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 Fellows
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.

 The 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.

updated 3:19 p.m. ET, Tues., Jan. 5, 2010

NEW YORK - 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 art collector.

The skull 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.

Skull and 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.

Publicly 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. Buckley, Jr.

"I think 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 history."

The skull 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.

The skull 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.

Skull and 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.

On 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.




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