From Wreath: Unity of Orientation and Posture

Two years ago, I stood in front of the College at KWHSS and promised that within a few months I would have a definitive ruling on Unity of Posture and Orientation that would be comprehensive, easy to understand, and more permissive than previous rulings had been. I wrote my draft that month. And then a submission came through that required me to revisit the draft. This continued pretty much every month since that fateful Road Show. So I thank you all for your patience, and want to assure you that I’ve not been negligent in this goal.

SENA A3D2c reads, in part: “c. Unity of Posture and Orientation: The charges within a charge group should be in either identical postures/orientations or an arrangement that includes posture/orientation (in cross, combatant, or in pall points outward, for example). A charge group in which postures for different charges must be blazoned individually will not be allowed without period examples of that combination of postures.”

While the language seems simple, it makes a lot of assumptions about which types of charges will be in the charge group. The examples given in the rule have three lions in different postures, three pheons in different orientations, and a note about crescents, increscents, decrescents, and crescents pendant. The rule does not address how to compare the posture and/or orientation of dissimilar charges within the same charge group. So the question arises: What should be compared? My predecessors and I each struggled with the nuances of this question, but the consistent principle of all of our rulings has been the same:

If the charges in the charge group can be in the same posture, orientation, or arrangement that includes posture or orientation, they must all be in the same posture, orientation, or arrangement.

(Addendum from Blue Tyger: Also note that precedent states that the orientations of inanimate and animate charges are not to be compared – https://heraldry.sca.org/loar/2017/06/17-06lar.html )

There are some basic categories of charge that have comparable postures and orientations. They are:

Animate Charges (Posture)

  • Standard quadrupeds
  • Quadrupeds that can be tergiant (reptiles, amphibians, moles)
  • Birds
  • Insects, arthropods, and other crawling critters with too many legs
  • Fish and other non-limbed aquatic life
  • Humanoids (including mer-folk)
  • Tailed non-humanoid bipeds (sea-creatures, wyverns, cockatrices, etc.)
  • Serpents

Inanimate Charges

  • Compact, non-orientable charges (suns, roses, roundels, annulets, etc.)
  • Compact, orientable charges (crescents, fleurs-de-lys, compass roses)
  • Long charges

Generally, charges in each of these categories are not comparable. Serpents cannot be rampant because they haven’t the requisite limbs, while bears cannot be nowed because they are not long or flexible enough, so a bear rampant and a serpent nowed may be in the same charge group despite requiring different terms to describe their relative postures. A sun is a radially symmetrical charge that has no orientable top or bottom, while a spear is a long charge that has a definitive top, bottom, and angular orientation. Thus, a spear bendwise and a sun may be in the same charge group despite requiring a specified orientation for only one of the charges.

Within each category, charges are comparable, and so must be in comparable postures or orientations. For purposes of this rule, defaults are disregarded; while the default postures of a lamb and lion are passant and rampant respectively, if they appear in the same charge group they must be in the same posture. For orientation, this is a bit more permissive; the default orientation of a sword is point up while the default orientation of an arrow is point down, but the assumptions of top and bottom are a default-based concept; as long as they are both in the same orientation (palewise, bendwise, fesswise, etc.) or in an arrangement that involves their orientation (in cross, in saltire, in chevron, etc.) then whether they are point-up or point-down is immaterial. If, however, there are two swords in the same charge group, they must both be oriented with the point either to chief or to base, to dexter or sinister, because they are identical charges.

There are two major exceptions to these categories. The first is if one charge in the category is in an orientation or posture that another charge in the same category cannot take on. For example, there are quadrupeds which are almost exclusively found as tergiant in period, such as lizards, tortoises, and frogs. If these charges appear in a charge group with another quadruped which is not found as tergiant in period (e.g., a lion) then they must either be tergiant (and thus not comparable) or in an identical posture to the other quadruped. In other words, a lion rampant and a tortoise tergiant is acceptable, but a lion rampant and a tortoise statant is not. As another example, a stag’s attire is usually found straight (and thus a long, orientable charge) but is also found in annulo in period. However, a sword (a long, orientable charge) cannot be in annulo. If a stag’s attire and a sword are in the same charge group, they must either be in comparable orientations, or the attire must be in annulo (effectively rendering it a compact, non-orientable charge and thus in a different category).

The second major exception is when an orientation of an animate charge is modified from the posture which is inherent to its orientation. Humanoids, sea-creatures, and most quadrupeds have postures with an inherent and immutable orientation (e.g., rampant or statant erect have the body palewise, passant and statant have the body fesswise). But some postures have orientations that are found to be flexible in period. We see, for example, eagles displayed fesswise and both tortoises and frogs tergiant fesswise. If two charges in orientation-flexible postures appear in the same charge group, they must be in the same orientation for purposes of SENA A3D2c.

(Addendum from Blue Tyger)

Also note this precedent, which states that there is not comparable orientation for animate vs. non-animate charges, so they may be in different orientations without violating these rules:

“…  An impressive collection of period armory was provided in commentary in support of considering the orientation of inanimate charges to be distinct from the posture of animate charges.  ”
https://heraldry.sca.org/loar/2017/06/17-06lar.html