emblems of industry, cooperation, and community. The Beaver's work ethics helps to keep the entrances of his home under water making it more difficult for an invading predator. Since Beaver lodges have two entrances, they are reminders that when a door (an opportunity) is blocked, another usually presents itself. In Christian symbolism the Beaver represents chastity and the willingness to sacrifice anything that hinders one's walk with God. This icon is also a symbol of vigilance and self-sacrifice, and was often used in Heraldry as a symbol of protection and dedication.
BEE: In Christian tradition, the Bee was the emblem of Christ, of his forgiveness (the sweetness of his honey), with his justice (through its sting), and Christian virtues, because of the exemplary way worker bees behave towards their queen. It is an ancient Minoan symbol of the soul; Melissa the bee is the symbol of the Goddess of Regeneration. It is also an ancient belief that bees were begotten of bulls. An emblem of Regal power (the Egyptians) the Bee denotes a well-governed industry, resurrection, steadfastness and obedience.
BEE EATER: Immune to the regular ravages (sting) of the Bee, the Bee Eater has been used as a talisman for Healing.
BELLS: Bells were believed to disperse storms and pestilence, drive away devils, and extinguish fires; hawk's bells denote one who was not afraid of signalling his approach in peace or war. Bells are used for a variety of purposes in religious life such as the ringing bells to call the faithful to worship. The ringing of the Sanctus bell in Catholic churches represents the coming of Christ in Communion. And of course, the death knell - a bell rung to announce a death and the passing of a person’s soul into the next life. The bell was considered in Ancient Egypt to be an idiophone musical instrument and were particularly associated with worship in the temples. In the 8th century, an English Saint first introduced the idea of ringing bells at a funeral. By the ninth century, bells had become an integral part of rites and rituals performed in the churches of the Western Roman Empire.
BEND: Representative of a scarf or shield suspender of a knight or commander; signifies defence or protection. See Ordinaries.
BERRIES: A symbol of liberality, felicity, and peace; (applies to most other fruit as well).
BEZANT: A gold roundle representing a Byzantine coin. Denoted one who had been found worthy of trust and treasure. See Roundles.
BILLET: Represents letters folded for transmission; denotes a man who obtained credence, knowledge and faith in his words and deeds and was secret in his affairs.
BIRD CLAW (or leg): Symbolizes that the 'preyer' upon others, has been preyed upon.
BISHOP'S MITRE: Denotes Episcopal jurisdictions and authority. If tinctured in black the Mitre is that of a Bishop (or Abbey), in red, that of a Cardinal, green, that of an Archbishop. It is said the mitre and the Papal tiara stem from the camelaucum, which was originally a cap used by officials of the Imperial Byzantine court.
BITTERN: If threatened, a Bittern may 'freeze' in an upright position with its beak pointing upwards, and will remain so posed until danger has passed. In ancient times it was a symbol of bad luck and is said to have been so proclaimed by a prophet pronouncing the doom of Babylon. The Bittern has also been used as a symbol of stratagem; no doubt because of its affinity to "freeze" itself when in danger.
BLACK BIRD: The blackbird is usually considered a bad omen, although it is said that two blackbirds together symbolize peace and good fortune. Many cultures considered the blackbird a representation of the soul and as such used it to indicate everlasting life.
BLACK CAP: The Black Cap is known to mimics the sounds of other birds and as such may represent one who is versatile, and can adjusts to life's challenges as needed.
BLACK HEADED BUNTING: Buntings are symbols of a bountiful harvest.
BLOODHOUND: Similar to a Talbot and was representative of the hunt, the Bloodhound was introduced into Europe long before the Crusades, and was associated with the aristocracy and clergy. It is said that the clergy were responsible for the dog's careful breeding and purity of strain, and is why this hound was called "blooded hound." The hound of noble ancestry denotes pertinaciousness or one who perseveres in hunting the enemy and always being mindful of his foes.
BOAR (WILD): Artemis, the goddess of hunting, is the most closely linked with the Wild Boar. Artemis was the virgin goddess of the moon and the twin sister of Apollo. The Wild Boar's strength, courage, and ferocity made it a worthy adversary for the hunter. To the Celts, the Boar was an emblem of war and represented a fierce combatant when at bay, and it is said the Boar ceases fighting only with its life. In the ancient Celtic system the Boar is associated with the South and the element of Fire. It is connected with the life giving power of the sun. The Boar (and its not so wild cousin the pig), are probably the most important totem animals of the Gaelic Celts, particularly in terms of their connections with the Underworld (the mythological place of departed souls), as providers of spiritual nourishment. The Wild Boar symbol was often used as an armorial bearing of a warrior. When just the Boar's Head is used it signifies a token of hospitality; it was often the fee mentioned as due to the King as the condition of feudal tenure.
BOATS (Ships, Lymphads, and Galleys): They symbolize notable expeditions by sea, by which the first bearers had become famous. An honourable mariner’s bearing, symbolic of commerce, travel, initiation and warfare. The ship is of very ancient and very common occurrence in the sepulchral art of Egypt. It is connected with the worship of Ra, which came in fully 4000 years B.C. Its meaning as an Egyptian symbol is well known. The ship was called the Boat of the Sun. It was the vessel in which the Sun-god performed his journeys ; in particular, the journey which he made nightly to the shores of the Other-world, bearing with him in his bark the souls of the beatified dead. The ship is also a symbol of fertility and is associated with Njord, the Viking god of commerce. See Ship
BOMB (Mortar): One who has dared the terror of such a weapon in battle
BOOK: If open, symbolizes manifestation; if closed, counsel; usually represents the bible.
BORDER (bordure): A sub-ordinary. This bearing is of great antiquity and is often adopted as a difference between relatives bearing the same arms; or an augmentation of an honour.
BOUGET (water-bouget): A charge representing an ancient leather vessel used for carrying water to an army or to a besieged place. It consisted of a yoke with two leather pouches appended.
BOURDON: Also known as pilgrim or shepherd's staff. Usually borne in reference to early pilgrimages to Jerusalem.
BOW: A warrior ready for battle; always prepared for any challenge. See Bow and Arrow
BOW AND ARROW: Denotes a man resolved to abide the uttermost hazard of battle, which to that end has furnished himself to the full. A symbol of Artemis the Greek Goddess of the hunt, nature and birth. Many of Artemis’ roles may appear incompatible in nature. She is associated with death, brought swiftly through her arrows and healing. She is both Goddess of the hunt and the protector of wild animals. The Bow and Arrow, together or as separate charges often represent canting arms (canting arms are heraldic bearings that represent the bearer's name in a visual pun or rebus). Eg: Bowman, Fletcher, Archer etc.; the French for arrow is flèche. Sagittarius (Latin for Archer) is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Sagittarius is commonly represented as a centaur drawing a bow. See arrow.
BRIDGE: Signifies the cares and patient stability of magistrates or governors, who must endure the assaults, taunts, and envy of the discontented and vulgar.
BROOM PLANT: A sprig of this Anglo-Saxon medicinal shrub was chosen, as the badge of the royal house of Plantagenet, who are said to have derived their surname from the circumstance of one of their ancestors having worn a branch of broom is his helmet. Denotes humility.
BUCK (STAG): The Stag is the male deer; the male of the hind. As an emblem it is indicative of life (fabled to live over 1000 years), symbol of wisdom, regeneration and growth, and virility. Because its antlers resemble branches, the Stag has been associated with the 'Tree of Life' and because of the way it renews its antlers, it is used as a symbol of regeneration. During the Middle Ages, the Stag was often shown with a crucifix between its horns where, in Christianity, it represented purity and solitude and was the enemy of Satan, the serpent. The Celts believed the Stag guided souls through the darkness (the world for departed souls). The stag also was associated with warriors and hunting in Celtic culture and in Greco-Roman mythology where it was an animal sacred to Artemis. In Buddhism, the golden stag represents knowledge and the Chinese regard it as a symbol of virility and happiness. Heraldic writers say of the Stag: "One who will not fight unless provoked, a lover of music and harmony who well foresees his times and opportunities". The Vikings used the stag as a symbol of royal status and the Romans used it as an icon of masculine values.
BUCKLE: Ancient and honourable bearing signifying affiliation, and victorious fidelity in authority. The Buckle in Canadian heraldry represents the cadency mark of the ninth daughter. The Egyptians considered the buckle as a symbol of protection and resurrection. The buckle of Isis amulets were frequently worn, to this end. As buckles of various forms occurred in heraldry it became necessary to mention the shape. An arming-buckle is in the form of a lozenge. We find besides, square buckles, circular buckles, and even oval buckles figured. In some examples the tongues are turned to the dexter, in others to the sinister; and to the variety of buckles may be added the gar buckle (possibly contraction for garter buckles), and the belt-buckle.
BUFFALO (WATER): Buffalo is the name commonly applied to the American Bison but restricted to certain related African and Asian mammals of the cattle family, the Water Buffalo, or Indian Buffalo. It is a large, extremely strong, dark grey animal, standing nearly 6 ft at the shoulder and weighing up to 2,000 lbs. Its widely spread horns curve out and back in a semicircle and may reach a length of 6 ft. For many centuries it has been domesticated as a draft animal. Wild Water Buffalo are extremely fierce and have been known to kill fully- grown tigers. The water buffalo is a symbol of power, wealth, and comfort. Farmers have found them indispensable, and in many parts, water buffalo make human survival possible.
BULL: This ancient symbol of valour and magnanimity represents male fertility, a fiery temperament, and a role as the dedicated father. The Bull was a sun-god in many cultures and was often used in Heraldry to denote kingly power. The Bull is equated with the god Thor (God of thunder, war, strength, and fertility of Norse mythology). Sin (the moon and vegetation-god of Mesopotamia mythology) is regarded as lord of the calendar and was depicted as riding on a winged Bull (his sacred animal). To the Celts, the Bull represented divine power and strength; to the Druids it was a symbol for the sun and the pro-creativity associated with its forces. The Bull played an important part in the symbolism of the Minoans; according to legend, King Minos had a son who was called the Minotaur because he was half Bull and half human.
BULL'S HORNS: Denotes strength, power and fortitude; horns were used also as divine power. The bull's horns represented fertility of the earth, growth, and generation, analogous to spring, when the earth is fertile and everything is growing abundantly. Bulls were revered as the masculine counterpart to goddesses in the ancient Mediterranean.
BURGANET (Burgonet): A steel cap or helmet anciently worn by infantry. So named after the Burgundians, (French Bourguignons) who were first to use it.
BUSH (brush): A term used for the tail of a fox. A Good luck amulet attached to personal possessions. In ancient times it was believed that it endowed the bearer with the cunning of the animal.
BUSTARD: A type of wild turkey aggressively hunted for its meat with the aid of greyhounds. The great or bearded bustard is the largest game bird in Europe weighing upwards of 25 lbs. and a metre tall. It inhabits the temperate regions of Europe and Asia, and was formerly common in Great Britain. An ancient emblem of Hungary and is symbolic of the hunt, and said to be betoken on one of noble prominence and grace.
BUTTERFLY: The Greek emblem of Psyche or the Soul. The Soul, considered collectively, has the care of all that which is soulless, and it traverses the whole heaven, appearing sometimes in one form and sometimes in another. Butterflies represent frivolity, the soul's ascent to immortality, and freedom.
BUZZARDS: Representative of a rapacious person, intimidating and persistent.
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Heraldry Symbolism Library by Armorial Gold Heraldry Services is provided as a free resource tool for Heraldry enthusiasts. The Heraldry Symbolism Library and the information contained therein, has been researched through original manuscripts and Armorial Golds own sources. The Heraldry Symbolism Library is provided as a free resource tool for Heraldry enthusiasts. Reproduction in any form is prohibited.