During the age of pirates, just as it is today, flags were flown to identify ships on the sea. The flags' colors represented different countries.
The color black was associated with death in many cultures, and so the pirates began using black as the background color on their flags. To create a deep fear in their enemies and well-laden merchant ships, pirates added frightening symbolism to their flags.
These early pirate flags were known as Jolly Rogers. They were hoisted when the pirate ship was preparing to attack another ship.
What Did Blackbeard's Flag Look Like:
While it remains unknown what exact symbol or symbols were on Blackbeard's flag, it is generally accepted in modern lore that his flag bore the image of a horned skeleton. An hourglass, a measurement of time, is held in the skeleton's right hand. In its left hand is a spear that pierces a red heart. Three drops of red blood fall from the wounded heart.
Some sources claim that Blackbeard flew a black flag bearing a white skull which was accompanied by a blood-red flag.
Whichever flag Blackbeard (Edward Teach) flew, it was hoisted to show that he meant business.
Meaning of Blackbeard's Flag:
The horned skeleton is seen as raising his hand to the devil, "toasting the Devil." The speared hand piercing the heart signifies that no quarter would be given to those who would attempt to fight against his ship's will to steal and plunder.
Many historians believe that the horned skeleton is inaccurate, stating that if the artist wanted to portray Death, he would have only used a skeleton. If he wanted to portray the Devil, a devil form would have been used instead of bones. It was unknown at that time to mix the symbols of Death and the Devil.
An English Pirate
The infamous Blackbeard was an English pirate by the name of Edward Teach (or Thatch). He and his crew in a ship known as the Queen Anne's Revenge would attack French merchant vessels. Cargo would be stolen and resold. Captured slaves would either be taken to work onboard the ship or were abandoned on islands.
Known For His Looks
What made Blackbeard so memorable were his looks. He was a tall man with broad shoulders. He had long black hair that he often wore in pigtails tied with colored ribbons and a long, scraggly beard.
Before a battle, he would light fuses and lay them over his head, held in place by his hat. The slow-burning fuses let off smoke and gave Blackbeard a wild and frightening appearance.
The Most Famous Pirate Flag
During the 18th century, any pirate flag raised before a battle was called the Jolly Roger. In modern society, the Jolly Roger refers to the most recognized flag in pirate lore.
The white skull and crossbones on a black background were used by several pirates in the 18th century, including Edward England, Black Sam Bellamy, and John Taylor. The flag has come to symbolize rebellion and independence.