The two main devices (symbols) in the Aberton blazon are the mullet and bear. The two main tinctures (colors) are azure and gules.
Azure is the heraldic colour blue, usually quite a deep, dark shade of the colour (there is a lighter blue that sometimes occurs, known as celestial azure). If colour printing is not available then it can be represented by closely spaced horizontal lines in a scheme known as “hatching” 1. The word is thought to originate from the Arabic lazura and it represents the colour of the eastern sky. It is also said to be the colour associated by the Catholic Church with the Virgin Mary and hence of particular significance 2.
Red in heraldry is given the name Gules, sometimes said to be the “martyr’s colour”3. The colour is also associated with Mars, the red planet, and the zodiacal sign Aries 4. Later heralds of a more poetical nature would sometimes refer to the colour as ruby, after the precious stone.5.
The heraldic mullet, not to be confused with the fish of that name, is shown as a regular, five pointed star. This was originally, not an astronomical object, but represented the spur on a horseman’s boot, especially when peirced, with a small circular hole in the centre it represents a type of spur known as a “rowel” 6. A clear example can be found in the arms of Harpendene, argent, a mullet pierced gules. The ancient writer Guillim associated such spurs in gold as belonging to the Knight, and the silver to their esquires 7. In later years, Wade linked this five pointed star with the true celestial object, the estoile and termed it a “falling star”, symbolising a “divine quality bestowed from above” 8.
The bear is more common in the arms of continental Europe than in British arms (possibly due to the lack of bears native to that country!), although the county of Warwickshire famously includes a bear in its arms. 9 Wade tells us that the bear is the “emblem of ferocity and the protection of kindred”. 10