The three main devices (symbols) in the Pitman blazon are the double-headed eagle, axe and mullet. The three main tinctures (colors) are or, gules and argent .
The bright yellow colour frequently found in coats of arms is known to heralds as Or, or sometimes simply as Gold.1. 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 2. The yellow colour is often associated with the Sun, and the zodiacal sign of Leo.3.
Gules, the heraldic colour red is very popular, sometimes said to represent “Military Fortitude and Magnanimity”4. It is usually abbreviated as gu and in the days before colour printing was shown in a system known as hatching by vertical lines 5. 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).6
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.
Where the lion is undisputed king of the animals, the eagle undoubtedly plays the same role in the realm of the birds, its use in this form dating back to at least the Roman period 9. They tend to be illustrated in quite some detail, especially in continental European arms, and have almost as wide variety of postures and accessories as the lion, well illustrated in the reference 10 as well as being just the eagle’s head or eagle’s leg. The symbology of the eagle is deep and complex, Wade devotes several pages to the subject 11, but suffice it say that it has long been associated with Empire and those held in high honour – any armiger would be pleased to have any form of Eagle upon their arms!The Double-headed eagle is a variant often seen in Germanic heraldry.
The Axe appears in many forms in heraldic art, coming from both the martial and the craft traditions, indeed someone today would have a hard time telling their common hatchet from a turner’s axe, but it is likely that those in the middle ages were more familiar with each. 12 Obviously the axe from a craft tradition may symbolise the holder being a practitioner of that craft, but the axes from a martial background are suggested by Wade to indicate the “execution of military duty”. 13
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” 14. 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 15. 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” 16.