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Title: Fictitious & Symbolic Creatures in Art - With Special Reference to Their Use in British Heraldry
Author: Vinycomb, John
Language: English
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  [Illustration: ST. GEORGE AND THE DRAGON]



  Tavistock Street, London


Under the title of this book it is proposed to describe and illustrate
only those fictitious and symbolic creatures which appear in British
Heraldry. The list will include all those beings of whose existence we
have not the direct evidence of our senses, and those exaggerations and
combinations of natural forms which have been adopted in the system of
symbolic heraldry handed down to us from the Middle Ages. Many of the
ideas of the writers of that period were undoubtedly derived from still
earlier sources, namely, classic story, sacred and legendary art, and the
marvellous tales of early travellers; others were the coinage of their own
fancies and their fears.

As these unreal beings are constantly met with in symbolic art, of which
heraldry is the chief exponent, it may be assumed that they have been
adopted in each case with some obvious or latent meaning, as in the case
of real animals; they may, therefore, equally lay claim to our
consideration as emblems or types, more especially as less attention has
been devoted to them and the delineation of their forms by competent
artists. The writer has been led into considering and investigating the
subject with some degree of attention, from finding the frequent need of
some reliable authority, both descriptive and artistic, such as would
enable any one to depict with accuracy and true heraldic spirit the forms
and features of these chimerical beings. Books of reference on heraldry
unfortunately give but a meagre description of their shapes, with scarcely
a hint as to their history or meaning, while the illustrations are usually
stiff and awkward, representing a soulless state of art.

It cannot be said that artists at any period have succeeded, even in a
remote degree, in embodying the highly wrought conceptions of the poets
concerning these terrible creatures of the imagination. Milton seems to
have carried poetic personification to its utmost limits. Who, for
instance, could depict a being like this:

            "Black it stood as night,
  Fierce as ten furies, terrible as hell!"

Out of the ambiguous and often conflicting accounts of different authors
and the vagaries of artists it became no easy task to arrive at a clear
conception of many of the forms of these ideal monsters. The poet's pen
may turn them to shapes, shadowy at the best; but the artist who follows
the poet in endeavouring to realise and give tangible shape to these ideas
finds it beyond his art to give material form and expression to his
personifications with anything like photographic fidelity. Such shadowy
beings prefer the dim light of allegory to the clear sunlight of reason,
and shrink from closer inspection. Like all spectres they are ever most
effective in the dark. In the childhood of the world, from the dawn of
history, and all through the dim and credulous ages past, many such
illusions have performed an important part in influencing the thought and
lives of mankind. Over many lands these inherited ideas still exercise a
paramount influence, but in the enlightenment of the coming time it is
probable their power, like that of an evil dream, will fade entirely away
with the dawn of a brighter day, and the memories of their name and
influence alone remain. At present we are chiefly concerned with them as
symbols, and with their mode of representation, breathing for a brief
moment the breath of life into their old dead skins. These mythical
creatures may be gazed upon, shorn of all their terrors, in the
illustrations I have been enabled to make, and if it is found that from
each creature I have not "plucked out the heart of its mystery" it is
probably because there is no mystery whatever about it, only what to us
now appears as an ingenious fiction engendered by a credulous, imaginative
and superstitious past. And so we find the old horrors and pleasing
fictions, after figuring for ages as terrible or bright realities in the
minds of entire peoples, reduced at length to the dead level of a figure
of speech and a symbol merely.


      _April 1906_.



  INTRODUCTION                                                           1

  NOTES ON ANIMATED BEINGS IN HERALDIC ART                              13
    THE SYMBOLISM OF ATTITUDE OR POSITION                               18
      IN HERALDRY                                                       22

  CELESTIAL BEINGS                                                      25

  ANGELS                                                                27
    MISTAKEN MODERN CONCEPTION OF ANGELS                                32
    MEDIÆVAL ART TREATMENT OF ANGELS                                    34

  CHERUBIM AND SERAPHIM IN HERALDRY                                     44

  THE CHERUBIM AND SERAPHIM OF SCRIPTURE                                47

  EMBLEMS OF THE FOUR EVANGELISTS                                       53


  THE DRAGON                                                            59

  THE DRAGON IN CHRISTIAN ART                                           69
    THE DRAGON IN THE ROYAL HERALDRY OF BRITAIN                         83
    THE CROCODILE AS THE PROTOTYPE OF THE DRAGON                        91
    THE HERALDIC DRAGON                                                 92

  THE HYDRA                                                             96

  THE WYVERN                                                            98
    THE CHIMERA                                                        102
    THE LION-DRAGON                                                    103
    THE GORGON                                                         103

  THE COCKATRICE                                                       104

  BASILISK, OR AMPHYSIAN COCKATRICE                                    106
    THE MYTHICAL SERPENT                                               108

  THE SCORPION                                                         122


  THE UNICORN                                                          127
    MEDIÆVAL CONCEPTION OF THE UNICORN                                 130
    THE HORN OF THE UNICORN                                            133

  THE PEGASUS                                                          137


  GRIFFIN OR GRYPHON                                                   147
    THE MALE GRIFFIN                                                   160
    OTHER VARIETIES OF THE GRIFFIN                                     161

  THE OPINICUS, OR EPIMACUS                                            162

  THE SPHYNX                                                           163

  THE PHŒNIX BIRD OF THE SUN                                        171

  THE HARPY                                                            179

  THE HERALDIC PELICAN                                                 182

  THE MARTLET                                                          186

  THE ALERION                                                          188
    THE LIVER (CORMORANT)                                              189

  THE HERALDIC TIGRE OR TYGER                                          190
    THE ROYAL TIGER                                                    193

  LEOPARD, OR PANTHER, FELIS PARDUS, LYBBARDE                          194
    THE PANTHER "INCENSED"                                             199

  THE LYNX                                                             203

  CAT-A-MOUNTAIN--TIGER CAT OR WILD CAT                                205

  THE SALAMANDER                                                       209

  HERALDIC ANTELOPE                                                    213

  THE HERALDIC IBEX                                                    215

  BAGWYN                                                               216

  THE CAMELOPARD, CAMEL-LEOPARD                                        216

  MUSIMON, TITYRUS                                                     217

  THE ENFIELD                                                          217

  MANTIGER, MONTEGRE OR MANTICORA SATYRAL                              218
    LAMIA OR EMIPUSA                                                   220
    BAPHOMET                                                           221
    APRES                                                              221
    STELLIONES                                                         221

  FICTITIOUS CREATURES OF THE SEA                                      223
    INTRODUCTORY NOTES                                                 225

  POSEIDON, OR NEPTUNE                                                 237

  MERMAN OR TRITON                                                     239

  THE MERMAID OR SIREN                                                 243

  THE SIRENS OF CLASSIC MYTHOLOGY                                      249

  THE DOLPHIN OF LEGEND AND OF HERALDRY                                254

  THE DAUPHIN OF FRANCE                                                265

  THE HERALDIC DOLPHIN                                                 267

  THE SEA-HORSE                                                        270

  SEA-LION                                                             274

  SEA-DOG                                                              275



    Angel holding Shield                                                27
    Egyptian Winged Deity                                               28
    Hawk-headed and winged figure, emblem of Osiris                     29
    Angel with Cloud Symbol                                             38
    Angel Supporter                                                     40
    Kneeling Angel Supporter                                            41
    Arms of the Abbey of St. Albans                                     42
    Gloria in Excelsis Deo                                              43
    Cherubs' Heads                                                      44
    A Seraph's Head                                                     44
    Arms--Azure a chevron argent between three cherubs' heads of the
      last                                                              45
    Cherubim and Seraphim of Scripture                                  47
    Angel crest of Tuite, Bart., co. Tipperary                          48
    Tetramorph                                                          52
    Symbols of the Four Evangelists                                     54
    The Lion of St. Mark, Venice                                        56

    The Dragon                                                          59
    Japanese Dragon                                                     65
    Japanese Imperial Device                                            67
    The Dragon of the Apocalypse                                        71
    St. Michael and the Old Dragon                                      72
    St. Margaret. From ancient carving                                  73
    St. George and the Dragon                                           74
    Dragon Standard. From the Bayeux Tapestry                           86
    A Dragon passant                                                    90
    Crest, a Dragon's Head erased collared and chained                  93
    Arms of the City of London                                          94
    Sinister supporter of the arms of Viscount Gough                    95
    Hercules and the Lernean Hydra. From Greek vase                     96
    The Hydra                                                           97
    A Wyvern holding a fleur-de-lis                                     98
    A Wyvern, wings endorsed, tail nowed                                99
    Wyvern from the Garter plate of Sir John Gray, 1436 A.D.            99
    Wyvern, or Lindworm (German version)                               100
    Wyvern, wings displayed (early example)                            101
    Wyvern, wings depressed                                            101
    Chimera, from a Greek coin                                         102
    Cockatrice                                                         105
    Basilisk or Aphasian Cockatrice, tail nowed                        107
    Greek Shield, from painted vase in the British Museum              114
    Brazen Serpent                                                     114
    Arms of Whitby Abbey                                               118
    A Serpent, nowed, proper. Crest of Cavendish                       121
    Amphiptère, or flying Serpent                                      122
    Scorpion                                                           123

    Unicorn salient                                                    127
    Crest, a Unicorn's Head, couped                                    128
    The Legend of the Unicorn                                          131
    Pegasus or Pegasos                                                 137
    Coins of Corinth and Syracuse                                      138
    Pegasus salient                                                    139
    The Sagittary--Centaur                                             142
    Ipotane, from Mandeville's travels                                 144
    Compound figures, gold necklace                                    145
    Centaur, Greek Sculpture                                           146
    A Griffin statant, wings endorsed                                  148
    A Griffin passant, wings raised. (Early English)                   149
    A Griffin segreant, wings displayed. (German)                      149
    Sleeping Griffin                                                   150
    Griffin segreant (German version)                                  152
    Gold Flying Griffin                                                154
    Colossal Griffins, Burmah                                          155
    Carved panel, a Griffin segreant                                   160
    Male Griffin                                                       161
    Opinicus statant                                                   162
    Egyptian Sphynx                                                    163
    Theban, or Greek Sphynx                                            164
    A Sphynx passant guardant, wings endorsed                          170
    The Phœnix                                                         171
    A Harpy, wings disclosed                                           179
    The Harpy, Greek sculpture                                         180
    A Harpy displayed and crowned (German version)                     181
    Shield of Nüremberg                                                181
    A Pelican in her piety, wings displayed                            182
    Heraldic Pelican in her piety                                      183
    Crest, a Pelican vulning herself proper, wings endorsed            184
    The natural Pelican                                                186
    The Martlet                                                        186
    Alerion displayed                                                  188
    Heraldic Eagle                                                     188
    An Heraldic Tigre passant                                          190
    Supporter, an Heraldic Tigre, collared and lined                   191
    Tigre and Mirror                                                   193
    A Leopard passant                                                  195
    A Leopard's Face, jessant-de-lis                                   196
    Panther "Incensed"                                                 200
    The Lynx                                                           203
    Cat-a-Mountain saliant, collared and lined                         205
    Crest, a Cat-a-Mountain, sejant, collared and lined                206
    The crowned Salamander of Francis I.                               209
    Salamander crest of James, Earl of Douglas                         212
    Heraldic Antelope                                                  214
    The Heraldic Ibex                                                  215
    Musimon, Tityrus                                                   217
    Mantygre, Satyral                                                  218
    Manticora. From ancient Bestiaria                                  219
    Lamia. From old Bestiary                                           220

    Poseidon. Dexter Supporter of Baron Hawke                          237
    Merman or Triton                                                   240
    Triton, with two tails (German)                                    240
    Mermaid and Triton supporters                                      241
    Mermaid                                                       242, 243
    Crest of Ellis                                                     244
    Die Ritter, of Nuremberg                                           245
    Ulysses and the Sirens                                        249, 250
    The Dolphin                                                   254, 255
    Dolphin of classic art                                             259
    Coin of Ægina                                                      262
    Sign of the Dolphin                                                263
    Banner of the Dolphin                                              265
    Example--Dolphin embowed                                           267
    Dolphin hauriant, urinant, naiant, torqued                         268
    Sea-horse naiant                                                   270
    Sea-horse erect                                                    271
    Arms of the city of Belfast                                        273
    Sea-lion erect                                                     275
    Sea-dog rampant                                                    276


  "_Angels and ministers of grace defend us._"--"Hamlet."

The human mind has a passionate longing for knowledge even of things past
comprehension. Where it cannot know, it will imagine; what the mind
conceives it will attempt to define. Are facts wanting, poetry steps in,
and myth and song supply the void; cave and forest, mountain and valley,
lake and river, are theatres peopled by fancy, and

              "as imagination bodies forth
  The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
  Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
  A local habitation and a name."

Traditions of unreal beings inhabit the air, and will not vanish be they
ever so sternly commanded; from the misty records of antiquity and the
relics of past greatness as seen sculptured in stupendous ruins on the
banks of the Nile and the plains of Assyria, strange shapes look with
their mute stony eyes upon a world that knows them but imperfectly, and
vainly attempts to unriddle the unfathomable mystery of their being.
Western nations, with their growing civilisations, conjured up monsters of
benign or baneful influence, or engrafted and expanded the older ideas in
a manner suited to their genius and national characteristics.

The creatures of the imagination, "Gorgons and Hydras and Chimeras dire,"
shapes lovely and shapes terrible begot of unreason in the credulous minds
of the imaginative, the timid and the superstitious,--or dreamy poetic
fancies of fairies and elves of whom poets sing so sweetly:

  "Shapes from the invisible world unearthly singing
  From out the middle air, from flowery nests
  And from the pillowy silkiness that rests
  Full in the speculation of the stars,--"

                    "or fairy elves,
  Whose midnight revels, by the forest side
  Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
  Or dreams he sees,--"
                  MILTON, _Paradise Lost_, Book i.

the nameless dreads and horrors of the unknown powers of darkness, the
pestiferous inhabitants of wastes and desert places where loneliness
reigns supreme, and imaginary terrors assault the traveller on every hand,
assuming forms more various and more to be dreaded than aught of mortal
birth,--such vague and indefinable ideas, "legends fed by time and
chance," like rumours in the air, in the course of time assume tangible
shape, receiving definite expression by the poet and artist until they
become fixed in the popular mind as stern realities influencing the
thoughts and habits of millions of people through successive generations.
We see them in the rude fetish of the South Sea Islander, the myriad gods
and monsters of heathen mythology, as well as in the superstitions of
mediæval Europe, of which last the devil with horned brow, cloven hoofs
and forked tail is the most "unreal mockery" of them all. The days of
Diabolism and the old witch creed are, however, passed away; but under the
dominance of these ideas during centuries, in Protestant and Catholic
lands alike, hundreds of thousands of innocent victims of all ages and
both sexes were accused of the most absurd and impossible crimes, and
subjected to almost inconceivable torture and death.

The dying Christian about to pass through the valley of the shadow of
death, in the words of the poet, expresses his faith in the nearness of
the spirit world:

  "I see a form ye cannot see
  I hear a voice ye cannot hear."

To the spiritually minded other forms, with more of the beautiful and less
of the hideous and frightful, revealed themselves; the solitary recluse,
his body and mind reduced to an unnatural condition by fasting and
penance, in mental hallucination beheld his celestial visitants with awe
and adoration, and saw in visions angels and archangels, cherubim and
seraphim towering in a blaze of glory to illimitable height and extremest
space. The rapt seraph and the whole angelic host of heaven to his
ecstatic gaze was a revelation and a reality as tangible as were the
powers of darkness seen and felt by more sordid natures, incapable of the
higher conceptions, and whose minds were accessible chiefly through their

To classic fable we are indebted for very many of the fictitious animals
which heralds have introduced into coats armorial. In all ages man has
sought to explain by myths certain phenomena of nature which he has been
unable to account for in a more rational manner. _Earthquakes_ were the
awakening of the earth tortoise which carried the earth on its back; _the
tides_ were the pulses of the ocean; _lightning_ was the breath of demons,
the thunderbolt of Jupiter, the hammer of Thor; _volcanoes_ were the
forges of the infernal deities. In the old Norse legends we read of
_waterspouts_ being looked upon as sea serpents, and wonderful stories are
related of their power and influence. The Chinese imagine _eclipses_ to be
caused by great dragons which seek to devour the sun. Innumerable beliefs
cluster round the _sun_, _moon_, and _stars_. We may trace from our own
language the extent of power which these peculiar beliefs have had over
the human mind. We still speak of mad people as lunatics, gloomy people as
saturnine, sprightly people we term mercurial; we say, "Ill-starr'd
event," &c. &c. The ships of the early navigators, with masts and sails
and other requisites for directing their motion or influencing their
speed, would be objects of astonishment to the inhabitants of the
countries they visited, causing them to be received with the utmost
respect and veneration. The ship was taken for a living animal, and hence
originated, some say, the fables of winged dragons, griffons, flying
citadels, and men transformed into birds and fishes. The winged Pegasus
was nothing but a ship with sails and hence was said to be the offspring
of Neptune.

"In reality," says Southey, in his preface to the "Morte d'Arthur," vol.
ii. 1817, "mythological and romantic tales are current among all savages
of whom we have any full account; for man has his intellectual as well as
his bodily appetite, and these things are the food of his imagination and
faith. They are found wherever there is language and discourse of reason;
in other words, wherever there is man. And in similar states of society
the fictions of different people will bear a corresponding resemblance,
notwithstanding the differences of time and scene." And Sir Walter Scott,
in his "Essay on Romance and Chivalry," following up the same idea, adds,
"that the usual appearances and productions of nature offer to the fancy,
in every part of the world, the same means of diversifying fictitious
narrative by the introduction of prodigies. If in any romance we encounter
the description of an elephant, we may reasonably conclude that a
phenomenon unknown in Europe must have been borrowed from the East; but
whoever has seen a serpent and a bird may easily aggravate the terrors of
the former by conferring on a fictitious monster the wings of the latter;
and whoever has seen or heard of a wolf, or lion and an eagle, may, by a
similar exercise of invention, imagine a griffon or a hippogriff."

Beyond the common experiences of every-day life the popular mind
everywhere cares very little about simple commonplace practical truths.
Human nature seems to crave mystery, to be fond of riddles and the
marvellous, and doubtless it was ever so and provided for in all the old
faiths of the world.

"The multitude of dragons, diverse as they are, reflecting the fears and
fancies of the most different races, it is more than probable is a relic
of the early serpent-worship which, according to Mr. Fergusson, is of such
remote antiquity that the religion of the Jews was modern in comparison,
the curse laid on the serpent being, in fact, levelled at the ancient
superstition which it was intended to supersede. Notwithstanding the
various forms under which we find the old dragon he ever retains something
of the serpent about him, if no more than the scales. In the mediæval
devil, too, the tail reveals his descent." (Louis F. Day.)

The fictitious beings used as symbols in heraldry may be divided into two
classes: (1) Celestial beings mentioned in Holy Writ, and those creatures
of the imagination which, from the earliest ages, have held possession of
men's minds, profound symbols unlike anything in the heavens or in the
earth beneath or in the waters under the earth. They may be abstract ideas
embodied in tangible shape, such as the terrible creature, the type of
some divine quality, that stands calm, immovable, and imperishable within
the walls of our National Museum; such forms as the dragon, of the purely
imaginative class, and those creatures compounded of parts of different
real animals, yet unlike any one of them, each possessing special symbolic
attributes, according to the traditional ideas held concerning them. (2)
Animals purely heraldic, such as the heraldic tiger, panther incensed,
heraldic antelope, &c., owe their origin and significance to other ideas,
and must be accounted for on other grounds, namely, the mistaken ideas
resulting from imperfect knowledge of these objects in natural history by
early writers and herald painters, to whom they were no doubt real animals
with natural qualities, and, as such, according to their knowledge, they
depicted them; and although more light has been thrown upon the study of
natural history since their time, and many of their conceptions have been
proved to be erroneous, the well-known heraldic shapes of many of these
_lusus naturæ_ are still retained in modern armory. These animals were
such as they could have little chance of seeing, and they probably
accepted their descriptions from "travellers' tales," always full of the
marvellous--and the misleading histories of still earlier writers. Pliny
and many of the writers of his day describe certain animals in a way that
appears the absurdest fable; even the lion described by him is in some
points most unnatural. Xenophon, for instance, describing a boar hunt,
gravely tells us: "So hot are the boar's tusks when he is just dead that
if a person lays hairs upon them the hairs will shrivel up; and when the
boar is alive they--that is, the tusks--are actually red hot when he is
irritated, for otherwise he would not singe the tips of the dogs' hair
when he misses a blow at their bodies." The salamander in flames, of
frequent occurrence in heraldry, is of this class. Like the toad, "ugly
and venomous," the salamander was regarded by the ancients with the utmost
horror and aversion. It was accredited with wondrous qualities, and the
very sight of it "abominable and fearful to behold." Elian, Nicander,
Dioscorides and Pliny all agree in that it possessed the power of
immediately extinguishing any fire into which it was put, and that it
would even rush at or charge the flame, which it well knew how to
extinguish. It was believed that its bite was certainly mortal, that
anything touched by its saliva became poisonous, nay, that if it crept
over a tree all the fruit became deleterious. Even Bacon believed in it.
Quoth he: "The salamander liveth in the fire and hath the power to
extinguish it." There is, too, a lingering popular belief that if a fire
has been burning for seven years there will be a salamander produced from
it. Such is the monstrous character given to one of the most harmless of
little creatures: the only basis of truth for all this superstructure of
fable is the fact that it exudes an acrid watery humour from its skin when
alarmed or in pain.

Spenser, in the "Fairy Queen," Book 1, cant. v. 18, according to the
mistaken notions of his time, compares the dangerous dissimulation and
treacherous tears of Duessa (or Falsehood) to the crocodile:

  "As when a weary traveller that strays
  By muddy shore of broad seven-mouthed Nile,
  Unweeting of the perilous wand'ring ways,
  Doth meet a cruel, crafty crocodile,
  Which in false guise hiding his harmful guile,
  Doth weep full sore, and shedding tender tears;
  The foolish man, that pities all the while
  His mournful plight, is swallowed unawares
  Forgetful of his own that minds another's cares."

And Shakespeare, _2 Henry VI_. iii. 1:

              "as the mournful crocodile
  With sorrow snares relenting passengers."

Quarles, too, in his "Emblems":

  "O what a crocodilian world is this,
  Compos'd of treach'ries and insnaring wiles!"

Bossewell, an heraldic writer of the sixteenth century, after the model of
his forerunner, Gerard Leigh, edified his readers with comments on natural
history in such a delightful manner (according to his friend Roscarrocke)
as to provoke the envy of Pliny in Elysium, though now these descriptions
in many instances only serve to call up a smile from their very absurdity.
With "veracious" histories of this description, is it to be wondered at
that such beings as those referred to were made use of in heraldry and
accepted as types or emblems of some particular quality in man? As an
instance of how an error in the form of an animal may be perpetuated
unperceived, it may be mentioned that even in the best books on heraldry,
natural history, and in other illustrated publications, the elephant is
rarely to be seen correctly delineated. A peculiarity in his formation is
that the hind legs bend in the same manner as the fore legs, so that,
unlike other quadrupeds, it can kneel and rest on its four knees, whereas
it is usually depicted with the hind legs to bend in the same way as those
of the horse or the cow. When artists and herald-painters continue to
commit this blunder unobserved, some palliation may be afforded to the old
heralds for their offences against zoology in the errors and delusions
arising from lack of information. They could have little opportunity of
acquiring a correct knowledge of the rarer kinds of animals; they had not
the advantage of seeing menageries of wild beasts, or of consulting books
on natural history with excellent illustrations, as the modern herald may
do. Only when their scanty information fell short did they venture to draw
on their imaginations for their beasts, after the manner of an ancient
worthy, who "where the lion's skin fell short, eked it out with the

Some writers, however, maintain that these monstrosities are not so much
the result of ignorance of the real forms of the beasts as that they were
intended to typify certain extraordinary qualities, and therefore
exaggeration of the natural shapes and functions was needful to express
such qualities. This may be true in some instances. Under this idea the
noble form of the lion may have been distorted to resemble the wild cat in
the fury of its contortions. _The Panther incensed_, breathing fire and
smoke out of its mouth, nose and ears, seems as if taken from some
misleading history--like that of the boar, by Xenophon, already referred
to--or the result of the erroneous description of some terrified
traveller. This is a natural and probable mode of accounting for its
unnatural appearance. It may, however, fairly be said that the natural
ferocity of the brute, and also its destructive qualities, are most fitly
typified by the devouring flame issuing from the head of this bloodthirsty
and treacherous beast of prey.

_The Heraldic Pelican_, again, is evidently a mistake of the early
artists, similar to the heraldic tiger, heraldic antelope, &c., and the
persistent following of the traditional "pattern" by the heralds when once
established. Early Christian painters always represented this emblem of
devoted self-sacrifice, _A Pelican in her piety_--that is, feeding her
young with her own blood--as having the head and beak of an eagle or bird
of prey such as they must have believed it to possess, and with which it
would be possible that it could lacerate its own breast; and not with the
clumsy and ungainly "bill" peculiar to this species of bird, which we know
is more suited to gobble up small reptiles than to "_vulning_" itself.

Some symbols, again, are neither real nor do they pretend to be fabulous,
such as the _two-headed eagle_, but are pure heraldic inventions that have
each their special signification. _The tricorporate lion_ lays no claim to
be other than the symbol of a powerful triune body under one guiding head;
the _three legs conjoined_--the arms of the Isle of Man--is an old Greek
sign for expedition. Many other instances will, no doubt, occur to the
reader of similar emblems of this class.

Notes on Animated Beings in Heraldic Art


Notes on Animated Beings in Heraldic Art

    "_One chief source of illustration is to be found in the most
    brilliant, and in its power on character, hitherto the most effective
    of the Arts--HERALDRY._"

      "Relation of Wise Art and Wise Science."

Heraldry is _par excellence_ the science of symbols. A pictorial device is
subject to no exact or regular law, provided it carries its meaning with
it. Heraldry, on the contrary, insists on the observance of certain
definite and easily understood rules constituting it a science, by the
observance of which any one acquainted with heraldic language may, from a
concise written description (or _blazon_ as it is termed), reconstruct at
any time the symbol or series of symbols intended, and with perfect
accuracy; for a heraldic emblem once adopted remains unchangeable, no
matter with what amount of naturalness or conventionality it may be done,
or with what quaintness or even grotesqueness it may be treated; the
symbol remains intact. "_A lion rampant_," "_a dragon_," or any other
heraldic figure is, therefore, a fixed and immutable idea, and not to be
confounded with any other, no matter what the style of artistic or
decorative treatment it may receive.

Notwithstanding the evident intention everywhere in heraldry to be
symbolic, in attitude as well as in tinctures, we find the greatest errors
and absurdities constantly perpetrated. To many it seems as if it was not
considered essential to acquire a knowledge of the rudiments of the
science. Heraldry is a living language, and when the attempt is made to
express it without proper knowledge the result can only be unmitigated
nonsense. By inattention to those principles which regulate the
_attitude_, the _tinctures_, and the disposition of every part of an
armorial achievement, discredit is brought upon the subject, which should
fall upon the head of the ignorant designer alone. No matter what heraldic
position of an animal may be blazoned (though it admits of only one
interpretation), we find the most unwarrantable latitude frequently taken
by otherwise skilful artists in depicting it. The designer becomes a law
unto himself, and it is posed and treated in a way to suit the fancy of
the moment. A lion is only a lion to him, and it is nothing more. To the
true herald it is very much more. As a mild instance, see the unkind
treatment meted out to the supporters of the Royal Arms. The lion and
unicorn are both "rampant," and the head of the lion is turned towards
the spectator (termed _guardant_). Not content to be represented in the
regulation positions, they will be found depicted in most strange and
fantastic attitudes not recognised in heraldry--not supporting or guarding
the shield, which is their special function. At the head of the _Times_
newspaper they are represented playing at hide and seek round the shield;
elsewhere we see them capering and prancing, or we find them sitting, like
begging dogs, as if ashamed of themselves and their vocation.

I may here quote from a most admirable work: "That the decorative beauty
of heraldry, far from being that of form and colour alone, was also an
imaginative one depending much on the symbolic meaning of its designs,
there can be no doubt.... Early Christian Art was full of symbols, whose
use and meaning were discussed in treatises from the second century
onwards. By the eleventh it had become systemised and ranged under various
heads,--Bestiaria for beasts, Volucaria for birds, and Lapidaria for
stones. It permeated the whole life of the people in its religious uses,
and entered romantically into the half-religious, half-mystical
observances of chivalry, the very armour of the valiant knight being full
of meanings which it was his duty to know."[1]

The Symbolism of Attitude or Position

It must be evident to every one who has given any thought to the subject
that a definite idea is meant to be conveyed to the mind by the attitude
in which an animal is depicted; and such figures are not mere arbitrary
signs, like the letters of the alphabet, which of themselves convey no
meaning whatever. "_A lion rampant_" is, as the term suggests, a lion in
the act of fighting, rearing on his hind legs to meet his antagonist. He
is therefore depicted with wildly tossed mane, staring eyes, and _guly_
mouth; his muscular limbs and distended claws braced up for the combat
betoken the energy and power of the noble brute. How different is the idea
conveyed by the lion _statant_ in the firm majesty of his pose, calmly
looking before him; or _couchant_, fit emblem of restful vigilance and
conscious power, prepared on the instant alike to attack or defend.

Should any reasons be needed to enforce the necessity of adhering strictly
to the heraldic law in which attitude plays such an important part, it may
be needful only to refer to one or two examples, and cite as an instance
in point the noblest of all created beings, and ask whether, of the many
acts in which imperious man himself may be heraldically portrayed, the
action or position in which he is to be depicted should not indicate
distinctly the idea that is to be associated with the representation?
whether vauntingly, like the old kings,--

      "with high exacting look
  Sceptred and globed"

--attributes of his power,--or as a bishop or saint in the act of
benediction,--kneeling in prayer as on mediæval seals,--the three savage
men _ambulant_ on the shield of Viscount Halifax,--or the dead men strewn
over the field on the seal of the city of Lichfield--in each the primary
idea is _man_, but how different the signification! It will therefore be
understood that the particular action or posture, or any of the various
forms in which real or imaginary creatures may be blazoned in heraldry,
gives the keynote to its interpretation, which, in this respect, is
nothing if not symbolic.

It will be seen that to interpret the meaning implied in any particular
charge, the _tinctures_, as well as the _attitude_, must be considered.
These, taken in combination with the _qualities_ or _attributes_ we
associate with the creature represented, indicate in a threefold manner
the complete idea or phase of meaning intended to be conveyed by the
composition, and may be thus formulated:

    (1) THE CREATURE.--The primary idea in the symbol is in the particular
    being represented, whether real or fictitious, as _a man_, _a lion_,
    _an eagle_, _a dragon_, &c., of the form and accepted character for
    some particular quality or attribute of mind or body, as
    _fierceness_, _valour_, _fleetness_, &c.

    (2) ATTITUDE.--The various attitudes or positions in which it may be
    depicted in heraldry, each denoting some special meaning, as
    _rampant_, _sejant_, _dormant_, &c.

    (3) TINCTURE.--Whether blazoned _proper_ (that is, according to
    nature) or of some of the heraldic tinctures, as _or_ (gold), _gules_
    (red), _azure_, _vert_, &c., each tincture, according to the old
    heralds, bearing a particular and special signification.

Tinctures in armorial devices were, however, not always introduced on
these scientific principles or adopted from any symbolic meaning, but as
arbitrary variations of colour for distinction merely, and as being in
themselves equally honourable; colour alone in many instances serving to
distinguish the arms of many families that would otherwise be the same.
Hence the necessity for accuracy in blazoning.

Guillam lays down some general rules regarding the symbolic meaning by
which all sorts of creatures borne in arms or ensigns are to be
interpreted, and by which alone a consistent system can be regulated.
"They must," he says, "be interpreted in the best sense, that is,
according to their most generous and noble qualities, and so to the
greatest honour of their bearers.... The _fox_ is full of wit, and withal
given wholly to filching for his prey. If, then, this be the charge of an
escutcheon, we must conceive the quality represented to be his wit and
cunning, but not his pilfering and stealing;" and so of other beasts. Even
in wild and ruthless animals and fictitious creatures, symbolic heraldry
delights in setting forth their most commendable qualities, as fierceness
and courage in overcoming enemies, though they may also possess most
detestable qualities.

In like manner all sorts of peaceable or gentle-natured creatures must be
set forth in their most noble and kindly action, each in its disposition
and that which is most agreeable to nature, rather than of an opposite
character. Heraldic art thus stamps a peculiar note of dignity for some
particular respect in the emblematic figures it accepts, as for some
special use, quality or action in the thing depicted; and this dignity or
nobility may have a twofold relation, one betwixt creatures of divers
kinds, as _a lion_ or _a stag_, _a wolf_ and _a lamb_; the other between
beings of one and the same kind, according to their various attitudes or
positions in which they may be represented, as a stag _courant_ or _at
speed_, and a stag _lodged_ or _at bay_; a lion _rampant_ and a lion
_coward_--one will keep the field, the other seek safety in flight, just
as one attitude conveys a different signification from another.

The Heraldic Spirit--Effective decorative Quality essential in Heraldry

It will be observable that in the hands of a capable designer imbued with
the true heraldic spirit, all objects, animate and inanimate, conform
after their kind to decorative necessities, and assume shapes more or less
conventional, and, as far as is consistent with effective display of the
charge, are made to accommodate themselves to the space they must occupy.
Fierce and savage beasts are made to look full of energy and angry power,
while gentle-natured creatures are made to retain their harmless traits.
In a monster of the dragon tribe, strong leathern wings add to his
terrors; his jaws are wide, his claws are strong and sharp; he is clothed
in impenetrable armour of plates and scales, his breath is fire and flame,
lightning darts from his eyes, he lashes his tail in fury; and all the
while the artist is most careful so to spread the creature out on shield
or banner that all his powers shall be displayed at once.

Whatever liberty the artist may take in his interpretation of the form of
bird, beast, or monster, there is, however, a limit to his licence beyond
which he may not go. He may not alter the recognised symbolic attitude,
nor change the tincture; he is scarcely at liberty to add a feature. He
may curl the mane of his lion, fancifully develop its tongue and tail,
and display its claws in a manner for which there is little or no
authority in nature; but if he add wings, or endow it with a plurality of
heads or tails, it instantly becomes another creature and a totally
different symbol.[2] A wise reticence in treatment is more to be commended
than such fanciful extravagance.

The early artists and heralds, in their strivings to exaggerate in a
conventional manner the characteristics of animals for their most
effective display, appear to have reached the limits of which their art
was capable, and important lessons may be gained from their works. With
the extended knowledge of natural history, and the advanced state of art
at the present day, decorative and symbolic heraldry should take a leading
place in the twentieth century, as in the words of Ruskin, it has been
"hitherto the most brilliant" and "most effective of the Arts."

Celestial Beings

[Illustration: Angels]

  "_They boast ethereal vigour and are form'd
  From seeds of heavenly birth._"--VIRGIL.

  "_Down hither prone in flight
  He speeds, and through the vast ethereal sky
  Sails between world and world with steady wings:
  Now on the polar wind, then with quick fan
  Winnows the buxom air._"--MILTON.

Angels and Archangels the mind loves to contemplate as the ministers of
God's omnipotence and beneficence, and delights in believing these
celestial beings to be endowed with a higher and purer intelligence, and
as being nearer to the divine nature. In all ages civilised man has
thought of them and represented them in art as of form like to his own,
and with attributes of volition and power suggested by wings. Scripture
itself justifies the similitude; the Almighty is sublimely represented as
"walking upon the wings of the wind." Wings have always been the symbol or
attribute of _volition_, of _mind_, or of the _spirit_ or _air_. No apter
emblem could be found for a rapid and resistless element than birds or the
wings of birds; and however incongruous such appendages may be, and
anatomically impossible, it is figuratively as the messengers of God's
will to man that we have come to view these celestial habitants.

[Illustration: Egyptian Winged Deity.]

The idea of adding wings to the human form has existed from remote
antiquity, and for the earliest suggestion of celestial beings of the
winged human type we must look to the art works of Egypt and Assyria. In
Egyptian art, Neith, the goddess of the heavens, was sometimes represented
with wings, and in the marbles of Nineveh we find human figures displaying
four wings.[3] In classic art wings are given to certain divinities and
genii. The Jews probably borrowed the idea from the Egyptians, and the
early Christians adopted--in this as in many other instances--existing
ideas in their symbolical art to express the attribute of swiftness and
power, and the sanction of the practice doubtless fixed it for acceptance
through all future epochs of Christian Art.

[Illustration: Hawk-headed and winged figure, emblem of Osiris, which,
having of all birds the most piercing eye and the most rapid flight,
serves to express the divine intelligence and activity. (Palace of Nimrod
in the Louvre.)]

In holy writ and Jewish tradition angels are usually spoken of as men, and
their wings appear to be implied rather than expressed, as when Abraham in
the plains of Mamré addresses his celestial visitors as "my lord," when
Jacob wrestles with the angel, and more particularly when the Angel at the
Sepulchre is described by St. Matthew, "His countenance was like the
lightning and his raiment white as snow," and by St. Mark as "A young man
clothed in a long white garment."

The Seraphim and Cherubim as winged beings are more perfectly described in
the Scriptures.

_The Wings Variously Coloured._--Not content with a simple departure in
form from all natural wings, the early and Middle Age artists resorted to
many expedients to invest their angels' wings with unearthly
characteristics. Colour was a fertile field for their ingenuity, and they
lavished all their brilliant hues in accentuating or separating the
several orders of feathers comprising the wings; now rivalling the
rainbow, now applying the startling contrasts of the most gorgeous
tropical butterfly; at other times sprinkling or tipping the richly
painted feathers with burnished gold, or making them appear alive with
brilliant eyes.

_Vesture._--In Early Christian Art the white vesture spoken of by St.
Matthew and St. John, almost invariably adopted, consisted of garments
resembling the classic tunica and pallium, sometimes bound with the
"golden girdle" of Revelation. During the mediæval period they were clad
in every brilliant colour. Angels do not often appear in the works of art
executed during the first six centuries of the Church; and previous to the
fifth century they were invariably represented without the nimbus--that
attribute of divinity with which they were almost always invested
throughout the whole range of Middle Age art.

_Nimbus._--The nimbi given to all the orders of the angelic hierarchy are
circular in form, with their fields either plain or covered with numerous
radiating lines or rays, sometimes with broad borders of ornament, but
never with the _tri-radiate_ form, which was specially reserved for the
persons of the trinity.

Lord Bacon ("Advancement of Learning," Book i.) says we find, as far as
credit is to be given to the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the supposed
Dionysius, the Senator of Athens, that the first place or degree is given
to the angels of love, which are termed _Seraphim_; the second to the
angels of light, which are termed _Cherubim_; and the third, and so
following places, to thrones, principalities, and the rest, which are all
angels of power and ministry, so that the angels of knowledge and
illumination are placed before the angels of office and domination.

_Fallen Angels._--We learn from Tradition that many angels, originally
holy like the rest, fell from their pristine purity, becoming so
transformed in character that all their powers are now used for the
purpose of doing evil instead of doing good. These are to be identified
with the devils so frequently mentioned in holy writ. By the artists of
the Middle Ages they are depicted in as hideous a manner as could be
conceived, more generally of the Satyr form with horns and hoofs and tail,
which last connects them with the Dragon of the Apocalypse, the
impersonation of the Supreme Spirit of evil (_see_ Dragon). In Milton's
conception Satan--the fallen Angel--assumes noble and magnificent

Mistaken Modern Conception of Angels

Many poets and artists of modern times appear to have lost sight of the
traditions of sacred art, and in their endeavours to spiritualise the
character of angelic beings have in this respect been led to portray them
as altogether feminine in form and appearance. This error should be
carefully avoided, because in a spiritual as well as in a human sense the
vigorous active principle they represent, besides having the warrant of
Scripture, is more fitly represented by man than by woman.

Mahomet, who borrowed his ideas mostly from the Christians, in this
instance, possibly to guard his followers from some latent form of
idolatry, said of angels with some show of reason, that "they were too
pure in nature to admit of sex," but to meet the ideas of his followers he
invented another race of celestial beings for the delight and solace of
the faithful in the paradise to which he lured them.

_Ministering Spirits or Guardian Angels._--These form a frequent theme of
poets and artists. The idea was apparently evolved from the mention of
"ministering spirits" before the throne of God in holy writ, and from the
ecclesiastical legends and traditions of the Christian mythology of early
date, derived from still earlier sources. Thus Milton speaks of--

                "one of the Seven
  Who in God's presence, nearest to the throne
  Stand ready at command, and are his eyes
  That run thro' all the heavens, and down to earth
  Bear his swift errands."
                                  _Paradise Lost_, iii.

According to ancient Jewish belief, each person had his or her guardian
angel, and a spirit could assume the aspect of some visible being:

  "But she constantly affirmed that it was even so.
  Then said they, 'It is _his angel_.'"
                                  _Acts_ xii. 15.

  "Brutus as you know was Cæsar's _Angel_:
  Judge, O ye God, how dearly Cæsar loved him."
        SHAKESPEARE, _Julius Cæsar_, Act iii. sc. 2.

Spenser finely expresses the idea of the good and evil influences
continually warring unseen about us, and his gratitude for the effective
protection of the guardian spirits:

  "How oft do they their silver bowers leave,
  To come to succour us that succour want!
  How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
  The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant,
  Against fowle fiends to ayde us militant!
  They for us fight, they watch, and dewly ward,
  And their bright squadrons round about us plant;
  And all for love, and nothing for reward:
  O why should heavenly God to men have such regard?"

Milton beautifully assumes the pure nature of saintly chastity attended by
ministering spirits:

  "A thousand liveried angels lackey her,
  Driving far off each thing of sin and guilt,
  And in clear dream and solemn vision,
  Tell her of things that no gross ear can hear;
  Till oft converse with heavenly habitants
  Begins to cast a beam on the outward shape."

And Scott, in figurative language, apostrophising woman in her higher and
more spiritual sphere, says in "Marmion":

  "When pain and anguish wring the brow,
  A ministering angel thou!"

Shakespeare expresses a prevailing idea that the pure in heart will become
ministering angels in heaven; Laertes, at the grave of Ophelia, fiercely
thunders forth:

  "I tell thee, churlish priest,
  A ministering angel shall my sister be
  When thou liest howling."

Mediæval Art Treatment of Angels

According to ecclesiastical legend and tradition there are nine degrees of
angelic beings. St. Dionysius relates that there are three hierarchies of
angels and three orders in each; and by wise allegories each had his
special mission, and they were each depicted with certain insignia by
which they were recognised in art representations, which vary somewhat in
examples of different periods.

The nine choirs of angels are classed as follow, with the name of the
chief of each, according to ancient legend:

  _Cherubim_          Jophiel
  _Seraphim_          Uriel
  _Thrones_           Zaphkiel
  _Dominions_         Zadchiel
  _Virtues_           Haniel
  _Powers_            Raphael
  _Principalities_    Camiel
  _Archangels_        Michael
  _Angels_            Gabriel

According to A. Welby Pugin's "Glossary of Architectural Ornament and
Costume," and other authorities, we learn the mediæval conception of these

The following emblems are borne by angels: FLAMING SWORDS, denoting "the
wrath of God"; TRUMPETS, "the voice of God"; SCEPTRES, "the power of God";
THURIBLES, or censers, the incense being the prayers of saints;
INSTRUMENTS OF MUSIC, to denote their felicity.

The APPARELS, or borders of their robes, are jewelled with SAPPHIRE for
"celestial contemplation"; RUBY, "divine love"; CRYSTAL, "purity";
EMERALD, "unfading youth."

ARCHANGELS are the principal or chief angels, and are extraordinary
ambassadors. Among these the name of GABRIEL--the angel of the
annunciation, the head of the entire celestial hierarchy--denotes "the
power of God"; MICHAEL, "who is like God"; RAPHAEL, "the healing of God";
URIEL, "the fire of God."

ANGEL is the name, not of an order of beings, but of an office, and means
messenger: wherefore angels are represented YOUNG to show their continued
strength, and WINGED to show their unweariedness; WITHOUT SANDALS, for
they do not belong to the earth; and GIRT, to show their readiness to go
forth and execute the will of God. Their garments are either WHITE, to
denote their purity, or GOLDEN, to show their sanctity and glory, or they
are of any of the symbolical colours used in Christian Art.

A writer in the _Ecclesiastical Art Review_, May 1878, I. Lewis André,
architect, says that "we seldom find angels clad in any other
ecclesiastical vestments than the ALB (or tunic of various colours), and
the amice. The AMICE is sometimes like a mere loose collar; at other times
it has richly embroidered APPARELS (or borders), and is exactly like the
priestly vestment as worn in the Middle Ages. Instead of the amice we
sometimes find a scarf or cloth tied in a knot around the neck, the ends
falling down in front.

"In Anne of Brittany's prayer-book is a beautiful figure of St. Michael.
He has a rayed nimbus, a cross on a circlet round his head, a richly
embroidered _dalmatic_ (a long robe with sleeves partly open at the
sides), and holds a sword in his left hand. The emblems of St. Michael are
a crown, a sword, a shield charged with a cross of St. George, or a spear
with the banner of the cross, or else with scales in his hand. Sometimes,
as at South Leigh, Oxon., he is in complete armour.

"The archangels are often figured with a trumpet in the right hand, scarfs
round neck and loins; six wings, sometimes four at the shoulders and two
at the hips, the legs bare from the thighs. The four archangels are
frequently represented in complete armour and with swords.

"The angels in the Benedictional of St. Ethelwold nearly resemble much
later representations; they have wings and the nimbus or aureole, long
hair and girded loins, whilst the feet are bare, as is generally the case
at all periods of Gothic Art; but the characteristic drapery is loose and
flowing as in the Saxon figures of saints; the wings are short and broad,
the nimbus is generally rayed like the spokes of a wheel (a form seen in
the work of Giotto, with whom it seems to have been a favourite). The alb
or vesture has loose sleeves, and at times a mantle or cope envelops the
figure; both sleeves and mantles have embroideries or apparels."

"The modern taste," says the same writer, "for giving angels pure white
vesture does not appear to be derived from the Middle Ages, and certainly
not from the best period when angels were clad in every brilliant colour,
as a beautiful example at St. Michael's, York, shows. Here an angel
swinging a golden censer has a green tunic covered with a white cloak or
mantle. The nimbus is bright blue, and the wings have the upper parts
yellow, and are tipped with green. At Goodnestowe church, St. Michael has
a deep crimson tunic, a white mantle edged with a rich gold border, green
wings, and a light crimson nimbus," and mention is here made of the white
vesture of the angel at the Sepulchre, and that nowhere else does the
Gospel mention any angel clad in white but in the narratives of Our Lord's

[Illustration: Angel with Cloud Symbol.]

"Often the angels' wings are feathered red and blue alternately, as on the
pulpit at Cheddar, Somerset. Sometimes the wings have feathers like those
of a peacock, on the Chapter House, Westminster; round the Wall Arcade,
angels have their wings inscribed with a text on every feather. This
corresponds with the French 'hours' of Anne of Brittany, where an angel
(St. Gabriel) wears a mantle with a text running along the border."

It was not uncommon to represent angels in carving and stained glass in
the latter part of the fifteenth century as feathered all over like birds.

_Cloud Symbol of the_ "Sky" _or_ "Air."--Artists of the Mediæval and
Renaissance periods, following classical authority, employed the cloud
symbol of the sky or air in their allegories and sacred pictures of
divine persons, saints, and martyrs, to denote their divine or celestial
condition, as distinguished from beings "of the earth--earthy." The
adoption of _the little cloud_ underneath the feet, when the figure is not
represented flying, naturally suggested itself as the most fitting emblem
for a support, and avoided the apparent incongruity of beings in material
human shape _standing_ upon _nothing_. The suggestion of the aerial
support here entirely obviates any thought of the outrage on the laws of

Another distinguishing attribute is the Nimbus--an emblem of divine power
and glory--placed behind or over the head. The crown is an insignia of
civil power borne by the laity; the nimbus is ecclesiastical and
religious. The pagans were familiar with the use of the nimbus, which
appears upon the coins of some of the Roman Emperors. It was widely
adopted by the Early Christian artists, and up till the fifteenth century
was represented as a circular disc or plate behind the head, of gold or of
various colours, and, according to the shape and ornamentation of the
nimbus, the elevation or the divine degree of the person was denoted. It
was displayed behind the heads of the Persons of the Trinity and of
angels. It is also worn as a mark of honour and distinction by saints and
martyrs. At a later period, when the traditions of early art were to some
extent laid aside, _i.e._, from the fifteenth century until towards the
end of the seventeenth century, as M. Dideron informs us, a simple
unadorned ring, termed a "circle of glory," "takes the place of the nimbus
and is represented as hovering over the head. It became thus idealised and
transparent, showing an outer circle only; the field or disc is altogether
omitted or suppressed, being drawn in perspective and formed by a simple
thread of light as in the _Disputer_ of Raphael. Sometimes it is only an
uncertain wavering line resembling a circle of light. On the other hand,
the circular line often disappears as if it were unworthy to enclose the
divine light emanating from the head. It is a shadow of flame, circular in
form but not permitting itself to be circumscribed."

[Illustration: Angel Supporter.]

Although the forms of angels are of such frequent occurrence in Mediæval
Art they seem to abound more especially in the fifteenth century. Angels
are seen in every possible combination, with ecclesiastical and domestic
architecture, and form the subject of many allusions in heraldry. They are
frequently used as supporters.

Charles Boutell, M.A., "English Heraldry," p. 247, says, regarding angels
used as supporters to the armorial shield: "The introduction of angelic
figures which might have the appearance of acting as 'guardian angels' in
their care of shields of arms, was in accordance with the feelings of the
early days of English heraldry; and, while it took a part in leading the
way to the systematic use of regular supporters, it served to show the
high esteem and honour in which armorial insignia were held by our
ancestors in those ages." And reference is made to examples sculptured in
the noble timber roof of Westminster Hall and elsewhere. As an example we
give the shield of arms of the Abbey of St. Albans.

[Illustration: Kneeling Angel Supporter.]

Figures of angels holding shields of arms, each figure having a shield in
front of its breast, are frequently sculptured in Gothic churches. They
appear on seals, as on that of Henry of Lancaster about 1350, which has
the figure of an angel on each side of it. The shield of Richard II. at
Westminster Hall, bearing the arms of France ancient and England
quarterly, is supported by angels, which, if not rather ornamental than
heraldic, were possibly intended to denote his claim to the crown of
France, being the supporters of the Royal arms of that kingdom. Upon his
Great Seal other supporters are used. There are also instances of the
shield of Henry VI. being supported by angels, but they are by some
authorities considered as purely religious symbols rather than heraldic.

[Illustration: Arms of the Abbey of St. Albans.]

The supporters of the King of France were two angels standing on clouds,
all proper, vested with taberts of the arms, the dexter _France_, the
sinister _Navarre_, each holding a banner of the same arms affixed to a
tilting-spear, and the _cri de guerre_ or motto, "Mont-joye et St. Denis."
The shield bears the impaled arms of France and Navarre with several
orders of knighthood, helmet, mantling and other accessories, all with a
pavilion mantle.

Although Francis II., Charles IX., Henry III. and IV. and Louis XIII. had
special supporters of their arms, yet they did not exclude the two angels
of Charles VI., which were considered as the ordinary supporters of the
kingdom of France. Louis XIV., Louis XV. and Louis XVI. never used any

Verstegan quaintly says that Egbert was "chiefly moved" to call his
kingdom England "in respect of Pope Gregory changing the name of Engelisce
into Angellyke," and this "may have moved our kings upon their best gold
coins to set the image of an angel."[4]

[Illustration: Gloria Excelsis Deo]

    "... Shake the bags
  Of hoarding abbots; their imprisoned _angels_
  Set them at liberty."
        SHAKESPEARE, _King John_, iii. 3.

The gold coin was named from the fact that on one side of it was a
representation of the archangel in conflict with the dragon (Rev. xii. 7).
The reverse had a ship. It was introduced into England by Edward IV. in
1456. Between his reign and that of Charles I. it varied in value from
6_s._ 8_d._ to 10_s._

Cherubim and Seraphim in Heraldry

  "_On cherubim and seraphim
  Full royally he rode._"

  "_What, always dreaming over heavenly things,
  Like_ angel heads _in stone wish pigeon wings_."
                                COWPER, "Conversation."

In heraldry A CHERUB (plural Cherubim) is always represented as the head
of an infant between a pair of wings, usually termed a "cherub's head."

[Illustration: Cherubs' Heads.]

[Illustration: A Seraph's Head.]

A SERAPH (plural Seraphim), in like manner, is always depicted as the head
of a child, but with three pairs of wings; the two uppermost and the two
lowermost are contrarily crossed, or in saltire; the two middlemost are

_Clavering_, of Callaby Castle, Northumberland, bears for crest a cherub's
head with wings erect. Motto: CŒLOS VOLENS.

On funereal achievements, setting forth the rank and circumstance of the
deceased, it is usual to place over the lozenge-shaped shield containing
arms of a woman, whether spinster, wife, or widow, a cherub's head, and
knots or bows of ribbon in place of crests, helmets, or its mantlings,
which, according to heraldic law, cannot be borne by any woman, sovereign
princesses only excepted.

[Illustration: Arms--Azure a chevron argent between three cherubs' heads
of the last.]

In representing the cherubim by infants' winged heads, the early painters
meant them to be emblematic of a pure spirit glowing with love and
intelligence, the head the seat of the soul, and the wings attribute of
swiftness and spirit alone retained.

The body or limbs of the cherub and seraph are never shown in heraldry,
for what reason it is difficult to say, unless it be from the ambiguity of
the descriptions in the sacred writings and consequent difficulty of
representing them. The heralds adopted the figure of speech termed
synecdoche, which adopts a part to represent the whole.

Sir Joshua Reynolds has embodied the modern conception in his exquisite
painting of cherubs' heads, _Portrait Studies of Frances Isabella Ker,
daughter of Lord William Gordon_, now in the National Collection. It
represents five infants' heads with wings, in different positions,
floating among clouds. This idea of the cherub seems to have found ready
acceptance with poets and painters. Shakespeare sings:

              "Look how the floor of heaven
  Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
  There's not the smallest orb which thou beholdest
  But in his motion like an angel sings,
  Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubim--
  Such harmony is in immortal souls:
  But while this muddy vesture of decay
  Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it."

Many of the painters of the period of the Renaissance represented the
cherub similarly to those in Reynolds' picture. They were also in the
habit of introducing into their pictures of sacred subjects nude youthful
winged figures, "celestial loves," sporting in clouds around the principal
figure or figures, or assisting in some act that is being done. Thus
Spenser invests "The Queen of Beauty and of Love the Mother" with a troop
of these little loves, "Cupid, their elder brother."

  "And all about her neck and shoulders flew
  A flock of little loves, and sports and joys
  With nimble wings of gold and purple hue;
  Whose shapes seemed not like to terrestrial boys,
  But like to angels playing heavenly toys."
                _Faerie Queen_, Book x. cant. x. p. 153.

These must not, however, be confounded with the cherub and seraph of
Scripture. It was a thoroughly pagan idea, borrowed from classic
mythology, and unworthy of Christian Art. It soon degenerated into
"earthly loves" and "cupids," or amorini as they were termed and as we now
understand them.


Cherubim and Seraphim of Scripture

In Ecclesiastical Art literal renderings of the descriptions contained in
the Old Testament and the Apocalypse are not of unfrequent use. A more
lengthened reference to these great Hebrew symbolic beings will not be
considered out of place, as there is great doubt and uncertainty as to
their forms.

These mystic symbolic beings were familiar to all the patriarchs--from
Adam, who gazed upon them in Paradise, and against whom on his expulsion
they stood with flaming sword, turning every way to bar his return--to
Moses, who trembled before it on Mount Sinai; while to the Priests and
Levites, the custodians of the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle, the
cherubim remained the sacred guardians in the Holy of Holies of the
palladium of the national faith and liberties during the brightest and, as
it has been termed, the most heroic period of Jewish history.

[Illustration: Angel crest of Tuite, Bart. co. Tip.]

Josephus, the more effectually to excite respect for the great Hebrew
symbol in the minds of his readers, purposely throws over it the veil of
obscurity. He says: "The cherubim are winged creatures, but the form of
them does not resemble that of any living creature seen by man." In the
works of Philo Judæus there is an express dissertation upon the cherubim.
The learned Brochart and many others have attempted to elucidate the
subject to little purpose. The ambiguity which always accompanies a
written description of objects with which we are imperfectly acquainted
applies with greater force to this mysterious being combining so many
apparently conflicting attributes.

To the prophetic vision of Ezekiel, the description of which, in the
opinion of competent critics, excels in grandeur of idea and energy of
expression the most celebrated writers of ancient and modern times, the
reader is referred, as it supplies at first hand almost all that can be
known concerning the fearful form of the cherubim.

The four living creatures that support the throne of God exhibited to
Ezekiel a fourfold aspect; they had each the face of _a man_, the face of
_a lion_, and the face of _an ox_; they also had the face of _an eagle_.
They had each four wings; they had the hands of a man under their wings.
"Two wings of every one were joined one to the other, and two covered
their bodies." They were accompanied by wheels which "went upon their four
sides, and they turned not when they went"; "and their whole body, and
their backs, and their hands, and their wings, and their wheels were full
of eyes"; "and the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of
a flash of lightning." Such is a concise description of their appearance
as set forth in Ezekiel (chap. i.).

"This wonderful and mysterious hieroglyph must be considered as a striking
and expressive emblem of the guardian vigilance of providence, all-seeing
and omniscient; while the number of wings exhibit to us direct symbols of
that powerful, that all-pervading spirit which, while it darts through
nature at a glance, is everywhere present to protect and defend us"

So attached were the Jews to this celestial symbol that when Solomon
erected that stupendous temple which continued the glory and boast of the
Hebrew nation for so many ages, we are told (1 Kings, vi. 29, viii. 6, 7),
he carved all the walls of the house round about with the sculptured
figures of the cherubim, and on each side of the ark was a cherub of gold
plated upon olive wood fifteen feet high, with their faces to the light,
their expanded wings embracing the whole space of the sacred enclosure,
serving as a visible sign or symbol of God's immediate presence, whence
the saying of David, "God sitteth between the cherubim" (Ps. xcix. 1). In
this place God perpetually resided in the form of a bright cloud or
shining luminous body, termed "shechinah," whence the divine oracles were
audibly delivered.

Milton gives the following description of the Seraph Raphael:

  "At once on the eastern cliff of Paradise
  He lights, and to his proper shape returns
  A seraph wing'd; six wings he wore to shade
  His lineaments divine; the pair that clad
  Each shoulder broad came mantling o'er his breast
  With regal ornament: the middle pair
  Girt like a starry zone his waist, and round
  Skirted his loins and thighs with downy gold
  And colours dipped in heaven; the third, his feet
  Shadows from either heel with feather'd mail
  Sky tinctured grain. Like Maia's son he stood
  And shook his plumes, that heavenly fragrance fill'd
  The circuit wide."
                              _Paradise Lost_, Book v.

The _cherub_ is traditionally regarded as a celestial spirit which in the
hierarchy is placed next in order to the seraphim. All the several
descriptions which the Scripture gives us of cherubim differ from one
another, as they are described in the shapes of men, eagles, oxen, lions,
and in a composition of all these figures put together. The hieroglyphical
representations in the embroidery upon the curtains of the tabernacle were
called by Moses (Ex. xxvi. 1) "cherubim of cunning work" (Calmet).

The _seraphim_ are regarded as an order of angels distinguished for
fervent zeal and religious ardour. The word means "burning," _i.e._, with
Divine Love.

The seraphim are described by Isaiah (vi. 1-3): "I saw also the Lord
sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the
temple. Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he
covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he
did fly. And one cried to another and said, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord
of Hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory." And in Revelation (iv.
6): "Round about the throne were four beasts full of eyes before and
behind, and the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a
calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was
like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about
him, and they were full of eyes within." It will be noticed that these
descriptions differ from that of Ezekiel, not only in the number of wings,
but also in the individuality of each beast being separate and
independent, not compounded of the four.

[Illustration: Tetramorph.]

Several forms of these mystical creatures, says Audsley, have been devised
by the early mediæval artists; those which display the entire forms of
_the man_, _the lion_, _the ox_, and _the eagle_, all winged and invested
with the nimbus, appear to have been most frequently made use of. They are
to be met with formed of the _heads of the mystical creatures_ on bodies
or half-bodies of _winged human figures_; at other times we find them
comprised in the heads and wings only of the four symbolic creatures.
Sometimes they are found united and forming one mysterious being called
the _Tetramorph_ with four heads and numerous wings covered with eyes, the
feet resting on wheels, which are also winged. The example is taken from a
Byzantine mosaic in the convent of Vatopedi, on Mount Athos.

Pugin's "Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament and Costume" says the
cherubim are frequently represented of a bright red colour to set forth
the intensity of divine love, and usually standing upon wheels, in
reference to the vision of the prophet Ezekiel.

Cherubim and seraphim seem always vested in the alb or tunic, and a scarf
tied in a knot round the neck.

Emblems of the Four Evangelists

The winged living figures, symbols of the evangelists, which are most
frequently met with, and which have ever been most in favour with Early
Christian artists, appear to have been used at a very early date. They are
taken from the vision of Ezekiel and the Revelation of St. John. "The
writings of St. Jerome," says Audsley, "in the beginning of the fifth
century gave to artists authority for the appropriation of the four
creatures to the evangelists," and for reasons which are there given at

ST. MATTHEW: _Winged Man_, Incarnation.--To St. Matthew was given the
creature in human likeness, because he commences his gospel with the human
generation of Christ, and because in his writings the human nature of Our
Lord is more dwelt upon than the divine.

ST. MARK: _Winged Lion_, The Resurrection.--_The Lion_ was the symbol of
St. Mark, who opens his gospel with the mission of John the Baptist, "the
voice of one crying in the wilderness." He also sets forth the royal
dignity of Christ and dwells upon His power manifested in the resurrection
from the dead. The lion was accepted in early times as a symbol of the
resurrection because the young lion was believed always to be born dead,
but was awakened to vitality by the breath, the tongue, and roaring of its



ST. LUKE: _Winged Ox_, Passion.--The form of the ox, the beast of
sacrifice, fitly sets forth the sacred office, and also the atonement for
sin by blood, on which, in his gospel, he particularly dwells.

ST. JOHN: _The Eagle_, Ascension.--The eagle was allotted to St. John
because, as the eagle soars towards heaven, he soared in spirit upwards to
the heaven of heavens to bring back to earth revelation of sublime and
awful mysteries.

Independently of their reference to the four evangelists these figures
sometimes refer to _the Incarnation_, _the Passion_, _the Resurrection_,
and _the Ascension_.

Sedulius, a priest and poet of the fifth century, says much the same in
the following verse:

  Hoc Matthæus agens, Hominem generaliter implet:
  Marcus ut alta fremit vox per deserta Leonis:
  Jura sacerdotis Lucas tenet ore Juvenci:
  More volens Aquilæ verbo petit astra Johannes.

THE LION OF ST. MARK.--In the ninth century the rapidly rising State of
Venice was dignified by the reception of the relics of St. Mark,
transported thither from Alexandria. "Few patron saints," says Theodore A.
Buckley, "enjoy a greater popularity, whether socially or locally
exemplified. His lion was emblazoned on the standard of the Republic, and
stamped on the current coins, while his name was identified with the
pride, the power, and glory of all Venice."[5]

Emblems of the evangelists do not often appear in heraldry.

Walter Reynolds, Archbishop of Canterbury, according to a manuscript at
Lambeth (executed for Archbishop Laud), bore _azure on a cross or, between
the symbols of the evangelists of the last, four lions rampant gules_.

The Freemasons appear to use a similar coat of arms upon their seal, viz.,
_a cross between the emblems of the four evangelists, and for supporters
two cherubims, all proper_.

[Illustration: The Lion of St. Mark, Venice.]

Chimerical Creatures of the Dragon and Serpent kind


The Dragon

  "_The scaly monster of a dragon, coiled
  Full in the central field--unspeakable,
  With eyes oblique retorted, that askant
  Shot gleaming fire._"
                    HESIOD.--"The Shield of Hercules."

The dragon is the most interesting and most frequently seen of all
chimerical figures, and it is a remarkable fact that such a creature
appears at an early period of the world's history to have been known in
the East and in countries widely separated. Long anterior to the dawn of
civilisation in the West of Europe, even in far-off China and Japan in the
extreme East of Asia we find the dragon delineated in very much the same
form in which it appears in our national heraldry.

The ancients conceived it as the embodiment of malignant and destructive
power, and with attributes of the most terrible kind. Classic story makes
us acquainted with many dreadful monsters of the dragon kind, to which
reference will afterwards be more particularly made.

It is often argued that the monsters of tradition are but the
personification of solar influences, storms, the desert wind, the great
deeps, rivers inundating their banks, or other violent phenomena of
nature, and so, no doubt, they are, and have been; but the strange fact
remains that the same draconic form with slight modifications constantly
appears as the type of the thing most dreaded, and instead of melting into
an abstraction and dying out of view, it has remained from age to age, in
form, distinctly a ferocious flying reptile, until in the opinion of many
the tradition has been justified by prosaic science. It is surprising to
find that the popular conception of the dragon--founded on tradition,
passed on through hundreds of generations--not only retains its identity,
but bears a startling resemblance to the original antediluvian saurians,
whose fossil remains now come to light through geological research, almost
proving the marvellous power of tradition and the veracity of those who
passed it on.

Mr. Moncure Conway ("Demonology, or Devil Lore") says: "The opinion has
steadily gained that the conventional dragon is the traditional form of
some huge saurian. It has been suggested that some of those extinct
saurians may have been contemporaneous with the earliest men, and that
traditions of conflicts with them, transmitted orally and pictorially,
have resulted in preserving their forms in fable proximately."

"Among the geological specimens in the British Museum," says Hugh Miller,
"the visitor sees shapes that more than rival in strangeness the great
dragons and griffins of mediæval legends; enormous jaws, bristling with
pointed teeth, gape horrid, in stone, under staring eye-sockets a foot in
diameter; and necks that half equal in length the entire body of a
boa-constrictor. And here we see a winged dragon that, armed with sharp
teeth and strong claws, has careered through the air on leathern wings
like those of a bat." We are also told in the sacred Scriptures by Moses
of "fiery serpents," and by Isaiah of "a fiery flying serpent." Other
monsters--dragons, cockatrices, and some of whose form we have no
conception--are also mentioned. Euripides describes a dragon or snake
breathing forth fire and slaughter, and rowing its way with its wings. It
is evident that such a creature may at one time have existed. Looking at
the widespread belief in dragons, there seems little doubt that the
semi-myth of to-day is the traditional successor of a really once-existent
animal, whose huge size, snake-like appearance, and possibly dangerous
powers of offence made him so terrible that the earlier races of mankind
adopted him unanimously as the most fearful embodiment of animal ferocity
to be found.

One of the latest acquisitions in the Natural History Museum, South
Kensington, is the skeleton of that enormous creature the long-limbed
dinosaur (_Diplodicus Carnegii_), recently discovered in America,
eighty-nine feet in length from the head to the tip of the tail, the huge
bulky framework of the monster measuring eleven feet in height at the
shoulder. The enormous length of its neck and tail, with relatively small
head, would indicate it to be an amphibious inhabitant of the waters,
feeding on the vegetation growing in its depths.

Mr. Moncure Conway, in his remarkable work, "Demonology, or Devil Lore,"
describes all intermediate stages between demon and devil under the head
of dragon. This he believes to be the only fabulous form which accurately
describes all the transitions. Throughout all the representations of the
dragon one feature is common, and that is the idealised serpent. The
dragon possesses all the properties of the demon along with that of
harmfulness, but differs from the devil in not having the desire of doing
evil. The dragon in mythology is the combination of every bad feature in
nature, all of which is combined into one horrible whole. "The modern
conventional dragon," says Mr. Conway, "is a terrible monster. His body is
partially green, with memories of the sea and of slime, and partly brown
or dark, with lingering shadows of storm-clouds. The lightning flames
still in his red eyes, and flashes from his fire-breathing mouth. The
thunderbolt of Jove, the spear of Woden, are in the barbed point of his
tail. His huge wings--bat-like and spiked--sum up all the mysteries of
extinct harpies and vampires. Spine of crocodile is on his neck, tail of
the serpent and all the jagged ridges of rocks and sharp thorns of jungles
bristle round him, while the ice of glaciers and brassy glitter of
sunstrokes are in his scales. He is ideal of all that is hard,
destructive, perilous, loathsome, horrible in nature; every detail of him
has been seen through and vanquished by man, here or there; but in
selection and combination they rise again as principles, and conspire to
form one great generalisation of the forms of pain, the sum of every
creature's worst."

"THE EXTERNAL FORMS OF DRAGONS are greatly dependent on the nature of the
country in which they originate. In the far north, where exist the legends
of the swan and pigeon, maidens and vampires, exists the swan-shaped
dragon. As demons of excessive heat principally existed in the south, so
in the north the great enemy of man was excessive cold. In the northern
countries is found also the serpent element, but as serpents are there
frequently harmless, this feature does not enter much into their
composition. The CUTTLEFISH is supposed to have helped in the formation of
the HYDRA, which in its turn assisted in forming the dragon of the
Apocalypse. Assyrian ideas also seem to have assisted in the pictorial
impersonations of the hydra. This many-headed monster is a representation
of a torrent, which being cut off in one direction breaks out in another.
The conflicts of Hercules with the hydra are repeated in those of the
Assyrian Bel with Trinant (the deep), and also in the contentions of St.
Michael with the dragon. The old dragon myths left in Europe were
frequently utilised by the Christians. Other saints besides St. Michael
were invested with the feats of Hercules; St. Margaret, St. Andrew, and
many others are pictured as trampling dragons under their feet. The
Egyptian dragon is based on the crocodile, and this form being received
into Christian symbolism did greatly away with other pagan monsters. The
hideousness of the crocodile and the alligator could easily be exaggerated
so as to suit the most horrible contortions of the human imagination.
Amongst the most terrible dragons is Typhon, the impersonation of all the
terrors of nature. Son of Tartarus, father of the harpies and of the
winds, he lives in the African deserts; from thence fled in fear, to
escape his terrible breath, all the gods and goddesses. He is coiled in
the whirlwind, and his many heads are symbolical of the tempest, the
scrive, the hurricane, and the tornado."

Under the head of THE COLONIAL DRAGON Mr. Conway has embodied all the
horrors and difficulties with which the early colonists would be beset.
Amongst these he places the GORGON and the CHIMERA. The most widely spread
of all is the last named, and from it is supposed that all Christian and
British dragons are descended. The Christian myth of ST. GEORGE AND THE
DRAGON is but a variation of BELLEROPHON AND THE CHIMERA, in which the
last has given place to the dragon and the pagan hero to St. George.

[Illustration: Japanese Dragon.]

"In ancient families there are usually traditions of some far-distant
ancestor having slain a desperate monster. It is always the colonial
dragon that has been borrowed by poets and romancers. THE DRAGON killed by
Guy of Warwick is but another variation of the chimera. There is again the
SOCKBURN WORM, slain by Sir John Conyers for the devouring of the people
of the neighbourhood; the well-known tradition of the LAMBTON WORM is in
reality a modification of the ARYAN DRAGON OF THE STORMCLOUD; smaller than
a man's hand he swells out to prodigious dimensions."

A favourite subject for Chinese and Japanese painting and sculpture is a
dragon very much of the same type, and a monstrous representation of a
dragon in the form of a huge Saurian still forms the central object at
Japanese festivals.

Among the Chinese the dragon is the representation of sovereignty, and is
the imperial emblem borne upon banners, and otherwise displayed as the
national ensign. To the people of that vast country it represents
everything powerful and imposing; and it plays an important part in many
religious ceremonies and observances. Dr. S. Wells Williams, the eminent
sinalogue, describes the fabulous monster of Chinese imagination in the
following passage: "There are three dragons--the _lung_ in the sky, the
_li_ in the sea, and the _kiau_ in the marshes. The first is the only
_authentic_ species according to the Chinese; it has the head of a camel,
the horns of a deer, eyes of a rabbit, ears of a cow, neck of a snake,
belly of a frog, scales of a carp, claws of a hawk, and palm of a tiger.
On each side of the mouth are whiskers, and its beard contains a bright
pearl; the breath is sometimes changed into water and sometimes into fire,
and its voice is like the jingling of copper pans. The dragon of the sea
occasionally ascends to heaven in waterspouts, and is the ruler of all
oceanic phenomena." The fishermen and sailors before venturing away from
land or returning to port, burn joss-sticks and beat gongs to ward off the
evil influences of the dragon, and it is worshipped in a variety of ways.
According to a fable current in China, the Celestial Emperor Hoang-ti was
carried up to heaven, along with seventy other persons, by a great
dragon; those who were only able to catch at his moustaches were shaken
off and thrown on the ground. It is still the custom when an emperor dies
to say that the dragon has ascended to heaven. An eclipse the simple
Celestials believe to be caused by a great dragon that seeks to devour the
sun or moon. A great noise is made by firing guns, beating drums, and the
rattling and jangling of pairs of discordant instruments to frighten the
monster away. A frequent subject of their artists is the dreadful dragon
sprawling through masses of curling clouds in the act of grasping at or
swallowing the great luminary, a subject which no doubt bears a deeper
meaning than we see, and one intimately connected with their mythology.

[Illustration: JAPANESE IMPERIAL DEVICE. The Dragon, the Ho-Ho, or
Phœnix, and the Chrysanthemum.]

In some of their splendid festivals the worship of the dragon is
celebrated with great excitement and furore. On the Canton river a boat of
immense length formed like a dragon in many wondrous folds, rowed by fifty
or more natives, with wild music and dancing, and accompanied by a crowd
of junks; the unfurling of sails and the streaming of flags from the
masts, the beating of drums, the noise and smoke from the firing of guns,
all exhibit the fondness of a people for the pleasures of a national

_Dragon's Teeth._--Cadmus slew the dragon that guarded the well of Ares,
and sowed some of the teeth, from which sprang up the armed men who all
killed each other except five, who were the ancestors of the Thebans.
Those teeth which Cadmus did not sow, came to the possession of Ætes, King
of Colchis; and one of the tasks he enjoined on Jason was to sow these
teeth and slay the armed warriors that rose therefrom. The frequent
allusion to the classic term _dragon's teeth_ refers to subjects of civil
strife; whatever rouses citizens to rise in arms.

The mythical dragon has left the lasting impress of his name in various
ways in our language and literature, as in the art of nearly every

Ω _Dragon's Head_ and ℧ _Dragon's Tail_.--In astronomy _Nodes_ are the
opposite points in which the orbit of a planet, or of a moon, crosses the
ecliptic. The ascending node marked by the character (Ω), termed the
_Dragon's head_, is where the planet or moon ascends from the south to the
north side of the ecliptic, and the descending node indicated by the
character (℧) the _Dragon's tail_ is where it passes from the north to the
south side.

_Draco_, a constellation in the northern hemisphere, representing the
monster that watched the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides,
slain by Hercules, and set as a constellation in the heavens.

_Draco volens_, a meteor sometimes visible in marshy countries--_Ignus
fatuus_, or will-o'-the-wisp.

_Draco volens_, or flying dragon, a curious class of saurian reptiles
peculiar to the East Indies, having membranous attachments to their limbs,
which give them the appearance of flying as they leap from tree to tree.

_Dragon's blood_, a vegetable balsam of a dark red colour brought from
India, Africa, and South America. So called from its resemblance to dried
and hardened masses of blood.

The Dragon in Christian Art

(The symbol of the Supreme Spirit of Evil, or the Evil One)

It was believed that in the gloomy land of the Cimmerians and the confines
of Hades strange monsters were to be met; and not only there, but in any
part of the universe which was conceived to be beyond the pale of human
habitation these weird creatures might be encountered. The same idea is
recognised in the Semitic belief, that uncanny beings lurked in the outer
deserts, where men did not penetrate at all, or did so only at great
danger. The "place of dragons" is associated with "the shadow of death"
(Ps. xliv. 19). Dragons are also associated with the waters of the deep
(Ps. lxxiv. 13) and are called upon to praise Jehovah (Ps. cxlviii. 7);
and Isaiah (xxxiv.), describing in vivid and picturesque language the
destruction and utter desolation which shall come on Zion's enemies,
prophesies that her palaces and fortresses "shall be a habitation for

The term dragon is applied by the translators of the Scriptures to some
monsters of which we have no knowledge. The word is used by ecclesiastics
of the Middle Ages as the symbol of sin in general and paganism in
particular, though ofttimes heresy is denoted. The metaphor is derived
from Rev. xii. 9, where Satan is termed the Great Dragon; in Psalm xci.
13, it is said "the saints shall trample the dragon under their feet."

In the book of Job we recognise in Leviathan a creature more like the
extinct saurians of the old world than any crocodile recorded in historic
times; and this leviathan is treated as still existing in the days of
David. In Psalm lxxiv. 13, 14, Jehovah is spoken of as having broken the
heads of the dragons in the waters; in Isaiah li. 9, as having wounded
the dragon; and pæans are sung on the punishment of "Leviathan, that
crooked serpent," and the slaying of "the dragon that is in the sea" (Is.
xxvii. 1). Finally, in the Apocalyptic vision, "there appeared another
wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads, and
ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads, and his tail drew the third
part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to earth" (Rev. xii. 3, 4);
"I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless
pit and a great chain in his hand, and he laid hold on the dragon, that
old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him" (Rev. xx. 1, 2).

[Illustration: The Dragon of the Apocalypse. By Albert Dürer.]

As a Christian emblem the dragon may be taken to symbolise the supreme
spirit of evil, a veritable devil whom it was the special mission of
militant saints to slay, as it had been the glory of the heroes of the
pagan mythology to conquer. "In pictures of sacred and legendary
subjects," says a late writer, "the dragon usually formed an important
feature. The evil thing was invariably depicted writhing under the foot of
the saint, or transfixed with his triumphant spear. In like manner _the
virtues_ trampled tranquilly each on her complementary vice, embodied in
the form of some impossible creature; and if the rigid virtues were
sometimes insipid, it must be allowed that the demons were usually
grotesquely characteristic, and often delightful in colour."

[Illustration: St. Michael and the Old Dragon. Arms of the Royal Burgh of

The prostrate attitude usually signifies the triumph of Christianity over
Paganism, as in pictures of St. George and St. Sylvester; or over heresy
and schism, as when it was adopted as the emblem of the Knights of the
Order of the Dragon, in Hungary, which was instituted for the purpose of
contending against the adherents of John Huss and Jerome of Prague.

The dragon in Christian Art is often very variously represented, sometimes
as a serpent, at other times as a dragon or wyvern, or again in the
symbolic figure partly human, under which form we find the "old serpent"
(the Devil) often represented, as in the conflict of St. Michael the
Archangel. The numerous legends of saints who have fought and overcome
dragons prove the symbolic light in which the impersonation of evil was
generally viewed.

[Illustration: From ancient carving.]

St. Margaret is the patron saint of the borough of LYNN REGIS, and on the
old corporation seal she is represented standing on a dragon and wounding
it with a cross. The Latin inscription on the seal is "Sub Margaret
teritur draco stat cruce læta." The modern shield of the town is now
blazoned: _azure three conger's_ (or dragon's) _heads erased and erect,
the jaws of each pierced with a cross crosslet fitchée or_. In paintings
St. Margaret is represented as a young woman of great beauty bearing the
martyr's palm and olive crown, or with the dragon chained and helpless at
her feet as an attribute. Sometimes she is depicted coming from the
dragon's mouth, for the legend says the monster swallowed her, but on her
making the sign of the cross he was compelled to free her again. A legend
states that Olybus, Governor of Antioch, captivated by the beauty of
Margaret, wished to marry her; as she rejected him with scorn he threw her
into a dungeon, where the devil appeared to her in the form of a horrible
dragon and endeavoured to frighten her from her path. Margaret held up the
cross and the dragon fled. Other legends say he burst asunder.

[Illustration: St. George and the Dragon.

  "In many a church his form is seen,
  With sword, and shield, and helmet sheen:
  Ye know him by his steed of pride,
  And by the dragon at his side."
                                CHR. SCHMID.]

ST. GEORGE, the patron saint of England, in his legendary combat with the
monster, is a subject which occurs frequently in English sculpture and
painting, and enters largely into the language and literature of the
nation. St. George appears to have been selected as the patron saint of
England not long after the Norman conquest. We find the anniversary of
his martyrdom (April 23) was ordered to be observed as a festival by the
National Synod of Oxford in 1222 A.D.

The "Golden Legend," printed by Pynson in 1507 (fol. cxix.), thus refers
to "Saynt George": "This blyssed and holy martyr Saynt George is patrone
of this realme of Englōd: and ye crye of mē of warre; and in ye
worsyp of whome is founded ye noble order of a garter: and also ye noble
college in ye castell of Wyndsore, by Kynges of Englond. In whyche college
is ye herte of Saynt George: whyche Sygysmond ye Emperour of Alamayn
brought: and gaf it for a grete and precyous relyque to kynge Harry the
fifte. And also the said Sygysmond was broder of the sayd garter. And also
there is a piece of his head; which college is nobly endowed to thonour
and worshippe almighty God and his blyssed Martyr Saynt George. Then late
us praye vnto hym that he be specyel protectour and defendour of this

The emblems commonly given to St. George, martyr, and patron saint of
England are: a dragon, a shield bearing a red cross on a white field, and
a spear. He is usually represented on horseback in the act of spearing the
monster which is vomiting fire; or as standing with the slain dragon at
his feet.

That St. George is a veritable character is beyond all reasonable doubt,
and there seems no reason to deny that he was born in Armorica, and was
beheaded in Diocletian's persecution by order of Datianus, April 23, 303.
St. Jerome (331-420) mentions him in one of his martyrologies; in the
next century there were many churches erected to his honour. St. Gregory
(540-604) has in his sacramentary a "Preface for St. George's Day"; and
the Venerable Bede (672-735) in his martyrology, says: "At last St. George
truly finished his martyrdom by decapitation, although the gests of his
passion are numbered among the apocryphal writings."

According to the old ballad given in Bishop Percy's "Reliques of Ancient
Poetry," St. George was the son of Lord Albert of Coventry. His mother
died in giving him birth, and the new-born babe was stolen away by the
weird lady of the woods, who brought him up to deeds of arms. His body had
three marks: a dragon on the breast, a garter round one of the legs, and a
blood-red cross on the arm. When he grew to manhood he first fought
against the Saracens, and then went to Sylene, a city of Libya, where was
a stagnant lake infested by a huge dragon, whose poisonous breath "had
many a city slain," and whose hide "no spear nor sword could pierce."
Every day a virgin was sacrificed to it, and at length it came to the lot
of Sabra, the king's daughter, to become its victim. Decked out in bridal
array she went out to meet the dragon; she was tied to the stake, and left
to be devoured, when St. George appeared in full panoply and mounted on
his charger. He vowed to take her cause in hand, and when the dragon came
on the scene it was encountered by the hero, who wounded it, and binding
it to the lady's girdle it was led like a "meek beast" into the city. St.
George there attacked it, thrusting his lance into its mouth, killed it on
the spot, and a church dedicated to Our Lady and St. George was built to
commemorate the event. After many adventures he carried off Sabra to
England, where they were wedded, and at Coventry lived happily till their

In his history of the Order of the Garter Mr. Antis warmly censures those
who would doubt the traditionary history of that saint, and says "he who
would credit St. Ambrose will not detract from the honour of our George,
the soldier and martyr of Christ, concerning the dragon and the
deliverance of the beautiful royal virgin, which is related in so many
pictures," adding that "he shall not contradict those who make an allegory
of it, so that they do not deny the certainty of this history.... Suppose
every one George, who being clothed with the virtue of baptism and armour
of faith, keeps his earthly body in subjection by the due exercise of
religion and piety, and by the armour of the Spirit overcomes, and by the
true spiritual art crushes and confounds the serpent's poison, the snares
of the old Dragon, and his diabolical arts and stratagems."

The dragon slain by St. George is simply a common allegory to express the
triumph of the Christian hero over evil, which St. John the Evangelist
beheld under the figure of a dragon. Similarly St. Michael, St. Margaret,
St. Sylvester and St. Martha are all depicted as slaying dragons; the
Saviour and the Virgin as treading them under foot; and St. John the
Evangelist as charming a winged dragon from a poisoned chalice given him
to drink. Even John Bunyan avails himself of the same figure, when he
makes Christian encounter Apollyon and prevail against him.

A learned Frenchman, M. Clermont Ganneau, in a treatise lately published,
traces the legend of St. George and the dragon to a very remote antiquity.
In the Louvre at Paris he found an Egyptian bas-relief, which he
identified as the combat of Horus against Set, or Typhon, in the
well-known Egyptian legend. It represents a man on horseback in Roman
armour slaying a crocodile with a spear; but for the fact that the rider
has a hawk's head, the group might easily be mistaken for the traditional
combat of St. George and the dragon. Extending his investigations, M.
Ganneau has brought to light some most startling proofs of the connection
between the eastern and western mythologies. We have therefore, he
considers, evidence as clear and convincing as evidence from deduction can
be, that the Egyptian "Horus and Typhon"; the Greek "Perseus and
Andromeda"; the "Bel and Dragon" of the Apocrypha; the Archangel Michael
of Christian legend who also slays the old dragon, are all one and the
same story with that of our own St. George. We pass over the intermediate
steps by which he reconciles the divergent names and qualities of the
personages identified, and also the ingenious arguments as to the real
meaning of the symbolism in the worship of DAGON THE FISH-GOD.

In all the old romances dealing with feats of chivalry and knight-errantry
the dragon plays an essential if not a leading part; and a romance without
some dragon or monster was as rare as one without a valiant knight or a
beautiful lady. But of all the malignant creatures dreaded of gods and
men, the most hateful and wicked is that prime dragon personified by
Spenser under the type of the "blatant beast," and which confronts his
hero, the Red Cross Knight, at every turn: "a dreadful fiend, of gods and
men ydrad," who has a thousand tongues, speaks things most shameful, most
unrighteous, most untrue, and with his sting steeps them in poison.

As an example of the inception and development of a dragon legend from
slender materials, the following is related in Figuer's "World before the

In the city of Klagenfurth, in Carinthia, is a fountain on which is
sculptured a monstrous dragon with six feet, and a head armed with a stout
horn. According to popular tradition this dragon lived in a cave, whence
it issued from time to time to ravage the country. A bold and venturous
knight at last kills the monster, paying with his life the forfeit of his
rashness. The head of the pretended dragon is preserved in the Hotel de
Ville, and this head has furnished the sculptor for a model of the dragon
on the fountain. A learned professor of Vienna on a visit to the city
recognised it at a glance as the cranium of the fossil rhinoceros. Its
discovery in some cave had probably originated the fable of the knight and
the dragon--and all similar legends are capable of some such explanation
when we trace them back to their sources and reason the circumstances on
which they are founded. The famous bird, the roc, which played so
important a part in the myths of the people of Asia, is also believed to
have originated in the discovery of some gigantic bones.

Chief among DRAGON-SLAYERS of Christian legend we find the following:

_St. Philip the Apostle_ is said to have destroyed a huge dragon at
Hierapolis, in Phrygia.

_St. Michael_, _St. George_, _St. Margaret_, _Pope Sylvester_, _St.
Samson_, Archbishop of Dol; _Donatus_ (fourth century), _St. Clement_ of
Metz, all killed dragons--if we may trust old legends.

_St. Keyne_ of Cornwall slew a dragon.

_St. Florent_ killed a terrible dragon who haunted the Loire.

_St. Cado_, _St. Maudet_ and _St. Paull_ did similar feats in Brittany.

The town of WORMS (famous as the place at which the Diet of Worms was held
before which the reformer Luther was summoned) owes its name to the
"Lind-wurm" or dragon there conquered by the hero Siegfried as related in
the "Nibelungen Lied." (_See_ p. 100.)

Drachenfels, on the Rhine (Dragon Rocks), is so called from the same
monster; and at Arles and Rouen legends are preserved of victories gained
by saints over the _Tarasque_ and _Gargouille_, both local names for the
dragon. St. Martha conquered the fabulous Tarasque of the city of
Languedoc, which bears the name of "Tarascon." Gargouille (waterspout) was
the great dragon that lived in the Seine, ravaged Rouen, and was slain by
St. Romanus, Bishop of Rouen, in the seventh century. The latter name has
come down to us in the term "gargoyle," applied to the monstrous heads
which often decorate the waterspouts of old churches.

A strange relic of the ancient faith is perpetuated in the remains of
early Celtic art in the curiously wrought interlaced monsters which form
the chief ornament of ancient Irish crosses, and particularly in the
borders and initials of illuminated manuscripts, whose spirals and
interminable interlacements of the most complex character, often allied
with equally strange colouring, form a style perfectly unique in itself,
and unlike any other; the elaborate knots terminating in draconic heads,
and with wings and animal extremities in wonderfully ingenious patterns
that seem almost beyond the limits of human ingenuity. In the kindred art
of Scandinavia we find similar decoration founded on serpentine forms.

Another survival of the dragon myth exists in the name given to some of
our fighting men on the introduction of firearms. A kind of blunderbus
gave to the troops who used it the name of "dragoniers," whence is
derived the well-known term dragoons. They used to be armed with
_dragons_--_i.e._, short muskets--which spouted fire, like the fabulous
beast so named. The head of a dragon was wrought on the muzzles of these
muskets. We have all heard of the Dragonades, a series of persecutions by
Louis XIV., which drove many thousands of Protestants out of France--and
out of the world. Their object was to root out "heresy." A bishop, with
certain ecclesiastics, was sent to see if the heretics would recant; if
not they were left to the tender mercies of the Dragonniers, who followed
these "ministers of peace and good will to men." The same game of
conversion was practised by the Reformed Church upon the Presbyterians of
Scotland, with its accompaniment of "dragons let loose"--in which
Claverhouse took a leading part.

"In mediæval alchemy the dragon seems to have been the emblem of Mercury;
hence the dragon became one of the 'properties' of the chemist and
apothecary, was painted upon his drug pots, hung up as his sign, and some
dusty stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling in the laboratory had to
do service for the monster, and inspire the vulgar with a profound awe of
the mighty man who had conquered the vicious reptile."[6]

When apothecaries' signs were not derived from heraldry, they were used to
typify certain chemical actions. In an old German work on alchemy one of
the plates represents a dragon eating his own tail; underneath are the
words which, translated, signify: "This is a great wonder and very
strange; the dragon contains the greatest medicament," and much more of
similar import.

The Dragon in the Royal Heraldry of Britain

  "_Advance our standards, set upon our foes,
  Our ancient word of courage fair Saint George
  Inspire us with the spleen of fiery dragons._"
                            "Richard III.," Act v. sc. 3.

  "_Come not between the dragon and his wrath._"
                            "King Lear," Act i. sc. 2.

The dragon does not seem to have been a native emblem with the Romans, and
when they adopted it it was only as a sort of subordinate emblem--the
eagle still holding the first place. It seems to have been in consequence
of their intercourse with other nations either of Pelasgic or Teutonic
race. Amongst all the new races which overran Europe at the termination of
the classical period the dragon seems to have occupied nearly the same
place that it held in the earlier stages of Greek life. Among the Teutonic
tribes which settled in England the dragon was from the first a principal
emblem, and the custom of carrying the dragon in procession with great
jollity on May eve to Burford is referred to by old historians. The custom
is said by Brand also to have prevailed in Germany, and was probably
common in other parts of England.

Nor was the dragon peculiar to the Teutonic races. Amongst the Celts it
was the symbol of sovereignty, and as such was borne on the sovereign's
crest. Mr. Tennyson's "Idylls" have made us familiar with "the dragon of
the great Pendragonship" blazing on Arthur's helmet as he rode forth to
his last battle, and "making all the night a stream of fire." The fiery
dragon or drake and the flying dragon of the air were national phenomena
of which we have frequent accounts in old books.

The Irish _drag_ means "fire," and the Welsh _dreigiaw_ (silent flashes of
lightning) "fiery meteors"; hence Shakespeare says:

  "Swift, swift, ye dragons of the night!--that dawning
  May bare the raven's eye."
                                      _Cymbeline_, ii. 2.

A principal source of the Dragon legends in these countries is the Celtic
use of the word "_dragon_" for "a chief." Hence Pen-dragon (_sumus rex_),
a sort of dictator in times of danger. Those knights who slew a chief in
battle slew a dragon, and the military title soon got confounded with the
fabulous monster. The name or title _Pendragon_ (dragon's head) was among
British kings and princes what Bretwalda was among the Saxons; and his
authority or supremacy over the confederation was greater or less
according to his valour, ability, and good fortune. Arthur succeeded his
father Uther, and was raised to the pendragonship in the first quarter of
the sixth century.

The dragon was a symbol among the heathen. One of the sons of Odin was
thus invoked: "Child of the Dragon, Son of Conquest, arise! grasp thy
silver spear; thy snowy steed prepare and haste thee to the strife of the
shield! Uprise thou Dragon of Onslaught!" And again:

  "Wave high the dragon's flaming sign,
    Roll wide the shout of glee;
  Ho! conquest ope thy crimson gates
    This day I give to thee."

"The Dragon of the Shield struck his sounding war-board with his ponderous
spada. The fierce-browed children of Hilda gathered round at the signal."

Maglocue, a British king who was a great warrior and of a remarkable
stature, whose exploits had rendered him terrible to his foes, as a
surname was called "The Dragon of the Isle," perhaps from his seat in

Cuthred, King of Wessex, bore a dragon on his banner. A dragon was also
the device of the British King Uther Pendragon, or Dragon's-head, father
of that King Arthur of chivalric memory, who so bravely withstood the
incursions of the Saxons. _Two dragons addorsed_--that is, back to
back--are ascribed to Arthur, as well as several other devices.

[Illustration: Dragon Standard. From the Bayeux Tapestry.]

Dragon's Hill, Berkshire, is where the legend says St. George killed the
dragon. A bare place is shown on the hill where nothing will grow, and
there the blood ran out. In Saxon annals we are told that Cedric, founder
of the West Saxon kingdom, slew there Naud, the pendragon, with 5000 men.
This Naud is called Natan-leod, a corruption of Naud-an-ludh; Naud, the
people's refuge.[7]

"It has sometimes been thought," says Miss Millington, "that the royal
Saxon banner bore a dragon; certain it is, that on the Bayeux tapestry a
dragon raised upon a pole is constantly represented near a figure, whilst
the words 'Hic Harold' prove to be intended for Harold; yet Matthew of
Westminster, in describing a battle fought in the time of Edward I., says
that the place of the king was 'between the dragon and the standard,'
which seems to imply that the standard or banner had some other device.
The dragon was perhaps a kind of standard borne to indicate the presence
of the king. Henry III. carried one at the Battle of Lewes, fought against
Simon de Montfort in 1264:

  "'Symoun com to the feld,
    And put up his banere;
  The king schewed forth his scheld,
    His dragon full austere.'

It was not, however, at that time restricted to the King, for Simon
himself in the same battle

  "'Displaied his banere, lift up his dragoun.'

The English at the Battle of Crecy carried a 'burning dragon, made of red
silk adorned and beaten with very broad and fair lilies of gold, and
broidered about with gold and vermilion.' This banner," adds Miss
Millington, "perhaps resembled that used by the Parthians and Dacians,
which is described by Ammianus Marcellinus as 'a dragon, formed of purple
stuff, resplendent with gold and precious stones fixed on a long pike, and
so contrived that when held in a certain manner, with its mouth to the
wind, the entire body became inflated, and stretched its sinuous length
upon the air.'"

"The dragon," says Mr. Planché, "was the customary standard of the kings
of England from the time of the Conquest. It was borne in the battle
between Canute and Edmund Ironside; it is figured in the Bayeux tapestry,
and there are directions for making one in the reign of Henry III., but it
never formed a portion of their armorial bearings, _i.e._, as a charge
upon the shield of arms."

Henry VII., first of the Tudor line, assumed as one of his badges the red
dragon of Cadwallader--"Red dragon dreadful." Henry claimed an
uninterrupted descent from the aboriginal princes of Britain, Arthur and
Uther, Caradoc, Halstan, Pendragon, &c. His grandfather, Owen Tudor, bore
a dragon as his device in proof of his descent from Cadwallader, the last
British prince and first King of Wales (678 A.D.), the dragon being the
ensign of that monarch. At the Battle of Bosworth Field Henry bore the
dragon standard. After the battle of Bosworth Field Henry went in state to
St. Paul's, where he offered three standards. On one was the image of St.
George, on the other a "red fierce dragon beaten upon green and white
sarsenet" (the livery colours of the House of Tudor); on the third was
painted a dun cow upon yellow tartan,--the dun cow, in token of his
descent from Guy Earl of Warwick, who had slain

  "A monstrous wyld and cruelle beaste
  Called ye dun cow of Dunsmore Heath."

The dun cow is still one of the badges of the Guards. This monarch founded
the office of _Rouge dragon pursuivant_ on the day before his coronation
(October 29, 1485). Henry VII., Henry VIII., Edward V., Mary and Elizabeth
all carried the dragon as a supporter to the royal arms, but varied in
position, and at times superseded by a greyhound. (A greyhound argent,
collared or, the collar charged with a rose gules, was a Lancastrian
badge.) Henry VIII. used for supporters the _red dragon and white
greyhound_ of his family; _a red dragon_ and _a lion gardant gold_,
sometimes crowned; at other times _a silver greyhound_ and _a golden
lion_, _an antelope_, _a white bull_, _a cock_, &c. On the union of
Scotland and England under King James, the Scottish _unicorn_ was
substituted for the sinister supporter, while the _lion gardant_, first
adopted by Henry VIII., appears to have permanently superseded the red
dragon of Wales, the white greyhound, &c., as the other supporter of the
royal arms, the dragon being relegated to be the special badge of the
principality of Wales, which position it still retains. The present royal
badges, as settled at the union, 1801, are:

  _A white rose within a red_        ENGLAND.

  _A thistle_                        SCOTLAND.

  _A harp or, stringed argent,
  and a trefoil or shamrock vert_    IRELAND.

  _Upon a mount vert, a dragon
  passant, wings expanded
  and endorsed, gules_               WALES.

Richard III. as a badge had a black dragon. "_The bages that he beryth by
the Earldom of Wolst{r} (Ulster) ys a blacke dragon_," derived through his
mother from the De Burghs, Earls of Ulster.

Mallet, in his "Northern Antiquities," states "that the thick misshapen
walls winding round a rude fortress at the summit of a rock were called by
a name signifying dragon, and as women of distinction were, during the
ages of chivalry, commonly placed in such castles for security, thence
arose the romances of princesses of great beauty being guarded by dragons,
and afterwards delivered by young heroes who could not achieve their
rescue until they had overcome their terrible guardians." The common
heraldic signification of a dragon is one who has successfully overcome
such a fortress, or it denotes the protection afforded to the helpless by
him to whom it was granted, and the terror inspired in his foes by his
doughty or warlike bearing. It was a title of supreme power among the
early British.

[Illustration: A Dragon passant.]

The dragon has always been an honourable bearing in British armoury, in
some instances to commemorate a triumph over a mighty foe, or merely for
the purpose of inspiring the enemy with terror. This seems to have been
especially the case with the dragon standard--the "red dragon dreadful" of
Wales (_y Ddraig Coch_) described as:

  "A dragon grete and grimme
  Full of fyre and eke venymme."

The Crocodile as the Prototype of the Dragon

In the existing representatives of the antediluvian saurians, the
crocodile and alligator, we see the prototypes of the dragons and hydras
of poetic fancy. The crocodile is a well-known huge amphibious reptile, in
general contour resembling a great lizard covered with large horny scales
that cannot be easily pierced, except underneath, and reaching twenty-five
to thirty feet in length. The crocodile was held sacred by the ancient
Egyptians, the Nile was and is its best-known habitat; it is also found in
the rivers of the Indian seas. Though an awkward creature upon land, it
darts with rapidity through the water after fish, which is its appropriate
food, but it is dangerous also to dogs and other creatures, as well as to
human beings entering the water or lingering incautiously on the bank.

It is the _Lacerta crocodilus_ of Linnæus, from Greek κροκοδειλος
(_krokodeilos_) a word of uncertain origin. The Alligator, the American
crocodile, takes its name from the Spanish _El Legarto_, the lizard. The
Latin form is _Lacertus_ or _Lacerta_.

Miss Millington, in her "Heraldry in History, Poetry and Romance," says
that both dragon and crocodile seem anciently to have been confounded
under one name, and that Philip de Thaun, in his "Bestiarus," says that
"crocodille signifie diable en ceste vie." Guillim, an old heraldic
writer, says: "The dragons are naturally so hot that they cannot be
cooled by drinking of waters, but still gape for the air to refresh them,
as appeareth in Jeremiah xiv. 6."

Young, author of "Night Thoughts," in a footnote appended to the
magnificent description of the leviathan (crocodile), in his paraphrase of
part of the book of Job says: "The crocodile, say the naturalists, lying
under water, and being there forced to hold its breath, when it emerges,
the breath long repressed is hot, and bursts out so violently that it
resembles fire and smoke. The horse suppresses not his breath by any means
so long, neither is he so fierce and animated," yet the most correct of
poets ventures to use the same metaphor regarding him:

  "Collectumque premens volvit sub naribus ignem."

The Heraldic Dragon

The mythical dragon is represented in heraldic art with the huge body of
the reptile saurian type covered with impenetrable mail of plates and
scales, a row of formidable spines extending from his head to his tail,
which ends in a great and deadly sting; his enormous jaws, gaping and
bristling with hideous fangs, belch forth sparks and flame; his round
luminous eyes seem to shoot gleaming fire; from his nose issues a dreadful
spike. He is furnished with sharp-pointed ears and a forked tongue, four
sturdy legs terminating in eagle's feet strongly webbed, clawing and
clutching at his prey. Great leathern bat-like wings armed with sharp
hook's points, complete his equipment. The wings are always "endorsed,"
that is, elevated and back to back.

[Illustration: Crest, a Dragon's Head erased collared and chained.]

The dragon of our modern books of heraldry is a miserable impostor, a
degenerate representative of those "dragons of the prime, that tore each
other in their slime." It is curious to note in this the gradual
degradation from the magnificent saurian type of the best period of
heraldic art to a form not far removed from that given to an ordinary
four-legged creature covered with plates and scales. His legs are longer
and weaker, his mighty caudal appendage, shrunk to insignificant and
useless proportion, and most unlike his ancient prototype the crocodile.
This error of our modern heraldic artists displays remarkable lack of
proper knowledge of this mythical creature and his attributes. Such a
splendid creation of the fancy should not be represented in such a weak
and meaningless form by the hands of twentieth-century artists. The
ancient form is infinitely to be preferred as a work of symbolic art.

[Illustration: Domine dirige nos]

ARMS OF THE CITY OF LONDON.--Two dragons are the supporters of the arms of
the City of London, the crest a dragon's sinister wing. They are thus
blazoned: _Argent a cross gules, in the first quarter, a sword in pale
point upwards of the last. Supporters, on either side a dragon with wings
elevated and addorsed, argent, and charged on the wing with a cross

The crest is a _dragon's sinister wing charged with a similar cross_.

THE COUNTY OF CHESTER has for its supporters two dragons, each holding an
ostrich feather.

Basingstoke, Linlithgow and Dumfries on the town seals have St. Michael
overthrowing the dragon (_see_ p. 72).

The dragon appears in various forms in the arms of many towns, and also in
those of some peers.

[Illustration: Sinister supporter of the arms of Viscount Gough.]

One of the most extraordinary and elaborate coats of arms of modern times
is that of Viscount Gough. The sinister supporter of the shield is a
dragon (intended to represent the device upon a Chinese flag). _A dragon
or, gorged with a mural crown sable, inscribed with the word "China," and
chained gold._

Examples vary considerably in the form of the dragon, some early examples
represent it to have four legs, others with only two, when it is properly
a wyvern. The pendent "George" in the Order of the Garter represents it
with a body similar to a crocodile, winged and covered with plates and

A similar device to that of the George noble of Henry VIII. was the St.
George slaying the dragon by Pistrucci, a foreigner employed at the mint.
This handsome reverse, says Mr. Noel Humphrey, "Coin Collector's Manual,"
is nearly a copy from a figure in a battle-piece on an antique gem in the
Orleans collection, but several Greek coins might equally well have
furnished the model. Old George III. sovereigns and five-shilling pieces
have this most finely conceived and executed device on the reverse of the
coins. It also appears upon some sovereigns of Queen Victoria. Prominence
is naturally given to the figure of St. George, the dragon in consequence
being diminished in its relative size.

The Hydra

  "_Seven great heads out of his body grew,
  An iron breast, and back of scaly brass;
  And all imbrued in blood his eyes did shine as glass,
  His tail was stretched out in wondrous length._"
              SPENSER, "Faerie Queen," Book i. c. vii.

The hydra is represented in heraldry as a dragon with seven heads; it is
not of frequent occurrence as a bearing in armory.

[Illustration: Hercules and the Lernean Hydra. From Greek vase.]

The terrible dragon, with one hundred heads, that guarded the golden
apples of the Hesperides, slain by Hercules, was celebrated in classic
mythology; so was the Lernean hydra, a monster of the marshes that ravaged
the country of Lerna in Argolis, destroying both men and beasts. The
number of its heads varies with the poets, though ancient gems usually
represent it with seven or nine. Hercules was sent to kill it as one of
his twelve labours. After driving the monster from its lair with arrows he
attacked it with his sword, and in place of each head he struck off two
sprang up. Setting fire to a neighbouring wood with the firebrands he
seared the throat of the Hydra until he at length succeeded in slaying it.
The fable is usually referred to in illustration of a difficulty which
goes on increasing as it is combated. (_See_ page 63.)

  "Whereon this Hydra son of war is born
  Whose dangerous eyes may well be charmed asleep."
                          _Henry IV._ part ii. sc. 2.

[Illustration: The Hydra.]

The Lernean hydra, the watchful dragon of the garden of the Hesperides,
the many-headed Naga or snake of the Hindu religion, are, say learned
writers, only some of the many forms under which the relics of the ancient
serpent-worship exhibited itself.

_A hydra, wings endorsed vert, scaled or_, is the crest of _Barret_ of
Avely, Essex. It is also borne by the names _Crespine_ and _Downes_.

[Illustration: A Wyvern holding a fleur-de-lis.]

The Wyvern

(SAXON, _Wivere_, a serpent) said to represent a flying serpent, an
imaginary creature resembling the dragon, but having only two legs, which
are like an eagle's, and a serpent-like tail, barbed, sometimes
represented nowed after the manner of serpents. It is figured on one of
the standards in the Bayeux tapestry (_see_ Dragon, p. 86). It is
erroneously termed a dragon by some writers, though perhaps they may both
be classed together. Old heralds say of these imaginary monsters that they
are emblems of pestilence, and are represented as strong and fierce
animals covered with invulnerable mail, and fitly typify viciousness and
envy. In armory they are properly applied to tyranny or the overthrow of a
vicious enemy.

[Illustration: A Wyrvern, wings endorsed, tail nowed.]

[Illustration: Wyvern from the Garter plate of Sir John Gray, 1436 A.D.]

Occasionally a wyvern is borne with the tail nowed and without wings.

_Lindworm._--It is not usual to say a wyvern "without wings" or "without
legs," but _sans wings_ or _sans legs_, as the case may be. A dragon or
wyvern sans wings is termed a lindworm. (_See_ page 80.)

[Illustration: Wyvern, or Lindworm. (German version.)]

_Argent, a wyvern, wings endorsed gules_, are the arms of _Drake_, of
Ashe, Devon (Bart.), 1600.

The town of Leicester has for crest a _wyvern, wings expanded, sans legs,
strewed with wounds, gules_.

_Argent on a bend sable, between two lions rampant of the last, a wyvern
volant in bend of the field, langued gules, Ruddings._

_Two wyverns, wings endorsed and emitting flames_, are the supporters of
Viscount _Arbuthnot_.

The arms of the King of Portugal are supported by _two wyverns erect on
their tails or_, each holding a banner, the crest is a _demi-wyvern_ out
of a ducal coronet.

_Guivre._--The wyvern or serpent in the arms of the Visconti, Lords of
Milan, _argent a guivre d'azure couronnée d'or, issante de gules_ (GUIVRE
is represented as a serpent or wingless dragon sans feet, with a child's
body issuing from its mouth), is said to commemorate the victory of a lord
of that house over a fiery dragon or guivre which inhabited a cavern under
the church of St. Denis in that place. "It is hardly possible," says Miss
Millington, "not to think that the story of the dragon as well as its
adoption in the coat-of-arms bears allusion rather to the dragon of
paganism, expelled from the city, as it might seem, by the church built
upon the site of the cave, in which too, by the rite of Holy Baptism,
_children_ especially were delivered from the power of Satan. Indeed, the
innumerable legends of saints who have fought and overcome dragons
sufficiently prove the symbolic light in which that creature was anciently
viewed." (_See_ also Serpent Biscia, p. 117.)

[Illustration: Wyvern, wings displayed. (Early example.)]

[Illustration: Wyvern, wings depressed.]

The Chimera

An imaginary fire-breathing monster of great swiftness and strength,
invented by the ancient Greek poets. Though mentioned by heraldic
authorities, it is not met with in British coat armour; it is described as
having the head, mane and legs of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail
of a dragon. From this creature the term "chimerical" is applied to all
such figures as have no other existence but in the imagination. It is
represented upon the coins of Sycion during the Achæan League.

[Illustration: Chimera, from a Greek coin.]

The origin of the story of the chimera is ascribed to a mountain in Lycia
which had a volcano on its top and nourished lions; the middle part
afforded pasture for goats, and the bottom was infested with serpents;
according to Hesiod it had three heads, that of a lion, a goat, and a
dragon. Bellerophon destroyed the monster by raising himself in the air on
his winged steed Pegasus, and shooting it with his arrows.

  "Amid the troops, and like the leading god,
  High o'er the rest in arms the graceful Turnus rode;
  A triple pile of plumes his crest adorned,
  On which with belching flames chimera burned:
  The more the kindled combat rises higher,
  The more with fury burns the blazing fire."
                        VIRGIL, _Æneid_, Book vii.

Phillip II. of Spain, after his marriage with Queen Mary of England,
assumed as a device, Bellerophon fighting with the chimera, and the motto,
"Hinc vigilo," the monster being intended by him for a type of England's
heresies which he waited his time to destroy.

The family of _Fada_ of Verona have for arms: Gules a winged chimera
argent, the head and breasts carnation (or proper), and the wings and feet
of an eagle. The illustration, however, has the head and breasts of a
woman, and eagle's wings and feet, and makes it a different creature
entirely, and should more properly be blazoned _harpy_.

The Lion-Dragon

is compounded of the forepart of a lion conjoined to the hinder part of a

_Or, a lion-dragon gules armed, langued and crowned of the first_, is the
_Bretigni_ family.

_Party per chevron gules and or, three lion-dragons ducally crowned and

The Gorgon

Reference has already been made to the gorgon in a quotation from Milton.
The name now denotes anything unusually hideous. In classic story there
were three gorgons, with serpents on their heads instead of hair. Medusa
was the chief of the three, and the only one that was mortal. So hideous
was her face that whoever set eyes on it was instantly turned to stone.
She was slain by Perseus, and her head placed upon _the shield of Minerva_
(termed the Ægis of Minerva). Homer, in the "Odyssey," Book xi. thus
alludes to the dread creature:

  "Lest Gorgon rising from the infernal lakes
  With horrors armed, and curls of hissing snakes,
  Should fix me stiffened at the monstrous sight,
  A stony image in eternal night."

And Shakespeare, in _Macbeth_, Act ii. sc. 3, uses the name to picture, in
a word, the horrible discovery of the murdered Duncan:

  "Approach the chamber, and destroy your sight
  With a new gorgon."

The Cockatrice

This chimerical creature was said to be produced from a cock's egg hatched
by a serpent; hence its name. It differs from the wyvern of heraldry only
in having a head like that of a dunghill cock. "This monster is of that
nature," says an old writer, "that its look or breath is said to be deadly
poison"; and this, in addition to the ordinary weapons of offence, would
constitute it rather a difficult creature to be interfered with.

[Illustration: Cockatrice.]

The cockatrice is frequently referred to in the Scriptures as the type of
something evil. "The weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice's
den" (Isaiah xi. 8), meaning that the most noxious animal shall not hurt
the most feeble of God's creatures.

And Jeremiah viii. 17: "For behold, I will send serpents, cockatrices,
among you which will not be charmed, and they shall bite you, saith the

The cockatrice is a frequent emblem in heraldry, borne as a charge upon
the shield and also as a supporter. To the mailed draconic form of the
wyvern it had the hideous crested head with livid dangling wattles similar
to the dunghill cock, its round glittering eyes dealing death; its barbed
tongue and serpentine tail, with deadly sting, would no doubt render it a
fearful object to behold, and terrific to its enemies. It is always borne
in profile, the wings endorsed, or back to back, unless directed
otherwise. The tail is frequently _nowed_, _i.e._, knotted.

_Sable, a cockatrice or, combed and wattled gules._--_Bothe._

_Sable, a cockatrice, displayed argent, crested, membered and jelloped

_Jelloped_, _jowlopped_, terms used to describe the comb or crest, and
gills or wattles, when of a different tincture from the body. _Beaked_ and
_membered_, in similar manner, have reference to the beak and legs.

Basilisk, or Amphysian Cockatrice

The amphysian cockatrice or basilisk in heraldry exactly resembles the
cockatrice, but having an additional head (like that of a dragon) at the
end of its tail instead of a barb or sting.

  "With complicated monsters' head and tail
  Scorpion and Asp and Amphisbœna dire."

_Amphisbœna_, or _Amphista_, is a creature sometimes referred to by old
writers as having the dragon's body and wings, the head of a serpent, and
the tail ending in a like head. Bossewelle, in "Armorie of Honour," folio
63, enlarging upon this idea, describes "a prodigious serpente called
Amphybene, for that he hath a double head, as though one mouth were too
little to custe his venyme."

_Earl Howe_ has for supporters _two cockatrices (amphysian), wings
elevated, the tails nowed, and ending in a serpent's head or, combed,
wattled and legged gules_.

_Argent, a basilisk, wings endorsed, tail nowed, sable._--_Langley_,
Rathorpe Hall, Yorks.

[Illustration: Basilisk or Amphysian Cockatrice, tail nowed.]

_Basilisk_, the king of serpents (Greek, _Basileus_, a king), so called
from having on his head a mitre-shaped crest. Old writers give wonderful
accounts of the death-dealing power of this strange creature. Pliny says,
"all other serpents do flee from and are afraid of it," and tells of the
deadly effect of his breath and glittering eye. The Duke of Alva, the
scourge of the Netherlands (1566-1575), where he left the eternal memory
of his cruelties, had for a device a basilisk drawing out serpents, with
the motto: "Tu nomine tantum" ("Thou dost so much by thy name alone"), a
fitting emblem for so great a monster!

In allusion to its power of "looking any one dead on whom it fixed its
eyes," Dryden makes Clytus say to Alexander, "Nay, frown not so; you
cannot look me dead,"

                        "like a boar
  Plunging his tusk in mastiff's gore,
  Or basilisk, when roused, whose breath,
  Teeth, sting and eyeballs all are death."
                            KING, _Art of Love_.

King Henry, when he hears of the death of his uncle Humphry, the good
Duke of Gloucester, says to Suffolk:

                    "come basilisk
  And kill the innocent gazer with thy sight."
                      _2 King Henry VI._ Act iii. 2.

Beaumont and Fletcher also speak of "the basilisk's death-dealing eye" in
"The Woman Hater."

Its appearance was so dreadful, it was said, that if a mirror was placed
so that it could see itself, it would instantly burst asunder with horror
and fear.

In Christian Art it is the emblem of _deadly sin_ and _the spirit of
evil_. St. Basil the Great uses it as the type of a depraved woman.

The Mythical Serpent

"The most remarkable remembrance," says Dean, "of the power of the
paradisaical serpent is displayed in the position which he retains in
Tartarus. A cuno-draconictic cerberus guards the gates; serpents are
coiled upon the chariot wheels of Proserpine; serpents pave the abyss of
torment; and even serpents constitute the caduceus of Mercury, the
talisman which he holds in his hand when he conveys the soul to Tartarus.
The image of the serpent is stamped upon every mythological fable
connected with the realms of Pluto. Is it not probable that in the
universal symbol of heathen idolatry we recognise the universal object of
primitive worship, the serpent of paradise?"

"Speaking of the names of the snake tribe in the great languages," Ruskin
says, "in Greek, OPHIS meant the seeing creature, especially one that sees
all round it; and DRAKON, one that looks well into a thing or person. In
Latin, ANGUIS, was the strangler; SERPENS, the winding creature; COLUBER,
the coiling animal. In our own Saxon the SNAKE meant the crawling
creature; and ADDER denoted the groveller."

The true serpents comprise the genera without a sternum or breastbone, in
which there is no vestige of shoulder, but where the ribs surround a great
part of the circumference of the trunk. To the venomous kind belong the
rattlesnake, cobra de capello, spectacled or hooded snake, viper, &c. So
the non-venomous, the boa constrictor, anaconda, python, black snake,
common snake.

The minute viper, _V. Brashyura_, is celebrated for the intensity of its
poison, and is truly one of the most terrible of its genus. The asp of
Egypt, or Cleopatra's asp (_Coluber naja_, Lin.), was held in great
veneration by the Egyptians; and it is this snake which the jugglers, by
pressing on the nape of the neck with the finger, throw into a kind of
catalepsy, which renders it stiff, or, as they term it, turns it into a

All snakes, says the celebrated naturalist Waterton, take a motion from
left to right or _vice versa_--but never up and down--the whole extent of
the body being in contact with the ground, saving the head, which is
somewhat elevated. This is equally observable both on land and in water.
Thus, when we see a snake represented in an up-and-down attitude, we know
at once that the artist is to blame.

Another misconception exploded by Waterton is the common and accepted
notion that a snake can fascinate to their destruction and render
powerless by a dead set of its eye the creatures it makes its prey. Snakes
have no such power. The eyes, which are very beautiful, do not move, and
they have no eyelids; they have been placed by nature under a scale
similar in composition to the scales of the body, and when the snake casts
it slough, this scale comes away with it, and is replaced by a new one on
a new skin.

_Noli me tangere_--do not touch me with intent to harm me--is, continues
Waterton, a most suitable motto for a snake, which towards man never acts
on the offensive (except perhaps only the larger species which may be in
waiting for a meal, when any creature, from a bull to a mouse, may be
acceptable). But when roused into action by the fear of sudden danger,
'tis then that, in self-defence a snake will punish the intruder by a
prick (not a laceration) from the poison-fang, fatal or not, according to
its size and virulence.

A writer in the _Daily Telegraph_ of July 23, 1883, giving an account of
the new reptile house in the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, dwells
upon the surpassing beauty of a python that had just cast its skin, "a
very miracle of reptilian loveliness. Watch it breathing; it is as gentle
as a child, and the beautiful lamia head rests like a crowning jewel upon
the softly heaving coils. Let danger threaten, however, and lightning is
hardly quicker than the dart of those vengeful convolutions. The gleaming
length rustles proudly into menace, and instead of the voluptuous lazy
thing of a moment ago, the python, with all its terrors complete, erects
itself defiantly, thrilling, so it seems, with eager passion in every
scale, and measuring in the air, with threatening head, the circle within
which is death. Once let those recurved fangs strike home, and there is no
poison in them, all hope is gone to the victim. Coil after coil is rapidly
thrown round the struggling object, and then with slow but relentless
pressure life is throttled out of every limb. No wonder that the world has
always held the serpent in awe, and that nations should have worshipped,
and still worship, this emblem of destruction and death. It is fate
itself, swift as disaster, deliberate as retribution, incomprehensible as
destiny." It would be tedious to recapitulate the multitude of myths
through which the "dire worm" has come to our times, dignified and made
awful by the honours and fears of the past. A volume could hardly exhaust
the snake-lore scattered up and down in the pages of history and fable.

"The python in the Zoological Gardens, however," adds the same writer,
"though it may stand as the modern reality of the old-world fable of a
gigantic snake that challenged the strength of the gods to overcome it,
presents to us only one side of snake nature. It possesses a surprising
beauty and prodigious strength; but it is not venomous. Probably the more
subtle and fearful apprehensions of men originated really from the smaller
and deadlier kinds, and were then by superstition, poetry and heraldry
extended to the larger. The little basilisk, crowned king of the vipers;
the horned 'cerastes dire,' a few inches in length; the tiny aspic, fatal
as lightning and as swift; and the fabled cockatrice, that a man might
hold in his hand, first made the serpent legend terrible; their venom was
afterwards transferred, and not unnaturally, to the larger species. It was
the small minute worms, that carried in their fangs such rapid and
ruthless death, which first struck fear into the minds of the ancients,
and invested the snake with the mysterious and horrid attributes whereunto
antiquity from China to Egypt hastened to pay honours."

Cadmus and his wife Harmonia were by Zeus converted into serpents and
removed to Elysium. Æsculapius, son of Apollo, god of medicine, assumed
the form of a serpent when he appeared at Rome during a pestilence;
therefore he is always represented with his staff entwined with a serpent,
symbol of healing. Similarly represented was Hippocrates, a famous
physician of Cos; who delivered Athens from a dreadful pestilence, in the
beginning of the Peloponnesian War, and was publicly rewarded with a
golden crown, and the privileges of a citizen. Therefore it is that the
goddess of health bears in her hand a serpent.

The caduceus of Mercury was a rod adorned with wings, having a male and
female serpent twisted about it, each kissing the other. With this in his
hands, it was said, the herald of the Gods could give sleep to whomsoever
he chose; wherefore Milton, in "Paradise Lost," styles it "his opiate

            "With his caduceus Hermes led
  From the dark regions of the imprisoned dead;
  Or drove in silent shoals the lingering train
  To night's dull shore and Pluto's dreary reign."
                  DARWIN, _Loves of the Plants_, ii. 291.

Jupiter Ammon appeared to Olympias in the form of a serpent, and became
the father of Alexander the Great:

  "When glides a silver serpent, treacherous guest!
  And fair Olympia folds him to her breast."
                  DARWIN, _Economy of Vegetation_, i. 2.

Jupiter Capitolinus in a similar form became the father of Scipio

In the temple of Athena at Athens, a serpent was kept in a cage and called
"The Guardian Spirit of the Temple." This serpent was supposed to be
animated by the soul of Ericthonius. It was thus employed by the Greeks
and Romans to symbolise a guardian spirit, and not unfrequently the figure
of a serpent was depicted on their altars.

Upon the shields of Greek warriors, on ancient vases, &c., the serpent is
often to be seen blazoned.

[Illustration: Greek Shield, from painted vase in the British Museum.]

The serpent monster Python, produced from the mud left on the earth after
the deluge of Deucalion, lived in the caves of Mount Parnassus, but was
slain by Apollo, who founded the Pythian games in commemoration of his
victory. This and many similar solar myths are merely classic panegyrics
on the conquering power exercised by the genial warmth of spring over the
dark gloom of winter.

The serpent in Christian Art figures in Paradise as the tempter of Eve
under that form, and is generally placed under the feet of the Virgin, in
allusion to the promise made to Eve after the Fall: "The seed of the woman
shall bruise the serpent's head." The heart of the serpent being close to
the head, renders a severe "bruise" there fatal. The serpent bruised the
"heel" of man--_i.e._, being a cause of stumbling, it hurt the foot which
tripped against it (Gen. iii. 15).


The brazen serpent erected by Moses in the wilderness, which gave newness
of life to those plague-stricken Israelites who were bitten by the fiery
dragons and raised their eyes to this symbol (Numb. xxi. 8), as an emblem
of healing, is represented in Christian art as coiled up on a tau cross, a
symbol of which our Saviour did not disdain in some degree to admit the
propriety when he compared himself to the healing serpent in the

The serpent is placed under the feet of St. Cecilia, St. Euphemia, and
many other saints, either because they trampled on Satan, or because they
miraculously cleared some country of such reptiles. St. Patrick, the
patron saint of Ireland, is always represented habited as a bishop, his
foot upon a viper, the head transfixed with the lower extremity of his
pastoral staff, from his having banished snakes and all venomous reptiles
from the soil of Ireland. As the symbol of the evil principle, a
diminutive specimen of the dragon, guivre, or winged snake was more
frequently used, wriggling under foot.

The serpent is emblematical of THE FALL; Satan is called the great serpent
(Rev. xii. 9); of WISDOM: "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless
as doves" (Matt. x. 16); of SUBTLETY: "Now the serpent was more subtil
than any beast of the field" (Gen. iii. 1); of ETERNITY: a serpent in a
circle with its tail in its mouth is the well understood symbol of
unending time.

"The serpent figures largely in Byzantine Art as the instrument of the
Fall, and one type of the Redemption. The cross planted on the serpent is
found sculptured on Mount Athos; and the cross surrounded by the so-called
runic knot is only a Scandinavian version of the original Byzantine
image--the crushed snake curling round the stem of the avenging cross. The
cross, with two scrolls at the foot of it typifying the snake, is another
of its modifications, and a very common Byzantine ornament. The ordinary
northern crosses, so conspicuous for their interlaced ornaments and
grotesque monsters, appear to be purely modifications of this idea."[8]

Boniface, the Anglo-Saxon missionary, in his letter to the Archbishop of
Canterbury, inveighs against the luxuries of dress, and declares against
those garments that are adorned with very broad studs and images of worms,
announcing the coming of Antichrist.

In the wonderfully intricate interlacing of snake-like and draconic forms
of celtic art which appear in the marvellously illuminated manuscripts
executed in Ireland of the sixth and seventh centuries, the great
sculptured crosses, as well as in gold and metal work, are seen
unmistakable traces of the traditional ideas relating to the early

"The serpent," says Mr. Planché, "the most terrible of all reptiles, is of
rare occurrence in English heraldry. Under its Italian name of _Bisse_ it
occurs in the Roll of Edward III.'s time, 'Monsire William Malbis
_d'argent, a une chevron de gules, a trois testes de bys rases gules_'
(_Anglicé_, argent, a chevron between three serpents' heads erased

The well-known historic device, the _Biscia_ or serpent devouring a child,
of the dukedom of Milan is of much interest. There are many stories as to
the origin of this singular bearing. Some writers assign it to Otho
Visconti, who led a body of Milanese in the train of Peter the Hermit, and
at the crusades fought and killed in single combat the Saracen giant
Volux, upon whose helmet was this device, which Otho afterwards assumed as
his own. Such is the version adopted by Tasso, who enumerates Otho among
the Christian warriors:

  "Otho fierce, whose valour won the shield
  That bears a child and serpent on the field."
              _Gerusalemme Liberata_, cant. i. st. 55.
                                  (Hoole's translation.)

From another legend we learn that when Count Boniface, Lord of Milan, went
to the crusades, his child, born during his absence, was devoured in its
cradle by a huge serpent which ravaged the country. On his return, Count
Boniface went in search of the monster, and found it with a child in its
mouth. He attacked and slew the creature, but at the cost of his own life.
Hence it is said his posterity bore the serpent and child as their ensign.
A third legend is referred to under Wyvern (which see).

Menestrier says that the first Lords of Milan were called after their
castle in Angleria, in Latin _anguis_, and that these are only the _armes
parlantes_ of their name.[9] Be this as it may, "_Lo Squamoso Biscion_"
(the scaly snake) was adopted by all the Visconti lords, and by their
successors of the House of Sforza.

  "Sforza e Viscontei colubri."
              _Orlando Furioso_, cant. xiii. 63.

And again in the same poem (cant. iii. 26. Hoole's translation):

  "Hugo appears with him, his valiant son
  Who plants his conquering snakes in Milan's town."

Dante also refers in "Purgatorio" to this celebrated device.

[Illustration: Arms of Whitby Abbey.]

The "_three coiled snakes_," which appear in the arms of Whitby Abbey,
Yorkshire, really represent _fossil ammonites_, which are very plentiful
in the rocky promontories of that part of the English coast, and on that
account were no doubt adopted in the arms of the Abbey, and afterwards of
the town of Whitby.

The arms are: _Azure three snakes coiled or encircled two and one, or_.

Popular legend, however, ascribes their origin to the transformation of a
multitude of snakes into stone by _St. Hilda_, an ancient Saxon princess.
The legend is referred to by Sir Walter Scott in "Marmion":

  "_How of a thousand snakes each one
  Was changed into a coil of stone
  While Holy Hilda prayed._"

It is, however, more than likely that the arms suggested the legend of the

The ancient myth of the _deaf adder_ seems to have been a favourite
illustration of the futility of unwelcome counsel.

  "What, art thou, like the adder, waxen deaf?
  Be poisonous too."
                    _2 King Henry VI._ Act ii. sc. 2.

  "Pleasure and revenge have ears more deaf than adders
  To the voice of any true decision."
                    _Troilus and Cressida_, Act ii. sc. 2.

  "He flies me now--nor more attends my pain
  Than the deaf adder heeds the charmer's strain."
                    _Orlando Furioso_, cant. xxxii. 19.
                                  (Hoole's translation.)

A serpent or adder stopping his ears, by some writers termed "_an adder
obturant his ear_" from the Latin _obturo_, to shut or stop, is a very
ancient idea. It is said that the asp or adder, to prevent his hearing
unwelcome truths, puts one ear to the ground and stops the other with his
tail, a device suggested by Psalm lviii. 4,5: "They are like the deaf
adder that stoppeth her ear; which will not hearken to the voice of
charmers, charming never so wisely."

Alessandro d'Alessandri (+ 1523), a lawyer of Naples, of extensive
learning, and a member of the Neapolitan Academy, took for device a
serpent stopping its ears, and the motto, "Ut prudentia vivam" ("That I
may live wisely"), implying that as the serpent by this means refuses to
hear the voice of the charmer, so the wise man imitates the prudence of
the reptile and refuses to listen to the words of malice and slander.

It is said that the _cerastes_ hides in sand that it may bite the horse's
foot and get the rider thrown. In allusion to this belief, Jacob says,
"Dan shall be ... an adder in the path, that his rider shall fall
backward" (Gen. xlix. 17).

_Asp._--According to Sir Gardiner Wilkinson, the ancient Egyptian kings
wore the asp, the emblem of royalty, as an ornament on the forehead. It
appears on the front of the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

Many terms have been invented by the heralds to express the positions
serpents may assume in arms. Berry's "Encyclopædia of Heraldry"
illustrates over thirty positions, the terms of blazon of which it is
impossible to comprehend, and hardly worth the inquiry. Few of these terms
are, however, met with in English heraldry.

Two serpents erect in pale, their tails "nowed" (twisted or knotted)
together, are figured in the arms of Caius College, Cambridge. In the
words of the old grant, they are blazoned "_gold, semied with flowers
gentil, a sengreen_ (or houseleek) _in chief, over the heads of two whole
serpents in pale, their tails knit together (all in proper colour),
resting upon a square marble stone vert, between a book sable, garnish't
gul, buckled, or_."

Fruiterers' Company of London.--_On a mount in base vert, the tree of
Paradise environed with the serpent between Adam and Eve, all proper._
Motto: _Arbor vitæ Christus, fructus perfidem gustamus._

_Nowed_ signifies tied or knotted, and is said of a serpent, wyvern, or
other creature whose body or tail is twisted like a knot.

_Annodated_, another term for nowed; bent in the form of the letter S, the
serpents round the caduceus of Mercury may be said to be annodated.

_Torqued_, _torgant_, or _targant_ (from the Latin _torqueo_, to wreathe),
the bending and rebending, either in serpents, adders or fish, like the
letter S.

[Illustration: A Serpent, nowed, proper. Crest of Cavendish.]

_Voluted_, _involved_ or _encircled, gliding_, and several terms used in
blazon explain themselves, as _erect_, _erect wavy_, &c.

In blazoning, the terms _snake_, _serpent_, _adder_, appear to be used

_A serpent nowed, proper_, is the crest of Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire.

_Gules, three snakes nowed in triangle argent_ (Ednowain Ap Bradwen,

_Or, three serpents erect wavy sable_ (Codlen, or Cudlen).

_Remora_ is an old term in heraldry for a serpent entwining.

[Illustration: Amphiptère, or flying serpent.]

Serpents are also borne entwined round pillars and rods, &c., and around
the necks of children, as in the arms of Vaughan or Vahan Wales: _Azure,
three boys' heads affronté, couped at the shoulders proper, crined or,
each enveloped or enwrapped about the neck with a snake vert_. Entwisted
and entwined are sometimes used in the same sense.

_The amphiptère_ is a winged serpent. _Azure, an amphiptère or, rising
between two mountains argent_, are the arms of Camoens, the Portuguese

As a symbol in heraldry the serpent does not usually have reference to the
mythical creature, as in Early Christian Art, its natural qualities being
more generally considered.

The Scorpion

The reptile of this name, carrying a virulent and deadly sting in its
tail, is generally borne erect. When it is borne with the head downwards,
it is described as reversed. One branch of the family of Cole bears:
_argent, a fesse between three scorpions erect sable_; and another branch
of the same family, _argent a chevron gules between three scorpions
reversed, sable_.

[Illustration: Scorpion.]

_Scorpion._--Luigi di Gonzaga, styled Rodomonte for his great intrepidity
and strength, was a favourite general of Emperor Charles V. in his army
with Bourbon at the sack of Rome. When Charles made his public entry into
Mantua, Rodomonte wore a blue surcoat made in squares. Upon one was
embroidered a scorpion; upon the other his motto, "_Qui vivens lædit morte
meditur_" ("Who living wounds, in death is healed"). It being the property
of the scorpion when killed and laid over the wound to cure the poison, so
Rodomonte, if any one presumed to offend him, would clear himself of the
injury by the death of his enemy.

"If a man be stung with a scorpion, and drink the powder of them in wine,
it is thought to be present remedie."[10]

Other Chimerical Creatures and Heraldic Beasts

[Illustration: Unicorn salient.[11]]

The Unicorn

  "_Yon lion placed two unicorns between
  That rampant with a silver sword is seen
  Is for the king of Scotland's banner known._"
                        ARIOSTO (Hoole's translation).

  "_The lion and the unicorn fighting for the crown._"
                                          Old Nursery Rhyme.

The unicorn is represented by heraldic usage as having the head and body
of a horse, with the tail of a lion, and the limbs and hoofs of a stag; a
twisted horn grows out from the centre of its forehead. It is rarely met
with as a coat-of-arms. As a crest or supporter it is of more frequent
occurrence. A unicorn's head is a favourite bearing, either _erased_, or
_couped_, at the shoulder, and always represented in profile.

[Illustration: Crest: A Unicorn's head, couped.]

The unicorn was a famous device all over Europe, and symbolised the virtue
of the mind and the strength of the body. It is well known as a supporter
of the Royal Arms of England, a position it has occupied since the
accession of James VI. of Scotland to the English throne as James I. _Two
silver unicorns_ were the supporters to the arms of that kingdom. On the
legislative union with England, the _red dragon of Wales_, introduced by
Henry VII., gave place to the unicorn as the sinister supporter.

James III. of Scotland had it figured on coins which were thence called
"unicorns." James V. first used it with the national arms as supporters.
Although the silver unicorn came into England with James I., Queen Jane
Seymour had already adopted it.

"_Unicorn_" was the pursuivant of Lord Lyon King-at-Arms, the Royal
Scottish Herald.

As a supporter to the Royal arms it is thus blazoned: _A unicorn argent,
armed, unguled, crined and gorged or, with a royal coronet_ (_i.e._,
composed of crosses patée and fleurs-de-lis), _having a chain affixed
thereto, and reflexed over his back of the last_. The term "_armed_" has
reference to his horn, "_unguled_" to his hoofs, and "_crined_" to his
flowing mane. "_Gorged_" implies that the coronet encircles his "gorge" or
throat. The term "_or_" (that is, the metal gold or the tincture of it)
being only mentioned after the several parts implies that they are all
alike to be gold. "_Of the last_" means of the last colour mentioned.

In "The History of Caricature and Grotesque in Literature and Art," by
Thomas Wright, M.A., F.S.A. (p. 8), appears a curious illustration from an
Egyptian papyrus of the Roman period, in the British Museum. It represents
a lion and a unicorn playing a game resembling draughts, perhaps the
earliest instance of the two animals depicted in conjunction. As the
author says: "The lion has evidently gained the victory and is fingering
the money; his bold air of swaggering superiority as well as the look of
surprise and disappointment of his vanquished opponent are by no means

The animosity which existed between the lion and unicorn is referred to by
Spenser, and is allegorical of the animosity which once existed between
England and Scotland:

  "Like as a lyon whose imperiall powre
  A proud rebellious unicorne defyes."
                          _Faerie Queen_, ii. 5.

Mediæval Conception of the Unicorn

The mediæval conception of the unicorn as the water-conner of the beasts
was doubtless suggested by that belief of earlier ages which made the
unicorn not merely symbolical of virtue and purity, but the more immediate
emblem of Christ as the horn of our salvation (Psalms xcii. 10 and lxxxix.
17, 24), expressly receiving its general fulfilment in him (St. Luke i.
69). The horn, as an antidote to all poison, was also believed to be
emblematical of the conquering or destruction of sin by the Messiah, and
as such it appears in the catacombs at Rome. The unicorn is the companion
of St. Justiana, as an emblem betokening in the beautiful legend her pure
mind, resisting all the Geraldine-like dreams sent by magic art to haunt
her, till she converted her tormentor himself.

He is remarkable, say the old writers, for his great strength, but more
for his great and haughty mind, as he would rather die than be brought
into subjection (Job xxxix. 10-12).

It was believed the only way to capture him was to leave a beautiful young
virgin in the place where he resorted. When the animal perceived her, he
would come and lie quietly down beside her, resting his head upon her lap,
and fall asleep, when he would be surprised by the hunters who lay in wait
to destroy him.

[Illustration: The Legend of the Unicorn.]

The unicorn is one of the most famous of all the chimerical monsters of
antiquity. The Scriptures make repeated mention of such a creature, but of
its shape we can form little conception. In Early Christian Art the
unicorn symbolised the highest and purest virtue; not only was it one of
the noblest bearings in the heraldry of the Middle Ages, but was viewed as
the immediate emblem of our Blessed Lord. Philippe de Thaun says in his

  "Monocéros est beste
  Une corne a en la tête
  Cette beste en verité nous signifie Dieu."

Whence comes the unicorn? It is older than the days of Job. Among the
hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt this wonderful creature is depicted.
Sometimes the body is that of an ass, sometimes that of a bull, sometimes
that of a horse with the long twisted frontal horn for which he is noted.
Is the myth derived from some mysterious single-horned antelope, as has
been said, or is the one-horned rhinoceros the prototype of the legendary
unicorn? As an emblem it figures on the obelisks of Nimroud and the
catacombs of Rome. We read of this strange creature in Herodotus, and in
Aristotle, who calls it the "wild ass"; Pliny calls it the "Indian ass,"
describing it as like a horse with a horn fixed in the front of his head.
Cæsar counts it among the fauna of the Hyrcinian Forest. The earliest
author who describes it is Ctesias (B.C. 400), who derives it from India.
According to an Eastern legend the unicorn is found in Abyssinia. Lobo
also describes it in his history of that country: there the animals are
undisturbed by man, and live after their own laws. "Of the many ancient
and famous men," says a modern writer, "who have written about the
unicorn, no two seem to agree except when they copy from one another."

"Some writers" (says Guillim, p. 175) "have made doubt whether there be
any such beast as this or no. But the great esteem of his horn (in many
places to be seen) may take away that needless scruple."

The Horn of the Unicorn

  "_The unicorn whose horn is worth a city._"
                      DECKER, "Gull's Hornbook."

_The horn_ of the unicorn was supposed to be the most powerful antidote
against, as it was a sure test of, poisons. He was therefore invested by
the other beasts of the forest with the office of "water-conner," none
daring to taste of fountain or pool until he had stirred the water with
his horn, to discover whether any dragon or serpent had deposited his
venom therein, and render it innocuous. So complete was the faith in the
efficacy of the wonder-working horn as a test of poisons, that fabulous
store was set upon the possession of even a portion. In old inventories
the "Essai" of Unicorn's horn is frequently mentioned.

    1391. Un manche d'or d'un essai de licourne pour attoucher aux viandes
    de monsigneur le Dauphin.--"Comptes Royaux."

    1408. Une pièce de licorne à pour faire essai, à ung bou.
    d'argent.--Inv. des ducs de Bourgogne.

    1536. Une touche de licorne, garni d'or, pour faire essai.--Inv. de
    Charles Quint.

An Italian author who visited England in the reign of Henry VII., speaking
of the wealth of the religious houses in this country, says: "And I have
been informed that, amongst other things, many of these monasteries
possess unicorns' horns of an extraordinary size." Hence such a horn was
worthy to be placed among the royal jewels. At the head of an inventory
taken in the first year of Queen Elizabeth and preserved in the Harleian
Library (No. 5953) we read "Imprimis, a piece of unicorn's horn," which,
as probably the most important object, is named first. This was no doubt
the piece seen by the German traveller Hentzner, at Windsor: "We were
shown here, among other things, the horn of a unicorn of about eight spans
and a half in length, valued at about £10,000." Peacham places "that horne
of Windsor, of an unicorn very likely," amongst the sights worth seeing.

"One little cup of unicorn's horn" was also in possession of Queen
Elizabeth, and was subsequently given by James I. to his Queen.

Alviano, a celebrated general of the Venetian Republic, when he took
Viterbo, and dispersed the Gatesca faction, whom he called the poison of
the city, caused to be embroidered upon his standard a unicorn at a
fountain surrounded by snakes and toads and other reptiles, and stirring
up the water with his horn before he drinks, with the motto or legend
"Venene pello" (I expel poison). Although the unicorn has not been seen
and described by any modern writer, its horn has been occasionally found,
sometimes preserved in museums, but alas! the cherished horn, whenever it
is examined, turns out to be a narwhal's tooth. To this, Wood's "Natural
History" makes special reference: "In former days, an entire tusk of a
narwhal was considered to possess an inestimable value, for it was looked
upon as the weapon of the veritable unicorn reft from his forehead in
despite of his supernatural strength and intellect. Setting aside the
rarity of the thing, it derived a practical value from its presumed
capability of disarming all poisons of their terrors, and of changing the
deadliest draught into a wholesome beverage."

This antidotal potency was thought to be of vital service to the unicorn,
whose residence was in the desert among all kinds of loathsome beasts and
poisonous reptiles, whose touch was death and whose look was
contamination. The springs and pools at which such monsters quenched their
thirst were saturated with poison by their contact, and would pour a fiery
death through the veins of any animal that partook of them. But the
unicorn, by dropping the tip of his horn into the pool, neutralised the
venom and rendered the deadly waters harmless. This admirable quality of
the unicorn's horn was a great recommendation in days when the poisoned
chalice crept too frequently upon the festive board, and a king could
receive no worthier present than a goblet formed from such valuable

Even a few shavings of the unicorn's horn were purchased at high prices,
and the ready sale for such antidotes led to considerable adulteration--a
fact which is piteously recorded by an old writer, who tells us that "some
wicked persons do make a mingle-mangle thereof, as I saw among the
Venetians, being, as I here say, compounded with lime and sope, or
peradventure with earth or some stone (which things are apt to make
bubbles arise), and afterwards sell it for the unicorn's horn." The same
writer, however, supplies an easy test, whereby the genuine substance may
be distinguished from the imposition. "For experience of the unicorn's
horn to know whether it be right or not; put silk upon a burning coal, and
upon the silk the aforesaid horn, and if so be that it be true, the silk
will not be a whit consumed."

EXAMPLES.--_Argent, a unicorn rampant_ (_sometimes sejant sable armed and
unguled or_), is borne by _Harling_, Suffolk.

Another of the name bears the unicorn _courant in chief_ with additional
charges upon the shield.

_Azure, a unicorn couchant, argent between twelve cross crosslets,

_Argent a chevron engrailed gules between three unicorns' heads, erased

Religious emblems were in great favour with the early printers; some of
them for this reason adopted the unicorn as their sign. Thus John Harrison
lived at the Unicorn and Bible in Paternoster Row, 1603.

Again, _the reputed power of the horn_ caused the animal to be taken as a
supporter for the Apothecaries' arms, and as a constant signboard by

The great value set upon unicorn's horn caused the Goldsmiths of London to
adopt this animal as their sign.

[Illustration: Pegasus or Pegasos.]

The Pegasus

  "_The cheval volant--the pegasus--
  He bounds from the earth; he treads the air._"

A poetic creation of the ancients, a winged horse captured by Bellerophon,
the great hero of Corinthian legend. In this he was assisted by the
goddess Minerva, who also taught him how to tame and use it. At Corinth
there was a temple erected to Αθηναχαλινίτις (Minerva the Bridler), in
allusion to that part of the myth which describes Minerva as instructing
Bellerophon in the mode of placing the bridle on the winged steed. The
legend states that the hero caught this wonderful animal as it descended
at the Acro-Corinthus to drink of the spring of Pirene. Mounted on his
winged steed Pegasus, Bellerophon engaged the dire Chimera, and succeeded
in destroying the monster by rising in the air and shooting it with

[Illustration: Coins of Corinth and Syracuse.]

Pegasus is the steed of the Muses, and classic story ascribes to it the
origin of the Castalian fountain "Hippocrene," situated on Mount Helicon,
part of Parnassus, a mountain range in Greece. When the Muses contended
with the daughters of Pieros, "Helicon rose heavenward with delight"; but
Pegasus gave it a kick, stopped its rise, and there gushed out of the
mountain "the soul-inspiring waters of Hippocrene."

The Standard of Corinth was a winged horse, in consequence of the
tradition connecting the fountain called Pirene, near the city, with
Pegasus, the fiery winged steed of Apollo and the Muses. The same device
was the leading type upon the ancient coins of the city of Corinth. The
Corinthians founded the colony of Syracuse, in Sicily, which city likewise
adopted the winged horse and the head of Athena upon its coinage.

[Illustration: Pegasus salient.]

Pindar, who grandly relates the feat of the hero Bellerophon, says that he
incurred the enmity of the gods by attempting to fly to heaven on his
winged horse. Zeus sent a gadfly to sting the horse, who thereupon cast
its rider and flew of his own accord to the stables of Zeus, whose
thunder-chariot he has ever since drawn.

The pegasus is of frequent occurrence in heraldry. In its classic
allusions it denotes fame, eloquence, poetic study, contemplation.

Some modern heraldic writers, however, discarding its classic references,
regard it merely in the matter-of-fact light as an emblem of swiftness.
But it is impossible to disassociate the old and well-known ideas
respecting the horse of Apollo and the Muses. In fancy the poet mounts his
winged steed to bear his soaring spirit in its wayward flight through the
realms of fancy.

As a type of the perfect horseman, Shakespeare pictures Prince Henry as
able to--

  "Turn and wind a fiery pegasus
  And witch the world with noble horsemanship."
                    _1 King Henry IV._, Act 4, sc. 1.

Elsewhere he takes up the later interpretation of the myth, which connects
it with Perseus:

  "The strong-ribbed bark through liquid mountains cut
  Like Perseus' horse."
                      _Troilus and Cressida_, Act i. sc. 3.

Cardinal Bembo, poet and historian, secretary to Pope Leo X., used as his
impress a pegasus and a hand issuing from a cloud holding a wreath of
laurel and palm, with the motto, "Si te fata vocant" ("If the fates call

_Azure, a pegasus salient, the wings expanded argent_, is borne as the
arms of the Society of the Inner Temple, London.

A very early seal of the Knights Templars exhibits two knights riding upon
one horse.

A recent writer remarks upon this strange device that "it is exceedingly
probable that some rude and partially defaced representation of this
device was mistaken by the lawyers of the reign of Queen Elizabeth for a
pegasus. The fact that the Middle Temple adopted the device which appears
upon the other seal of the ancient Knights strongly confirms this view."

One of the supporters of the arms of Oliver Cromwell is a horse having the
wings and tail of a dragon.

Sagittary, Centaur, Sagittarius, Centaurus, Hippocentaur

  "_... the dreadful sagittary
  Appals our numbers._"
        "Troilus and Cressida," Act v. sc. 5.

  "_Feasts that Thessalian centaurs never knew._"
                                  THOMSON, "Autumn."

Under these names is blazoned a fabled monster of classic origin, half
man, half horse, holding an arrow upon a bended bow. It is one of the
twelve signs of the Zodiac, commonly called Sagittarius, otherwise
Arcitenens, and marked by the hieroglyph ♐. In its signification in arms
it may properly be applied to those who are eminent in the field.

The arms traditionally assigned to King Stephen are thus described by
Nicholas Upton: "_Scutum rubeum, in quo habuit trium leonum peditantium
corpora, usque ad collum cum corporibus humanis superius, ad modum signi
Sagittarii, de auro_." In this, as in some other early examples, it is
represented as half man, half lion.

[Illustration: The Sagittary--Centaur.]

The arms of Stephen are sometimes represented with but one sagittary, and
is said to have been assumed by him in consequence of his having commenced
his reign under the sign of Sagittarius. Others say because he gained a
battle by the aid of his archers on entering the kingdom. Others, again,
say that the City of Blois used the ensign of a sagittary as an emblem of
the chase; and Stephen, son of the Compte de Blois, assumed that ensign in
his contest with the Empress Maude or Matilda. There is no contemporary
authority, however, it must be confessed, for any of these derivations. A
sagittary is seen upon the seal of William de Mandeville (_temp._ Henry
III.), but not as an heraldic bearing.

The crest of Lambart, Earl of Cavan, is: _On a mount vert, a centaur
proper, drawing his bow gules, arrow or_. It also appears as the crest of
Askelom, Bendlowes, Cromie, Cruell, Lambert, Petty, Petty-Fitzmaurice.

The term _Centaur_ is most probably derived from the words κεντέω (to
hunt, or to pursue) and ταῦρος (a bull), the Thracians and Thessalians
having been celebrated from the earliest times for their skill and daring
in hunting wild bulls, which they pursued mounted on the noble horses of
those districts, which were a celebrated breed even in the later times of
the Roman Empire. A centaur carrying a female appears on a coin of Lete,
which, according to Pliny and Ptolemy, was situated on the confines of
Macedonia, and the fables of the centaurs, &c., in that and neighbouring
districts abounding in a noble breed of horses, arose no doubt from the
feats performed by those who first subjugated the horse to the will of
man, and who mounted on one of these beautiful animals and guiding it at
will, to approach or retreat with surprising rapidity, gave rise in the
minds of the vulgar to the idea that the man and the horse were one being.

[Illustration: Ipotane, from Mandeville's travels.]

Sir John de Mandeville in his travels (printed by Wynken de Worde, 1499),
tells us that in Bacharie "ben many Ipotanes that dwellen sometime in the
water and sometime on the land; and thei ben half men and half hors and
thei eten men when thei may take him."

We have in modern history a singular and interesting example of a similar
superstition. When the natives of South America--where the horse was
unknown--first saw their invaders, the Spaniards, mounted on these animals
and in complete armour, they imagined that the cavalier and steed formed
but one being of supernatural powers and endowments.

Such groups as those exhibited on the rude money of Lete and other places
were doubtless the first steps toward the treatment of similar subjects by
Phidias, the celebrated Greek sculptor, whose works illustrating the
battle of the Lapithæ and the Centaurs adorned the metopes of the
Parthenon at Athens, to which they also bear a striking affinity in the
simplicity of their conception.

A curious example of the compounded human and animal forms similar to the
sagittary is represented upon a necklace found in the Isle of Rhodes, and
now in the Musée Cluny, Paris. It is formed of a series of thin gold
plates whereon is represented in relief the complete human figure
conjoined to the hinder part of a stag (or horse). This is alternated with
another compound figure, human and bird, holding up two animals by the
tails, both subjects, each in their own way, suggestive of the fleet and
dexterous hunter.

[Illustration: Compound figures, gold necklace, Musée Cluny, Paris.]

In Homer's account the centaurs are obviously no monsters, but an old
Thessalian mountain tribe, of great strength and savage ferocity. They are
merely said to have inhabited the mountain districts of Thessaly, and to
have been driven thence by the Lapithæ into the higher mountains of
Pindus. Their contest with the Lapithæ is generally conceived as a symbol
of the struggle of Greek civilisation with the still existing barbarism of
the Early Pelasgian period. This may be the reason why Greek art in its
prime directed itself so especially to this subject.

[Illustration: Centaur, Greek sculpture.]

The origin of this contest is referred to the marriage feast of Pirithous
and Hippodamia, to which the principal centaurs were invited. The centaur
Eurytion, heated with wine, attempted to carry off the bride. This gave
rise to a struggle for supremacy which, after dreadful losses on both
sides, ended in the complete defeat of the centaurs, who were driven out
of the country. The custom of depicting the centaurs as half man, half
horse arose in later times, and became a favourite subject of the Greek
poets and artists.

Amongst the centaurs, Chiron, who was famous alike for his wisdom and his
knowledge of medicine, deserves mention as the preceptor of many of the
heroes of antiquity. Homer, who knew nothing of the equine shape of the
centaurs, represents him as the most upright of the centaurs, makes him
the friend of Achilles, whom he instructed in music, medicine and hunting.
He was also the friend of Heracles, who, by an unlucky accident, wounded
him with a poisoned arrow. The wound being incurable, he voluntarily chose
to die in the place of Prometheus. Jupiter placed him among the stars,
where he is called Sagittarius.

_Bucentaur_, from Greek Βοῦς (bous) an ox, and κένταυρος (kentauros) a
centaur, was, in classic mythology, a monster of double shape, half man,
half ox. The state barge of the Doge of Venice was so termed.

The _Minotaur_ slain by Theseus had the body of a man and the head of a

Griffin or Gryphon

The griffin, gryfin, or gryphon, as it is variously termed by old writers,
is best known as one of the chimerical monsters of heraldry--the mediæval
representative of the ancient symbolic creature of Assyria and the East.
It may be classed with the dragon, wyvern, phœnix, sphynx, "gorgons and
hydras and chimeras dire," and other imaginary beings, that world of
unreality grown up in the mind of man from the earliest times, the
influence of whose terrors have exercised no little power in the progress
of humanity.

[Illustration: A Griffin statant, wings endorsed.]

This favourite bearing was very early adopted in English armory. So early
indeed as 1167 A.D. we find it on a seal of Richard de Redvers, Earl of
Exeter, attached to a charter at Newport, Isle of Wight. It also appears
on a seal of Simon de Montacute (_temp._ Henry III. and Edward I.). It is
one of the principal bearings in heraldry, either charged upon the shield,
as the arms, or as the crest placed upon the helm, also as supporters to
the shield of arms of many noble and eminent families in this country and
the continent.

The _griffin_, "sacred to the sun," combines the bodily attributes of the
"cloud-cleaving eagle" and the "king of beasts," that is, it has the head,
neck, wings, and talons of an eagle, conjoined to the hinder parts of a
lion. It is usually represented with projecting ears, indicating an acute
sense of hearing, in addition to its other supposed extraordinary

[Illustration: A Griffin passant, wings raised. (Early English.)]

[Illustration: A Griffin segreant, wings displayed. (German.)]

The griffin is rarely borne in other than two positions, viz., _passant_
and _segreant_. The latter term is peculiar to the griffin, and seems to
refer to the expanded wings. When called _segreant_ only, it means the
same as rampant applied to a lion. As a crest, it is not unfrequently
borne _sejant_, _i.e._, sitting. Parts of the creature, as a
_demi-griffin_, a _griffin's head_, &c., are also of common use.

The arms of _Trafford_, Lancashire, are: _Argent a griffin segreant
gules_. Motto: _Gripe griffin hold fast_. The supporters of the arms of
Viscount Halifax are two griffins.

[Illustration: Sleeping Griffin, by John Tenniel, from "Alice in
Wonderland." (By permission of Macmillan & Co., Limited, proprietors of
the copyright.)]

Old heralds gravely relate of this creature that when he attains his full
growth he will never be taken, hence he is a fit emblem of a valiant hero,
who, rather than yield himself to his enemy, exposes himself to the worst
of dangers. As a general symbol in heraldry the griffin expresses strength
and vigilance.

Sir Thomas Browne says it is emblematical of watchfulness, courage,
perseverance and rapidity of execution.

The description of the griffin by the old traveller, Sir John Mandeville,
is a wonderful record of credulity and belief in the marvellous; he states
it to be a native of "Bacharie, where ben many griffones, more plentee
than in any other countree. Sum men seyn that they have the body upwards
of an egle and benethe as a lyonn, and truly they seyne soethe that thei
ben of that schapp. But one griffoun hath the body more great and stronger
than one hundred egles, such as we have amonges us. For one griffoun there
will be flynge to his nest a great hors, or two oxen yoked togidre, as
thei gon to the plowghe. For he hath his talouns so longe and so grete and
large upon his feet as though thei were hornes of grete oxen, or of bugles
(bulls), or of kygn, so that men maken cuppes of hem to drynke of, and of
hire (their) ribbes and of the pennes of hire wenges men maken bowes fulle
stronge to schote with arrews and quarell." Gerard Leigh, an old heraldic
writer, discoursing of the griffin, gives his reason for belief, he says,
"I thinke they are of a great hugeness, for I have _a clawe_ of one of
their pawes, whiche should shewe them to be as bigge as two lyons."

[Illustration: Griffin segreant, German version.]

In the cathedral of Brunswick there is still preserved the horn of some
kind of antelope, brought from the Holy Land as "a griffin's claw," by
Henry the Lion. Three talons of the griffin were preserved at Bayeux, and
fastened on high festival days to the altar, and there seems to be some
curious legend concerning a cup formed of a gryphon's claw dedicated to
St. Cuthbert A gryphon's egg was also considered a valuable curiosity,
being used as a goblet in old times when natural history was greatly
misunderstood and grossly exaggerated. As an example of the absurd
misstatements of the earlier writers and naturalists who so delighted our
wonder-loving forefathers, a writer in the "Museum of Animated Nature"
refers to a large species of vulture, the Condor (_Sarcoramphus Gryphus_),
which was painted as rivalling the Rukh of Oriental fable. He adds that
"such descriptions have given place to the moderate details of
sober-minded observers, and we no longer look upon this creature as the
winged guardian of mountain mines within whose depths were entombed 'gems
and barbaric gold,' we no longer imagine it the giant of the winged race,
dimming the light of the sun by its widespread pinions, and by the mighty
rushing sound as it sweeps down from some lofty pinnacle or the upper
regions of the sky deafening and stupefying the terror-stricken

As the stern avenger of human crimes, the dreaded Nemesis appears in Roman
Art, as a young woman with wings, in a chariot drawn by griffins, with a
whip or sword in her hand.[12]

Smith's "Classical Dictionary" gives the following: "Gryps or gryphus, a
fabulous monster dwelling in the Rhiphæan mountains between the
Hyperboreans and the one-eyed Arimaspians, and guarding the treasures of
the north. The Arimaspians mounted on horseback attempted to steal the
gold, and hence arose the hostility between the horse and the griffin. The
body of the griffin was that of a lion, while the head, fore-feet and
wings were those of an eagle. It is probable that the origin of the belief
in griffins must be looked for in the East, where it seems they have been
very ancient. They are also mentioned among the fabulous beasts which
guarded the gold of India."

The Arimaspians were a one-eyed people of Scythia who adorned their hair
with gold. They were constantly at war with the Gryphons who guarded the
gold mines.

  "As when a gryphon, through the wilderness ...
  Pursues the Arimaspian, who by stealth
  Had from his wakeful custody purloined
  The guarded gold."
                              _Paradise Lost_, ii.

[Illustration: Gold Flying Griffin, found by Dr. Schliemann at Mycenæ.]

That the form of the griffin must have been a well understood symbol is
evident from the frequency with which it is met in ancient art. Dr.
Schliemann, in his explorations of the ancient city of Mycenæ, among other
treasures found a gold-winged griffin, about two inches in length, in one
of the sepulchres of the kings (Figure No. 272 in his book), which in
every particular as to shape is identical with the heraldic griffin of
to-day; the same may be said of a coin of Abdera, a city in Thrace, which
bears the device of a griffin. Abdera was a place of importance when
Xerxes invaded Greece B.C. 554.

Herodotus relates that the Teians, dreading the encroachments of the
Persians in Ionia, abandoned their city and founded Abdera in Thrace. The
coinage of the latter place bears the same type (the griffin) as the
parent city, but with a slight difference in treatment. This consists in
the form of the wings of the griffin, which are pointed on the coins of
Abdera, while in those of Teos they are rounded. The griffin was sacred to
Apollo, to whom an especial worship was devoted in most of the Ionian
cities, but more particularly in Teos.[13]

[Illustration: Colossal Griffins, Burmah.]

In the _Illustrated London News_ of October 21, 1876, is an engraving of
two gigantic wingless griffons, and also a description by the traveller
who visited that strange place. "At Thyetmo, 250 miles up the river
Irrawaddy from Rangoon in British Burmah, are two colossal 'chin thay' or
figures of sacred griffins, standing at the entrance to one of the great
pagodas dedicated to the worship of Gautama Buddha; the outer terraces and
steps of these temples are frequently adorned with such mythical monsters.
Near the ancient ruined city of Paghan, which flourished a thousand years
ago, the bank of the river for a length of eight miles is lined with the
remains of this quaint architecture and sculpture, covering a space of two
miles in breadth from the water's edge. It is not known by what nation of
old times they were constructed, for Burmese history is apocryphal or at
least very obscure."

The symbolic use of images of living creatures was in the instance of the
cherubim permitted under the Mosaic dispensation, and on this will be
found to turn the distinction between the symbolic use and its forbidden
and dangerous use as a supposed means of assisting devotion. Mr. Henry
Hayman in "Smith's Dictionary," _s.v._, "cherub," as quoted by Tyrwhit,
says: "On the whole it seems likely that the word 'cherub' meant not only
the composite creature-form of which the man, lion, ox, and eagle were the
elements, but further, some peculiar and mystical form which Ezekiel,
being a priest, would know and recognise as 'the face of a cherub,' κατ'
εξοχήν, but which was kept secret from all others.... Such were probably
those on the ark, which when moved was always covered, though those on the
hangings and panels might be of the popular device. The griffin of
northern fable, watching the gold in the wilderness, has been compared
with the cherub both as regards his composite form and his functions as
guardian of a treasure. He goes on to point out the possible affinity
between the Greek root γρυπ (γρυψ, gryps, griffin), and the Hebrew and
Arabic derivation of the word 'cherub,' which gives it the original
meaning of 'carved image,' and says that though the exact form is
uncertain, it must have borne a general resemblance to the composite
religious figures found upon the monuments of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia
and Persia."

Mr. Ruskin,[14] describing the emblematical griffins on the front of the
Duomo of Verona, points out that the Lombard carver was enabled to form so
intense a conception, mainly by the fact that his griffin is a great and
profoundly felt symbolism. Two wheels are under its eagle's wings, which
connect it with the living creatures of the vision of Ezekiel, "where they
went the wheels went by them, and whithersoever the spirit was to go, they
went, and the wheels were lifted up over against them, for the spirit of
the living creatures was in the wheels." The winged shape thus became at
once one of the acknowledged symbols of the divine nature. Elsewhere, we
think in the "Stones of Venice," the connection is pointed out between the
Assyrian and Gothic personations.

Gian-Paolo Baglione (+ 1520), who usurped the sovereignty of Perugia,
bore a _silver griffin_ on a red field with the motto, "_Unguibus et
rostro atque alis armatus in hostem_" ("Armed against the enemy with
talons and beak and wings"), which means of defence proved of no avail
when he was seized by Pope Leo X., who, pretending to consult Baglione on
affairs of importance, sent him a safe conduct to Rome, but when he
arrived, he caused him to be tortured and beheaded, and afterwards took
possession of his states. This gave occasion to his enemies to say, "This
ugly bird has not used his wings as at other times, to flee from the snare
which has been laid for him."[15]

In Dante's description of the triumph of the Church, in the "Purgatorio,"
we have the mediæval conception of this wondrous creature, the gryphon.
"The mystic shape that joins two natures in one form"--as he is called by
the noble Italian poet--draws the car to which he is harnessed, and

                               "He above
  Stretched either wing uplifted 'tween the midst

       *       *       *       *       *

  And out of sight they rode. The members, far
  As he was bird, were golden; white the rest,
  With vermeil interveined."

And when the eyes of Beatrice

  Still, fix'd toward the gryphon, motionless.
  As the sun strikes a mirror, even thus
  Within those orbs the twyfold being shone;
  For ever varying, in one figure now
    Reflected, now in other. Reader! muse
  How wondrous in my sight it seem'd, to mark
  A thing, albeit steadfast in itself,
  Yet in its imaged semblance mutable."
                    Cary's Dante, _Purgatory_, c. xxix.

"Some commentators of Dante," says M. Dideron,[16] "have supposed the
griffin to be the emblem of Christ, who, in fact, is one single person
with two natures; of Christ in whom God and man are combined. But in
this," says M. Dideron, "they are mistaken. There is, in the first place,
a manifest impropriety in describing the car as drawn by God as a beast of
burden." "Commentators," it is added, "have been misled by the two-fold
nature of the gryphon, but that difficulty is removed by recollecting that
the Pope resembles the eagle in his spiritual character, and in his
temporal authority the lion. The Pope is one person, but of two natures
and two distinct forms. Thus considered the allegory of Dante becomes
clear and intelligible."

The gryphon is very frequently seen sculptured in Gothic churches, more
especially in those of the Lombard and early Norman style, and is
evidently intended to refer to the union of the divine and human natures.

A curious example of this compound form of bird and beast occurs on an
Italian bronze medal of the fifteenth century, about 3-1/2 in. in diameter
(No. 57.51 in the fine collection in South Kensington Museum). On one side
it bears a portrait of Niccolo Picininus of Perugia, a celebrated
mercenary soldier--and on the reverse a griffin, the eagle's head, wings,
and feet united to the Roman she-wolf, with Romulus and Remus suckling.
Dante's emblem of the Popedom is here apparently adapted to the peculiarly
Roman national symbol--the nursing mother of nations and the Catholic

[Illustration: Carved panel, a Griffin segreant.]

The Male Griffin

The griffin is sometimes borne sans wings and termed a _male griffin_, as
in the supporters to the arms of the Marquis of Ormond, but spikes or
rays proceed from various parts of its body; sometimes it has two long
straight horns.

Other Varieties of the Griffin

Two other varieties of the griffin family, the "_Hippogriff_" and the
"_Simoorgh_" appear in the highly wrought imaginings of the poets, and may
here be very briefly alluded to. They do not, however, appear in British

[Illustration: Male Griffin.]

HIPPOGRYPH, or HIPPOGRIF, the winged horse whose father was a griffin and
mother a filly (Greek, _hippos_, a horse, and _gryps_, a griffin)--a
symbol of love.[17]

SIMOORGH, a sort of griffin or hippogryph, which took some of its breast
feathers for Tahmura's helmet. This creature forms a very striking figure
in the epic poems of Saadi and Ferdusi, the Persian poets.

Milton also makes allusion to this mythical creature:

  "So saying he caught him up, and without wing
  Of hippogrif, bore through the air sublime
  Over the wilderness and o'er the plain."
                            _Paradise Regained_, iv.

[Illustration: Opinicus statant.]

The Opinicus, or Epimacus

This creature appears to be a variety of the griffin family. Authorities
blazon it as having its body and four legs like those of a lion; the head
and neck and wings like an eagle, and the short tail of a camel, sometimes
borne sans wings.

Such a monster with wings endorsed or, was the crest of the _Barber
Surgeons of London_.

_Two opinici vert, purfled or, beaked sable, wings gules_, support the
insignia of the _Plasterers' Company_.

[Illustration: Egyptian Sphynx.]

The Sphynx

  "_That monster whom the Theban knight

       *       *       *       *       *

  Made kill herself for very heart's despite
  That he had read her riddle, which no wight
  Could ever loose, but suffered deadly doole._"
                SPENSER'S "Faerie Queen," Bk. v. cxi.

According to some heraldic writers, the sphynx should possess the head and
bust of a woman, the paws of a lion, the body of a dog, and the tail of a
dragon. In Lord Chancellor Bacon's book on "The Wisdom of the Ancients,"
there is an exposition of the meaning of the sphynx, which, says Dr.
Woodward, is as curious as the creature itself.

It frequently figures in heraldry as a convenient hieroglyph to
commemorate some service in Egypt. It is the crest of British families of
_Asgill_, Baronets _Lambert_, _Goatley_, &c., and appears in the arms of
_Sir John Moore_, the hero of Corunna.

[Illustration: Theban, or Greek Sphynx.]

The strange combination of human and animal features in the figure known
as the sphynx is of frequent occurrence in both Greek and Egyptian
mythology and art. The Egyptian sphynx is supposed to represent the
combination of physical power, or the kings, as incarnations of such
attributes. They are also associated with the special forms and attributes
of the great Egyptian deities Osiris and Ammon, Neph or Jupiter, and Phreh
or Helios. That is, we have the _man-sphynx_, the _ram-sphynx_, and the
_hawk-sphynx_, or the lion's body with the head of the man, the ram, or
the hawk, according to the deity worshipped. The sphynx itself was
probably a religious symbol of the Egyptians, which was transferred to
Greece, and subsequently underwent a change of meaning. Among the
Egyptians the sphynx seems to have been a symbol of Royal dignity
betokening a combination of wisdom and strength. By the Greeks, however,
it appears to have been regarded as the symbol of the burning
pestilence-breeding heat of the summer sun. The form of the Theban sphynx
was that of a lion, generally in a recumbent position, with the breast and
upper part of a beautiful woman, and was in imitation of the original male
sphynxes of Egypt. Greek Art was only acquainted with the sphynx in its
female form, and also departed from the Egyptian type by adding wings to
the lion's body.

"There is a great difference," says Sir Gardiner Wilkinson in his account
of the sphynx,[18] "between the Greek and Egyptian sphynxes. The latter is
human-headed, ram-headed, or hawk-headed, and is always male; while the
Greek is female, with the head of a woman, and always has wings, which the
Egyptian never has."

In the Greek story the monster was sent by Hera (Juno) to devastate the
land of Thebes. Seated on a rock close to the town, she put to every one
that passed by the riddle, "What walks on four legs in the morning, on two
legs at noon, and on three legs in the evening?" Whoever was unable to
solve the riddle was cast by the sphynx from the rock into a deep abyss.
Œdipus succeeded in answering it, and thus delivered the country from
the monster, who cast herself into the abyss.

The sphynx occurs upon a coin of Chios (B.C. 478-412). It is represented
seated before an amphore, above which is a bunch of grapes. Chios was
famed for its wine, and the sphynx was a symbol of Dionysius.[19]

The Emperor Augustus, on his seal, used the device of the sphynx--"maid's
face, bird's wings, and lion's paws"--"implying," says Mrs. Bury Palliser
("Historical Devices," &c.), "that the secret intentions of a prince
should not be divulged. When Augustus was in Asia, he authorised Agrippa
and Mecænas, who administered affairs during his absence, to open and read
the letters he addressed to the Senate before any one else; and for this
purpose he gave them a seal upon which was engraved a sphynx, the emblem
of secrecy. The device gave occasion to ridicule, and to the saying that
it was not surprising if the sphynx proposed riddles; upon which Augustus
discontinued it, and adopted one with Alexander the Great, to show that
his ideas of dominion were not inferior to Alexander's. Subsequently
Augustus used his own effigy, which practice was continued by his

Maurice ("Oriental Trinities," p. 315) says the sphynx was the Egyptian
symbol of profound theological mystery, and was therefore placed on either
side of the _dromoi_, or paths leading to the temples of the gods. "They
are black," he says, "in allusion to the obscure nature of the deity and
his attributes. The white head-dress may allude to the linen tiaras
wrapped round the heads of the priests." The origin of the myth was not
definitely known even to the ancients. Some early writers say it was
symbolical of the overflowing of the Nile, which happened when the sun was
in the signs of Leo and Virgo; and that it had its name from this
circumstance. "For," they say, "the word sphynx in the Chaldæan language
signifies overflowing." The fact of the Egyptian sphynx being always male
does not, however, accord with this derivation.

A statue of the Theban sphynx found in Colchester, and now in the museum
of that town, gives the Greek conception of that creature. It is carved in
oolite, twenty-five inches high, evidently a relic of the Roman occupation
of Britain. It represents the monster seated over the mangled remains of
one of its victims. Llewellin Jewett, in the _Art Journal_ 1871, p. 113,
describes it as "combining the five-fold attributes of a virgin, a lion, a
bird, a dog, and a serpent. The head, breast and arms are those of a
beautiful virgin; the body and teats of a female dog; hinder parts, hind
legs and fore paws are those of a lioness; the tail doubled in short folds
is serpent, and the wings those of a bird."

The same writer says: "The sphynx appears on the reverses of some coins of
Cunobeline (Cymbeline, of Shakespeare), struck in the city of Camalodunum

The gigantic statue of the sphynx half buried in the sand near the Great
Pyramids, at Gizeh, is hewn and sculptured out of a spur of solid rock, to
which masonry was added in places to complete the form. The actual age of
the great sphynx is not known, but it is supposed to have been commenced
under Cheops and finished by order of King Chefren, under whose reign also
was probably built the second great pyramid. The able author of "Eothen"
thus describes the appearance of the sphynx of Egypt, and the sentiments
to which its contemplation gave rise in his mind: "And near the Pyramids,
more numerous and more awful than all else in the land of Egypt, there
rests the lonely sphynx. Comely the creature is, but the comeliness is not
of this world. The once worshipped beast is a deformity and a monster to
this generation, and yet you can see that these lips, so thick and heavy,
were fashioned according to some ancient mould of beauty--some mould of
beauty now forgotten--forgotten because that Greece drew forth Cytheræa
from the flashing bosom of the Ægean, and in her image created new forms
of beauty, and made it a law among men that the short and proudly wreathed
lips should stand for the sign and main condition of loveliness through
all generations to come! Yet there still lives on the race of those who
were beautiful in the fashion of the elder world; and Christian girls of
Coptic blood will look on you with sad, curious gaze, and kiss your
charitable hand with the big pouting lips of the very sphynx. Laugh and
mock if you will at the worship of stone idols; but mark ye this, ye
breakers of images, that in one regard the stone idol bears awful
semblance of deity--unchangefulness in the midst of change--the same
seeming will and intent for ever inexorable! Upon ancient dynasties of
Ethiopian and Egyptian kings--upon Greek and Roman, upon Arab and Ottoman
conquerors--upon Napoleon dreaming of an Eastern empire--upon battle and
pestilence--upon the ceaseless misery of the Egyptian race--upon keen-eyed
travellers--Herodotus yesterday and Warburton to-day--upon all, and more,
this unworldly sphynx has watched, and watched like a Providence, with the
same earnest eyes and the same sad, tranquil mien. And we shall die, and
Islam shall wither away; and the Englishman, straining far over to hold
his loved India, will plant a firm foot on the banks of the Nile, and sit
on the seats of the faithful; and still that sleepless rock will lie
watching and earnest the work of the new busy race with those same sad
eyes and the same tranquil mien everlasting. You dare not mock at the
sphynx." The conclusion of this rhapsody at the present time sounds almost
like a half-fulfilled prophecy.

The sphynx is the special device of several British regiments which landed
in Egypt, in the Bay of Aboukir, in the face of the French Army; and
borne as a memento of the battle of Alexandria, when General Sir Ralph
Abercrombie fell in the moment of victory. It also appears upon the war
medals of the English occupation of Egypt, resulting in the battle of
Tel-el-Kebir, 1882, and subsequent victories. In heraldry the sphynx is
usually couchant; it is, however, borne in other positions, sometimes
winged, and when so borne the wings are always endorsed, _i.e._, back to

_A sphynx passant, wings endorsed argent crined or_, is the crest of
Asgill (Bart. 1701).

[Illustration: A Sphynx passant guardant, wings endorsed.]

[Illustration: The Phœnix.]

The Phœnix Bird of the Sun

  "_Rara avis in terris._"

An imaginary bird, described by ancient writers as in form like an eagle,
but more beautiful in its plumage. Among the ancient classical writers it
was an emblem of those existing in paradise, enjoying eternal youth and
never-ending pleasure. Tacitus describes the phœnix as a singular bird,
consecrated to the sun, and distinguished by its rich appearance and
variegated colours. Herodotus naïvely says: "I never saw one, indeed, but
in a picture, but if he is like his picture his plumage is partly golden
and partly red." Philippe de Thaun says: "The phœnix lives five hundred
years and a little more, when it will become young again and leave its old
age." It was said to be sometimes seen in Egypt, and only one was believed
to exist at a time. When it is advanced in age and its time of change is
at hand, it hides itself away somewhere in Arabia, and makes itself a nest
of the rarest spices, which, by the heat of the sun or other secret
agency, and the fanning of the sacred bird's own wings, soon rises into
flames and consumes it. Out of its ashes rises another with new life and
vigour to pursue the same never-ending life and re-birth.

_Fum_ or _Fung_ (the phœnix) is one of the four symbolical animals
supposed to preside over the destinies of the Chinese Empire; the sacred
_Ho-ho_ or phœnix also figures with the dragon largely in Japanese
mythology, and bears a striking analogy to the bird of classic fame. It is
fabled to have a miraculous existence, and is sent on earth for the
performance of extraordinary works in the manifestation of the Divinity
and in the development of humanity and nature. It appears at different
stages of the world's progress and in successive ages; after the
accomplishment of which it reascends to heaven to come down again at the
commencement of a new era.

From the pagans the Early Christians adopted the symbol, and with them
its significance had reference to the resurrection and immortality. Like
the pelican "in her piety," it was peculiarly an emblem of our Saviour in
His resurrection. As the phœnix when old and wearied seeks the rays of the
sun to consume its body, again to be revived in life and vigour, so the
Christian, worn and exhausted by worldly labour and suffering, turns to
the Son of Righteousness for regeneration and newness of life. Tertullian
makes the phœnix an image of the resurrection.

In corroboration of this it must be borne in mind that Jesus Christ, who
died A.D. 34, is termed _the phœnix_ by monastic writers.

The Phœnix period or cycle is said to consist of 300 years. "The bird
of wonder" is said to have appeared in Egypt five times:

    1. In the reign of Sesostris, B.C. 866.

    2. In the reign of Amasis, B.C. 566.

    3. In the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, B.C. 266.

    4. In the reign of Tiberius, 34 A.D.

    5. In the reign of Constantine, 334 A.D.

Tacitus in the "_Annales_," vi. 28, mentions the first three of these

The _Phœnix-tree_ is the palm. In Greek φοίνιξ (_phoinix_) means both
phœnix and palm-tree. It is thus alluded to in Shakespeare:

  "Now will I believe ... that in Arabia
  There is one tree, the phœnix throne--one phœnix
    At this hour reigneth there."
                    _The Tempest_, Act iii. sc. 3.

Pliny[20] gives minute particulars concerning the natural history of this
_rara avis in terris_. But the ancient fable is most fully given by Ovid
and translated by Dryden. Ariosto, also, and many early writers refer to
the wonderful creature with fullest faith in its reality. It is no wonder
then, that it became a favourite emblem in an age when it was the fashion
among persons of distinction to have an impress or device with its
accompanying legend or motto. Many persons of historical importance
employed the phœnix to express in metaphor the idea they wished to convey
regarding themselves. Thus we find the phœnix in flames painted for the
device of Jeanne d'Arc, in the Gallery of the Palais Royal, with the
motto: "Invito funere vivat" ("Her death itself will make her live").

Vittoria Colonna (+ 1547) the beautiful and accomplished wife of the
Marquis of Pescara, used the device of a phœnix on her medal.

Mary Queen of Scots used the impress of her mother, Mary of Lorraine, a
phœnix in flames, and the motto: "En ma fin est mon commencement." A
phœnix in flames upon a castle was the badge of Queen Jane Seymour, the
crest of the Seymours being a phœnix in flames issuing from a ducal
coronet. Her son, Edward VI., added the motto, "Nascatur ut alter" ("That
another may be born"), alluding to the nature of her death. She lies
buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor, with a Latin epitaph by Bishop
Godwin, which has been thus translated by his son Morgan:

  "Here a phœnix lieth, whose death
  To another phœnix gave birth.
  It is to be lamented much
  The world at once ne'er knew two such."

Queen Elizabeth placed a phœnix upon her medals and tokens with her
favourite motto: "Semper eadem" ("Always the same"), and sometimes with
the motto "Sola phœnix omnis mundi" ("The sole phœnix of the whole
world"); and on the other side, "Et Angliæ gloria" ("And the glory of
England"), with her portrait full-faced. By the poets of the time,
Elizabeth was often compared to the phœnix. Sylvester, in his "Corona
Dedicatoria," says:

  "As when the Arabian (only) bird doth burne
  Her aged bodie in sweet flames to death,
  Out of her cinders a new bird hath birth,
  On whom the beauties of the first return;
  From spicy ashes of the sacred urne
  Of our dead phœnix (deare Elizabeth)
  A new true phœnix lively flourisheth."

And Shakespeare, in the prophecy which he puts into the mouth of Cranmer
at the baptism of the Princess Elizabeth, her great and glorious reign is
foreshadowed, and finally:

                       "... as when
  The bird of wonder dies, the maiden phœnix,
  Her ashes new create another heir,
  As great in admiration as herself."

Shakespeare elsewhere uses the simile to denote a phœnix among women--a
phœnix, a paragon, unique, because alone of its kind:

  "If she be furnished with a mind so rare,
  She is alone the Arabian bird."
                    _Cymbeline_, Act i. sc. 7.

Many other heraldic mottoes have been associated with this celebrated
device. The following are from "Historic Devices, Badges," &c., by Mrs.
Bury Palliser:

    Eleanor, Queen of Francis I. of Austria: "Non est similis illi"
    ("There is none like her"). She afterwards changed her motto, either
    showing how much she was neglected, or to express her determination to
    remain single: "Unica semper avis" ("Always a solitary bird").

    Bona of Savoy: "Sola facta solum deum sequor."

    Cardinal Trent: "Ut vivat" ("That it may live").

    Linacre: "Vivat post funera virtus" ("Virtue survives death").

    "De mi muerte ma vida" ("From my death my life").

    "De mort à vie" ("From death to life").

    "Et morte vitam protulit" ("And by death has prolonged his life").

    "Ex morte, immortalitas" ("Out of death, immortality").

    "Murio y nacio" ("I die and am born").

    "Ne pereat" ("That it should not perish").

    "O mors, ero mors tua" ("O death, I shall be thy death").

    "Se necat ut vivat" ("Slays himself that he may live").

    "Trouva sol nei tormenti il suo gioire" ("It finds alone its joy in
    its suffering").

    "Vivre pour mourir, mourir pour vivre" ("Live to die, die to live").

    "Uror, morior, orior" ("I am burnt, I die, I arise").

The phœnix in heraldry is never represented in other than in one position,
_rising from flames_, that is, with expanded wings and enveloped in flames
of fire in which it is being consumed. It is usually represented exactly
as an eagle in shape, but may be of any of the heraldic tinctures.

The phœnix is of frequent use in heraldry, and borne by many families in
the United Kingdom. A phœnix issuing from a ducal coronet is the crest of
the Duke of Somerset.

Linacre, founder of the College of Physicians, and honorary physician to
four sovereigns has on his tomb in Westminster Abbey the device of the
phœnix, with the motto, "Vivat post funera virtus" ("Virtue survives

From the association of this fabulous bird with alchemy, Paracelsus wrote
concerning it, and several alchemists employed it to symbolise their
vocation. It was adopted by the Apothecaries' Company as crest, and is a
frequent sign over chemists' shops.

_A phœnix in flames proper, gorged with a mural coronet_, is the
allusive crest of the Fenwicks; the motto over the crest is the _cri de
guerre_, "A Fenwick! a Fenwick!" They were a family noted in border
warfare. "The house of Percy," says Mrs. Bury Palliser, "ever ranked the
Fenwicks among the most valiant of its retainers, and in border warfare
the banner of the gorged phœnix in the burning flame always appeared
with that of the silver crescent of the Percys."

The bird of paradise is interesting as having for a time been accepted as
the veritable phœnix, a fact which has escaped Gibbon. That luxurious
Emperor, Heliogabalus, having eaten, as he thought, of every known
delicacy, bethought him one day of the fabled phœnix. What mattered it
that only one bird existed at a time; _that one_, the imperial gourmand
must have, and was inconsolable that he had not thought of it before. The
zeal of proconsuls was equal to the great occasion, and from all parts of
the earth came strange and wondrous birds, each affirmed with confidence
to be "the sacred solitary bird, that knows no second, knows no third."
The cankerworm of doubt remains! At last, one day there was brought to
Rome from the far islands of the Eastern seas a bird, the like of which
for the glory of its plumage had never been seen out of paradise, the
veritable phœnix, "Bird of the Sun!" The sight of the magnificent
creature carried conviction with it. Heliogabalus ate in faith, and went
to his fathers contented.

[Illustration: A Harpy, wings disclosed.]

The Harpy

  "_Of monsters all, most monstrous this; no greater wrath
  God sends 'mongst men; it comes from depth of pitchy hell:
  And virgin's face, but womb like gulf unsatiate hath,
  Her hands are griping claws, her colour pale and fell._"

  "_Thou art like the harpy,
  Which to betray, doth wear an angel's face,
  Seize with an eagle's talons._"
             "Pericles Prince of Tyre," Act iv. sc. 4.

A poetical monstrosity of classical origin, described as "winged creatures
having the head and breasts of a woman, and the body and limbs of a
vulture; very fierce and loathsome, living in an atmosphere of filth and
stench, and contaminating anything which they come near. Pale and
emaciated, they were continually tormented with insatiable hunger." They
are best known from the story of the Argonauts, where they appear as the
tormentors of the blind king Phineus, whose table they robbed of its
viands, which they either devoured or spoiled. They were regarded by the
ancients as ministers of sudden death.

[Illustration: The Harpy, Greek sculpture.]

In Miss Millington's admirable book, "Heraldry in History, Poetry and
Romance," it is stated that unlike the generality of such mythical beings,
the harpies appear originally, as in Homer's "Odyssey," as persons instead
of personations; while later authors for the most part reduced them to
whirlwinds and whirlpools. Homer mentions but one harpy. Hesiod gives two,
later writers three. The names indicate that these monsters were
impersonations of whirlwinds and storms. The names were: _Ocypeta_
(rapid), _Celeno_ (blackness), _Aello_ (storm).

  "I will ... do any embassage ... rather than
  Hold three words' conference with this harpy."
              _Much Ado About Nothing_, Act ii. sc. 1.

  "Bravely the figure of this harpy hast thou
  Performed, my Ariel; a grace it had devouring."
                            _Tempest_, Act iii. sc. 3.

[Illustration: A Harpy displayed and crowned. German version.]

_Azure, a harpy with her wings disclosed, her hair flotant, or, armed of
the same._ This coat existed in Huntingdon Church in Guillam's time.

The arms of the City of Nuremberg are: _azure, a harpy displayed armed,
crined and crowned, or_. It occurs as the city device as early as 1243. In
German heraldry it is termed _jungfraundler_.

[Illustration: Shield of Nüremberg.]

A creature very similar to the harpy (a combination of several badges),
was one of the favourite devices of Richard III., viz., a falcon with the
head of a maiden holding the white rose of York.

The Heraldic Pelican

      "_Then sayd the pellycane
      When my byrats be slayne
  With my bloude I them reuyue (revive)
      Scrypture doth record,
      The same dyd our Lord,
  And rose from deth to lyue._"
                     SKELTON, "Armory of Birds."

[Illustration: A Pelican in her piety, wings displayed.]

The character ascribed to the pelican is nearly as fabulous as that of the
phœnix. From a clumsy, gluttonous, piscivorous water-bird, it was by the
growth of legends transformed into a mystic emblem of Christ, whom Dante
terms "Nostro Pelicano." St. Hieronymus gives the story of the pelican
restoring its young ones destroyed by serpents as an illustration of the
destruction of man by the old Serpent, and his salvation by the blood of

The Pelican in Christian Art is an emblem of Jesus Christ, by "whose blood
we are healed." It is also a symbol of charity.

The "Bestiarum" says that Physiologus tells us that the pelican is very
fond of its brood, but when the young ones begin to grow they rebel
against the male bird and provoke his anger, so that he kills them; the
mother returns to the nest in three days, sits on the dead birds, pours
her blood over them, and they feed on the blood.

[Illustration: Heraldic Pelican in her piety.]

Heralds usually represent this bird with wings endorsed and neck embowed,
wounding her breast with her beak. Very many early painters mistakenly
represented it similar to an eagle, and not as a natural pelican, which
has an enormous bag attached to the lower mandible, and extending almost
from the point of the bill to the throat. When in her nest feeding her
young with her blood, she is said to be IN HER PIETY.

The Romans called filial love piety, hence Virgil's hero is called the
"pious Æneas," because he rescued his father from the flames of Troy.

[Illustration: Crest, a Pelican vulning herself proper, wings endorsed.]

The myth that pelicans feed their young with their blood arose from the
following habit, on which the whole superstructure of fable has been
erected: They have a large bag attached to their under-bill. When the
parent bird is about to feed its brood, it macerates small fish in this
bag or pouch; then, pressing the bag against its breast, transfers the
macerated food to the mouths of the young ones.

The pelican in her piety is not an uncommon symbol upon monumental
brasses. That of William Prestwick, Dean of Hastings, in Warbleton Church,
Sussex, has it with the explanatory motto: "Sic Xtus dilexit nos."

EXAMPLES.--_Gules, a pelican in her piety, or._--_Chauntrell._

_Azure, three pelicans argent, vulning themselves proper._--_Pelham_,
_Somerset_, &c.

A pelican's head erased, or otherwise detached from the body, must always
be drawn in the same position and vulning itself. It should always be
separated as low as the upper part of the breast.

It is said naturalists of old, observing that the pelican had a crimson
stain on the tip of its beak, reported that it was accustomed to feed its
young with the blood flowing from its breast, which it tore for the
purpose. In this belief the Early Christians adopted the pelican to figure
Christ, and set forth the redemption through His blood, which was
willingly shed for us His children.

ALPHONSO THE WISE, King of Castile (+ 1252). A pelican in its piety.
Motto: "Pro lege et grege."

WILLIAM OF NASSAU, founder of the Republic of the United Provinces, one of
the noblest characters of modern history. He bore on some of his
standards the pelican, and on others the motto: "Pro lege, grege et rege."

POPE CLEMENT IX. One of his devices was the pelican in its piety. Motto:
"Aliis non sibi clemens" ("Tender-hearted to others, not himself").

[Illustration: The natural Pelican.]

Other mottoes for the pelican:

    "Ut vitam habeant" ("That they may have life").

    "Immemor ipse sui" ("Unmindful herself of herself").

    "Mortuos vivificat" ("Makes the dead live").

    "Nec sibi parcit" ("Nor spares herself").

The Martlet

        "_The guest of summer,
  The temple-haunting martlet._"


The Martlet (_Merlette_ or _Merlot_, French; _Merula_, Latin). The
house-marten or swallow is a favourite device in heraldry all over Europe,
and has assumed a somewhat unreal character from the circumstance that it
catches its food on the wing and never appears to alight on the ground as
other birds do. It builds its nest frequently under the eaves of houses,
from whence it can take flight readily, rarely alighting, as it gains its
food while on the wing; the length of its wings and the shortness of its
legs preventing it from rising should it rest on the ground.

                            "No jutty friese,
  Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
  Hath made his pendant bed, and procreant cradle."
                                _Macbeth_, Act i. sc. 6.

It is depicted in armory with wings close, and in profile, with thighs,
but with no visible legs or feet.

The martlet is the appropriate "difference" or mark of cadency for the
fourth son. Sylvanus Morgan says: "It modernly used to signify, as that
bird seldom lights on land, so younger brothers have little land to rest
on but the wings of their own endeavours, who, like the swallows, become
the travellers in their seasons."

The swallow (_hirondelle_) is the punning cognisance for Arundell. The
seal of the town of Arundel is a swallow, Baron Arundell of Wardour bears
six swallows for his arms. The great Arundells have as motto, "De
Hirundine" ("Concerning the swallow"), and "Nulli præda" ("A prey to
none"). A Latin poem of the twelfth century is thus rendered:

  "Swift as the swallow, whence his arms' device
  And his own arms are took, enraged he flies
  Thro' gazing troops, the wonder of the field,
  And strikes his lance in William's glittering shield."

"We find it in Glovers' roll," says Planché, "borne by Roger de Merley,
clearly as 'armes parlantes,' although in a border." Roger de Merley:
"_barée d'argent et de goulz à la bordure d'azur, et merlots d'or en le
bordure_"; showing it was some difference of a family coat.

The Alerion

is a heraldic bird, represented as an eaglet displayed, but without beak
or claws. Some writers confound it with the martlet, stating that the
alerion is the same bird with its wings displayed or extended. They are
first found in the arms of Lorraine, which are blazoned _or, on a bend
gules, three Alerions argent_, and are said to be assumed in commemoration
of an extraordinary shot made by Godfrey de Boulogne, "who at one draught
of his bow, shooting against David's Tower in Jerusalem, broched three
feetless birds called Alerions, which the House of Lorraine, decending
from his race, continued to this day." It is impossible, says Planché, who
broached this wonderful story, but it is perfectly evident that the
narrator was the party who drew the longbow, and not the noble Godfrey.

[Illustration: Alerion displayed.]

[Illustration: Heraldic Eagle.]

The letters of the word ALERION appear to be merely an anagram formed by
the same letters LORAINE, and may account for the birds on the shield
(probably eaglets) being called alerions.

The eagle displayed and the two-headed eagle are but extreme
conventionalised representations of the natural bird.

The Liver (Cormorant)

Liver, a fabulous bird, supposed to have given its name to Liverpool and
commemorated in the arms of that city. It is traditionally described as a
bird that frequented _the pool_, near which the town was afterwards
founded. The arms granted in 1797 are thus blazoned: _Argent a cormorant,
in the beak a branch of seaweed all proper_, and for crest, _on a wreath
of the colours, a cormorant, the wings elevated, in the beak a branch of
Laver proper_. It is more than probable that the bird on the arms
suggested the name "Liver" being applied to it. The fiction naturally
arose from the desire to find a derivation for the name of the town. It
is, however, always depicted as a cormorant. On the shield the bird is
always depicted with the wings _close_, and on the crest the wings are

[Illustration: An Heraldic Tigre passant.]

The Heraldic Tigre or Tyger

  "_A savage tygress on her helmet lies;
  The famous badge Clorinda us'd to wear._"
                                 FAIRFAX'S "Tasso."

The tigre or tyger of the old heralds still holds its place in English
armory, retaining the ancient name to distinguish it from the natural
tiger, to which it bears but little resemblance except the name. The early
artists probably had no better authority for the strange creature they
depicted than the wild tales of Eastern travel and their own lively
imaginations. The habit of drawing in a conventional manner may also have
assisted in producing such a monster. This type of wild and ruthless
ferocity, approaching the draconic in its power and destructiveness, was
to their minds fitly suggested by exaggerations of those attributes of
savageness and bloodthirstiness with which it was supposed to be endowed.
Shakespeare makes King Henry V., when urging on his "noblest English" and
"good yeomen" to the assault at Harfleur, declare that

  "When the blast of war blows in our ears
  Then imitate the action of the tiger;
  Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
  Disguise fair Nature with hard-favoured rage."

[Illustration: Supporter, an Heraldic Tigre, collared and lined.]

"The tyger," says Bossewell, "is a beast wonderful in strength, and most
swift in flight as it were an arrow. For the Persians call an arrow
tygris. He is distinguished with diverse speckes; and of him the floode
Tygris tooke the name. It is said Bacchus used these beastes in his
chariot, for their marveilous swiftness in conveying of the same."

_The heraldic tigre_, the invention of the early heralds, is depicted as
having the body similar to a wolf, but more strong and massive; powerful
jaws armed with prominent canine tusks, and with a short curved horn or
spike at the end of his nose. A row of knotted tufts of hair adorn the
back of his neck as a mane; tufts also on his breast and thighs, and with
strong claws; the tail of a lion completes his equipment. He is a most
effective creature in a heraldic emblazonment, especially when "_armed_"
and "_tufted_" of tinctures differing from his body.

The sinister supporter of the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava is _an heraldic
tigre ermine, gorged with a tressure flory counter flory or_.

_Gules a chevron argent, between three tigres_, &c., _of the
second_.--_Butler_, Calais.

_Vert, a tigre passant or, maned and tufted argent._--_Love_, Norfolk
(granted 1663).

_Or, a tigre passant gules._--_Lutwych_, Lutwich, Salop.

Baron Harlech has for dexter supporter, and also for crest, _an heraldic
tigre argent, maned and tufted sable_.

_The tigre and mirror_ is an uncommon but very remarkable bearing. Amongst
other remarkable ideas which our ancestors entertained respecting foreign
animals, "some report that those who rob the tigre of her young use a
policy to detaine their damme from following them by casting sundry
looking-glasses in the way, whereat she useth to long to gaze, whether it
be to beholde her owne beauty or because when she seeth her shape in the
glasse she thinketh she seeth one of her young ones; and so they escape
the swiftness of her pursuit."[21]

[Illustration: Tigre and Mirror.]

"_Argent, a tigre passant regardant looking into a mirror lying fessways,
the handle to the dexter all proper_," is said to have been the coat of
Hadrian de Bardis (probably an Italian), Prebendary of Oxfordshire. These
arms still remain, or were lately remaining, in a window of Thame Church.
Only two other examples occur, viz.:

"_Argent a tigre and mirror_ (as before) _gules_."--_Sibell_, Kent.

The Royal Tiger

Next to the lion in power is the tiger, an animal not possessed of the
noble qualities of the lion, being fierce without provocation, and cruel
without cause. The chief difference of the tiger from every other animal
of the mottled kind is in the shape of the spots on the skin, which run in
streaks or bands in the direction of the ribs. The leopard, panther and
the ounce are all, in a certain degree, marked like this animal, except
that the lines are broken by round spots, which cover the whole surface
of the skin. The use of the _royal tiger_ in modern coats of arms is
frequent, and has reference to services in the East.

Outram, Bart., has for supporters: _two royal Bengal tigers guardant
proper, gorged with a wreath of laurel vert, crowned with an Eastern

_Note._--In a heraldic description (or blazon as it is termed) it is
necessary for the sake of greater clearness, and to prevent confusion, to
name the older mythical creature the "HERALDIC TIGRE," that it may not be
confounded with its natural representative usually called the "ROYAL

Leopard, or Panther, Felis Pardus, Lybbarde

  "_Upon his shoulders a scheld of stele
  With the lybbardes painted wele._"
              "The Metrical Romance of Richard
                     Cœur de Lyon."

                  "_Make the libbard stern
  Leave roaring, when in rage he for revenge did yearn._"
           SPENSER, "Faerie Queen," Book i. canto vi.

A curious character, partly real and partly fictitious has been ascribed
to the lybbard or leopard of heraldry. It was said to be the offspring of
a lioness and a panther, the Northmen or Normans, according to some
authorities, having adopted that beast of prey, noted for rashness, as
typical of themselves, so characterised by boldness and impetuosity. The
standard of Rollo, first Duke of Normandy, they say, bore a leopard. A
second lion or leopard was added to the Norman shield when the county of
Maine became annexed to the Duchy of Normandy; and the two lions or
leopards--for they are indiscriminately so termed--were thus borne, it is
said, upon the standard of William the Conqueror, and by his descendants.
A third lion was added by Henry II. on his marriage with Eleanor of
Aquitain, a lion being also the arms of that province.

[Illustration: A Leopard passant.]

It has been keenly contested whether the three animals in the royal shield
of England were lions or leopards. The subject has been ably treated by
Mr. J. R. Planché in the "Pursuivant of Arms," and also by Charles
Boutell, M.A., in several of his works. The case seems to stand thus:

In ancient coats the name is believed to be given to the lion in certain
attitudes. The French heralds call a lion passant a _leopard_. Thus
Bertrand du Guesclin, the famous Breton, declared that men "devoyent bien
honorer la noble fleur-de-lis, qu'ils ne faissaient le félon liépard," and
Napoleon, strongly to excite the valour of his soldiers, exclaimed, "Let
us drive these leopards (the English) into the sea!"

"_Lion Léoparde_" is the term used in French heraldry for the lion when
borne _passant guardant_ as in the royal shield of England. When _rampant_
they call it "léoparde lionné," as if in this attitude the leopard assumed
the position and bold character of the lion. The attitude _passant
guardant_ thus denoted the peculiar stealthy tread and cat-like
watchfulness of the leopard and panther.

The Emperor Frederick II. (1235) sent King Henry of England three leopards
as a present in token of his armorial bearings.

It is a great argument in favour of the substitution of the lion for the
leopard, Mr. Boutell thinks, that the latter should have almost
disappeared from English heraldry, the face and head only retaining their
place in modern coats.

[Illustration: A Leopard's Face, jessant-de-lis.]

"_A leopard's head_" should show part of the neck, _couped_ or _erased_,
as the case may be; _guardant, affronté_ or front face, is always to be
understood of the leopard, and never in profile.

"_A leopard's face_" shows no part of the neck, and in conjunction with
the term "_jessant-de-lis_" is used with respect to a leopard's face
having a _fleur-de-lis_ passing through it.

The insignia of the See of Hereford is: _gules three leopards' heads
reversed jessant-de-lis, or_.

In heraldry the leopard represents those brave and generous warriors who
have performed some bold enterprise with force, courage, promptitude, and
activity. Thus Shakespeare alludes to the character of the bold soldier

  "Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
  Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
  Seeking the bubble reputation
  Even in the cannon's mouth."

In Christian Art the leopard is employed to represent that beast spoken of
in the Apocalypse, with seven heads and ten horns. Six of the heads are
nimbed, but the seventh, being "wounded to death," has lost its power, and
consequently has no nimbus.

_Three leopards passant guardant or, pelletée_, appear on the arms of the
Marquis of Downshire. It is also the sinister supporter.

The supporters of the town of Aberdeen are leopards.

_Sable three leopards rampant argent spotted sable_ are given as the arms
of _Lynch_. It is, however, probable that the _lynx_ was the animal
originally blazoned as "arms parlantes" for the name.

_Ermine on a cross patonce sable, a leopard's head, issuing out of a ducal
coronet or_, crest, a _demi-leopard erect, proper_.--_Dickens._

_A leopard's face, breaking with his mouth a sword_, is the crest of

The supporters of the Earl of Northesk are _two leopards reguardant_.

The leopard or panther, says Dr. P. M. Duncan, F.R.S.,[22] was the only
one of the greater feline animals, except the lion and tiger, which seems
to have been known to the ancients. It is always represented as drawing
the chariot of Bacchus, and the forlorn Ariadne is sculptured as riding on
one of the spotted steeds of her divine lover. The panther was also
constantly used in the barbarous sports of the amphitheatre, and, in
common with the lion and tiger, has been both executioner and grave to
many a bold-hearted martyr.

The leopard's skin was a favourite mantle in the olden times in Greece. In
the "Iliad," Homer, speaking of Menelaus, says:

  "With a pard's spotted hide his shoulders broad
  He mantled o'er,"

and the leopard, or panther, is given in the "Odyssey" as one of the forms
assumed by Proteus, "the Ancient of the Deep."

A curious ancient superstition about the leopard is embodied in its name.
It was thought not to be actually the same animal as the panther or pard,
but to be a mongrel or hybrid between the male pard and the lioness, hence
it was called the lion-panther, or _leopardus_. This error, as Archbishop
Trench tells us, "has lasted into modern times"; thus Fuller: "Leopards
and mules are properly no creatures."

Some writers, says Boutell, describe the leopard as the issue of the pard
and lioness, and they assign the unproductiveness of such hybrids as a
reason for its frequent adoption in the arms of abbots and abbesses.
"Mulus et abbates sunt in honore pares."

The leopard and panther are now acknowledged to be but slight varieties of
the same species. In Wood's "Natural History" some slight difference is
mentioned as to the number of spots. "The panther is fawn-coloured above,
white underneath, with six or seven ranges of patches resembling
rosettes--that is to say, each composed of an assemblage of five or six
simple black spots. It very much resembles the leopard, which inhabits the
same region (but has ten rows of spots which are of smaller size), It is
the wildest of the feline tribe, always retaining its fierce aspect and
perpetual growl."

The Panther "Incensed"

  "_The panther, knowing that his spotted hide
     Doth please all beasts, but that his looks them fray,
  Within a bush his dreadful head doth hide
     To let them gaze, while he on them doth prey._"
                                         SPENSER, Sonnet.

This beast, like the leopard, has been the object of much mistaken or
fictitious history. Pliny, who is responsible for many of the errors in
natural history since his time, says of the panther: "It is said that all
four-footed beasts are wonderfully delighted and enticed by the smell of
panthers; but their hideous looke and crabbed countenance which they
bewray so soon as they show their heads skareth them as much again:
therefore their manner is to hide their heads, and when they have trained
other beasts within their reach by their sweet savour, they fall upon them
and worry them."[23] And again, Sir William Segar, Garter King-of-Arms,
following the same credulous historian, says: "The panther is admired of
all other beasts for the beauty of his skyn, being spotted with variable
colours, and beloved of them for the sweetness of his breath that
streameth forth of his nostrils and ears like smoke which our paynters
mistaking, corruptly do make fire."[24]

[Illustration: Panther incensed.]

It is, however, more probable that the creature was represented emitting
flame and smoke to denote and give characteristic expression to the native
savagery of the brute when irritated. If one can imagine the terror
inspired by remorseless and unpitying fury, sudden and impetuous, we see
its object fairly typified in the panther "incensed." The idea of fire and
smoke darting from its mouth, eyes and ears was doubtless suggested by
that habit peculiar to the feline race, observable even in the domestic
cat, to "spit fire" and "swear" when rudely attacked, and as an emblem in
this sense it is extremely well indicative of sudden fury.

Guillam says: "Some authors are of opinion that there are no panthers bred
in Europe; but in Africa, Lybia and Mauritania they are plentiful. The
panther is a beast of a beautiful aspect, by reason of the manifold
variety of his divers coloured spots wherewith his body is overspread. As
a lion doth in most things resemble the nature of a man, so, after a sort,
doth the panther of a woman; for it is a beautiful beast, and fierce, yet
very loving to their young ones, and will defend them with the hazard of
their own lives; and if they miss them, they bewail their loss with loud
and miserable howling."

The Lancastrian badge "the panther," says Planché, "which is attributed by
Sir William Segar to Henry VI. and blazoned passant guardant argent
spotted of all colours with vapour issuant from her mouth and ears; but
there is no authority quoted for it, and there is no example extant, the
only collateral evidence being the supporters of the Somerset Dukes of
Beaufort, who are supposed to have used it as a token of their Lancastrian
descent." The dexter supporter of the Duke of Beaufort thus is blazoned:
_Dexter, a panther argent, semée of torteaux, hurts and pomies
alternately, flames issuant from the mouth and ears proper, gorged with a
plain collar, chained, or_.

The heraldic panther, or as it is more frequently termed, a panther
incensed, is always borne _guardant_, _i.e._, full-faced; and "incensed,"
that is to say, it is depicted with flames and smoke issuing from its
mouth and ears. Its coat is spotted of various tinctures as the blazon may

Odet de Foix, Sieur de Lautrec, Marshal of France (+ 1528) being
considered a person of fierce appearance, took for device a panther, with
the motto "Allicit ulterius" ("He entices further"), alluding to the
attractive power of that animal notwithstanding its fierce exterior, "an
evidence," remarks a modern writer, "that he had as much vanity as

The town of Lucca for arms bears a panther: "_La pantera, che Lucca
abbraccia e onora_."

Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, surnamed the Great (+ 1518), a celebrated Italian
soldier, bore a panther on his standard, with the motto, "Mens sibi
conscia facti" ("The mind conscious to itself of the deed"), the panther
signifying foresight (providence) from the number of eyes in his coat.
Others said he wished to imply that he knew how to manage for himself in
the various changes of his capricious fortune.[25]

[Illustration: The Lynx.]

The Lynx

_Felis Lynx_, or mountain cat, is found in the northern parts of Europe,
Asia and America, and climbs the highest trees. He preys on squirrels,
deer, hares, &c. He is fond of blood and kills great numbers of animals to
satisfy his unconquerable thirst. He is smaller than the panther, about
three feet and a half in length, his tail is much shorter and black at the
extremity. His ears are erect with a pencil of black hair at the tips. The
fur is long and thick, the upper part of the body is a pale grey, the
under parts white.

The sight of the lynx is said to be so piercing that the ancients
attributed to it the faculty of seeing through stone walls: it may,
however, be asserted with truth that it distinguishes its prey at a
greater distance than any other carnivorous quadruped. On this account it
is frequently employed in heraldry, symbolising watchfulness, keenness of
vision, and also the ability to profit by it.

Lynx-eyed, "oculis lynceis," originally referred to Lynceus, the argonaut,
who was famed for the keenness of his vision; then it was transferred to
the lynx and gave rise to the fable that it could see through a wall
(notes to "Philobiblon," by E. C. Thomas).

The Accademia de Lincei, founded in Rome in 1603, with the object of
encouraging a taste for natural history, adopted the name and device of
the lynx because the members should have the eyes of a lynx to penetrate
the secrets of nature. Galileo, Fabio Colonna, and Gianbattista Porta were
among the members of the academy, the latter philosopher and
mathematician, who was the inventor of the camera obscura, bore the device
of the academy, the lynx, and the motto "Aspicit et inspicit" ("Looks at
and looks into").

Charles IV. of Luxemburg, Emperor of Germany, adopted the lynx for his
impress, with the motto, "Nullius pavit occursum" ("He fears not meeting
with any one").

THE LIZARD LYNX is an animal of the lynx or wild cat kind of a dark brown
colour, spotted black; the ears and tail are short. They are frequent in
the woods of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, where they are usually termed

[Illustration: Cat-a-Mountain saliant, collared and lined.]

Cat-a-Mountain--Tiger Cat or Wild Cat

The Clan Chattan, who gave their name to the county of Caithness, bore as
their cognisance the wild mountain cat, and called their chieftain, the
Earl of Sutherland, "Mohr an chat" (The Great Wild Cat). The Mackintoshes
still bear as their crests and supporters these ferocious cats, with the
appropriate warning as a motto, "Touch not the cat but a glove."

The whole is a pun upon the word "Catti," the Teutonic settlers of
Caithness, _i.e._, Catti-ness, and means "Touch not the Clan Cattan (or
mountain cat) without a glove." Here "but" is used in the original
meaning, beout, _i.e._, without. For another example of "but" meaning
without, see Amos iii. 7. The same words are also used as the motto of
several Scottish families.

None will forget how the cat-a-mountain showed her claws to the Clan Kay,
in the Wynds of Perth in Sir Walter Scott's "Fair Maid of Perth."

[Illustration: Crest, a Cat-a-Mountain, sejant, collared and lined.]

_The Heraldic Musion._--Bossewell, in his work on heraldry published 1572,
describes a musion as "a beaste that is enimie to myse and rattes." He
adds also that he is "slye and wittie, and seeth so sharply, that he
overcommeth darkness of the nighte by the shyninge lighte of his eyne. In
the shape of body, he is like unto a leoparde, and hath a greate mouthe.
He doth delighte that he enjoyeth his libertie, and in his youthe he is
swifte, plyante, and merrie. He maketh a rufull noyse, and a gastefull
when he proffereth to fighte with another. He is a cruel beaste when he is
wilde and falleth on his owne feet from moste high places, and uneth
(scarce) is hurte therewith. When he hathe a fayre skinne, he is, as it
were, prowde thereof, and then he goeth fast aboute to be seene."

Childebert, King of France, in token of his having taken captive
Gondomar of Bourgogne, assumed the device of a tiger-cat or ounce behind a
grating or troillis, gules cloué argent. This recalls the famous scene
between Sanglier Rouge and Toison d'Or in "Quentin Durward," when Charles
the Bold's jester professes to help the unhappy envoy of De la Marck by
describing it as a cat looking out of a dairy window.

The cat, though domesticated, is considered as possessed of ingratitude;
in its friendship so uncertain and so vicious in its nature, "that," say
old writers, "it is only calculated for destroying the obnoxious race of
rats and other small game."

From the mediæval superstition that Satan's favourite form was a black
cat, it was superstitiously called "a familiar." Hence witches were said
to have a cat as their familiar.

THE CAT: _A symbol of liberty._--The Roman goddess of Liberty was
represented as holding a cup in one hand, a broken sceptre in the other,
and a cat lying at her feet. No animal is so great an enemy to all
constraint as a cat.

The cat was held in veneration by the Egyptians as sacred to the goddess
Bubastis. This deity is represented with a human body and a cat's head.
Diodorus tells us that whoever killed a cat, even by accident, was by the
Egyptians punished with death. According to Egyptian tradition, Diana
assumed the form of a cat, and thus excited the fury of the giants. The
_London Review_ says: "The Egyptians worshipped the cat as a symbol of
the moon, not only because it is more active after sunset, but from the
dilation and contraction of its orb, symbolical of the waxing and waning
of the night goddess."

In heraldry it should always be represented full-faced like the leopard.

_Erminois three cats-a-mountain passant gardant, in pale azure, each
charged on the body with an ermine spot or._ Crest: _a demi cat-a-mountain
gardant, azure, gorged with a collar gemel, and charged with ermine spots,
two and one_.--_Tibbets._

The supporters of the Earl of Clanricarde are wild cats, and also those of
the Earl of Belmore. It is the crest of De Burgh.

  "ÆNEAS.--His mantle was the lion's,
             With all its tawny bars,
           His falchion, like Orion's,
             Was gemmed with golden stars.
           Upon his lofty helmet
             A brazen terror rode;
           No sword could overwhelm it
             When in the fight it glowed.
           For like a wild cat brindled,
             It spat with eyes on fire,
           And in the battle kindled
             Immortal rage and ire,
           Now in the sunshine sleeping,
             How gently it reposed;
           But still in wisdom keeping
             A single eye unclosed."
                            _Queen Dido_, by T. S.

[Illustration: The Crowned Salamander of Francis I.]

The Salamander

The salamander has been immemorially credited with certain fabulous
powers. Less than a century ago the creature was seriously described as a
"spotted lizard, which will endure the flames of fire." Divested of its
supernatural powers it is simply a harmless little amphibian of the "newt"
family, from six to eight inches in length, with black skin and yellow
spots. The skin was long thought to be poisonous, though it is in reality
perfectly harmless; but the moist surface is so extremely cold to the
touch that, from this peculiar quality in the creature, the idea must have
arisen, not only that it could withstand any heat to which it was exposed,
but it would actually subdue and put out fire.

This was a widespread belief long before the time of Pliny, whose
account of the creature is thus paraphrased by Swift:

  "Further, we are by Pliny told
  This serpent is extremely cold;
  So cold that, put it in the fire,
  'Twill make the very flames expire."

Marco Polo, the early Venetian traveller, who tells of many strange and
wonderful things seen and heard of in his journeyings, was not a believer
in the fabulous stories of the salamander, for he dismisses the subject
with the curt remark, "Everybody knows that it could be no animal's nature
to live in fire." An early heraldic writer of a somewhat later period,
with greater credulity, stoutly maintains its reality, and in describing
the creature states that he actually possessed some of the hair or down of
the salamander. "This," he goes on to say, "I have several times put in
the fire and made it red-hot, and after taken out; which, being cold, yet
remaineth perfect wool, or fine downy hair."

Marco Polo further on assures his readers that the true salamander is
nothing but an incombustible substance found in the earth, "all the rest
being fabulous nonsense." He tells of a mountain in Tartary, "there or
thereabouts," in which a "vein" of salamander was found; and so we arrive
at the fact that this salamander's wool was nothing but the "asbestos" of
the ancients. It is easy to see why asbestos became known as "salamanders'
wool." The name resulted from the juxtaposition of ideas, and shows how
deeply impressed was the belief in the salamander's mysterious powers. A
late writer tells us that some of the lizard tribe are known to enjoy
warmth, and alligators are said to revel in hot water. It needed only that
an insignificant member of the genus should have been found among the dead
embers of a fire to prove at once the invulnerability of the reptile and
its ability to extinguish the flames.

The salamander of mediæval superstition was a creature in the shape of a
man, which lived in fire (Greek, salambeander, chimney-man), meaning a man
that lives in a chimney. It was described by the ancients as bred by fire
and existing in flames, an element which must inevitably prove destructive
of life. Pliny describes it as "a sort of lizard which seeks the hottest
fire to breed in, but quenches it with the extreme frigidity of its body."
He tells us he tried the experiment once, but the creature was soon
reduced to powder.[26]

Gregory of Nazianzen says that the salamander not only lived in and
delighted in flames, but extinguished fire. St. Epiphanius compares the
virtues of the hyacinth and the salamander. The hyacinth, he states, is
unaffected by fire, and will even extinguish it as the salamander does.
"The salamander and the hyacinth were symbols of enduring faith, which
triumphs over the ardour of the passions. Submitted to fire the hyacinth
is discoloured and becomes white. We may here perceive," says M. Portal,
"a symbol of enduring and triumphant faith."

[Illustration: Salamander crest of James, Earl of Douglas. From

This imaginary creature is generally represented as a small wingless
dragon or lizard, surrounded by and breathing forth flames. Sometimes it
is represented somewhat like a dog breathing flames. A golden salamander
is so represented on the garter-plate of James, Earl of Douglas, K.G., the
first Scottish noble elected into the Order of the Garter, and who died
1483 A.D. Tinctured _vert_; and _in flames proper_ it is the crest of
Douglas, Earl of Angus.

François I. of France adopted as his badge the salamander in the midst of
flames, with the legend, "Nutrisco et extinguo" ("I nourish and
extinguish"). The Italian motto from which this legend was borrowed was,
"Nudrisco il buono e spengo il reo" ("I nourish the good and extinguish
the bad;" "Fire purifies good metal, but consumes rubbish"). In his castle
of Chambord, the galleries of the Palace of Fontainebleau, and the Hôtel
St. Bourg Thoroulde at Rouen, this favourite device of the crowned
salamander, with the motto, may be everywhere seen.

_Azure, a salamander or, in flames proper_, is the charge on the shield of
the Italian family of Cennio.

The "_lizards_" which form the crest of the Ironmongers' Company, were
probably intended for salamanders on the old seal of the company in 1483,
but are now blazoned as lizards.

The heraldic signification of the salamander was that of a brave and
generous courage that the fire of affliction cannot destroy or consume.

In the animal symbolism of the ancients the salamander may be said to
represent the element of FIRE; the eagle, AIR; the lion, EARTH; the
dolphin, WATER.

Heraldic Antelope

This fictitious animal, when depicted in heraldry, has a body like that of
a stag, the tail of a unicorn, a head like the heraldic tiger, with two
serrated horns, and a tusk growing from the tip of his nose, a row of
tufts down the back of his neck, and the like on his tail, chest and
thighs. Thus represented it is termed an heraldic antelope to distinguish
it from the real or natural antelope, which is also borne in modern coats
of arms.

[Illustration: Heraldic Antelope.]

The old heralds, with their scant knowledge of the rarer kinds of
foreign animals, represented the antelope as a fierce beast of prey, and
totally unlike in appearance and in disposition to the beautiful
small-limbed gentle creature with which we are acquainted. That such was
the prevailing opinion in the time of Spenser is evident. In the "Faerie
Queen" he makes the stout Sir Satyrane--

                    "In life and manners wild,
  Amongst wild beasts and woods from laws of man exiled."

--more than a match for the most ferocious brutes, all of whom he subdues:

  "Wild beasts in iron yokes he would compel;
  The spotted panther, and the tuskèd boar;
  The pardale swift, and the tiger cruel,
  The _antelope_ and wolf, both fierce and fell;
  And them constrain in equal team to draw."

Some authorities give the heraldic antelope with two straight horns, but
as the ancient badge of the House of Lancaster it was represented with two
serrated horns curving backward.

In blazon, the term "_heraldic antelope_" should always be used unless the
natural antelope is intended.

The Heraldic Ibex

is an imaginary beast resembling the heraldic antelope in appearance, with
the exception of the horns projecting from his forehead, which are
serrated like a saw. Perhaps it would not be erroneous to consider it
identical with the heraldic antelope.

[Illustration: The Heraldic Ibex.]

The real or natural ibex is a native of the Alps, the Pyrenees and the
Grecian mountains, where they abound in defiance of the hunters. It
resembles a goat, but the horns are much larger, bent backwards, and full
of knots, one of which is added every year.


A fabulous beast like the heraldic antelope, but having the tail of a
horse, and long horns of a goat curved backwards. The dexter supporter of
the arms of Carey, Lord Hundson, in Westminster Abbey, is a Bagwyn.

The Camelopard, Camel-leopard

The Giraffe figures a few times in blazon under these names. It is
described by old heralds as half camel and half leopard. A curious
word-combination was made by the Romans when wishing to find a name for
the giraffe. "It is," says Archbishop Trench, "a creature combining,
though with infinitely more grace, yet some of the height and even the
proportions of _a camel_, with the spotted skin of the _pard_." They
called it "camelopardus," the camel-panther.

There are two heraldic creatures based upon the above which are referred
to in heraldic works, viz., the ALLOCAMELUS or ass-camel, having the body
of the camel conjoined to the head of an ass; and the CAMELOPARDEL, which
is like the camelopard, but with two long horns curved backwards.

Musimon, Tityrus

A fictitious animal mentioned by Guillim and others. It nearly resembles
_a goat, with the head and horns of a ram_, but has besides the horns of
that beast, _a pair of goat's horns_. It is also mentioned in Guillim's
"Display," where it is said to be a bigenerous beast, of unkindly
procreation, engendered between a goat and a ram, like the Tityrus, the
offspring of a sheep and goat, as noted by Upton.

[Illustration: Musimon, Tityrus.]

The Enfield

An imaginary hybrid animal with _the head of a fox, chest of a greyhound,
talons of an eagle, and body of a lion; the hind legs and tail of a wolf_.
It occurs as the crest of some Irish families of the name of Kelly.

[Illustration: Mantygre--Satyral.]

Mantiger, Montegre or Manticora Satyral

A chimerical creature of mediæval invention, having the body of an
heraldic tiger with mane, and the head of an old man with long spiral
horns. Some heraldic authorities make the horns more like those of an ox,
and the feet like a dragon's.

_The Satyral_ is apparently identical with the man-tiger.

The belief that certain persons have the power of assuming the shape of
the tiger is common in India, and the Khonds say that a man-killing tiger
is either an incarnation of the Earth's goddess or a transfigured man. It
is thus with the Lavas of Birma, supposed to be the broken-down remains
of a cultured race and dreaded as man-tigers.[27]

Two satyrals supported the arms of the Lords Stawell.

The supporters of the arms of the Earl of Huntingdon are mantigers, but
are represented without horns.

[Illustration: Manticora. From ancient Bestiaria.]

From a mediæval "Bestiaria" we have a description and illustration of a
gruesome creature of this name (manticora), evolved no doubt from some
traveller's marvellous tale. We are told that it is "bred among the
Indians," has a triple row of teeth, in bigness and roughness like a
lion's, face and ears like a man's, a tail like a scorpion's "with a sting
and sharp-pointed quills," and that "his voice is like a small trumpet,"
and that he is "very wild," and that after having his tail bruised, he can
be tamed without danger.

There are several other fictitious creatures, which, if we may believe
certain old writers, excited the minds of our credulous wonder-loving
forefathers. Of these little need be said, as they rarely, if ever, appear
in modern works on heraldry, and may therefore be classed as extinct

Lamia or Emipusa

[Illustration: Lamia. From old Bestiary.]

A curious creature of the imagination is the lamia, of which we are told
many fictitious stories. It is said to be "the swiftest of all four-footed
creatures, that it is very treacherous and cruel to men. It is stated to
be bred in Lybia, and sometimes devours its own young." It is represented
in an ancient "Bestiaria" as having the head and breasts of a woman, and
the body of a four-footed animal with flowing tail, the hind feet having
divided hoofs. It is "thought to be the creature mentioned in Isaiah
xxxiv., called in Hebrew _Lilith_, as also the same which is mentioned in
Lamentations iv."

In Dr. Brewer's "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," LAMIA is "a female
phantom whose name was used by the Greeks and Romans as a bugbear to
children, from the classic fable of a Lybian Queen beloved by Jupiter, but
robbed of her children by Juno; and in consequence she vowed vengeance
against all children, whom she delighted to entice and murder." They are
again described as spectres of Africa, who attracted strangers and then
devoured them. In the story of "Machatës and Philemon," a young man is
represented as marrying an Empusa, who sucks his blood at night. Goethe
borrowed his ballad of the "Bride of Corinth" from this tale.

Beyond casual mention this mythical creature does not appear in heraldry.


A fictitious creature having two heads, male and female, the rest of the
body female; said to be used as an idol or symbol by the Templars in their
mysterious rites. The word is a corruption of Mahomet. Though mentioned in
old works it does not now appear in British heraldry.


A fictitious animal resembling a bull, with a short tail like that of a
bear. It is the sinister supporter of the arms of the Company of Muscovy


The supporters of the Ironmongers' Company of London are two lizards.
Bossewell describes beasts of similar shape--"Stelliones" as he terms
them, evidently in allusion to steel. He says, "Stellio is a beaste like a
lysard, having on his back spotts like starres."[28]

Stellione-serpent, a serpent with the head of a weasel, borne by the name
of Baume.

Fictitious Creatures of the Sea


                    "_The sea, that is
  A world of waters heapèd up on high,
  Rolling like mountains in wild wilderness,
  Horrible, hideous, roaring with hoarse cry!_"

  "_I can call spirits from the vasty deep._"

Mariners in all ages, prone to superstitious fears, have peopled the great
deep with beings of the most dreadful kind, all the more wonderful and
indescribable because of the mysterious and unknown regions in the sea
depths which they were supposed to inhabit. Classic mythology in its
wealth of imagery allotted a whole hierarchy of greater and lesser
divinities to the government of the watery element, whose capricious
ruling of the waves man altogether failed to comprehend. Their fancied
terrors, begot in calms and storms, in darkness and in fogs, midst dangers
of the most appalling kind, assumed those monstrous and fantastic shapes
which their own fears created. The active forces of nature in unusual
forms impressed them as the result of supernatural agency, or the
"meddling of the gods," whose favours and protection the mariner, by
prayers and supplications, endeavoured to propitiate; and whilst
tremblingly he skirts the horizon's edge in timid ventures, new dangers
impel him to promises of greater gifts to assuage the wrathful mood of his
angry god or some other equally powerful or more spiteful.

The national god of the Philistines was represented with the face and
hands of a man and the tail of a fish. It was but natural that a seafaring
people should adopt a god of that form.

  "Dagon his name; sea-monster, upward man
  And downward fish: yet had his temple high
  Reared in Azotus, dreaded through the coast
  Of Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon,
  And Accaron and Gaza's frontier bounds."
                    _Paradise Lost_, Book i. 462.

In the leviathan and behemoth of Scripture are darkly indicated monsters
of the great deep. Scandinavian mythology, like that of all bold maritime
peoples in old times, is rife with legends of certain great monsters of
the sea. The kraken or sea-serpent of popular legend is a myth not yet
laid to rest; there is still a lingering belief in the existence of the

  "With a comb and a glass in her hand, her hand, her hand,
  With a comb and a glass in her hand."
                                    Popular sea-song.

Chief amongst the Grecian sea-divinities stands _Poseidon_, or _Neptune_
as he was called by the Romans, the potent "ruler of the seas." He usually
dwelt, not in Olympus, but at the bottom of the sea, in a magnificent
golden palace in the neighbourhood of Ægæ. He is always represented with a
trident, sometimes with a rudder--special symbols of his power over the
sea. Accompanied by his wife, fair Amphitrite, he was frequently pictured
in royal state in his chariot, drawn through the billows by wild
sea-horses, attended by "Triton blowing loud his wreathed horn," Proteus,
"the godlike shepherd of the sea," and other followers--dolphins leaping
the waves and showing their high arched backs in wild gambolings.

_Nereus_ and his fifty daughters, the _Nereides_, who dwelt in caves and
grottos of the ocean--beneficent sea-nymphs,--win the hearts of the
sailors, now by their merry sports and dances, now by their timely
assistance in the hour of danger. Whilst Nereus and his lovely daughters
represent the sea under its calm and pleasant aspect, Thaumas, Phorcys,
Ceto present it as the world of wonders, under its more terrible
conditions. The storm winds and all the terrors and dangers of the deep
were typified under various strange and peculiar forms. Not the least
dreaded were the _Sirens_, fatal sisters, who "spread o'er the silver
waves their golden hair," basked near sunlit rocks, and lured all men to
their ruin by their enchanting voices, save only the crafty Ulysses.

These and many others of lesser note, Proteus, Glaucus and the rest, make
up the discordant influences that govern the watery element.

Many wonderful stories are told by classic writers concerning these old
myths, and innumerable relics of antique art which embody the conceptions
of the times are extant in our museums, by which we may judge to what a
large extent such ideas influenced the common life and formed the beliefs
of ancient peoples.

It is also worthy of observation to note in what manner the ancients
sought to identify the various sea-deities and other mythical creatures
with the element they lived in. Each was known by his form or the
attributes by which he was accompanied. Modern heraldry repeats many of
these old-world myths as new-coined fables, so that for their proper
understanding and signification it will be necessary briefly to refer to
ancient ideas respecting them. Lakes, rivers and fountains had each their
impersonation peculiar to them, which will be found referred to in classic

Mediæval legend is equally rife with accounts of wonderful creatures of
the sea. The change of one form of superstition for another alters but
little the constitution of the mind to harbour fears, and the imagination
will deceive even the wisest and best so long as Nature's laws are

Particular whirlpools, rocks and other dangerous places to navigation, are
personated under the forms of monsters of various and awful shapes
feared by the mariner, who dreads

  "The loud yell of watery wolves to hear."

Scylla and Charybdis are two rocks which lie between Italy and Sicily.
Ships which tried to avoid one were often wrecked on the other. The
ancients feigned an interesting legend to account for their existence. It
was Circe who changed Scylla into a frightful sea monster, and Jupiter who
changed Charybdis into a whirlpool, the noise of which was likened to the
loud barking of dogs; and the monster was therefore represented with
savage dogs amidst her scaly folds, and loudly baying.

  "Far on the right her dogs foul Scylla hides;
  Charybdis roaring on the left presides,
  And in her greedy whirlpool sucks the tides,
  Then spouts them from below; with fury driven
  The waves mount up, and wash the face of heaven.
  But Scylla from her den with open jaws
  The sinking vessel in her eddy draws
  Then dashes on the rocks. A human face
  And virgin bosom hides her tail's disgrace;
  Her parts obscene below the waves descend,
  With dogs enclosed, and in a dolphin end."
                                  _Æneid_, Book iii.

Homer gives a vivid description of Ulysses passing the rocks and

  "Now through the rocks, appall'd with deep dismay,
  We bend our course, and stem the desperate way;
  Dire Scylla there a scene of horror forms;
  And here Charybdis fills the deep with storms.
  When the tide rushes from her rumbling caves,
  The rough rock roars, tumultuous boil the waves;
  They toss, they foam, a wild confusion raise,
  Like water bubbling o'er the fiery blaze;
  Eternal mists obscure the aërial plain,
  And high across the rocks she spouts the main:
  When in her gulfs the rushing sea subsides,
  She drains the ocean with the refluent tides:
  The rock rebellows with a thundering sound;
  Deep, wondrous deep, below appears the ground."
                                  _Odyssey_, Book xii.

The giants and ogres of romance were never so fearfully armed or clothed
by the wildest fiction with so terrible an aspect as the cephalopods, the
race to which the cuttlefish or octopus belongs. Eminently carnivorous,
voracious and fierce; beneath staring eyes are spread eight strong fleshy
arms furnished with tenacious suckers, which adhere with unrelenting
pertinacity, and the arms are swiftly twined round the struggling prey,
which vainly strives to disengage itself from so fearful and so fatal
embrace. Cephalopods of enormous size are sometimes found with arms as
thick as a man's thigh. Homer refers to its tenacity of grip in a simile.

The cuttlefish appears upon ancient Greek coins of Coressus, in allusion
to the worship of Neptune, a deity much venerated as the protector of this

Amongst the veritable inhabitants of the ocean there are few more
extraordinary mammals than the sea-unicorn, _Monodon monoceros_, the
beaked whale of the Arctic seas, twenty to thirty feet from stern to
snout. His length is increased about eight feet by his magnificent
spirally twisted tusk of the purest ivory, which in reality is simply the
canine tooth growing straight out of the upper jaw. One of the royal
treasures of Denmark is the narwhal throne of the Castle of Rosenberg. It
is the horn of this "strange fish" which has kept up the belief in the
existence of the mythical unicorn.

_Xiphias gladius_, swordfish, is the largest of the thorny fishes, and
belongs to the scombers or mackerel group. The sawfish, _Pristis
antiquorum_, ranks by himself between the rays and sharks. He has the long
body of a shark and the underside gill openings of a ray. His saw, like
the sword of the Xiphias, is a long flattened bony snout, but is
double-edged and serrated. It is well known as a weapon among the
Polynesian islanders, and, like the sword of the Xiphias, is frequently
found buried in the hulls of ocean-going ships.

There are two denizens of the deep which bear the name of sea-horse--one
the tiny Hippocampus, the other the mighty walrus. The hippocampus of our
public aquariums, a bony pipefish some six or eight inches in length,
swimming upright, his favourite position in the water, with the general
resemblance of his head to that of a horse, is very striking; anchored to
the seaweed stems by their tails they dart on their prey with great

Hippocampus (ἵππος, _hippos_, a horse; κάμπη, _campe_, a bending), the
steed of Neptune, had only the two forelegs of a horse, the hinder quarter
being that of a dolphin. The word means "coiling horse."

The Sea-horse of the North, or walrus--the _Rossmareus_ or _Morse_ of the
Scandinavians, the _Trichecus rosmarus_ of science, is fifteen or twenty
feet long, or even longer, and armed with huge canine teeth, sometimes
measuring thirty inches in length--tusks which furnish no small amount of
our commercial ivory. Many are the thrilling stories of the chase of these
great sea-horses, for the walrus fights for his life as determinedly as
any animal hunted by man. The walrus has had the honour assigned to it
also of being the original of the mermaid, and Scoresby says the front
part of the head of a young one without tusks might easily be taken at a
little distance for a human face, especially as it has a habit of raising
its head straight out of the water to look at passing ships.

The manatee, or sea-cow, found on the tropical coasts and streams of
Africa and America, is called by the Portuguese and Spaniards the
"woman-fish," from its supposed close resemblance. Its English name comes
from the flipper resembling a human hand--_manus_--with which it holds its
young to its breast. One of this species, which died at the Royal Aquarium
in 1878, was as unlike the typical mermaid as one could possibly imagine,
giving one a very startling idea of the difference between romance and
reality; but if it was observed in its native haunts, and seen at some
little distance, and then only by glimpses, it might possibly, as some
have asserted, present a very striking resemblance to the human form.

Sir James Emerson Tennent, speaking of the _Dugong_, an herbivorous
cetacean, says its head has a rude approach to the human outline, and the
mother while suckling her young holds it to her breast with one flipper,
as a woman holds an infant in her arm; if disturbed she suddenly dives
under water and throws up her fish-like tail. It is this creature, he
says, which has probably given rise to the tales about mermaids.

Seals differ from all other animals in having the toes of the feet
included almost to the end in a common integument, converting them into
broad fins armed with strong non-retractile claws. Of the many varieties
of the seal family, from Kamchatka comes the noisy "SEA-LION" (_Otaria
jubata_), so called from his curious mane. In the same neighbourhood we
get the "SEA-LEOPARD" (_Leptonyx weddellii_), and the "SEA-BEAR" (the
_Etocephalus ursinus_), whose larger and better-developed limbs enable him
to stand and walk on shore. But the most important of the seals, in a
commercial sense, are the "HARP SEAL" (_Phoca Grænlandica_) and the COMMON
SEAL, or "SEA-DOG" (_Phoca vitulina_), which yield the skins so valuable
to the furrier. There are several other species, of which the most known
are the CRESTED SEAL, or _Neistsersoak_ (_Stemmatopus cristatus_), and the
BEARDED SEAL (_Phoca barbata_).

Apart from the seal having possibly given rise to legends of the mermaid,
it has a distinguished position in superstition and mythology on its own
account. In Shetland it is the "haff-fish," or selkie, a fallen spirit.
Evil is sure to follow the unfortunate destroyer of one of these
creatures. In the Faroe Islands there is a superstition that the seals
cast off their skins every ninth night and appear as mortals, dancing
until daybreak on the sands. Sometimes they are induced to marry, but if
ever they recover their skins they betake themselves again to the water.

Stephen of Byzantium relates that the ships of certain Greek colonists
were on their expeditions followed by an immense number of seals, and it
was probably on this account that the city they founded in Asia received
the name of Phocea, from φώκη (_Phoké_), the Greek name of a seal, and
they also adopted that animal as the type or badge of the city upon their
coinage. The gold pieces of the Phoceans were well known among the Greek
States, and are frequently referred to by ancient writers. "Thus from a
single coin," says Noel Humphreys,[29] "we obtain the corroboration of the
legend of the swarm of seals, of the remote epoch of the emigration in
question, the coin being evidently of the earliest period, most probably
of the middle of the seventh century before the Christian era."

Luigi (+ 1598), brother to the Duke of Mantua, had for device a seal
asleep upon a rock in a troubled sea, with the motto: "Sic quiesco" ("So
rest I"). The seal, say the ancient writers, is never struck by lightning.
The Emperor Augustus always wore a belt of seal-skin. "There is no living
creature sleepeth more soundly," says Pliny,[30] "therefore when storms
arise and the sea is rough the seal goes upon the rocks where it sleeps in
safety unconscious of the storm."

The poet Spenser embodies many of the conceptions of his time in the
description of the crowning adventures of the Knight Guyon. He here refers
to "great sea monsters of all ugly shapes and horrible aspects" "such as
Dame Nature's self might fear to see."

  "Spring-headed hydras, and sea-shouldering whales;
  Great whirlpools, which all fishes make to flee;
  Bright scolopendras arm'd with silver scales;
  Mighty monoceroses with unmeasured tails;

  The dreadful fish that hath deserved the name
  Of death, and like him looks in dreadful hue;
  The grisly wasserman, that makes his game
  The flying ships with swiftness to pursue;

  The horrible sea-satyr that doth shew
  His fearful face in time of greatest storm;
  Huge Ziffius, whom mariners eschew
  No less than rocks, as travellers inform;
  And greedy rose-marines with visages deform;
  All these, and thousand thousand many more
  And more deformed monsters, thousandfold."
                  _Faerie Queen_, Book ii. cant. xii.

The early heralds took little account of these dreadful creatures--more
easily imagined by fearful mariners or by poets than depicted by artists
from their vague descriptions. The most imaginative of the tribe rarely
ventured beyond such representations of marine monsters as appealed
strongly and clearly to the universal sense of mankind--compounds of
marine and land animals--either from a belief in the existence of such
creatures, or because they used them as emblems or types of qualities,
combining for this purpose the attributes of certain inhabitants of the
sea with those of the land or of the air to form the appropriate symbol.

In modern heraldry such bearings are usually adopted with special allusion
to actions performed at sea, or they have reference in some way to the
name or designation of the bearer, and hence termed allusive or canting
heraldry. Some maritime towns bear nautical devices of the fictitious kind
referred to. For instance, the City of Liverpool has for supporters
Neptune with his trident, and a Triton with his horn. Cambridge and
Newcastle-on-Tyne have sea-horses for supporters to their city's arms.
Belfast has the sea-horse for sinister supporter and also for crest.

Many of the nobility also bear, either as arms or supporters, these
mythical sea creatures, pointing in many instances to memorable events in
their family history; indeed, as islanders and Britons, marine
emblems--real and mythical--enter largely into our national heraldry.

Poseidon or Neptune

[Illustration: Dexter supporter of Baron Hawke.]

Poseidon or Neptune, the younger brother of Zeus (Jupiter), sometimes
appears in heraldry, usually as a supporter. In the ancient mythology he
was originally a mere symbol of the watery element, he afterwards became a
distinct personality; the mighty ruler of the sea who with his powerful
arms upholds and circumscribes the earth, violent and impetuous like the
element he represents. When he strikes the sea with his trident, the
symbol of his sovereignty, the waves rise with violence, as a word or look
from him suffices to allay the fiercest tempest. Poseidon (Neptune) was
naturally regarded as the chief patron and tutelary deity of the seafaring
Greeks. To him they addressed their prayers before entering on a voyage,
and to him they brought their offerings in gratitude for their safe
return from the perils of the deep.

In a famous episode of the "Faerie Queen" (Book iv. c. xi.) Spenser
glowingly pictures the procession of all the water deities and their

  "First came great Neptune with his three-forked mace,
  That rules the seas and makes them rise and fall;
  His dewy locks did drop with brine apace
  Under his diadem imperial:

  "And by his side his Queen with coronal,
  Fair Amphitrite, most divinely fair,
  Whose ivory shoulders weren covered all,
  As with a robe, with her own silver hair,
  And decked with pearls which the Indian seas for her prepare."

Amphitrite, his wife, one of the Nereids in ancient art, is represented as
a slim and beautiful young woman, her hair falling loosely about her
shoulders, and distinguished from all the other deities by the royal
insignia. On ancient coins and gems she appears enthroned on the back of a
mighty triton, or riding on a sea-horse, or dolphin.

EXAMPLES.--Baron Hawke bears for supporters to his shield an aggroupment
of classic personations of a remarkable symbolic character, granted for
the achievements of the renowned Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the
Fleet, Vice-Admiral of Great Britain, &c. &c., created Baron Hawke of
Tarton, Yorks, 1776. _The dexter supporter is a figure of Neptune, his
mantle vert, edged argent, crowned with an eastern crown, or, his dexter
arm erect and holding a trident pointing downwards in the act of striking,
sable, headed silver, and resting his left foot on a dolphin proper._

Sir Isaac Heard, Somersetshire; Lancaster Herald, afterwards Garter. His
arms, granted 1762, are thus blazoned in Burke's "General Armory": _Argent
a Neptune crowned with an eastern crown of gold, his trident sable headed
or, issuing from a stormy ocean, the sinister hand grasping the head of a
ship's mast appearing above the waves, as part of a wreck, all proper; on
a chief azure, the Arctic pole-star of the first between two water-bougets
of the second_.

Merman or Triton

  "_Triton, who boasts his high Neptunian race
  Sprung from the God by Salace's embrace._"
                                  CAMOËNS, "Lusiad."

  "_Triton his trumpet shrill before them blew
  For goodly triumph and great jolliment
  That made the rocks to roar as they were rent._"
                             SPENSER, "Faerie Queen."
                           (Procession of the Sea Deities.)

[Illustration: Merman or Triton.]

[Illustration: Triton, with two tails. German.]

Triton was the only son of Neptune and Amphitrite. The poet Apollonius
Rhodius describes him as having the upper parts of the body of a man,
while the lower parts were those of a dolphin. Later poets and artists
revelled in the conception of a whole race of similar tritons, who were
regarded as a wanton, mischievous tribe, like the satyrs on land. Glaucus,
another of the inferior deities, is represented as a triton, rough and
shaggy in appearance, his body covered with mussels and seaweed; his hair
and beard show that luxuriance which characterises sea-gods. Proteus, as
shepherd of the seas, is usually distinguished with a crook. Triton, as
herald of Neptune, is represented always holding, or blowing, his wreathed
horn or conch shell. His mythical duties as attendant on the supreme
sea-divinity would, as an emblem in heraldry, imply a similar duty or
office in the bearer to a great naval hero.

[Illustration: Mermaid and Triton supporters.]

EXAMPLES.--The City of Liverpool has for sinister supporter a _Triton
blowing a conch shell and holding a flag in his right hand_.

Lord Lyttelton bears for supporters _two Mermen proper, in their exterior
hands a trident or_.

Ottway, Bart.--Supporters on either side, _a Triton blowing his shell
proper, navally crowned or, across the shoulder a wreath of red coral, and
holding in the exterior hand a trident, point downward_.

_Note._--In classic story, Triton and the Siren are distinct poetic
creations, their vocation and attributes being altogether at variance--no
relationship whatever existing between them. According to modern popular
notions, however, the siren or mermaid, and triton, or merman as they
sometimes term him, appear to be viewed as male and female of the same
creature (in heraldic parlance baron and femme). They thus appear in
companionship as supporters to the arms of Viscount Hood, and similarly in
other achievements.


The Mermaid or Siren

  "_Mermaid shapes that still the waves with ecstasies of song._"
                                               T. SWAN,
                                   "The World within the Ocean."

  "_And fair Ligea's golden comb,
  Wherewith she sits on diamond rocks,
  Sleeking her soft alluring hair._"
                                 MILTON, "Comus."


This fabulous creature of the sea, well known in ancient and modern times
as the frequent theme of poets and the subject of numberless legends, has
from a very early date been a favourite device. She is usually represented
in heraldry as having the upper part the head and body of a beautiful
young woman, holding a comb and glass in her hands, the lower part ending
in a fish.

Ellis (Glasfryn, Merioneth).--_Argent, a mermaid gules, crined or, holding
a mirror in her right hand and a comb in her left, gold. Crest, a mermaid
as in the arms._ _Motto_, "Worth ein ffrwythau yn hadna byddir." Another
family of the same name, settled in Lancashire, bears the colours
reversed, viz., _gules, a mermaid argent_.

[Illustration: Crest of Ellis.]

SIR JOSIAH MASON.--CREST, _a mermaid, per fess wavy argent and azure, the
upper part guttée de larmes, in the dexter hand a comb, and in the
sinister a mirror, frame and hair sable_.

Balfour of Burleigh.--_On a rock, a mermaid proper, holding in her dexter
hand an otter's head erased sable, and in the sinister a swan's head,
erased proper._ The supporters of Baron Balfour are an otter and a swan,
which will account for the heads appearing in the hands of the mermaid,
instead of the traditionary comb and mirror. In some other instances the
like occurs, as in the mermaid crest of Cussack, _the mermaid sable crined
or, holds in dexter hand a sword, and in the sinister a sceptre_.

Sir George Francis Bonham, Bart.--_Crest, a mermaid holding in dexter hand
a wreath of coral, and in the sinister a mirror._

Wallop, Earl of Portsmouth, bears for crest _a mermaid proper_, with her
usual accompaniments, the comb and mirror. Another family of the same name
and bearing the same arms has for crest _a mermaid with two tails extended
proper, hair gold, holding her tails in her hands extended wide_.

In foreign heraldry the mermaid is generally termed _Mélusine_, and
represented with two fishy extremities.

[Illustration: Die Ritter, of Nuremberg]

Die Ritter of Nuremberg bears _per fess sable and or, a mermaid holding
her two tails, vested gules, crowned or_.

The Austrian family of Estenberger bears for crest _a mermaid without
arms, and having wings_.

A mermaid was the device of Sir William de Brivere, who died in 1226. It
is the badge of the Berkeleys; in the monumental brass of Lord Berkeley,
at Wolton-under-Edge, 1392 A.D., he bears a collar of mermaids over his
camail. The Black Prince, in his will, mentions certain devices that he
appears to have used as badges; among the rest we find "Mermaids of the
Sea." It was the dexter supporter in the coat-of-arms of Sir Walter Scott,
and the crest of Lord Byron. The supporters of Viscount Boyne are
mermaids. Skiffington, Viscount Marsereene, the Earl of Caledon, the Earl
of Howth, Viscount Hood, and many other titled families bear it as crest
or supporters. It is also borne by many untitled families.

The arms of the princely house of Lusignan, kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem,
"Une sirène dans une cuvé," were founded on a curious mediæval legend of
a mermaid or siren, termed Mélusine, a fairy, condemned by some spell to
become on one day of the week only, half woman, half serpent. The Knight
Roimoudin de Forez, meeting her in the forest by chance, became enamoured
and married her, and she became the mother of several children, but she
carefully avoided seeing her husband on the day of her change; one day,
however, his curiosity led him to watch her, which led to the spell being
broken, and the soul with which by her union with a Christian she hoped to
have been endowed, was lost to her for ever.

This interesting myth is fully examined in Baring Gould's "Curious Myths
of the Middle Ages."

The mermaid is represented as the upper half of a beautiful maiden joined
to the lower half of a fish, and usually holding a comb in the right hand
and a mirror in the left; these articles of the toilet have reference to
the old fable that always when observed by man mermaids are found to be
resting upon the waves, combing out their long yellow hair, while admiring
themselves in the glass: they are also accredited with wondrous vocal
powers, to hear which was death to the listener. It was long believed such
creatures really did exist, and had from time to time been seen and spoken
with; many, we are told, have fatally listened to "the mermaid's charmèd
speech," and have blindly followed the beguiling, deluding creature to her
haunts beneath the wave, as did Sidratta, who, falling in the Ganges,
became enamoured of one of these beautiful beings, the Upsaras, the
swan-maidens of the Vedas.

All countries seem to have invented some fairy-like story of the waters.
The Finnish Nakki play their silver harps o' nights; the water imp or
Nixey of Germany sings and dances on land with mortals, and the "Davy"
(Deva), whose "locker" is at the bottom of the deep blue sea, are all
poetical conceptions of the same description. The same may be said of the
Merminne of the Netherlands, the White Lady of Scotland and the Silver
Swan of the German legend, that drew the ship in which the Knight
Lohengrin departed never to return.

In the "Bestiary" of Philip de Thaun he tells us that "Siren lives in the
sea, it sings at the approach of a storm and weeps in fine weather; such
is its nature: and it has the make of a woman down to the waist, and the
feet of a falcon, and the tail of a fish. When it will divert itself, then
it sings loud and clear; if then the steersman who navigates the sea hears
it, he forgets his ship and immediately falls asleep."

The legendary mermaid still retains her place in popular legends of our
sea coasts, especially in the remoter parts of our islands. The stories of
the Mirrow, or Irish fairy, hold a prominent place among Crofton Croker's
"Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland." Round the shores of Lough Neagh
old people still tell how, in the days of their youth, mermaids were
supposed to reside in the water, and with what fear and trepidation they
would, on their homeward way in the twilight, approach some lonely and
sequestered spot on the shore, expecting every moment to be captured and
carried off by the witching mere-maidens. On the Continent the same idea
prevails. Among the numerous legends of the Rhine many have reference to
the same fabled creature.

As we know, mariners in all ages have delighted in tales of the
marvellous, and in less enlightened times than the present, they were not
unlikely to have found many willing listeners and sound believers. Early
voyagers tell wonderful stories of these "fish-women," or "women-fish," as
they termed them. The ancient chronicles indeed teem with tales of the
capture of "mermaids," "mermen," and similar strange creatures; stories
which now only excite a smile from their utter absurdity. So late as 1857
there appeared an article in the _Shipping Gazette_, under intelligence of
June 4, signed by some Scotch sailors, and describing an object seen off
the North British coast "in the shape of a woman, with full breast, dark
complexion, comely face" and the rest. It is probable that some variety of
the seal family may be the prototype of this interesting myth.

The myth of the mermaid is, however, of far older date; Homer and later
Greek and Roman poets have said and sung a great deal about it.

The Sirens of Classic Mythology

The Sirens (Greek, entanglers) enticed seamen by the sweetness of their
song to such a degree that the listeners forgot everything and died of
hunger. Their names were, Parthenope, Ligea, and Leucosia.

[Illustration: Ulysses and the Sirens. Flaxman's "Odyssey."]

Parthenope, the ancient name of Neapolis (Naples) was derived from one of
the sirens, whose tomb was shown in Strabo's time. Poetic legend states
that she threw herself into the sea out of love for Ulysses, and was cast
up on the Bay of Naples.

The celebrated Parthenon at Athens, the beautiful temple of Pallas Athenæ,
so richly adorned with sculptures, likewise derives its name from this

Dante interviews the siren in "Purgatorio," xix. 7-33.

Flaxman, in his designs illustrating the "Odyssey," represents the sirens
as beautiful young women seated on the strand and singing.

[Illustration: Ulysses and the Sirens. From a painting on a Greek vase.]

In the illustration from an ancient Greek vase gives a Grecian rendering
of the story, and represents the Sirens as birds with heads of maidens.

The Sirens are best known from the story that Odysseus succeeded in
passing them with his companions without being seduced by their song. He
had the prudence to stop the ears of his companions with wax and to have
himself bound to the mast. Only two are mentioned in Homer, but three or
four are mentioned in later times and introduced into various legends.
Demeter (_Ceres_) is said to have changed their bodies into those of
birds, because they refused to go to the help of their companion,
Persephone, when she was carried off by Pluto. "They are represented in
Greek art like the harpies, as young women with the wings and feet of
birds. Sometimes they appear altogether like birds, only with human faces;
at other times with the bodies of women, in which case they generally hold
instruments of music in their hands. As their songs are death to those
subdued by them they are often depicted on tombs as spirits of death."

By the fables of the Sirens is represented the ensnaring nature of vain
and deceitful pleasures, which sing and soothe to sleep, and never fail to
destroy those who succumb to their beguiling influence.

Spenser, in the "Faerie Queen," describes a place "where many mermaids
haunt, making false melodies," by which the knight Guyon makes a somewhat
"perilous passage." There were five sisters that had been fair ladies,
till too confident in their skill in music they had ventured to contend
with the Muses, when they were transformed in their lower extremities to

  "But the upper half their hue retained still,
  And their sweet skill in wonted melody;
  Which ever after they abused to ill
  To allure weak travellers, whom gotten they did kill."
                                  Book ii. cant. cxii.

Shakespeare charmingly pictures Oberon in the moonlight, fascinated by the
graceful form and the melodious strains of the mermaid half reclining on
the back of the dolphin:

    "OBERON: ... Thou rememberest
  Since once I sat upon a promontory,
  And heard a mermaid on a dolphin's back
  Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
  That the rude sea grew civil at her song
  And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
  To hear the sea-maid's music."

Commentators of Shakespeare find in this passage (and subsequent parts)
certain references to Mary Queen of Scots, which they consider beyond
dispute. She was frequently referred to in the poetry of the time under
this title. She was married to the Dauphin (or Dolphin) of France. The
rude sea means the Scotch rebels, and the shooting stars referred to were
the Earls of Northumberland and Westmoreland, who, with others of lesser
note, forgot their allegiance to Elizabeth out of love to Mary.

"Few eyes," says Sir Thomas Browne, "have escaped the picture of a mermaid
with a woman's head above and a fish's extremity below." In those old days
when reading and writing were rare accomplishments, pictured signboards
served to give "a local habitation and a name" to hostelries and other
places of business and resort. Among the most celebrated of the old London
taverns bearing this sign,[31] that in Bread Street stands foremost.

We find this "Mermayde" mentioned as early as 1464. In 1603 Sir Walter
Raleigh established a literary club in this house, and here Shakespeare,
Ben Jonson, and the choice intellectual spirits of the time used to meet,
and there took place those wit combats which Beaumont has commemorated and
Fuller described. It is frequently alluded to by Beaumont and Fletcher in
their comedies, but best known is that quotation from a letter of Beaumont
to Ben Jonson:

            "What things have we seen
  Done at the Mermaid? heard words that have been
  So nimble and so full of subtle flame,
  As if that any one from whence they came
  Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
  And had resolved to live a fool the rest
  Of his dull life; then when there had been thrown
  Wit able enough to justify the town
  For three days past; wit that might warrant be
  For the whole city to talk foolishly,
  Till that were cancell'd; and when that was gone,
  We left an air behind us, which alone
  Was able to make the next two companies
  (Right witty, though but downright fools) more wise."


The Dolphin of Legend and of Heraldry

            "_... his delights
  Were dolphin-like; they showed his back above
  The element they lived in._"
                "Anthony and Cleopatra," Act v. sc. 2.

As the Lion is the king of beasts, the Eagle the king of birds, so in
similar heraldic sense the Dolphin is king of fishes. His position in
legend is probably due to his being one of the biggest and boldest
creatures of the sea that passed the Pillars of Hercules into the
Mediterranean Sea. Pliny (Book ix. ch. 8) calls it "The swiftest of all
other living creatures whatsoever, and not of sea fish only, is the
dolphin; quicker than any fowle, swifter than the arrow shot from a bow."

The dolphin, of which there are several varieties, enjoys a pretty wide
geographical distribution, being found in the Arctic seas, the Atlantic
Ocean, and indeed of all seas. It was well known to the ancients and
furnished the theme of many a fabulous story.

[Illustration: The Dolphin.]

The common dolphin (_Delphinus Delphis_) the true _hieros ichthus_, is
only rarely met with on the British coast. Its length is usually seven or
eight feet, though some specimens have been found to measure ten feet. Its
back is almost straight, or only slightly elevated; its colour is dusky
black above and whitish beneath. Its pectorals or flappers, which are
placed low in the sides, are well developed, and a dorsal fin, which is
somewhat short, is much elevated. Its tail is broad and notched in the
centre and expanded horizontally--not vertically as in most other
fishes--by the help of which it makes its peculiar leaps over the surface
of the water and at the same time takes its breath.

Unlike its near relatives the porpoises, who haunt the coast, dolphins
live far out at sea, and are generally mistaken for porpoises. The
long-snouted dolphin feeds on pelagic fishes. The short-nosed porpoise
likes salmon and mackerel, robs the fishermen's nets, and even burrows in
the sand in search of odds and ends. The dolphin is the sea-goose. The
porpoise is the sea-pig; he is the _porc-poisson_, the _porc-pois_, or

The convex snout of the dolphin is separated from the forehead by a deep
furrow; the muzzle is greatly extended, compressed, and much attenuated
especially towards the apex, where it terminates in a rather sharp-pointed
beak. The French name _bec d'oie_, from the great projection of its nose
or beak, has led to its adoption in the arms of English families of the
name of Beck. The dolphin is an elegant and swift swimmer, and capable of
overtaking the swiftest of the finny tribe. Because the creature is noted
for its swiftness it has been adopted in the arms of Fleet.

The dolphin is able to hold his own against nearly all others of his size
and weight, and even some of the larger cetaceans only come off second
best in an encounter with the dolphin. He is voracious, gluttonous, and
ever on the look out for something to turn up, hunting his prey with great
persistency and devouring it with avidity. He has been not inaptly styled
"the plunderer of the deep."

The destructive character of the dolphin amongst the various tribes of
fish is not lessened when we examine its formidable jaws studded with an
immense number of interlocking teeth. Notwithstanding its rapacious habits
and the variety of its diet it was in England formerly regarded as a royal
fish, and its flesh held in high estimation. Old chroniclers have frequent
entries of dolphins being caught in the Thames, thus: "3 Henry V.--Seven
dolphins came up the Thames, whereof four were taken." "14th Richard
II.--On Christmas Day one was taken at London Bridge, being ten feet long,
and a monstrous grown fish." (Delalune's "Present State of London," 1681.)
The early fathers of the Church deemed "all fish that swam in the sea";
the dolphin was therefore eaten in Lent. He is, however, a mammal, not a
fish, and though an air-breathing creature he lives and dies in the ocean.
But one is brought forth at a birth, and between the old and young of
their kind, as in the case of all marine animals, a strong affection

Travellers' tales are notoriously hard of belief, and must be taken _cum
grano salis_. We learn from Sir Thomas Herbert, an early voyager, that
when he was on the coast of Sanquehar, a large kingdom on the east side of
the Cape of Good Hope, he "saw there great numbers of dolphins," of which
he says: "They much affect the company of men, and are nourished like men;
they are always constant to their mates, tenderly affected to their
parents, feeding and defending them against hungry fishes when they are
old," and much more information equally astonishing.

A story is related of a man who once went to a mufti and asked him whether
the flesh of the sea-pig (the dolphin) was lawful food. Without any
hesitation the mufti declared that pig's flesh was unlawful at all times
and under all circumstances. Some time after another person submitted the
question to the same authority, whether the _fish_ of the sea, called the
sea-pig, was lawful food. The mufti replied: "Fish is lawful food by
whatever name it may be called."

CLASSIC FABLE AND MEDIÆVAL LEGEND have shed a halo of romantic interest
around the dolphin which cleaves to it even to the present hour; the rare
event of a dolphin being caught in British waters revives with a thrill
all the old-world stories and historic associations of this famous fish as
if it were a veritable relic of the golden age. The dolphin of fact we
have found to be quite a different creature from what he is pictured by
the ancients. The mariner may be engulfed by "the yawning, dashing,
furious sea," but no generous dolphin now watches with tender eye,
solicitous for his safety, nor offers his ready back to speed him to the

The dolphin of our modern poets and sailors--the swift swimmer that leaps
after the flying-fish and frolics in front of the vessel's prow until he
is caught by the glittering tin--is the _Coryphæna hippurus_, the species
famed for its changing tints when taken from the water. During a calm,
these fishes, when swimming about a ship, appear of a brilliant blue or
purple, shining with a metallic lustre in every change of reflected light.
On being captured and brought on deck, the variety of these tints is very
beautiful. The bright purple and golden yellow hues change to brilliant
silver, varying back again into the original colours, purple and gold.
This alteration of tints continues for some time, diminishing in
intensity, and at last settles down into a dull leaden hue. The
iridescent lines which play along its elegant curves as he lies on deck
has awakened the enthusiasm of many a writer. Byron tells us in a
beautiful simile:

                      "Parting day
  Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
  With a new lustre, as it gasps away,
  The last still loveliest, till 'tis gone--and all is grey."

[Illustration: Dolphin of classic art.]

It is needless to say that the legendary dolphin is not to be confounded
with the gay and graceful _coryphæna_ to whom alone belong those rainbow
flashes of colour in dying. The common dolphin (_Delphinus delphis_) is
dark on the back and satiny white beneath but not even in the agonies of
death does he change colour, though like all dead things the body becomes
slightly phosphorescent during decomposition. There are two curious fresh
water dolphins, the Sooloo of the Ganges and the Inia of the Amazon, which
form the connecting-link between the herbaceous and carnivorous cetacea.

The dolphin (δελφίν) may be considered an accessory symbol of Apollo, who,
as we read in the Homeric hymns, once took the form of a dolphin when he
guided the Cretan ship to Crissa, whence, after commanding the crew to
burn the ship and erect an altar to him as Apollo Delphinios, he led them
to Delphi, and appointed them to be the first priests of his temple.

The dolphin is the most classic of fishes, the favourite of Apollo, and
sacred to that bright divinity, deriving his name from the oracular
Delphi, that mysterious spot, "the earth's umbilicus," the very centre of
the world, Delphi or Delphos, a town in Phocis, famous for its oracle in
the Temple of Apollo, upon the walls of which were sculptured the _Helios
ichthus_, Apollo's fish.

In the legend of Tarento, Phalantus, heading the Patheniæ, was driven from
Sparta and shipwrecked off the coast of Italy, and escaped on a friendly
dolphin's back to Tarentum. We learn from Aristotle that the youthful
figure seated on the dolphin, which is the most common type on the coins
of this city, was intended for Taras, a son of Poseidon, from whom the
city is said to have derived its name.

The dolphins, "the arrows of the sea," were the great carriers of ancient
times. Not only did they bear the Nereides safely on their backs, but
Arion, the sweet singer, when forced to leap into the sea to escape the
mariners who would have murdered him, had previously so charmed the
dolphins by his playing that they gathered round the ship and one of them
bore Arion safely to Tænarus, whilst the musician

                "with harmonious strains
  Requites his bearer for his friendly pains."

The classic myth of Arion and the dolphin, like many other pagan
fictions, was invested by the early Christians with an entirely different
signification, and in the sculptures and frescoes of the catacombs and
other symbolic representations of the Christian converts, the frequent
introduction of the dolphin "points not to the deliverer of Arion, but to
Him who through the waters of baptism opens to mankind the paths of
deliverance, causing them to so pass the waves of this troublesome world
that finally they may come to the land of everlasting life."

The poet Licophron says Ulysses bore a dolphin on his shield, on the
pommel of his sword, as well as on his ring, in commemoration of the
extraordinary escape of his son Telemachus, who when young fell into the
sea and was taken up by a dolphin and safely brought on shore. Pliny and
others relate a story of one of these fishes which frequented the Lake
Lucrin: "A boy who went every day to school from Baia to Puzzoli used to
feed this dolphin with bread, and it became at last so familiar with the
boy that it carried him often on its back over the bay."

The dolphins were early symbols on the coins of Ægina, and though
abandoned for a time were afterwards resumed; and they appear upon later
and well-known coins of that State accompanied by the wolf and other
national devices. Argos had anciently two dolphins; Syracuse, a winged
sea-dog, a dolphin, &c.; Teneos (Cyclades) two dolphins and a trident. The
dolphin and trident figures also upon coins of the ancient city of
Byzantium, signifying probably the sovereignty of the seas. It is even
figured by the ancients as a constellation in the heraldry of the heavens.
In botany it lives in larkspurs called delphiniums, from their curious
petals and the slender segments of their leaves.

[Illustration: Coin of Ægina.]

The dolphin and anchor is a famous historic symbol. Titus, Emperor of
Rome, took the device of a dolphin twisted round an anchor, to imply, like
the emblem of Augustus, the medium between haste and slowness, the anchor
being the symbol of delay, as it is also of firmness and security, while
the dolphin is the swiftest of fish. This device appears also upon the
coins of Vespasian, the father of Titus. The anchor was also used as a
signet ring by Seleneus, King of Syria. The dolphin and anchor was also
used, with the motto "Festina lente" ("Hasten slowly"), by the Emperor
Adolphus of Nassau, and by Admiral Chabot. The family of Onslow bear the
same for crest and motto.

Aldus Manutius, the celebrated Venetian printer, adopted this well-known
device from a silver medal presented to him by Cardinal Bembo, with the
motto in Greek "hasten slowly." Camerarius describes this sign in his book
of symbols "to represent that maturity in business which is the medium
between too great haste and slowness." "When violent winds disturb the sea
the anchor is cast by seamen, the dolphin winds herself round it out of a
particular love for mankind, and directs it as with a human intellect so
that it may more safely take hold of the ground; for dolphins have this
peculiar property that they can, as it were, foretell storms. The anchor
then signifies a stay and security whilst the dolphin is a hieroglyphic
for philanthropy and safety."


This sign was afterwards adopted by William Pickering, a worthy
"Discipulus Aldi" as he styles himself. Sir Egerton Bridges has some
verses upon it, amongst which occur the following:

  "Would thou still be safely landed,
    On the Aldine anchor ride;
  Never yet was vessel stranded,
    With the dolphin by its side.

       *       *       *       *       *

  "Nor time nor envy shall ever canker,
    The sign which is my lasting pride;
  Joy then to the Aldus anchor
    And the dolphin at its side.

  "To the dolphin as we're drinking,
    Life and health and joy we send;
  A poet once he saved from sinking,
    And still he lives the poet's friend."

The dolphin was the insignia of the Eastern Empire--the Empire of
Constantinople. The Courteneys, a noble Devonshire family, still bear the
dolphin as crest and badge, and the melancholy motto, "Ubi lapsus? Quid
feci?" ("Whither have I fallen? What have I done?"), "a touching
allusion," says Miss Millington ("Heraldry in History and Romance"), "to
the misfortunes of their race, three of whom filled the imperial throne of
Constantinople during the time that city was in possession of the Latins
after the siege of 1204. Expelled at length by the Greeks, Baldwin, the
last of the three, wandered from Court to Court throughout Europe vainly
seeking aid to replace him upon the throne."

A branch of the imperial Courteneys settled in England during the reign of
Henry II., and their descendants were among the principal Barons of the
realm. Three Earls of Courteney perished on the scaffold during the Wars
of the Roses; the family was restored to favour by Henry VII. Another
Courteney, the Marquis of Exeter, became first the favourite, and
subsequently the victim of the brutal tyrant Henry VIII. His son Edward,
after being long a prisoner in the tower, ended his days in exile, and the
family estates passed into other hands.

Sir William Courteney, of Powderham Castle, Devon (_temp._ Edw. IV.),
bore emblazoned on his standard three dolphins in reference to the purple
of three Emperors.

The Arms of Peter Courteney, Bishop of Exeter, 1478, is still to be seen
in the episcopal palace environed with the dolphins of Constantinople.

The Dauphin of France

[Illustration: Banner of the Dauphin.]

In France the bearing of the dolphin was exclusively restricted to the
Dauphin or heir to the throne of the kingdom. Brydson mentions that one of
the first of the troubadours was called the Dauphin, or Knight of the
Dolphin, from bearing that figure on his shield, adding that "the name in
his successors became a title of sovereign dignity."

The title "Dauphin," borne by the eldest son and heir-apparent of the
kings of France under the Valois and Bourbon dynasties, originated in the
Dauphins of Viennois, sovereigns of the province of Dauphiné. Guy VIII.,
Count of Vienne, was the first so styled. The title descended in the
family till 1349, when Humbert II., _de la Tour de Pisa_, sold his
seigneurie, called the Dauphiné, to Philippe VI. (de Valois), on condition
that the heir of France assumed the title of "Le Dauphin." The first
French prince so called was Jean, who succeeded Philippe; and the last was
the Duc d'Angoulême, son of Charles X., who renounced the title in 1830.
In 1601, when Louis XIII. was born, there had not been a Dauphin since
Francis II. (the husband of Mary, Queen of Scots)--eighty-four years. The
province of Dauphiné sent a deputation to Fontainebleau, headed by the
Archbishop of Vienne, to recognise the infant as their sovereign, and make
him a present of an entire service of richly chased plate with various
figures of dolphins, estimated at 12,000 crowns.

GRAND DAUPHIN.--Louis, duc de Bourgogne, eldest son of Louis XIV., for
whom was published the edition of the Latin classics entitled "Ad usum
Delphini" (1661-1711).

SECOND, OR LITTLE DAUPHIN.--Louis, son of the Grand Dauphin (1682-1712).

Shakespeare, by an anachronism of a hundred years, introduced into King

  "Lewis, the Dauphin and the heir of France."

Mary Queen of Scots bore the title on her marriage in 1558 to the Dauphin,
afterwards Francis II., and styled by her adherents:

      "Mary, Queen, and Dolphiness of Fraunce,
  The nobillest lady in earth."

The Heraldic Dolphin

[Illustration: Example--Dolphin embowed.]

The heraldic dolphin, as usually represented by modern heralds, is an
ornamental monstrosity bearing but slight resemblance to the natural form
of this celebrated historic marine symbol; a nearer resemblance to the
natural shape is decidedly preferable. Some of the early heraldic
representations, though a little crude, are very characteristic and
thoroughly heraldic in treatment, though at the same time very unlike the
real dolphin.

In its series of leaps out of the water the dolphin appears with high
arched back, just as we see it represented in antique works; its natural
shape, however, is straight, the back being but slightly curved. The broad
tail paddle being placed in a horizontal position necessitates an up and
down stroke, which makes their swimming to appear a series of leaps and
divings. Like its near relative the porpoise, it is an air-breathing
animal; its apparent gambollings on the water may, therefore, be more
truly attributed to its breathing and blowing whilst in pursuit of its

The Dolphin is generally, if not always, depicted in heraldry _embowed_,
that is, having its back greatly incurvated. In blazon the word _Dolphin_,
alone, implies that its natural position, _naiant_ (swimming) and embowed,
is understood, but for the sake of accuracy it is better always to give
the description in full, as a doubt may arise as to the omission of a word
indicating its position.

_Torqued_, _torquend_, _torgant_, or _targant_, from the Latin _torquere_,
to twist, are old terms for embowed, or bowed embowed, bent in the form of
the letter S, turning contrary ways at each bending; applicable also to

_Hauriant_, from the Latin _ab hauriendo_, is a term applied to fishes
generally when placed in an upright position or _in pale_, as if putting
the head above water to get air.

[Illustration: Hauriant]

[Illustration: Urinant]

[Illustration: Naiant]

[Illustration: Torqued]

Shell-fish are blazoned _erect_ or _upright_, the term hauriant being only
applicable to fishes with scales and fins.

_Urinant_ (from the Latin _urino_, to duck or dive under water) signifies
borne with the head downwards and the tail erect, the reverse position of

Two dolphins are occasionally borne together, sometimes endorsed, or back
to back; sometimes respecting each other.

As signifying the conquest of the sea, it appears in the shields of many
seaport cities. It figures on the well-known bearings of the towns of
Brighton, Dunkirk, Poole, &c.

The Dolphin appears in English heraldry as early as the middle of the
thirteenth century. In a roll of arms of that date, a dolphin is given as
the coat of Gile de Fiseburn.

"The Godolphins of Helston," says Miss Millington, "who had estates in
that part of the kingdom (Cornwall) at the time of the Conquest, bore
_argent three dolphins embowed, sable_." Similar arms are borne by many
English families.

The Godolphins, Franklins, Franklands, Frenches, Fishers and Kennedys, in
many of their branches, bear the dolphin fish as their crest.

A man playing the harp on a dolphin is the heraldic cognisance of the
Walterton family.

[Illustration: Sea-horse naiant.]

The Sea--Horse

  "_His sea-horses did seem to snort amain
  And from their nostrils blow the fiery stream
  That made the sparkling waves to smoke again
  And flame with gold; but the white foam cream
  Did shine with silver, and shoot forth his beam._"
                            SPENSER'S _Faerie Queen_.
                           (Procession of the Sea Divinities.)

The steeds of Neptune are favourite subjects in ancient poetry and art in
the triumphs and processions of the marine deities, drawing the chariot of
the sea-god in its progress through the waves. The imaginative Greeks
pictured to themselves the horses of Poseidon in the rolling and bounding
waves as they pursue each other in haste towards the shore, "curling their
monstrous heads." This may seem to account for the constant and close
connection between the god and the horse. The origin of the horse is
ascribed to the contest between Poseidon and Athenæ as to who should make
to mankind the most useful present; Neptune created the horse, Minerva the

[Illustration: Sea-horse erect.]

The city of Lampsacus, in Mysia, founded by the Phoceans, adopted the
winged sea-horse as their monetary type, in allusion to the fleetness of
their vessels. Others of the maritime States of Greece also adopted the
sea-horse upon their coins.

A coin of the celebrated Pyrrhus, King of Epirus (slain B.C. 272), the
knight-errant of ancient heroes, represents the head of Achilles, the
reputed ancestor of Pyrrhus, on one side, and the Nereid, Thetis, the
mother of Achilles, on the sea-horse on the reverse. Thetis carries the
arms forged by Vulcan for Achilles, in allusion to the succour brought by
Pyrrhus to the Italian Greeks against the barbarians, as the rising Romans
were termed by them.

In Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," we find a reference to
a veritable sea-horse, if we may believe our authority. John Sobieski,
the victorious King of Poland, in his letters to his wife, when he raised
the memorable siege of Vienna and delivered Europe for ever from the
incursions of the Turks, describes to her how, in the tent of Mustapha, he
found the great standard of the Turks, "_made of the hair of the sea-horse
(?) wrought with a needle and embroidered with Arabic figures_." It was
afterwards hung up by the order of the Emperor in the Cathedral of St.
Stephens, "where," adds the historian, "_I have seen it_."

The coast of Naples is celebrated for the production of a small fish in
great repute with mothers who nurse their offspring; among its other
virtues it is said to cure the bite of a mad dog. It is about four to six
inches in length, and has a head resembling that of a horse, terminating
in a dragon's tail. This is the tiny hippocampus of our public aquariums.
The Neapolitans call them "cavalli-marini," which was once ingeniously
translated by a learned English traveller as "horse marines."

This fabulous marine creature in heraldry is compounded of the fore
quarters of a horse with webbed paws, and the hinder part of a fish or
dolphin. A scalloped fin is continued down the neck and back in place of a
mane. It is frequently, though erroneously, to be seen depicted with the
flowing mane of a horse; wings are also sometimes added to it, both of
which, it is needless to say, are wrong, unless specially mentioned in the

The Westenras (Baron Rossmore), descended from the family of Van
Wassenhaer of Wassenburg, were of great antiquity in Holland, and they
bore the augmentation of the sea-horse in reference to the valour and
intrepidity of an ancestor, who, during the Duke of Alva's campaign, was
actively employed against the enemies of his country and undertook at
great risk to swim across an arm of the sea with important despatches to
his besieged countrymen.

[Illustration: Arms of the city of Belfast. The sinister supporter and
crest are Sea-horses.]

The Sea-horse is of very frequent use in armory, and usually has reference
to meritorious actions performed at sea. It is also borne by many seaport
towns in allusion to the trade and commerce of the port, as in the arms
of the city of Belfast.

Cromwell, Protector, bore as supporters a lion of England and a sea-horse,
probably to denote his protectorship of the sea, as of the land.

Bossewell ("Works of Armorie," 1589), in his peculiar mixture of English
and Latin, gives a quaint description of the animal: "This water-horse of
the sea is called a hippotame, for that he is like an horse in back,
mayne, and neying: rostro resupinato a primis dentibus: cauda tortuosa,
ungulis binis. He abideth in the waters on the day, and eateth corn by
night et hunc Nilus gignit." The latter may be classed with those
fantastic ornamental forms frequently employed in fountains and
waterworks, such as the _Ichthyocentaur_, _i.e._, a combination of man and
horse, or the centaur with a fish's extremity.


or _Lion poisson_, a mythical sea-creature, frequently used in heraldry as
an emblem of bold actions achieved on the ocean in the country's service.
It is depicted as the fore part of a lion with webbed feet, the hinder
part ending in a fish's tail.

Two such animals support the arms of Viscount Falmouth.

The Earl of Howth has for supporters _a sea-lion argent_, and a mermaid,
proper. The crest also is a sea-lion.

[Illustration: Sea-lion erect.]

The crest of Duckworth is _a tower, the battlements partly demolished,
from the top flames issuant proper; on the sinister side a sea-lion erect
azure, pressing against the tower_.

Silvestre.--_Argent, a sea-lion couchant azure, crowned armed and langued

When the sea-lion or other compounded creature of this kind is erect, it
should be clearly blazoned as "a sea-lion erect on his tail," to
distinguish it from naiant, the swimming position natural to it.


is depicted like a talbot in shape, but with the tail like that of a
beaver, the feet webbed and the whole body scaled like a fish, a scalloped
fin continued along the back from the head to the tail.

Baron Stourton has two such beasts, sable, scaled or, for his supporters.

The crest of Sir H. Delves Broughton.--_A sea-dog's head gules, eared and
finned argent._

[Illustration: Sea-dog rampant.]

occur in heraldry, are all depicted as having the anterior portions of
their bodies in the forms which their several names denote; but, like the
sea-lion and sea-horse, they have fishes tails and webbed paws.

       *       *       *       *       *

In conclusion, having, as far as possible, given the _raison d'être_ of
each, and traced the life-history and characteristics of the many strange
and fantastic creatures in our symbolic menagerie, it only remains to
express the hope that the information contained in this volume may be
found both interesting and useful, as without some such knowledge there
can be little or no intelligent understanding of the proper treatment of
the forms of these mythical and symbolic beings. The suggestive
illustrations, while giving the recognised forms of each, leaves to the
artist free scope to adopt his own style of art treatment, whether purely
heraldic or merely decorative.

  Tavistock Street, London


[1] "Decorative Heraldry," by G. W. Eve.

[2] The above notes on heraldic treatment are largely adapted from the
admirable works on Decorative Art, by Louis F. Day.

[3] See Audsley's "Glossary of Architecture," "Angel," p. 101.

[4] "Restit. of Decayed Intell. in Antiq." p. 147.

[5] "Great Cities of the Middle Ages."

[6] "History of Signboards."

[7] Brewer's "Dictionary of Phrase and Fable."

[8] "Analysis of Ornament," by Ralph N. Wornum.

[9] That is, _Visconti_ is only a variation of _Biscia_ equivalent to
_Anguis_, Italianised to _Angleria_.

[10] Pliny, Book xi. ch. 25, from an old translation.

[11] But for an oversight in the drawing, the unicorn should have been
represented with the divided hoofs of a stag.

[12] "Mythology of Greece and Rome, with special reference to its Use in
Art," from the German of O. Seemann.

[13] W. N. Humphry's "Coin Collector's Manual."

[14] "Modern Painters," vol. iii. ch. 8.

[15] "Historical Devices, Badges, and War Cries," p. 10.

[16] "Iconography of Christian Art."

[17] "Orlando Furioso," iv. 18, 19.

[18] "Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians."

[19] W. Noel Humphry's "Coin Collector's Manual."

[20] Book x. ch. 2.

[21] Guillam's "Display of Heraldry." The same is also related in the
Latin "Bestiarium," Harl. MSS. 4751; and by Albertus Magnus, Camerarius,

[22] "Cassell's Natural History."

[23] Bk. viii. ch. 17.

[24] Harl. MSS. 6085.

[25] Hist. Dev. 260.

[26] "Natural History," x. 67, xxix. 4.

[27] Tylor's "Primitive Culture."

[28] Armorie of Honour, 62.

[29] "Coin Collector's Manual," Bohn.

[30] Book ix. ch. 13.

[31] The sign was also used by printers: John Rastall, brother-in-law to
Sir Thomas More, "emprynted in the Cheapesyde at the Sygne of the
Mermayde; next to Powlsgate in 1572." Henry Binnemann, the Queen's
printer, dedicated a work to Sir Thomas Gresham, in 1576, at the sign of
the Mermaid, Knightrider Street. A representation of the creature was
generally prefixed to his books.--"History of Sign-boards," p. 227.

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _italics_.

Superscripted characters are indicated by {superscript}.

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