Skulls and Bones
One of the more common motifs in American
fraternal jewelry is that universal symbol of death, the skull and crossbones.
Interestingly, this is only found among American fraternal orders and
not shared by their British cousins. (It is also worth noting that the
so-called “Secret Societies” of the United States are known as “Friendly
Societies” in the British Isles.)
The significance of this symbol varies
among orders and, surprisingly, seems to have no significance at all among
most of them. For example, most
Knights of Pythias fobs, charms, and lapel pins display the Skull and Bones.
Yet among jewelry sanctioned by the Pythian Supreme Lodge, the symbol
is not to be found at all. Much
the same is true among the Moose, Woodmen, and all the other orders whose fobs
frequently hang from ruby-eyed skulls. Like
the knight’s helmet, it was simply a stylish feature in the late Nineteenth
and early Twentieth Centuries.
Among at least a couple of orders it does
have symbolic significance. In
the Masonic Knights Templar, it is symbolic of Golgotha, the Place of the
Skull and the crucifixion place of Jesus Christ.
Among the Knights of Columbus, it is coupled with the initials TFMM
which stand for the Latin Tempus Fugit
Memento Mori meaning Time Flies; Remember [that you will]
Die. The skull and bones were an integral part of the rituals
of the Order of Knights of Pythias, Moose and the Woodmen of the World. The
Moose and the Woodmen did away with the utilization of the skull and bones in
their initiation ceremonies long ago, but the Knights of Columbus still use
them. The K. of P. used a full skeleton in the Page Degree, as did the Odd
in the Initiation Degree.
In 1836, the
fraternal society of the "Skull and Bones" was established at Yale
University. It is an Ivy League Society of the Who's Who among
the Elite (rich and famous). It is a Senior year society which exists
only at Yale. Members are chosen in their Junior year and spend only one
year on campus, the Senior year, with Skull & Bones. In other words, the
organization is oriented to the graduate outside world. The Order meets
annually - patriarchies only - on Deer Island in the St. Lawrence River.
The Old Line American families and their descendants
involved in the Skull & Bones are names such as: Whitney, Perkins, Stimson,
Taft, Wadsworth, Gilman, Payne, Davidson, Pillsbury, Sloane, Weyerhaeuser,
Harriman, Rockefeller, Lord, Brown, Bundy, Bush and Phelps.
conspiracy theorists propose that these Elite inner circle members of the
Skull & Bones, the Bilderbergs, Council on Foreign Relations and
Trilateral Commission are conspiring to politically and economically dominate
the entire world under their New World Order.
3:19 p.m. ET,
Tues., Jan. 5, 2010
- A human skull that apparently was turned into a ballot box for Yale's
mysterious Skull and Bones society is going on the auction block.
Christie's estimates the skull will sell for $10,000 to $20,000 when it is
auctioned on Jan. 22. Fittingly, the auction house has agreed to keep the
seller's name a secret. On Monday, it described the person only as a European
is fitted with a hinged flap and is believed to have been used during voting
at the famous society's meetings. The auction house said it also may have been
displayed at the society's tomblike headquarters on Yale's campus in New
Haven, Conn., during the late 1800s.
Bones, an elite society founded in 1832, has closely guarded its members'
names and its activities since the early 1970s. Prior to that time, the group
published an annual roster.
known members, known as Bonesmen, include President William Howard Taft, both
presidents Bush, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, businessman and diplomat
Averell Harriman, publisher Henry Luce and author and commentator William F.
it's a macabre artifact," Margot Rosenberg, head of Christie's American
decorative arts department, said Tuesday. "It's an intriguing story tied to
America, tied to Yale. I think it will generate interest for people who are
former Bonesmen, people who collect Americana, people who are interested in
is believed to have been owned by Edward T. Owen, who was graduated from Yale
in 1872 and went to become professor of French and linguistics at the
University of Wisconsin. The word THOR is etched into the skull; it may have
been the nickname given to Owen or another society member.
is being sold with a black book, inscribed with Owen's name, the year 1872 and
the numeral 322, a reference to the society's year of inception and to the
death of the orator Demosthenes in 322 B.C. It contains the names and
photographs of about 50 Bonesmen, including Taft, who became the 27th
president of the United States; Morrison Remick Waite, who became U.S. chief
justice in 1874; and William Maxwell Evarts, who served as U.S. Secretary of
Stateand U.S. attorney general.
Bones invites 15 Yale seniors to join each year. Bonesmen swear an oath of
secrecy about the group and its strange rituals, which include initiation
rites such as confessing sexual secrets and kissing a skull.
Tuesday, the society's secrecy remained intact. Efforts to reach a society
member or a representative of its business arm, the Russell Trust Association,
through a Yale spokesman were unsuccessful. The Ivy League school, which is
not affiliated with the society, did not return a reporter's call.
A special "Thanks" Brother Denis P. McGowan who provided the history of these
Orders. Brother Denis P. McGowan is a dedicated fraternalist and student
of the history of American fraternal organizations.