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It has been a long time since we had a post about mascots, which is a real shame, since they tend to be the weirdest posts on Ferrebeekeeper (which is saying something since this is a blog about dark gods, strange art, exotic mollusks, and brain vivisection). Therefore today we highlight space-themed mascots—symbolic beings/objects which represent a group or entity by means of anthropomorphized celestial bodies (or other zany astronomical concepts). I am pleased by all of the stars and suns but somehow I wanted something more celestial and mysterious. Also why are so many of them yellow?
We mentioned the troubles Ole Miss was having phasing out their previous mascot in favor of something less divisive. Here is Star War’s own Admiral Ackbar filling in that role.
Hmm, I’m not sure whether that has furthered my dearly-held and oft’ stated goal to prod humankind back towards the exploration of outer space, but you never know what will work best with different people and, at least we saw some really strange mascots.
The fleur de lis is an ancient stylized representation of a flower—most likely Iris pseudacorus a golden-yellow species of Iris, native to Europe, western Asia and northwest Africa. The motif can be found as far back as Assyria and ancient Egypt, but it became universally prevalent after it was gradually adopted as a symbol by the Kings of France from the 11th to the 12th centuries AD. Apocryphal mythology from the middle ages maintains that the connection between the fleur de lis and the throne of France dates back much farther–to the very beginning of the French crown when Frankish warriors invaded Roman Gaul during the 5th century AD. According to the legend, Clovis, the first of the Merovingian Kings, who was descended from Merovech (himself descended from a river god), had a divine vision in which an angel ordered him to change the three golden toads on his shield to three golden flowers.
The first surviving instance of the flower in heraldic use is a seal showing the future Louis VIII and his shield strewn with fleurs de lis which dates from 1211. Thereafter Bourbon and Capetian kings made extensive heraldic use of fleurs de lis. The standard of many golden fleurs de lis scattered across a sky blue field was changed to three prominent fleurs de lis by Charles V in the mid 14th century.
Over the centuries other principalities, cities, and families took up use of the fleur de lis. The coat of arms of Florence is a large red fleur de Lis—although the shield is a comparatively recent innovation which does not date to Florence’s golden age. The heraldic device of the Medicis, who ruled Florence at its zenith, was a shield with five red balls. Over time Luxemberg, various popes, and Bosnia and Herzegovina have also utilized fleurs de lis in their standards.
Since the earliest days of the movement, scouting (known in the US as the “boy scouts” and “girl scouts”) has been symbolized by a fleur de lis. The scouts’ founder, Robert Baden-Powell, a British military officer and aristocrat chose the fleur de lis as a symbol because it was used by the British Army as an armband to identify soldiers who had qualified as “Scouts” (reconnaissance specialists). Baden-Powell asserted that the boy scouts’ fleur de lis also symbolized the compass rose–which always points true north.
The fleur de lis is used by numerous New World cities and provinces which were once part of the French colonies before they were conquered or purchased. Many parts of French Canada, the Mississippi valley, and the French Caribbean still use the Fleur de lis for flags, seals, and coats of arms. New Orleans and Louisiana make particularly extensive use of the fleur de lis in local standards. The famous New Orleans Saints football team is symbolized by a golden fleur de lis which is an anomaly in a league filled with aggressive animal symbols.
Beyond the statehouse and the gridiron, bon vivants, artists and sybarites have also come to informally identify with the fleur de lis. It is seen in quixotic tattoos, extravagant fabrics, and luxury logos. It seems appropriate that the heraldic flower, once the symbol of warriors, soldiers, and conquerers has now come to be associated with beauty, pleasure, and leisure (which seem more in keeping with the nature of irises).
I am in South Chicago, and, through no coincidence, my favorite fast-food restaurant is also here–so I am uncharacteristically devoting this post to fine dining. I hope my more serious readers will forgive the frivolity of this sybaritic post dedicated to the nation’s finest fried chicken restaurant, Harold’s Chicken Shack in Hyde Park, which I frequented with great gusto when both it and I were younger. Harold’s is known for its vibrant hen-themed wall-paper, its neighbors–namely a liquor store and a lottery shop, and its impregnability (since the cashiers and fry cooks still work behind at least one layer of bulletproof material), but most of all Harold’s is famous for its dirt-cheap, unhealthy, yet supremely delicious fried chicken.
I purchased a signature half chicken (white) with fries, hot sauce, extra white bread, and an RC cola. I’m live blogging the unique experience both because I have discovered that Harold’s chicken fits many of Ferrebeekeeper’s ongoing themes (namely crowns, farms, mascots, & art), and as an opening salvo of the Thanksgiving season of gluttony and good eating.
OK, here’s a photo of the inside of Harold’s Chicken Shack. As you can see, a variety of luridly colored machines are there to help you supplement your meal with candy, soft-drinks, and diabetes. Actually these are only some of the vending machines in the store: the ice-cream machine and the other candy machines are up by the counter. I decided not to take a photo of the counter area because Harold’s employees are hard-working folk and I didn’t want to get in their way (and because I was afraid they would think I was casing the joint and call the Chicago police). Unfortunately this means you can’t see the remarkable bulletproof glass food carousel or the menu with its gizzards, livers, grits, and fish.
Once I had obtained my half-chicken, I rushed it to the local park. The last 2 decades have been good for South Chicago and the park was much cleaner and more beautifully landscaped then back in the 90’s, but I did notice a smashed cassette about “How to Balance Your Life (The Physical Side of Life)” lying not far from a Crown Regal Bottle. I hope this doesn’t have anything to do with eating a 6,000 calorie meal, but I can’t help but think that it does.
Here is the outside of my fried half-chicken. You can see Harold’s two remarkable mascots on the wrapper: King Harold, complete with crown and scarlet robes is rushing after a speedy and clever free-range chicken who does not want to be part of his majesty’s supper. There is a lot to appreciate about the drama, pomp, and pathos of this logo—it captures all of my ambiguous but powerful feelings about animal farming. As an aside, it is unclear whether the eponymous “Harold” of Harold’s chicken represents Harold Harefoot (c. 1015–1040) or Harold Godwinson (c. 1022–1066) who famously fell before William the Conqueror to end Anglo-Saxon rule of England. Maybe they simply anglicized one of the many King Haralds from Sweden or Norway. Anyway, the mystery is part of the charm.
Now for the reveal: here is the Harold’s half chicken sodden with hot-sauce on its bed of fries. A few pieces of wonder bread are stacked on top in case the diner wishes to make a little chicken-skin and French fry sandwich. Hopefully you will notice the Royal Crown “RC” cola which again features a crown (in fact the logo is pretty much only a crown). My whole repast is covered with crown logos and there is indeed something regal about this meal. I can’t help but feel like Henry VIII as I throw bones to the side from orange-stained fingers. Eating Harold’s chicken is like life: the experience is messy and horrifying and delightful. There are moments of delight and moments of despair. As with life, the end is grim and painful and comes too soon. As a greasy calm fell over me and the first stabs of stomach pain began, I noticed this admirable statue sitting nearby the chess tables of Nichols Park. Campoli’s abstract imagery of talons and claws and beaks emerging from a (stomach-like) egg perfectly summarized my feelings about my delicious and unsettling lunch. Hooray for Harold’s!
Of all the animal posts on Ferrebeekeeper, by far the most popular is the post relating to the wombat, the stalwart marsupial grazer of Australia. I have since added a post dedicated the (sadly) extinct Diprotodon, a giant wombat which walked the world from 1.5 million to 40,000 years ago. However, it has been a long time since those posts and also a long time since we had a post concerning mascots, so today we once again visit the stolid burrowing quadruped–but this time as interpreted by consumer artists. Here is a short gallery of wombats used as logos or mascots.
When I am playing the best-selling video game Mortal Combat with friends, I have one friend who always calls the game Chortle Wombat in the same sonorous battle-voice used by the (dark-wizard?) narrator of Mortal Combat. Surprisingly, the joke is hilarious to me because I always imagine a troop of ninjas desperately trying to make a dour old wombat laugh.Perhaps the most famous of all wombat mascots is “Fatso, the fat-arsed wombat”, an irreverent spoof of the official Olympic mascots of the Sydney games. It took me a long time to find a printable picture of Fatso and the most charitable interpretation I can put forth is that the character was designed and popularized by larrikins (a word which seems to either denote puckish non-conformists or dirty anarchists) to shine a spotlight on the weight problems sweeping the developing world.
Finally there are a handful of schools and sports teams which feature wombat mascots, although less than I would expect for an animal which is, in its way, an unofficial mascot of Australia.
As discussed on the 4th of July post, the national animal/symbol of the United States was nearly a rattlesnake. Perhaps it is well that the eagle prevailed: to the Judeo-Christian mindset snakes are taboo creatures identified with wickedness and the devil (or perhaps I should say that the other way around–since the tempter in Genesis is identified as a serpent and the devil does not appear until much later). However not everyone reviles serpents and certain bold organizations (from the medical profession, to racecar makers, to flute-rest manufacturers) have used the limbless animals to represent their organizations. Here is a gallery of symbols, logos, mascots, and crests which make use of snakes. I have thrown in some fictional archvillain organizations for fun–it will be up to you to separate them from the real institutions.
I particularly like the old fashioned crests (including Alfa Romeo’s corporate logo which looks like it once belonged to an evil viscount), however I would like to issue demerits to the Arizona Diamondbacks for not actually having a snake for their logo. Even more egregious, the diamondbacks employ a bobcat themed furry as their mascot when they could easily choose a mascot outfit like one of these unconventional snake suits.
Some artists sign their works with a symbol instead of with their written name. My favorite of all these artist’s symbols was the one employed by the great German gothic painter Lucas Cranach. Ferrebeekeeper has already written about Lucas Cranach’s troubling allegory Melancholy, his fascination with severed heads and femme fatales, and his magnificent depiction of animals. Cranach usually signed his works with a black winged serpent holding a ruby ring in its jaws and wearing a crown. It fills me with frustration that I didn’t think of it first—imagine signing the water bill with that!
There are various different versions of the serpent. Cranach changed it around—especially when he signed printed artworks. Elector Frederick the Wise granted the winged serpent with a crown and ruby ring to Cranach as a coat of arms on January 6th, 1508, but nobody is sure what it means. Some art historians have speculated that it is an astrological or alchemical symbol. Others believe it may be a lost pun concerning some aspect of Cranach’s name or have some allegorical meaning too subtle to fathom. The actual explanation seems lost in mystery (which is probably how Cranach would like it). Whenever I see a Cranach painting in a museum, the search for his serpent sigil is part of the fun.
In the past this site has featured posts about how some of my favorite organisms and mythical beings have been used as mascots or logos. I have blogged about turkeys, leprechauns, trees, and catfish as adopted as the symbols for businesses, sports teams, or individuals. These posts have been fairly open because mascots and logos are often loosely defined: sometimes an informal name catches on or a novelty statue becomes the symbol of a town. Indeed some of the images I included are only maniacs in costumes or striking illustrations. So be it! Such usages highlight the way in which these animals and concepts are worked into the fabric of our lives.
None of this prepared me for how mollusks have become mascots, logos, and symbols. One of the many reasons I write about mollusks is because they are so alien and yet simultaneously so pervasive and familiar. That idea is borne out by mollusk symbols! Not only is one of the world’s largest companies symbolized by a mollusk (to say nothing of how a squid has wiggled its way into becoming the unofficial mascot of one of the world’s richest and most controversial financial entities), some of the world’s strangest entities are also represented by octopus, squid, or shellfish.
Mollusk logos are immensely popular in Japan. Sometimes the reason is evident (as in squid flavored noodles with a cartoon squid on them), but other times the reasoning is elusive. Mollusks in Asian art deserve a post all of their own. Indeed the subject deserves more than that—for tentacles are so tangled up with fertility issues to the fervid Japanese imagination that my family blog is not going to explore some of the outré fringes of mollusk imagery in that island land. With that explanation (or caveat), here are some particularly good Japanese mascots–denied of any context since I don’t read that language!
Actually I have no idea if those last five are mascots or logos or what. Whatever they are, they come from Shinici MARUYAMA and they are jaw-droppingly incredible. The Japanese certainly have a very special relationship with mollusks!
Thanksgiving is next week! I have already bought a big aluminum platter and some oven bags for the great feast and my hunger is growing sharp…. In the mean time though, I continue to salute the majestic turkey bird–the glorious figure the whole holiday focuses around (albeit in an uncomfortably primitive sacrificed-and-devoured kind of way).
Today’s ambiguously conceived tribute takes the form of a gallery of turkey mascots and logos. It seems quite a lot of them are “Turkey Trot” promotions (apparently that’s some sort of Thanksgiving Day ceremonial run), processed food advertisements, whiskey labels, or creepy sports mascots. In this last category, pride of place certainly belongs to the HokieBird, the fighting turkey mascot of Virginia Tech, my sister’s alma mater. Here he is, first in a formal logo, then below that in a portrait, and finally in a candid shot, horsing around on the sidelines:
I’m never sure how to feel about Virginia Tech (sad, angry, confused, affectionate?) but I love the mascot and I salute their bold choice! Here are some other Turkey Mascots that didn’t necessarily work out as well and then some anonymous turkey costumes.
The following are food labels/brands. I really like the first one—a turkey trying desperately to sell tofu substitute:
I know I mentioned wild turkey before but I had to include it again because of the dazzling realism.
Here are some random Turkey images–cartoons, and logos from all sorts of different sources (especially “turkey trot” races around the country):
I’m closing this grabbag of images with a picture of the national bird of the United States getting angry and jockeying for pride of place with the turkey. Next week I’ll finish listing the different strains of domestic turkey and write some closing thoughts about this national obsession.