In our last installment, we discussed what makes Mandalorian characters and culture so attractive to Star Wars fans. If we dive further into the culture as it’s written in the Expanded Universe, we find that Mandalorians attach great significance to the icons and imagery of their culture. From the first Mandalorian Crusades to the resurgent Mandalorian Death Watch, events and changes in Mandalorian culture were marked often times by specific symbols and icons. Come take a journey with me as we investigate some of the more well-known Mandalorian icons.
Mandalorian Crusaders (approx. 7000 BBY) were the first documented establishment of Mandalorians. Little is known about the specific origins of this symbol, however, it can be seen adorning the armor of Mandalore the Indomitable, as well as early images on the mask of his predecessor Mandalore the Ultimate. Mandalorian fans can hope that some future reference book may touch upon the origins of this ancient Mandalorian symbol.
Mandalorian Neo Crusaders (3978 BBY) were the more organized Mandalorian troops under the reign of Mandalore the Ultimate. In this symbol we see the original barbed circlet of the early Crusaders, but we also see a new “skull” shaped symbol added. We know that a major goal of Mandalore the Ultimate was the admittance of galactic species outside the original Taung progenitor species. Together with his Field Marshal Cassus Fett, Mandalore the Ultimate paved the way for the Mandalorian culture to survive the millennia. Currently, the Neo Crusader symbol is the first known use of a skull in Mandalorian iconography. What is the significance of the skull? It looks very similar to the t-visor helmets of the Neo Crusaders, and it may even been a representation of the Taung skull. This is only conjecture however, but it is a great mystery that may one day be answered.
True Mandalorians (approx. 729 BBY) were the name of the Mandalorian warrior clans after the “Mandalorian Excision” of 730 BBY. This particular symbol was used by the “True Mandalore” Jaster Mareel during the Mandalorian Civil War. Unfortunately, we do not have a start date for this symbol’s use, but we do know that no canon references exist for its use beyond the battle of Galidraan in 44 BBY. This symbol is difficult to break down within Mandalorian history, due to its departure from earlier known symbols used by Mandalores. Is this symbol a precursor to the Mandalorian skull symbol worn by Boba Fett? It does bear the tusk-like appendages similar to the skull used by Mandalorians in the Clone Wars and post-Clone Wars era, but outside of that there is little similarity.
Mandalorian “Krybes” (unknown) is probably the most prolific symbol of the Mandalorians and also a topic of much conjecture. Its origins are obscure, and there are several camps on the origin of the symbol. The first camp states that the skull is that of a “Bantha,” and while I can’t put my finger on the origin of this camp…the skull symbol itself looks nothing like that of a Bantha. The second camp states that the symbol pays homage to an ancient Mandalorian training master, which is backed up in the Star Wars Insider article; “The History of the Mandalorians” by Abel G. Peña. Finally, the third camp states that the symbol is based on the skulls of ancient “Mythosaurs”, city-sized reptiles that dominated the surface of early Mandalore before the arrival of the Taung species.
Mandalorian Death Watch (approx. 60 BBY) adopted the clan sigil of their leader, Tor Vizsla as their symbol of choice. Known as the “Secret Mandalore,” Tor Viszla and future Death Watch leaders would use this symbol to separate their group from those faithful to the True Mandalorians of Jaster Mareel. The Clan Vizsla symbol was based on a Shriek-Hawk in full dive, and was colored blue under the leadership of Pre Vizsla during the Clone Wars. This symbol saw a resurgence in use as the Death Watch found new life under the leadership of Lorka Gedyc in 19 BBY, however it is unknown if the symbol survived the Death Watch’s demise in approximately 2 ABY.
Jaig Eyes or jai’galaar ‘la sur’haii’ se (shrek-hawk eyes) in mando’a were bestowed on worthy Mandalorians who had performed particular acts of bravery, or distinguished themselves in battle. This symbol was normally worn on the helmet, above the t-visor and was presented by the clan leader. During the Clone Wars the symbol was passed down to the Clones by Mandalorian trainers, and could be seen adoring the helmets of several clones. One of the most notable clones with Jaig Eyes was Captain Rex of the 501st Legion. There were several styles of Jaig Eyes seen in the Expanded Universe; the above image comes directly from a pre-production image of the Boba Fett costume created by Joe Johnston, but was abandoned prior to filming The Empire Strikes Back.
The Mandalorian Diamond or “Iron Heart” is a traditional symbol that dates back to before the Mandalorian Excision of 730 BBY. Used by Mandalorian warriors, and the pacifist “New Mandalorians”, the symbol’s meaning has never fully been explained in canon. Does it reference the unconquered “iron heart” of the Mandalorian culture? Or is the meaning more subtle? Regardless, the symbol is used throughout the architecture of New Mandalorian society, civilian attire, and police equipment. I often ask myself how a pacifist culture so visually connected to its warrior past could stay pacifist. All it took was well-timed events to set in motion a return to Mandalore’s warrior ways.