Note: All art on this page drawn by Master Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme. Used by permission of the artist. Master Bruce’s heraldic artwork, including the Pictorial Dictionary of Heraldry, can be found at Mistholme.com.
You’ve probably noticed either in SCA armory or in period rolls of arms that heraldic creatures are depicted in different body positions, which are called “postures.” As someone designing their armory, you have several options for what posture you want your beast to be in.
First, let’s start with the quadrupeds, beasts with four legs. Quadrupedal postures include:
Winged quadrupeds, including dragons, griffins, hippogriffs, and the like, have a special term for rampant: segreant. Other specialized terms for quadruped postures include, but are not limited to:
- Clymant (rampant) – goats
- Trippant (passant) – deer
- Lodged (couchant) – deer
- At gaze (statant, head turned to face the viewer) – deer
Bipedal tailed creatures, such as wyverns, sea-beasts, and the like, default to erect (upright body, raised limbs) though statant/sejant (bendwise or horizontal body, lowered limbs) is not uncommon.
Next, we’ll talk about avians. Bird postures include:
There are also some postures that are specific to certain birds, such as peacocks “in their vanity” (body facing front with tail fanned), cranes “in their vigilance” (like close, but holding a rock menacingly in one foot) and pelicans “in their piety” (stabbing their breast with their beak to feed their blood to their chicks).
Finally, we will discuss fish, reptiles, and insects. Fish and snakes have their own posture terminology, while most other reptiles and all insects are tergiant (see below) by default.
Many of these postures can be modified slightly with additional words, such as:
- Guardant: head facing the viewer
- Reguardant: head turned to look behind the creature
- Wings addorsed: wings set next to each other on one side of the creature, typically behind their back
- Wings displayed: wings are set on either side of the creature’s body
- Coward: tail is tucked between hind limbs
- Tail nowed: tail is tied in a knot
- Queue-forchy: tail is forked