Signum Bardia

I’ve had so many questions about the signum bardia that I thought I would show you some pictures of what I based it on and give you an idea of the mythology behind it.

In the book, I wanted Vincent to give Kate something to show she is under the protection of the revenants. As Vincent explains it (UNTIL I DIE, Chapter 23): “It’s a signum bardia. A signal to revenants that you are attached to us. That you know what we are and can be trusted.”

Kate’s signum comes in handy when she meets Gwenhaël, of course, and you’ll see even more signums in Book 3.

So what is a signum bardia? It’s…um…something I made up. The Latin word “signum” means: “sign, seal, mark, token.” And I chose the term “bardia” for the good revenants because it means “watch” or “shift” in Greek. As in the watching over of humans that our bardia specialize in…the shifts they take walking together in threes (2 + 1 volant).

So a signum bardia is the mark of the bardia—their token.

Once I had the term I wanted, I had to decide what symbolism it should hold.

First I thought of self-sacrifice, and used the medieval image of the pelican piercing its breast to feed its young with its blood. Um…yeah. That’s my geeky art historian side coming out. I wish I still had my first attempt at drawing it. It looked more like an epileptic swan than this:

Pelican piercing his breast from a 16th century bestiary

or this:

Pelican piercing its breast from medieval heraldry

You did know I’m a medievalist, right? Well, now you do. (By the way, that’s a very good thing to say at a party if you don’t want anyone to talk to you. And then you can bring up the subject of pelican blood, and people will literally flee. Just sayin’…)

Back to subject. The pelican was too hard for me to draw, much less for me to describe over and over. So I went for simple. What easy shapes can communicate a message? I’ll let Vincent describe what I came up with:

“…the pyramid is supposed to mean life after death, and its three corners signify our three days of dormancy. The flames represent our aura and the only way we can be destroyed. And the circle is immortality.”

While I was coming up with the symbolism, I had this ring in mind:

9th century Byzantine ring with cabochon sapphire. (Cabochon means it's smooth instead of cut and faceted like most jewels are.)

I thought if I made the sapphire into a triangle, that would be a good start. But I wanted more. So I perused a few of my books on ancient jewelry (see…I told you…certified geek) and I found this:

Ancient Greek earring (around 350 BCE)

Close-up of the upper part of the earring

It has the same double border of gold pellets as the ring, but also decorative swirls inside the circle that could be made into flames. If you put a triangular sapphire right in the middle, it would be perfect.

So I waved my magic author wand, mixed the two pieces of jewelry and added some flames and it came out like this:

“It was a gold disk the size of a dollar coin, and it was edged with two circles of tiny gold pellets, one nestled within the other. Set in the center of the disk was a dark blue triangular stone with a smooth, slightly rounded surface. And in the space between the stone and the rows of pellets were decorative gold wires curved into the shape of flames. It looked ancient, like the Greek jewelry in Papy’s gallery.”

As for Kate’s signum’s history, I let Vincent describe it thus:

“…the treasury belongs to France’s revenants. The pieces have been passed down for millennia. This one is logged into our records as last being used by one of our emissaries to Constantinople in the ninth century.”

But, for me, as beautiful and priceless as the signum itself, was Vincent’s motivation to give it to Kate:

“This isn’t just from me to you. It is from all of us to you. I saw how upset you were when Arthur said you weren’t one of us. I want you to know that you aren’t an outsider. You aren’t a revenant, but you are still one of us. This signum means that you are kindred.”

45 Comments to Signum Bardia

  1. by Natalie Parker - On June 24, 2012

    It’s great to see the thinking of the Signum Bardia, It’s amazing.

  2. by Lisa Stafko - On June 24, 2012

    That is so cool! Thanks for sharing this story. It’s fun to get more information about this world we love!!!

  3. by Jayjay Atanacio - On June 24, 2012

    I love it Amy… just the thought of putting all the efforts in researching makes me excited for your next book Juneau!

  4. by Judith - On June 25, 2012

    This is not only fascinating, it is indicative of why we are impressed by your books. It’s wonderful for you to put so much thought into things you develop for the book. I, for one, admire the medievalist in you!

  5. by Dominique Goodall - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday: the signum numa should be a griffin salient – ie on all rear legs with claws extended, snarling, mid-pounce. Anger, rage…all would be clear to see that the beast of old, of mythology was filled with loathing.

  6. by arethazhen - On June 25, 2012

    For contest Monday signum numa should be like a clockwork collar necklace . Unique yet dangerous and only accessible to those owners only :). Thank you to share with us about the idea and what was inspired the signum numa term:)

  7. by FairyWhispers - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday: the signum numa should be an Faberge easter egg. They usually have ‘surprises’ inside. Faberge eggs have an extravagant history with Russian royals.

  8. by Kate - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday: the signum numa should be like a pendant of a peacock’s feather in gold with strikes of royal blue and a very beautiful sapphire stone at the tip.

  9. by hermione - On June 25, 2012

    So cool..!!!!

  10. by Rebecca - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday: the signum numa should be a tattoo found on the left collarbone so they “know what we are and can be trusted.” The tattoo would be a star shape but made up of swirls and dots to form an intriguing symbol. The colour of the tattoo varies depending on the person but would be a ferocious, bright colour, blended with similar tones of both light and dark.

  11. by Yamna - On June 25, 2012

    For contest Monday signum numa should be an block-shaped amethyst stone – royal purple – and engraved in it like that on a tombstone should be words – something about the end not really being so or whatever else fits that you can think of.

  12. by Solange Veiga - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday: the signum numa should be a ‘Shen’ holding an ‘Ankh’ and an ‘Amenta’ inside!

  13. by Solange Veiga - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday: the signum numa should be a ‘Shen’ holding an ‘Ankh’ and an ‘Amenta’ inside!
    Egyptian symbols 😉

  14. by Karis Valentine Cole - On June 25, 2012

    Contest Monday: tha sigma numa should be a type of large beast like a chimera, but in a resting position. The beast could represent the full power numa are capable of and it’s rest shows calm and colletiveness with is often associated with intelligence. Oh! An it should be on the gold, ing raved closest to ThE eating picture I guess! 😀

  15. by Jennifer - On June 25, 2012

    For the contest- Maybe a chalice for ceremonial purposes…. Numa was the 10 month calender of the Romans under the protection of priets, a roman king, and a religion. Just a thought 🙂

  16. by jade - On June 25, 2012

    for contest monday: i think the signum numa should be a beautiful tattoo of wings to symbolise the revenant’s ‘divine’ acts (like the statue of the death angel) the wings themselves should be a swirly, smoke like pattern that is complicated as it is pretty so no-one can forge . the ink should be dark- black basically but shimmer with colour like oil in water .

  17. by Maggie - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday I think the Signum Numa should be the exact opposite of the signum bardia. It should be a square pendant with a black stone in the center. Black Flames should surround the stone in the center so it looks like the flames are almost consuming the stone, as with the numa consuming the life energy from their victims.

  18. by Maddie Deane - On June 25, 2012

    For contest Monday: I think the signum numa should be like you originally thought, a necklace. It’s common and can easily be concealed, and will have the definite message to those who know about the Revenants and will not give too much away to humans – we don’t want them to find out now do we! 😉

    My feel for the signum numa would be the represent what Revenants are all about. Life and Death. Sacrificing one’s self for the sake of another. The main section would be the ‘Flower of life’ symbol the Egyptian’s used, which has multiple petals entwining together to represent the life cycle. And there would be a line (like a string) that loops itself around this flower, as if protecting it. That line represents the Revenants purpose and continuing job, the protection of human life. The colour of the line would be red, to represent blood, our life source.

    I feel that showing what the Revenants do is a clear sign to someone that they are, as you say, a kindred. It’s also a way of showing acceptance, because without that, they wouldn’t really be a kindred.

  19. by Samantha - On June 25, 2012

    The creation of the signum is brilliant. It fits in sooo well with what and who the revenants are. Absolutely brilliant Amy Plum!!

  20. by Kelly Fine - On June 25, 2012

    For contest Monday, I think the Signum Numa should be something that is not easily lost…like your ring idea or a tattoo. (I’m bummed because the photos of the earrings did not show up for me on my computer!) I like the idea of the “Self-sacrifice”…and I love spirals and the meaning that it can be never-ending…so either a ring or a tattoo of a spiral, and the spiral being made up of the script lettering that says self-sacrifice in Latin or whatever language best represents the Revenants.
    I have got to get a hold of these books for my TBR pile…they sound great!

  21. by May - On June 25, 2012

    For contest Monday: I think it should be a necklace or bracelet or pendant or some sort…. Maybe something with wings or Latin on it ?

  22. by Anna - On June 25, 2012

    I love reading stuff like this (all the extra tidbits). The cabochon sapphire on that ring is really cool!

  23. by Shelby von Wahl - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday the Signum Numa should be…in my mind it would be a dark black circle with a fire symbol etched into it(to symbolize how they die, i suppose but also the fires of hell where they will ultimately end up)It will have a snake curled around the edge(snakes always represent evil and deceit)and a red stone in the middle in the shape of a drop of blood with the greek word for death in the stone(to represent all the bloodshed and lives lost on their account)

  24. by Sandy S - On June 25, 2012

    Wow…all the research involved is amazing. When I was reading the passage from the book, I tried to picture the Signum Bardia…one can never do it justice.

  25. by chelleyreads - On June 25, 2012

    For contest Monday: i think the signum numa should be like a brooch. an oval blood red stone in the middle and surrounded by 2 silver snakes meeting together.

  26. by Chrisoula Papaioannou - On June 25, 2012

    For Contes Monday:The signum numa should definitely be on a gold chain (gold representing supreme power). What I imagined it would look like,well this is what. A gold snake biting its tail to form a ring a symbol of eternity. Its eyes would be red rubies (for blood),from the ring of the snake to the center would be a beautiful spider web. The web representing how they(the numa)deceive their victums by their beautiy. Right in the center of the web would be a black diamond which stands for death!

    The artical was really cool,love historical artifacts(espeicaly it beening greek,I’m greek 😉 ) and how you used them to get the idia for kates necklace.

    P.S. Thank you so much loved both books can’t wait for book 3.

    Chrisoula P.

  27. by Geraldine Frost - On June 25, 2012

    Wow. I didn’t realise just how much went into writing Kate and Vincent’s story. It makes you appreciate even more how much effort goes into writing. I love how history and language plays such an important part in the backstory and mythology of the books. Maybe that’s why I love history and great fantasy sci/fi stories.

  28. by Geraldine Frost - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday. I think the signum numa should be a gothic type symbol. A medallion made from marcazite (not sure of the spelling) with tiny little rubies around the outside with ivy vines and other creeping vines working their way to the centre with a black opal in the middle.

  29. by Patrick - On June 25, 2012

    Wow! It’s very nice! I was amazed because it is very informative and meaningful!!!!
    I think Signum Bardia would look like the best & great decoration ! 🙂

  30. by Kari James - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday: The Signum Numa should be a coin that can be crafted for a necklace, cuff links, tie tack or any flat jewelry piece that can be identified by others as a symbol of power. You want it visible to others for your vanity and pride requires it. The piece is beautiful and striking, for a necklace, the coin is draped from an intricately weaved gold chain that relates more to a shipman’s rope than a chain. Each side of the disk is filigree inlaid around the edges that reminds you of a sunburst. As if a star was emanating the brightest light just before it exploded and was maintained radiantly by the softest weave of wire.; symbolizing power, beauty and strength. The heart of the coin has a brilliant cut alexandrite stone with its many facets emitting the fire that burns when tilted one way and solid black the next. It is devoid of all writing and pictures. The allure is solid seduction; it is beautiful in a way that compels you to touch it. There is a need to hold it, mesmerized by the colors of the stone as you roll it in the light. Just as the Venus Flytrap, the beauty of it draws you in to your death.

  31. by Natalie Parker - On June 25, 2012

    for contest Monday
    Signum Numa, the twin of the Bardia

    A round disc the size of a dollar, of grey metal. The outer edge depicts a continuous serpent biting it’s own tail, with scale detail. In the top centre of the disk is a smooth Black triangle stone. This triangle forms an upper part of the letter ‘A’ with a deep groove lines at the triangles border reaching to the outer edges of the disc.
    The bottom of the coin between the lines of the bottom part of the ‘A’ is fire.

    “A” the Anarchy sign for demonic forces and suicide.
    The colour black is used for death and mourning. Black is associated with the underworld and evil.
    The Triangle and the fire element is the same reference as the Bardia of the three days of dormancy, and the descruction of Revenants.
    The Grey round disk to represent the roman shield, where Numa are linked.
    The serpent biting its own tail represents eternity and the cycles or “circle of life” the re-birth and in the Bible it usually represents sin, temptation, destruction, and Satan.
    The circle – Infinity.
    This is representing the cycle of life and Death – Revenants – the Numa.

  32. by Ingrid Suarez - On June 25, 2012

    For contest Monday: The signum numa, shoud be the size of a silver dollar. Depending or wether its for a man or a woman it can be on a chain for a neclace or for something like a pocket clock.
    It is made of gold, yellow and white, the center is in yellow with the intricate design of a serpent, while the outer ring is in white gold, in filigrie. It is beautifull but at the same time its cold, just like them.

  33. by Dalitza Morales - On June 25, 2012

    For contest Monday: The signum numa… I imagine it being a ring made out of gold, often associated with utmost evil and having a hardstone carving in the middle made out of black onyx in the form of a scythe, which is used to depict Cronus, first generation of Titans. It is beautiful in its design, but deceitful just like it’s would be owner.

  34. by Lane - On June 25, 2012

    For Contest Monday– I think a sun would be cool because the rays of light and in all the paintings from the Middle ages and the Ren. the Holy figures have rays of light (Or horns like on Michelangelo’s Moses.) and it’s a symbol of goodness and Holiness.

  35. by Rachel Lynn - On June 25, 2012

    I think there would be some sort of animal like a boar, because it signifies Bravery, and fights to the death,or a Falcon because it’s meaning is that it won’t stop till it achives it’s goal. It would also fit it if it had a black and red color of some sort.

  36. by Paola Delgado - On June 25, 2012

    For contest Monday

    It is interesting mixtures of objects based on a meaning that is central to the book which is “life, death and sacrifice” but to those of such objects is somewhat complicated, because the fact of possessing more complex, perhaps the ring is more suited to being easier than if we use an earring that is more complex, but if we see it from another point of view, why not use a tattoo, with the combination of these objects and create a sign that no one can imitate .
    This tattoo is unique and no one can steal it or lose it and if you combine both the image, like the ring and the earring would create a stronger meaning, supported by color. We could also agregarele revenant name but in another language to make it more complex because the meaning is not easily understood by a human and goes beyond our beliefs or what we imagine.

  37. by Robyn Esmahan - On June 26, 2012

    For Contest Monday: the signum numa should be a clock shaped tattoo with each number being replaced by a symbol that would tell others they are part of the special and elite

  38. by Emberchyld - On June 26, 2012

    Oooohhh, thank you for this, Amy! I can’t wait to see what the fan artists come up with based on your description/pictures 🙂

  39. by amy - On June 26, 2012

    This was a VERY hard contest to judge. All of your ideas were amazing. A few were RIGHT ON.

    What I have ended up doing is choosing a few runners up who really understood what a numa is and had interesting proposals for their signum. Those people will receive a signed paper UNTIL I DIE bookmark. They are (including the number of the comment): 5. Dominique Goodall, 17. Maggie, 23. Shelby von Wahl, 33. Dalitza Morales.

    Kari James gets “best writing” – holy cow, girl. Your description was beautiful! You get an Eiffel Tower bookmark.

    And for totally understanding the numa and proposing a signum that looked great when I attempted to draw it, the grand prize winners are Natalie Parker and Chrisoula Popaioannou. You both get an Eiffel Tower bookmark as well as signed paper DIE FOR ME and UNTIL I DIE bookmarks.

    All winners – send me your mailing address by email! And thanks to EVERYONE for participating!

  40. by Ana - On October 13, 2012

    This is awsome! I loved the description and i want a signum bardia!!! It WOULD be great to sell this article to promote your novel, yeah? “Be part of their secret too, own a signum bardia like Kate!”

  41. by simrah - On October 24, 2013

    that was amazing i love your books i think you should make a fourth book and more… i just love kate and vicents story!!!!

  42. by april rose hiyasmin arobo - On November 27, 2014

    hi amy! i’m so amazed with your series about the revenants. 🙂 is it true that they exist?? just asking. thank you and more power. 🙂

  43. by amy - On November 27, 2014

    April Rose…yes, I believe they exist.


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