Middle Eastern Heraldry
By Thomas Barnes/Lothar van Katzenellenbogen
This is my precis of Ernst Mayer's Saracenic Heraldry. Heraldry
was not used in the Islamic world as it was in Western Europe. It
still existed in a form that makes it compatable with SCA heraldic
In the Islamic world, the use of a device was restricted to those
presons who held the rank of Emir or higher. Emirs were allowed to
choose thier own device, but appearantly did not regard this as a
great honor. There were no colleges of arms to guard this right,
devices weren't hereditary, and contemproary devices differed from
each other by as little as 1 CD or less (1 minor point of difference
under the old rules). In these respects these devices were much more
like maker's marks, husmarks, or badges. They were also used in much the
same way. They appear on armor, tablewear, buildings and other
possessions, but do not appear to have been used for recognition in
Arms, such as they were, generally reflected their bearer's past
service that led to his elevation to Emir; a sold ier would take a
sword or bow. A steward would take a cup, and so forth. Virtually all
devices has some charge on them that reflected their holder's prior
LIST OF POSITIONS AND CHARGES ASSOCIATED WITH THEM
|Armor Bearer||silandar||bow, sword||bow, shamshir
|Superintendant of Stores||tishdar||ewer||chalice
|Master of Robes||jamdar||napkin||lozenge
|Polo Master||jukandar||polo sticks||n/a
|Standard Bearer||alamdar||standard||standard and pole
|Drummer||tabldar||drum and sticks||n/a
|Postman||baridi||3-fielded shield||tierced per fess
- Most likely there were no canting arms.
- Most likely (IMO) these devices started being used in the 11-12c. after the first of the Turkic invasions, since some charges are not unlike Mongolian Taghma.
Both metals and all the colors except purpure were used. No furs we re used, but brown and "self color" (essentially clear, or background color, or "fieldless") were used. Proper was never used for animals. or any other charge.
Only barry, bendy, checky and teirced per fess were used (or per fess... a fess, if you prefer). Tierced per fess was common, the others were very rare.
ORDINARIES AND SUBORDINARIES
The fess was used if the shield was divided at all, and was invariably charged with one or more charges. Occasionally, a charge equivalent to sextefoils, roundels, escutcheons, crescents or fleur-de- lys were used. A charge very much like a lozenge was almost invariably used in some way or another.
There were 3 different categories of charges used; Animals, Objects,
and Abstract symbols called tamghas. Animals were very rarely
used and never varied in position from their default position: Passant
for lions and horses, displayed for eagles. No other animals or
positions were recorded. Proper color was never used. Objects were
commonly used, but appearantly charges other than those listed (in a
table in the book) were never used. All inanimate charges are more or
less stylized. Some are immediately obvious as what they are, others
are highly stylized. Some charges have no resemblance to the things
that they were supposed to represent. I have taken the liberty of
describing charges that are similar to those used in Western heraldry
in European heraldic terms. Where design motifs are unrecognizable or
unnamed, I have assigned them names.
Tamghas were symbols similar to those found in Mongolian
culture. As far as I can tell, they represent nothing and have no
symbolic meaning, they were just design motifs. I have given them
names as above.
ARRANGEMENT OF CHARGES
Islamic heraldry usually consisted of a single primary charge, 2
primary charges in pale on a divided field between a fess, or an
arrangement of 1 or 2 charges in fess to chief, 1 or 2 charges to
base, and 1 charge or 1 charge between 2 identical charges on the
fess. Sometimes the chief, base or fess has no charges.
There seems to have been no default number of charges, and charges
were invariably arranged in either fess or pale. The saltire, the
chevron, the cross (except for a "Maltese" cross),the pall and
arrangements of charges based on them appearantly did not exist.
The escutcheon, the lozenge, the roundel, the cartouche and other
shapes were used interchangably for the display of arms.
There seems to have been no effort made to difference arms at all, or
to cadence arms.
Many times, a device would just consist of a verse from the Koran that
was of special meaning to the bearer. Or a verse from the Koran would
be incorporated into an artifact that bore a heraldic display.
Islamic arms followed a strict format. The shield was either of one
color with a single occupational charge placed in the middle or the
shield was divided per fess into three pieces with the fess taking up
4/5ths of the shield space. An occupational charge was typically
place on the fess taking up m ost of the space on the fess. Often
smaller charges were placed to either side of the primary charge or
they would be placed on the charge on the fess. Often a secondary
charge (not neccessarily the same) would be placed to chief and to
base. Rarely, a chief or base might have field treatment, but more
likely it was just left blank. In all cases a strong horizontal
symmetry is projected.
Up to 5 different charges could be used in one device. Given enough
secondary chargess in dexter and sinister, in chief and in base and
upon the primary charge, the entire device could look very
cluttered. Instant identification was obviously not a
function of Islamic heraldry!
CONVERSION TO CURRENT SCA PRACTICE
Many charges used in SCA heraldry can be used in Islamic style
heraldry. The Islamic pen-box has been used as a charge previously, is
listed in the Pic Dic, and is presumably still legal.
By not charging charges on the fess, using good contrast between
charges, the field and the fess, (which Islamic heraldry seems to have
done), and limiting the total number of charges it is possible to
register an Islamic style device under the current rules.
- Sable, on a fess Or, a chalice between 2 lozenges sable between a lion passant and an Islamic pen-box Or.
- Per fess, azure and vert, on a fess a shamshir to fess between in chief 2 lozenges and in base a crescent Or.
CONVERSION TO SCA PRACTICE UNDER LIBERAL "REGIONAL STYLE"
Islamic heraldry would be allowed to break the rules of tincture by
using brown and "self-colored", and by not requiring good contrast
between a fess and a field. Good contrast between the field and the
charges would be required though.
Islamic heraldry would be allowed to break the layering rule by
allowing the "primary charge" on a fess to be charged with another
charge, as long as the primary charge was not obscured. (These
quartenary charges were usually very small).
Islamic heraldry would be allowed to break the rule of "slot machine
heraldry" to allow three different charges to be placed in pale.
Islamic heraldry would be allowed to break the "rule of complexity" if
the charge and tincture count exceeds 7 due to the use of 3 tinctures
on the field and up to 7 charges - a group of 1 "primary" and 2
"supporting" secondary charges to chief and to base, and a group of 1
primary and 2 supporting secondary charges with the primary charge
charged with a "quartenary" charge.
Islamic heraldry would also introduce about 10 new charges to SCA
heraldic practice. These could only be used with Islamic heraldry and
could not be incorporated into Western style emblazons.