Polish Heraldry
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W. R.
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Polish Heraldry
Polish Heraldry

(From The Suligowski Heraldic Research Library, transcribed by Rik Fox)

The Heraldry of Poland is unique in Europe, because of their pre-heraldic runic signs, thought to be ancient clan property marks, which were absorbed into its heraldry, and adapted to form charges. Some remained strictly geometrical charges of curved or straight lines, while others evolved into more conventional charges, such as crosses, lances, scythes, horseshoes, and crescents. As well as being different in design, Polish heraldry is different in usage from that of Western Europe, due to the fact that Poland did not develop a fully fledged feudal system.

Its aristocracy was organized into clans, which varied in size and importance; some contained hundreds of different families not related by blood. Polish heraldry, as a result, has tribal characteristics not found elsewhere. As a general rule, one clan had the same coat of arms for all its members.

This clan system disintegrated in the sixteenth century, and different clans broke up into several family groupings, but all of them retained the original clan arms without brizures or cadency marks. Nearly six hundred unrelated Polish families, for example, are known to bear the same arms of a horseshoe enclosing a cross (Jastrzębiec).

[Image: 175px-Herb_Jastrzebiec.jpg]

Figure 1: Jastrzębiec Arms

This is a situation unlike any other in Western Europe. Indeed, it has been computed that of one thousand two hundred and thirty-eight coats of arms used by the Polish nobility, only seven hundred and forty-nine are individual ones belonging to one family. The other four hundred and eighty-nine serve twenty-two thousand families! Yet a select few, like that of a black eagle and three diamonds (Sulima), are issued to a smaller, elite grouping of about some one hundred and twenty or so families.

[Image: 175px-Sulima_herb.svg.png]

Figure 2: Sulima Arms

A second peculiarity of Polish heraldry is that each coat of arms had its own name, usually the ancient rallying cry or name of the clan. As a result, the need for blazoning did not exist in Poland.

There is very little foreign influence in Polish heraldry. Quarterings, partition lines, and fantastic beasts are rarely found. Hungarian heraldry, though like Polish heraldry in that it never uses quarterings, is by contrast, much more closely affected by Austrian and German heraldry. But it, too, has particular national characteristics dictated by the history of the country. One of these is a preference for charges relating to the Turkish wars which lasted from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. (…) It has been calculated that fifteen per cent of all Hungarian armorial bearings incorporate a gory decapitated Turk’s head, usually with moustaches and a turban.

Sabres, swords, and lances brandished by arms in armor were also popular, and commemorated the warlike achievements of the Hungarian soldiers. The frequent use of lions, bears and griffins, on the other hand, is supposed to have derived from the ancient tribal insignia of the Magyar nobility. (…)

Russian heraldry developed late, and evolved under the external rather than internal forces. It should be seen as an outwork of German and French heraldry rather than an indigenous creation of its own. There was no medieval heraldry in Russia, and the simple divisions and charges of that period are absent. The earliest Russian heraldry is found in the west of the country, where the nobility started to adopt arms of the Polish type in the sixteenth century. The widespread adoption of civic and noble heraldry in the country as a whole did not occur until the early eighteenth century, and was a manifestation of Peter the Great’s westernizing policy.

Peter established an heraldic office under a Master of Heraldry at St. Petersburg in 1722 and imposed western-style arms on the nobles, either by adapting their traditional symbols and devices or by completely new grants. New nobles were granted arms as part of their ennoblement, and three hundred and fifty-five grants of arms to new titled families were made in the course of the eighteenth century. As well as the shield, Russian arms comprised crests on western-style helmets worn affronte for old nobles and in profile with raised vizor by new ones.

Reference: “The Oxford Guide to Heraldry” Chapter II, pgs. 29-31, Pub.: Oxford University Press, 1988, Woodcock, Thomas-Somerset Herald, Robinson, John Martin-Maltravers Herald Extraordinary

SOURCE: http://www.husaria.us/files/Polish_Heraldry.doc
The article in Wikipedia is good as well: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polish_heraldry

[...] just as it is not left unto us to choose our ancestors, so we may not choose our nation; we can only fulfil, or not fulfil, the obligations that come from being a member of our people’.
© Dr. Jan Stankievič ‘From the History of Belarus’

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2012 Jun 15 23:27
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RE: Polish Heraldry
(2012 Jun 15 23:27)Whiteruthenian Wrote:  Polish heraldry, as a result, has tribal characteristics not found elsewhere. As a general rule, one clan had the same coat of arms for all its members.

Sarmatian warlords and their bands, dissolved in the sea of Slavs, while still clutching on to their old battle standards that they had brought from the Great Steppe... ;)

Has anyone done any serious work trying to connect the symbols and their names with any other Iranic heritage elsewhere???
2012 Jun 16 00:08
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RE: Polish Heraldry
(2012 Jun 16 00:08)Osweo Wrote:  
(2012 Jun 15 23:27)Whiteruthenian Wrote:  Polish heraldry, as a result, has tribal characteristics not found elsewhere. As a general rule, one clan had the same coat of arms for all its members.

Sarmatian warlords and their bands, dissolved in the sea of Slavs, while still clutching on to their old battle standards that they had brought from the Great Steppe... ;)

Has anyone done any serious work trying to connect the symbols and their names with any other Iranic heritage elsewhere???

To be honest I've always thought that the Sarmatian story is just a legend of the nobility to draw another line between the nobility and peasantry. Huh?

By the way, what would be the most correct English equivalent of the word szlachta?

[...] just as it is not left unto us to choose our ancestors, so we may not choose our nation; we can only fulfil, or not fulfil, the obligations that come from being a member of our people’.
© Dr. Jan Stankievič ‘From the History of Belarus’

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2012 Jun 16 00:22
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RE: Polish Heraldry
(2012 Jun 16 00:22)Whiteruthenian Wrote:  To be honest I've always thought that the Sarmatian story is just a legend of the nobility to draw another line between the nobility and peasantry. Huh?
cry I love a good fairy tale...

I would say, though, that there´s more than enough linguistic evidence of massive Sarmatian impact on the Slovyene to justify some suspicions of conservatism from that period in Poland, where there was less later foreign stuff to obscure the Iranic imprint in this sphere of life... thumbs up
Quote:By the way, what would be the most correct English equivalent of the word szlachta?

I´ve seen the word used as itself. We just put it in Italics and explain the meaning in parentheses or a footnote. "The vast and socially varied Polish traditional nobility" or some such... Are you descended from them at all? Big Grin
2012 Jun 16 00:34
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RE: Polish Heraldry
I've been seeing the world szlachta a lot reading about Commies. Felix Dzerzhinsky turns up quite a bit.
2012 Jun 16 00:47
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RE: Polish Heraldry
(2012 Jun 16 00:34)Osweo Wrote:  cry I love a good fairy tale...

I would say, though, that there´s more than enough linguistic evidence of massive Sarmatian impact on the Slovyene to justify some suspicions of conservatism from that period in Poland, where there was less later foreign stuff to obscure the Iranic imprint in this sphere of life... thumbs up

Yeah, I heard of that impact. Oh... Is the fairy tale that old? Eek

(2012 Jun 16 00:34)Osweo Wrote:  Are you descended from them at all? Big Grin

This is more probable than I'd like it to be.

But no way I would be descended from Polish szlachta! PERKELE My surname is 100 % Belarusian. Well, maybe only 99 %... But the percentage is still high anyway.

[...] just as it is not left unto us to choose our ancestors, so we may not choose our nation; we can only fulfil, or not fulfil, the obligations that come from being a member of our people’.
© Dr. Jan Stankievič ‘From the History of Belarus’

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2012 Jun 16 01:00
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RE: Polish Heraldry
Since it's common knowledge that Aryan culture in Iran and India is just a remnant of East European nomadic migrations into that area, it's not very surprising that this well-known Aryan tribal symbol is a Polish heraldic sigil:


[Image: 596px-POL_COA_Boreyko.svg.png]
2012 Jun 16 01:19
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RE: Polish Heraldry
(2012 Jun 16 01:19)Stars Down To Earth Wrote:  Since it's common knowledge that Aryan culture in Iran and India is just a remnant of East European nomadic migrations into that area, it's not very surprising that this well-known Aryan tribal symbol is a Polish heraldic sigil:

Nah, you find that old thing all over the place. The Sarmatians were far from the first ones to spread it around.
2012 Jun 16 01:21
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RE: Polish Heraldry
(2012 Jun 16 00:34)Osweo Wrote:  I´ve seen the word used as itself. We just put it in Italics and explain the meaning in parentheses or a footnote.

Heard today: “Tomorrow is Hołovosiek. Tomorrow you can do only szlachta’s jobs (szlachecka robota).” I.e. dirty jobs are not allowed because of the holiday, but it is okay to write or to type something.

[...] just as it is not left unto us to choose our ancestors, so we may not choose our nation; we can only fulfil, or not fulfil, the obligations that come from being a member of our people’.
© Dr. Jan Stankievič ‘From the History of Belarus’

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2018 Sep 10 20:16
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