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Old 19th December 2021, 05:51 PM   #1
Elmereya
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Default dead sword hilt semantics

good afternoon, on some swords of this type there is such a sign on the defense, which is the main decorative element in the design of the hilt, or an independent element,
question: is there an understanding of what this symbol means?
in the collage, the top two hilts are attributed to Cromwell. collected from the Internet.
with respect, and I wish you all good health
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Old 20th December 2021, 01:35 PM   #2
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I'm not sure which element you are referring too. In English, C19th collectors named these 'mortuary ' swords because some of the typical faces, often with the mid C17th 'van dyke' moustache, supposedly commemorated Charles I, but that isn't true. Mine has a range of faces, one of which looks like a woman and another more like Jesus than Charles I!

If you mean the small side branches with the curled ends, then they are also typical of the style.

The black/gold one is supposedly carried by Cromwell in Ireland, but the provenance is unlikely.
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Old 20th December 2021, 04:04 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Triarii View Post
I'm not sure which element you are referring too. In English, C19th collectors named these 'mortuary ' swords because some of the typical faces, often with the mid C17th 'van dyke' moustache, supposedly commemorated Charles I, but that isn't true. Mine has a range of faces, one of which looks like a woman and another more like Jesus than Charles I!

If you mean the small side branches with the curled ends, then they are also typical of the style.

The black/gold one is supposedly carried by Cromwell in Ireland, but the provenance is unlikely.
Tiari,

I believe Elmereya was referencing the 'ribbon-like' feature of the basket guard, as per the blue 'ribbon' drawn in the middle of the four example pictures. I never picked up on the fact that this feature is oft repeated on these swords, and look forward to seeing what interpretations this forum may yield. My first thought was that perhaps a ribbon of this shape was worn as part of the grieving process - but then I recalled that the term 'mortuary' swords is a collectors' phrase, and that these were not actually swords of mourning.
Just my unlearned musings as I await the experts' opinions
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Old 20th December 2021, 04:48 PM   #4
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thanks for your attention to the topic, yes, I'm talking about this element in the form of an anchor,
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Old 20th December 2021, 05:05 PM   #5
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I could not find any publications on this topic, but if this element is not accidental, then I would like to understand it somehow, maybe some of the participants knows what it is and could share information.
Is it possible to consider this sign as a religious symbol?
Sincerely,.
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Old 20th December 2021, 06:00 PM   #6
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... for example, what comes to mind if you think a little,
if we assume that the sign is not an element of decor, but a symbol, then the interpretation with an anchor is the closest (irminsul probably cannot be considered for this period), in early Christianity this symbol meant the church, as an anchor in a troubled world, or as a last refuge, according to some sources.
an anchor in the context of such a weapon as a symbol of the firmness of faith, and a symbol of punishing justice in the hands of the elect against the condemned (according to Calvin, Cromwell, I mentioned this) and a similar meaning could be laid in a similar object by any opposing side since the 16th century and earlier.
it is quite possible that this is too far-fetched, unprofessional on my part.
I wonder what the opinions will be
Sincerely
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Old 21st December 2021, 10:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Elmereya View Post
... for example, what comes to mind if you think a little,
if we assume that the sign is not an element of decor, but a symbol, then the interpretation with an anchor is the closest (irminsul probably cannot be considered for this period), in early Christianity this symbol meant the church, as an anchor in a troubled world, or as a last refuge, according to some sources.
an anchor in the context of such a weapon as a symbol of the firmness of faith, and a symbol of punishing justice in the hands of the elect against the condemned (according to Calvin, Cromwell, I mentioned this) and a similar meaning could be laid in a similar object by any opposing side since the 16th century and earlier.
it is quite possible that this is too far-fetched, unprofessional on my part.
I wonder what the opinions will be
Sincerely

Elmereya, I very much applaud your interest in the often subtle symbolism which may exist in the hilt elements in many well known sword forms. These kinds of symbolism do seem to exist in some cases, but there is typically a great deal of consternation toward ideas suggesting them.

Your suggestion regarding the anchor etc. is interesting, but in this case I am afraid unlikely in the context you suggest. Noting that, I would never consider such thinking far fetched or other, in fact, often this kind of thinking has led to interesting understanding of weapon forms and styling.

These scrolled ends are virtually characteristic of these types of hilts in English swords typically termed 'mortuary' for the conception that the facial figures represented Charles I who was executed in 1649. The scrolls often on the side knuckle guards, do not occur on many of the variations, and these type swords were used by both Royalist and Parliament sides in the Civil Wars.

Mazansky (2005) has an entire chapter (11) illustrating a wide scope of these hilts, which offer good view of the variations. The book however, does not speak to symbolism or such matters as its intent was to put together a typology and categorization of the basket hilt sword.

Norman ("The Rapier and Small Sword 1460-1820", 1980) offers notes on hilt styles as well, but again offers no suggestions on symbolism.

What I have discovered is that in many cases, if not most, hilt elements and structure are more inclined to aesthetic inclinations. For example, on Scottish basket hilts, many which have the large 'S' incorporated into the guards.
While many thought these indicated 'Stirling', some 'Scottish' (?) but this did not hold true as many were from Glasgow.

The element termed 'rams head' in these hilts also has no shown indications of any particular symbolism, the term simply descriptive of the shape.

The piercings often seen in the shields of these hilts have a degree of symbolism however with Jacobite symbolism.

On the c.1780s spadroon hangers in England which had a five ball grouping on guard and knuckleguard, I had thinking similar to yours and suggested a possible Masonic connection due to the numeric consistency. When I approached the author of a well known book on British swords, he regarded the notion as fanciful and this was simply aesthetic decoration. This of course remained unproven, but the idea seemed quite plausible.

With the scrolls on these British hilts , there was a propensity toward neo classic themes and styling, often having cherubic faces, acanthus leaf vegetal motif, and these scrolls resemble Ionic capitals, so perhaps this aesthetic might be toward the decor.
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Old 22nd December 2021, 02:45 PM   #8
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thank you for the interesting response and mentions on publication of studies on the typology of swords of this period ,.
I am glad that not only I paid attention to these details.
Of course, in a military weapon, which is not only specially created to fulfill its practical purpose, but actually did its job, .. and even if it is viewed through the veil of centuries, some kind of sacred meaning is always seen.
With all respect, Andrew.
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Old 23rd December 2021, 06:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elmereya View Post
thank you for the interesting response and mentions on publication of studies on the typology of swords of this period ,.
I am glad that not only I paid attention to these details.
Of course, in a military weapon, which is not only specially created to fulfill its practical purpose, but actually did its job, .. and even if it is viewed through the veil of centuries, some kind of sacred meaning is always seen.
With all respect, Andrew.
Well noted Andrew.
Symbolism is well nuanced in many forms of ethnographic edged weapons, which are not regulated by official ordinances or patterns as with military arms. However as noted, while military weapons are of course pragmatically designed, there are features which can be added for purposes beyond the basic features.

This of course would exceed your premise concerning incorporated design elements in the original structure.
To your key point however, I would note that even with early swords, there was indeed symbolism, for example with Viking era swords and earlier, the pommel was not just for balance etc. but often a reliquary which held important talismanic or religious items or relics.
These were often lashed to the pommel on a flat surface.

Later swords often had pommels cast to replicate the lashed character of these earlier types in an almost silhouette fashion. Clearly the convention of talismanic power within the earlier pommels were intended to be conveyed intrinsically or perhaps only traditionally, but whatever the case..
symbolic.
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Old 23rd December 2021, 07:50 PM   #10
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Yes, yes, this is exactly what it is, of course and probably, the further back in time the object and the more symbolic and not entirely obligatory or not very important a certain symbol was during its existence, the less initial information about it reaches the present, it probably works something like that, although only some 400 years ...
this means that researchers will have something to do in the future.
Here, for example, too, a similar, if not identical, symbol on gravestones from central Russia, dating from the 15-16th century,.
there are many of them, they were laid in the foundations of temples built at the beginning of the 18th century, paths in monasteries were laid out with them, and they are found even in the laying of church fences. that is, until the beginning of the 17th century, for more than one century, the symbol was known and respected by everyone, and then abruptly and immediately - since no one knows or remembers anything, ... modern official historians (in Russia) have no reasonable official explanation, and after all, too, some 500 years in total, but alas.
it just goes to the topic of a similar symbol.

With all respect, Andrew
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Old 23rd December 2021, 07:57 PM   #11
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Old 23rd December 2021, 08:06 PM   #12
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Of course, I'm not talking about the fact that the element on the sword and the symbol on the stone are one and the same.
just showed such artifacts, which, unfortunately, are forgotten ..
Sincerely.
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Old 23rd December 2021, 08:06 PM   #13
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To continue,
With stylized elements of sword hilts, naturally it is far more prevalent, nearly standard, in higher end swords for officers, gentry, diplomatic and court weapons.
Many forms of court type swords actually added raised guard shells and other surfaces to accommodate elaborate themes and allegories in scenes etc.
The Renaissance period daggers with Holbein themes of the 'Dance of Death' are well known motifs of this type.

With these 'mortuary' style hilts, they were not necessarily for any particular group or station, nor to Parliamentarian nor Royalist (both sides used them).
So elements of the structure, aside from decorative application on them, were not as far as I can see, symbolic, that is the scrolled ends of the side guards.

Naturally the cherubic or 'cavalier' type faces were in line with other neo classic themes used on English swords of the 17th century. I think you have a pretty good view of these as you have Stuart's fantastic book.

You noted the 'anchor' as a key Christian element in symbolism, which indeed it is. Rather than elemental however, this device is more often placed on sword blades and inscriptions. This began in Spain, and was followed in German made blades copying Spanish themes and markings. These anchors seem to have variations in the cross bars with numbers and serif or other configurations. In these, I think there may be arcane symbolism, which truly is prevalent on blades, inscriptions and various sigils and devices.

One of the best examples I can think of with elemental symbolism in hilts would be the Scottish basket hilts. In Mazansky, these are catalogued with terms noting variations in the pierced designs used in the shields and often saltires of the guards. Also are the 'rams horn' designs elements of many hilts.
While Mazansky's book is outstanding in typology and categorizing, it is of course not helpful in any deeper study of the often 'secret' symbols, typically Jacobite which these designs represent. As with most studies on weapons of these types, subjective attention to symbolism and such arcane matters is left to other sources.

Sorry to break into 'lecture' mode, not intended, just that this is a topic that has intrigued me for decades, and great to find someone else keenly interested as well.


We crossed posts! Great images on the stones, and pretty compelling evidence. Nicely done!!!!
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Old 23rd December 2021, 08:43 PM   #14
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Thank you for the post

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Old 23rd December 2021, 09:26 PM   #15
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Thanks for the lecture mode post, very interesting. there is something to think about, yes.
It is very likely that at different times, even in the second half of the 19th and 20th centuries, the interpretations and explanations (of certain things) by different researchers in different, sometimes hard-to-reach places (countries, cities) may simply be different , for different reasons ; - inaccurate or incomplete information accumulated over a specific period of research, the absence of normal (in comparison with modern) communications in the past, any political or religious reasons, and more. A simple example: In the late 1980s, the "era of metal detectors" began around the world.
How much material did historians and researchers have compared to what was accumulated over the past 150 years before that? over a decade, artifacts from more than the previous 100 years have been found. , then a comparative analysis, classification, in a word, a lot of material for study that breaks stereotypes, and besides this there are many other new possibilities, many old typologies required revision, additions, important historical events, thanks to the ability to exchange information, may receive others that differ from the previous explanations ..
of course, even researchers of the mid-20th century, not to mention older times, did not have such a volume of information to study as they do now ... unfortunately, I am not in the scientific community.
Sincerely
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