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To anyone familiar with older rifles...

Many are decorated with embellishments of brass. The areas of the forestocks, cheekpieces, etc. will be seen to have decorated shapes to them incised into the stock. The majority of these are seen in brass, but many were in German Silver. Other materials were also inletted into the stocks.

So what do all these various shapes mean....?

Hunters Star...the Eight-Pointed Star:

This was without question the earliest design used on American rifles, and certainly the most popular. Stars are one of the most popular inlays or even patchbox finials, but the eight pointed version outnumbers all others. They're seem most often on the cheekpiece, sometimes as a barrel-pin escutcheon, more occasionally as a independant inlay and, rarely, in the engraved design of a patchbox. Some call it a Hunters Star, but with strong opposition from other schools of thought.
The 8-pointed star is a popular motif in Penn. Dutch folk art, in which it signifies "abundance and good will". From this source, it quite possibly derived from the "Rosenkreug" or Rose & Cross, which was a 15th century German symbol of religious freedom & private land ownership. The latter is also the emblem of the philosophic order of Rosicrucians.

Archeologists attribute the star to an ancient sun cult, to whom it meant fertility.

Religion & science (often at odds) combine forces to suggest the most interesting origins of the 8-pointed star. Legend says it is the Star of Bethlehem, and thus was used as a talisman to guide the rifleman along the proper path through life in the wilderness. Astronomers say the remarkable conjunction of Mars & Saturn in Pisces occurs once in 794 years, and that this may have a direct relationship to the star of the wise men. That "star" being abnormally bright, and could have been the two planets shining side by side. This could also account for the unusual elongation of the star, altho this most likely was just to conform to the shape of the cheekpiece or the forestock.

Cresent Moon or Quarter Moon.
This was almost as popular a motif as the 8-pointed star, but probably not quite as early in appearance on our rifles. Many of the first rifles were devoid of any decoration, but the earliest inlays were most likely the star or the cresent moon.

A widely theory about the cresent moon is that it is out talismanic hope for bountiful life. It is symbolic of the harvest moon, a bumper crop & fertility. An interesting aspect of the fertility theme is that cresents on rifles are sometimes distinctly male and female. One paarticular pair of longrifles is known which clearly illustrates this point. This is a rare feature.

The cresent, with or without face, was often used as a cheekpiece inlay on rifles from south-central Penn. It was the early Christian symbol for the Virgin Mary and for God's creation. The American pioneer said the cresent should be mounted with the points down, and signified a wet moon. This meant dampness of ground and of fallen leaves, so that he could stalk game quietly. Four cresents represent 4 seasons.

Naturally the changing phases of the moon intrigued and mystified ancient man, so it is natural that we should find it as a taliman for any different early cultures.

The Heart....

The heart is not usually seen til after the 19th century. As with allot of ML stuff, there is a disagreement on it's meaning. Some say it is to signify the Love of God and his fellow man. However, others have said it is a protective tailsman against evil forces.
If the tail is turned to one side, it is referred to a a "Bleeding Heart" (sometimes called a Weeping Heart), and said to represent the 5th wound of Christ. Sometimes put on the wrist where a shooters hand would cover it, symbolic of protection of loved ones.

The Eagle...
Eagle: Not normally seen prior to the Rev. War but enjoyed great popularity following the war.
The Continental Congress adopted the symbol as one of defiance and independence.


The Fish...

Fish: Early Christian symbol standing for "Jesus Christ, son of God." A fish pointed in the direction of the target was supposed to enhance accuracy.

Cat's Eye...

An ellipse, usually with sharp ends was thought to ward off evil.

And the one not seen....

The Christian Cross...


giz
 
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