ARMORIAL GOLD HERALDRY SYMBOLISM LIBRARY
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PALE: One of the nine honourable ordinaries. It is a vertical line, set upright in the middle of the shield and occupying one-third of the field. It seldom contains more than three charges. Said to denote military strength and the governor of a powerful legion.
PALET: Diminutive of the Pale. See Ordinaries.
PALL: A figure having the form of the letter Y. It consists of half a pale issuing from the base, and conjoined in the fesse point with half a saltier from the dexter chief and sinister chief. It is said to represent a liturgical vestment worn over the chasuble by the pope, archbishops, and some bishops in the Roman Catholic Church. It is betoken by the pope on archbishops and bishops having metropolitan jurisdiction as a symbol of their participation in papal authority; secular tradition of emperors and other high officials wearing a special scarf usually of velvet as a badge of office.
PALM BRANCH: In pre-Christian times the palm was regarded as a symbol of victory, justice, and high honour. It is the symbol of Saint Anastasia. The palm branch became an insignia for all those who, martyr or saint, deserved victory over evil.
PALM TREE: Betoken on one as a reward for justice, as justice is long in coming to the virtuous. It is a symbolic tree of paradise. Denotes righteousness and resurrection. The Palm tree was sacred to Apollo, the Greek god of light and prophecy. He was born under a palm tree on the Aegean island of Delos. The date palm has been referred to as the tree of life and as such became a symbol of the righteous. See palm branch
PALMERS STAFF: A palmer is a pilgrim privileged to carry a palm-staff; originally a branch of a palm tree carried by a palmer in token of his having been to the Holy Land. Palmers differed from pilgrims in that a pilgrim made his pilgrimage and returned to public or private life, but the wandering palmer spent his life visiting holy shrines, and lived on the benevolence of God. Betoken on one of faith.
PANACHE: See Feather.
PANTHER: The heraldic Panther is often depicted spitting fire from its mouth (and sometimes from its nostrils and its ears), bearing hind legs similar to a lion and front legs similar to an eagle. It is said that a Panther symbolizes that a beautiful woman, though fierce and intense, is very tender and loving to her brood, and will defend them with the hazard of her life and soul. The Panther has been associated with Jesus; in the 'Abodazara' (early Jewish commentaries on the scriptures), it is listed as a surname for the family of Joseph. It tells how a man was healed "in the name of Jesus ben Panther". The Panther was also associated with the Greek God of wine, Dionysus; one story tells how Dionysus was nursed by panthers, and he is sometimes depicted riding a chariot drawn Panthers. The Early Egyptians were known to sacrifice Panthers to various gods and its skin was a symbol of strength and resurrection in their funerary rites. Throughout the ancient world mythological characters wore Panther skins; Astarte, the Phoenician goddess of procreation and birth, rode on a panther. Some people believed that the panther once sacrificed himself so that he could give humankind the gift of spiritual awakening in the form of his skin. In Indian culture the Panther is feared and respected, and historically regarded my many cultures as the protector of the universe.
PANSY: A colourful flowering plant. Pansy divination was said to be a method of fortune telling supposedly used by the Knights of the Round Table. It involved randomly picking a petal off a pansy and looking at its markings. Denotes love, freedom of thought and reflection, and also of good fortune.
PARROT (popinjay, perroquet, papagay, papingay): In olden times called the popinjay, it was early bird in English and French heraldry. It was an Egyptian symbol of wisdom and of good counsel and in wealthy Roman households; it was the function of one slave to care for the family bird, which was often a parrot. In Medieval and renaissance Europe, it was only royalty or the very wealthy that kept parrots.
PARTI PER: Arms divided by lines of partition (raguly, embattled, rayonnee etc) are referred to as 'Parted (or Parti) per'. Most contemporary Armorists drop the word parted (or Parti) and use "per" only. It is said these types of partitioned shields took their origin from the parti-coloured coats, which were actually worn as garments when Heraldry first arose. The symbolism lies in their tinctures, furs or patterns, and charges (if any are so blazoned) and not in the partition type or style; partitioning a shield in such a way was also a means of 2 or more branches of the same family being represented on one coat of arms or a reference to kinfolk such as the house of the father and the house of the mother etc. The primary aim of Heraldry was to produce the most striking effect at a glance, and the shield attitude (partitions) being adopted merely as a means of distinction between one coat and another.
PARTRIDGE: An old game bird related to the pheasant and the grouse. A symbol of the Sacred King, as it is said that the partridge gathers its own under its wing and even permits it to be injured in order to decoy predators from its helpless nestlings. Said to denote cunning and guile.
PASCHAL LAMB: Or Holy lamb is depicted passant, carrying a flag charged with the cross of St. George, and a circle of glory over its head. It is a symbol of faith, innocence, bravery, gentleness, purity, and resolute spirit.
PEACOCK (peafowl): Sacred to Hera (Juno), daughter of Titans Cronus and Rhea, wife and sister of Zeus. A medieval symbol of the soul, signifying beauty, power, and knowledge and is also a religious symbol of resurrection.
PEGASUS: The flying horse of Greek mythology. Pegasus was born of the blood of the decapitated Medusa, and mounting the Medusa's head upon Pegasus enabled Bellerophon to slay the Chimera. It is said that one day Pegasus pranced around so frivolously that his hooves created a spring called Hippocrene, which was alleged to have magic power in its waters. If one were to drink water from this spring, one would be gifted with the art of poetry. The Pegasus is symbolic of poetic genius and inspiration, vision and refinement.
PELICAN: A Christian symbol of charity and sacrifice. It owes its stature as an emblem of sacrifice to its long beak and sack where it stores small fish to feed its young. In the process of feeding, the bird appears to open its own breast with its bill. The reddish tinge of its plumage and the redness of its beak prompted the legend that it drew its own blood to feed its young; if shown feeding her young ("in her piety"), it symbolizes filial love.
PEREGRINE FALCON: Said to fly higher than any other living creature, the Peregrine is a symbol of strength and power, and those who bear its symbol are said to always strive for excellence; a perfectionist.
PHEASANT: This ancient game bird was named from Phasis, a stream of the Black Sea. Because of its evasiveness and dexterity, the Pheasant became a favourite game bird of the ancient Romans. Denotes an alert person of many resources.
PHEON (broad arrow): Barded head of a dart, javelin or arrow, pointing down, with long barbs that are engrailed on the inner edge. The order of the golden pheon was a kingdom level award given to those Outlands archers who the crown felt exhibited great skill in target archery, or who greatly enriched the kingdom through service in the practice of archery. Denotes dexterity and nimble wit; readiness for battle.
PHOENIX: The mythical bird that lives for 500 years, builds its own funeral pyre, is consumed by the flames, and rises anew from the ashes. This bearing symbolizes the rising and setting of the sun, as well as immortality, resurrection, and life after death.
PIGEON: Pigeons were used as messenger carriers by the early Persians, Egyptians, Phoenicians and later the Romans. Betoken on one who is virtuous, and also denotes peace and wisdom. It is said that in 43 B.C., Brutus used homing pigeons to communicate with his consuls during a siege by Mark Antony. Not only are Pigeons very fast, they don't languish under enemy assault. In ancient Mesopotamia, Pigeons were carried at sea and released from ships, and after orientating themselves, instinctively fly towards land to reach the nearest shore. A flying pigeon can sight land at a distance of 35 km, which was sufficient, at that time, to allow mariners to navigate. So it is said. In heraldry the Pigeon is often used as a mariners symbol.
PIKE: A long spear usually of ash, with a small piercing head. The point was made first of flint, later of bronze, and ultimately of steel; the spear has been in use since prehistoric times, originally as a missile or lance type weapon. Up to 20 feet in length, they were popular with the Scots, Swiss and Flemings during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. Although the symbolism is the same as the lance; it is also said of the pike to be symbolic of the swift and straight current which carries away the foolhardy.
PIKEMAN: Seventeenth-century infantry consisted largely of pikemen and musketeers. The Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, on the banks of the River Esk near Musselburgh, Scotland on 10 September 1547, was part of the conflict known as the Rough Wooing. It was the last pitched battle between Scottish and English armies To oppose the English south of Edinburgh, the Earl of Arran had levied a large army, consisting mainly of pikemen with contingents of Highland archers. By the 1640s the pikemen's main weapon was 18 feet (5.48 metres) long in theory, but often shorter in practice, for soldiers sometimes cut off a foot or two to make it more manageable. They also carried a sword, though this was generally of poor quality. At the beginning of the century pikemen wore a rimmed helmet (‘pikeman's pot’), breast- and back-plate, and articulated tassets covering the thighs, but armour was discarded as the century went on. The pikemen of the New Model Army seem not to have worn body armour, and Sir James Turner reported that in 1671 pikemen were ‘naked’—that is, unarmoured—everywhere save in the Netherlands It is said of the pike to be symbolic of the swift and straight current which carries away the foolhardy.
PILE: A Sub-ordinary, fitted for an engineer or for one who has shown great ability in any kind of construction; represents the large pieces of wood used by engineers in the construction of (military) bridges or of buildings on insecure or marshy ground. When only one pile is found borne on a shield it very much resembles a pennon or small pointed flag, and it may be that this was intended when only one is represented.
PILLAR: See Column.
PINEAPPLE: Originally called pineapple because of its shape and external appearance to that of the cone of the pine tree. As early as 1492 Christopher Columbus found pineapple growing at Guadeloupe and carried it back to Spain to Queen Isabella. Ancient sea captains would place a pineapple on their gatepost when returning from a long journey, to let their neighbours know they were home. It became the symbol of elite social standing and hospitality.
PINCERS: Honourable emblem of the smiths trade.
PINE CONE (pine-apple): The ancient Greeks and Assyrians viewed the pinecone as a symbol of masculinity because of its phallic shape. It formed the apex of the thyrsus staff, which represented both fertility and immortality. As the emblem of Artemis, it represented feminine purity. It was also the emblem of the Roman goddess Venus (Aphrodite). In Christianity, the pinecone forms the crown of the Tree of Life. Symbolizes immortality and fertility.
PINE TREE (Fir): The tree of life and humanity. A pine tree in the forest symbolizes long-suffering, steadfast friendships, and enduring fame. According to Virgil, early Romans decorated pine trees with little masks of Bacchus (a fertility god). As the wind blew the masks around, Bacchus was believed to grant fertility to every part of the tree the masks faced. It is said to symbolize immortality, resiliency, longevity, and rebirth.
PIPES (music): Festivity and rejoicing. See Musical Pipes.
PLATE: See Roundles.
PLOUGH: An implement of husbandry. Betoken on one who laboured in the earth and depended upon providence for the event.
PLUME: See Feathers.
PLUMMET: The weight used on a level. It symbolizes equity and upright action; denotes a virtuous person.
POLEARM: Any of a number of weapons with a cutting or slashing blade at one end attached to a long pole for a handle. The halberd, guisarm, bill, bec-de-corbin, and poleaxe are all specific kinds of polearms, rising in popularity during the 15th century and into the 16th amongst the infantry. As charges they are generally symbols of power, guardianship and authority.
POLEAXE (pollaxe, polaxe): A staff weapon used by Knights. The blade was an axe-head, usually balanced by a hammer-type head, and surmounted by a steel spike. Used from the fifteenth century for foot combats. The shaft was of ash other hardwood, mounted by an axe blade that had a forward point for thrusting and a thin projection on the back for piercing armour or pulling a horseman off balance. The poleaxe and halberd were specialized weapons for fighting armoured men-at-arms and penetrating knightly armour. It is said that pole in the name refers not to the staff, but to the Old English word poll which meant head. Betoken on one of dignity and repute; readiness for the ordeal of battle and the defence of purpose through allegiance to the sovereign; loyalty, conviction, unconquerable will.
POMEGRANATE: From the Old English Pomgarnet, the garnet no doubt for the crimson coloured seeds of the pomegranate; sacred to Hera (Greek mythology), the daughter of Cronos and Rhea, and queen of the Olympian gods. She was worshipped as the goddess of marriage, women, and childbirth; her sacred emblems were the apple, pomegranate and peacock. The biblical name for the pomegranate was the rimmon, which is derived from the word rim, meaning to bear children. An ancient symbol of fertility and also of fecundity.
POMEIS: See Roundles.
POMEL: See Hilt.
POPPY: Is represented in heraldry as a sanguine (blood) quatrefoil. The poppy has been the symbol of the dead and of sleep since antiquity. The poppy was a flower dedicated to the Egyptian Goddess Nix, who was the Goddess of the Night. They were also dedicated to Thantos, God of Death and his twin brother Hypnos, God of Sleep, as well as his Son, Morpheus, the God of Dreams. The seeds were offered to the gods during death ceremonies. Over time, the poppy became a symbol of sacrifice and of remembrance; also signifies hope and joy.
PORCUPINE: Symbol of invincibility. The badge of King Louis XII of France (1498-1515) who used as is motto: "Cominus et eminus" (from near and afar), an allusion to the myth of Porcupines throwing their spines at their enemies.
PORTCULLIS (castle gate): The frame of wood, pointed at the bottom, used to guard a castle gate, always emblazoned with chains on either side. It was one of the royal badges of the Tudors. Portcullises were generally controlled from an interior room on the gatehouse, raising and lowering it as required; symbol of security and protection.
POT (vessel, pottery): The function of most of these vases was to hold water, wine, and oil. Said to be a symbol of liberality and of charity.
POTENT: Similar to Vair. Composed of figures shaped like the ends of a crutch, arranged in rows, and of alternate colours. Mark of dignity.
PRAWNS (shrimp): It is said that Shrimp were called one of the old men of the sea. Shrimp got this name from their long antennae and curved spines, which made them, resemble old men. For this reason shrimp have come to symbolize long life, and the prayer that one could live long enough for one's spine to curve like that of a Shrimp.
PRIMROSE (Quatrefoil): The bearer of good tidings.
PROBOSCIDES (probisces): Elephant trunks; usually represented in pairs; the elephant symbolizes longevity, strength, royalty, dignity, patience, wisdom, happiness, and good fortune.
PUFFIN: Known as the "Sea-Parrot", the Puffin is a symbol of family and its bearer is the consummate provider. He is the emblem of Norway, and is used by several countries as a civic amulet.
PYRAMID: It is said that the pyramid represented the primal hill upon which Ra (God of the sun, and one of the major gods in Egyptian mythology) climbed out from the waters of Nun (the primeval water that encircles the entire world, and from which everything was created, personified as a god). It is also said to represent the rays of the Sun falling upon the earth, providing sustenance for the Ba (the soul) of the king within. It is a rare device in heraldry but some writers say it is borne as a symbol of duration and longevity.
PYTON-PITHON: A monstrous serpent in Greek mythology, and the Child of Gaia, the goddess earth. It was produced from the slime and mud that was left on the earth by the great flood of Deucalion. It lived in a cave and guarded the oracle of Delphi on mount Parnassus. No man dared to approach the beast and the people asked Apollo for help. He came down from Mount Olympus with his silver bow and golden arrows. With using only one arrow he killed the serpent and claimed the oracle for himself. After that, he was known as Pythian Apollo. In memory of this victory, Apollo started the Pythian games, which were held every four years. The old name of Delphi, Pytho, refers to the serpent. Note: In Heraldry use Pithon for winged serpents and Python for non-venomous constrictor snakes of the boa family. The Pithon or Pyton signifies guardianship.
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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.