According to the dictionary, coat of arms is a pictorial design used by a noble family, a knight, a herald and institutions such as towns, universities among others. A coat of arms is the design of that kind on a shield.
In modern times, almost every nation has a coat of arms which distinguishes it from other nations.
The design on the shield or a seal consists of a picture or pictures of objects such as an animal, a castle, a boat, the sea, a river, a mountain, human beings, bow and arrow, a sword, a spear, a tree, a leaf, and so on.
Pictures of birds such as the eagle, hawk, dove, cock, peacock, lion, tiger, kangaroo, ostrich, elephant, whale, and shark are also found on the coats of arms of some countries.
Heavenly bodies such as the sun, star or stars also show up on some coats of arms.
This article is about coats of arms of nations. Why should a nation have a coat of arms? And why particular objects are chosen as national symbols?
In modern times, a coat of arms is a national pride, a symbol of admiration and a source of inspiration.
A symbol on a coat of arms is representative of either the character or aspirations or both of a nation.
The eagle and the lion, for example, are symbols of power, strength and dominance.
Some powerful nations of the world have pictures of the eagle or the lion on their coats of arms. The United States, Russia and Germany are among nations that have the eagle as a major national symbol.
The hare, horse and ostrich are symbols of speed and agility. The shark and the whale are symbols of sea-power and survival.
Heavenly bodies such as the sun, moon and stars feature on a number of coats of arms. They are representative of light, hope, wisdom and enlightenment.
A heraldic sea and a heraldic castle are found on some coats of arms, including that of Ghana.
The two symbols are presented with the seashore at the foreground, the sea is between and the castle on the horizon.
Both are representative of hope and lofty aspirations.
Some of the coats of arms are accompanied by expression of aspiration or love for one or more of the cardinal virtues such as truth, justice, freedom, love, liberty, fraternity, egalitarianism and God.
For example, the national motto of the United Kingdom�s coat of arms is: For God and Country; that of the United States is: In God We Trust.
The national motto of France is: Liberty, Egalitarianism and Fraternity. Ghana�s national motto is: Freedom and Justice.
The coat of arms of Ghana is unique and rich in symbolism. It comprises a shield divided into four parts by a green Saint George�s Cross with gold at the rims. At the top left of the shield is a crossed ceremonial sword and a linguist stick on a blue background.
On the top left corner is a white heraldic castle on a heraldic sea with a light blue background. Below left of the shield is a cocoa tree and below right is a mine shaft.
A five-pointed gold rimmed black star perches on a colourful wreath on top of the field. There is a heraldic lion at the centre of the cross and beneath the shield is the national motto � Freedom and Justice.
Two eagles with wings spread up support the shield on both sides. A black star hanging on a ribbon is around the neck of each eagle.
The traditional sword and linguist stick are symbols of authority at local and national levels of governance. Every four years, an elected President of Ghana is sworn into office with a traditional sword as a symbol of his/her office.
The cocoa tree and the mine shaft are symbols of Ghana�s agricultural and mineral wealth.
The heraldic sea and heraldic castle represents Ghana�s great hope and aspirations. Both symbolise Ghana�s quest for material, psychological and spiritual wealth. The golden cross at the centre of the shield of Ghana�s coat of arms is representative of Ghanaians� belief in God, the Omnipotent.
The heraldic lion at the centre of the cross is said to be a symbol of Ghana�s link with the Commonwealth of Nations; but it is more than that in symbolism. The symbol represents Ghana�s source of psychological and spiritual power and sustenance.
The design on Ghana�s coat of arms depicts, on the whole, the country�s material, mental and spiritual worth.
Lyrics of Ghana�s national anthem and the national pledge underline Ghana�s deep faith in God as father of the nation.
The first stanza of the national anthem runs as follows: God bless our homeland Ghana and make our nation great and strong, bold to defend for ever, the cause of freedom and of right; fill our hearts with true humility, make us cherish fearless honesty, and help as to resist oppressors� rule with all our will and might for evermore.
The two lines of the last stanza states: Arise, arise, O sons of Ghanaland, and under God march on for evermore.
It is unfortunate that the heraldic sea and the heraldic castle on Ghana�s coat of arms have been misconstrued to mean the seat of the Ghana government on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
The heraldic sea and heraldic castle are artistic and poetic symbols with singular meanings.
The artwork is an artistic and heraldic expression. The art piece speaks for itself.
The artist placed the castle beyond the sea � maybe on �a lost and lonely Island� or a faraway land across the ocean.
If the castle was placed on a seashore, as the Osu Christiansborg Castle is in actuality, then we can begin to compare it with the castle on Ghana�s coat of arms which is heraldic and belongs to the realm of heraldry and poetry.
The suggestion that the heraldic castle should be replaced with a picture of the new Flagstaff House is out of place.
The confusion stems out of misconstruing of what is purely a work of art, poetry and heraldry. The Osu Castle is a building on the sea coast of Ghana. It housed the seat of the colonial government and that of successive governments of independent Ghana since 1957 until the new Flagstaff House was constructed and inaugurated.
Indeed, as the national anthem of Ghana states, Ghanaians are, under God, marching on forever more.
Where are Ghanaians marching on to? They are marching on to the Promised Land.
Source: Larweh Therson-Cofie / The Mirror
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