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YMCA Shrovetide antlers crown original

My logo? Oh, my logo? (How lo can you go). Actually it's my coat of arms. Yes, it's beautiful, isn't it.

Oh, you know something about heraldry... and you don't find it beautiful... Well, you are right, but you are wrong. My "Arms" violates a handful of rules of "good heraldry"; however, it is mine.

You should read this for the story, not to enjoy great heraldry. Plus, I have created a different version which I believe is in concordance with the rules of heraldry (more about this below).

"What's all this to me?" Well, what's that to me, what it is to you. It's just me being nostalgic, OK? A guy has a right to be nostalgic. Although nostalgia is not what it used to be.

Heraldic description -- Top

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I asked somebody named Jaelle on the internet if she could give me a "heraldic description" of my coat of arms -- how was I to know that it's called a blazon(ing) when it's an arms? But she did send me a blazoning, and I am very greatful. That was long ago, and in the meantime I sniffed out some things heraldic, I found some minor errors in the first blazoning, so what follows is 50-50 mine and Jaelle's.

Per pale vert and Or, a stag's head couped proper, attired argent,
overall a sword fesswise azure embrued and hilted gules

Now, explanation. Per pale vert and Or, means the field is divided vertically in half, with a left and right side, green and yellow. But note that the right side is green... because heraldic right, dexter, is the right side of the bearer, not of the viewer. The left side is called sinister. In other words, in the blazon we "read" the shield from left to right.

Couped means the neck is cut off clean, proper means it is the default color for a deer, which is brown. Attired refers to the antlers, argent means white. How do we know the stag's head is looking left? Because it's the default. Remember that the shield is usually borne on the left arm, and it would look rather silly if the charges (e.g. an animal on the shield) were not looking forward when you behold the bearer from his left side. (It is possible, of course, to specify the opposite).

Fesswise means that the sword is going from left to right (from sinister to dexter), not up and down, azure means blue and gules means red."

So much for the old version. As you can see, it's heraldic enough to be blazoned.

The new modified version -- Top

Here follows my latest version. The original design violates several heraldic rules:

Brown is not a heraldic colour, there are only these: red, green, black, blue, and the "metals": gold (yellow) and silver (white). Bad sign that I am using brown... plus, you cannot really have a charge covering the division of two fields. It gets worse. The "overall a sword..." makes genuine heraldry specialists sick.

So, for you heraldry afficionados out there I will have you know that I did manage to juggle around the elements of this arms to end up with something which doesn't violate the tincture rules, etc. Actually I am quite proud of myself. Maybe I shouldn't be, it took me 30 years to figure it out. Here's the blazoning:

Quarterly vert and or,
fields 1&4: a stag's head couped or, attired argent
2&3: a sword fesswise azure embrued and hilted gules.

Quarterly means the arms is "squared", i.e. divided vertically and horizontally. Two quarters are green, two are yellow (gold, "or"). The fields are numbered starting from the upper left one, ending with the lower right; same as when you are reading running text.

Here's the new arms in a computer generated version and a freehand drawing:



Click here for other people's creative versions of my coat of arms.

The story behind -- Top

From 1967 to 1971 I went to YMCAs recreation centre every day after school. Once after Shrovetide, it must have been 1970 (?), one of the adults suggested that I and another boy make "coats of arms" out of the two disks leftover from the event (top + bottom of the barrel) -- all we had to do was tell him which motives we wanted, and he would sketch them for us. I knew exactly what I wanted, and the result you see here.

I have lost contact with the people at this recreation centre, and I only remember very few names, not including those of the other two characters in this story. I remember only episodes.

Episodes -- Top

I remember a few episodes, such as:
  1. When the artist suggested we make coats of arms.
  2. When I told him I wanted a royal stag and a sword. He was reluctant, seeing that it would be difficult for him to get the antlers right.
  3. When the artist had made the sketch with a pencil. One day I turned up, and there it was. It was so beautiful. It was also odd: where was the crown?
  4. (I don't remember colouring the shield, but I'm pretty certain I did that myself. BTW, I also have at home a box that I coloured back in kindergarten. It was originally for "Originale West-Indische Blumenseife". I have made it dark brown, except the bottom is light green, and the two short sides are yellow. A few days ago, January 1997, I realized these were the same colours as on my Coat of Arms :)
  5. I remember after the shield was coloured and the artist coloured in the figures with black paint. It was more or less the same story: One day I turned up, and he had done it, and it was so beautiful. (Couldn't beat the sketching, though).
  6. I wanted a sanguinary sword, something the artist did not approve of. Perhaps he found it vulgar or something; I don't know. I think it's fine as it is, he said, you shouldn't try and improve. But I insisted, and he made some blood on the point with red paint.

YMCAs Recreation Centre -- Top

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Klostergade 37, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark (It still belongs with the YMCA, but today it's a kindergarten).

They had some pretty peculiar ideas, I thought. We sang songs of God, King and Country (oh yes). As I recall there was very little freedom to do what you wanted (and that is probably not true at all, since I also remember playing billards, cards and chess, and reading Mad magazines). One thing that really annoyed me, was making Christmas presents. We were asked to bring a list of all the members of our family -- I had a big family -- and then, can you believe it, they demanded we make one present for each. I just wished to be left alone to read a book (or Don Martin cartoons).

Today I am grateful. They actually made us do something, make something with our hands. I learned more there about woodwork than I ever did in school. They seemed to have an idea behind what they did, and that was the good thing, I suppose. I still remember the directions for plywood-work which were hanging on the wall in the room with the workbenches: "1. Saw 2. File 3. Apply sandpaper 4. Colour 5. Lacquer. The last two steps may be omitted." I guess it's still hanging there. (Plywood was considered the most basic task. New-comers (read: boys -- I don't know what the girls did) were always asked to do something in plywood).

In 1971 we moved, I started going to a different recreational centre. They had the same facilities, and the adults were skilled enough, I guess, but there was a different atmosphere, other traditions. Another culture. Lots of storytelling, lots of stories, lots of freedom. Different.

Shrovetide -- Top

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Usually in February. The kids dress up in fancy dresses and "knock the cat off the barrel": Take a (live) cat and put it in a barrel. Close the barrel and hang it in a line somewhere out in the open. Let the kids get in line and take turns at hitting the barrel with a bat. The one who makes the bottom come off, is the Cat King (or Queen), and recieves a (paper) crown to wear. The title is much-coveted.

There are variations. When I practiced karate, we had one barrel for the kids, which came down in no time, and another for the adults, which took hours. Of course, we (the adults) used only fists, elbows and feet (Did anyone use his head? I don't think so.), and the barrel had been soaking in water for a couple of days. Another thing is, you don't use cats, live or dead, nowadays; that's a medieval phenomenon. Usually the barrel is empty; on occasion it is filled with fruit. (Imagine an ordered line of little pirates, Peter Pans, nurses, princesses and Batmen suddenly dissolving into a chaotic sea of fancy dresses, chasing oranges and apples). I don't think you should try it with bananas or coconuts. BTW, here's a picture of me, not in fancy dresses, but definitely "knocking the cat off the barrel". And it's definitely taken at YMCAs Recreation Centre, and the bottom is definitely coming off, so ladies and gentlemen, this may be a historic picture: This is when Mike L. Griebel earned his Coat of Arms

Click here for more photos from the family album.

Antlers -- Top

In "real" heraldics two approaches are common: either to depict only one half of the antlers, or both halfs, but highly stylized. The artist behind my coat of arms found a different solution...clearly he has not depicted both sides (or it's a very asymmetric stag), and it cannot be only one side either. In fact it cannot be a stag's antlers any way you twist them, but you know, it's my stag, and I happen to like it. And if real stags' antlers aren't so ingenious, too bad for them.

Crown -- Top

In Danish, a royal stag is a "kronhjort". Hjort means deer/stag, and "kron-" is a prefix, related to krone, which means crown. This was exactly why I wanted a "kronhjort", you see, because it has a royal crown on its head, right? Pretty obvious.

Short excerpt from our dialog: But doesn't a royal stag carry a crown? No, it doesn't. Really? I thought so. Well, it doesn't.

I wasn't disappointed or anything, just mildly surprised.

The original -- Top

The original is about 33 cm in diameter. The colours are somewhat darker than on the electronic version; in particular the green and the brown. Other than that, the only major differences are: 1) There are some black strokes on the antlers. You'd have to see it. It looks right, that's all I can say. 2) The haft of the sword is red, with a black grid covering it. Grooves for better grip, I guess. 3) There is blood on the point of the sword. (I have left out the blood in the electronic version. It's difficult to get it right, especially in the smaller version).

Oh, and the shield is worn. There are leather strips on the back, so that you can actually wear it when you are playing cops and robbers, and I did a few times. So in places some paint has come off. Nothing serious though.

I may put up a picture one day, so you can see the real thing.

Translations -- Top

Now it's your turn. Tell me what you see in my coat of arms.

Is the sword my intellect which I use to seperate true from false, right from wrong, green from yellow? Or is it phallic? "Blood" dripping from the point, I mean, really! Or is the whole thing a symbol of male chauvinism (stag+sword) suppressing female values (green+yellow)? You tell me!

You could give me an interpretation, which means you tell me what you think it means to me. But I am much more interested in translations, i.e. in what my coat of arms means to you. I suggest you start your translation with the phrase: "If this coat of arms were mine,..." (Note: This is a technique borrowed from dream analysis).

"If this Coat of Arms were mine,..."
What others have seen in my Coat of Arms


If you enjoyed reading about my coat of arms, perhaps you would also like to see my dream of Entering Tibet through a secret tunnel going under the Great Wall of China, to find four people: three Tibetans and a Dane...

Mike L. Griebel
Griebel's Homepage
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