Home Page > Heraldic Topics for The General Populace > "Commonly Known" Heraldic Blazon/Emblazon Knowledge
The purpose of this page is to aid heralds and scribes to find that item that they cannot recall or remember. If you feel something should be here, feel free to drop a note to the webminister. Pictures are not included as the person putting this together is not an artist. The information here is aimed at SCA heralds and scribes, and attempts are made to keep the information germain to SCA usage, which is not always the same as mundane heraldic practice. Items are being added/updated as people ask questions, provide corrections or request them - you may want to check back here periodically ...
Note that there are many websites on the internet that discuss heraldry, not all of them limit themselves to SCA heraldry, and many of those have terms and/or illustrations of charges that are not used in SCA heraldry.
You should check out the SCA College of Arms Glossary of Terms if you're not sure about something.
One useful site you may want to check is:
http://dragon_azure.tripod.com/UoA/AnimalBlazonry.htmlNote that we make no claims to the accuracy of what is on that website, but he adds some images, and a quick scan shows nothing illegal in SCA armory ....
This page does not cover every single aspect of "how to do heraldry" -- that subject is so large that the many books on the market that are available can't cover it all. This webpage assumes basic working knowledge of heraldic blazon/emblazon, and is really here for reference/reminders of things that are easy to forget.
Note: that the descriptions given often use a combination of heraldic blazon and english -- the english descriptions are assuming you are facing/drawing the armory. Therefore when speaking of dexter you might see (left), because while dexter is really "right", when dealing with armory and looking at the armory in question, you are seeing dexter on the LEFT side of the shield.
Default, Default Posture, and proper are terms used throughout -- these specifically refer to the position of a critter or charge when not specified or the tincture(s) when not specified in the blazon. See also: College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Default Postures and College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Conventional "Proper" Colorings.
[Basics] [Beasts and Monsters] [Birds] [Fish] [Other Charges] [Plants] [References]
BasicsThese are some terms that can throw people off, or are easy to forget exactly what the term means:
Attitudes -- The following list of "attitudes" is taken from Friar (A Dictionary of Heraldry), except for couché (see entry for source). The list is not everything in the book, as some are terms not commonly used in SCA heraldry, some of the wording has been modified. To see how to draw many of the beasts, birds, or fish in these 'attitudes', see the Herald's Handbook article Heraldry for Scribes Section 6 A.
Unless otherwise specified, a creature (beast, bird, fish, monster ...) faces to dexter. For other charges, the end of a charge that is to chief when the charge is palewise will be to dexter when the same charge is placed fesswise (as if rotated 90deg. counterclockwise). A sword fesswise, for example, has its point to dexter, and an arrow fesswise has its feathers to dexter. The most common exception is the (quill) pen: when palewise, it has its nib to base, but when it is fesswise, the nib is to dexter.
Attributes -- The following list of "attributes" is taken from Friar (A Dictionary of Heraldry) as well. The list is not everything in the book, as some are terms not commonly used in SCA heraldry, some of the wording has been modified. Some of these terms are only used if the attribute in question is of a different tincture from the rest of the charge (such as armed gules, etc.) -- otherwise the terms are not used.
Bendwise -- this is "in the direction of a bend". It means that the charge itself is in the direction of a bend -- or from the dexter chief (upper left) corner going down to the sinister base (lower right). When dealing with charges such as swords, if they are described as bendwise, the blazon will often not describe the location of the point or the hilt -- that is because there is a default position for the sword -- the hilt is in base and the point is in chief. In the case of a sword bendwise, the point would be at the dexter chief and the hilt would be at the sinister base.
Bendwise Sinister -- very much like bendwise, but the position starts at the sinister chief and ends at the dexter base. That's the only difference.
Cotissing -- this term refers to adding "cotises" to the edge of an ordinary. This is the addition of a stripe parallel to the ordinary's edge. Any double-sided ordinary may be cotised in SCA heraldry. Cotising an ordinary is considered to be the addition of secondary charges. The cotising for a pale is called endorses, and the whole would be blazoned a pale endorsed. The cotises for a chevron may also be called couple-closes.
Counterchange -- the term refers to counter-coloring -- coloring opposite a line of division, such that the background from one side of the line becomes the color of the charge(s) on the other, and vice-versa.
Default -- Often used as an adjective meaning "standard, not needing to be blazoned," it may be applied to arrangement, orientation, or posture. For the current listings of default postures/orientations/etc., see: College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Default Postures. (Definition from the COA Glossary, see also Proper.)
Diapering -- this is a completely artistic embellishment of a coat of arms, usually done by using a pattern of the same tincture (darker or lighter) as the field, and sometimes charges, to give some "texture". This is not blazoned, and is only used by some scribes. If diapering is done, care should be taken to avoid having it look as if the field were a semé or a field treatment were used.
In Bend, In Bend Sinister, In Fess, In Pale, In Chevron, and so on -- These terms are used to describe a group of charges, and refer to the orientation of each charge of the group in relation to the other. For example, you might have three mullets in bend -- this would be three stars in the position of the bend -- one at the upper left, one in the middle and one at the lower right following the line of the bend. If you have dissimilar charges, then the blazon would list the individual charges, with the first being in the dexter chief position, and the last in the list being in the sinister base position. The same can be said of other orientations as noted.
Fess -- a horizontal bar. If using the line of partition dancetty, the charge is called a dance. If two small fesses are used, they are sometimes called a bar gemel -- that is the single charge bar gemel is literally two "fesslets", so two bar's gemel would be two groups of two fesses each. A field divided into multiple fesses is called barry (and is normally an even number of fesses -- starting at six by default).
Fesswise -- similar to the other orientations given, this is simply the horizontal version.
Field Divisions -- the various ways you can divide the field. These can be seen in the Herald's Handbook article Heraldry for Scribes Section 2 A.
Field Treatments -- see Semés and Field Treatments below
Fimbriation -- a charge is called fimbriated when it is edged by a narrow band of color or metal. The fimbriation always must allow for the rule of tincture, and is used with simple charges to enable a charge to be used on a field it might not otherwise be allowed on. For example, Azure, a cross gules fimbriated argent gives a white outline on the red cross, allowing it to be placed on a blue field.
Fitchy (fitché) -- pointed at the foot or base. This is normally applied to crosses, which gives the lower limb of the cross a point.
Flory (Fleury) -- Charges terminating in or ornamented with fleurs-de-lis, should not be confused with semi-de-lis, which means the charge is covered with them.
Fretty -- Geometric charge -- this appears to be an interlaced field of bendlets and bendlets sinister, but by current precedent in the College of Arms, is considered to be a charge that covers the field.
Furs -- the different fur types can be a bit confusing, and while not drawn here for you, they are described. You can see drawings of the different furs in the the Herald's Handbook article Heraldry for Scribes Section 3 A. From the College of Arms Glossary (College of Arms Glossary of Terms): Furs composed equally of a metal and a color (e.g. vair) are considered neutral for contrast purposes. Furs that use a metal as an underlying tincture (e.g. ermine) are treated as metals for contrast. Furs that use a color as the underlying tincture (e.g. pean) are treated as colors for contrast purposes.
You can specify specific tinctures for the ermine spots, such as argent, ermined gules if you wanted to use an ermine field with a different tincture.
It is possible for both Vair and Potent furs to specify the colors, such as vairy gules and argent, so that you can use the pattern of the fur, but with different tinctures.
Grillage -- geometric charge -- a set of pallets interlaced with a set of barrulets, basically fretty (charge) set crosswise. By current precedent of the College of Arms, this is a charge, not a field treatment.
Jessant-de-lis -- normally done with a leopard's face, but can be done with other animals, this is the face affronty, with a fleur-de-lis appearing to be shoved through the head. This appears such that the bottom of the fleur is issuing from the mouth, and the top appears above the head.
Lines of Division (or Partition) -- the lines used to divide a coat of arms. These can be seen in the Herald's Handbook article Heraldry for Scribes Section 2 A.
Specific terms for complex lines of division are used -- these are other than "straight-lines". The following list are the common lines of division, with some explanations, but see the article noted above to see how they should be drawn. If you are interested in using other lines of division you find from other sources, check to see if they are allowed in SCA heraldry, they may not be (many "new" lines were created after the SCA period ends) ...
These lines may be used on either a field division or on the edges of an ordinary. In the cases of ordinaries that are not peripheral (on the edges, such as chiefs, bordures, etc.), except for embattled (see bretressé), the line should be used on both sides.
Ordinaries -- the basic charges that are used in heraldry. These can be seen in the Herald's Handbook article Heraldry for Scribes Section 4 A.
Palewise -- and again, this is similar to the others, but is the vertical version.
Postures -- many animal, monster, beast, bird, fish, etc. postures be seen in the Heraldry for Scribes article, with explanations how to draw them, in Section 6 A. The default postures are listed below when examining specific charges, but for a table of those postures recognized as the default by the SCA's College of Arms, go to the College of Arms Glossary of Terms, and scroll down to Table 4 -- Conventional S.C.A. Default Postures.
Proper -- many animals, monsters, beasts, birds, fishes, plants ... things found in nature (and a few that aren't) have default or "proper" tinctures. The default or proper tinctures are listed below when examining specific charges, but for a table listing those tinctures recognized by the SCA's College of Arms as proper for individual charges, you should check College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Conventional "Proper" Colorings.
Semés and Field Treatments -- semés are fields that are scattered with a specific charge, sort of like an ermine field, which is covered with ermine tails. Some feel that this is "random", most people tend to use a pattern. There are some semé fields that have specific names. Field treatments are similar to semés, but are the field itself, whereas a semé is a series of charges placed onto the field. Semés are blazoned in the form <field tincture> semy of <charges> <charge tincture>, e.g., Azure semy of garbs Or, unless there is a specific term for the semé field. You can see some of these in the the Herald's Handbook article Heraldry for Scribes Section 3 A.
Varied Fields -- these are fields composed of a series of geometrical lines/divisions. This is only some of what's possible, you can combine some of these to get some truly interesting and unique (and sometimes blinding) fields.
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Beasts and MonstersNote, to see how to draw many of these beasts in different positions see the Herald's Handbook article Heraldry for Scribes Section 6 A. If a default posture/position is given, it comes from the College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Default Postures, if a proper color is given, it comes College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Conventional "Proper" Colorings.
Antelope -- there are two forms -- one is a "monster", the other is the natural creature. The monster is depicted with the face of an heraldic tyger, tusks, serrated horns, an antelope's body, a lion's tail and tufts down its spine. If using the natural antelope, it is blazoned as such (i.e., a natural antelope).
Badger -- default position is statant. Sometimes the term brock is used instead, they are the same creature.
Bear -- mundane default appears to be sejant erect, but there does not appear to be an SCA default position.
Boar -- no default position, proper is brown, and is considered to be a color for the purposes of the Rule of Tincture.
Brock -- see Badger.
Bull -- no default position, there is no proper color - it must be defined.
Cat -- in mundane heraldry, a cat refers to the wildcat of Scots heraldry. In SCA blazons, "cat" refers to the domestic cat, and is sometimes blazoned so to avoid confusion. There is no default position for a cat.
Cockatrice -- an heraldic monster, generally depicted as a wyvern with the head of a cock. By default it is statant, wings addorsed.
Cow -- see Bull.
Coney -- see Rabbit.
Deer -- a male is a stag, a buck, or a hart; a female is a doe or hind. The big difference is that the male is shown with antlers (or attires). The deer category includes reindeer and moose, these are distinguished by the shape of the antlers. Special terms that are used for deer postures: at gaze is statant guardant (standing, looking out of the armory); lodged is couchant; trippant is passant. Proper is brown.
Dog -- there is no default posture. If the term used is simply a dog, the default dog is a talbot. Otherwise the dog's type must be mentioned (often found in heraldry are greyhounds, bloodhounds, mastiffs and foxhounds). There is no proper color - it must be defined.
Dragon -- usually drawn with spikes, barbs, bat-wings and taloned feet.
Sometimes called a Wyrm. The standard dragon has four legs, a dragon with
two legs is called a wyvern. The tail can be barbed, this is fairly standard
but is left to artistic license. A dragon's default posture is segreant
(rampant), while a wyvern is statant by default.
Variations on dragons include: The Hydra -- multi-headed, the heraldic form can have as few as three heads up to nine (the number of heads should be blazoned). The Oriental Dragon -- wingless, and drawn in a very stylized (Chinese or Japanese) form. The Oriental Dragon in the SCA should have at the most three toes on each foot, as those with four were reserved for the King of Korea and five to the Emperor of China.
Elephant -- statant by default. An elephant proper is gray with white tusks, and for the purposes of the Rule of Tincture is considered to be a metal.
Fox -- a fox proper is red with black "socks" and white at the tip of the tail, which is considered, for the Rule of Tincture, to be a color.
Frog -- a frog is tergiant by default.
Goat -- there doesn't appear to be a default posture for goats. The common depiction is long-horned, long-haired, and bearded. A goat rampant may also be called climant. Included in this category are sheep and ram.
Griffin or Gryphon -- head, wings and forefeet of an eagle, the hindquarters of a lion, and mammalian ears. The default posture is segreant (rampant). There is charge called a male griffin or keythong, which is lacking wings, but has spikes radiating from its body.
Hare -- see Rabbit.
Harpy -- a vulture with the head and breast of a woman. The harpy is close by default.
Hedgehog -- see Urchin.
Hippogriff -- very much like the griffin, but with the hindquarters of a horse rather than a lion. Unlike the griffin there is no default posture.
Horse -- no default posture, or proper tincture (it must always be specified).
Hydra -- see Dragon.
Keythong -- see Griffin.
Lion -- by default the lion is shown rampant. A lion without a mane may be blazoned as an ounce, catamount, cougar, mountain lion, or a natural panther.
Mermaid/Merman -- a seamonster with the body of maiden conjoined with a fish's tail. It is usually depicted with mirror and comb, and in that position is blazoned as a mermaid in her vanity. Mermaids are erect affronty by default, and a mermaid proper is a caucasian human with green tail and yellow hair -- for the Rule of Tincture a mermaid is considered to be neutral.
Panther -- a maneless lion, the coat is often charged with a semy of roundels, with flames spewing from its mouth and ears. It is guardant by default in English heraldry, although since guardant only refers to head position, the body must be specified. When blazoned a natural panther the term refers to the beast as found in nature.
Pegasus -- an eagle-winged horse, there is no default posture. If the pegasus is rampant it may also be blazoned segreant.
Pithon -- a winged snake. Sometimes called an amphiptère, particularly in French blazon. When leaping, it may be called a jaculus. If the wings are not bat-wings, it should be blazoned a winged serpent. There is no default posture for a pithon, although the most common posture is erect with the wings addorsed.
Rabbit -- default is sejant(? Not listed in current COA Glossary). A hare or rabbit proper is brown, which for the purposes of the Rule of Tincture is a color.
Ram -- see Goat.
Salamander -- May be either a monster or the natural reptile. The unmodified term refers to the monster, which is a lizard engulfed in flames. The natural salamander is drawn as a lizard, and the term lizard is preferred. In either case, the default posture is statant(? Not listed in current COA Glossary).
Sea-X -- where "X" is a specific type of critter, such as Sea-Horse,
etc. Sea monsters are ones that typically (except in a few cases) are the top
half of the critter, the bottom half of a fish. The default posture is erect.
Sea monsters include Sea-Horse, Sea-Lion, Sea-Dragon, Sea-Dog, and Sea-Wolf.
Sea-Horse and Sea-Lion also have natural equivalents that look quite different -- when using a natural Sea-Horse the term natural should be specified, or the term hippocampus may be used. The term natural sea-lion refers to the seal. When describing the sea-serpent sometimes the term ondoyant is used -- this shows the serpent swimming horizontally, in a wavy pattern.
Serpent -- the standard heraldic form is of a non-descript venomous serpent, but sometimes a specific species is named. Serpents may be nowed (knotted); glissant (wavy); involved (in annulo, head biting the tail); erect. There does not seem to be a default posture.
Sheep -- see Goat.
Squirrel -- sejant erect by default. In that posture it is often drawn holding a nut between its forepaws, even if not specifically blazoned.
Turtle -- by default is tergiant palewise.
Tyger -- The unmodified term tyger refers to the heraldic monster.
The body is like a wolf, it has a crest of tufts on the back of its neck, and a tusk
pointing down from its nose.
A natural tiger or Bengal tiger depicts the natural cat, like a maneless lion, but with stripes on its coat. When blazoned proper they are tawny with black stripes.
Unicorn -- generally described as having a bearded chin, horse's body, tufted cloven hooves, and the tail of a lion, along with the single horn issuing from its forhead for which it is named. The unicorn is rampant by default.
Urchin -- or hedgehog, statant by default, an urchin proper is brown with a white face and belly (considered to be a color for the purposes of the Rule of Tincture).
Wyvern -- see Dragon.
Zebra -- a zebra proper is white striped black, and is considered to be a metal for the purposes of the Rule of Tincture.
Beast Parts (Heads, Limbs, Tails ...):
General note: Human parts when defined as proper are caucasian by default, i.e., pink, which for the purposes of the Rule of Tincture are considered to be a metal.
Arm -- the upper limb of a human, by default this includes the entire
arm couped just below the shoulder, unvested, with a clenched fist. It
is commonly shown as a dexter arm erect, the elbow slightly bent to dexter;
sometimes this is explicitly blazoned as embowed -- i.e., an "arm fesswise
embowed" is with the fist to dexter, the elbow to base.
A cubit arm is an arm cut off below the elbow, but the default position is the same.
Attire -- the single antler of a stag. When both are used, the term is stag's attires. When both antlers are affixed to a scalp or the top of the skull, the term is a massacré. When shown fesswise the 'stump' is to dexter. Default tincture is white or light yellow-brown.
Death's Head -- see Skull.
Gambe -- see Leg.
Hand -- a human appendage, the default hand is the dexter hand, and the default posture is apaumy and couped. A hand may be aversant, the opposite of apaumy, with the back of the hand toward the viewer; it may be clenched - forming a fist (and may then be simply blazoned as a fist). Gloves and Gauntlets are similar in shape to the hand.
Head -- heads of humans and beasts are common charges in heraldry.
The default posture is facing to dexter except for the owl's head which
is guardant by default. The line of division is specified (erased
is torn off; couped is cut in a straight line), with the line normally
being severed where the neck meets the shoulders.
A head cabossed or caboshed is guardant, with no neck showing. Some animals have special terminology for this posture: Fox's heads cabossed are called fox's masks, cat's heads cabossed are called cat's faces (the same for leopards).
A pelican's head includes the neck and part of its breast distilling blood. Jessant-de-lys is a head cabossed with a fleur-de-lys issuant from the mouth and the back of the head.
Human heads vary in default postures. Some are affronty or guardant by default, some aren't. As a rule of thumb, male heads face to dexter by default, children and female heads face affronty or guardant.
Beast Heads default to dexter.
Bird Heads default to dexter, except for Owl's Heads, which default to guardant (affronty).
Horn -- animals horns must have the type of animal specified, and some
have specific terminology. For a deer, see Attire.
Horns tend to have their points to chief or to dexter by default (if palewise, to chief, if fesswise, to dexter). The default tincture is white or light yellow brown.
Jambe -- see Leg.
Leg -- a leg should be specified as erased or couped. Some legs have specific terms: A lion's leg may be called it's gambe or jambe; bird's legs may be severed a la quise -- at the thigh. A gambe or jambe is shown with the claws up (and palewise), otherwise a leg is normally with the foot in the base position. More specifically: Beast: Palewise, claws to chief; Bird: Palewise, claws to base; Dragon: Palewise, claws to chief; Human: Palewise, foot to base.
Lure -- see Wings.
Massacré -- see Attire.
Skull -- The "empty" head of a creature -- only the bone. A "skull" by default is a human skull. If the jaw is missing, it is called a death's head. By default a skull is affronty. It is possible to register other types of skulls as well ...
Tail -- The type of creature the tail belongs to must be specifically blazoned
(i.e., "a Lion's tail"). Tails are erased by default, with the severed end to base.
The term queue refers specifically to a lion's tail. It may be fourchy (forked) or nowed (knotted), just as though attached to the lion.
Vol -- see Wings.
Wings -- wings can be displayed by themselves, or can be conjoined to many other charges. The default wing is feathered. When used as a charge, a single wing is the dexter wing, and it is displayed by default. More often they are found in pairs, conjoined. In this case the charge is called a vol if the wings are pointing up (a standard displayed position without the bird attached). If the wings are conjoined and the tips are inverted (pointing down) the charge is called a lure, or wings conjoined in lure.
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BirdsIn general, birds have different default positions based on the bird type. If the blazon specifies "a bird" or "x birds" (where x is a number), and no specific position for the birds, then they are in their default positions (if no default is given for a specific bird type, it is most likely close). If a default posture/position is given, it comes from the College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Default Postures, if a proper color is given, it comes College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Conventional "Proper" Colorings.
Note, to see how to draw birds in different positions see the Herald's Handbook article Heraldry for Scribes Section 6 A.
Bird Postures -- bird positions can be confusing, especially the wings, so the following is a list attempting to give some idea ... note that by default birds are close, unless stated otherwise.
Bat -- by default displayed guardant -- wings out, facing out of the armory toward the viewer. Also called a reremouse.
Crane -- by default in its vigilance -- this is standing on one foot, holding a rock in the other.
Crow -- by default close, and with hairy feathers. A crow speaking has its mouth open as if in speech. Ravens, and Coughs are considered Crows for heraldic purposes. A crow proper is black with red beak and legs, a crow proper is considered to be a color for the purposes of the Rule of Tincture.
Dove -- by default close. It is usually depicted with a little curled tuft on the top of its head. The proper coloration is white, with pink (some use gules) beak and legs, for the purposes of the Rule of Tincture a dove proper is a metal.
Eagle -- by default displayed. In English heraldry the wings have their tips drawn up, in German heraldry the tips of the wings are down (displayed inverted).
Falcon -- by default close. Falcons are often depicted as belled and jessed -- with thongs and bells tied to the feet. The term hooded can be used if a falconer's hood is on the bird. The falcon may be drawn as preying or trussing upon a smaller beast or bird, holding it in its talons while ripping it with its beak. The falcon category includes hawks, as they are interchangeable in heraldry.
Martlet -- this is a stylized form of swallow. It has the typical forked tail, but its defining characteristic is the lack of legs -- small tufts of feathers appear in their place. The martlet is close by default.
Ostrich -- by default close, holding a horseshoe in its mouth.
Owl -- by default close reguardant (standing, facing sinister), looking out of the shield toward the person viewing it (so you can see the full face). Owls are usually shown with "ears" - tufts of feathers on either side of the head. Unless explicitly specified, the owl's head is always guardant.
Peacock -- the wings are close by default -- it is more important to blazon the tail. See below for a discussion from Laurel on posture. A peacock proper is mostly blue and green with "eyes" in the tail, and is considered to be a color for the purpose of the Rule of Tincture. From the Laurel Sovereign of Arms, in the April 2007 Letter of Acceptance and Returns cover letter:
We hereby rule that pavonated will no longer be used in SCA blazons. Further, we'll be examining the registered peacocks, and where necessary, reblazoning them in accordance with the definitions below:
Peacocks in other postures must be explicitly blazoned (e.g., rising).
- peacock in his pride - statant affronty, tail raised behind him and spread out;
- peacock - facing dexter, wings close, tail downwards and closed or slightly spread (the default posture);
- peacock contourny - facing sinister, wings close, tail downwards and closed or slightly spread;
- peacock, tail spread - facing dexter, wings close, tail downwards and spread out;
- peacock contourny, tail spread - facing sinister, wings close, tail downwards and spread out.
When the peacock is in its default (i.e. with its tail downwards), there is no heraldic difference for the tail's exact placement (straight to base, curved bendwise, etc.), nor for the exact degree of the tail's spread (closed tight, slightly spread, etc.
Pelican -- the most common posture is in its piety -- wings addorsed, piercing its breast with its beak to feed its young. The same position without the young may be called vulning itself.
Phoenix -- a demi-bird rising from flames. Medieval emblazons often showed an elaborate crest on the head of the bird. The phoenix is displayed by default, even when blazoned rising from flames. The flames do not need to be blazoned -- without flames it is not a phoenix.
Poppinjay -- when proper this bird is green with red details, and is considered a color for the purpose of the Rule of Tincture.
Raven -- see Crow.
Reremouse -- see Bat.
Roc -- a huge bird often shown carrying an elephant in its talons (to show how large it is). In SCA heraldry it is usually drawn as an eagle.
Swallow -- a small bird with a forked tail, which is exaggerated in heraldic emblazons. There is no default position.
Swan -- rousant or rising by default. In SCA heraldry the most popular position is naiant or swimming.
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FishNote, to see how to draw fish in different positions see the Herald's Handbook article Heraldry for Scribes Section 6 A.
By default fish are naiant, unless specified otherwise.
Barnacle -- default is palewise, hinge to chief.
Dolphin -- by default a fierce fish with a spined dorsal. The default position of a dolphin is naiant, and when blazoned as proper, the colors are vert finned and tailed gules, for the purposes of the Rule of Tincture, this is a color. A natural dolphin also defaults to naiant, but when blazoned proper, it is colored in grey tones and is considered to be argent (metal) for purposes of the rules of tincture.
Eel -- the default posture of an eel is fesswise wavy.
Fish -- this is a marine creature, not a monster. Fish are generally naiant by default, the exception being crustaceans which are tergiant by default. This category can include cetaceans, pike, lucy, roach, barbel, whales, and crustaceans (crab, lobster).
Kraken -- by default the tentacles are to chief.
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Abacus -- by default this is fesswise.
Annulet -- a circle or roundel voided.
Anvil -- a single-horned anvil's default orientation is horn to dexter.
Arrow -- by default palewise (vertical), with the point to base
(bottom). An arrow that is described as inverted would have the point to
When an arrow is fesswise (horizontal), the point is to sinister (right) (this is opposite of swords).
Arrowhead -- is what it sounds like. By default the point is down. A related charge is a Pheon -- a steel arrowhead. Other position information is the same as for Arrow.
Axe -- these come in many forms. The default posture is palewise (vertical), with the head to chief (top) and the blade (if single-bladed) to dexter (left). When blazoned as proper the haft is brown (wood).
Battering Ram -- by default fesswise, head to dexter.
Billet -- a rectangle, standing on end so that it is taller than it is wide.
Book -- when open the default orientation is palewise, when closed it is fesswise.
Bomb -- see Grenade.
Bow -- the default bow if not blazoned is a longbow. The default posture for the longbow is palewise, strung, with the string on the sinister side (the right). When a bow is placed fesswise, the string is to base (bottom).
Bridge -- when used you should always specify the number of arches and any other "peculiarities" ... (i.e., a bridge of one arch, a bridge of three arches argent, masoned sable, etc.).
Castle -- normally shown as two towers with a wall between them, the wall having a gate. The term friendly castle refers to a castle with the gate open, there is no heraldic difference between this and simply a castle. If the castle is surmounted by smaller towers, it is called triple-towered.
Chair -- the default orientation for a chair is affronty.
Comet -- A comet consists of an estoile (sometimes a mullet) and a trail of fire. The estoile (called the "head") is by default to the chief, and the trail of fire (called the "beard") is palewise under it. When a comet has the head to base it is called (in SCA heraldry) a shooting star or a falling star.
Compass Star -- see Mullet.
Crescent -- an ancient charge shaped like a quarter moon. By default a crescent has its horns to chief. If the horns are to base it is a crescent pendant (or pendu). If the horns are to sinister (the right) it is a decrescent, and if the horns are to dexter (the left) it is an increscent.
Crossbow -- by default palewise, bow to chief, cocked.
Cup -- by default, a cup is a goblet. In SCA heraldry, it is not covered, in mundane it is by default covered (with a domed lid). In SCA heraldry, if it has a cover it must be explicitly blazoned.
Dance -- a fess dancetty on both the upper and lower edges.
Die -- singular, multiple die are dice. For the purpose of heraldry these are cubes, shown in trian aspect (three-dimensional). When emblazoned, the numbers are left to the artist unless explicitly blazoned.
Drop Spindle -- by default this is palewise.
Drum -- by default a drum is palewise, head to chief.
Escallop -- the shell of a bivalve mollusk, also called a scallop, cockle, or cockleshell. The hinge is to chief by default.
Falling Star -- see Comet.
Feather -- by default palewise, quill point to base.
Fire -- Alternately red and yellow or yellow and red, depending on the field it is being placed on. For the purposes of the Rule of Tincture, fire is neutral.
Fireball -- similar to Grenade, this charge usually has fire issuing from four holes in the sides.
Flame -- see Fire.
Fork -- by default a fork is palewise, tines to chief.
Fountain -- this comes in two forms. The standard (heraldic) fountain is a
roundel barry wavy azure and argent -- when used in a blazon it is unnecessary
to specify the barry or the tinctures. If tinctures other than azure and
argent are used, the whole must be explicitly blazoned, i.e., a roundel
barry wavy vert and Or.
When specified as natural, a fountain is a stonework edifice spouting water. In these cases there are no default tinctures and they must be explicitly blazoned.
Fusil -- see Lozenge.
Goblet -- see Cup.
Goute -- a drop of fluid. They may be drawn in a medieval style
with wavy sides, or more modern, which is fairly smooth and fat. Post period
heraldry evolved terms that are used in the SCA (at the user's descretion):
Gout d'Or -- Or
Gout de sang -- gules
Gout d'eau -- argent
Gout de larms -- azure
Gout de poix -- sable
Gout d'huile -- vert
Gout de vin -- purpure
Grenade -- a roundel with flames issuing from the top. If blazoned proper it would be black with proper flames. Sometimes this charge is called a bomb.
Gurges -- a whirlpool depicted as a spiral going from the outer edge of the armory to the center. Some depictions show a set of concentric annulets, the outermost touching the edge of the shield, but this form is less common. Early SCA heraldry showed this as a field division, but current usage is as a charge.
Hammer -- by default head to chief, striking surface to dexter.
Harp -- by default the forepillar is to dexter (i.e., soundbox to sinister).
Helm -- the default helm is a great helm or barrel helm, and is displayed facing to dexter by default. Other types of helms must be explicitly blazoned ("spangenhelm", "sallet", "barbute", etc.). Viking helms are usually displayed as a cap with either horns or wings (and these must be explicitly blazoned -- i.e., "a winged helm" or "a horned helm"). These are affronty by default.
Horn -- a drinking horn is by default palewise, bell to chief. A hunting or bugle horn is by default bell to dexter, embowed to base. A straight trumpet/horn is by default palewise, bell to chief. A horn of plenty is "effluent to dexter".
Horsehoe -- the default is with the opening to base.
Hourglass -- by default orientation is palewise.
Key -- by default keys are palewise, however there is some confusion between mundane and SCA heraldry as to the location of the wards (the part that goes into the lock) and should be explicitly blazoned, although they appear to always be to the dexter (left) side and/or facing downward if the key is fesswise when drawn. If no specification is given for the location of the wards, assume to chief, but they should normally be blazed as wards to chief or wards to base.
Label -- normally only placed in chief, this is a charge that is a narrow band straight across the arms (from edge to edge), with three shorter arms going toward the base (bottom) of the arms. These shorter arms can be straight, or they can be dovetailed.
Ladle -- by default palewise, bowl to base and facing dexter.
Lance -- see Spear.
Lightning -- in heraldry there are two terms -- flashes and bolts. The former is no longer allowed in SCA heraldry -- it is the one often seen in comic books and such, sometimes called a "shazam" by the heralds. The latter (lightning bolt) is an embattled stripe with barbs at either end.
Lozenge -- a diamond shape. Sometimes called a fusil.
Lute -- by default affronty (strings facing viewer), but with the pegbox visible.
Lure -- see Wings.
Mace -- by default palewise, head to chief.
Mascle -- a lozenge that has been voided.
Mask -- by default a mask is affronty.
Moon -- a moon in her complement or a moon in her plenitude are a roundel with a human face. An increscent moon (or decrescent) is a crescent with a human face in profile.
Mount/Mountain -- a base enarched to chief -- this is simply the representation in heraldry of a hill. A mount proper is vert in mundane heraldry but there is no SCA default. If the mount is cut off at the base it must be blazoned couped. By default a mount or mountain is issuing from base.
Mullet -- a five pointed star by default. A mullet has one point to chief unless otherwise specified. The number of points may vary, ranging from three up to 12. A mullet of three points is no longer allowed in SCA heraldry, and a mullet of more than 12 points cannot be distinguished from a sun and is not allowed. Unique to SCA heraldry are: compass star -- a mullet of four greater and four lesser points; and the riven star - a compass star disjointed per bend sinister.
Nail -- by default palewise, point to base.
Needle -- by default palewise, point to base.
Oar -- by default palewise, blade to chief.
Orle -- a narrow border running parallel to the edge of the shield, but not touching it. A narrower version of this is the tressure, normally in pairs (a double tressure).
Pen -- by default palewise, nib to base.
Polearms -- by default palewise, blade to chief.
Quill -- see Feather.
Rainbow -- an arch of stripes in colors, with clouds at each end of the rainbow. When placed on a color field, a rainbow proper is of four stripes of yellow, red, green and white, with white clouds. When placed on a metal field a rainbow proper is of four stripes of blue, green, gold and red, and the color of the clouds must be specified. When using a natural rainbow it is of 6 stripes of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet, with white clouds and is considered to be neutral for the purpose of the Rule of Tincture.
Recorder -- by default palewise, bell to base, finger holes facing viewer.
Riven Star -- see Mullet.
Roundel -- A roundel is simply a circular shape of a specific color.
They may be blazoned either by using the tincture explicitly (a roundel
tincturename), or by using the name from the list below:
Bezant -- Or
Fountain -- barry wavy azure and argent
Golpe -- purpure
Gunstone, Pellet, or Ogress -- sable
Hurt -- azure
Plate -- argent
Pomme -- vert
Torteau -- gules
Sackbut -- by default palewise, bell to base; when fesswise, bell to dexter.
Scroll -- if closed there is no default orientation, it must be specified; if open, the default is palewise.
Shooting Star -- see Comet.
Sheaf of Arrows -- a group of three arrows, two in saltire and one palewise, tied together where they cross, the points are in the default position for arrows (points to base).
Sheaf of X -- a sheaf (except for a sheaf of wheat, or garb) consists of two objects in saltire surmounted by a third palewise.
Shell -- generic shell, see Escallop.
Shell, Snail -- by default the opening is to dexter.
Shell, Whelk -- by default this is palewise, opening to chief.
Ship -- Ships are sailing vessles of various sorts. They are drawn in heraldry on calm seas, even keel. Ships all face to dexter (the bow is on the right) by default. When proper they are of brown wood. There are many types of ships, for specifics consult your heraldic texts.
Shoe -- by default fesswise, toe to dexter.
Shuttle, Weaver's -- by default fesswise.
Spear -- spears use the same default positions as swords.
Spoon -- by default palewise affronty, bowl to chief.
Spur -- by default palewise, rowel to chief.
Sun -- most commonly drawn as a disk with multiple rays issuing from
it, alternating straight and wavy. Many period depictions show no disk, and all
the rays are straight.
A sun in his splendour or a sun in his glory are depicted with a human face. A sun eclipsed is a sun whose center is a different tincture than the rays, or whose center disk is obscured by a roundel.
Sunburst -- a group of sun's rays (alternating straight and wavy) issuing from a cloud. By default the rays issue from the top.
Sword -- by default position is palewise (vertical), with the hilt
to base. A sword that is blazoned as inverted would have the hilt on
top and the point to base.
A sword described as being fesswise (horizontal), with the hilt to sinister (right) and the point to dexter (left). A sword that is blazoned as reversed would therefore have the hilt to dexter and the point to sinister.
A sword proper is shown with an argent blade and Or quillions and hilt.
Tankard -- by default palewise, mouth to chief and handle to sinister.
Thunderbolt -- A winged, swirling pillar of flame, thrown from the hand of God or the gods. It may be shown with lightning bolts behind it (crossed in saltire); the pillar is palewise by default. See also Lightning.
Tower -- a single tower, embattled at the top, usually with a door at the base. If the tower is surmounted by smaller towers it is called triple-towered.
Tressure -- see Orle.
Trumpet -- see Horn.
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General note: unless specified otherwise, plants if called proper are green, sometimes with brown stems, and are considered to be a color for purposes of the Rule of Tincture. If a default posture/position is given, it comes from the College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Default Postures, if a proper color is given, it comes College of Arms Glossary of Terms, Conventional "Proper" Colorings.
Acorn -- default orientation is palewise, stem to chief.
Cinquefoil -- see Foil.
Foil -- a generic class of flowers, not any specific type but a highly stylized heraldic charge. The petals are usually drawn rounded with points at the ends. The term "foil" is the root with the number of petals added as a prefix. Hence we have trefoil with three petals, quatrefoil with four, and so on. More than six petals are uncommon, and more than eight are not found in heraldry. The trefoil has a default position with a petal to chief, and a slip at the bottom (which the others do not usually have unless explicitly blazoned), howevever the other foils usually follow the convention of a petal at the top.
Fleur-de-lis (Fleur-de-lys) -- an heraldic lily. This has a very distinctive shape, although there are a few different ways of drawing it (and each heraldry book shows at least one of them).
Fruit -- generally those that hang from a stem (e.g., apples) have the stem to chief; those that grow from the ground (e.g., artichokes) have the stem to base.
Garb -- is a sheaf of wheat, tied under the grain.
Leaf -- a leaf proper is green (sometimes with a brown stem), and is considered to be a color when using the Rule of Tincture.
Mandrake -- by default this is affronty.
Octofoil -- see Foil.
Pine Cone -- by default palewise, but must be specified whether the stem is to chief or to base.
Pomegranate -- when the tincture is proper it is green, seeded red, and is considered a color when looking at the Rule of Tincture.
Quatrefoil -- see Foil.
Rose -- The standard heraldic rose is shown affronty, with five
petals separated by barbs and central seeds. The barbing and seeding may be
of a different tincture from the rose.; when blazoned barbed and seeded
proper the barbs (sepals) are vert and the seeds Or. In SCA heraldry
a rose proper is gules, barbed vert and seeded Or.
When the terms garden rose or damask rose are used, the rose is depicted as found in nature. A garden rosebud is depicted with the petals closed before the flower has bloomed. A garden rose may not be blazoned proper as there is no specific color for them, and in SCA heraldry no difference is given between garden roses and heraldic roses. At this time, garden rosebuds and garden roses are not registerable in the SCA. While both of these have been registered in the past, this is not being done now. Garden roses are blazoned as roses, and no difference is counted between them and heraldic roses.
A double rose is a rose charged with another.
All roses may be slipped and leaved, usually with prickly leaves and thorny stems.
Seeblatt -- by default the point is to base.
Sheaf of Wheat -- see Garb.
Slipped and Leaved -- When a flower is termed slipped and leaved proper, the stem is either brown or green, with green leaves.
Thistle -- The thistle is shown in profile (palewise) by default, with a stalk and two leaves at the base. In SCA heraldry, when called proper the thistle is shown with green stem and leaves and a purple bloom. In mundane heraldry the bloom is red.
Tree -- there are many styles of trees, the default tree is shown
with trunk and leaves, sometimes with fruit. When the tincture is noted
as proper this means a brown trunk, and green leaves. If the tree
is fructed (with fruit), the color must be specified.
A tree may be eradicated in which case the roots are showing. It may be shown blasted in which case the leaves are gone but the limbs of the tree are displayed.
By default a tree is palewise, leaves to chief, with just a little of the root structure visible.
A group of trees may be called a hurst.
Trefoil -- see Foil.
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ReferencesThe references used in putting this page of the website together include:
This list was compiled by Hirsch von Henford, Golem Pursuivant by going through various sources and checking details with members of the West Kingdom College of Heralds. Any errors are mine -- please let me know and I'll gladly fix 'em. -- HvH
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