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Heraldry for a Non-Heraldic Culture:
Vikings and Coats of Arms in the SCA

Dear Viking Answer Lady:

I've tried several times to come up with a coat of arms to be registered with the SCA College of Heralds, but everything I've tried so far has either been rejected, or conflicts with a dozen other guys named "Sven" who also have a Thórr's Hammer or longship or wolf or raven on their arms. Can you help me?

(signed) Heraldic Reject

Gentle Reader:

The Vikings did not use heraldry, which was an invention of Western Europe beginning in the eleventh century. Still, people in the SCA with Viking personas often wish to create and register devices and coats of arms, and this guide is intended to assist them in creating designs with a recognizably Viking feel yet which still conform to the much later usages of formal heraldry.

As a starting point, before ever beginning to develop a device for SCA registration, I urge my Gentle Readers to take a few moments to read Mistress Thóra Sharptooth's excellent article, Personal Display for Viking Age Personae: A Primer for Use in the SCA. Mistress Thóra describes some of the documentable color choices, motifs suitable for charges on a device, and suggests ways other than the SCA's traditional heraldry one can indicate one's household and belongings. This is a great place to start.

My own experience in registering arms with the SCA College of Heralds has taught me that it is best to design arms for submission using designs as they appear in traditional heraldry only - not "Viking flavored" art. The good news is that the heraldic "vocabulary" of symbols is very large, and there are many charges found in period coats of arms that would be at home in the Viking Age as well. There are also a few specifically Viking symbols that the College of Arms has registered in the past, though this is not a reliable guide to whether or not they may be registered in the future. Once the design has passed, one may use some artistic license to make subsequent drawings of your arms have more of a Viking Age feel, but it is still best to keep the elements recognizable across a large battlefield.

Read the Rules

Another point to consider before trying to put together a device or coat of arms are the actual rules and regulations for devices used by the SCA College of Heralds. These are all available on-line, and you should read through them briefly before you start designing. Your local herald should also be able to help you:

  • Standards for Evaluation of Names and Armory (SENA)
    The rules used by the College of Arms to judge submissions of name and armory.

  • Adminstrative Handbook
    Defines what can be registered, what is protected, submission procedures, and heraldic responsibilities in the SCA.

  • Glossary of Terms
    Defines many technical terms used in SCA heraldry and includes tables of reserved/restricted charges, proper colorations for charges, default postures, and misused terms.

Shields

The Vikings used the roundshield, usually with a shield boss, a dome of metal in the middle protecting a cutout in which the handgrip was placed. These shields averaged 31.5" to 35.5" in diameter and were about 0.25" to 0.39" thick, made of a a single layer of planks butted together, and was held together probably by glueing the plank edges together, but also by the attachments of the boss, handgrip and rim bindings. Some shields were also covered in a thin layer of leather, but not all, since traces of paint are found directly on the wood in some cases. For more details on the archaeology and construction of Viking Age shields, see Peter Beatson's The 'Viking Shield' from Archaeology.

Heraldic submissions forms, however, are based on the so-called "heater shield". If you will be using a Viking roundshield in battle, and want your device on that shield, give some thought as to how your design will appear both on the heraldic submission form, and also painted upon a round shield.

Shield Divisions

    Undivided Field

    Most surviving shields from the Viking Age are a single color, undivided field, with the most common colors being red, yellow, or black. The Gokstad ship burial contained 64 shields, with some painted solid black and and others solid yellow, displayed alternately (Priest-Dorman, "Personal Display").

           
    Viking Age shield remains show the most common colors as being
    red, yellow, or black one-color undivided fields.


         
    Gules Or Sable Argent Azure

    Gyronny, Gyronni Arrondi

    A number of carved runestones and picture-stones from the Viking Age depict warriors bearing shields with the face inscribed with radiating lines, which would be described in formal heraldic terms as gyronny or, if the lines curve, gyronny arrondi. Some examples include:

    Gyronny Arrondi as a
    heraldic field division
    Gyronny as a
    heraldic field division

    Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
    Gyronny Arrondi
    Tängelgårda Picture Stone,
    Lärbro Parish
    Gyronny Arrondi
    Lillbjärs Picture Stone,
    Stenkyrka Parish

    A note on gyronny arrondi, alignment of the gyrons, and SCA heraldry.

    In the Precedents of Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme (8 May, 1993 Cover Letter, March 1993 LoAR, pg. 3), a ruling was made which stated in part:

    "Parker, p.301, states that gyronny of six should be symmetric around the horizontal axis, not the vertical axis; and this is borne out by such period examples as I've been able to uncover. Gyronny of six palewise is purely an SCA term for what is, as far as I can tell, a non-period rendition of the field... If someone can provide evidence that gyronny of six palewise was used in period armory, I will continue to accept it; failing such evidence, I will begin returning it at the Oct 93 meeting."

    As suggested above, the SCA herald expects that a gyronny will have a line of division on the fess-line of the device. The gyronni arrondi shown here does not have a line of division running on the fess-line (a fess-line bisects the shield via a straight line run across the middle, dividing the field into top and bottom halves). Early Norwegian heraldry, however, does use the version shown here, as early as the 14th century: see the arms of Erling Amundsson in 1303, in: Huitfeldt-Kass, Henrik Jørgen, Norske Sigiller fra Middelalderen, 8 vols. Kristiania/Oslo: 1899-1950, entry 30, p.3 and plate 8]. Nine years later he sealed with a similar gyronny arrondy of six (see entry 62 in Norske Sigiller, above): the lines curve in the same direction (clockwise moving out from the centre), and each of the three corners of the shield is approximately in the centre of a piece. (Number the pieces of Invarr's field 1 through 8, starting in dexter chief and going counterclockwise. The pieces of Erling's 1312 seal correspond roughly to 1, 2+3, 4+5, 6, 7, and 8, in alternating tinctures.) Here again there is no line that closely follows the per fess line.

    Another item to consider is that gyronny is almost never charged at the center point in period heraldry, and never in Norske Sigiller fra Middelalderen. Some examples of charged gyronny fields are found elsewhere in the SCA's period, for instance Edward Vaughan (1509-1522) had "Gyronny of eight argent and sable, four fleur-de-lys counterchanged; on a saltire Or, five cinquefoils gules".

    Special thanks to Arval Benicoeur, Richenda du Jardin, and Talan Gwynek, who contributed the factual elements of the discussion of medieval and Norwegian use of gyronny arrondi shown above.

    Per Saltire

    If a shield with a gyronny division into four parts has the dividing lines running diagonally (45°), then the field can be described as per saltire.

    Sketch of design from Oseberg Tapestry
    showing saltire-like designs.
    Per saltire as
    a heraldic field division.

    Quarterly

    If a shield with a gyronny division into four parts has the dividing lines horizontal and vertical, then the field can be described as quarterly.

    Quarterly as
    a heraldic field division.
    Paly as
    a heraldic field division.

    Paly

    Some people like the inspiration from the stereotypic striped Viking Age ship's sails. In heraldry, a field patterned with vertical stripes is termed paly. Striped sails are mentioned specifically in Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar ch. 101:

    "Ekki er þetta konungsskip. Kenni eg þetta skip og seglið því að stafað er seglið."

    [That is not the king's ship. I know that ship by the colored stripes of cloth in her sail.]
    Click on image to enlarge
    Oseberg ship model
    by NorseAmerica, LLC.
    Striped sails from
    the Bayeux Tapestry

    Lozengy, Fusily or Fretty

    Again, in taking inspiration from the sails of Viking Age ships, the runestones and picture-stones suggest that many were divided in a diamond-shaped pattern which is known in heraldry as lozengy, or if the diamonds are longer and narrower, fusily. A pattern divided by interwoven stripes in a diamond-shaped pattern would be called fretty.

    Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
    Fretty Ship from Lillbjärs Picture Stone, Stenkyrka Parish Lozengy Ship Close-up from Tjängvide Picture Stone, Alskog Parish
    Click on image to enlarge
    Lozengy Tjängvide Picture Stone, Alskog Parish


    Lozengy Fusily Fretty

Historical Heraldic Charges

Surprisingly enough to many people, there are a lot of heraldic charges that can also be found as design motifs in Viking Age archaeological contexts as well as in Viking Age art and literature. Below are shown a variety of heraldic charges, with images of Viking Age designs and artifacts that reflect that charge. Note that this is not a comprehensive list of all possible blazonable heraldic terms for items and motifs from the Viking Age, but rather should serve as a good starting point.

Charge Name Heraldic Representation
(Click on image for larger view)
Viking Age Examples
(Some images may be clicked on for larger view)
Notes
Adze Click on image to enlarge
Adze from the Mästermyr find (top); Adze in use from the Bayeux Tapestry (bottom)
Arm with Fist Click on image to enlarge Viking loot; Irish reliquary of a hand and arm.
Arrow, Bird Blunt, Arrow Head, Pheon Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Viking Age arrowheads in iron and reindeer antler.
Axe Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge

Axe-head from Mästermyr find (top); Mammen Axe (bottom)
Basket Click on image to enlarge Reconstruction of a Viking Age willow-withy basket from Jorvik.
Bear Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Jet bead depicting two bears (top); Viking Age "hogback" grave markers from North Yorkshire depicting bears at either end (bottom).
Bell Click on image to enlarge
Cowbell-like bronze bell from Norway (top); Bronze bell from Hedeby c. 950 (bottom)
Bellows Click on image to enlarge Reconstruction of Viking paired bellows used with a glass furnace.
Boar Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Relief carving of a wild boar from the Isle of Man.
Bowen knot Click on image to enlarge Picture stone from Havor, Hablingbo parish.
Buck, Hart, Stag Click on image to enlarge 11th c. Ringerike-style tombstone, England.
Bucket Click on image to enlarge Oseberg bucket (left); Bronze-covered birch bucket (right)
Buckle Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge

Bronze buckle from Broa (top); Silver buckle from Birka (middle); Bronze garter buckle (bottom).
Bull Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Bull from the Gundestrop cauldron.
Cat Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Cat design on bronze tortiose-shell brooch, Jutland.
Chalice Click on image to enlarge Silver cup from Jelling.
Chess Rook Click on image to enlarge Pieces from the Lewis chess set.
Cinquefoil Click on image to enlarge Baltic rock crystal and silver pendant.

Be aware that this charge can conflict with heraldic roses, which are used on very many registered SCA devices, providing lots of opportunity for conflicts.
Cock Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Cock's head from a wooden mount, Dublin
Comb Click on image to enlarge One-Piece Walrus Ivory Comb with Ringerike Design
Crescent, Decrescent, Increscent Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge

Part of earring from Birka, of Slavic origin (top); Baltic crescent pendant (bottom)
Cross Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Byzantine equal-armed cross found in Norway (top); Icelandic silver knotwork cross (middle); Danish cross, ca. 1065 (bottom)
Crucifix Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge 9th century silver crucifix from Birka.
Dagger, Knife Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Viking Age bone-handled knife, Yorkshire
Duck Click on image to enlarge Reconstruction of Baltic-type waterbird ornament.
Eagle Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Eagle, gilt-bronze harness-mount, Gotland (top); Ship's weathervane with eagle design, Heggen, Norway (bottom)
Ewer Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Imported Rhineware jug found at Birka
Falcon, a Falcon Belled Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Falcon from the Alstad runsetone, Norway.
Fetterlock, Padlock Click on image to enlarge Viking Age padlocks from Jorvik (York, England).
Fleshpot, Pot, Cauldron Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Iron cauldron from Telemark, Norway
Fleur de Lys Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Left: Holm Runestone, Halland (ca. 1050-1200AD, Thanks to Hrefna for pointing this one out!). Center: Lily-stones, sporting fleur-de-lys-like designs, appeared in stone churches in Västergötland during the 10th and 11th c. Right: Fleur-de-lys designed belt-buckles from Fröjel.
Furison, Fire-Steel Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Baltic-influenced fire-steel from Sweden (top left); 10th c. fire-steel from Birka grave 644 (top right);
C-shaped firesteel from Birka grave 139 (bottom left); C-shaped firesteel from Kangsala, Juvenius, Finland
Fylfot Click on image to enlarge Silver brocaded tablet-woven band with fylfot design from Jylland, Denmark. This motif is extremely common in early European textiles, and is associated with the god Thórr. However, because of its modern era usage by the Nazi Party (NSDAP) it is not allowed as a charge in SCA heraldry (see RfS IX.4 and the Table of Restricted Charges under swastika).
Goat Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Bronze goat figure from a Thórr-thunderstone brooch. The god Thórr had a wheeled conveyance that was pulled by goats.
Greyhound, Talbot Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Dog from the Alstad Runestone, Norway.
Head, Savage's Head Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Carved head from Oseberg Ship Burial, ca. late 9th c. (top); Carved Head on Sledge, Oseberg Ship Burial, late 9th c. (middle); 7th century enamelled belt buckle found in Norway (bottom)
Hind Click on image to enlarge Representation of hind feeding on the branches of the World Tree from the Urnes stave church.
Horn Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Reconstruction of Viking instrument made of cow-horn (top); Drinking horns from Söderby-Karl, Sweden (bottom).
Horse Click on image to enlarge
Tapestry depicting Viking horses, ca. 1100 C.E. from Skog Church, Hälsingland, Sweden (top); Gilded bronze horse in Ringerike style from Denmark (bottom)
Horse Bit, Snaffle Bit Click on image to enlarge Viking Age iron snaffle bit from Hedmark, Norway.
Horse Shoe Click on image to enlarge Viking Age iron horseshoe.
Key Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Viking Age bronze key, Denmark.
Lion, Lion Face Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Lion from Heggen weathervane (top); Pen case lid with carved lion head (bottom)
Peacock Click on image to enlarge Gilt-silver brooch from an 11th c. Norwegian hoard.
Quatrefoil Click on image to enlarge Baltic rock crystal and silver pendant.

Be aware that this charge can conflict with heraldic roses, which are used on very many registered SCA devices, providing lots of opportunity for conflicts.
Ram, Fleece, Sheep, Lamb Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge


Icelandic sheep (top); Shetland Sheep (middle); Orkney sheep (bottom)
Raven, Crow Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge
Click on image to enlarge
Raven from King Anlaf Coin (top); Raven, Bronze Brooch from Lousgaard, Bornholm, Denmark (middle); Bronze Raven Brooch, Ringerike (bottom)
Saltire Click on image to enlarge Saltires shown from shields in the the Oseberg Tapestry.
Serpent Click on image to enlarge
Snake brooch from Óland, Sweden, 7th c. (top); Ringerike-style serpent-form arm ring from Sweden (bottom)
Shears Click on image to enlarge Viking Age iron shears from Wolin, Poland (top); Iron shears from Akershus, Norway (bottom)
Spear, Spearpoint Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge An assortment of Viking Age spearpoints
Spur Click on image to enlarge

10th C. Jellinge-style spurs, Norway (top); Silver spurs from Dorestad (middle); Spurs from Gjermundbu, Norway (bottom)
Stirrup Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Norse and Anglo-Norse stirrups ornamented in silver and gold.
Stool Click on image to enlarge
Lund Stool, 11th century, Birch Wood (top); A Three-Legged Stool from York (bottom)
Sword Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Viking Age swords and representations of swords.
Trumpet Click on image to enlarge Reconstruction of a Viking Age lur, a type of straight trumpet made of wood. A lur was found in the Oseberg ship burial, ca. 834 AD.
Wake knot Click on image to enlarge Urnes style decoration from a painted church beam.
Wheel, Cart Wheel Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Wheel from the Oseberg ship burial cart.
Wolf Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Click on image to enlarge Wolf from bronze belt-mount (left); Wolf from the Cammin Casket (right)
Woman Click on image to enlarge Silver valkyrie amulets and runestone carvings depict these supernatural females dressed as ordinary women.


SCA Heraldic Charges

There are certain charges in use in the SCA that do not occur in formal heraldry, yet which are considered registerable charges by the College of Heralds. Some of these are Viking Age art motifs. To be used in such a fashion, the design has to be easily recognizable on a device, it has to be shown to belong within the SCA's period, and it must be reproducable based solely on the text description of the charge. This section lists some of the SCA heraldic charges applicable to a Viking persona.

Charge Name Heraldic Representation
(Click on image for larger view)
Viking Age Examples
(Some images may be clicked on for larger view)
Notes
Drakkar, Dragonship, Longship, Viking Longship, Viking Ship Click on image to enlarge Shown here is the ship from the Lillbjärs Picture Stone, Stenkyrka Parish.

As of February 2004, there were nearly 130 devices with a Viking ship motif, including drakkar (101 instances), dragonship (2 instances), longship (25 instances), Viking ship (1 instance). This is definitely an SCA "heraldry cliché", and with the number of competing devices out there using this design it might be easier to look at other motifs instead.

From The 2nd Tenure of Da'ud ibn Auda (November 1993 - June 1996):

[A drakkar sailing to sinister proper, sailed gules] "Conflict with...a galley proper." [Discussion of addition of secondaries implies that there is no tincture difference or posture difference given here.] (LoAR 7/91 p.20).

[A galley proper vs. a ship reversed proper sails gules] "There is one CD for the field, but nothing for the orientation of the ship or for changing the tincture of the sails which amount to approximately one third of the primary charge. No evidence was presented that period heralds allowed any difference for changing the tincture of the sails on a ship." (LoAR 11/91 p.20).

From Laurel Sovereign At Arms Precedents: The Tenure of Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme (June 1992 - October 1993):

We have hitherto granted no difference for type of ship [galley vs. longship] (Erik the Runt, June, 1992, pg. 4)

A longship is so nearly symmetric, reversing it cannot count as a ...CD. (Erik the Runt, June, 1992, pg. 4)

The seal of the town of Bergen, c.1300, shows a double-headed drakkar, with genuine dragon-head prows. Whether or not the Vikings actually sailed such a ship, they were depicted doing so in medieval art. (Ingvarr Vikarsson, August, 1992, pg. 5)

From Laurel Sovereign At Arms Precedents: The Tenure of Wilhelm von Schlüssel (August 1979 - August 1984):

A charge facing towards the sinister side is "to sinister," while a charge lying in the sinister half of the field is "in sinister." The facing comes after the mention of the charge, but the location comes before it. Thus a drakkar sailing under full sail towards the sinister edge is "a drakkar under full sail to sinister," but a drakkar located in the sinister half of the field but sailing towards the dexter is "in sinister a drakkar under full sail." The same applies to "in chief" versus "to chief" or "in base" versus "to base." WVS [47] [CL 30 Jul 81], p. 5

From Laurel Sovereign At Arms August 1982 Letter of Acceptances and Returns:

Conrad de Burgh. Azure, a pale argent surmounted by a drakkar and in chief three mullets counterchanged. Draw all charges larger. Fill the shield. The standard Viking longship is called a drakkar. This is sufficiently different from Storvik. From Laurel Sovereign At Arms October 1976 Letter of Acceptances and Returns:

AEmelye Octavya. Vert, a drakkar in full sail argent, targeted gules, and in base a crescent Or. "Targeted" refers to the round shields along the bulwark.
Thórr's Hammer Click on image to enlarge Thórr's Hammer from Erikstorp, Ödeshög parish (left); Silver Thórr's Hammer Pendant (right)

The Thórr's Hammer is a popular charge for SCA vikings, with at least 86 registrations as of February 2004. This is probably a "heraldry cliché" at this point, and with the number of competing devices out there using this design it might be easier to look at other motifs instead.

From Precedents of the SCA College of Arms. Vol I The Early Years (1972-1975), 2nd ed. 1984:

The "prohibition on devices magickal" is on: symbols of evil intent, letters in any alphabet (on devices), alchemical and astrological signs. Thus, a Thor's Hammer is quite proper, but an inverted pentangle is not. (IoL, 1 Sep 73 [70], p. 4)

From Laurel Sovereign At Arms Precedents: The Tenure of Karina of the Far West (December 1975 - June 1979):

[Mjollnir-pendant.] Even on stones, the hammer is placed haft-up as a decorative element, and head-up only when held in Thor's hand. (KFW, 29 Oct 76 [9], p. 3)
Valknútr Click on image to enlarge Two valknuts appear between the legs of the horse in this scene from the Tängelgårda Picture Stone, shown here. The Old Norse term valknut means "corpse-knot," and because of this symbol's association on Viking Age runestones with figures of Óðinn and the dead being welcomed into the afterlife by valkyries, the runestone symbol has become associated with the Old Norse term and is assumed to be that symbol that warriors marked themselves with when dedicating themselves to Óðinn, giving the god permission to kill and take the warrior whenever he pleased.

Surprisingly, as of February 2004 there were only 8 SCA registrations of arms with a valknut, most recently in 2002.

From Laurel Sovereign At Arms June 2002 Letter of Acceptances and Returns:

Esteban de Quesada. Device. Sable, a valknut inverted argent. The Letter of Intent asked us to rule on whether the valknut should continue to be registered. As noted in the LoAR of September 1993, the valknut is a period artistic motif which was not used in period heraldry. It was incorporated into SCA heraldry and has been registered infrequently but steadily thereafter. The September 1993 argument in favor of the valknut's registration appears to continue to hold true. It is identifiable when inverted, just as a triangle is identifiable when inverted. Would-be users of the valknut should take note of the fact that its "thin-line" nature can make it difficult to identify. Poor contrast, small size or overlying charges are all likely to render it unidentifiable. Since this device uses the valknut as the only charge on a high contrast field, it maintains its identifiability splendidly.

From Laurel Sovereign At Arms Precedents: The 1st Tenure of Da'ud ibn Auda (June 1990 - June 1992):

"While there was some discussion regarding whether or not valknuts were thin-line heraldry, by definition they look like this, and it was our feeling that they should not then fall under the ban on thin-line heraldry in the same way that, say, a compass star voided would." (LoAR 8/90 p.9).

From Laurel Sovereign At Arms Precedents: The Tenure of Bruce Draconarius of Mistholme (June 1992 - October 1993): Some commenters have urged that the valknut be disallowed. However, it's been quietly but continuously registered, during my tenure and those of my two immediate predecessors (v. the armory of Thorhalla Carlsdottir Broberg); it's a documented period artistic motif that has been accepted for Society armorial use. To disallow it at this point would require some better documented reason than "we don't like it". (Halvdan Stormulv, September, 1993, pg. 3)


Medieval Scandinavian Heraldry

Heraldry did eventually find its way into Scandinavia after the end of the Viking Age. Looking at medieval Scandinavian coats of arms can help suggest designs and charges for the SCA Viking as well.

The Academy of St. Gabriel Report #2696 has an excellent discussion of early Scandinavian armory that is useful.

This report looks at the earliest Scandinavian heraldry (that from seals, ca. late 13th century) for which we have records, and European armorial records from the 13th to 15th centuries. From the armorial records, it is possible to extract an idea of how often the various tinctures were in use both in Europe as a whole and in Scandinavia:

European vs. Scandinavian
Tincture Preferences:
Coats with One Tincture

Tincture Scandinavia Europe
Argent (white)6648
Gules (red)4361
Azure (blue)3423
Or (gold)3242
Sable (black)2528
Vert (green)22
Furs15
 


Click on chart to enlarge

European vs. Scandinavian
Tincture Preferences:
Coats with Two Tinctures

Tincture Scandinavia Europe
Argent & Gules3527
Argent & Azure1810
Or & Azure1510
Argent & Sable1413
Or & Sable911
Or & Gules820
Argent & Vert11
Other:-8
 


Click on chart to enlarge

The Academy report finds that Scandinavian coats of arms most often used white (argent), often combined with red (gules), though they are also found with argent combined with blue or black (azure or sable). Coats of arms using gold and blue together (or and azure) were also common. This is very similar to the most common color preferences in the Viking Age as well (see above). Most early Scandinavian coats of arms used single-color fields, with some two-color fields divided vertically (per pale), and fewer still in two colors divided horizontally (per fess).

The report goes on to detail some of the charges found in early Scandinavian armory, including:

  • fleurs-de-lis (very common, including demi-fleurs-de-lis, half the symbol sliced vertically down the middle)
  • roses with five or six petals
  • ships and boats
  • towers and castles
  • axes
  • swords, often held by human arms
  • mullets (stars), often with six points but sometimes with five or eight
  • birds, especially eagles
  • arrowheads
  • various animals and parts of animals

In the notes for this report, blazons or descriptions of some of the early Scandinavian seal designs are also detailed, which are useful in creating new armorial designs in the same patterns.

Swedish Heraldry

Norwegian Heraldry

  • Hartemink, Ralf. Norwegian Civic Heraldry. International Civic Heraldry Website. Accessed 12 December 2005.
    [Includes coats of arms of states/provinces and arms of cities, towns and municipalities. Note the dates - many of the arms described on this site were granted very recently, in the last 100 years.]

Danish Heraldry

  • Hartemink, Ralf. Danish Civic Heraldry. International Civic Heraldry Website. Accessed Accessed 12 December 2005.
    [Includes coats of arms of districts and municipalities. Note the dates - many of the arms described on this site were granted very recently, in the last 100 years.]




Bibliography

Heraldry

Heraldry Resources

Heraldic Clipart

Viking Age Art and Artifacts

Viking Art Resources

  • Bartholm, Lis. Scandinavian Folk Designs. Dover Design Library. New York: Dover Publications. 1988.
    This small book includes drawings and photos of designs in many media, including weaving, carving, jewellry and more. There are Viking Age and medieval examples included, although this book also includes later periods as well. This book is useful mostly as a source of inspiration to craftsmen rather than as a "pattern book".
    Buy this book from Amazon.com today! Buy this book today!

  • Davis, Courtney. A Treasury of Viking Design. London: Constable & Co. 2000.
    This 64-page book contains black and white line-drawings of motifs and designs from Viking art and artifacts. Many are enlarged versions of designs found in Wilson and Klint-Jensen's Viking Art (see below), plus motifs usually shown only in artifact photos elsewhere. The major weakness of this book is the lack of any text identifying or discussing the various images presented - it's purely a collection of designs, ranging in period from the earliest part of the Viking Age through the start of the more medieval Romanesque style art of the Scandinavian Middle Ages. Contains a lot of knotwork and "gripping beast" type motifs.
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  • Meehan, Aidan. Celtic Design: The Dragon and the Griffin -- The Viking Impact. Thames & Hudson. 1995.
    The artwork of the Vikings and of the Celts share many similarities -- both cultures are Indo-European, and there was considerable intercourse between the two peoples via warfare, trade, and settlement. This book takes a close look at the stylistic differences between Celtic and Viking art, providing valuable insights into the fine details that make each culture's art unique. In general, Viking art is less formal and precise than similar Celtic works, and often shows a greater energy and originality. Includes illustrations that would be useful as designs for craftsmen.
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  • Wilson, David M. and Ole Klindt-Jensen. Viking Art. 2nd ed. London: George Allen & Unwin. 1980.
    Not only includes a discussion of the art-history of the Vikings, but also includes 69 line drawings and 80 photographic plates showing details of Viking design. A must for any craftsman, from calligrapher to jeweler to leatherworker, etc.
    Buy this book from Amazon.com today! Buy this book today!

Viking "Coffee Table" Books
There are a large number of "art" books, often referred to as "coffee-table books" containing high-quality, large, full-color photographs of Viking art and artifacts. These can provide an excellent resource and source of inspiration for artists and craftsmen of all disciplines.

  • Graham-Campbell, James. The Viking. New Haven: Ticknor & Fields. 1980.
    Buy this book from Amazon.com today! Buy this book today!

  • Graham-Campbell, James. The Viking World. New Haven: Ticknor & Fields. 1980.
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  • Haywood, John. The Penguin Historical Atlas of the Vikings. London: Penguin Books. 1995.
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  • Roesdahl, Else, and Wilson, David M., eds. From Viking to Crusader: The Scandinavians and Europe 800-1200. New York: Rizzoli. 1992.
    A very extensive catalog of a huge exhibit of Viking artifacts. Very hard to find, but well worth it!
    Buy this book from Amazon.com today! Buy this book today!

Viking Artifact Photos

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