The three main devices (symbols) in the Bushby blazon are the clove, crow and passion cross. The three main tinctures (colors) are vair, gules and argent .
Special patterns, of a distinctive shape are frequently used in heraldry and are know as furs, representing the cured skins of animals 1. Although they were originally derived from real creatures the actual patterns have become highly stylised into simple geometric shapes, bell-like in the case of vair. 2. vair is a particularly interesting example that resonates today – the “glass” slippers worn by Cinderella are actually a mis-translation of “vair” (i.e. fur) slippers, the very same vair that appears in heraldry! 3
The bold red colour on a heraldic shield is known as gules. It has a long history within heraldry, it is known that one of those who besieged the scottish castle of Carlaverock in 1300 was the French knight Euremions de la Brette who had as his arms a simple red shield.4. The word gules is thought to come from the Arabic gule, or “red rose” 5. Later writers associated it with the precious stone ruby and the metal iron 6, perhaps because of the red glow of iron in the heat of the blacksmith’s forge.
Argent is the heraldic metal Silver and is usually shown as very pure white. It is also known more poetically as pearl, moon (or luna) 7. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 8.
Many items found in the natural world occur in coats of arms, including many plants that people of the middle ages would be familiar with. Several varities of bush and small plants frequently found in the hedgerows beside fields can be observed 9, in addition to the famous thistle of Scotland 10. The clove is drawn not quite in the form that we know it today but rather as small “drop” shape seeds. For meaning we perhaps need to look at the spice trade perhaps, as this is an important element within that trade. 11
Birds of great variety occur throughout heraldry, at least in name 12. In truth, despite the proliferation of species, the actual depictions can sometimes be hard to distinguish! The crow, raven, rook and many older names are commonly to be found on a coat of arms but all tend to share the same appearance 13. Wade discusses the symbolism of the crow, disputing Sloane-Evans suggestion as an emblem of “long life” and preferring “a settled habitation and a quiet life” instead. 14
No other symbol appearing in heraldry is subject to as much variation as the cross 15. Mediaeval Europe was a deeply religious and Christian and many of the nobility wanted to show their devotion by adopting the symbol of the cross as part of the arms. Since no two arms could be identical there arose many variants of the cross. 16 The calvary cross is a special form that most closely represents the crucifixion, being mounted on a series of steps or grices. Wade suggests that three of these steps might represent “faith, hope and charity”. 17