Legends of the Porcupine

Regular readers will note that I frequently refer to New Hampshire liberty activists as “Porcupines”. This term comes from the fact that the mascot of the Free State Project is a porcupine.  This mascot dates back to the earliest days of the FSP, in August 2001, before the FSP’s options had even been narrowed down to a U.S. state, let alone which one. Interestingly, the majority opinion at the time was to use some variation of the Gadsden flag “Don’t Tread on Me” serpent as a logo. But the woman who wound up being the FSP’s first media spokesperson was adamant that a snake not be used, for fear of “frightening the sheeple”. So while various suggestions were being tossed about, another woman who wound up being one of the FSP’s original Boardmembers suggested using a porcupine.  And the idea stuck.

“Yeah, I kinda like the porcupine idea. Porcupines are kinda cute & waddle-y: non-threatening, but the defensive message gets across. Also, a logo with text around a porcupine just looks like a state-oriented logo somehow. You know, like the “Bear Republic” flag, or the armadillo flag or something like that. There’s something “state-ish” about having a wild animal on your logo. Don’t ask me why. 😉

I’m a terrible, terrible, ridiculous, pathetic
drawer, but I made a porcupine logo just to explore the
general concept. My porcupine looks like an amorphous
mass of goo, but try to imagine what a competently
drawn logo would look like. It’s in the “photos”
section under “porcupine.”– Jason Sorens, FSP founder, Aug. 23, 2001

So just like the United States almost had a wild turkey as its national emblem if Ben Franklin had had his way, FSP participants very nearly wound up as… the Free State Serpents!  Free State Snakes?  Slytherin Free State? I guess it wound up with a more Hufflepuffian air.

While wasting vast quantities of time on perusing Facebook recently, I stumbled across a paid ad for the Libertarian Party that also utilized a porcupine logo. According to Wikipedia, “In the 1990s several state libertarian parties adopted the Liberty Penguin (“LP”) as their official mascot. Another mascot is the Libertarian porcupine, an icon designed by Kevin Breen in March 2006 that is often associated with the Free State Project.” (Note that another source dates the LP porcupine logo to 2005.)

Where else has this prickly but adorable creature been used as a symbol? Well, as early as 1394, Louis I, Duke of Orléans established the chivalric Order of the Porcupine, proclaiming himself Grand Master and bestowing this honor upon loyal knights who would wear “a tortil of three gold chains, at the end of which a gold porcupine hung on a green-enamelled flowered terrace”. The motto of the order was « Cominus et eminus » (“From close and from far”). Kind of like Porcupines in New Hampshire!!

the heraldic symbol of the Sidney family

heraldic symbol of the Sidney family on the Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick

Meanwhile, across the Channel, a blue porcupine was used as the heraldic symbol of the Sidney family. Sir Philip Sidney, poet and soldier of Penshurst in Kent, inherited the Lord Leycester Hospital, Warwick, and placed his mark above its doors. Note that the hospital is not actually a medical establishment; the word “hospital” is used in the medieval sense of a charitable institution for the old and infirm. This establishment has served as a retirement home for ex-servicemen for centuries.

Some Native American tribes claimed the porcupine as their clan animal. Porcupines were commonly associated with self-defense and cautiousness. According to the website Native American Porcupine Mythology, “Tribes with Porcupine Clans include the Chippewa (whose Porcupine Clan and its totem are called Gaag,) the Menominee, and the Huron.” “In some Southwestern tribes, such as the Hopi, porcupines are seen as a symbol of humility and modesty. In others, porcupines were considered lucky animals– in particular, a hunter who spotted a porcupine was sure to have a good day hunting.” Another source claims that the porcupine symbolized innocence, companionship and trust.

Porcupines also represent in Ghana, where a professional football (using this term in the everyone-in-the-world-except-MURICA sense) team calls itself Asante Kotoko, “the Porcupine Warriors”.  The porcupine is considered a wise animal in West Africa, and its quills are “the symbol of a brave warrior, shielding against evil or disturbing spirits”.

Keeping up with the times; one porcupine is even an Internet star!  Teddy Bear the talking Po’Pine has an entire series of YouTube videos where he maniacally gnaws on corn, pumpkins and the occasional Christmas cookie, and makes hilariously speechlike sounds with his mouth full. He also clearly grasps the concept of property rights, as is demonstrated when his handler tries to take away his corn cob. Tell me he doesn’t state, quite clearly, “It’s MY corn! It’s MINE!”

So there you have it. Depending on whom you ask, porcupines are… cute; waddle-y; non-threatening; loyal; hospitable; defensive; cautious; humble; modest; lucky; innocent; friendly; trustworthy; sporty; shield against evil spirits; and have a finely honed sense of property rights.

Sounds legit.

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