A Heraldic Primer: Orientations
Orientatation refers to the way that axes of a charge are
pointed with respect to the shield.
For the moment, I will write only about the orientation of inanimate charges;
I will treat the orientation of animate charges treated separately,
as an aspect of their "posture".
In a blazon, the orientation of a charge appears after the type,
but before the tincture.
For any charge which can be oriented in more than one way, there
is a default orientation, which is assumed if no orientation is specified.
The orientations that can be specified for a charge depend on how
many axes the charge has and how symmetric each one is:
- Some charges, such as
roundels, are perfectly symmetric;
they look the same no matter how they are rotated or reflected.
They have no axes, and no orientation can be specified.
- Other charges, such as
a single axis but no "top end".
For these charges, only four orientations can be specified:
When these charges appear singly on the field,
their default orientation is "palewise".
- bendwise sinister,
- and fesswise.
- Other charges, such as chalices, hearts,
pheons, and trees, have a single axis with a clearly-defined
"top" and "bottom" that can be swapped.
The first four orientations above apply to these charges as well,
with the additional constraint that the "top" end of the charge is
to chief for palewise, bendwise, or
bendwise sinister charges and to dexter for
If the top and bottom of the charge are swapped, one replaces
- "palewise" with "palewise inverted",
- "bendwise" with "bendwise inverted",
- "bendwise sinister" with "bendwise sinister inverted", and
- "fesswise" with "fesswise reversed".
Basically, inverted means "swap top for bottom", and
reversed means "swap left for right".
Note the differences between the following examples:
"Sable, a heart bendwise argent.":
"Sable, a heart bendwise inverted argent."
"Sable a heart fesswise reversed argent."
- Other charges, such as harps, maunches, and mugs have a two
axes: a principal axis with a "top" and "bottom" and a secondary
axis with a "leading edge" and "trailing edge".
Each of the eight orientations above come in two flavors now,
depending on whether the leading edge is in the normal orientation or not.
For "palewise", the normal flavor is
"leading edge to dexter" and the other
flavor is palewise reversed, which means "leading edge
Here is "Sable, a mug argent"....
and here is "Sable, a mug reversed argent."