Navel-gazing time. Just for fun, I assembled a few emblems of things I affiliate or identify with, both real and fictitious and some whose reality is debatable depending on your point of view and degree of scepticism/atheism.
These are in no particular order of importance.
The crest of Clan Cameron, the major clan of which my own, MacMartin, is a ‘sept’ (in Game of Thrones terms, bannermen; a vassal house, like House Blacktyde to House Greyjoy, or House Mormont to House Stark). I’m also affiliated via an earlier ancestor’s marriage with Clan Ogilvie – motto “A Fin”: “To The End”; though the MacMartin/Cameron link is just a little stronger.
The background for the image, by the way, is one of the Clan Cameron hunting tartans – by which I do not mean to suggest I’m into hunting, but only that the hunting tartans of each clan tend to be a slightly more subdued version; the primary tartans are usually more strikingly coloured, and therefore less suitable as a background.
Incidentally as well, the whole tartan thing is… well, honestly it’s a bit of a mess. There’s much debate over how much authority a tartan has, or who’s entitled to wear one, or even where the system of identifying tartans came from and when. There are often a number of variants and although there is a Scottish register of tartans, it’s open to new submissions and so is more of an ongoing record of what people intend their designs to be for rather than having any heavy historical authority.
Applicable ‘Pride’ flags.
The original rainbow flag used first as a gay pride symbol in the late 1970s and now recognised as international symbol for the LGBT+ communities.
The ‘bi pride’ flag, representing the bisexual community as part of the greater LGBTQ+ umbrella – the flag created in 1998 to represent the traditional male-female binary and the central blurring of the two representing, according to the flag’s designer Michael Page, bisexual people who “blend unnoticeably into both the gay/lesbian and straight communities”.
The transgender flag. Can be seen with or without what’s become known as the transgender symbol, the central glyph here which represents the traditional binary gender symbols combined and expanded out to incorporate non-binary identities. The colours represent the traditional gender binary in the modern associations of pink for girls and blue for boys, with the symmetrical inversion of the colours standing for the transition from each to the other, and a central white bar denoting those who do not recognise themselves as standing in either part of the binary.
It should probably be noted that there are other versions of these flags, especially the second and third, but these are the common ones.
(Also it should be noted that I use these flags only until we don’t need them any more, at which point I’ll gladly see them done away with. I’m not a big fan of flags, as a rule, and when I do tolerate them they have to be symbols of unity, association and friendship, and not of exclusion and division.)
As mentioned, not a huge fan of flags for the most part. But there are, unavoidably, some that are applicable to me in political and genealogical terms; and there are some that I associate with willingly, if conditionally.
So by descent I’m English (the red cross on a white field) and Scottish (the white cross on a blue field). These countries are currently both part of the United Kingdom (represented here by the Union Jack*, that garish mess of red and white crosses on a blue field). I am – formally for now, and at heart permanently and defiantly screw you Farage – a citizen of the European Union (circle of yellow stars on a blue field).
(I should say I’m pretty cross with England at the moment. I’m having trouble feeling any particular identification with it after it basically told me and millions of others like me to go fuck ourselves a few years ago. I’m sure I’ll get over it.)
I believe in unity as well as the recognition and celebration of difference. It’s why I was pleased to discover Clan Cameron’s motto is ‘Aonaibh Ri Chéile’, meaning ‘Let Us Unite’. When there is a world citizenship to claim** I will be first in the queue. For now, to represent my membership of the Human community, I make do with what I think is the best of the informal ‘flags of Earth’: the blue and white circles and the yellow arc on a black field, representing the Sun-Earth-Moon system in space: humanity united in all its rich diversity.
* Just in case anyone’s gearing up to tell me it’s only the Union JACK if it’s being flown at sea on a ship’s jackstaff and that otherwise it should be called the Union Flag… No. No, that’s not the case. Union Jack and Union Flag are both accepted terms for the flag wherever it’s flown or printed. The idea that one refers only to at-sea use is a relatively recent urban myth, which seems to have first cropped up in earnest around the late 1980s and into the 1990s. Also, interesting side note: it’s not the legally official flag of the United Kingdom, because there isn’t one. In other words, it’s not declared official by statute; only by convention.
** There are actually a number of companies who sell ‘world passports’, but they’re basically bollocks. I’m talking about an actual world citizenship with meaning, whether it’s created through the United Nations or some successor body. It may never happen. But if it does and I’m still around, I’ll be right there for it.
BOTTOM MIDDLE LEFT:
The crest of the Empire of Achenar, my character’s nationality in Elite Dangerous. In reality, I’m neither monarchist nor republican – to me in the UK the Crown is simply part of our constitutional mechanism: it’s an equivalent symbol of unity and long-term continuity with which other countries imbue their flags or the office of their presidents (if not their orange, lying, corrupt, racist, warmongering, barely coherent, semi-literate actual presidents). I don’t oppose the Crown as such a mechanism because it’s not a big enough problem. But nor do I take a particular interest in the monarchy: it’s just there. If the country decided to abolish it I wouldn’t be fighting especially hard against the idea.
Now that’s me in real life. In Elite, though, the Empire is simply the more interesting of the three superpowers to which your character can align. Yes, it’s ruled by an Emperor – currently Arissa Lavigny-Duval; yes, it practices a complex system of social security, debt management and criminal accountability that it for some inexplicable reason refers to as ‘slavery’ which seems like a public relations screwup of the highest order; yes, its Senate includes the asshole Denton Patreus, abusive and violent Admiral of the Imperial Fleet… But it’s still interesting – especially for characters that hover around the grey edges doing shady jobs for shady people.
The other options, by the way, are the Federation, based on Mars, which is a “democracy”…
“Please state your corporate allegiance before registering your vote.”— The Federation
Yeah, no, it’s not really a very healthy democracy. It pays lip service at best and pretends to the rest of the Galaxy that it’s the pinnacle of Human freedom and self-determination — it even goes to war because it’s ‘democratic’ and therefore entitled to tell other nations what to do. It’s essentially run by corporations and business interests.
Anyway, other than that there’s the Alliance of Independent Systems, which is generally best described, I’d say, as complicated and inoffensive. It’s basically the EU of Elite Dangerous: a group of independent states working in cooperation to try to maintain a kind of democratic bastion between the corporate statism of the Federation and the authoritarian jingoist nationalism the Empire on the other and clearly there are no real-life parallels to this situation at all.
Actually, in reality, given the choice of these three I’d probably sign up for the Alliance. But in game terms, the Empire’s more interesting. Interesting is fun in games. (In real-life politics, as we’ve found over the last three years, interesting is terrifying.)
BOTTOM MIDDLE RIGHT:
A silly one now, but may be instructive, you never know. I was never a huge Harry Potter nut, but whenever the topic came up I always imagined I’d have been sorted into Ravenclaw House at Hogwarts, because I’m far too serious and love learning stuff – albeit generally the more useless the information the more efficiently I’ll learn it. Actual useful facts or skills? Not so much. I figured it certainly wouldn’t have been Gryffindor because I’m not brave, courageous or at all noble-hearted; and it wouldn’t have been Hufflepuff because I can’t stand people.
Anyway just for fun, while talking to some people who were bigger Potterists than I’ve ever been (I really like the films but I’ve never managed to read the books bar Philosopher’s Stone), I took several online tests to see what house the floppy hat would have put me into if I’d been a kid at Hogwarts. I took several because I was looking for one that didn’t sort me into Slytherin House because I’ve seen the films enough to know they’re the bad guys – right? And then a friend said to me, “Well… have you ever thought maybe you would’ve just been sorted into Slytherin?”
They kindly explained to me that being in Slytherin doesn’t necessarily mean you’re evil – I must admit I’d always wondered why Hogwarts had a specific house for evil kids, but I assumed it was just along the lines of keeping them where you can see them. But apparently it’s more that their personal qualities make them particularly susceptible to evil rather than that they start out that way.
It didn’t come across in the films, I gotta say.
In any case, I genuinely I have no idea what I told those quizzes that led to them deciding this, but at around the same time I had also taken an online psychology test that rated me high in ‘Machiavellianism’, so there’s that.
Also I am actually evil, so I suppose there’s that, too.
The septagram, a seven-pointed star sometimes called the Fae or Faerie Star. A spiritual marker. It’s had a lot of meanings over the years. There are a lot of sevens in in occultism, mysticism and natural philosophy. Seven planets (known at the height of the great ceremonial magicians, at least). Some take the seven points to be an extension of the elemental pentagram: where the five points of the pentagram are said to stand for the four classical elements plus ‘spirit’, the septagram’s points are sometimes listed as a representation of directionality. North, South, East, West, Above, Below and – significantly – the Other Way. The hidden direction that can be taken if you know where to step – through the mirror, or past the shadow. Given this is where the Fae reside, the star gets its name.
And that’s as hippy as I intend to get. Apart from, possibly:
This one was my attempt to express a couple of things together. It’s an amalgam of the Druidic symbol for Awen – the universal breath of inspiration – with the emblem of the Vulcan principle of IDIC. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, or in Vulcan, Kol-Ut-Shan: the understanding that diverse elements can come together to create an even greater whole.
A word on IDIC. IDIC as a symbol had a difficult beginning, not only because it was created for a cheesy TV sci-fi show. But as I’ve often said before, I’ve always been a very strong believer in the concept of wisdom being where you find it: the words that scriptwriters put in the mouths of their characters can sometimes – even if unintentionally – be as wise or as incisive as any pronouncement by classical philosophers. But the main problem with IDIC, to begin with, was Gene Roddenberry. He made no secret of the fact that he had the design first, and merely thought up the philosophical principle, and placed the design in an episode of Star Trek, to try to sell some medallions he’d had made. Not an auspicious or a very fitting start for what was supposed to be a central principle of Vulcan culture. During filming there were some right good bust-ups between Roddenberry and his main cast, as William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy both protested what they (rightly) saw as Roddenberry’s naked commercialism.
That said, Roddenberry did spend some time thinking out the meaning of the symbol as it might be expressed by the Vulcans, and he outlined his basic ideas in a memo in 1968:
“[IDIC] can mean the truth which comes out of the blending of different ideas and creeds or the strength and beauty that comes out of the joining of different races, or the rich life which comes out of surrounding oneself with friends who have ideas different from your own and the rich cross-fertilization which occurs in such associations.”– Gene Roddenberry
As a basic idea, there’s little to fault here. And, thankfully, IDIC today seems – to me at least – to have outgrown not only Roddenberry’s initial, rather cynical, motivation, but even to some extent Star Trek itself. To my mind it’s axiomatic: diversity brings strength; complexity can create beautiful things; the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. The IDIC symbol, at least given its in-universe meaning, conveys that.
The incorporation of the Awen into the IDIC reflects the kind of quasi-druidic leanings I’ve felt in the last few years, and Awen, with its very specifically three rays, also – for me at least – reflects a triple theme that carries on into:
This is the commonly recognised symbol of the Triple Goddess in modern pagan traditions, especially those of the more witchcrafty branch. The Goddess is considered to represent the cycling seasons as Maiden – young and full of energy, Mother – nurturing and creative and bringing new life, and Crone – wise, experienced and representative of endings. This is in turn conveyed through the phases of the Moon: the First Quarter – or, often, a crescent preceding the First Quarter – for the Maiden; the Full Moon for the Mother; and the Last Quarter for the Crone. Sometimes, as here, the symbol will show a pentagram – the generally accepted umbrella emblem for pagan traditions – in the central Full Moon position.
As a (bad, slack, not-particularly-practising) Roman Pagan for many years, I’ve recently felt drawn in particular to the goddess Diana Nemorensis, approximately the Roman equivalent of the huntress goddess Artemis. Diana is also recognised as Diana Triformis, a three-aspect goddess composed of Diana, Luna and Hecate – the latter of these being another goddess highly prominent in modern witchcraft paths. A Roman coin from 43 BC shows an image of this triunity in cult statuary at the sanctuary of Diana at Lake Nemi. ‘Nemorensis’ means essentially ‘from Nemi’ – the word stemming from ‘nemus’, a Latin term meaning ‘grove’ or ‘glade’ – hence Diana holds dominion over the wild woodland places in much the same way as Artemis for the Greeks. As Diana Luna she rules over the Moon and traditionally feminine influences (Apollo holds the Sun and is her masculine counterpart – roughly serving as ‘the God’, in modern pagan terms). And as Hecate she is an underworld goddess – ‘dea infera’ – and rules over liminal and transitional spaces – crossroads (another name for Hecate is ‘Trivia’ – lit. ‘Three Roads’), boundaries, edges; and over magic, witchcraft and sorcery.
I don’t know what that’s all told you about me that you didn’t already know if you know me at all, but there they are. I’ve no idea why I sat down and put this together. I probably just have too much time on my hands.
Oh, by the way, if you were wondering: Candor.