Imperium Neptuni Regis… The Shellback

Neptune and Naked Women

Imperium Neptuni Regis: The Ancient Order of the Deep

Another certificate from WWII, again from the USS General Harry Taylor (for more about that ship, see the post on The Domain of the Golden Dragon). Here, the certificate a sailor got when he became a “shellback,” a sailor who had crossed the equator. Before that, he would have been a “tadpole.”

The tradition, in addition to boosting morale, may have also indicated to other sailors that this one could handle long sea voyages. That’s something you need to know during times of war, when voyages can end up being far longer and more dangerous than expected. There can be an initiation ceremony to go with the certificate, although not always. Conditions didn’t always permit it. Some of the ceremonies described sound like the more benign college fraternity hazing rituals, with tests of strength or endurance, and a fair amount of rough-housing.

Note the women on the certificate. This being WWII, women served primarily in medical services, administration or training. They weren’t part of the ship’s regular crew. These young guys could go a long time without seeing many women, or any. So no wonder the certificate features lots of naked women. The mermaids in the upper corners you would expect to find in a certificate featuring Neptune, but unlike the Golden Dragon certificate, there are also human women swimming around naked (how are they breathing?), including two who are about to get in trouble with an octopus and a crab.

I could chalk up the representation of naked women to the era, but let’s face it, what else does a young, straight, healthy guy dream of? Well yes, food… the only thing that would make this a more complete fantasy would be if the women were naked and holding trays of steaks and baked potatoes.

The sailor who earned this (whose name has been removed for the post) was a big fan of steak and potatoes. He had his problems with women.


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