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In heraldry, an attitude is the position in which an animal, bird, fish, human or human-like being is emblazoned as a charge, supporter or crest. Many attitudes apply only to predatory beasts and are exemplified by the beast most frequently found in heraldry—the lion. Some other terms apply only to docile animals, such as the doe (usually blazoned as "hind"). Other attitudes, such as volant, describe the positions of birds, mostly exemplified by the bird most frequently found in heraldry—the eagle.The term naiant (swimming), however, is usually reserved for fish but may also apply to swans, ducks or geese. Birds are often further described by the exact position of their wings. The term segreant is usually applied to the griffin, but this approximation of rampant which is more appropriate for them has also been applied to the dragon.
Heraldry is a broad term, encompassing the design, display, and study of armorial bearings, as well as related disciplines, such as vexillology, together with the study of ceremony, rank, and pedigree. Armory, the best-known branch of heraldry, concerns the design and transmission of the heraldic achievement. The achievement, or armorial bearings usually includes a coat of arms on an shield, helmet, and crest, together with any accompanying devices, such as supporters, badges, heraldic banners, and mottoes.
In heraldry, a charge is any emblem or device occupying the field of an escutcheon (shield). This may be a geometric design or a symbolic representation of a person, animal, plant, object or other device. In French blazon, the ordinaries are called pièces while other charges are called meubles.
A crest is a component of a heraldic display, consisting of the device borne on top of the helm. Originating in the decorative sculptures worn by knights in tournaments and, to a lesser extent, battles, crests became solely pictorial after the 16th century.
Additionally, there are positions applying to direction, to indicate variations from the presumed position of any charge. Animals and animal-like creatures are presumed to be shown in profile, facing dexter (the viewer's left), and humans and human-like beings are presumed to be shown affronté (facing the viewer), unless otherwise specified in the blazon.
In heraldry and heraldic vexillology, a blazon is a formal description of a coat of arms, flag or similar emblem, from which the reader can reconstruct the appropriate image. The verb to blazon means to create such a description. The visual depiction of a coat of arms or flag has traditionally had considerable latitude in design, but a verbal blazon specifies the essentially distinctive elements. A coat of arms or flag is therefore primarily defined not by a picture but rather by the wording of its blazon. Blazon also refers to the specialized language in which a blazon is written, and, as a verb, to the act of writing such a description. This language has its own vocabulary, grammar and syntax, which becomes essential for comprehension when blazoning a complex coat of arms.
Animals and animal-like creatures are presumed to be shown in profile facing dexter. This attitude is standard unless otherwise stated in the blazon. As a warrior will usually carry a shield in the left hand, the animal shown on the shield will then face toward the knight's body. Humans and human-like beings are presumed to be shown affronté. Note that the heraldic terms dexter ('right') and sinister ('left') represent the shield bearer's perspective, not the viewer's.
Many attitudes commonly met with in heraldic rolls apply specifically to predatory beasts, while others may be better suited to the docile animals. These will each be discussed in detail below. Also worth note is that a lion or other beast may additionally be described in terms of the position of its head, differently coloured parts (such as teeth, claws, tongue, etc.), or by the shape or position of its tail. A beast may be "armed" (horns, teeth and claws) or "langued" (tongue) of a tincture, while a stag may be "attired" (antlers) or "unguled" (hooves) of a tincture. The tail may be forked (queue fourchée) or doubled (double-queued). In addition to the below, there may be rare or arguably, not entirely standard attitudes, such as a snorting bison.
Carnivora is a diverse scrotiferan order that includes over 280 species of placental mammals. Its members are formally referred to as carnivorans, whereas the word "carnivore" can refer to any meat-eating organism. Carnivorans are the most diverse in size of any mammalian order, ranging from the least weasel, at as little as 25 g (0.88 oz) and 11 cm (4.3 in), to the polar bear, which can weigh up to 1,000 kg (2,200 lb), to the southern elephant seal, whose adult males weigh up to 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) and measure up to 6.7 m (22 ft) in length.
A beast rampant (Old French: "rearing up") is depicted in profile standing erect with forepaws raised.The position of the hind legs varies according to local custom: the lion may stand on both hind legs, braced wide apart, or on only one, with the other also raised to strike; the word rampant is sometimes omitted, especially in early blazon, as this is the most usual position of a carnivorous quadruped. Note: the term segreant denotes the same position, but implies a particular wing position and is only used in reference to winged quadrupeds such as griffins and dragons. Rampant is the most frequent attitude of quadrupeds, and as supporters they are rarely seen in any other attitude. Forcené is the term for this position when applied to horses or unicorns.
Old French was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. In the 14th century, these dialects came to be collectively known as the langue d'oïl, contrasting with the langue d'oc or Occitan language in the south of France. The mid-14th century is taken as the transitional period to Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance, specifically based on the dialect of the Île-de-France region.
The griffin, griffon, or gryphon is a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and sometimes an eagle's talons as its front feet. Because the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle the king of birds by the Middle Ages the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. Since classical antiquity, Griffins were known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions.
European dragons are legendary creatures in folklore and mythology among the overlapping cultures of Europe.
A beast passant (Old French: "striding") walks toward dexter (the viewer's left) with the right forepaw raised and all others on the ground.Early heralds held that any lion in a walking position must necessarily be a "leopard", and this distinction persists in French heraldry; however, this use of the term leopard has long since been abandoned by English heralds. A "Lion of England" denotes a lion passant guardant Or, used as an augmentation. The Welsh flag features a dragon passant. For stags and other deer-like beasts of chase, the term trippant is used instead of passant.
In heraldry, an augmentation is a modification or addition to a coat of arms, typically given by a monarch as either a mere mark of favour, or a reward or recognition for some meritorious act. The grants of entire new coats by monarchs as a reward are not augmentations, but rather grants of arms, and an augmentation mistakenly given to someone who did not have a right to a coat would be nugatory.
The flag of Wales consists of a red dragon passant on a green and white field. As with many heraldic charges, the exact representation of the dragon is not standardised and many renderings exist.
A beast sejant or sejeant (Middle French: seant, "sitting") sits on his haunches, with both forepaws on the ground.
A beast sejant erect is seated on its haunches, but with its body erect and both forepaws raised in the "rampant" position (this is sometimes termed "sejant-rampant").
A beast couchant (Old French: "lying down") is lying down, but with the head raised.Lodged is the term for this position when applied to the 'docile' (i.e. herbivorous) animals.
A beast courant (French: "running"; also at speed or in full chase) is running, depicted at full stride with all four legs in the air.
A lion coward carries the tail between its hind legs.
A beast dormant (French: "sleeping") is lying down with his head lowered, resting upon the forepaws, as if asleep.(However, perhaps counterintuitively, some sources would have the lion dormant with the eyes open.)
A beast salient (Latin: saliēns, "leaping") (also springing) is leaping, with both hind legs together on the ground and both forelegs together in the air.This is a very rare position for a lion, but is also used of other heraldic beasts. The stag and other docile animals in this position are often termed springing. Certain smaller animals are sometimes blazoned as saltant rather than salient.
A beast statant (Old French: "standing") is "standing" (in profile toward dexter), all four feet on the ground, usually with the forepaws together.This posture is more frequent in crests than in charges on shields. In certain animals, such as bears, this may refer to an upright, bipedal position (though this position may also be referred to as statant erect), though bears blazoned as 'statant' can also be found with all four feet firmly on the ground (e.g. in the arms of the former borough council of Berwick-upon-Tweed). While statant is used in reference to predatory beasts, the more docile animals when in this position may be called at bay, while such creatures statant guardant are said to be at gaze. This is particularly true of stags (harts).
Grass-eating animals can be shown as pascuant; that is, "grazing," with head lowered to the same level as their four legs, as the head of a cow would be when eating grass.
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Some attitudes describe the positioning of birds. The eagle is so often found displayed in early heraldry that this position came to be presumed of the eagle unless some other attitude is specified in the blazon.
The terms Expanded and Elevated or Abaissé and Inverted are similar terms often used interchangeably in heraldry but have specific meanings. There is also sometimes confusion between a Rising bird with Displayed wings and a Displayed bird. The difference is that Rising birds face either to the dexter or in trian aspect and have their feet on the ground. Displayed birds face the viewer, have their legs splayed out, and the tail is completely visible.
Several terms refer to the particular position of the wings, rather than the attitude of the bird itself. A bird in nearly any attitude, except overt, may have its wings displayed or addorsed.
|Wings displayed and elevated||Wings displayed and inverted|
A bird displayed is shown affronté with its head turned to dexter and wings spread to the sides to fill the area of the field. This position is presumed of the eagle, and the symbolic use of eagles in this position was well established even before the development of heraldry, going back to Charlemagne.
A bird Overt ("closed") or close, the bird's equivalent of Statant, is shown in profile and at rest with its feet flat on the ground and its wings folded at its sides. Trussed is the term used for domestic or game birds, implying the bird is tied up or caught in a net respectively, and is not applied to predator birds like the Eagle and Hawk. Perched is Overt while sitting atop a Charge.
A bird rising, rizantor rousant faces dexter with its head upturned, wings raised, and standing on the tips of its feet as if about to take flight. A bird rising may have its wings described as either displayed or addorsed, and the wings may be further described as elevated or inverted.
A bird volant faces the dexter with its wings spread in flight (usually shown addorsed and elevated) and its legs tucked under its body. Volant En Arrière is when the bird is shown from a top-down perspective with the head facing straight ahead, its back to the viewer, and the wings spread in flight (usually shown displayed and inverted). A bird volant is considered in bend ("diagonal") as it is flying from the lower sinister to the upper dexter of the field.
An eagle or hawk shown regardant, like it was looking back while circling for prey. May be used for other gliding predator birds like owls.
A crane standing on one leg (usually with a stone held in the other foot) may be called vigilant or in its vigilance (e.g. Waverley Borough Council's Crane in its vigilance). A stone is usually shown held in the claw of the raised leg. This is as per the Bestiary myth that Cranes stayed awake by doing so. If it dozed, the Crane would supposedly drop the rock, waking itself up.
One peculiar attitude reserved only to the pelican, is the pelican in her piety . The heraldic pelican, one of the few female beasts in heraldry, is shown with a sharp stork-like beak, which it uses to vuln ("pierce or wound") her own breast. This is per the bestiary myth that a female pelican wounded herself thus to feed her chicks. This symbol of sacrifice carries a particular religious meaning (usually a reference to Christ's sacrifice), and became so popular in heraldry that pelicans rarely exist in heraldry in any other position.A distinction is sometimes observed, however, between a pelican "vulning herself" (alone, piercing her breast) and "in her piety" (surrounded by and feeding her chicks). The Pelican is shown exclusively in profile perched in her nest with her wings either Addorsed and Inverted (because it is not going to fly away) or Overt.
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Few attitudes are reserved to the rarer classes of creatures, but these include segreant, a term which can only apply to winged quadrupeds; naiant and hauriant, terms applying principally to fish; glissant and nowed, terms applying to serpents. Serpents also sometimes appear in a circular form, biting their own tail, but this symbol, called an Ouroboros, was imported ready-made into heraldry, and so it needs no term of attitude to describe it.
A creature segreant has both forelegs raised in the air, as a beast rampant, with wings addorsed and elevated. This term is reserved to winged quadrupeds (such as griffins and dragons). It is of uncertain etymology; it is first recorded as sergreant in the 16th century.
Creatures combatant (French, "fighting") are shown in profile facing each other in the rampant or segreant position, always paired and never appearing singly. Nearly any creature can be rendered combatant, although this term is usually applied to predatory beasts and mythical creatures; herbivorous animals in such a position are typically blazoned as respectant (Latin respectāns, "watching").
Creatures or objects addorsed or endorsed (Latin ad-, "to" and dorsum, "back"; Middle English endosse, Old French endosser, influenced by Medieval Latin indorsare) are shown facing away from each other. As with combatant, charges addorsed can only appear in pairs. One also frequently finds keys addorsed (placed in parallel, wards facing outward).
An animal or creature naiant is swimming. This term is typically applied to fish (when shown in a horizontal position), but may also apply to other sea creatures and, occasionally, water fowl (i.e. swans, ducks or geese shown without legs). A dolphin blazoned as naiant is always shown as embowed, unlike any other sea creature or monster, even though the blazon may not specify this.
A fish, dolphin, or other sea creature hauriant (Latin hauriēns, "drawing up") is in a vertical position with its head up.
A fish, dolphin, or other sea creature urinant (Latin ūrīnāns, "diving") is in a vertical position with its head down.
A serpent glissant is gliding horizontally in an undulant posture.
Serpents, and the tails of other beasts and monsters, may be nowed (French noué, "knotted")—often in a figure-eight knot.
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In heraldry, gules is the tincture with the colour red. It is one of the class of five dark tinctures called "colours", the others being azure (blue), sable (black), vert (green) and purpure (purple).
In heraldry, supporters, sometimes referred to as attendants, are figures or objects usually placed on either side of the shield and depicted holding it up.
The coat of arms of Saskatchewan is the heraldic symbol representing the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.
The coat of arms of the Northern Territory is the official heraldic symbol representing the Australian territory. They were officially granted by royal warrant of Queen Elizabeth II on 11 September 1978. The arms, uniquely in Australia, incorporate all of the territory's floral, animal and bird emblems: the Sturt's desert rose, red kangaroo and wedge-tailed eagle.
The Royal Arms of England are the arms first adopted in a fixed form at the start of the age of heraldry as personal arms by the Plantagenet kings who ruled England from 1154. In the popular mind they have come to symbolise the nation of England, although according to heraldic usage nations do not bear arms, only persons and corporations do. The blazon of the Arms of Plantagenet is: Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or armed and langued azure, signifying three identical gold lions with blue tongues and claws, walking past but facing the observer, arranged in a column on a red background. Although the tincture azure of tongue and claws is not cited in many blazons, they are historically a distinguishing feature of the Arms of England. This coat, designed in the High Middle Ages, has been variously combined with those of the Kings of France, Scotland, a symbol of Ireland, the House of Nassau and the Kingdom of Hanover, according to dynastic and other political changes occurring in England, but has not altered since it took a fixed form in the reign of Richard I (1189–1199), the second Plantagenet king.
The coat of arms of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was designed by Robert Watt, the Chief Herald of Canada at the time, for the city after its amalgamation in 1998. The arms were granted by the Canadian Heraldic Authority on January 11, 1999.
In heraldry, a torse or wreath is a twisted roll of fabric laid about the top of the helmet and the base of the crest. It has the dual purpose of masking the join between helm and crest, and holding the mantling in place.
The eagle is used in heraldry as a charge, as a supporter, and as a crest. The symbolism of the heraldic eagle is connected with the Roman Empire on one hand, and with Saint John the Evangelist on the other.
The lion is a common charge in heraldry. It traditionally symbolises courage, nobility, royalty, strength, stateliness and valour, because historically it has been regarded as the "king of beasts". Lion refers also to a Judeo-Christian symbolism. The Lion of Judah stands in the coat of arms of Jerusalem. Similar looking lion can be found e.g. in the coat of arms of the Swedish royal House of Bjelbo, from there in turn derived into the coat of arms of Finland, formerly belonging to Sweden, and many others examples for similar historical reasons.
The leopard in heraldry is traditionally depicted the same as a lion, but in a walking position with its head turned to full face, thus it is also known as a lion passant guardant in some texts, though leopards more naturally depicted make some appearances in modern heraldry. The Oxford Guide to Heraldry makes little mention of leopards but glosses leopard as a "term used in medieval heraldry for lion passant guardant. Now used for the natural beast." Another name for this beast is the ounce.
The bear as heraldic charge is not as widely used as the lion, boar or other beasts.
German heraldry is the tradition and style of heraldic achievements in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, including national and civic arms, noble and burgher arms, ecclesiastical heraldry, heraldic displays and heraldic descriptions. German heraldic style is one of the four major broad traditions within European heraldry and stands in contrast to Gallo-British, Latin and Eastern heraldry, and strongly influenced the styles and customs of heraldry in the Nordic countries, which developed comparatively late. Together, German and Nordic heraldry are often referred to as German-Nordic heraldry.
In heraldry, the term sea-lion refers to a legendary creature that has the head and upper body of a lion, but with webbed forelimbs and a fish tail. These occur most frequently as supporters, but also occur as crests and occasionally as charges. Sea-lions are frequently found in "sejant" or "sejant-erect" attitudes, but may also be found "naiant" or "assurgeant".
The heads of humans and other animals are frequently occurring charges in heraldry. The blazon, or heraldic description, usually states whether an animal's head is couped, erased, or cabossed. Human heads are often described in much greater detail, though some of these are identified by name with little or no further description.
The hound or dog is used as a charge in classical heraldry. In English heraldry, the commonly used variant are the talbot, also blazoned as sleuth-hound, e.g. in the arms of Wolseley of Staffordshire, the greyhound and bloodhound. Rarely-seen variants are the ratch-hound, the mastiff, the foxhound, the spaniel and the terrier. The "sea-dog" is a curious charge resembling the talbot but with scales, webbed feet and a broad tail, used in the arms of Stourton barony, presumably originally depicting a beaver . Similar charges include the wolf and the fox.
The first instance of a figure of the lion as symbol of the Kingdom of León is found in minted coins of Alfonso VII, called the Emperor (1126-1157). Until then, the cross had a preponderant position on documents and coins of Leonese monarchs since that reign the cross was gradually displaced by the lion. The Spanish historian and heraldist Martín de Riquer explained that the lion was already used as heraldic emblem in 1148. At the end of the reign of Alfonso VII, the figure of this animal began to appear on royal documents as personal device of the monarch and became pervasive during reigns of Ferdinand II (1157-1188) and Alfonso IX (1188-1230).