Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Out of something comes something else"

I was reading Christopher Dawes' book Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail th'other day and he mentioned a product called Lyle's Golden Syrup.  Specifically, the tin; this features an olde-fashioned logo (dating from 1885) featuring a dead lion, above which fly a swarm of bees.  According to Wikipedia:
This is a reference to the Biblical story in chapter 14 of the Book of Judges in which Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and when he passed the same spot on his return he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle at a wedding: "Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness". While it is not known exactly why this image and slogan were chosen, Abram Lyle was a deeply religious man, and it has been suggested that they refer either to the strength of the Lyle company or the tins in which golden syrup is sold.
What really struck me about this was the motto on the tin, which reads:

"Out of the strong came forth sweetness"

Readers of LoS will recall that in our last post, we reproduced the coat of arms of Americana, a Brazilian town founded by Confederate emigres; it not only features a beehive and two bees, but the motto "Ex Labore Dulcedo" which I have seen translated as "The Sweetness of Labor" or "Pleasure arises from Labor" but which I think could be translated as 

"Out of Labor comes forth Sweetness"

The Confederados who founded Americana were farmers, specializing in, unsurprisingly, cotton, but also in watermelon.  They probably had their fair share of beekeepers as well.  But the hive here was probably chosen because the Confederados were overwhelmingly Freemasons, and the Freemasons used the beehive as a symbol both of industry and of a well-ordered society.  Both the Mormons and the Jacobins borrowed the symbol from the Masons.  Indeed, Utah is called the "Beehive State".  The Jacobins were drawing on French tradition as well.  

In 1653 the Merovingian King Childeric's tomb was found, containing hundreds of small golden bees, and Napoleon later adopted this symbol for himself as opposed to the Bourbon fleur-de-lys; as a symbol of the first royal dynasty of France, perhaps the bee was far more appropriate to mark the foundation of a new France than the symbol of a recently vanquished dynasty.  To this day, metropolitan France is referred to as the "hexagon" for it's rough approximation of the form.  And of course, honeycomb is a series of hexagons.....

No indication that Abram was a Freemason, by the way, and I'm not suggesting a link between the Mormons, the Confederados of Lyle's Golden Syrup.  Just the common symbolic currency of the era....

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