What is this? Another Masonic Curio by Mike Lawrence

The item looks like it could be from French PoW’s during the Napoleonic period! What do you think?

The dimensions are:

H 70 mm
W 100 mm
D 70 mm

Which makes it quite small.

Can anybody help please?

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Masonic Collectables – Ceramic Jugs – by Mike Lawrence

Masonic ceramics, although generally only seen in Museums, are more common than one would imagine, but the majority are generally confined to private collections particularly as the interest for all things Masonic has grown rapidly over the last fifty years.

With images of temples and pillars, devices such as the square and compass, all-seeing eye, radiant delta, etc., and rhymes, generally from the ‘Enter’d Apprentice’ song with many variations, their origins and purpose are unmistakable, and the only mystery is to establish if they were produced for private or lodge use.

Masonic designs were developed on pottery almost as soon as the transfer process of applying decoration to ceramics was perfected. This improvement in technique was accomplished at Worcester pottery, England, about 1756, almost forty years after the founding of the first Grand Lodge in London

Below are a few examples of Masonic decorated jugs, kindly supplied a collector.


Liverpool Jug early 1800’s and has the verse;

“The World is in Pain, Our Secrets to gain, But still let them wonder & gaze on

For they ne’er can divine, The WORD nor the SIGN, Of a Free & an Accepted Mason”

Also front facing has the words;


The spelling of METEIRALS is as per the jug.

Height 28cm (11”) Width spout to handle 27cm (10 ½”)


Sunderland Lustre Jug, mid 1800’s and has the verse:

“The World Illusive

The world is all a fleeting show, For man’s illusion given; The smile of joy, the tears of  woe, Deceitful shine, deceitful flow, – There’s nothing true but Heaven.”

Poem by Thomas Moore 1779 – 1852

Depicting KS Temple on two sides with the verse on front with the initials G.J.M. – possibly to whom it was presented.

Height 180cm (7”) Width 250cm (10”)


This unusual jug has a lid and thought to be early to mid-1800’s, no factory mark, but possibly Liverpool, and has the verse:

“The World is in Pain, Our Secrets to gain, But still let them wonder & gaze on For they ne’er can divine The WORD nor the SIGN Of a Free & an Accepted Mason”

Height 25cm (10”) Width spout to handle 23cm (9”)


Creamware Jug, not sure of the age with unknown image on one side and what appears to be the Holy Royal Arch Triangle with irradiating sun and the images of the four cardinal virtues. On the front has the wording;

“The World is in Pain Our Secrets to gain But still let them wonder & gaze on For they ne’er can divine The WORD nor the SIGN Of a Free & an Accepted Mason”

Height 18cm (7”) Width spout to handle 23cm (9”)


Possibly Liverpool and possibly late 18th century owing to verse on the side using ‘f’ for ‘s’. The verse reads:

“The LIGHT Shineth in darknefs, and the Darknefs Comprehendeth in not”

The central symbology are the signs of the Zodiac, occasionally associated with Freemasonry, there are also more esoteric images to be seen.

Height 18cm (7”) Width spout to handle 17cm (6 ¾ “)


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Jewels made by French Prisoners of War Presented by Mike Lawrence

Napoleonic Wars (1793 – 1815)

The existence of Masonic activity in POW camps is well documented. (Please see links at the end of the article)

However there is a lack of documentary evidence linking specific Masonic items to individual makers, in particular camps,  so the possibility remains of items being made at a later date or elsewhere.

The PoW’s produced items from the scrap materials found around them and would sell them to pay for food and clothing.

Materials used included bone, straw, human hair, paper and wood.

French POW's

The Jewel on the left, albeit smaller (H 40mm D 32 mm) only has one column, the clasp is not rounded and the general finish is what one might expect from the available materials and conditions of internment.

The Jewel on the right (H 52mm D 40 mm) appears to be almost perfect in design – would one expect it to be so well finished in comparison to the other Jewel? Or do the two Jewels demonstrate the difference in materials available from one POW camp to another and / or the difference in skills of the craftsman?

According to correspondence my friend received from the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Great Queen Street, it is likely the prisoners had certificates, aprons or even book frontispieces and copied elements of these which would lead to elements of similarity in design.

The number of French soldiers and sailors brought to England as Prisoner of War was significant and estimated to be in the region of 120,000.


From records held at the Library and Museum, Great Queen Street.

‘In some cases the quality of workmanship was such that it threatened the livelihood of the craftsmen in the towns. This happened in the case of the lace makers and the trade in lace by prisoners was banned as a result’.

For further information on the subject please follow the links below:





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“Are you one of us?” By Mike Lawrence Part two of a two part article.

Letting somebody else know that you are a Freemason can be a tricky business. It can be even more difficult seeking fellow brethren when we find ourselves in new environments.

But it is those occasional or casual remarks that we make, often in unfamiliar surroundings, that sometimes bring about the most amazing replies. Here are a few anecdotes from Brethren who wrote to me after reading “Are you one of us?” Part One.

While recovering in hospital, Bro. Morris Saxby-Taylor was quickly up and about helping with little jobs around the ward. The duty male nurse asked him to lay the tables for lunch, Morris agreed adding the retort, “I’m happy to be your Steward.” He gave it no more thought until a short while after the male nurse whispered to Morris, “Thanks for helping with the working tools.”

Bro. Morris also recalls the time he was at a Police conference discussing the case of a Dentist who practised anaesthetics on his wife. Unfortunately, she died through one of his experiments. To his amazement one of his colleagues threw in the comment, “That’s the hidden mysteries of nature and science.”

This is similar to an incident that happened to another brother, whose name was not supplied. Several years ago when attending a business seminar, the main speaker was emphasising the difficulties he had experienced while approaching a certain problem. “You see,” he explained, “I was taught to be cautious!” A small ripple went through the audience. Afterwards, he was amazed at how many brethren had noted the remark. They all met together during lunch and what could have been a boring day turned into a really enjoyable event.


Several years back on television, that well known comedian and Freemason who regularly graced our screens with his Saturday night game show made a very interesting remark. While interviewing a contestant who was wearing check trousers he remarked, “My club has a carpet that colour!”

Bro. Ron Prothero tells me he has often used the phrase, “How old is your Mother?” Referring to the number of one’s Mother Lodge.

When holidaying in Spain, Bro. Nicholas Hopes was standing at the hotel bar when he noticed three gentlemen who took a drink simultaneously using their right arm. Nothing strange about that you might think. However, upon closer examination, Bro. Hopes discovered that they were all Masons and up until that point they had all been strangers.

One of the most amusing replies I received was from Bro. Michael Clough. He was initiated into a Lodge where his father and uncle were members. His other brother became very curious as to how Masons distinguished themselves to each other.

Quite by chance, all four of them were sitting together one day when the three Masons crossed their legs, right over left, at the same time. His brother was convinced that he had discovered the secret. Some years later when he was initiated, he was most disappointed to discover that “knee-crossing” was not part of the ceremony.



The final offering comes from Bro. Neil Watkins who recalls the story of a work colleague who was diving in the Gulf. He had already completed four, three-month tours, all with the same diving supervisor. The supervisor noticed that on one particular day during each month and at a specific time, 21.00 Hrs British time, the diver would walk to the fo’c’sle raise his non-alcoholic drink, and toast someone’s health.

The supervisor had suspected his colleague was a Mason but had never had an opportunity to discuss personal issues with him. However, one day the diver was on a platform 130ft underwater and the conversation went something like this.

“Number One Diver.” Called the Supervisor from his control position on board. “Are you ready?”

“Ready Skip.” Replied the diver.

“Now step off with your left!” Called the supervisor. Needless to say their working relationship became richer with their mutual love of the craft.


          Of course, more often than not, a simple handshake can suffice guaranteeing that any business at hand, be it work, rest or play, can progress in an honourable and enjoyable manner. This of course, is the jealously guarded and unshakeable bond that Freemasons throughout the world enjoy.

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A brief history of the Apron and the variations of the “Brightware” that adorn them. By Mike Lawrence

The earliest representation of a Masonic apron we can definitely claim as in the speculative sense, can be found on a portrait of Anthony Sayer, the first Grand Master in 1717.

However, with regard to the white leather used, a very practical point soon made itself felt, which led to the refinement and adornment of the simple leather apron. Undyed white leather was very apt to leave white marks on the clothing of the brethren and this led to the provision of a lining.

In the Minutes of 17 March 1731, Grand Lodge we read the following:

“…that all those who have served in the Grand Offices shall wear their white leather aprons lined with blue silk. That those brethren who have served as Stewards shall wear their aprons lined with red silk, and the Master and Wardens of Lodges shall wear their aprons lined with white silk”

This is the earliest mention of the colour blue in connection with Masonic clothing, but we do not get any indication of the shade of blue until 1734, when on the authority of the Deputy Grand Master an order was given for Masonic clothing. This was described as:  

“Two Grand Master’s aprons lined with Garter blue silk and turned over two inches, with white strings; two deputy Grand Master aprons turned over one inch and a half, ditto,”

Here we arrive at a definite shade of blue, the Garter blue, and there is no possibility of doubt about the appearance on the fronts of the aprons, which from the modest turnover binding of the edges, has developed into the borders on the aprons which we now have.

It must be noted that the Garter blue used was not the colour which we recognise by that name today. In Stuart times, the Garter ribbons were light sky-blue, similar to that on Craft aprons today. This was the original Grand Officers colour. It was not until about 1745 that George II altered the shade of Garter blue to the darker colour, we are now accustomed. This was in order to distinguish his Garter Knights from those supporters of James II and his heirs who had been created Knights of the Garter by the exiled family and were not recognised by the Hanoverians.

When this alteration to the darker shade of blue of the Garter took place, the aprons of the Grand Officers followed suit and so still remain today as Garter blue. The light blue was left available for the Craft in general and in time was adopted at the Union in 1813.

Why was blue chosen? Possible because of three verses in Numbers 15:

38 “Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:”

39 “And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes…”

40 “That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.”

The first mention of gold fringes was in 1787 and is found on the bill received for the apron of the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York. Both aprons cost £1-1s-0d, £1.05p in today’s money.

Prior to any kind of uniformity, aprons came to be of all sorts of sizes, colours and materials. Those of the ‘Antients’ were larger and longer than those of the ‘Moderns’ and Brethren began to adorn them with beautiful Masonic designs, either embroidered, embossed or painted, the more elaborate the better. This practice finally reached a situation where aprons became too costly for ordinary men in ordinary Lodges.

The strings of the aprons which had received the embellishment of decorated ends, were passed around the waist and tied under the fall of the flap so the tasselled ends would hang down on the front of the apron.

Examples of different styles

The use of Brightware on our aprons, Brightware being the stainless steel used for decorative attachments that adorn out aprons also became popular and was standardised by the Union of the two Grand Lodges in 1813 and in general there were three designs for the tassels holders and the levels: Plain, Plain with bevelled edge, and foliated.

Note different chain lengths

9 & 10

c.1920 Cast tin tassels

As explained the seven metal tassels on our Craft aprons today were adopted as a permanent decoration in 1813 and we are told remind us that no Lodge is perfect unless seven Brethren are present: The Master, his two Wardens, two Fellowcrafts and two Entered apprentices. We also learn that in older times, the seven ages of man were thought to be influenced by the seven then known planets and no Master Mason was considered efficient unless he had some knowledge of the seven liberal arts and sciences. These tassels ultimately became attached to two vertical ribbons representing the two pillars at the porch way or entrance to King Solomon’s Temple.

In addition to this, rosettes and levels or taus, which indicate the rank of the wearer, were added as a regulation pattern again in 1813, along with the size which is generally 14-16 inches wide and 12-14 inches deep. The Rosettes and the levels or taus are set in the form of a triangle with the apex upwards, symbolic of the Divine Life attainable by complete knowledge after the resurrection. The levels have also been said to represent the first, second and third step in regular Freemasonry.

In older times, the apron was made from lamb skin and before it can be made, the life of an animal must be taken. That animal, the lamb, has ever been regarded as the symbol of innocence and therefore the apron is regarded as a symbol of peace and innocence.

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Did you find where the little fellow was hiding? By Mike Lawrence



You’ll find the little fellow at the bottom of a Creamware tankard!

This particular Creamware tankard is thought to date about 1790 – 1800.

Height 14cm (five and a half inches)
Width 11cm (4”)

There is no factory mark.

As you probably know the frog was put inside the tankard to startle the
person drinking from it, which I would imagine would be the Initiate. Such was the practice in 18th century Freemasonry.

The verse on the front is well known and features on a number of ceramics:

The World is in pain
our Secrets to gain
but still let them wonder & gaze on
they never can divine
neither word nor the sign
of a Free and accepted

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This little chap is only 2 cm long, here’s what it is? By Mike Lawrence

The following reply was received from the Assistant Curator, United Grand Lodge of England, Great Queen Street, London.

Thank you for your enquiry. This is quite a fascinating object, never seen the like before, however what we believe it to be is a watch fob that is also perpetual calendar. The numbers are on a disc that turns via that square nut on the back, most likely via the same key that would wind a pocket watch. The owner turns the disc so that the numbers match up with the days of the week and he has a reminder of the date. It’s clearly designed to be looked at by whoever was wearing it. I don’t think there is a winding mechanism of any sort, just the internal circular plate on a pivot. You can find perpetual calendar fobs nowadays, but they are usually a bit more complicated and not masonic.

Difficult to put a date on it, late 18th century is our best guess and it might be continental, not British. Something in the design of the compasses suggests that to us. A lovely and quite unique object, thank you for contacting us about it.

Yours sincerely

Assistant Curator.


Although the Assistant Curator suggested it may be continetal, I note the days of the week are signified by English spelling capitals.

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“Are you one of us?” By Mike Lawrence Part one of a two part article.

A light-hearted view of how our 18th century brethren coped with identifying each other in the early days of the Craft


“Are you one of us?”

I have always been fascinated by the manner in which Freemasons identify themselves when meeting for the first time.  This fascination started several years ago after reading an article in a Sunday paper where the author suggested that the first question a true Freemason would ask was:

“Can you tie a bow?”  The response, if the person was a Freemason, would be: “As good as you can!”

A BBC 2 television programme once claimed that when dining, a Freemason will refer to his cutlery as “working tools” and await any appropriate response.  While a daily newspaper suggested  that a Freemason will gently caress your knuckle with his thumb before slowly releasing his grip.



“Where are my working tools”

Surprisingly, as early as 1725, the general public were given an insight into this fascinating subject. In two articles that were published, readers were advised that this information was:

“found in the custody of a Freemason who died suddenly.”

and published

“that the public may have something genuine concerning the grand mysteries of the Freemasons


I suppose the former part of the introduction gave the revelations some credence, while the latter part produced intrigue.

Published by A. Moore, near St Paul’s and entitled, “The Grand Mystery of the Free Masons Discovered”, they were priced at one shilling and contained the following:

The Freemasons Signs

Examination upon entrance into the Lodge

The Freemasons Oath

A Freemasons Health.

So just for a few moments, come journey with me to a distant past and partake of instruction into the finer points of how to pass on a discreet signal or identify another Freemason.

You might, for example, indicate your membership by taking off your hat with two fingers and a thumb. Or, you may choose to strike, with the right hand, the inside of your little finger, three times as if hewing.

Of course, you could always stroke two of your fore-fingers over your eye-lids three times or turn a glass upside down after you have taken a drink.

However, those whose transport is of an equine nature may choose to prove their association by leaving the stirrup over the horses neck after alighting.

Other times you may even be inclined to throw down a piece of round slate and say, “Can you change this coin?”


“Sorry mate! I’m a member of the Ancient Order of Woodcutters!”

Now, imagine yourself in non-masonic company and you suspect the man opposite was a Freemason and you wanted to meet him outside. Firstly, you would need to cough three times and leave the room. Now assuming he followed you out and once alone, here is the procedure to follow:

1) You must place you right heel to his right instep.

2) Put your right arm over his left and your left under his right.

3) In that position, you then take your middle finger and starting from his left shoulder you draw a square from his shoulder to the middle of his back and down to his breeches.

If this gains no response, you could try this:

1) You must take the first step with your right foot and the second with your left and the third bringing your right heel into your brothers’ right instep.

2) You then lay your right hand to his left wrist.

3) You then draw the other hand from your right ear to left under your chin.

4) He will then put his right hand to his left side under his heart.


“I’m telling you! It said left Arm over right shoulder!”

Finally, if having gone through these trials you were still unsure and of course, hoping you had not been arrested for accosting strangers, we are advised to use this final testing question?

“What lodge were you made a Freemason at?”


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“Are you a mason?” A three part article Edited and Presented by Mike Lawrence Part Three

In this concluding section of the three part series we go from the Initiation to Installation of the Worshipful Master and matters in-between.

The Initiation


Receiving a wash whilst receiving the attention of the goat.

The Entered Apprentice


The Entered Apprentice smoothing the rough ashlar with the goat quizzically looking on.

The Passing


Passing the wine from one Brother to another with the goat nodding in anticipation?

The Raising


Having ‘Passed’ the wine it is now ‘Raised’ to be consumed.

The Installation



The Worshipful Master, gavel in hand addressing the Brethren.

Remarks from the Chair


The Worshipful Master makes an immediate impression but perhaps not in the manner intended.

The Worshipful Master


Well dined – showing the effect of the Master’s circuit?

The Last Degree?


Caption reads; ‘The Mason went home from the Meeting at three and his wife is now working the Last Degree’


Perhaps these were the duties being explained by the wife?


And so to the Signs, Grips, Password, Workings, the Test and the Charge!

The Sign



One can but smile.

The Grip


Caption reads; This is a ‘Grip’ he will always mind. He’s gripped before and he’s gripped behind’.

(Another) Grip


Caption reads; ‘I know your face Brother but you’ve forgotten the Grip’.

Hand writing reads; ‘Will ye no come back again’? referring to a non attending / lapsed Brother? Dated 21st July 1905

Combination of Grip and Sign


The Sign appears to be the glass of alcohol.

The Charge


Literally receiving the ‘Charge’ – goat attentive (and smiling?), Judge with the emblem of power, the gavel.

(Another version of) The Charge


The goat in hot pursuit ‘Charging’ the Brother!

The Test


Who is Testing who?

The Password


The theme of alcohol often appears.



Operative or Speculative?



The Worshipful Master leading his Lodge with the Closing Ode.

…and finally, from Labour to Refreshment

Message reads; ‘How will this one please?  That an awful loss of life at sea. Hoping you are all well at Dalmally. Best regards Jim

Sent 20th April 1912 and referring to the Titanic? which was lost on 15th April 1912.

To Absent Brethren.

It appears the ‘Are You A Mason’ postcards remained in print until the 1920’s with an estimated 150 known to exist today in their different forms.



I am seeking the following cards if any Brother can help complete my collection.

National Series 1600

  1. 1639 – Masons at work
  2. 1640 – The awful secret
  3. 1641 – title not known
  4. 1642 – The Banquet
  5. 1643 – The Password

National Series 2446

  1. 2446A – The Charge
  2. 2446E – The Test
  3. 2446F – The Passing

National Series 2600

  1. 2646 – Listening In

With regards to the 2600 Series there appears to be gaps in the numbering so it would be helpful if anyone can provide information on the full list. The apparent gaps are 2647 to 2660 inclusive and 2662 to 2675 inclusive. The numbers are on the backs of the postcards but any collector will know this.

Thanks for your help.

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“…and while we are on the subject of goats!” By Mike Lawrence, an article presented in association with ‘Are you a Mason’ Part two

An informal article examining Freemasonry’s long association with that four-legged ruminant


“Keep your back to the wall!”

“Make sure you are wearing clean underwear!”

“Watch out for the Goat!”



Are we really warned about such things as we approach the night of our Initiation? Well quite frankly, yes! However, putting this into prospective, we all know that it is no more than a schoolboy prank or rather, a gesture of brotherly affection.

Of course, there is absolutely no need to be pre-warned or concerned about anything in Freemasonry, but rituals throughout the world, particularly those of an initiatory nature, have, to say the least,  always been shrouded in mystery and invariably invoke within us great visions of personal pain or suffering. Subsequently, the goat or shall we say Liber Capricornus, has probably been associated with Freemasonry since time immemorial.

Collins Dictionary provides us with the first clues to this association:

“Any sure-footed agile ruminant mammal with hollow horns, naturally inhabiting rough stony ground.”   


The rough stony grounds the goat inhabits are normally high hilly type regions and mountains and they can often be seen in the most inaccessible places. Strangely enough, from mans early beginnings high places and mountains have always been associated with the abode of their Deity. The goat therefore was seen as an animal symbolising man in his eternal strivings to reach his God.



Greek Mythology introduced Pan, the man/goat personage and the early Dionysian artificers accepted this figure as the symbol of the Temple Builders. Temple construction was viewed by these early schools as a source of understanding the mystery and nature of God. This school produced the Ionic column, which literally held up the Temple, the symbolic home of their God.

Thus, we now have the Goat as a symbol of mans quest for his God and in conjunction with man, a supporter or cornerstone of God’s home.


Besides this representation, the goat as the astrological figure Capricorn, rules the sun when it returns from the darkness of the winter solstice and while in this sign it begins to resume its climb towards the spring equinox.

Apart from its early connections with man and in particular his fertility, it also had strong maternal associations. According to ancient mythology it was the she-goat Almathea, who fed the infant Jupiter with milk.

To the medieval occultists, especially the Rosicrucian’s, the goat symbolised the elemental energies of the earth, the sign of Saturn and the alchemical element derived from them. In the Tarot, the Devil is shown as a goat headed Deity with a man and woman chained to him.  The early Celtic people worshipped Cernnunos, the goat headed, horned God of the wood. While the Templars were accused of worshipping the Goat of Mendes, a goat headed Deity being formed as both male and female. In covens, witches also saw the goat head as symbolising some ancient Deity.


The expression to “ride the goat” would appear to come from the medieval times when groups of Clerical Knights and Military Orders made up of priests, differentiated themselves from regular knights by choosing to ride upon goats rather than horses.


Of course, Freemasons will recognise the upturned hollow goats horn or cornucopia and know it has great significance for the Stewards of the Lodge. Their jewel of Office consists of a full cornucopia or horn of plenty, symbolising abundance, placed within the open arms of a pair of compasses denoting that the refreshments or contents of the horn of plenty are not to be wasted in extravagance, but to be used within the bounds of reason and propriety.

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It was pobably the medieval priests of Christianity who began to equate the goat with the devil and all wickedness. Possibley because of  Matthew 25: 31- 46 which explains what will happen when that Bright Morning Star (Revelations 22:16) rises. The sheep will be numbered among those on the right, a place reserved for those to inherit the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. The left, is a place which is reserved for those considered goats, who will be cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his Angels.


Traditionally, it has been the enemies of Freemasonry who have tried to ridicule our practices and in particular our Initiation ceremony. However, the failure of such falsehoods can be judged by the way Freemasons themselves join in this raillery.


But beware Brethren, this article comes with a warning! The next time somebody offers you some unconventional advice about our Craft, always remember that a true Freemason is obligated to “…..never reveal any part or parts, point or points of the secrets or mysteries of or belonging to Free and Accepted Masons in Masonry…..”

Therefore, if there is a goat, you can be sure you will be the last one to know about it.


*As a footnote to this article:

By far the funniest incident that happened to me during my twenty years as the Manager of the Local Masonic Hall was when a young Initiate, who was waiting quietly in the corner prior to the Festive Board, beckoned me over and whispered in my ear “When do I need this” and produced a large carrot from his trouser pocket. Yes! You guessed right, his proposer had advised him on the best way to keep the goat quiet during his Initiation, and he was merely following an experienced Mason’s instruction,

Reference Sources:

The Symbolism of the Goat – Eugene W Plawiuk

The Freemasons all in all – A.Holmes-Dallimore


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