Heraldic Uses of "Potent" and "Potenty"

A potent is a crutch, like those pictured in the two illustrations to the right. The terms "potent" and "potenty", as used in heraldry, describe patterns made up of shapes like the heads of such crutches.

"Potent" is a fur--a variant of vair--made up of interlocking blue and white crutch-head shapes.

By re-arranging the crutch heads, one can compose three additional furs: potent-en-pointe, potent-in-pale, and counter-potent.

A fur composed of the shapes used in potent but in different tinctures is described as "potenty". Its tinctures are always specified.

The term "potenty" can also describe a complex line resembling a row of crutch heads that is used to divide a field or define the edge(s) of an ordinary .

Furs potenty behave much as do other heraldic furs. Each is always equally divided between a color and a metal, so they are neutral for purposes of contrast (though they may be used only where sufficient visual contrast is maintained). The orientation of the individual crutch-heads on an ordinary conform to its slope.


Lines described as potenty behave, generally, as do other complex lines.

When a line potenty divides a field or edges a single-edged ordinary, its midline runs where a plain line of the same type would.

When a multi-edged ordinary has potenty edges the potents on parallel sides are normally synched so that one side juts out when the other dips in.

S.C.A. heraldry also recognizes an arrangement blazoned as "potenty bretessed", in which the potents on parallel edges of an ordinary are synched so that they jut out at the same points.

There is one other interesting related term: "potent-counterpotent".

Woodward blazons the arms of Champagne as "Azure, a bend argent coticed potent-counterpotent or" (pp. 479-80). Here are four16th-century emblazons for Champagne, plus a heraldically identical one for the Duke of Normandy that may or may not have been blazoned the same way:

There are similar emblazons in the Armorial Breton, where it is modernly blazoned (in French) as "cotised potent counter-potent", and in Hierosme de Bara's 1581 Le Blazon des Armoiries, where it is blazoned, "D'azurà vne bande d'argent, & deux cottices potencees & contre potécees de treze pieces d'or." ("Azure, a bend argent and two cotises potent and counter-potent in three parts or." "Three parts" relates to the number of potents seen in the emblazon.)

These sources would seem to indicate that these usages are appropriate:


However, John Guillim's 1610 Display of Heraldrie emblazons potent-counterpotent much as potenty-en-pointe is traditionally emblazoned in S.C.A. heraldry:

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