Seeing double at the pub

I DO NOT KNOW why there is a huge Albanian flag hanging outside The Cow pub in Notting Hill’s Westbourne Park Road. The large red flag decorated with a double-headed eagle has been fluttering outside the pub for several weeks, if not longer.

I walked into the colourfully decorated pub, for many years a local favourite both for drinkers and diners, and asked two members of staff if they knew anything about the flag. They did not have any real idea, but suggested that it might be because at least one long-serving member of the pub’s current staff is Albanian. A quick search of the internet revealed nothing.

The flag was put up long before the 28th of November, Albania’s Flag Day commemorating the founding of independent Albania in 1912, and is still flying. Maybe, one of you out there can tell me more about the reason that The Cow has an Albanian flag.

One body with two heads

HAPPY NEW YEAR

THE DOUBLE-HEADED EAGLE (‘DHE’) is a creature with a single body, two wings, and two heads each with its own neck. Of course it does not exist in nature but it is used quite widely as a symbol or emblem. I first became interested in the DHE after I became fascinated by Albania. The DHE has appeared as its national symbol for several centuries. It is also an emblem of Russia, Montenegro, Serbia, and the Indian state of Karnataka. In times past, the DHE was associated with the Hittites, several families in Cornwall, and the Byzantine Empire. It has also been used by some people in pre-Columbian America.

The DHE is an unusual symbol because it required considerable imagination to create it. Symbols like the cross, the crescent, the star, the swastika, and the circle are simple geometric emblems that could have easily arisen from thoughtless doodling. Likewise with emblematic animals like the lion, the eagle (with one head), and other creatures are based on observation of nature. The DHE, on the other hand, is neither an accident of geometry nor based on real life. It is, like the multi-limbed Hindu gods and the Egyptian sphinx, the result of human imagination.

The earliest archaeological evidence of the DHE is on rings used by the ancient Babylonians to mark ownership of containers of oils and other liquid goods. These seals have been dated as having been in existence between two and three millennia before the birth of Christ.

It is interesting to note that the DHE was not the only two headed creature conceive by the ancient Babylonians. There is plenty of archaeological evidence that shows that they created emblems depicting other creatures with a single body, two necks, each supporting a head.

In the future, I hope to explore the origins and the distribution of the DHE in far greater detail, maybe I will make this the subject of a book.