Skull And Cross Bones
The Esoteric symbolism of the “Skull & Cross Bones” Emblem
Date: October 2, 2023
Author: Tommy Truthful
The enigmatic emblem of the Skull & Cross Bones carries an age-old mystique, veiling its profound and concealed significance. Presently, it is commonly associated with the concept of “poison” and serves as a cautionary symbol, yet this represents a deliberate misdirection orchestrated by a clandestine elite to obscure the emblem’s authentic import. In reality, the Skull & Cross Bones serve as an age-old tool employed by practitioners of the arcane arts to access spiritual potency.
The Celebrated Emblem of the Skull & Cross Bones
In contemporary society, the Skull & Cross Bones serve as a symbol of caution, signaling peril or poison. Yet beneath this surface interpretation lies an obscure and potent esoteric significance, embodying tremendous power and spirituality.
Much like the elusive allure of the number 13, our comprehension of this symbol’s genuine import has been skillfully obfuscated by influential elite families who control major corporations and wield formidable governmental authority.
Unearthing the Profound Significance of the Skull & Cross Bones
Beneath the shroud of mystery, the Skull & Cross Bones reveals an enigmatic truth—it is not merely a symbol of death, but a profound emblem of life. This symbol found its veneration among ancient priests and priestesses across the globe, from the Mayans in Mesoamerica to the Etruscans in Europe:
Above: Three millennia ago, the ancient Etruscans and the distant Mayans, two distinct and unrelated civilizations, both crafted representations of the Skull and Bones.
Throughout antiquity, the Skull & Cross Bones symbol carried an identical message, resonating across different cultures. By the era of the Middle Ages, European intellectuals began to label it as “Memento Mori,” translating to “Remember you are mortal” and “Remember you must die” in Latin.
This symbol serves as a poignant reminder of the transient nature of human existence and the inescapability of mortality. Contemplating the inevitability of death prompts reflection on the fleeting nature of earthly pleasures, subsequently unlocking the gateway to the eternal essence within each of us—the soul.
The practice of achieving spiritual enlightenment through direct contemplation of the Skull & Cross Bones endured, albeit not without interruption, finding refuge within secret societies like the Freemasons.
Above: Within the Masonic “Chamber of Reflection,” a distinctive Skull & Cross Bones holds a prominent place.
“…a symbol that invokes thoughts of mortality and death. It serves as a catalyst for deep contemplation within the Chamber of Reflection…”
– Albert Mackey (1807 – 1881), Secretary General of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States
According to esoteric wisdom, the act of contemplating death directs our gaze inward. Through such profound “reflection,” we unearth a concealed treasure residing within us, taking the form of eternal “life.” This timeless concept, akin to the cross symbol celebrated by ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, resonates with the core of human spirituality.
Above: The Ankh cross, symbolizing eternal life and the journey beyond mortality.
The extent of the treasure we unearth is commensurate with the depth of our “work” or introspection.
“As the camel kneels down and implores, ‘Lay a burden upon me,’ it does so with devotion. Yet once the camel is laden and stands again, it ventures into the wilderness, transforming into a lion. The greater the burden it carried, the mightier the lion it becomes.”
– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (1904 – 1987)
In the profound contemplation of initiation, a remarkable revelation emerges. The initiate attains gnosis—the knowledge that they are an eternal and boundless being, transcending the limitations of the temporal.
“You don’t possess a soul; you are a soul. You possess a body.”
— C.S. Lewis (1898 – 1963)
Moreover, this newfound understanding unveils the truth that this soul, our authentic and eternal essence, is akin to a “deity” who has momentarily descended into the present world—the physical realm. It is a descent marked by the illusion of our temporary, mortal existence.
“The Fall of Day” by William Rimmer, 1869, presents a profound reflection. In this portrayal, you find yourself—an eternal deity or spirit, temporarily immersed in and dwelling within the realm of material existence.
The verity is that we are not transitory mortal beings destined for demise; rather, we embody the eternal divine. Yet, we suffer from amnesia, forgetting our divine essence. We have taken on this temporal existence on Earth, akin to a dream.
Row, row, row your boat, Gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream.
“We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep.”
Blinded by our inability to recognize our inherent divinity, we remain disconnected from this wisdom. Initially, by the veil separating the material and unseen spiritual worlds, and additionally, by the influential powers mentioned earlier. However, be not deceived; we are both the microcosm and the macrocosm.
Consider the adage: “As above, so below.” We are not merely the “below” (the creature); we also constitute the “above” (the universe, the deity). Everything we perceive in “Nature” is, in truth, a reflection of our own Nature—a manifestation of our own creation. We are our own creation, and within our essence, we find perfection.
Above: Man is not solely the microcosm, the mere reflection of the animal, but he is also the macrocosm—the divine force responsible for generating that reflection!
The Earth, too, possesses a divine essence—a belief universally held by the ancients. This concept, known as animism, reverberates throughout the tapestry of ancient religions.
“The Kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the earth but men do not see it.”
— The Gospel of Thomas
Furthermore, Time itself is imbued with divinity, for it is an integral component of Creation. Thus, we encounter the symbol of an hourglass adorned with wings. Across the spectrum of ancient cultures, wings stood as an emblem signifying divinity and eternity:
Above: An hourglass adorned with wings, embodying one of its profound meanings—Time as a manifestation of the Divine.
As the sands of time inexorably slip away for mortal beings, death approaches. This revelation is not solely encapsulated within the hourglass; it also finds expression in the symbolism of the Skull & Cross Bones. Despite the inevitability of death, we transcend it, for we are omnipotent, all-encompassing, and all-knowing. We are divine entities. Remarkably, we are the architects of death itself.
“The Skull and cross bones are a continual reminder that the spiritual nature obtains liberation only after the philosophical death of man’s sensuous personality.”
— Albert Pike (1809 – 1891), a distinguished and influential Freemason
For a true practitioner of the esoteric arts, the Skull & Cross Bones serves as a potent reminder that we are the celestial force that has fashioned our own earthly mortal form. In truth, we presently exist in a heavenly realm, yet we dream of being alive on Earth. When the hour of death arrives, the dream shall dissipate, and we shall awaken to this profound verity.
In Hebrew, the term “Shekinah” translates to “God dwells in us.” This signifies that “God” is not the aged figure “above” as conventionally perceived. God does not exist externally; rather, God is an intrinsic aspect of you. You are God. You encompass that very figure above. It is a facet of your being from which you have been severed.
Captured by Philippe Halsman in a collaborative effort with Salvador Dali in 1951.
Consequently, the utilization of the Skull & Cross Bones in graveyards, catacombs, and crypts transcends the mere reminder of our mortality. It serves as a profound symbol of our immortality, a testament to our inherent divinity, and a conduit to reconnect with our true nature as divine beings.
Above: Across Europe, a plethora of stone tombs feature depictions of the Skull & Cross Bones emblem, accompanied by inscriptions, or epitaphs, that beckon readers to contemplate not only their mortality but also their immortality.
The Skull & Cross Bones motif found its way into the symbolism of numerous American college fraternities, sororities, and secret societies established during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among these, the most renowned illustration is the Skull & Bones society, a clandestine organization at Yale University whose very nomenclature is drawn from this symbol.
Skull and Bones Secret Society, Hallowed Grounds of Yale University, Connecticut.
An unexpected interloper to the tomb reported an intriguing sight:
“On the western wall, an aged engraving portraying an exposed burial chamber. Within it, on a stone slab, recline four human skulls, arranged alongside a jester’s cap and jingling bells, an ajar tome, numerous geometrical instruments, a beggar’s script, and a regal crown (17,18). Etched upon the arching wall above the sepulcher are these elucidating words, scripted in Roman letters, ‘We War Der Thor, Wer Weiser, Wer Bettler Oder, Kaiser?’ And beneath the vault, etched in German characters, resides the phrase: ‘Ob Arm, Ob Beich, im Tode gleich.'”
The English interpretation of the German verses unfolds as follows:
“Who was the fool, who the wise man, beggar or king? Whether poor or rich, all’s the same in death.”
But what does this signify?
Primarily, it serves as a reminder of our equality in life and the equality we encounter in death. Secondly, it imparts the wisdom of our multiple lifetimes, for we are eternal deities residing in a heavenly realm, dreaming of these transient existences. You are the fool, you are the wise one, you are the beggar, and you are the king! Yet, as none of these lives are permanent, none are truly real. The sole reality lies in your eternal, reincarnating soul.
Notably, several college fraternal organizations incorporate the skull and bones into their public symbols, including, but not limited to: Dom-I-Necher, Kappa Sigma, Sigma Phi Epsilon, Phi Kappa Sigma, Tau Kappa Epsilon, and Zeta Beta Tau Fraternities, along with Sigma Sigma Sigma and Chi Omega Sororities.
Moreover, various fraternal groups incorporate the skull and crossbones into their symbolism and secret fraternal ceremonies, encompassing the Knights of Columbus and the Knights Templar degree of Freemasonry.
On the left: A captured moment from the iconic film “The Wizard of Oz,” within Professor Marvel’s enchanting wagon (it’s important to remember, he is the Wizard). Here, a prominent skull takes center stage above the entrance (1939). The underlying message? Delving into contemplation upon the skull serves as the key to unlocking higher wisdom.
On the right: A captivating creation—a 3° Tracing Board adorned with the symbolic skull and crossbones—crafted by the skilled hands of W. Bro. Josiah Bowring, rendered in exquisite oil on panel, dating back to 1819.
In the awareness that we encompass both the Creator and the Created, the ancient Pagans cherished the adage “Carpe Diem,” which translates to “Seize the day.” It beckons us to relish the present moment, indulging in life’s pleasures, for tomorrow remains uncertain. Thus, we are urged to savor life today, for it is the present moment in which we truly exist, alive and vibrant.
This sentiment finds eloquent expression in a beloved 3-minute excerpt from the film “Dead Poet’s Society.”
The Pagan saying “Carpe Diem” evolved among medieval Europeans into the idea of Danse Macabre:
“The Dance of Death” (1493) by Michael Wolgemut.
“No matter one’s status in the tapestry of existence, the Dance of Death transcends all boundaries. This Danse Macabre assembles the departed or personified death, beckoning representatives from diverse walks of life to partake in a solemn dance toward the grave. Among them, one may find a pope, emperor, king, child, and laborer. These depictions serve as poignant reminders of the frailty of human existence and the transient nature of earthly glories. Scholars trace its origins to illustrated sermon texts, with the earliest visual manifestation attributed to a mural in Paris, now regrettably lost, dating back to 1424-25.”
Commencing in the latter part of the seventeenth century, undertakers extended their services to the living, offering objects associated with the departed. Printed ephemera, exemplified by the funeral invitation below featuring the Skull & Cross Bones adorned with a winged hourglass (symbolic of the spiritual and everlasting essence of life and death), became a common sight.
In bygone centuries, soldiers were educated about the genuine significance of the Skull & Cross Bones as part of their preparation for warfare. The emblem, including its symbolism, was imparted in their training. It’s worth noting that German armies, among others, frequently incorporated the Skull & Cross Bones into their military iconography during various historical periods.
In the image above, we encounter the Totenkopf, a German term signifying the “deathman’s head.” This symbol harks back to the ancient concept of “memento mori” and typically comprises the skull and mandible of the human skeleton, sometimes accompanied by two crossed longbones (femurs).
A contemporary reflection of the idea of life after death, as embodied by the Skull & Cross Bones, lingers in isolated enclaves scattered across Europe. These pockets, which persist to this day, have not completely transitioned to Christianity:
“Our remaining Gaelic Speaking communities are scattered around Ireland, and approximately 25 years ago, the Government allocated funding for a Gaelic-speaking Radio and later TV network, primarily aimed at nurturing and promoting the language.
The radio broadcasts are intimate, and twice daily they provide a ‘death notice’ roundup, sharing the latest news of passings within various communities, along with funeral details. The literal translation from Gaelic for these death announcements is…
‘Gone on The Journey Of Truth Today’ is Johnny Bradley, etc…
Death is regarded simply as ‘The Journey,’ leading toward truth, where all illusions and delusions gradually dissipate until the ‘entity’ becomes aware of their true essence and purpose.”
— Donal O’Siodhachain, Bardic Poet, 2011
Notions of “Memento Mori” find their roots in the earliest Classical literature. As evidenced by Sophocles (circa 429 BCE) in “Oedipus the King,” he believed in the enduring existence of the soul after death—an idea shared by virtually all the eminent Greek philosophers:
“Let every man in mankind’s frailty Consider his last day; and let none Presume on his good fortune until he finds Life, at his death, a memory without pain.”
In the depiction below, a Triptych assembled from human skulls reveals the eternal nature of Time. While the Triptych symbolizes life, the skull embodies death. The fusion of these two elements underscores the inseparable connection between death and life, both emanating from the same Creator. The message conveyed is straightforward: You are both the Creator and the Created.
Above: A striking Triptych composed of skulls, situated within The Cemetery of the Capuchin Fathers in the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Rome, Italy.
Within this sacred space, we encounter the preserved remains of 4,000 Capuchin friars, meticulously crafted into a grand and impactful masterpiece. Skulls and bones have been ingeniously employed in the creation of altars, chandeliers, and intricate wall designs. The intention behind this endeavor is not to evoke fear but rather to kindle prayer, contemplation, profound introspection, and meditation—a process akin to “awakening” to the profound higher Self that transcends death.
The emblem of the Skull & Cross Bones was not originally conceived to signify poison. Regrettably, in contemporary times, it has come to be associated with poison due to deliberate efforts by authoritative figures seeking to conceal its authentic meaning. This concealment serves as a means to keep the masses subdued, disempowered, and uninformed about the genuine essence of human existence.