Mysticism, Time

On Bitcoin Bubbles, Blue Garters, and Blue Aprons

(William Hogarth, The South Sea Scheme, 1721)

See here ye Causes why in London,
So many Men are made, & undone,
That Arts, & honest Trading drop,
To Swarm about ye Devils shop, (A)
Who Cuts out (B) Fortunes Golden Haunches,
Trapping their Souls with Lotts and Chances,
Shareing em from Blue Garters down
To all Blue Aprons in the Town.
Here all Religions flock together,
Like Tame and Wild Fowl of a Feather,
Leaving their strife Religious bustle,
Kneel down to play at pitch and Hussle; (C)
Thus when the Sheepherds are at play,
Their flocks must surely go Astray;
The woeful Cause yt in these Times
(E) Honour, & (D) honesty, are Crimes,
That publickly are punish’d by
(G) Self Interest, and (F) Vilany;
So much for monys magick power
Guess at the Rest you find out more.

The South Sea Company was a British stock company founded in 1711. The company was part of the treaty during the War of Spanish Succession, which was traded in return for the company’s assumption of debt run up by England during the war. The South Sea Company was plagued with financial speculation, corruption and credulity that caused the south sea bubble in 1720 (Sperling 5). Hogarth illustrates a scene that reflects the reality of the corruption behind the bubble. When the bubble burst because of rising stock prices due to speculation, a large portion of company investors were left broke as the company crashed. These company investors were people in all walks of society. As a fraud between the company’s directors and cabinet ministers surfaced, political scandal began to cause mass chaos.

The print shows a London scene, with a statue of a giant to the left; a column to the right is erected, its base originally reads “Erected in memory of the destruction of the City by the Great Fire in 1666” but Hogarth alters the inscription to “This monument was erected in memory of the destruction of the city by the South Sea in 1720” (Stevens, 8).  Hogarth does this to achieve equalizing the tragic results of the two events.  St. Paul’s Cathedral is in the background. The monument represents the city’s greed juxtaposed with St. Paul’s, which represents the city’s charity (Stevens 9). In the center of the print is a large construction, which seems to represent a merry-go-round of figures representing all levels of society, indicating the ways in which the South Sea Bubble affected all classes of people. These figures include a clergyman, a prostitute, a hag, and a Scottish nobleman (Walcot 415). A goat sits atop a sign that says “Who I Ride.” [“Who’l Ride” – CM]. In the upper left, a long line of women are entering a building with a sign that says “raffling for husbands with lottery fortunes in here”. On top of the building is a set of stag antlers (Walcot 413), which is symbolic of women cuckolding or leaving husbands who have lost their money in the crash [or is it? — CM]. To the left, “Fortune” hangs by her hair, blindfolded as the devil chops off parts of her body and throws them to the crowd below (Tate). She is hanging from a balcony of the Devil’s shop, aka Guild Hall (Walcot 413). To the right, the figure of “Honesty” is broken upon a wheel of self-interest (416). A man who represents Villainy, whip in hand and a mask upside down between his legs, stares at a figure representing “Honor” as if ready to beat him. Beneath Villainy stands a monkey wearing [taking, stealing – CM] the cloak of Honor, representing mimicry (Walcot 416). A Puritan, a Jew, and a Catholic stand at bottom left, ignoring the chaos and focused on the gambling, not having learned the harsh lesson about speculation. Finally, the figure of Trade, at the very front, appears to be dead. The corpse of Trade is easy to overlook in the ensuing chaos. [1]


Let us discover what William Hogarth meant in saying that the “Devil trap[s] their Souls .. Shareing [th]em from Blue Garters down, To all Blue Aprons in the Town.”

A superficial interpretation would be that he was referring to the entire hierarchy of English society, from the highest down to the lowest classes.

In 1348, King Edward III had founded the Most Noble Order of the Garter, the highest order of English chivalry. Membership is limited to the Sovereign, the Prince of Wales, and no more than 24 members, or Companions. The garter itself is made of blue velvet trimmed with gold, and is worn on the left leg, below the knee:

When the ‘Garter’ was instituted, about 1348, its color was light blue — like the color of the regalia in private English Lodges — but soon after the accession of George I, in 1714, this light blue was changed to the present deep blue shade.[2]

But what of the “Blue Aprons”? Were the lowest classes in England associated in any way with this symbol? Not that I am aware.

There is another possibility.

William Hogarth was a freemason.[3] His father-in-law, Sir James Thornhill, was also an active member of the Craft, in “a period when to be a freemason was a fashionable activity in an environment where joining and attending clubs, coffee houses and various societies was very commonplace. Freemasonry stood out as an institution because of the quality and high ranking standing of those who had become members…”[4]

Hogarth “was born into an impoverished family, and he needed Thornhill’s introduction to join a suitable Lodge consisting of men well above his own social standing.”[5] He designed the Grand Steward’s Jewel for the Grand Lodge of England,[6] and eventually became a Grand Steward in 1734.[7]

Perhaps Hogarth, a renowned satirist, was mocking the victims of “The South Sea Scheme” at a deeper level than is commonly understood.

The Blue Apron is likely a cryptic reference to Freemasonry. A white lambskin or leather apron is said to be “the Badge of a Mason and [..] is more honorable than the Star and Garter or any other order that could be conferred upon him by King, Prince, Potentate or any other person except he be a Mason.”[8]

Recall that Hogarth depicted Villainy with a face mask that is hanging, inverted, over his groin.

On March 17th 1721 – shortly after the South Sea bubble had burst – the first Grand Lodge ordained that:

“None but the Grand Master, his Deputy and Wardens shall wear their Jewels in Gold or gilt pendant to Blue Ribbons about their Necks, and White Leather aprons with Blue Silk; which Sort of Aprons may also be worn by former Grand Officers.”

This was the first official mention of Blue Silk as a trimming for aprons, and it is clear that the Blue was originally reserved for Grand Officers. The Rawlinson MS., c. 1740, mentions: “Two Grand Masters aprons Lined with Garter blue silk and turned over two inches with white silk strings.”[9]

Originally Garter Blue was a very pale blue, “of a watery tinge”, changed under Edward VI to a mazarine or light sky blue and changed again during the Hanoverian period [probably 1745] to the current darker hue.[10]

So we see that there is clearly a connection between the Blue Garter of the Most Noble Order of royal chivalry, and the Blue-trimmed Apron of the Grand Masters of Freemasonry.

However, there is still more here than meets the eye.

The Blue Garter is also a symbol of the Sacred Marriage:

“Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and a Silver Sixpence in her Shoe.”

1056314_Wedding_tradition_garter_c28921a7ed620ed764ac090341745314

It represents purity, virginity, and fidelity … and, a confirmation of the deflowering of the bride:

[T]he garter toss originates from an early 14th century French tradition called “Fingering the Garter”. [..] Post-wedding ceremony, couples would retire to the wedding chamber to consummate their marriage in order to make it all legally binding and ascertain the bride was an untouched virgin (and thus all offspring were genetically linked to the groom and his inheritance). Guests were then invited up to the room to see the groom’s deflowering handiwork, usually in the form of showing off the bed linens with their telltale post-virgin blood stain OR claiming the bride’s garter as a symbol of said consummation (likely a leftover from the tradition of the wedding girdle removal). In French the term for this was “fingering the garter,” guests checking to see if the bride was no longer a virgin by feeling near her garter. [..] In English traditions, guests would sneak into the marriage chamber to then attempt to throw discarded lingerie and stockings on the couple, whoever hit the noses of the couple with a stocking being the next to marry. In order to protect the bride from this groping crowd, grooms began throwing the garter to the mobs in order to keep them at a distance from their new bride.[11]

It is also a symbol of good fortune … to the man, other than the husband, who gets his hands on it first.[12]

The Devil traps their souls with lotts and chances,
Shareing them from Blue Garters down,
To all Blue Aprons in the Town

Perhaps what Hogarth really meant, was that the Devil had share-d the souls of the Most Noble (“Blue Garters”), down To” all the Grand Master Masons (“Blue Aprons”).

In light of the revelations of corruption and “fraud between the company’s directors and cabinet ministers”, our interpretation may be more than merely, err, speculative.

Pun intended.

What does all of this have to do with Bitcoin?

You decide.

For a deeper interpretation and exposition of the occult (hidden) meaning of the stag antlers over the building marked “Raffleing for Husbands with Lottery Fortunes in Here”, see Stags and Unicorns: The Alchemical Root of the Normalisation of Cheating.

 

FOOTNOTES

[1] Hogarth Satires, The South Sea Scheme (online; accessed 20 December 2017)
[2] Leon Zeldis FPS, 33°, PSGC, Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite for the State of Israel Honorary Adjunct Grand Master, Masonic Blue (online; accessed 20 December 2017)
[3] Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, A few famous masons (online, accessed 20 December, 2017)
[4] W. Bro. Yasher Beresiner, William Hogarth: The Man, The Artist, and His masonic Circle (online, accessed 20 December 2017)
[5]
ibid.
[6] Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, William Hogarth (online, accessed 20 December, 2017)
[7] Masonic Dictionary, William Hogarth (online, accessed 20 December, 2017)
[8] Brooks C. Dodson, Jr., Masonry and the Order of the Garter (online, accessed 20 December 2017)
[9] Bro. F.R. Worts, M.A., P.A.G.D.C., The apron and its symbolism (online, accessed 20 December 2017)
[10] Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, Masonic blue (online, accessed 20 December 2017)
[11] Nuptial Adventures, Traditions: Fingering the Garter, Symbols of Virginity, and Public Mortification (online; accessed 20 December 2017)
[12] ibid., “Weddings in most cultures have been considered a special moment to transfer luck or fortune, be it money, land, inheritance, good fortune, the possibility of future weddings, etc. In ye olden European wedding traditions, obtaining a trinket from the bride was always thought to be a harbinger of luck or at least future nuptials. After the couple exchanged vows, the attendees would sometimes rush up to the bride, ripping sections of her wedding finery off of her in order to obtain some of her wedding providence. The bride, in order to protect herself and her fashion choices, would then sometimes throw favors to the crowd, scarves, tokens, ribbons, garters, in order to make it to her own reception. If not quick enough though, her clothing and her garter would be forcibly removed, attendees flipping over the bride to remove her garters with her skirts over her head.”

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