The three main devices (symbols) in the Egan blazon are the snake, tower and saltire. The two main tinctures (colors) are gules and or.
Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”1. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines 2. Although it may look like a French word it is normally pronounced with a hard “g” and may be derived either from the Latin gula (throat) or Arabic gule (rose).3
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.4. Along with, argent, or silver it forms the two “metals” of heraldry – one of the guidelines of heraldic design is that silver objects should not be placed upon gold fields and vice versa 5. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.6.
In the mediaeval period there was no real percieved difference between real and mythical animals, after all, much of the world remained unknown and who was to say what strange and magical creatures existed in distant lands? As heraldry developed a whole menagerie of imagined creatures 7 came into being, and their various representations became more or less standardised in form and appearance. The serpent Is a typical example of a mythical creature, as real to a person of the middle ages as dogs, cats and elephants are to us today.
Architectural items, from individual components to entire buildings 8 feature frequently as charges In a coat of arms. Not surprisingly, considering the times from which many arms date, fortifications are common. The tower Is a typical example of an object from the world of architecture adopted, albeit in a stylised form, for use in heraldry. It can be placed alone, or frequently with three turrets on the top, known as a tower triple towered, and can have doors and windows of a different colour. 9 In continental European heraldry they are often accompanied by pictorial effects such as armoured knights scaling them on ladders.
The saltire is one the major ordinaries, large charges that occupy the whole of the field 10. Arguably one of the best uses of this device is that of the St. Andrews Cross, a white saltire on a blue background found on the Scottish flag. The saltire is obviously closely related to the Cross, and Wade in his work on Heraldic Symbology suggests additionally that it alludes to “Resolution”, whilst Guillim, an even more ancient writer, somewhat fancifully argues that it is awarded to those who have succesfully scaled the walls of towns! 11