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  1. #1
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    Heraldic Beasts?

    Quote Originally Posted by MacLowlife View Post
    I guess that by the time his head makes it onto a ring, any beastie is heraldic, though, of course, some are entirely heraldic, such as the Gryphon/ griffon/ griffin. I have long wondered how we can distinguish between the head of an eagle and the head of a griffon (which has the head of an eagle) if all we see is the head. ...A number of them depict entire animals in a way that doesn't necessarily evoke heraldry, like running dear. ...

    I have some very old writing paper with a boar on it, which I assume to be the crest of some ancestor. That leads me to reconsider what I said (or ask for help) on the topic of crests on rings... Some crests are entire animals (my ancestral boar) while others are heads (eagles, bears, dragons, unicorns). I expect the dead giveaway for a head would be the presence of a torse or wreath, while the whole animal might be heraldic or might be some football mascot...

    Does anyone else know more than I do? I suspect it is impossible to know much less. Sorry for the derailing. I know we are verging towards another forum,so I will close by saying Traditional Highland Dress. There, that should help.

    So how do we untangle the heraldic beasts from the run of the mill totem beasts?

    I've have brought up before, on the forum, my parents purchasing a fake "family crest," as well as, belonging to a youth group that had fake heraldry when I was a child; and I'm not happy about it either. Our American coins and paper money have, what sounds to be, elements of heraldry on them. Where are the lines drawn in the use of these artistic depictions, so we can at least know what not to do?

    I know nothing!
    Last edited by Bugbear; 26th October 10 at 01:24 PM.
    I tried to ask my inner curmudgeon before posting, but he sprayed me with the garden hose…
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  2. #2
    macwilkin is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    So how do we untangle the heraldic beasts from the run of the mill totem beasts?

    I've have brought up before, on the forum, my parents purchasing a fake "family crest," as well as, belonging to a youth group that had fake heraldry when I was a child; and I'm not happy about it either. Our American coins and paper money have, what sounds to be, elements of heraldry on them. Where are the lines drawn in the use of these artistic depictions, so we can at least know what not to do?

    I know nothing!
    Ted,

    Just because the United States has no official heraldic authority (save the US military) doesn't mean that heraldry doesn't exist here:

    http://www.americanheraldry.org/page...mer.Page1#toc3

    I certainly do not condone "bucket shops" that sell "family crests" to unsuspecting customers, but remember that the assumption of arms isn't necessarily the same in the US as it is in a nation where there is Lyon Court, etc.

    T.

  3. #3
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    Thanks, cajunscot, an interesting Primer. It looks like the beasts are mostly covered on page three, and the American traditions on the first page and sprinkled throughout.
    I tried to ask my inner curmudgeon before posting, but he sprayed me with the garden hose…
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  4. #4
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    By the way... As Cajunscot pointed out, there is no official heraldic authority in the United States similar to the Lyon Court. Indeed, the Lyon Court is probably unique in the modern world (what, if I were wearing my lawyer hat, I might call sui generis).

    There is nothing, per se, wrong with assumed arms. Indeed, if you register your arms with the American College of Heraldry, the Committee on Heraldry of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, or some other group, you have assumed arms, as those bodies have no legal authority to make heraldic grants. People have assumed arms for centuries. One might make the argument that assuming arms is in fact the most traditional way of obtaining them. :P

    What's wrong is assuming someone else's arms as your own (which the groups I mentioned, though only registering bodies, can help you with. They also help make sure that your arms fit the rules of good heraldic design. They can't insure against the arms being ugly, but sound heraldry goes a long way in that department!).

    That what makes bucket shops so detestable to the heraldic cognoscenti. It's not that people are claiming arms without a grant from Lord Lyon (which is illegal in Scotland, but matters not one whit in the United States. Eagle feathers, crest badges, and the other appurtenances of being a Scottish armiger aside.). It's that bucket shops foist off on the unsuspecting a "family coat of arms" - something that doesn't exist, at least not without specific blood relation to the original grantee of the arms (It doesn't exist at all in Scotland. English rules of cadency are seen more in the breach than the observance. I could discuss other countries, but I'm already getting off track.). Those families, who often don't know any better, then claim those arms are somehow "theirs", even though they're from someone, somewhere, who just happened to share the same or similar last name.

    Arms are both a statement of identity ("Ah, the arms of X of Somewhereshire!") and personal property (again, lawyer hat, a coat of arms is an incorporeal hereditament). When you use someone else's arms, you are in effect claiming an identity that is not yours and converting the property of another for your own use without their permission. Stealing it, if you like.

    So, my long-winded answer to your question is - you don't step wrongly provided you avoid assuming someone else's arms. A crest is something else entirely. Crests are not unique, and even in Scotland, any given crest might be claimed by a dozen or more armigers. If you have a signet ring with a boar's head on it, you won't be alone. But don't claim that having the boar's head signet makes you The Campbell, either.

    Or you can avoid the whole problem, and just use a monogram.
    "To the make of a piper go seven years of his own learning, and seven generations before. At the end of his seven years one born to it will stand at the start of knowledge, and leaning a fond ear to the drone he may have parley with old folks of old affairs." - Neil Munro

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    The Scottish Register of arms act of 1672 came up as I got entangled in the discussion about ten threads back, so I'm posting this link.

    The Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland - UK Heraldry

    ,I can see, according to cajunscot's link, we have a long history of heraldry over here in the now U.S., along with some of our own distinct traditions.
    I will keep in mind that we have our own heraldic customs and traditions over here when reading about armorial related issues in the U.S; it didn't sound that way in some of what I have read on the forum.

    My interest in this is as an artist, JerseyLawyer, I wouldn't want to cross any lines, so thanks.

    * I'm trying to remember exactly what my parents bought, but it was supposed to represent all people with that last name. It had a red shield, so I guess it was arms.
    Last edited by Bugbear; 26th October 10 at 11:57 PM.
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    Thanks, MacBug

    Thanks for dragging this over to the proper area, Bugbear. Here is an interesting phenomenon about arms and their corporeal manifestations. Even though primogeniture doesn't exist in the US, in many cases, the eldest son does inherit many of the father's effects, and, in the case of unmarried uncles, a namesake may be the one to get the loot. And let's face it, other than the bucket shop plaques, the most prevalent armoreal items are seals, either as rings or fobs or on writing paper, maybe followed by bookplates, items of silver, and blazer patches. What this means is, in the case of American armigers, the seal frequently lands in the hands of the rightful heir. In many more cases, it lands in the hands of the person most interested in claiming arms, while some other (less interested party) party might be more entitled, but disinclined to claim.

    Of course, this idea doesn't always work, particularly in larger families, or in families that departed from heraldic rules early on and created multiple rings years or generations ago.

    Totem animals probably overlap heraldic ones, depending on your definition of totem, I suppose. Thanks for explaining about the Griffon's ears.
    Some take the high road and some take the low road. Who's in the gutter? MacLowlife

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    I had the wrong impression of arms in the U.S., MacLowlife, and it makes a lot more sense, now. The primer helped a whole lot. As usual, the whole thing had to be turned inside-out from the impression I had from reading things on the forum.

    As far as totem, I think it is all in the way the beast is presented, like in a specific way on a shield, that makes it heraldry, and that is discussed in the primer on page three, and a few other places.

    Strangely, I find it mildly intriguing now that I know it is a long standing tradition for an individual to assume arms in the U.S.
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  8. #8
    macwilkin is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bugbear View Post
    I had the wrong impression of arms in the U.S., MacLowlife, and it makes a lot more sense, now. The primer helped a whole lot. As usual, the whole thing had to be turned inside-out from the impression I had from reading things on the forum.

    As far as totem, I think it is all in the way the beast is presented, like in a specific way on a shield, that makes it heraldry, and that is discussed in the primer on page three, and a few other places.

    Strangely, I find it mildly intriguing now that I know it is a long standing tradition for an individual to assume arms in the U.S.
    Note the number of American Presidents that were armigers, Ted:

    http://www.americanheraldry.org/page...n=Main.Notable

    Some were more enthusiastic about the "gentle science" than others; George Washington, for example, was very interested in heraldry and actively used his arms:

    http://www.americanheraldry.org/page...ent.Washington

    T.

  9. #9
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    From the first link: "At least half the signers of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution bore arms."
    I tried to ask my inner curmudgeon before posting, but he sprayed me with the garden hose…
    Yes, I have squirrels in my brain…

  10. #10
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    I wonder...

    Thanks for the fascinating links.


    Among the signers is one armiger whose claim is described as "English grant olf 1768 to the signer and other descendants of his grandfather". In fact, I am a descendant of that same grandfather (though not of the signer) - along with several hundred living cousins. In additional fact, I have a ring bearing those arms, inherited from my great grandfather. Now that we are in the Heraldry forum, does this entitle me to bear those arms? My guess is that nothing in US law prohibits it, but my conviction is that dozens of others are more entitled.

    Can we have a three minute explication of matriculation for Americans?
    Some take the high road and some take the low road. Who's in the gutter? MacLowlife

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