Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Heraldry 101, part 9 - Fish Heads. Roly poly fish heads.

If you don't get the reference, check YouTube.

First, fish, or, alternatively, more Latin/French names for the weird contortions heraldic critters get into. There's really only three of note:
  • Naiant. Swimming. Horizontally, facing left.
  • Hauriant. Swimming, head up, tail down.
  • Urinant (no tittering at the back!). Swimming, head down, tail up.
On a related tack, there are a couple of oddities for snakes:
  • A snake (or, in fact, anything's tail) may be said to be nowed if it's knotted, usually in a figure eight knot.
  • The heraldic term for the classic snake biting its own tail is, unsurprisingly if you're well read, an ouroboros
Moving on to heads and, of necessity, necks. A head is quite a common charge: if it's viewed sideways on there are a couple of terms that explain the state of the neck:

Couped: neatly cut off
Erased: raggedly cut off,
usually in a very stylised
In addition to couped, there's couped close, which means there's no neck at all, and couped at the shoulders, which should be obvious. (By analogy, one could have erased at the shoulders). The term affronté (sometimes spelled affronty) for a head facing the viewer should be familiar from last time!

Heads are typically blazoned as proper, and the terms bearded and crined (i.e. having hair of a certain colour) may be used if you need to be specific. A head of colour (to use the politically correct term) is usually blazoned with the anachronistic blackamoor's head. Also cropping up are things like a Saracen's head, a Turk's head etc. One interesting term is a maiden's head (I'm sure there's an intentional herald's pun in there somewhere!), which refers to (and I quote) "[the] head and shoulders of a woman affrontée, couped below the breasts, her hair dishevelled, and usually wreathed with a garland of roses." Yes. Quite.

Next up, and not least because there are Fireforge Templars on my Salute shopping list, crosses of all forms.

[This post respectfully dedicated to the memory of my former colleague and friend Steff, who managed to raise a laugh and a smile at his funeral by asking for the aforementioned music to be played at the beginning. Rest in peace, mate. You're missed.]


  1. Painting another maiden's head on one's tack every few weeks is... frowned upon.

    When you say "facing left", is that sinister or dexter?


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