For Nancy: the mace and the dead sheep

Nancy commented about the mace and dead sheep:

I see why it’s called a dead sheep. It certainly doesn’t look very lively!
A mace? I’ve often heard teachers say they wished they could knock some sense into some heads, but this is taking it too far! What next? The “Board of Education” (paddle used by prinicipals in the olden days, 1950s, when school administrators were allowed physical punishment of unruly children).

The reply I was writing got a bit long, so I thought I’d write it as a post instead.
According to Wikipedia, universities’ maces represent their “internal authority over members and the independence from external authority”.  So yeah, basically used to hit over the head staff who don’t behave or governments that try to interfere 🙂
In trying to find a picture of our university’s mace, I discovered it has quite a bit of history to it:

The University mace provides a tangible link with Christ Church, Oxford, where it was designed and made. The shaft of the mace is of oak from a beam removed from Big Tom Tower when the bell was rehung in 1953. Even in 1680, when the beam was installed in the Sir Christopher Wren-designed tower, the timber was described as ‘well-seasoned oak’. The mace has been used for every graduation ceremony since 1957.

And the dead sheep on the coat of arms represents the fact that the Canterbury province became very wealthy in the early days of NZ from farming – wool was one of our main exports.  From the university’s webpage:

The “dead sheep” is actually a silver fleece symbolising the pastoral pursuits of the province of Canterbury, while the golden 19th century plough on the base of the shield symbolises agriculture. Both are set on a murrey-coloured (purple-red, derived from mulberry) shield. In the middle of the golden chief (top section) rests an open book with a murrey cover and golden clasps, representing learning. On the dexter (right-hand side, or observer’s left) chief is an azure bishop’s pall charged with four golden crosses with splayed arms, flat ends and a spiked foot. On the sinister chief (left-hand side, or observer’s right) is an azure cross flory. The two crosses signify Canterbury’s ecclesiastical connections. The wavy line separating the chief represents land overseas.

So in summary, tradition is weird.  But cool 🙂

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One Comment

  1. Very interesting! I really appreciate your going to that effort to find out about these traditions, I enjoyed reading it.
    The mace is lovely, almost reminds me of a king’s scepter!

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