ARMORIAL GOLD HERALDRY SYMBOLISM LIBRARY
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MACE: Originally a short mass weapon of battle not unlike a heavy club. A mace is an ensign of dignity and a symbol of authority and power. After the third quarter of the 14th century the club end was often made of metal and enhanced with metal flanges or spikes.
MACE OF AUTHORITY: During medieval times, the Royal Serjeants-at-Arms were distinguished by their power of arrest without a warrant. To an increasing extent, their Maces - originally ordinary weapons of war, similar to a club became their emblems of authority. They were stamped with the Royal Arms; and in an age in which few could read or write, the Serjeants effected their arrests by showing their Maces and not by producing any form of written warrant. Maces have since evolved to larger and more ornate Royal Arms and an arched crown surmounted by an orb and cross.
MACKEREL: From the Latin " macula", for spot, the Mackerel, known as the Holy fish, denotes abundance and was an ancient Christian totem. Originally a pagan symbol of fertility and continuity, the Mackerel are also superb, swift swimmers. Its symbol may be representative of the bearer's name or his profession, or may involve a memorable or significant experience. The Mackerel was one of the most abundant food fishes in the North seas and several species are found throughout the world today. They are emblematic of affluence, profusion and were often used as symbols in groups of three to represent the Holy Trinity. The Emblem was often one used by royalty. The ancient expression "a mackerel sea", tells of a sea in stormy ripples believed to be caused by a very large school of Mackerel just under the surface. This was a sign that the Mackerel had arrived (and usually the herring along with it), and it indicated that better times were indeed ahead. "Have faith young man, the Mackerel are here...there is little now, to fear" (E. Vance Hale).
MAGPIE (jay): In Celtic lore, the magpie was a bird associated with fairy revels; in Scandinavia, magpies were said to be sorcerers flying to unholy gatherings, and yet the nesting magpie was once considered a sign of luck in those countries. In Old Norse myth, Skadi (the daughter of a giant) was priestess of the magpie clan. In England, the sighting of magpies is still considered a good omen.
MAIDEN: Word comes from the Middle English, from Old English mægden, m[AE]den, diminutive of mægeth; akin to Old High German magad meaning maiden and also the Old Irish word mug which meant serf. It usually signifies an unmarried woman, a young unmarried woman or a virgin as in, 'Maiden innocence'. The Greek and Roman Maiden Goddesses of Diana/Artemis were goddesses of fertility, and probably the best-known association with deities the Maidens enjoy. Maidens in heraldry denote purity and redemption and virtuousness. It is said that only a young maiden could capture the Unicorn as it was attracted to chastity and purity, so the noble huntsmen would take a maiden with them when hunting this shy and wild creature. The ancient Celts and many other cultures tell of folk and mythological tales involving the Maiden; the folkloric maidens, in many Indo-European and Asian fables and legends were said to be capable of being transformed into swans.
MAIL (aventail, ventail, hauberk, haubergeon): Defensive armour: Interwoven links of iron wire riveted together to form a kind of defensive metal cloth, highly resistant to slashing but less effective against piercing or crushing wounds. During the latter 14th and 15th centuries sometimes the riveted links were interposed with solid links that had been stamped to halve the production time. Specialized armourers made Mail, and because it was easy to make, it was manufactured all over Europe. First introduced by the Romans during the latter days of their empire; symbol of protection; a great warrior ready for battle or symbolic of a great battle won.
MANACLES: See Fetterlock.
MANDRAKE: In ancient times human figures were often cut out of the root, and wonderful virtues ascribed to them. It was used to produce fecundity in women. Another superstition is that when the mandrake is uprooted it utters a scream, in explanation of which Thomas Newton, in his Herball to the Bible, says, "It is supposed to be a creature having life, engendered under the earth of the seed of some dead person put to death for murder." Mandrake are also called 'love apples', from the old notion that they excited amorous inclinations; hence Venus is called Mandragoritis, and the Emperor Julian, in his epistles, tells Calixenes that he drank its juice nightly as a love-potion; symbol of love, fecundity, gallantry and benevolence.
MANTLING (or Cappeline, in French called Lambrequin): This device of the painter/designer was created to give prominence to the coat of arms and crest and is considered in theoretical heraldry to represent the lambrequin, or covering of the helmet, to protect it from the weather. Typically, the colors of the mantling are the principal color(s) and metal of the Coat of Arms. See coat of arms section.
MARTEN (Weasel, Kuna): Martens are larger, heavier-bodied animals than weasels, with thick fur and bushy tails and were valued for their fur. In heraldry, however, there is usually no differentiation between it and the weasel. An ancient emblem of Slavonia, the kuna, is similar to a ferret or mink, and was traded as a pelt in Roman times. They are known for their boldness and their tendency to attack and defeat animals much larger than themselves. Therefore they have become symbols of spiritual warriors who, in spite of their physical weakness, are able to defeat the Devil. It is said that they denote fickleness and inconstancy, but also parental love, vigilance, and watchfulness; a symbol of the hunt; a worthy adversary of distinction, and the symbol borne by those affirming that duty hath no place for fear; sometimes called the marten-cat.
MARTLET (Martlet, Merlette, Martin): A bird resembling a swallow, with thighs but no visible legs representing the martin. It is a mark of Cadency and was used as the symbol of the fourth son, because its footlessness symbolized his inability to inherit, and walk on, his ancestral lands. May signify one who had to subsist by virtue and merit, not inheritance; also denotes promptness. It is said that the use of a martlet indicates that the first bearer of the arms had acquired nobility through his own exertions or by patronage, with the absence of feet on the heraldic martlet signifying the lack of ancestral foundations for his nobility. There is some dispute as to what kind of bird it really is. In English heraldry, it is a swallow; in German heraldry, it is said to be a lark. It was apparently, in its original purpose, a small blackbird and the species of the bird was interpreted in various ways depending on the country. The word 'martlet' does exist in English as the name of a swift or martin and appears to have been confused with the French 'merlette' (merle) because of its similarities to the word 'martlet'. However, it is also said that the charge first appeared as a small blackbird in 1185 in the arms of Mello in Normandy and subsequently in canting arms of 'merlot', indicating that the intention was to represent the French blackbird called 'merlette'. The legend of the martlet is most appealing but readers should determine their own interpretation, as history seems to be confused about the dubious origins and myths of this marvellous bird.
MASCLE: A lozenge that is perforated or voided. Mascles represent the links that composed chain armour and may also represent the mesh of a net. If shown to represent a mesh of net it denotes persuasion; if shown to represent the links in chain armour it denotes protection.
MERLE (merlette, blackbird, thrush): The blackbird in ancient times was called Medula, because it sang rhythmically. Others say that it was called Merula, because it flew on its own. It represents those tainted by the blackness of sin; a symbol of temptation. However, the sight of two blackbirds sitting together is a symbol of peace and a good omen.
MELUSINE: See Mermaid
MERLIN: Falcons were used in a sport called Falconry. It is said the sport started in ancient China and Persia but soon became popular in ancient Egypt. Throughout the Middle-ages Counts and Earls used Peregrine Falcons and Ladyships would use Merlins. The Merlin became the symbol of a "Lady", tame of appearance but fierce when provoked.
MERMAID (siren): The Syrians and the Philistines were known to have worshipped a Semitic mermaid moon-goddess. The Syrians called her Atargatis while the Philistines knew her as Derceto. The symbol of the mermaid with her comb and mirror in hand seems to first be depicted during the middle ages. This came to represent vanity and female beauty that could cause the destruction of men. A symbol of eloquence and an emblem of enlightenment it also represented a safe-voyage. The medieval Melusine is sometimes used as a heraldic figure, typically in German Coats of arms, where she supports one tail in each arm, and is most often crowned.
MEW (sea gull): The sounds of the sea mew represented a guide to the lost sailor and an indication that land was near; symbol of hope.
MILLSTONE (mill-pick, millrind): Signifies the mutual converse of human society, since the stones are never used singly, but in couples, each standing in need of the other's aid for the performance of its work.
MINERVA: The Roman goddess of wisdom, medicine, the arts, science and trade, and also of war. As Minerva Medica she is the patroness of physicians. The Roman Minerva was especially the protectress of commerce and industry and of schools. It was only later that she assumed the character of a warrior-goddess. The Roman goddess first appeared in Etruria and was perhaps a goddess of the thunderbolt. She was then introduced into the Capitoline Triad, with Jupiter and Juno. According to Roman tradition the cult of Minerva originated in Falerii in 241 BC. One of her earliest temples was built on Mons Caelius and bore the name Minerva Capta. There was, however, a temple already consecrated to Minerva in Rome on the Aventine. According to one tradition Minerva was one of the gods brought to Rome by Numa. Minerva is commonly represented with helmet.
MIRROR: Represented oval and with a handle: The mirror is a reflection of the soul; it does not lie, it is absolute truth. It is "man's knowledge of himself, the clear shining surface of divine truth, the gateway to the realm of inversion" (Cooper, 106). Taoists regard the mirror as the mechanism of self-realization, and Christians view a spotless mirror as an image of the Virgin Mary. For the Chinese, it is sincerity, and for the Buddhists it is the soul in a state of purity.
MITRE: See Bishop's Mitre.
MOGUL (carp): The Mogul allied to the Carp, is used as a badge of dignity called the MAHI MARATIB, which dignity is said to have originated with the Mogul dynasty founded in 1206. It is said to signify youth, bravery, perseverance and strength.
MOLE: A small, essentially blind, burrowing creature, the mole was also known in the British Isles as mouldywarp, a name echoed in other Germanic languages such as German (Maulwürfe), and Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic (muldvarp, mullvad, moldvarpa where the muld/mull/mold part of theword means soil and the varp/vad/varpa part is a descendant of the old-Nordic word for throw, hence "one who throws soil" or "dirt tosser". The mole is the guardian of the underground. Because their saliva contains a toxin that can paralyze earthworms (their principal diet), moles are able to store their still living prey for later consumption. A symbol of efficiency and protection. Male moles are called boars, females are called sows. A group of moles is called a labour.
MOON: See Crescent. In Heraldry the full moon symbolizes hope and rejuvenation; likely because of the moon's cycles. The Crescent moon is most prevalent however.
MOOR-COCK (red grouse): The male of the moorfowl or red grouse of Europe is borne by several families in allusion to their names. Birds in general are almost universally exalted and accepted as symbolically beings associated with the soul, as messengers of the gods, carriers of souls, as oracles or seen to possess the spirit of loved ones. They are also symbols of good or evil and a universal emblem of freedom.
MONKEY (baboon): The amusing antics of monkeys make them a symbol of mimicry, agility, buffoonery, cunning, satire, and the unconscious. It is said that they conceal their sage-like wisdom and magical powers with their humorous antics. Ancient Egyptians also esteemed the monkey, particularly the baboon whose morning screeches were believed to be prayers to the sun god rising in the sky. Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom and scribe of the gods were depicted as a dog-faced baboon and were thought to be as quarrelsome and lecherous as he was wise.
MORION: Antique helmet, originating in Spain in the 15th century and worn by infantry. When depicted on the shield, it denotes strength and protection; an ensign of a great battle won; also wisdom; security and safety in defence.
MORTAR & PESTLE: A vessel in which substances are crushed or ground with a pestle. The bearers were Knights of the Pestle and Mortar; Apothecaries or druggists, whose chief instrument is the pestle and mortar, used in compounding medicines.
MOUND (orb): A globe surmounted by a cross, used as a symbol of monarchical power and justice; part of the regalia of sovereigns.
MOUND (rising or hillock): On which crests are often under set, and usually for artistic purposes. Although occasionally, they were used to represent burial mounds and symbolized either remembrance or protection by the device or charge resting on the mound. Sometimes referred to as a Compartment.
MOUNT (mountain): Symbolizes constancy, permanence and enlightenment; an ancient symbol of the communication between heaven and earth.
MULBERRY: From the Greek moros (a fool). So called, we are told in the Hortus Anglicus, because "it is reputed the wisest of all flowers, as it never buds till the cold weather is past and gone." Denotes wisdom and the sagacity of good judgement.
MULLET (star): Usually 5 pointed however, in French heraldry the mullet is a six-pointed star. It usually represents the rowel of a spur. The mullet is also the mark of distinction of the third son. See Cadency. Is also said to denote some Divine quality bestowed from above. See Star.
MUSHROOM: An ancient symbol of good fortune; immortality.
MUSKET (pot-gun): The musket was the largest matchlock requiring the use of a rest to support its weight of 20 pounds. It is believed the Duke of Alba introduced the matchlock musket into Spanish service in the mid-16th century. By the 17th century, the English matchlock musket weighed 16 pounds and was10 gauge. (Gauge is the diameter of a gun barrel as determined by the number of lead balls in a pound that exactly fit the barrel). Denotes readiness for battle, warden-ship; a rampart of honour.
MUSKETEER: A musketeer (French: mousquetaire) was an early modern infantry soldier equipped with a musket. Musketeers were a significant part of early modern armies, to a great degree, in Europe. Symbolic of the battle, loyalty to the sovereign, warden-ship, and a symbol of office. Musketeers were soldiers characterized by being equipped with the matchlock rifle. Although the weapon appears first to have been used militarily by the Spanish in the Netherlands revolt in 1567, its name seems only to have entered English usage in 1587, its use being common from 1590. Musketeers were also utilized in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) and the 14th century Chinese military treatise Huolongjing describes a s-shaped serpetine matchlock. The musket most commonly used during the civil wars was the matchlock or arquebus, a gun first used towards the end of the 15th century, which had a barrel length of around 4½ feet and was fired by touching off the priming charge with a piece of burning slow-match. The match was a length of cord soaked in saltpetre attached to the trigger mechanism. The matchlock had a range of about 300 yards but with no hope of accuracy above 50 yards
MUSICAL PIPES (tabors): Emblems of festivity and rejoicing. A tabor is a small drum worn suspended from the waist. Often played with one hand while the other fingers play a hole-whistle, which is called pipe-and-tabor playing.
MYRTLE: Usually borne as an oval garland representative of the victors at the Julian Games; a cipher symbolic of victory. Also a symbol of conviction and faith as the ancient Jews believed that the eating of myrtle leaves conferred the power of detecting witches; and it was said that if the leaves crackled in the hands, the person beloved, would prove faithful.
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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.