Phrygian Cap
Hargrave Jennings, in his book The Rosicrucians Their Rites
and Mysteries (1870), argued for the common ancestry of the
Phrygian Cap, which is the classic cap of the god Mithra; the
sacrificial cap; and the miter. The Mithraic or Phrygian Cap is
the origin of the priestly miter in all faiths. The Phrygian Cap
was worn by the priest in sacrifice. When worn by a male, it had
its crest, comb, or point set jutting forward; when worn by a female,
the same prominent part of the cap is in reverse, or on
the nape of the neck, as in the instance of the Amazon’s helmet,
displayed in antique sculptures, or that of the goddess Athena.
According to Jennings, the peak of caps or hats (the term
‘‘cocked hat’’ is a case in point) all refer to the same idea. This
point had a sanctifying meaning afterward attributed to it,
when it was called the christa, crista, or crest, which signifies a
triumphal top or tuft. The Grenadier Cap and the loose black
Hussar Cap derive remotely from the same sacred Mithraic
bonnet, or high pyramidal cap.
The Phrygian Cap comes from the highest antiquity. It is
displayed on the head of the figure sacrificing in the celebrated
sculpture it Mithraic Sacrifice (or the Mythical Sacrifice) in the
British Museum, London. This loose cap, with the point protruding,
gives the original form from which all helmets or defensive
headpieces, whether Greek or not, derive.
When a Phrygian Cap, or Symbolizing Cap, is bloodred, it
stands for the cap of liberty, a revolutionary symbol; in another
way, it is even a civic or incorporated badge. It marks the needle
of the obelisk, the crown or tip of the phallus, whether
human or representative. It may have had its origin in the rite
of circumcision. The real meaning of the bonnet rouge or cap of
liberty is obscure, but it has always been regarded as a most important
hieroglyph or figure. It signifies the supernatural simultaneous
sacrifice and triumph. It has descended from the
time of Abraham, and it is supposed to be an emblem of the
strange mythic rite of the circumcision preputii.
The Phrygian Cap stands as the sign of the Enlightened.
The heroic figures in most Gnostic gems have caps of this kind.
The sacrificer in the sculptured group of the Mithraic Sacrifice,
among the marbles in the British Museum, has a Phrygian Cap
on his head. He performs the act of striking the bull with a dagger,
which is the office of the immolating priest. The bonnet conique
is the miter of the Doge of Venice. Cinteotl, a Mexican god
of sacrifice, wears such a cap made from the thigh-skin of a sacrificed
virgin. This headdress is shaped like a cock’s comb. The
Scotch Glengarry cap also seems, upon examination, to be
‘‘cocked.’’
Besides the ‘‘bonnet rouge,’’ the Pope’s miter and other miters
or conical head-coverings derive their names from the
terms ‘‘Mithradic,’’ or ‘‘Mithraic,’’ and the origin of the whole
class of names is Mittra, or Mithra.
Sources
Cumont, Franz. The Mysteries of Mithra. LaSalle, Ill. Open
Court Publishing, 1903. Reprint, New York Dover Publications,
1956.
Jennings, Hargrave. The Rosicrucians Their Rites and Mysteries.
3rd ed. 2 vols. London J. Nimmo, 1887.
Vermaseren, M. J. Mithras, The Secret God. London Chatto
& Windus, 1963.
Wynne-Tyson, Esmé. Mithras, the Fellow in the Cap. London
Rider, 1968