by Philip Gardiner
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. It was an
image that has kept cropping up in my researches, whether Masonic or
Templar or even as the symbol that the Christian Jesuits found
themselves being inaugurated on, and so I decided that I needed to
look deeper into the mysterious rise of this peculiar image.
Whenever we see a pirate ship on television, cinema or in comic
books we also see an extremely ancient symbol – the skull and
crossbones. This 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
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 dissolved Templars. 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
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.
In The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, Baigent, Leigh and
tell the tale:
‘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 violated it.
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 Gnosics, alchemists and
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 Lebanon. 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’ was startling. 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
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
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. It 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 as I pointed out in The Serpent 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 –
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
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 whom supplied the fruit of the tree of knowledge to Eve and
therefore he was supplying enlightenment just like Buddha (and Eve
as Havveh 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 recognised 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’
‘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 Templar times?
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 possible:
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 realised 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 return to 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 relevant.
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 Robert Hendrickson.
‘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; 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
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 crossbones image?
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
Carrying a staff or scepter 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 scepter – 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
Tutankhamun 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
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 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 as we show in the book of the same name, but it was. 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 Egyptian influence.
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 point.
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
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 Symbols.)
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 savior. 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 ‘Christ.’ This, if true, shows
again the direct link between Horus, the Chi-Rho monogram and
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 scepter.
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 resurrection. 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 link.
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
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 symbol 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 pagan temples. Amazingly, on the coinage during
and after Constantine’s death, we see the Laburnum or Chi-Rho,
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, and in reality means the ‘Shining Ones,’ the X part of the
monogram is also plural (X=10) and is the number of Yahweh. 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. 
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
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
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 Knights Templar.
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 Guide,
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 . . .
1 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
2 For more on this see Secrets of the Serpents: In Search of Our
Sacred Past by Philip Gardiner, Reality Press, 2006 – a book and
3 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.