So this question came up during a game session we just had, what is the symbol of the Order of Hermes? We're pretty sure it's the one with the three snakes on the cover of the core rule book, though since we can't find any mention of it in the book that's still a guess, if a fairly good one.
Is it mentioned anywhere what the symbol of the Order of Hermes is, where the symbol comes from and what its symbolic meaning is?
The full symbol is likely the apple, fascine, & ankh plus the three snakes. But one wonders how many folks in the (mostly illiterate) culture know that. From the outside the canonical Order isn't much different from a secret society. If a churchman or noble needs to contact magi the symbol to look for would be the redcap badge (point down triangle, iirc). Also a local covenant might be unlikely to use the Order of Hermes symbol when dealing with local mundanes. The mail office at the Vatican might know the Order's symbol and that might be about it.
The three serpents may be presented in various ways, as well - the seal of the Order as drawn is fairly involved.
I like the idea that mortals would regard the inverted triangle as the symbol of the Order - they think of Redcaps as servants, so they would wear the badge of their masters, to the mundane way of thinking.
I like to think of the three serpents as representing the True Lineages (fasces), Mystery Cults (ankh) and Societas (Apple). Mostly because I can't think of any other obvious tripartite division of magi.
Intereting. But it doesn't work for me. The graphic designer that invented that symbol did so decades before the tripart division you speak of was invented and shoehorned in. So the inspiration obviously must have been something else. Off the top of my head I can think of several "threes" in occut philosophy that would fit well. The Trinity, Hermes Trimestigus, various tripplet symbols (sun/moon/stars, mind/body/spirit, etc), and so on.
IRL, it's true the symbol predates the tripartite division of Houses. In ArM5, we do not know when or how the three snake symbol was adopted. It's entirely possible to retcon the seal as representing that, among other meanings.
To me, it follows that the symbol of the Order is also a Seal, the official seal of the Order of Hermes. Some spinning -
Protocol of the Great Seal of the Order:
Only the Praeco of the Grand Tribunal may use the Great Seal of the Order.
The actual Great Seal of the Order is in the care of the Primus of House Guernicus, at Magvillus, unless summoned to Durenmar. It is born by a special messenger of House Mercere from one Domus to the other. This arrangement is to safeguard the Seal and its authority. Usually this is done only for the Grand Tribunal, and under guard of magi. In recent decades these have been hoplites.
The Seal is used to authorize and solemnize the rulings of the Grand Tribunal. The seal on a document asserts that the will of the Praeco of the Order and the Grand Tribunal backs the declaration of the document. The seal is accompanied by the personal written sigil of the Praeco Praeconis and as many Primi and other officials as can be arranged.
The use of the Great Seal of the Order outside of a Grand Tribunal is unusual, and implies a weighty matter. A letter bearing the Great Seal of Hermes has the authority of not only the Praeco Praeconis but of at least three Primi (as the office of the Primus Bonisagus is separate from the office of the Praeco Praeconis).
The Great Seal itself is an Arcane Connection to the Order itself. The mystical implications of this connection are uncertain.