Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

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Kevin Wood
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Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Kevin Wood » Sat Sep 01, 2018 4:27 pm

Hello. I am new to the forum, and wasn't sure where to post my question, so I thought this category might be appropriate. I recently got a copy of my family's coat of arms, and was somewhat surprised to see a crayfish prominently displayed in the center of it. I don't know a whole lot about heraldry, but had always seen animals like lions, eagles, griffins, etc, and was shocked to see something so unusual. I asked about it, and was told that most likely, the crayfish was requested by my ancestor because it had some special meaning to him. I was curious if anyone knew of any symbolism it might carry, or might be able to help me 'interpret' my coat of arms a little bit? I'm also curious about the 'horns' atop the helmet... they almost look like elephant trunks?

Apologies if this isn't the proper place for this post, and thanks in advance!


Kevin (Scheytt) Wood
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Martin Goldstraw
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Martin Goldstraw » Mon Sep 03, 2018 11:02 am

Hello Kevin,
You must never assume that charges in heraldry have specific meanings or symbolism; nor that they can be interpreted. The reason I choose a sword in my coat of arms will be quite different to the reason someone else chooses a sword in theirs and the same applies to all other charges, animate or inanimate. Some, a very few, charges, such as the escallop, have certain associations (in the case of the escallop it is sometimes said to represent those who have undertaken a pilgrimage) but many other armigers may have chosen an escallop for quite different reasons and never have undertaken a pilgrimage.

Given that the arms are for the surname of Scheytt I can't see that there is a cant (a play on words) but I am no language expert.

The Horn(s) (Danish: vesselhorn) are very common in crests in Scandinavian and German heraldry, although rare in other heraldic traditions. They are always in pairs, often drawn with an open ring at the tip, and are sometimes quite styalised and look more like elephant trunks or trumpets. They are, perhaps, akin to the ostrich feathers in Spanish crests and are sometimes simply there as decoration. Occasionally, they will be patterned or divided heraldically in some individual way or to mirror the divisions on the shield itself.

On a final note, the armiger's surname is never placed upon the motto scroll which, as its name implies, is reserved for the motto and secondly, (you may of course already be aware of this) arms are assumed by or granted to one individual and are inherited by their direct male descendants. The Scheytt arms, would originally have been assumed by or granted to a particular individual and they would only be your family arms if you are a direct male descendant of that individual. As your surname is Wood, I make the (possibly incorrect) assumption that they may be the arms of your mother's father? Your arms, if you have inherited any, would be from the Wood, paternal, line.



I hope that this helps.
Martin Goldstraw

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Kevin Wood
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Kevin Wood » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:47 pm

Hello Martin,

Thank you for the information - greatly appreciated.

Actually, my birth name is Scheytt. My mom and birth father divorced when I was an infant, and I was legally adopted by my dad (last name Wood) when I was 2 1/2 years old. I have had very little contact with my birth father, but he did tell my when I met him for the first time when I was 16 years old that our family was granted a coat of arms for chivalry during the Crusades, and that he was working on getting a copy of it. I lost touch with him after that (which was over 30 years ago now), but my curiosity about the coat of arms has always stayed with me.

I have learned a little about the passing of arms to direct male descendants, so it sounds like the only way to really know would be to do some genealogical research and trace my family tree. Interestingly, I was fortunate to make contact with someone in Germany who was able to check the "siebmacher's large and general coat of arms book" for me, and he sent me the coat of arms below, which is taken from that work:
scheytt_coat_smlr.jpg
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So I guess I have some research to do - to discover which, if either of them, might be mine.

Thanks again for your assistance. This is all fascinating to me, and I am eager to learn more about it.


Kevin Wood

PS - I have to say I found it somewhat ironic that my last name is Wood, given the symbolism in that coat of arms lol.

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Martin Goldstraw
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Martin Goldstraw » Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:43 am

Thank you for the frank response, the right or otherwise to an inherited coat is always, in the end, a matter of genealogy and I wish you luck with it however, since you appear to identify so closely with your new surname of Wood (I note with some contentment that you fondly refer to your adoptive father as Dad and rightly so) another option, which may be more palatable to you (and the man who is your Dad) would be to start again and either obtain a grant or assume arms anew in your own right. If you choose to take this route, the International Association of Amateur Heralds will provide design assistance without cost and you would then be sure that you had a coat of arms which was unique and (importantly) complied with the "rules" of heraldry.

http://fs8.formsite.com/secretary/desig ... index.html
Martin Goldstraw

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Michael F. McCartney
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Michael F. McCartney » Thu Sep 06, 2018 6:20 am

Interesting case! Martin's comments are good advice, though IAAH isn't the only place to go. One consideration, or question, is where you live since both the heraldic customs and the national or state / provincial laws concerning adoption vary from place to place.
(I'm no expert, but we have several adoptions in our extended family and thus I've had an interest in how that affects heraldic inheritance in different armorial traditions.)
Mike~~
Fremont, California

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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Kevin Wood » Thu Sep 06, 2018 6:54 pm

Martin Goldstraw wrote:
Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:43 am
Thank you for the frank response, the right or otherwise to an inherited coat is always, in the end, a matter of genealogy and I wish you luck with it however, since you appear to identify so closely with your new surname of Wood (I note with some contentment that you fondly refer to your adoptive father as Dad and rightly so) another option, which may be more palatable to you (and the man who is your Dad) would be to start again and either obtain a grant or assume arms anew in your own right. If you choose to take this route, the International Association of Amateur Heralds will provide design assistance without cost and you would then be sure that you had a coat of arms which was unique and (importantly) complied with the "rules" of heraldry.

http://fs8.formsite.com/secretary/desig ... index.html
My adopted dad (the man I always called "Dad") passed away in 2006 after a brief battle with cancer. And I have no relationship at all with my birth dad. The idea of assuming arms anew in my own right and having some design assistance to create something unique, something that captured my ideals and values, is very exciting indeed! In addition, it would be great to have them to pass down to my son, and start a new tradition, such that he could pass them down to his son, etc.

I greatly appreciate the suggestion, and thank you for providing the link. I am definitely going to complete the application and move forward with that process.

Best regards,

Kevin

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Michael F. McCartney
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Michael F. McCartney » Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:22 pm

Good choice! Hopefully (from my viewpoint as an adoptive parent) you will include some allusion to your adoptive family - perhaps something canting on your family name? But of course that's your decision.
Mike~~
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Martin Goldstraw » Sat Sep 08, 2018 9:02 am

Kevin Wood wrote:
Thu Sep 06, 2018 6:54 pm
I am definitely going to complete the application and move forward with that process.

Best regards,

Kevin
Delighted to hear it. I look forward to seeing the result.
Martin Goldstraw

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Kevin Wood
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Kevin Wood » Mon Sep 10, 2018 4:32 pm

Michael F. McCartney wrote:
Fri Sep 07, 2018 8:22 pm
Good choice! Hopefully (from my viewpoint as an adoptive parent) you will include some allusion to your adoptive family - perhaps something canting on your family name? But of course that's your decision.
Definitely. My dad was a great guy, and I never considered him my "adopted" dad - he was just dad. I am new to all this, so may I ask what exactly is "canting"..? I did some Googling, so I think I have a general idea, but thought I would ask to be sure.

As much as I loved my dad though, his dad, my grandfather, was not very nice to me when I was young. In fact he was quite mean, and would tell my that I was "not a REAL 'Wood'. So that name has a bit of baggage with it too. I realize that coats are supposed to be associated with surnames (at least as far as I understand), but I'm not sure how much reference I want to them in the actual coat. Again, I'm new to all this, so I'm not sure what is considered correct or 'proper'. I attempted to order a book about it, but was told by Amazon they are out of stock, so I may have to see if I can find it somewhere else.

I definitely appreciate all the feedback.

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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Michael F. McCartney » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:12 am

Sorry about your adoptive grandpa's failings; but don't visit the sins of the (grand)father upon his son.*
Your adoptive father didn't get to choose his father, but he did choose you! And depending on the composition of your extended adoptive family, there hopefully were other, better Woods in the family forest .
Depending on the relevant first names, you might be able to subtly indicate which Wood you would rather allude to...

(*As an adoptive grandfather and uncle and granduncle [is that a real word? ;) ] I find it hard to understand what you describe, but I know it can happen)
Mike~~
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Michael F. McCartney
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Michael F. McCartney » Tue Sep 11, 2018 6:39 am

You also asked about "canting" - as I'm sure you've read, it means some visual reference to one's family surname, or someone's personal name, etc. Some cants are obvious - e.g. a tree for Wood (most if not all Woods in Scotland base their arms on an oak tree) or maybe several trees; or more subtle, like tree leaves or a wooden object or a fir-tree partition line... And to honor a particular person, some cants can refer to a personal name e g. scallop shells are religious symbols for St James, or saltires X for Andrew etc.
Mike~~
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Kevin Wood
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Kevin Wood » Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:29 pm

Michael - thank you for your replies. And I definitely don't hold that stuff against my dad. He was a great guy, and I am proud to be his son.I think it's pretty neat, and almost beyond coincidence that the name "Scheit" (a very close variant of Scheytt) actually means "log" in German - so it too refers to a kind of wood.

I have been working with a herald on a coat of arms (thanks for the suggestion Michael), and I am definitely going to include some kind of wood in my coat.

I have another question : I have been drawn to a reverse pall field division for the coat I am having created, and am wondering if there are any restrictions to using such a division? The herald I am working with has let me know that he doesn't care for them, and, respecting his opinion, I'm wondering if there are any specific reasons to use or not use such a division - or even what people's opinions might be.

I greatly appreciate all of the discussion and feedback -

Kevin

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Michael F. McCartney
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Re: Questions about symbolism, in particular crayfish

Post by Michael F. McCartney » Wed Oct 10, 2018 8:43 am

Per pall reversed is a perfectly legitimate pattern for a field division, so it's a matter of personal preference.

Having said which, I personally tend to agree with your anonymous herald. No logical reason, just my personal gut reaction; others may (some certainly will) disagree.

Except for having three field colors, you can achieve much the same arrangement with a field parted per chevron. But if three colors is your goal, per chevron with a chevron overall also works, and IMO gives a better visual balance.

All too often (for my petsonal taste) per pall reversed allows for (seems to encourage) two dissimilar charges in chief, which I generally don't care for. But that's just me...
Mike~~
Fremont, California

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