by Philip Gardiner
February 18, 2007
The enigmatic image of the skull and crossbones
is deeply entrenched in the minds of millions around the world as the symbol
of piracy, death and even poison.
of a Jesuit Saint: San Francisco de Borja, 1726
It was an image that has kept cropping up
in my researches, whether Masonic or Templar or even as the symbol that
Christian Jesuits found themselves being inaugurated on, and so I decided
that I needed to look deeper into the mysterious rise of this peculiar
Whenever we see a pirate ship on television, cinema or in comic books we
also see an extremely ancient symbol - the skull and crossbones.
however, was not a symbol of death or indeed poison but instead it
profoundly symbolized life in so many aspects.
Many researchers of
Templar and Masonic history
have pointed out the links
between this symbol and the one used by the Knights Templar on their ships.
If we take into account the fact that the Templars had the world’s biggest
fleet in the 13th century, and that they were well known for acts that we
would call today ‘piracy’ then there is no wonder.
Knights of Malta
were also well known
for piracy and we find that these Maltese Knights were in fact the very same
as the Templars - having been formed or joined by the remnant of the
These new Templars or Knights of Malta were accused on
several occasions of piracy and henceforth we have tales of piracy on the
high seas. There is a direct link therefore between the creation or use of
the skull and crossbones by the Knights Templar and our modern day idea of
it being a symbol of piracy.
But, I wondered, what explanation did the Knights Templar give for using the
symbol? Where did they get it from? I found a strange tale that is told by
most Templar researchers to link the symbol to them and this tale
surprisingly involves the number 9, a mother earth image and a skull.
The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, Baigent, Leigh and
A great lady of Maraclea was loved by a
Templar, A Lord of Sidon; but she died in her youth, and on the night of
her burial, this wicked lover crept to the grave, dug up her body and
Then a voice from the void bade him return in nine months
time for he would find a son. He obeyed the injunction and at the
appointed time he opened the grave again and found a head on the leg
bones of the skeleton (skull and crossbones).
The same voice bade him
‘guard it Well, for it would be the giver of all good things’, and so he
carried it away with him. It became his protecting genius, and he was
able to defeat his enemies by merely showing them the magic head. In due
course, it passed to the possession of the order.
In another version this Lord of Sidon actually
ritualistically marries the corpse.
I told this tale to several colleagues in-order to judge the response and in
each case the response began with horror and disgust and ended with a lot of
head scratching and bewilderment - the reaction that the story in fact was
intended to provoke.
Now such stories are naturally seen as macabre and the ‘hidden message’
therefore still evades us - which is the idea. But as I was to discover,
what is really being conveyed in these stories, is the importance of the
union or balance, which creates a state of enlightenment akin to that spoken
of by the Gnostics, alchemists and mystics.
But before I decided this to be the case I wanted to delve deeper and found
myself in an ancient world of symbolism and secrecy. There were more nuggets
of information in this text, which needed investigation and I decided that
it was about time the code was broken. I turned firstly to the main
character in the tale, the infamous Lord of Sidon.
As a Titular metropolis of Pamphylia Prima, Sidon, dates as far back as
Neolithic times. In the tenth century B.C. Sidon had its own coinage that
bore the head of Athena (also Minerva a serpentine, feminine deity linked
with healing.) I found that Athena was indeed the patroness of the city even
though its people were sometimes termed ‘a piratical horde’ and Constantine Porphyrogenitus called Sidon a ‘nest of pirates.’
However the place did go on to play host to one
of Alexander the Great’s garrisons for a while, which was used to subdue
this piratical element for Alexander’s own purposes. Under his successors
Sidon became known as the ‘holy city of Phoenicia’ and enjoyed relative
freedom, with games and competitions attracting people from far and wide.
In 1111 AD the crusader Baldwin, who was later to become King Baldwin of
Jerusalem, besieged the city and it was later to become one of the four
baronies of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.
It was a very commercial, and in fact, warlike city, with a powerful navy - something the Templars looked up to and emulated.
From early on, Sidon was a rendezvous for pirates, and even the slave trade
continued after the fall of slavery elsewhere.
However, by the 14th century, and following the downfall of the Templars,
Sidon was on the ‘way out’ as a player on the world market. The lack of
water and resources - added to Turkish invasions - led to lack of interest.
Sidon was not yet dead in the water though and flourished again briefly in
the 17th century when it was rebuilt by Fakhreddine II - the then ruler of
Under Fakhreddine’s guidance it became a base
for French merchants who used it as a staging post to further their
commercial conquests. Slowly however Sidon again declined until the late
20th century when again it has risen from the ashes to become an important
commercial and agricultural centre.
So this was a brief but relevant history of Sidon and its relationship to my
story was remarkable. The fact that it was well known as a ‘nest of pirates’
I considered also the link of the skull and crossbones to
piracy, especially as it was linked to the Templars, and the fact that the
Lord from the skull and crossbones story was Lord of Sidon.
So was this Lord of Sidon mentioned in the Templar story really a pirate?
The links between Sidon are strong: Templars were highly commercial and
indeed linked to slavery, so was Sidon.
It collapsed in the 14th century,
and so did the Templars. It had a huge fleet, and so did the Templars. In
fact they were one and the same in many respects - both feeding from one
another. The leaders of Sidon were linked with the Templars and would have
seen the Templar’s banking system as highly important.
As the Holy Land finally fell to the Muslims in 1291 I found mention of a
Templar knight by the name of Tibald Gaudin who is thought to have
carried off the famous Templar treasure. When Gaudin finally arrived at the
Templar port of Sidon he was elected the next Grand Master - or Lord.
seems that there were ample financial reserves held at the Sidon Preceptory
and so the treasure of the Templars cannot have been gold or otherwise it
would not have been mentioned. I am of the opinion that the treasure was the
secret of the Holy Grail.
If Sidon had a hidden message in the text then it was simply that the
Lord of Sidon was to get the Grail from the Lady of Maraclea - as
intimated in the story quoted above - which reveals, and rather
symbolically, the means through which he could claim it.
Having now established a link between Sidon and the Templars story I wanted
to move on to the other name given that caught my eye - Maraclea.
This peculiar name I found was taken from a site that the Templars had
previously held in the 13th century. I wondered whether the name had a
symbolic meaning - a name with a hidden message in the language - why else
would she be from Maraclea and not Antioch or Acre?
Initially I found the site was called Maraclea because it simply means
‘Clear Waters’ or ‘Sea.’ But I wanted to know why the Templars had used the
term and began with the standard etymological practice of breaking the word
up into two parts - Mara and Clea. Taking the first part I delved into the
world of etymology once more and found some remarkable ‘coincidences.’
Mara in Hebrew means, ‘bitter’ and was a common alternative for Mary
- whether the Mother of Jesus or the Magdalene. In Latin it equates to mare,
which is ‘water,’ ‘lake,’ ‘sea’ and indeed linked to ‘horse’ (female horse.)
In Anglo Saxon I found that the term mara meant ‘greater’ or ‘more.’
In Buddhism Mara is ‘death’ or ‘evil one.’
Mara is said to tempt us like Eve and indeed it
was Mara who tempted Buddha on the night before his enlightenment
experience. I found this rather intriguing as in the Garden of Eden it was
the serpent who supplied the fruit of the tree of knowledge to Eve and
therefore he was supplying enlightenment just like Buddha (and Eve as
is equated with female serpent.)
This Mara of the Buddhists I discovered was also closely related to Rama,
where ma equates to black or dark, a term associated with beauty and a term
also meaning ‘Great Mother.’
Baffled, but also excited by these etymological results and their
relationship to the story of the enlightenment or ‘shining’ I quickly moved
on to the second part of the word - clea.
When I did look at this word I felt rather stupid as it was perfectly
‘clear’ what it meant. Clea means simply ‘to clean,’ ‘to clear,’ ‘to be
clear,’ ‘to be pure,’ ‘to be bright’ or ‘to shine!’
I also noted that this lady of Maraclea, according to theologians and
scholars was thought to have come from Armenia. Rife in Armenia at the time
was what is known as Paulician Christianity - a Christianity that would not
be recognized by most today.
I decided not to delve too deeply into this
theology, but did find that this spawned the Bogomils who have been linked
to, and were even called the same as the infamous
Cathars or ‘Perfect Ones’
- i.e., ‘Illumined/Shining Ones’ or ‘Pure Ones.’
I then noted that other meaning for clea,
- which was ‘pure.’ Could it be that this link was even well known in
The feeling of stupidity quickly drained away as I suddenly realized what
the term Maraclea meant - a word that has been missed by thousands of
Templar historians the world over and yet is a key to unlocking the secret
of this peculiar text.
I ran through the variants that were now
In fact there were numerous configurations that
I could have made.
In the end I landed on two that just seemed to make
perfect sense and related etymologically in the Anglo Saxon for both words -
without mixing up the languages. The result sent a shiver up my spine as I
realized the two meanings of Maraclea.
The first one was,
Well this was significant in the Gnostic sense,
as the contradictory nature of the words revealed the duality spoken of by
the Gnostics and Manicheans - light and dark, male and female.
These were the two sides of our minds - a
revelation of our own divided consciousness. It was in fact the very same
element spoken of throughout time as the generative source of all religions
- for by overcoming this duality and finding balance and union, or a neutral
state, we become enlightened to our own true self and often enter a
spiritual state of illumination or ‘shining’.
The other meaning of the name Maraclea was equally astounding and
related even more to the concept of illumination. It was ‘Greater
However, there was even more meaning in this interpretation. Standing back
for a moment I wondered about the whole thing. Here I have a Lord of
Sidon, possibly a Templar knight, if indeed not a Grand Master, coming
into union with the ‘Greater Shining.’
What could it possibly mean other than this
Templar was a ‘Shining One’ and therefore experienced the Holy Grail of
enlightenment for himself?
The result of his union would be the head or
skull 9 months later (although another version says 9 years,) and as I was
to discover in my researches into the Temple of Jerusalem, the number 9 was
of paramount importance to the Templars.
The head was also definitely being used as a
metaphor for this internal process, which actually involved the head or
something within it. This in itself gives us a greater insight to the argued
over Baphomet head that the Templars were said to have worshipped.
Strange also then that 9 Knights set up the Templars and 9 years later
Rosslyn Chapel with supposedly the Holy Grail tucked away in a
bag. But, I decided maybe I should take another look at the number 9, which
is a reversed P - something, which would soon become strangely more
I decided in this instance to just take a look at language rather than
numbers and so consulted the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by
Nine days’ Wonder - Minor marvels, things that cause great sensations for a
short time and then pass into limbo… Kittens, puppies, and other young
animals have their eyes closed for a number of days  and then open them
and see the light….
Amazingly this is mirrored in folktales, myth and legend and therefore in
the significance of the number we have here a period of 9 months where the
female is pregnant (and thus rebirth); 9 months or years for the Lord of
Sidon to receive his prize; and 9 days before the new born animals see the
light - it all made complete sense.
So, the skull and crossbones is linked to the number 9 and again,
enlightenment and the Holy Grail - which are both seen as good, pure and
holy. Indeed, was not the Holy Grail said to be the giver of all good
things, just like the head in the Templar tale, ‘guard it Well, for it would
be the giver of all good things.’ If this Greater Shining were truly the
Holy Grail then it would bring him good things for sure.
It became his protecting genius.
Others have found this part of the text very strange, however I understood
what it meant immediately, and for confirmation I looked up the meaning in a
standard dictionary and found perfect corresponding evidence for the Greater
Genius, inborn faculty. (L.) -
L. genius, the tutelary
spirit of any one; also wit, lit. ‘inborn nature.’ Allied to genus.
So, this ‘Greater Shining,’ this ‘head,’ became his inborn faculty or inborn
nature. The two were the same.
There is a subtle underground symbolism going on here. The Lord of Sidon
(a Templar) mates with the Lady of Maraclea (a Cathar) and we have an
inborn nature called genius. Suddenly the Skull and Crossbones symbol, as
explained in the Templar text is revealed before our eyes.
At this point it crossed my mind that I had only gone back to the Templars.
I wondered just how far back in time I could possibly go with this skull and
The earliest reference to the actual skull and crossbones I could discover
was the Templar reference. However, taking the image as symbolic, which is
what it indeed was, then we are looking for the shape - a skull or head with
a diagonal cross or saltaire below.
Amazingly, I found this in Ancient Egypt and on the tomb of Tutankhamen.
Carrying a staff or sceptre was, in ancient Egypt, a symbol of universal
power. The Flail was used to beat animals (or indeed people) into submission
and shows authority like the sceptre - hence their interchangeable nature.
The crook was a shepherd's tool, used to pull stray animals by the neck
without hurting them. Here we have an image of push and pull. This shepherd
aspect of the king is as old as Mesopotamia and possibly beyond.
These two symbols reveal the two opposites of the duality spoken of by the
Gnostics, the push (positive/male) and pull (negative/feminine). Anyone
therefore that mastered these symbols had mastery over the self and the
enlightened connection or ‘shining’.
Tutankhamen was seen with these devices held upon the chest in the diagonal
cross form, making a replica of the skull and crossbones in form, whereas
many other Pharaohs held them outwardly away from each other.
When dead, the king becomes Osiris, and I find that this same image is seen
upon Osiris and is therefore his symbol - a symbol of the ultimate universal
power and borrowed by his earthly representative the Pharaoh.
The symbolism now
becomes open to see
Osiris is the archetypal resurrecting god - a symbol of regeneration, akin
to the power of the Templar in the text.
So the Templar is symbolically the
same as Osiris on Earth. No wonder that Christ is called the ‘good
shepherd’ - as was Osiris who was called the ‘good god.’
So here I was tracing back the image of the skull and crossbones back into
ancient Egypt and even Mesopotamia. It should have been no surprise, as this
is the home of the ancient and original Shining Ones. And yet, amazingly
there was more to come. I turned my gaze even more laterally and found
another symbol related entirely to both the skull and crossbones and the
This separate and more obscure image also closely resembled the skull and
crossbones and over it a ‘holy war’ has raged for decades.
The symbol is now commonly known as the Chi-Rho - so-called because
it is composed of the Greek letters chi (X) and rho (P).
The war over these two letters is fought between Christians and historians;
between fundamentalists on both sides and yet both sides are missing the
The Christians claim that the Chi-Rho form the first two letters of
Christ (Cristos) and the historians claim that the symbol can be found
hundreds if not thousands of years before Christianity and was therefore
usurped by them. I needed to look into this to discover the origins, meaning
and why it so resembled the style of the skull and crossbones.
An identical symbol to the Chi-Rho has been found inscribed on rocks dating
from 2,500 BC
Sumeria, and was interpreted as ‘a
combination of the two Sun-symbols’ - symbols of
the ancient shining ones.
It was also used on the coins of Ptolemeus III from 247-222 BC, as well as
being an emblem of the Chaldean sky/sun god and has the definition
‘Everlasting Father Sun’ (From An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Traditional
According to Sir Flinders Petrie - the Egyptologist - the monogram
Chi-Rho was the emblem of the Egyptian god, Horus, thousands of years before
Christ and is therefore a link between Horus the savior, and Christ the
I had already noted on several occasions the links between these
ancient characters and so this was highly believable and conclusive.
To others it is in this second century B.C. where the secret of the monogram
lies with the Greek Ptolemy’s who are said to have ‘borrowed’ it from the
Africans. In this scenario the Greeks called their version of Horus,
Herecles or Hercules and applying the Greek Xpnc (Chres) to him. This
suddenly gave the ancient Horus the title of Lord, Chrestos, and inevitably
This, if true, shows again the direct link between Horus, the
Chi-Rho monogram and Christ.
Indeed many European scholars have actually identified Heracles or Hercules
as none other than an emblem of Jesus Christ. I had to bear in mind that the
name Heracles, is related to Hero and Hu, which means, ‘shining,’ but are
also related etymologically to Christ, showing that these titles of the
Messiah are directly derived from the word Heru which is of African origin
and can be found the world over as a word for the sun.
But there were even more links, as I discovered. The Greek title Christ
is, like Heru, also derived from an Egypto-African word Karast, and Kristos
or Christos is the KRST (Karast).
Karast is a person who is anointed
(enlightened or shining) as a Heru (Hero) during his or her own lifetime. It
is only when deceased that one receives the great term ‘a KRST’ or Ausur.
This Ausur is none other than Osiris, the same Egyptian god I found with the
skull and crossbones symbol with the flail and sceptre.
The anointing, in the physical sense, (as the anointing also applies in the
spiritual sense,) derived from the body or cadaver being anointed with
spices, oils, and resins to preserve it. The body is then wrapped in
bandages, placed in a coffer, which is then placed upright to symbolize
It was believed that in the plural, the Herus (Heroes) or
Krst’s (Christs) would rise again to save the world as fully divine beings
and thus become the ‘once and future king.’ It seems then that this
tradition came out of Africa, through Egypt and into Greek and Christian
legend and brought with it the original symbols of Osiris.
So, amazingly we have a link between the Chi-Rho and the symbol of Osiris
- god the father of Horus or Christ. No wonder that a philological and
historical war rages and that Christianity refuses to accept this remarkable
So, I wondered, what do the Christians believe this Chi-Rho to derive from?
Well, I found that it goes back to Constantine and was an amazing propaganda
device to establish the new Roman, and therefore to become, Catholic Empire.
The story goes that Constantine had a vision before a great battle and was
told that with the symbol of the Chi-Rho, which they called the Labarum, he
would gain victory - ‘By this sign, you will conquer.’
Using the new Labarum as his battle standard,
which would relate to everybody, Constantine took the field and the Empire
was ‘born again.’
In fact, the Christians had been using this symbol
secretly as a sign of their faith and Constantine (or somebody who advised
him) simply picked up on the fact that this
and the whole savior process was as ancient and widespread as I am outlining
here - and according to some - it was used to plunder the treasuries of the
Amazingly, on the coinage during and after
Constantine’s death, we see the Laburnum or Chi-Rho (image right),
underlined with the serpent - a symbol used throughout time and especially
by the Gnostics for wisdom and the enlightenment process.
Strangely, just as the biblical term, Elohim, is a plural word used
for God (EL), and in reality means the ‘Shining
Ones,’ the X part of the monogram is also plural (X=10) and is
the number of
Chi also has another meaning
- ‘Great Fire’ or ‘Light’ or even ‘Shining.’
The P (Rho) part is more difficult but has been
related to ‘Pen’ (pen means, ‘head’) in etymology thus implying that the
loop on the top of the P is a head, in the very place that a skull would be
on the skull and crossbones.
[One thing is sure, Rho stood for ‘Pater’ or
‘Patah’ (the Egyptian god Ptah), which is ‘Father.’ Together they therefore make ‘Shining Father’ (Dyaus
Pitar) - which later became the Roman ‘Jupiter’ (Hu Ptah=father sun) - the
Roman version of the Greek father-god Zeus.]
I found that the symbol of the skull and crossbones then, stretches back
over thousands of years and relates entirely to the ancient ‘Shining Ones’
- and directly to Osiris, the Egyptian version of the original ‘Shining
Father’ incarnated on earth.
Not only that, but geographically it goes right
into the heart of original Shining territory.
But, I again had questions: Why the X?
I believe that the X marks the spot in
more ways than can be imagined. It is the crossing point of the two dual
energies and it is the centre where the true enlightenment is engaged - where the two opposites meet. With the upright world axis running through
the X we also have a dividing line, but it is also a six-pointed symbol and
is akin to the Star of David or Seal of Solomon, which is also an ancient
symbol with much the same meaning.
The six points are important, as they
reveal the seventh point and most holy - the centre of the X.
I was tempted to look into the infamous
Skull and Bones secret society of Yale
University so famously joined by
Bush Senior and
Junior, as well as many
other extremely powerful individuals, but decided I was straying too far
into the world of conspiracy theories that had little or no substance and so
I left well alone.
However, as I was to discover with
the Jesuits, who swear
an oath upon the symbol of the skull and crossbones, I found that the
Freemasons also have this symbol and utilize it without too much knowledge
of its origin - or so we are led to believe.
However, what was intriguing was the ‘degree’ that utilized the symbol - the
In the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Virginia, USA, there is an
anteroom with a large portrait of the Colonial period Grand Master Lafayette
wearing the Templar Apron bearing the ‘skull and crossbones.’ The same apron
images have also been found elsewhere, such as Michigan, Detroit and Jackson
and I am sure that these are not the only ones, as several members have also
pointed out to me that they too have seen the aprons.
According to Masonic history the apron can only be dated back to the late
18th century and to the revisions carried out by Thomas Smith Webb where he
pointed out that,
'The flap black, and a skull and cross bones
embroidered in silver thereon.’
On another apron is described by Cornelius
Moore in 1859:
An Apron of black velvet of a triangular
form, trimmed in silver lace.
On the top or flap is a triangle, with
twelve holes perforated through it; in the centre of the triangle is a
cross and serpent; on the centre of the apron is a scull and cross
bones, and at equal distance from them, in a triangular form, a star
with seven points; in the centre of each star a red cross.
~From The Craftsman and Freemasons
The reasoning behind having this skull and
crossbones on the Masonic apron, is revealed in a story with which I began - the story about a Lord of Sidon...
For more on this see Gnosis: The Secret of Solomon’s Temple
Revealed by Philip Gardiner, New Page Books, 2006 and the DVD from
Reality Entertainment 2006
For more on this see Secrets of the Serpents: In Search of Our
Sacred Past by Philip Gardiner, Reality Press, 2006 - a book and
One thing is sure, Rho stood for ‘Pater’ or ‘Patah’ (the Egyptian
god Ptah), which is ‘Father.’ Together they therefore make ‘Shining
Father’ (Dyaus Pitar) - which later became the Roman ‘Jupiter’ (Hu
Ptah=father sun) - the Roman version of the Greek father-god Zeus.