Fur, Feathers, and Scales

Furs, such as ermine, vair, and their variants create a challenge of how to symbolize rich, luxuriant garments.

  • Ermine [hermine, moucheture, mouchetor, when only space for a few, the term 'spotted' is used, most frequently used fur in heraldry] ~ mark of dignity

    Various styles of ermine spots which represent the winter coat of the stoat, which is white with a black tail. Many skins had to be sewn together, which produces a pattern of small black objects on a white ground. The conventional representation is usually called ermine spots and is classed as a part of the tincture itself, not a pattern charge.

    Ermine spots have had a wide variety of shapes, though the most usual representation has three tufts at the end, converges to a point at the root (top), and is attached by three studs.

  • Ermine Spots ~

    Image courtesy Wikipedia

    Image courtesy James Parker

    Image courtesy Charles Boutell

  • Ermine Paen ~ a black field with gold ermine semy

    Image courtesy FOTW.US

  • Ermines ~ the reverse of ermine, a black field black with a semy of white ermine spots. Sometimes called counter-ermine.

    Image courtesy Heraldry SCA

  • Erminites ~ are ermine spots with black lateral hairs and red heads

    Image courtesy Lord Kyl

  • Ermonois ~ a gold field and black spots semy

    Image courtesy Heraldry SCA

  • Feathers

    Panache [a pyramid of feathers] ~ has come to mean distinctive and stylish elegance

    Image courtesy James Parker

  • Kersch ~ field of feathers, in Germany this is a hairy brown fur called kersch or kursch. In England it’s called Vair Bellies.

    Image courtesy Wikipedia

  • Papellone ~ fish scales
    The first image is simple, overlapping scales.

    Image courtesy The Weebsite

    Not only does her tail have scales, but the curvilinear bend on the shield is also ‘papellone’.

    Schiebler image courtesy Wikipedia

    This Feldafingwappen arms has scales drawn on the fish.

    Feldafingwappen image courtesy Wikipedia

    The mermaid in this Warszawa arms has ‘proper’ scales, that is they are the color of fish scales.

    Warszawa image courtesy Wikipedia

  • Papillion, Pappeloné ~ butterfly wings pattern

    Image courtesy The Weebsite

  • Plumete, Plumetty ~ plumes or feathers, natural and stylized. It’s really a patterned field, but is classed as a fur.

    Image courtesy Wikipedia

    Another style of Plumete

    Image courtesy FCIT

  • Potent ~ like vair, except a T-shaped crutch replaces the vair bell. Potent means crutch. Originally badly formed Vair. A row is white and blue alternating across the row. The white ‘T’s face down and the blue ‘T’s face up.

    Image courtesy The Weebsite

    Counter Potent ~ potent with one row up and one row down, with the T’s offset.

    Image courtesy The Weebsite

    Potent en Pointe ~ potent with the T’s head to head and tail to tail, with the T’s aligned in ‘Pale’ and a narrow bands between.

    Image courtesy The Weebsite

    Potent Counter Potent ~ every other row is upside down, but with the ‘T’s matching head to head and toe to toe.

    Potent Counter Potent Image courtesy Wikipedia

  • Tegulate ~ small, overlapping plates of horn or metal. Though not semy, these are examples of tegulate horn.

    Image courtesy Heraldry WS

    Image courtesy NGW.nl

  • Vair ~ from a species of squirrel with a blue-grey back and a white belly. These are sewn together alternately, creating a pattern. Vair may have evolved from varied, which was also used to describe mottled or spotted horses.

    Vair is the traditional blue and white, any other color combination is a vairy.

    The word vair is derived from Latin, meaning ‘variegated work’, in English it translates as ‘grey work’. The Eurasian Red Squirrel bears a winter coat of blue-gray on the back and white on the belly. This was highly prized for lining mantles.

    When cut into cup or bell shaped pieces and sewn together alternating the back and belly pieces, a pattern emerges which became blue and white in heraldic symbols. A single bell is called a vair. When several a sewn together in rows, it’s called varrys.

    Basic Vair ~ rows of small bell shapes of alternating blue and white, usually with straight edges. The bells on the next row down are placed with their bottoms facing the bottoms of the bells on the row above, and so forth down.

    Image courtesy James Parker

    Vair of Vairys ~ non-traditional colors

    Image courtesy Heraldry WS

    Vair Beffroi ~ a vair of fewer than four rows resembling a church tower.

    Like the word belfry, beffroi derives from Old French berfroi and the Old High German bergfrid, both meaning ‘that which guards the peace’.

    A beffroi was a wheeled tower used for scaling the walls of a besieged city, and of a similar shape as the pieces of vair. Later, the wheeled tower became a watchtower, then for any tower where a bell was hung.

    Vair Bellies ~ same as the German Kersch

    Vair Counter Vair ~ like vair except the facing bell bottoms have the same tincture. The effect caused is vertical columns of the same color, alternately placed upside-down and right side-up.

    Image courtesy FOTW.US

    Gros-Vair ~ two rows of vair

    Menu-Vair ~ more than six rows of vair. From the English word miniver which was a general word for the fur lining used for robes of state.

    Vair en Pointe ~ another form of vair with the "upward" bells alternating color in each row, giving a barry or wavy effect.

    Image courtesy FOTW.US

    Vair in Pale ~ the bells of each tincture are lined up in columns with the flat end of each white bell meeting the narrow point of another in the next row.

    Image courtesy FOTW.US

    Vair of Fours ~ a vair of the four colors lined up black, yellow, red, and white .

    Image courtesy FOTW.US

  • Vol ~ wings

    Image courtesy Heraldica

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