Thursday, 29 November 2012

15th March 2004 Part II

" And if aught else great bards beside In sage and solemn tunes have sung, Of turneys, and of trophies hung, Of forests, and enchantments drear, Where more is meant than meets the ear." 

~ John Milton ~
Back to the Coat of Arms now. With a more detailed look into what goes on.

Heraldry is absolutely fascinating. It's been around for 900 years or so. And the language used as the blazon in British heraldry, comes from the Normans and their conquest of England. There's a portion of the populace that believes what appears on a Coat of Arms is meaningless. Nothing symbolic about it at all. I tend to believe these people are just being lazy.

A wide variety of sources had to be used to get to the meaning of Sir George Martin's Coat of Arms, issued on 15th March 2004. Project Gutenberg's The Handbook to English Heraldry, by Charles Boutell. Published 2007.  W. Cecil Wade's "The Symbolisms of Heraldry or A Treatise on the Meanings and Derivations of Armorial Bearings." Published in London in 1898.  The US Air Force Historical Research Agency ...
amongst many other sources. The person that believes a coat of arms is symbolically
meaningless, does not know heraldry. 

This is the Coat of Arms for Botswana. The Zebra was chosen for its neutrality. It is neither black nor white. It can also mean "Uncertainty". Without going into the history of Africa, British and Dutch "occupation" of the country, it seems "symbolism" is not meaningless in the case of Botswana. The Zebra was chosen for a reason. 

A little symbolism and superstition about the Stag Beetle, or Beetles in general. Different cultures. 
'To Beetle': To overhang, to threaten, to jut over. The word seems to have been first used by Shakespear: "or to the dreadful summitof the cliff. That beetles o'er his base into the sea. Hamlet, I, iv. It is formed from the adjective 'beetle-browsed', having prominent or shaggy eyebrows. The derivation of 'beetle' in this use is uncertain, but it probably refers to the tufted antennae which, in some beetles, stand straight out from the head.

Encyclopedia of Signs, Omens, and Superstitions/Zolar:
The ancient Egyptians regarded the beetle, or scarab, as symbolic of the sun and of eternal return. Hence, one finds its form on rings, amulets, and talismans.
The beetle is said to be a sign of death should it walk on your shoe or emerge from a shoe placed near the door. Should a beetle enter a room in your home where the family is seated, misfortune is yours, according to a Scottish superstition. Should the beetle be killed the greater the misfortune.Should certain beetles produce a clicking noise while calling their mates, such was regarded as an omen of death to follow soon after. Aristotle believed that beetles arose from putrifying flesh and from dung, near which they were often seen
to gather. In Germany, the stag beetle was symbolic of thunder since it was often found on the oak tree, which is the tree most often struck during a storm. According to a legend in the Hebrides, the burrowing beetle betrayed Christ by describing the path of his flight into Egypt to his pursuers. The dung beetle, however, contradicted this, leading the pursuers astray. Hence, young boys would kill the burrowing beetle, but simply leave the dung beetle on its back, since its lie was for a good cause.
Animal Magick/D.J. Conway
Beetle or Scarab Beetle. This name has been given to members of the family Scarabaeidae of the order Coleoptera. The most famous of these beetles, Scarabaeus sacer, is in Egypt. It is about an inch long and can live for more than two years. The Scarab Beetle has become widely known through the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, who revered it as a symbol of the Sun. It is also called the dung beetle. This little insect rolls a ball of dung to cover the egg it has placed inside. It was an emblem of the Egyptian god Khepera, the god of creation, the Sun, and immortality. The image of the scarabaeus beetle was a common amulet buried with the dead as a source of new life for the heart in the next world. These sacred beetles were carved on all kinds of amulets and seals. Large images of them were worshiped in temples.

During the Middle Ages, the alchemists drew the scarab beetle in the diagrams of the double spiral, which they said led to the center of the universe. In Germany, where scarab worship, in the form ofthe stag beetle, has persisted longest, the equation scarab = Christ was widely accepted. The quintessential German artist, Albrecht Dürer, associated the stag beetle with Christ in various paintings, and produced a famous watercolor of the insect. The Jesuit Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) did not hesitate to recall the identification scarab = Christ, referring both to St. Ambrose and Psalm 22:6: 

That's symbolism for you. When it comes to heraldry, there is some question as to whether any of it is symbolic at all. In the 12th century, knights were anonymous, so encased in battle armour that no one knew who they were fighting. Henceforth, a coat of arms to identify the knight in question.A simple military function as it were. But in the 13th century this "fashion" was extended to families. They could be personalised, and show heritage. By the 15th century, to stop everyone from using the same symbols and the art form becoming redundant, the language of heraldry was created. It incorporated a very stylised use of French, English and Latin. Still in use today. 
Word on the streets is, during the Victorian Age, everything became symbolic. Whether they were viewing a coat of arms from the Middle Ages, or something being made at the time. This is where there's some dispute whether a Coat of Arms actually means something, or the recipient just likes the colour Blue a lot. Having said that, in the world of heraldry there are those that see it as fashionable, and those that are purist. And you know, go all ranting on about the traditional forms of heraldry aren't being observed in this prestigious and highly stylised form of art and bearing. And some of those symbolic meanings now associated with colours and charges, may be the work of W. Cecil Wade's The Symbolisms of Heraldry or A Treatise on the Meanings and Derivations of Armorial Bearings, published in London in 1898. Can't find much about him on the web in biography, but he's very often quoted. The stuff of legend. 

And if you have a read through about the meaning put into an Air Force Coat of Arms, well ... they take those symbols pretty seriously. It's meant to tell the viewer what the function is of this specific branch, or person. What they do. What their mission is. What they stand for. Their code. It's a very serious business. Have a look:
Using Colors in Emblems The colors of an emblem often have significance but that is always secondary to the symbolism of the emblem. The colors of the Air Force, ultramarine blue and Air Force yellow, should appear in the design; the blue represents “the sky”, the primary theater of Air Force operations, while Air Force yellow represents “the sun” and the excellence required of Air Force personnel. A note of caution, ultramarine blue, while it represents the sky, is not a light blue; an ultramarine blue shield or disk is fairly dark and requires charges of good contrast.

But let's go back to the world of Pop. 


Crest: On a wreath Argent and Azure A House Martin 
proper holding under the sinister wing a Recorder in 
bend sinister mouthpiece downwards Or.


ARGENT: The name derives from Latin argentum, which derives from the Greek 'Αργυρος, translated as silver or white metal. The word argent had the same meaning in Old French blazon, from which it passed into the English language.
Of jewels it is the Pearl.
Of heavenly bodies The Moon.
Of metals Silver
A number of different interpretations abound in regards to this tincture.
Most agree that it symbolises peace and sincerity. A symbol of purity, honour, and virtue. What we'll do is provide that system of Duality that does exist with colours. In a dualistic world Argent can mean: 

GRAY (heraldic ARGENT)
Positive: discretion, humility, maturity, penitence, renunciation, and retrospection
Negative: barrenness, depression, egoism, grief, indifference, inertia, neutralization, old age, and 
SILVER (heraldic ARGENT)
Positive: charity, chastity, clear conscience, faith, moon, innocence, purity, and test of truth.
Negative: blank, cold, ghostly, spectral, and void.
WHITE (also heraldic ARGENT)
Positive: daylight, innocence, perfection, purity, truth, and wisdom. 
Negative: same as for silver above. 

AZUREThe term azure derives from name of the deep blue stone now called lapis lazuli (stone of Lazhward). The word was adopted into Old French by the twelfth century, from which the word passed into use in the blazon of coats of arms.
As an heraldic colour, the word azure simply means "blue". It is one of many concepts with both a French and German word in English, the former being used by the French-speaking nobles following the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and the latter being used by the commoners of Anglo-Saxon stock. In addition to the standard blue tincture called azure, there is a lighter blue sometimes found that is called bleu celeste or "sky blue". Neither azure nor bleu celeste is precisely defined as a particular shade of blue, but azure is consistently depicted in a much darker shade.
Of jewels, The Sapphire
Of heavenly bodies, Jupiter
The planet Jupiter is further associated with the metal tin in traditional alchemical/occultistic lore
BLUE: heraldic ARGENT:
Positive: (light blue/bleu celeste) calm seas, charity, cold, constancy, daylight, devotion, innocence, planet Jupiter, justice, loyalty, piety, sincerity, sky, thinking, and truth.
Negative (dark blue): doubt, discomfort, night, and stormy seas

ORIn heraldryOr (from the French word for gold) is the tincture of gold and, together with argent (silver), belongs to the class of light tinctures called "metals". In engravings and line drawings, it may be represented using a field of evenly spaced dots. It is very frequently depicted as yellow, though gold leaf was used in many illuminated manuscripts and more extravagant rolls of arms.

Of jewels, The Topaz
Of heavenly bodies, The Sun
Of metals, Gold

GOLD (heraldic OR) [interchangeable with YELLOW] 
Positive: honor, majesty (royalty), mystic aspects of the sun, riches, and wisdom. 
Negative: idolatry

YELLOW (also heraldic OR)  
Positive: constancy, dissemination, divinity, elevation of mind, excellence, highest values, honor, illumination, intellect, intuition, justice, light, loyalty, magnanimity, riches, ripened grain, sun, supreme wisdom and wisdom. 
Negative: cowardice and treachery

CHARGEIn heraldry, charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon (shield). This may be a geometric design (sometimes called an ordinary) or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device.

PROPER: Used in blazon to specify that a charge appears in its natural colors. "A zebra 
proper" has the zebra’s characteristic pattern of black and white stripes. 

SINISTER: Dexter and sinister are terms used in heraldry to refer to specific locations in an escutcheon bearing a coat of arms and by extension also to a crest. "Dexter" (Latin for "right") means to the right from the viewpoint of the bearer of the arms, to the left of that of the viewer. "Sinister" (Latin for "left")  means to the left from the viewpoint of the bearer, to the right of that of the viewer. The dexter side is considered the side of greatest honour.
From Ciric's "Heraldika":

Each coat of arms has a right and left (i.e. dexter and sinister) heraldic side, a observed by the person carrying the shield.
He explains how dexter is positive side and that the figures are always turned that way when representing some positive qualities. The figures of, e.g. slain enemies (e.g. dragons, boars) face to sinister. The orientation depends on the story the figure represents. Dexter is also named "masculine" side and sinister "feminine". Also notes that this does not have to be so in Christian coats of arms of modern times. A slanted beams, bendlets and saches going from top sinister to bottom dexter represent coats of arms of bastard children.
SINISTER (etymology): Historically, the left side, and subsequently left-handedness, was considered negative in many cultures. The Latin word sinistra originally meant "left" but took on meanings of "evil" or "unlucky" by the Classical Latin era, and this double meaning survives in European derivatives of Latin, and in the English word "sinister".
Meanings gradually developed from use of these terms in the ancient languages. In many modern European languages, including English, the word for the direction "right" also means "correct" or "proper", and also stands for authority and justice. In most Slavic languages the root prav is used in words carrying meanings of correctness or justice.
So, if you were left-handed or sinister, you were associated with evil. In time, sinister itself meant evil and threatening. EtymOnline said that sinister attained this meaning in the early 15th century. 

One way auspices would use to guess good and bad omens was to watch which direction some auspicious types of birds like ravens, crows or eagles were flying by. These birds were supposed to play the role of messengers of the gods. This was also practiced in Ancient Greece and named οἰωνίζομαι (Ornithomancy). If birds were flying by on your right this was a good omen. On the left (sinistra) that was a bad omen.

BEND SINISTERIn heraldry, a bend is a coloured band running from the upper right corner of the shield to the lower left (from the point of view of a person bearing the shield).bend sinister is a bend which runs in the other direction to a bend. As the shield would have been carried with the design facing outwards from the bearer, the bend sinister would slant in the same direction a sash worn diagonally on the left shoulder. 

An ordinary resembling the Bend is form, but extending from the sinister chief to the dexter base. It is, however, borne in English arms but rarely. It is the belief that Bends sinister were formerly much borne in Scotland, but have generally been changed to dexter bends of late, from a mistaken notion that they always betokened illegitimacy. It is the sinister baton(or diminutive bend couped), which alone conveys this disgrace. In Germany the bend is borne almost as frequently sinister as dexter.

So let's look again at this description:

Crest: On a wreath Argent and Azure A House Martin proper holding under the sinister wing a Recorder in bend sinister mouthpiece downwards Or.

Can you decipher the language of heraldry now? The other colour that appears in this Coat of Arms, but is not mentioned in its blazon, is Sanguine. Sanguine is a stain, or non-standard tincture in heraldry, of a blood-red colour. In the past it was sometimes taken to be equivalent to murrey, but they are now definitely considered two distinct tinctures. It is a brownish red, the colour of arterial blood.
George Martin was made a Knight Bachelor in 1996. Knight Bachelor is the most basic rank of a man who has been knighted by the monarch but not as a member of one of the organised Orders of Chivalry. Knights Bachelor are the most ancient sort of British knight (the rank existed during the 13th century reign of King Henry III), but Knights Bachelor rank below knights of the various orders. It is generally awarded for public service; amongst its recipients are all male judges of the High Court of Justice of England and Wales

As is customary on the Coat of Arms for a Knight, the visor is open. It's also customary for 
the Knight's helm to be in side profile / dexter with this visor open. George Martin's is not. At present, I'm having a difficult time finding out why this is so. Helm's can appear in many different positions, and if you're a King, the helm is always facing directly forward. All I can tell is, there are certain things that must be done with the helm depending on the recipient. It denotes their rank and bearing. And even with McCartney's Coat of Arms, it is specified it's customary for a Knight to have his helm in this position. I've found images of helms in the same position as Martin's, but no description as to what the distinction is. It's a mystery right now. In other searches, the crest must look aesthetically pleasing atop the helm, which is a consideration as to which way that helm will face. But as is customary with a Knight, Martin's visor is open. Possibly it signifies he is an Esquire or a Gentlemen, as one source specifies these are shown either in full profile, or partial, facing dexter. 

On a wreath Argent and Azure

On a wreath of Positive: Truth & Purity and Negative: Doubt & Stormy Seas (it is Dark Azure) or
Negative: On a wreath of Cold & Void, Doubt & Stormy Seas

A House Martin proper 
A House Martin in its natural colours.

holding under the sinister wing
Holding under its left wing. 
Etymology: Holding under its evil wing

A Recorder in bend sinister mouthpiece downwards Or.
A musical instrument (woodwind), its mouthpiece at the bottom and angled left in reference to the shield, coloured Or representing Positive: Majesty, Wisdom, the Mystic Aspects of the Sun or Negative: Idolatry. 

We know that according to heraldry, holding anything in the dexter is the highest honour. So is sinister as sinister as it seems? Or is this just another pleasantly aesthetic attribute to this Coat of Arms. It may be, as in Ciric's day, that only slain enemies and dragons should face to the left. Right from the beginning of George Martin's Coat of Arms, I'm already receiving mixed messages. If we are to take those messages symbolically, or aesthetically is uncertain. It's when we move on to the next portion of his coat of arms is when it goes all weird. 

Credit: Mike Langman (

Some information about the House Martin.
The Common House Martin (Delichon urbicum), sometimes called the Northern House Martin or, particularly in Europe, just House Martin, is a migratory passerine bird of the swallow family which breeds in Europe, north Africa and temperate Asia; and winters in sub-Saharan Africa and tropical Asia. It feeds on insects which are caught in flight, and it migrates to climates where flying insects are plentiful.

"This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve
By his loved mansionry that the heaven's breath
Smells wooingly here. No jutty, frieze,
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendant bed and procreant cradle;
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observed
The air is delicate." 

(Macbeth, Act I, scene VI)

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