Blazon of Arms: Gules a Lion Rampant Argent head and mane Or on a Chief Azure four Clarions Argent
Blazon of Mantling and Crest: On a Wreath Argent, Gules and Azure a Clarion Argent
Motto: IN CONCORDIA – In Harmony
Blazon of Badge: Four Clarions Argent braced in cross
About the Design:
Last summer I joined The American Heraldry Society, an online message board devoted to the study of Heraldry and the promotion of Heraldry in the United States. And I quickly learned that in the U.S., without any laws governing adoption and use of the symbols of heraldry, we are free to create and assume our own heraldic designs.
In fact, it is a common, but by no means required, first-step for someone interested in heraldry to design their own arms.
What followed was a long, laborious, but quite fun process where some of the members of the message board patiently tolerated by amateurish attempts at design. I’ll freely admit, that while those early attempts said a lot about me, they were quite bad heraldry.
Ultimately I hit a wall. I really didn’t know what do to for my own shield. However, somewhere along the way I had decided to design arms for my father. Though he has been dead for close to two decades, I know he would have been very interested in my new hobby, as he was very much a fan of both history, and the medieval period (though heraldry is by no means limited to that era).
So I decided to take a step back and design something for him. This proved much easier, and after only a few drafts settled on the design you see above. Ultimately, instead of designing my own arms, with my position as an only child, I decided to inherit my father’s.
“So,” you ask, “why this design?”
There are three parts to the design and I’ll explain them in the order they were chosen.
First the Lion: Although in the official blazon (or description) I list him as a lion, he is actually the Great Roe. In designing these arms the most difficult task I had was deciding what the main charge would be. Eventually in frustration, I googled my own last name in the hopes of inspiration. Somewhere in the results I found a list of associations with the word Roe. It was easy to discard all the Roe vs. Wade and fish egg references. I toyed with the idea of using a deer (roe buck), but when I found a reference to the Great Roe I knew I’d found my goal.
In 1972 (coincidentally, the year I was born), Woody Allen published Without Feathers, which amounted to not much more than a book of jokes. But in that book he said, “The great roe is a mythological beast with the head of a lion and the body of a lion, though not the same lion.”
Next, the Clarions: That’s those four things across the top, which look like hooks or waves. What they actually are is uncertain. Even in the obscure field of heraldry these are obscure. Even amongst people who know what they are called, there isn’t a real consensus about what they are. The two most common theories are that it was a kind of rest for a lance, or that it was a musical instrument. I’m in the camp that calls it an instrument, mostly because the circumstantial evidence shows that the idea that it was a rest seems to have come after the name. So I tend to believe that heralds who saw the device and didn’t know what it was came up with their own explanation.
Even if you assume it to be a musical instrument, there is still debate as the whether the clarion was a kind of keyboard instrument or something akin to a trumpet. Either way, the accepted heraldic image is highly stylized, but again for circumstantial reasons I believe that it is a trumpet. Not only are there literary references to a “clarion call on the battlefield”, but anyone familiar with pipe organs can tell you that the organ stop called Clarion, sounds like a shrill rank of trumpets.
I actually chose the clarion for its resemblance to a pitch pipe. My father loved to sing, and throughout my younger years I spent countless Wednesday nights and weekends with him at a nearly constant procession of Barbershop events. And I think everyone who’s ever been in Barbershop has a pitch pipe. So the four Clarions across the top are an oblique reference to four-part harmony.
Last, the Colors: In choosing the colors I went back to my father’s name. The lion is a reference to his last name, so I decided to make the colors a reference to his first name. The name Dennis is generally defined as being named after one of two beings. Either Dionysis, the Greek God of Wine, or St. Denis, the patron Saint of Paris. I chose to focus on Denis, and therefore chose to use a color scheme inspired by the arms of the city of Paris. The backgrounds are identical, red with a blue chief. However the arms of Paris have its primary charge, a ship, in silver, while the chief is scattered with gold fleur-de-lys, while the primary charge here is gold and silver with silver for the smaller charges.
Crest and Badge: I went with simplicity as the guiding principal for my father’s crest and badge. Since the clarion is a such an unusual charge, I used a simple silver clarion atop the helm, and four his badge I arranged four in an interlocking cross.
Motto: The motto simply means “In Harmony,” another allusion to his love of singing and music.