Seahorses are elusive creatures, almost like a mythological animal made flesh. But you can find them all over Newcastle.
After all, the city’s crest features two seahorses, green with gold manes, fins and tails. Added to the shield back in 1575, they act as a reminder that Newcastle is essentially a port.
A ring of seahorse heads surrounds the Civic Centre’s tower, again nodding to Newcastle’s sea-based heritage, which also links with the River God Tyne.
Do seahorses appear in folklore?
Seahorses pull either Neptune or Poseidon’s chariot in Roman and Greek legends.
Either Poseidon was very small, or he had extra large seahorses, but it’s a cool image all the same.
Others believe Poseidon actually rode a seahorse, which is even cooler. Their links with Poseidon give the seahorse a sense of strength and power.
According to this website, many believed that seahorses protected the souls of dead sailors on the way to the underworld. Sailors came to view seahorses as good luck charms.
Helen Scales says that fishermen sometimes caught seahorses in their nets. They believed they were “the tiny offspring of Poseidon’s mighty steeds” (2009).
Seahorses always appear as calm and mild-mannered, so they represent patience and contentment. They’ve never really evolved much, so many believe they also represent stubbornness and acceptance of the self. In Native American folklore, they represent grace and confidence.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses them to treat ailments like asthma, sexual dysfunction and kidney problems. This led to the alarming practice of seahorse farming, decimating their numbers.
Either way, they’re fascinating animals, particularly since they’re the only species on earth where the male gives birth.
But seahorses and Newcastle?
Bearing all of this in mind, can there be any other reasons why seahorses would appear on the Newcastle upon Tyne crest?
I like to think that maybe the acceptance of the self refers to the innate pride of the Geordies. We don’t try to be anyone else – we are who we are. We’re not famous for being calm or mild-mannered but like the seahorse, holding tight to the seaweeds, we hang on and weather rough storms.
The River God Tyne refers to the Roman belief in the genius loci, present in the river Tyne, so maybe the seahorses also point to Neptune’s steed of choice.
As a Roman settlement, Pons Aelius, the city would be keen to forge links with powerful deities. That’s particular important since we’re so far from Londinium, and were the last major settlement before Hadrian’s Wall.
Either way, I’m quite proud to be associated with such wonderful animals!
What animals are present in your city’s crest?
If you enjoyed this post, consider sharing it with someone else who might like it too!
You might also like: