The three main devices (symbols) in the O’Dogherty blazon are the trefoil, mullet and stag. The two main tinctures (colors) are vert and argent.
The deep green colour that is so often observed in heraldry is more properly known as vert. According to Wade, the use of this colour signifies “Hope and Joy”, but may also represent, rather delightfully, “Loyalty in Love” 1The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P36. It has other names also, the French call it sinople, perhaps after a town in Asia Minor from where the best green die materials could be found 2A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Vert. More fanciful heralds liked to associate it with the planet venus and the precious stone emerald 3Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 27. More strangely, there is some evidence that the term prasin was anciently used, being the Greek for the vegetable we call the Leek!
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) 4Understanding Signs & Symbols – Heraldry, S. Oliver & G. Croton, Quantum, London, 2013, P53. In a sketch or drawing it is represented by plain, unmarked paper 5A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1847, P11.
Natural objects abound in heraldry, and one category that gives especial delight are the many flowers and flowering plants that frequently occur 6A Complete Guide to Heraldry, A.C. Fox-Davies, Bonanza (re-print of 1909 Edition), New York, 1978, P262. The trefoil may originally been a representation of a specific plant (perhaps shamrock) but it has been used as a symbol almost since the beginning of heraldry and over time has adopted a stylised aspect. 7A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Trefoil. Guillim believes that it signifies “perpetuity…the just man shall never wither”. 8A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, P109
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” 9Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 97. 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 10A Display of Heraldry, J. Guillim, Blome, London, 1679, P107. 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” 11The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P105.
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. 12Boutell’s Heraldry, J.P. Brooke-Little, Warne, (revised Edition) London 1970, P 69. 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. 13A Glossary of Terms used in British Heraldry, J.H. Parker, Oxford, 1894, Entry:Deer. 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! 14The Symbolisms of Heraldry, W. Cecil Wade, George Redway, London, 1898 P30