Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Phrygian Cap

At first sight, one can wonder what the Phrygian Cap has in common with the beret...
I first got to this headgear when doing research on the Barettina (see my post of 4 July), the similarities are obvious, but along the way, I saw more and more similarities in a non-visual way.

During the 18th century, the Phrygian Cap became a symbol of freedom, held aloft on a Liberty Pole during the American revolutionary War - the beret, in a variety of colours depending on the political side taken, became a symbol of freedom during the Spanish Civil War; a symbol of pride and identification with the workers for the International Brigaders and a symbol of historical and political belonging for the Carlists and Falangists.

The Phrygian Cap is much older though, well known in Antiquity. For the Romans it served as a badge of liberty; it was worn by the Dacians and can be seen on the carvings of Trajan's Column.
In Roman times the cap was worn by former slaves who had been emancipated by their master (and whose descendants were therefore considered citizens of the Empire.
The Phrygian cap was also worn by King Midas to hide his donkey ears (that were given to him as a curse by Apollo).

The cap was especially adopted during the French Revolution, and to this day,Marianne, the French national emblem, is shown wearing a Phrygian Cap.

The cap continued to symbolize liberty in other parts of the world; in the United States we find it -among others- on the state flags of West Virginia, New jersey and New York
and on the Seal of the U.S. Senate.

Many of the anti-colonial revolutions in Mexico and South America were inspired by the examples of the French and American Revolutions and, as a result, the cap appears on many coats of arms of Latin American countries (like Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua).

In more recent times, we see the Phrygian Cap with the Smurfs, a popular cartoon by Peyo. The leader wearing the red cap, his subjects white ones.

And of course Santa; where do you think his hat


  1. You forgot to mention the connection between the Phrygian Cap
    and the "magic" mushroom called the "Liberty Cap", scientifically
    known as Psilocybe semilanceata. There are myths connecting
    this hallucinogenic fungus with the mystical religious rites known
    also as the Eleusinian Mysteries. Theories have described the
    sacrament in these rites to be of possible hallucinogenic origin,
    and mushrooms have been mentioned as a probable medium.
    This however, is not proven.

    The religious mushroom ceremonies of, among others, the
    indigenous people of Oaxaca in Mexico, proves nontheless
    that this type of fungus is well known and has been used for
    many centuries as a source of insight and enlightenment.

    It is not unprobable that mushrooms of this kind are a key
    to many of the teaching and understandings connected with
    the so called "Ancient Mysteries", as they are known in more
    or less modern fraternities - like, for instance, Freemasonry.

  2. Great comment, thanks.
    Good links for further research!