SURGERE IN LUMINE
(click to see logo in detail)
THE SPLENDID FIREBIRDS LOGO needs no explanation, but some of you
may be intrigued by the Latin motto. Read more below.
The concept of a firebird is relatively common in religions and mythology, representing the sun, creation, and rebirth. The most well-known example is the Phoenix, the name adopted by the 2016 Ironbridge Past Masters’ Association. A lesser known example is the Bennu bird which, according to Egyptian mythology, was a self-created being said to have played a role in the creation of the world. And it is believed that the Bennu provided the inspiration for the Phoenix within Greek mythology.
The first mentions of Bennu date from the Pyramid Texts of the Old Kingdom: the bird was associated with the creator god Atum, which in turn was an aspect of the sun god Re (Atum was the evening sun, Khepri the morning sun and the nominal Re the midday sun). Later, during the Middle Kingdom, Bennu was considered the ba of the sun god Re, which originated Atum. The ba is one of the souls that make up things in Egyptian beliefs; it is roughly equivalent to our notion of personality. Bennu is said to have flown over Nun, the primordial ocean, right before creation. He finally perched on a rock and let out a loud cry which broke the primeval silence. This first cry was said to have determined what was and what was not to be in the creation by the hands of Atum.
The name of Bennu is derived from the Egyptian verb wbn, meaning “to rise in brilliance”. And those of you who, unlike me, paid attention during their Latin lessons will recognise that this translates to “Surgere in Lumine” – our motto. So what better motto for the Firebirds? As consorts we provided inspiration for ‘our Masters’, are full of personality, and continually rose with brilliance in support of their year ‘on the perch’. Well, that’s what I tell my Master.
Peter Green (author)
Footnote: Whilst collating this article for the newsletter, our eagle-eyed editor noted an inconsistency in the spelling of the motto on our logo versus the text above. Knowing our readers demand linguistic accuracy, the matter was referred to a higher authority, Dr. Liz Gloyn, Lecturer in Classics at Royal Holloway, University of London (who by coincidence is also the daughter of our editor). Although the difference was minor – Lumina rather than Lumine – it prompted a fascinating and detailed insight on the subtleties of the Latin language, summarised below: “There are various options for saying ‘rise’. ‘Surgere’ means ‘to rise’. If you want to issue an order (‘rise!’), then the motto needs to use ‘surge’ for ordering one person, or ‘surgite’ for ordering more than one person. If you want to say ‘we rise’, then you need to use ‘surgimus’. ‘Lumina’ can mean lights, plural, but Latin often uses the word in the plural to mean eyeballs! It’s better to use the singular to avoid ambiguity. Again, there are two options here, depending on what you want to say. If you want to say ‘rise into the light’ meaning that your direction is towards and into the light, then you need ‘in lumen’. To say ‘rise in the light’, meaning that you are in the light as you rise, you would use ‘in lumine’.” So there you have it. Surgere in Lumine is quite precise – To rise (with any amount of people) heading upwards whilst bathed in light.
This article first appeared in our inaugural edition of The Flame in March 2017