Educator How-To: Create your own medieval ID with basic heraldry

Heraldry is a unique identification system developed in the Middle Ages to aid in the identification of fully armored knights on the battle or tournament field. The roots of heraldry lay in the insignia, seals, and symbols used in ancient times for individual and/or national identification purposes.

Heraldic designs were applied to shields, tunics, horse blankets, and other items. These graphic designs functioned much like a team jersey by identifying individual players. A variety of emblems were used to adorn shields and many are the same as modern team mascots.

Colors (Tinctures)
These devices were bold in design, so as to be immediately recognizable at distance. Bright contrasting colors and bold graphics were employed for maximum visibility.

Two metals and five colors are used in heraldry.

Metals:

  • Or: Gold (yellow)
  • Argent: Silver (white)

Hearaldry 1Colors:

  • Gules: Bright red
  • Azure: Royal blue
  • Vert: Emerald green
  • Sable: Black
  • Purpure: Royal purple (rarely used)

Hearaldry 2

Field Divisions
The shield may be divided. Two common reasons for division are differentiating, to avoid conflict with a similar coat of arms, and marshalling, combining two or more designs into one.

Hearaldry 3

An example of extreme marshalling.

 Charges
A charge is an emblem or device occupying the field of a shield. I only address emblems in this paper. Below are some common charges, but there are many more, each with a meaning.

Hearaldry 4

(Click here for more examples of charges.)

Design Your Own Shield
In order to design your very own shield, you will need the following items:

  • Copy of the shield template
  • Markers
  • Pencil
  • Emblem design you want to use
  • Ruler

Questions to consider:

  • Do I want to separate the field?
  • What emblem(s) do I want to use?
  • How will I make the best use of color to create a contrasting design?

Use a pencil to sketch out your design. Putting a copy of your emblem under the shield template and carefully sketching against a sunny window allows you to trace your design onto the shield.

Use markers to apply color. White is used to represent silver and yellow is used for gold.

Do you mind passing the hand sanitizer? I think I’m coming down with a touch of the plague.

Today, as I sit and tidy up the Plague curriculum for the upcoming ExxonMobil Teacher Tuesday I can hear the children in the classroom next to me coughing….. just a bit.   I begin to think, maybe I need to make that appointment to get the flu shot.  I mean, it’s the least I can do to protect myself and the others that come into contact with me, right?  Hmm…,  I wonder.

In the year one thousand three hundred and forty eight when the Black Death set her dark sights upon the unsuspecting West, I wonder what the good people of Europe were thinking?  It sure wasn’t “Pass the hand sanitizer and warm me up a cup of Theraflu.”

The plague boasted the following symptoms: aching limbs, vomiting of blood, and lymph nodes that swelled to the size of chicken eggs before bursting.  I would have been first in line for my plague vaccination, had there been one available at the time. 

The Crow
Creative Commons License photo credit: Kessiye

As a plague victim in the Middle Ages, you would count yourself lucky if your family didn’t abandon you in the street to die alone.  If you were really lucky (so to speak) a doctor might pay you a visit.  If you were luckier still, maybe he wouldn’t.  Common treatments for the plague included, but were not limited to:  bleeding by leech or blade (sometimes until there was no blood left), purging by laxative (better to die of dehydration, right?), and various herbal treatments. 

In the stead of drugstores, the Medieval town might have had a local apothecary.  Check out some of the herbs that were used, mostly in vain, to treat the plague:

Thyme – a natural disinfectant used in the “nosegays” carried by doctors in an attempt to ward off the plague.

Rosemary – burned like incense, it was thought to ward off sickness of all types.  It was hung around the neck to protect from the plague.  It was also thought a twig of rosemary could ward off the evil eye.

Sage flower
Creative Commons License photo credit: tanakawho

Sage – among the most important medicinal herbs of Medieval Europe.  No covenant garden would be without a substantial patch of sage growing to treat the ailing masses.

Angelica – according to legend, the Archangel Gabriel revealed the powers of this Nordic herb to the Benedictine monks.  During the Middle Ages it was commonly cultivated in monasteries and used to treat symptoms of the plague.

Lavender – thieves who made a living stealing from the dead and infirm used lavender as an ingredient in their “Four Thieves Vinegar,” a concoction they used to protect and cleanse themselves after a hard night’s work.

During the plague in the seventeenth century, you might have even scored a visit from this guy (pictured below).

17th century plague doctor

And if that wasn’t enough to scare you to death, wait three days and the plague might get you anyway. As the poet Boccaccio said, “one could eat lunch with friends and have dinner with ancestors in paradise.”

The world’s oldest alternative energy source

As oil reaches a new record of $143 per barrel today, I think it’s safe to say that energy – and possible alternatives to fossil fuels – are topics on everyone’s mind. Before the development of fossil-fuel based energy technology, wind-power wasn’t an alternate form of energy – it was just the way things were done.

Julian Lamborn, Master Docent for the Wiess Energy Hall, has been kind enough to share the history of wind technology as well as share his case for developing wind energy today, in this two-part post.

Shakespeare had it right when he penned: “Blow, blow thou winter wind, thou art not so unkind.”

The winds of the world today bring with them the promise of low cost, renewable and sustainable electricity which will help feed the world’s insatiable demand for energy. One perk of using wind energy is it has a low atmospheric pollution potential.

In 2007, the globally installed capacity of electricity generation from wind increased by some 26.6% over 2006.

Ontario Turbines (2)
Creative Commons License photo credit: JoshMcConnell

The global capacity of wind-generated electricity is currently equivalent to some 1.3% of the world’s electricity needs with Germany producing the most wind power.  In fact, Germany has 22,247 megawatts of installed wind generating capacity which meets between 5% and 7% of the country’s electricity needs. 

Here in the USA (which, at 16,818 MW, is second only to Germany in installed, wind-generating capacity) about 1% of our electricity needs are met by wind generation and in Texas particularly, this number rises to 3%. Texas is also the state that uses the most wind energy.

Blood Hill Wind Farm, West Somerton, Norfolk

Creative Commons License photo credit: .Martin.

It’s all very well talking about a megawatt of wind generated power, but what can it actually do for you in your home?  In very round numbers, one megawatt of wind generating capacity typically will satisfy the electricity needs of 350 households in an industrial society, or roughly 1,000 people per year.  Although wind generators are placed in windy areas and designed to run optimally at wind speeds between 25 and 35 mph, wind does not blow all the time.  In the USA wind generators work at about 30.5% of their capacity.

But, of course, this is the modern story. 

IMG_3163
Creative Commons License photo credit:
Wouter de Bruijn

The first windmills were developed to automate the tasks of grain-grinding and water-pumping. The earliest-known design is the vertical axis system developed in Persia about 500-900 C.E. (although there is some suggestion that King Hammurabi of Babylon in c 1760 B.C.E used wind driven scoops to move water for irrigation).   The first known documented design of a Persian windmill is one with vertical sails made of bundles of reeds or wood which were attached to the central vertical shaft by horizontal struts. 

Windmills as we know them today from paintings by the Dutch Masters first appeared in the late Middle Ages, although it took another 500 or so years for the highly efficient mills of the Dutch to be fully developed. 

However, by the late 19th century, all the technology was in place to allow the design of the first power-generating wind-mill. This first use of a large windmill to generate electricity was a system built in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1888, by Charles F. Brush. Compared to today’s behemoths producing up to 3.6 MW or more, Bush’s machine was a lightweight producing just 12 KW!

The modern wind powered generating devices, such as those near Abilene, typically each produce 1.5 to 2 MW of power at around the same 4.5 cent cost per kilowatt-hour as electricity from coal but without the co-production of greenhouse gases

Back in the Saddle

rolexhorseresize.jpg

One of my many awesome jobs here at HMNS is to teach classes in our Weekday Lab Program.  I teach the Time Labs, which are based around history and culture.  The topic for this month is one of my favorite all time things to talk about:  The History of the Horse!

It is amazing to me how the horse has served to both shape and define human history.  From the time the horse was first hunted by our paleolithic ansectors for food to the upcoming Summer Olympics, the history of horse and humans is both varried and diverse.

In class, we check out ancient cave paintings at Lascaux and investigate how the stirrup changed Middle Age Europe.  The children have discovered how different prehistoric wild horses were from the domesticated horses we are familiar with today. They also become familiar with the “bredback” Tarpan, which is phenotipically the closest thing we have to a true prehistoric wild horse.

Check out this incredible photo that one of the Museum’s former employees took when she visited the Rolex Three Day Event in Kentucky.  Horses rock! 

Kids can learn more about all the cool things you can do with horses through the Pony Club

I’d love to here how you think horses have changed the world.  Post a comment, and let me know!