[Author’s Note: For the past few weeks I’ve been taking a look at various pretty modern heraldry and military unit insignia, observing the manner in which even amidst the modern world we find pronounced and often downright deliberate resonancies with the Indo-European mythic syllabary of the archaic and the eternal world. This piece, in particular, stood out (and provides useful discussion of several elements) – so we’re running it here on Arya Akasha. [-C.A.R.] ]
Not quite Techno-Heraldry … but another US Air Force blazon that I’ve had on my mind recently. In no small part because #CorvidGang, and the manner in which it makes use of what is some pretty fundamentally resonant Indo-European mythic iconography.
The patch belongs to an Electronic Warfare testing unit at Edwards Air Force Base; and makes reference to the longstanding colloquial tradition in American military practice of referring to electronic warfare techs as ‘Crows’, derived from World War Two era codenames for Allied aircraft proto-ECM operators and their hardware as ‘Ravens’.
However, the association of Corvidae with cleverness, cunning, and ‘hidden speech’ is, of course, a far older one; and one that also overlaps with the manner in which they provide (often life-saving) guidance to the hero wise enough to be able to take heed of them.
The Crow or Raven has further connotation in linkage to the Sky Father deific complex – wherein it is the Sky Father as the Lord of the (Glorious/Ancestral) Dead, and the Sky Father as (Stern) Judge that they are linked to as ebony emissaries, representatives down here upon this Earth. You can see this in the strong associations of Ravens or Crows with Odin, with Yama, with Shaani … but then, of course, I repeat myself.
Not for nothing do we find a Canadian formation operating in the same sphere [the Canadian Electronic Warfare Centre] making use of similar Corvid and Lightning iconography, with the pointed addition of a motto of “Mens Et Memoria” – ‘Thought And Memory’.
The etymology of “Crow” itself is further relevant – Proto-Indo-European ‘Gerh’, which also gives us terms such as Sanskrit “Garjana” or “Garjati” [whence my oft-referenced theological maxim: “Vacam Garjit Lakshanam] : a sound that is both ‘regal’ and resounding, as it refers to a roar of Thunder, or an Elephant’s mighty trumpeting blast. I reference it here not only because it has some further saliency in relation to the Sky Father [see last week’s article on the Terrifying Face thereof], but also because of what ‘Vacam Garjit Lakshanam’ can mean – a sort of ‘subtle speech’ wherein those who are uninitiated only hear the noise of thunder or the cawing of Ravens, and do not comprehend the actual ‘hidden’/’imprinted’ message contained therein.
Quite relevant, in its own way, for what an Electronic Warfare and countermeasures directorate is all about. Working out how to both conceal and uncover the hidden sign; as well as to scramble things up, and send the enemy into disarray, in just the manner that the aformentioned Terrifying Roar is held to do.
Of course, this also links me to my next point – the Lightning Bolts held in this Corvid’s grasp ; which recall, in a sense, the utilization of just such projectile weapons by said Sky Father deific – the lightning-arrows of Rudra, the lightning-bolt thrown by Zeus like a javelin.
So, I suppose you could say that a Crow holding Lightning-bolts is ‘Thunder & Lightning’.
However, the more specific meaning of lightning in an electronic warfare unit’s insignia is perhaps a little more mundane. Insofar as it connotes electricity, and the technical (rather than necessarily directly destructive) applications thereof. [Hence also why the antenna of the dish to the Crow’s left is a lightning-bolt, albeit a black one]
A further iconographic element that’s worthy focusing upon is the fact that this is a Cloaked Crow in the wide-brim hat. Which suggests the veil of secrecy, subterfuge, cunning, and disguise that forms not only the modus operandi of a cutting-edge tech development unit – but also a key role and competency for electronic warfare when employed in the field. Whether intentional or otherwise, the garmentry recalls Odin’s theonyms of Grimnir [‘Cloaked One’/’Hooded One’], and Síðhöttr [‘Wide-Hatted’].
The last element I’ll consider on this patch is the curious Latin motto – Testum Pontus Veratis. Now, my Latin is … rather rusty, to say the least, but neither ‘Testum’ nor ‘Pontus’ are what one would expect them to be. Perhaps fittingly.
If we are charitable in our interpretation, and we presume that the guy coming up with the maxim was running on dog-latin [well , ‘Late Latin’] rather than proper vocabulary and grammar, then there is a reasonably straightforward translation that is immediately apparent : ‘Testing as a pathway/bridge to Truth’.
However, ‘Veratis’ isn’t ‘truth’ as a noun – it’s “you (plural) tell the truth”. “Pontus” isn’t the same noun as “Pons” (‘Bridge’), but instead refers to a Sea (and potentially the Black Sea in particular), ‘the deep’, or perhaps the pattern of a wave thereupon. “Testum” is the most peculiar of the three – as it’s not “Testis” as in a testifier (not quite a ‘tester’, but close enough – someone who bears witness to the characteristics of a thing, at any rate) … but rather, a clay pot, and especially the lid thereof.
Which incidentally, is also the underlying source for “Tiesto” – and more interestingly, is also where we get our modern English “Test” from, due to the semantic shift which “Testum” underwent in its later post-Latin derivations, wherein the act of using just such a vessel to ‘test’ the quality of metals poured therein eventually gave rise to our modern English term “Test”. [Which, now that I think upon it, has additional resonancy with one of the proposed etymologies of ‘Testum’ – ‘Tostus’, meaning ‘Roasted’ .. er .. ‘Toasted’ (also from the same root); which I mention due to the figurative connotation of surviving heat and pressure – a ‘trial by fire’ that makes the thing rather than destroys it].
So, what does “Testum Pontus Veratis” actually mean?
There’s a few potential interpretations. Especially if you give the patch-creators a bit of leeway for figurative connotations on the nouns. It’d be tempting to read “[Clay Pot] [Sea] [You Tell The Truth]” as something about ‘keeping the lid’ on the secrets of ‘the deep’, or providing a test-environment/vessel for ‘wave’ technology (as radio etc. tends to make use of; or the ‘wave of the future’ perhaps) and telling the truth about that.
But personally, I think that it’s a stealth pun. As was that one.
What’s another name for a clay cooking vessel, often used in baking? A dish.
What’s directly above “Testum” in this patch-design?
Now read it directly –
“Dish Sea You Tell The Truth”
Oh you clever, clever Crows !