Pantheon (mythical creature)
The Pantheon is a mythical or imaginary creature used in heraldry, particularly in Britain. It appears to have been first adopted in English coats of arms in the early Tudor period, subsequently becoming part of the design repertoire of the heralds in their official grants of arms. Early sightings of the creature include the pantheon crests of the Gloucestershire knight Sir Christopher Baynham (knighted 1513) and his Cornish contemporary John Skewys. Two pantheons appear from the 1530s as the supporters of the arms of the Paulet or Powlett Marquesses of Winchester, though at a later date they were reinterpreted as the hinds or female deer they can closely resemble. In 1556 a coat of arms with three pantheons on the shield was granted to Henry Northey of Bocking in Essex.
The pantheon was a mythological beast from the heraldic period. They were often depicted as white deer with the tail of a fox and spangeled with purple stars along their back.
The pantheon is usually represented as a cervid similar to a hind (a female red deer), usually black or dark blue in colour, although sometimes red, its hide patterned with regularly spaced stars or estoiles. However the historian of heraldry Hugh Stanford London suggested that the creature originated as a misreading or misunderstanding of the panther (itself represented in exotic fashion in heraldry and medieval art, often shown with stars on its body and sometimes even with cloven hooves).
Pantheons have become popular again in the twentieth century, particularly as a symbol of air or space travel or other advanced forms of technology. Examples are the arms of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, granted in 1955; two pantheons also appear as the supporters of the arms of the Engineering Council (the United Kingdom regulatory body for the engineering profession), granted in 1984.
- Briggs, Geofrey, Civic & Corporate Heraldry (London: Heraldry Today 1971).
- Bedingfeld, Henry, and Gwynn-Jones, Peter, Heraldry (London: Magna Books 1993).
- London, Hugh Stanford, 'Minor monsters IV: the pantheon', The Coat of Arms (1st series) 3 (1954-5), pp. 220-5.
- Dragonlore, The Journal of the College of Dracology No. 70 2006.
- Friar, Stephen; A Dictionary of Heraldry, Harmony Books: New York, 1987. This web-site includes an image of the UKAEA's arms.
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