Hello Variants, and welcome to another entry in the exciting series New World, Who’s this? For this entry, we will be discussing Heraldy. You may be asking yourself “What is heraldry?” Believe it or not, most people see it and recognize it without even realizing. In modern times, it’s more commonly refer to as Brand Recognition. Before you run for the hills, remember that this is a world building post!
In basic terms, heraldry is the iconography and colors of a particular person or group used to identify them in court or on the battlefield. In the Middle Ages, heraldry was displayed primarily on banners, tabards, and shields. Today, it’s more commonly displayed on labels and clothing. The primary purpose of heraldry is to make someone immediately recognizable in a crowd. From the White Hand of Isengard to the Dire-wolf of House Stark, when you see someone’s coat of arms, you know to whom they owe their allegiance.
Arguably the most important piece of any heraldic symbol is the coat of arms. This is the picture that is typically featured most prominently, and can be accompanied by various symbols with specific purposes. On a coat of arms, each symbol has meaning. A lion for example represents strength, leadership, and nobility. A bird on the other-hand, represents wisdom and speed. A tower represents steadfastness and loyalty in defense. Colors also have meanings, such as purple for royalty, blue for power and honor, red for aggression, and white for purity. Additionally, other symbols can indicate specifics about the person using them as part of their heraldry. A crescent moon to the side of ones insignia typically represents the second born to a family, while a chief, or crenellated banner along the top represents the firstborn. The combination of multiple coats of arms was also common upon marriage or merging of houses. In a standard marriage, the two coats of arms would be combined side by side, along a vertical axis in the center of the symbol.
Heraldry is an amazing subject for those interested from a historical point of view, and for creators in fantasy worlds. It allows tracking and documentation of individuals or groups over time. Through additions to a coat of arms, it’s often possible to see how things changed for them.
Have you used heraldry in your setting? What other symbols do you use to accentuate your factions or families? Let me know in the comments below!