It is clear from history, that heraldry was forged on the battlefields of Europe. The heraldic symbols were born by the knights in order to identify themselves to not only their men, but to their enemies, and later, to symbolically represent themselves in tournaments. Knights were considered the first level of the nobility. However, as heraldry evolved and grew in popularity, it no longer remained the domain of the nobility. The rising merchant class having financial resources, would create heraldic achievements to symbolize themselves in the community, such as the town tailor, or blacksmith. The only constraint on heraldry, was the cost of the artist who'd paint the achievement.
Eastern Europe, in particular, Slovenia, did not and do not practice heraldry
|Standards representing Švabske, Kranjske, Koroške (L-R) which are adorned with the coat of arms of each representative state, participating in a wedding procession in Vienna in 1515. - Cankarjeva založba, Ljubljana, "Zgodovina Slovencev", 1979|
This statement is completely false, as there is much evidence, both written and physical that illustrates that heraldry was a living tradition, dating as early as the early days of Slovenia with the appearance of typical heraldic features and elements, visible on the knight's harness, helm, shields and the horse's caparisons during tournaments and the royal halls of the Counts. There is much detail on the history of heraldry on this website which can be found by going to history of heraldry. An example of the instance of the importance and visibility of heraldry can be found in the illustration on the right, which clearly depicts the coat of arms of the period on the standards carried by the horsemen with the middle standard bearing the arms of Kranjske (Carniola).
Assuming armorial bearings of the same surname
This is one of the most common misunderstandings of heraldry. Heraldic achievements, depending upon the system used, can belong to a family surname, in which the ancestor originally assuming the arms or were originally granted to the ancestor is now long gone. A popular service today offers by what is commonly known as "bucket shops" in the heraldic community. Sharing the same surname does not entitle one to assume those arms. However, there is no real enforcement of heraldic law in any country to prevent such an action from taking place but is regarded as a dishonorable practice. Protocol dictates that the question of common surnames is a matter of genealogy. It is quite possible that for a particular surname, there may in fact, be multiple arms for that surname, each arms possibly representing a different, and quite possibly, unrelated branches of the family tree. It is prudent that the individual interested in the armorial bearings, must conduct research (genealogy) on his/her family surname in order to determine if the arms can be rightfully and honorably assumed. Organizations such as the Slovenian Genealogy Society or "Slovensko rodoslovje" can offer resources to help you research your surname.
Misuse of the term "crest"
The term "crest" is often used to describe the entire heraldic achievement. This is an incorrect usage of the term with respect to heraldry. The crest refers to those elements which adorn the top of the helm or helmet which is positioned on the top of the arms or shield. There are instances of heraldic achievements that do not have a helm or crest and is presented only as a shield, which may account for the confusion of the term "crest".
The "Carantanian Black Panther"
Although there are some post-medieval historical documentation evidence and medieval artifacts that may imply a "panther" as the heraldic beast depicted on the coat of arms supposedly around the end of the 12th century, however, at this time, there is no evidence in the form of direct textual period documentation (blazon) nor clear evidence in the form of artifacts that explicitly support the identity and lineage of the heraldic beast as a "black panther" back to its origins in the Carantanian coat of arms, and therefore, one must rely on the power of interpretation of period illustrations, which is not an "exact science". See the historical coats of arms in the roll of arms on this website for arms representing the Counts of Peilstein, in particular, the family BERNED (c1398) which depicts a black panther on the arms, is sourced from Siegenfeld, Alfred Ritter Anthony von. Das Landeswappen der Steiremark, 1900 and which is identified as one of the principle sources supporting this proposal. It is clear from some of the arms illustrated, that the heraldic beast would periodically have the appearance of a horned "steer", other times, it would share attributes with that of a "gryphon", another popular heraldic beast and lastly, some depictions depict the "panther" with cloven hooves on its hind legs, leaving the interpretation of such beasts to the creative imagination of the observer.