Exploring Coats of Arms

When i’m not studying National Heritage and History I moonlight as a storyteller and one half of a writing team with Kevin Brooke published Children’s author from Worcestershire.

This weekend as part of World Heritage Day [19-20 September] we were invited to Harlebury Castle to make some stories about their history and preform them to visitors on the day.

Hartlebury Castle tells the story of the bishops of a major middle England plot of land and their evolving role in English society, from political and military guardians of a frontier with Wales to active participants in political decision making in modern times. They number a pope (Clement VII) who played a key role in precipitating the establishment of the Church of England; Bishops Latimer and Hooper, Protestant martyrs of the Reformation; and Bishop Hurd, friend to King George III and creator of the Hurd Library.

The great hall at Hartlebury has some of the most interesting and rare examples of Coats of Arms and the Hurd library too contains much of the information in its ancient books on how and why we have Coats of arms.

So, how did shields become Coats of Arms?

The ancient Romans used various symbols called insignia on their shields so that they could identify their different military units of soldiers.

The first real use of what we now know as coats of arms is portrayed in the Bayeux Tapestry which illustrates the Norman invasion of 1066, where some of the soldiers are carrying shields that have crosses and other symbols painted on them. However, by the 1100s, coats of arms came into more general use by feudal lords and knights in a battle to identify their soldiers and their opponents. By the 1200s, coats of arms had become a flag or emblem for noble families and inherited from one generation to the next. In Britain, only the aristocracy had the right to arms, with their serfs, servants and knights having these emblems as part of their ‘uniform’ when fighting on the battlefield for their Lord and Master. Eventually, the use of arms spread to the clergy, to towns, and places such as universities and trading companies; and so flags developed from coats of arms. The coats of arms that we are familiar with today were originally one person’s emblem. They were legal property which passed from father to son; however, wives and daughters could bear modified arms to show that they were related to the current holder. Other relatives of the original bearer of arms could use the family coat of arms but with a little bit of difference; maybe a colour change or an extra emblem. Coats of arms were essential in identifying people and used in seals on critical legal documents, and so their use was closely controlled. All coats of arms were tracked and recorded by heralds or agents to the King or Queen. which is why the study of coats of arms is called ‘heraldry.’

Did you know that the colours, animal, fruits, flowers and other objects used on the coats of arms all have different meanings?

Here are some of the meanings of the most used colours:

  • White stands for purity, innocence, peace and honesty
  • Gold stands for wisdom, glory, generosity and grandness
  • Green stands for happiness, love, and well-being
  • Red stands for strength and bravery
  • Purple stands for justice and is a royal colour used by Kings and Queens
  • Black stands for wisdom and sometimes grief
  • Blue stands for truth, strength and honour

The animals, fruit and flowers on coats of arms also have special meanings, here are some of the most used ones:

  • Apples, berries and grapes mean kindness, happiness and peace
  • Bay leaves stand for a poet or triumph
  • Oak trees or leave mean great strength and age
  • Olive branches or leavesstandfor peace and harmony
  • Roses are the mark of the seventh son -a red rose means grace and beauty; a white rosemeans love and faith
  • Bear stands for strength, cunning and defending your family
  • Dolphinmeans swiftness, love, charity and salvation
  • Dovemeans love and peace
  • Eagle is the sign for someone with a noble nature, bravery, strength and protection
  • Elephantmeans strength, happiness, luck and royalty
  • The horse stands for being ready for anything to do good for King and country
  • Lamb means gentleness and patience
  • The lion stands for great courage
  • Stagger stag’s antlers mean peace, harmony, strength and stamina
  • Swan means light, love, grace and perfection
  • Tiger stands for fierceness, bravery and fury

Mythological creatures are also often used on coats of arms, and these also have special meanings:

  • The dragon stands for a defender of treasure, courage and protection
  • Mermaidmeans eloquence
  • Pegasus (a winged horse)is the sign for inspiration and is considered a messenger of God
  • Phoenix is a symbol of resurrection
  • Sphinxstands for secrecy and knowledge
  • Unicorn(a horse with one horn)stands for extreme bravery, strength and truth

Crosses and angels are a sign of Christianity and stand for dignity, honour and glory.

here are some other meanings of the different angels and crosses you sometimes find on coats of arms :

  • An angel or a cherub means dignity, glory and honour and joyful news
  • Cross is a sign for faith and service in the Crusades
  • Celtic Cross shows heaven and earth as one
  • Cross Flory (flowered at each end)means one who has conquered
  • Seraphim(angel with three pairs of wings)means bearer of joyful news

Some other objects are also included on coats of arms and their meanings:

  • Anchor means hope
  • Bells mean the banning of evil spirits
  • Harp stands for the bridge between heaven and earth and also for a person who has good judgement
  • A plume of feathers is a sign of obedience and peaceful minds
  • Shell stands for a traveller to far off places
  • Sword, dagger or dart shows justice and military honour

Hope this helps you make or enjoy your own Coat of Arms.

Writer’s Statement.

Writer’s Statement.

I’m Seraphim Bryant and I write for young adults who like thrillers and a bit of fantasy. Also, I write and illustrate picture books in young children’s fiction which are frequently about social issues and citizenship.

My style is very open, it’s quite conversational. This is because I like people so much and I love talking to them about their life, theories, and what their passions are.

That that’s how my writing often sounds; I write like a person who is telling you a story about what they’ve witnessed. The tone of my work can be quite serious, but I always have a dash of humour. Humour and love are essential in my writing because It’s my belief that life itself is full of humour and held together by love; it’s how people survive though hard times and massive challenges. I want my characters to go through parts of a real life too.

I was brought up on traditionalist writers like Beatrix Potter, Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and stories from the Bible. I was very lucky to be read to as a child by my dad. These writers gave me a great sense of imagination, of new worlds, and the importance of people’s values and beliefs. Unfortunately, I was very sick child in my early years so I didn’t have a lot of schooling and this made be very slow to learn to talk, to read and ultimately communicate with the written word. For a long time, I struggled, and avoided reading.

Thankfully, in high school an amazing English teacher, Mr Young took the time to know me. He would constantly give the books that he knew I wouldn’t put down. This meant I felt compelled to read and I was launched into high fantasy, Gothic fiction and thrillers. From famous writers like Stephen King and Piers Anthony, to new writers at the time such as Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Christopher Paolini, Phil Pullman and Sally Green. My head was now full of stories, stories and escapism that I wanted to hear for myself. Ideas of the kinds of magic that I thought would interest me. Until I felt duty-bound to write too. This lead me into a degree in Creative writing and Illustration, bonding my two passions into production.

This is why I write, read, and I love, young adult fiction and I’m sure I will be buried with a children’s novel in hand.

SB

 

 

Why do you write?

Why do you write what you write?

Why does it matter that you write?

Why do you put the time and effort into writing?

What are you trying to convey to readers through your writing?

What do you want your writing legacy to be?

How did you become a writer?

The Conversation Challenge

 

Task: write a conversation where there are ….

A.      All gender-neutral pronouns.  No, He or She

B.      No gender obvious names.

C.      Setting must be a café

D.      And the characters are exchanging gifts.

My Attempt

                The streets were swollen with people. Manic delivery drivers parked in the road and ignored the angry horns as they raced against the stream of shoppers and dived in and out of business doorways. I watched relived that my partner Avery, did all our Christmas shopping and I only had to cook the meal for us and our children on the big day. I kept checking my watch, it was unlike Jo to be late. The newspaper before me was becoming less and less interesting.  Finally, there was a bustle of activity. I looked up to see Jo was there fighting the narrow door with a pram. I rushed to help.

                “Hi, how are you?” asked Jo abandoning the pram to kiss me on the cheek.

                “Fine, fine. What happened to you?” I enquired looking at the dishevelled mess of my friend. The person who had nearly always been perfectly presented when we worked together.

                “This monster wanted to feed before we could leave the house.” Jo now balanced baby Sammy on a tilted frame with a baby bag swinging in the arched stance.

                “Here give me Sam, and go and get yourself a cuppa.” I offered.

                “Thank you, Lesley.” Jo put a hand on my arm, smiled and then walk straight past coffee counter, making a beeline for the loos. I laughed and bounced the babbling, bright-eyed Sammy on my knee. Sammy smiled back. clearly unaware of the energy it must have took to make organic carrot purée and get fine oatmeal to the right temperature and still make it into the city centre for 11:20 coffee with an old friend.

                I reached for the all-too-familiar soft brown bear out of the baby bag. There I caught a glimpse at what must have been my Christmas present. Wrapped perfectly and jo’s hand written tag saying;

                 “happy holiday and best wishes Jo and Sam, x.”

                “Shit!” I exclaimed having realised my gift for Jo was back in the office. What was I thinking? Jo had managed to get here and wrestle Sam into the loathed car seat. Which, to be fair, we all didn’t understand how to operate. Jo had driven through city traffic to sit and have coffee with me, here so it was close to my office, and had remembered the gift. What excuse did I have? I Had even been sat here waiting, wondering why Joe was late. The irony that I could have run back to the office and been back within 10 minutes wasn’t helping. If only I had realised. Well, I felt right idiot. Sam added by barfing onto my suit jacket from my continued bouncing. Because of the forgotten gift, I didn’t complain. I figured I deserved it.

                Joe came back with another coffee for me and a tea. Anticipating the vomit episode from Sam Joe had stolen loo roll.

                “I kind of saw it from over there at the counter.” Jo stifled a laugh.

                “Saw what?” I asked wonder if my sneaky peek at the present had been spotted.

                “Half digestive carrot all down your back, perfectly timed as you bent over for the blasted bear… Well done Sam.” Said Joe turning from me to the little bundle of smiling joy and trying to clean me up all of the same time.

                “Made your strike while I was distracted hey? Fair play. But maybe keep the sneakiness to hockey tournaments”

                “Hope you can tech Sammy better than you captain, Captain.” Muttered Jo jokingly.  “Will you be able to change at the office?”

                “Yeah,” I replied hardly caring.

                “Sorry Lesley, I’m still getting used to this parenting thing. No matter how hard I try. I’ve never got everything I need. Maybe I should go back to the warehouse logistics.”

                “I don’t know about that. Just don’t leave me holding the baby” I laughed trying to wrestle Sam into a clean bib. We were now both laughing as it took us the two of us to get Sam into the highchair.

Would you like to guess the gender of Jo, Lesley and Sam?….

I’ll let you know if your right or if I was able to hide them.

The Prize-winning Poem

The Prize-winning Poem

It will be typed, of course, and not all in capitals: it will use upper

and lower case

in the normal way; and where a space is usual it will have a space.

It will probably be on white paper, or possibly blue, but almost

certainly not pink.

It will not be decorated with ornamental scroll-work in coloured ink,

nor will a photograph of the poet be glued above his or her name,

and still less a snap of the poet’s children frolicking in a jolly game.

The poem will not be about feeling lonely and being fifteen

and unless the occasion of the competition is a royal jubilee it will

not be about the queen.

It will not be the first poem the author has written in his life

and will probably not be about the death of his daughter, son or wife

because although to write such elegies fulfils a therapeutic need

in large numbers they are deeply depressing for the judges to read.

The title will not be ‘Thoughts’ or ‘Life’ or ‘I Wonder Why’

or ‘The Bunny-rabbit’s Birthday Party’ or ‘In Days of Long Gone By’.

‘Tis and ‘twas, o’er and e’er, and such poetical contractions will not be

found

in the chosen poem. Similarly cliche´s will not abound:

dawn will not herald another bright new day, nor dew sparkle like

diamonds in a dell,

nor trees their arms upstretch. Also the poet will be able to spell.

Large meaningless concepts will not be viewed with favour: myriad is

out;

infinity is becoming suspect; aeons and galaxies are in some doubt.

Archaisms and inversions will not occur; nymphs will not their fate

bemoan.

Apart from this there will be no restrictions upon the style or tone.

What is required is simply the masterpiece we’d all write if we could.

There is only one prescription for it: it’s got to be good.

 

Fleur Adcock

 

Adcock, Fleur (1983) Selected Poems, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Meeting Stephanie Hale

Meeting Stephanie Hale

stephanie1

arranged by our tutor Julia at Worcester university.

Julia and Stephanie met working for the BBC. Stephanie Hale was the former Assistant Director of the Creative Writing Diploma at Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education and is now the director of Oxford Writers literacy consultancy.

Stephanie’s advice for new authors is primarily to research your market. even if you are doing a genre-based novel.

Also stories must always escalate from the beginning. “In the last 10 years of my experience readers don’t like to wait, especially in literary fiction. They wanted to move fast and they wanted all set up being done within the first chapter.” Stephanie warns us.

What is the worst misconception authors have? “The one thing I’d don’t want an author to be is negative and expecting things to just drop in their lap.” Stephanie often finds that rebranding or re-titling the book can sometimes help an author who has been struggling.

When asked why she wanted to be a publisher Stephanie answered “mostly because people kept asking me. I was quite good at marketing and a lot of people wanted to go from part-time to full-time and I could help with that. I was able to bridge the business to the literacy writers gap and back either way.

How many authors make the cut this year? “out of thousands there is only about 90”

why do people often choose to self-publish?

“I’m not against people self-publishing. As self-published authors you get most of the profit. if you go to the mainstream publishers you only get around 8%. If there was any type of publishing I’m against its vanity publishing where you pay to be published.

If you’re going to self-publish you need to learn marketing skills. Don’t hand the book over and just think it’s going to be okay. When you read about anybody who goes from destitute to millionaire, you find that they have had to put in a lot of hard work and have had to know the subject well in order to sell it.” publishers expect 3000 to 5000 followers on a social media site before they’ll even look at publishing you after you have self-published your own work.

For Stephanie the business side often produces her books. for example, clients wanted to know how to sell 1 million books so that’s what she wrote and that’s exactly what she called it “How to sell 1 million books” she always says to keep going and keep learning.

What are the things you look for in an author?

“The character of the best kind of author is resilience. writing is a business you need to be up to doing this for hours and hours of a day. secondly is marketing. you’ve got to be okay about it; talk about your work, why you love your characters and what inspired you to write. You need to know that you will need even more hours spent researching your book than when you are writing that book. Lastly the perfect type of author understands their reader. They look at what that reader is looking at, they read what that reader is reading, then and only then did they make a story for them.”

Stephanie’s top tips

  1. Don’t outsource. Instead find out what your readers like about your work. Respond to them yourself whenever possible.
  2. Plot is so important. Grammar can be sorted out, but if you don’t have a good story it isn’t even worth the paper its on.
  3. Your first chapter must be a wow! Personal experience and lots of research always help to do this
  4. Get on social media and exploit it. Find out now who is doing similar work to yours and have a look at it. Market research is very valuable.
  5. Sometimes you are the story when it comes to selling your work. Things like what inspired you to make this story or what’s it about these are facts only you can say with passion and be believed.
  6. Bulk sell your book. Get your book into a reading group or on a popular reader’s blogger by sending them free copies for a review. It often works well.

I have to say it was a shock at how high the bar is set for new authors, but I’m glad I took the time to talk with a brilliant mentor and publisher. Now I won’t be wasting so much of my time and energy. Stephanie’s talk has motivated me to really aim my writing and do a lot more research before starting a story.

Thank you Stephanie Hale.

oxford LCA