The three main devices (symbols) in the Gibb blazon are the arrow, mullet and stag. 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.
Given the martial nature of the origins of Heraldry, in the identification of knights and men-at-arms it can come as no surprise that mediaeval weaponry of all types are frequently to be found in a coat of arms 7. The regular prescence of the arrow, both singly and in groups is evidence of this. In British heraldry a lone arrow normally points downward, but in the French tradition it points upwards. 8. The presence of an arrow in a coat of arms is reckoned to indicate “martial readiness” by Wade. 9
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” 10. 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 11. 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” 12.
We should be surprised to find the stag or buck, noble quarry of many a mediaeval hunt, being illustrated in many a coat of arms. 13. It shares many of the poses to be found with the lion, but also one almost unique to the deer, grazing, as if the animal is still unaware of the hunter’s approach. 14. In common with all symbols related to the hunt we probably need look further for their intended meaning than the pleasure taken by the holder in such pursuits! 15