EAA Research Consultant
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
On some trade blades I have seen there appears an apparantly stamped grouping of three crosses of the 'maltese cross' shape. The most readliy recalled example I have seen occurred on the blade of one of 'Zanzibar' form of 'nimchas' (these with a crossguard ring can be seen in the 1933 publication of the Buttin collection). This example was from a grouping of these sa'if's that apparantly came from Zanzibar and were located in number in Yemen some time ago.
This representation of the triple crosses clearly suggests similar markings from European blades that of course carry the Christian religious symbolism of the Holy Trinity that often occurred in various application in makers marks and talismanic motif. However, as we have discussed, the numeric three has a very wide application in not only the symbolism in most other religions, but in esoteric and occult symbolism and allegory.
A number of years ago while visiting an alchemical museum at a castle in Heidelburg, Germany I noticed that among an apothecaries cabinet's drawers was one that supposedly had housed a chemical compound considered a poison. On the drawer were the same triple maltese crosses, that I was told symbolized death. I found that interesting and recalling the triple crosses seen on the Zanzibar blade, and have often wondered if that application might have had any connection with occult symbolism on blades.
We do know that alchemical allegory was employed in talismanic motif on European blades, and that such symbolism likely influenced blacksmiths and swordsmiths well aware of alchemical esoterica. The maltese cross occurs as a component of symbols of numerous elements and chemicals in alchemical charts.
Could there be a connection with the maltese cross symbol from alchemy, applied in three as on the apothecary poison warning, to markings used by makers on blades? Obviously the native copies found in Zanzibar were applied in imitation of European markings much as the dukari on takoubas without awareness of such meaning, or could the meaning have been known?
I'd like to hear what others think on this, and would like to know if anyone else has seen triple cross markings on blades whether European or native. Also, if anyone has the valuable Wallace collection book (a 2 volume set) which is profusely illustrated with European makers stamps and markings, perhaps any reference to same from that source.
Thanks very much !