Category Archives: Masonic History

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.

Footnote

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:

https://freemasonrymatters.co.uk/latest-news-freemasonry/napoleonic-wars/

http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/prisoner.html

http://www.skirret.com/archive/new_age/masons_as_prisoners_of_war.html

 

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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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“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

1

Receiving a wash whilst receiving the attention of the goat.

The Entered Apprentice

2

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

The Passing

3

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

The Raising

4

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

The Installation

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The Worshipful Master, gavel in hand addressing the Brethren.

Remarks from the Chair

6

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

The Worshipful Master

7

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

The Last Degree?

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

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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

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One can but smile.

The Grip

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

(Another) Grip

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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

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The Sign appears to be the glass of alcohol.

The Charge

13

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

(Another version of) The Charge

14

The goat in hot pursuit ‘Charging’ the Brother!

The Test

15

Who is Testing who?

The Password

16

The theme of alcohol often appears.

Workings

17

Operative or Speculative?

Harmony

17a

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.

<ends>

Footnote

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

We left off at that part of the story ‘Are You A Mason’ by looking at some postcards and the Play of the same name. A prominent feature of both was the inclusion of the goat – but why is this?

Most of us at some time will have heard the good humoured banter with the Candidate referring to the goat in the Ceremonies but I wonder if the person making the reference knows the origin of the goat in the context to which they refer?

Since ancient times and in Greek and Roman mythology the goat has been equated with the devil.

But why was the goat referenced and printed on the ‘Are You A Mason’ postcards?

According to the Asst Librarian, Great Queen Street (2011), ‘the depiction of the goat was reference to the popular and vulgar anti Masonic misconception that an element of devil-worship took place at Masonic Initiation ceremonies’.

He also quoted the Rev. Dr George Oliver (1782 – 1867), the prolific Masonic author, in one of his papers  ‘that there was in England a common belief that Freemasons were accustomed to raise the devil in their Lodges’.

He went on to say that it is these references that led to the depiction of the goat.

And according to the Curator of the Library & Museum (2010) the goat became a standard joke because of the use of a mechanical goat in the games played with the new members outside the ritual.

I had not heard of this before, or since, but perhaps this card is a hypothetical representation of ‘Riding the goat’?

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Caption reads; The poor old Mason’s goat is dead. He’s getting a ride on the kid instead’.

Let’s get away from the unfounded references to the goat and look at another humerous example of ‘Riding the goat’, of which there are a number.

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Freemasonry was not the only Fraternal Order to be lampooned by the cartoonist  – the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks received similar attention.

3

 

The Board of Grand Stewards Festival held at the Savoy, London, 28th April 1999 produced a booklet entitled ‘Humour and Freemasonry’.

4

The comment in the booklet was that the ability to see the humorous side of our activities is a sign of a healthy and civilised society and because of its ‘mystery’, Freemasonry from its earliest days has attracted public curiosity which has stimulated the wit of the cartoonist. Many have shown topicality combined with a warm humour that has appealed to Freemasons themselves.

4a

The painter and Freemason William Hogarth was a Steward for the 1735 Festival and painted the picture ‘Night’ on the front cover of the booklet.

 

 

Within the booklet there is one postcard showing  the goat – and in addition the red hot poker!

Here are four cartoons from the booklet:

5

   WM – ‘Take special care Bro Salamander that you place one letter on each cheek. I trust this solemn Ceremony will make a lasting impression’.

Bro Salamander – ‘Never fear Mr Right Worshipful – practice has steadied my hand amazingly. Mr Candidate hold your rump a little higher if you please – it is just a mere flea bite’.

DC (?) – You are now one of the Elect and are to have a Seat (when your Bottom is healed) among the Disciples of St John’.

6

Caption reads;   ‘An inspiring sermon, Vicar – see you later at the Lodge’.

In line with reporting, the cartoons picked up on the signs and grips etc depicting increasingly complex and probably physically impossible ways of Brethren exchanging the grips.

7

St Jame’s Street – Mark Mason’s Hall?

     Caption reads; “Sometimes on a cold morning, I wish I’d never joined the Freemason’s,”

8

Caption reads; Couldn’t we make an exception – just this once?’

Visitors to the Library and Museum at Great Queen Street often express surprise when cartoons are displayed. As commentary in the booklet says – ‘Freemasonry should be enjoyable or there is little point to it. Part of that enjoyment is surely an appreciation of the possibility of a humorous interpretation by other of some of our practices if taken out of context’.

The Mark Degree also features in the postcards; here are some examples with different publishers presenting different artwork.

13

 

Caption reads; ‘A Candidate getting the Mark Degree. He’s marked all over as you can see’ – note the various Masonic symbols.

As well as the artwork it is also interesting to read the written message.

It reads;

Dear Brother, Just a Post Card to let you know I have not forgot you. Hope you are all about right now. I will soon be able to go to the fishing again. Most of the Peats will be home by this time I hope. This is the way to tell the Mason so if you see Andrew Smith or Bengie as we called him, coming down the Good Road with a goat in full chase you will know he’s a full Mason. Has Uncle Tom been at the small fishing this year or have you been.  How is Hunter and his gramophone getting on? I will perhaps send you some snaps of West Kilbride if I take any. With love I remain your loving brother, Jimmy.

Dated August 1920, Govanhill, Glasgow

And lastly with regards to the Mark Degree – that poker again!

16

In the concluding look at the ‘Are You A Mason’ postcards we can see how the Initiation, Passing and Raising together with Signs, Grips and Password are depicted.

 

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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article By Mike Lawrence Part Four

In the final part of this series we examine where the Holy Royal Arch may have originated.

Neville Barker Cryer, tells us that from their earliest period, Operative Masons were always divided into two groups, Straight or Square Masons and Round or Arch Masons. The reason for this was that the straight work needed less skill and therefore commanded less wages than that of the Round or Arch man whose ability to make arches, bridges and all kind of curved work commanded more skill and therefore more wages.

290-2903158_transparent-square-and-compass-png-transparent-square-and

The Square mason obviously used the square, to check the accuracy of his work, while the Arch mason was given the compasses to assist him with making curves. The colour of the Square mason was blue, whilst the Arch mason was red. And we are told these colours are clearly illustrated on the original coat of arms of the Society of the Masons granted by Edward VI.

But this does not help any further with seeking to discover where the Holy Royal Arch originated. Like England, we know that in Ireland, the moral teachings of Masonry have been in existence since at least 1507. That was the date inscribed on the square that was found in Limerick when excavating the city’s Baal Bridge, which flows over the River Shannon. Although corroded with time the inscription reads:

Baal

I will strive to live with love & care

Upon the level. By the square

In fact, we can go back even further to one of the traditional heroes of Celtic mythology, Goban Soar, the stone mason. In Irish the word Soar, denote both “Free” and “A mason”. And legend tells us that it was the Goban, that built Ireland’s famous round towers, but that’s another story.

Gobán_Saor

But in 1751, you will no doubt recall, a rival Grand Lodge was formed in London, calling itself the Grand Lodge of England according to the Old Institutions. The new Grand Lodge accused the first or Premier Grand Lodge of having introduced many innovations and claimed that they alone preserved the ancient customs and practices of Masonry. They dubbed the older body, the “Moderns” and they assumed the title of the “Antients”.

Seal_of_the_Antient_Grand_Lodge_of_England

One of the innovations the “Moderns” had introduced was the reversing of the passwords and signs of the first and second degrees so as to confuse irregular masons that tried to gain access to regular Lodges. Another innovation that offended the “Antients” was to turn their aprons upside down so as the gentlemen would not look like mechanics.

Now the Brethren that formed this rival Lodge were looked upon, for many years as traitors, schismatics and men that had not only set out to destroy the Premier Grand Lodge, but were in violation of their Masonic obligation. However, in his book Masonic Facts and Fictions, Henry Sadler was able to prove that in the main, the founders of that rival Grand Lodge were in fact Irishmen, temporarily resident in London and who had not been made welcome in English Masonic circles. Humble men, whose only wish was to practice the Pure and Antient Freemasonry in the form they had known in their native country, under their own Grand Lodge, to whom they owed their allegiance.

Seal_of_the_Moderns_Grand_Lodge

Now you might well ask what this has got to do with our subject this evening, again I refer to Harry Mendoza. The Premier Grand Lodge did not recognise the Royal Arch as part of Freemasonry, though some of their members were exalted in a separate Chapters. However, the Grand Lodge of the Antients argued that the Royal Arch was the fourth degree and could be worked in a lodge under the authority of the lodge warrant. You will notice the four principal banners are represented on their seal.

But a rather unfortunate incident occurred. In 1766, some members owing allegiance to the Premier Grand Lodge set up the first Grand Chapter and exalted as the First Principal of the Order, Lord Blayney, the then Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge. This caused problems because it was felt such an action would imply recognition of the Order, so somebody tampered with the Charter of Compact, the document setting up the Chapter, and altered the date to 1767 and put the letter P in front of the words Grand Master, implying that at the time of his exaltation Lord Blayney was a Past Grand Master and by this date they claimed he acted in a private and not an official capacity.

Charter_Compact_

In respect of the ritual used at the time, John Hamill tell us:

“Surprisingly, little is known of the early Royal Arch Ritual. Some French manuscripts said to date from the 1760s give the skeleton of a ceremony centreing on the discovery of a vault containing the Sacred Name, but the earliest English manuscript ritual dates from as late as 1780. Nor can we rely on printed exposures,  for the Royal Arch did not attract the same publicity and curiosity as the Craft and the earliest printed (Royal Arch) exposure is Richard Carlile’s of 1825.”

To return to the Irish connection, another interesting point is that many Masonic students honestly believe that the Holy Royal Arch developed and was first practiced, in Ireland. In 1743, we read in an Irish newspaper that “…the royal arch (was) carried by two excellent masons…” as part of a St John’s Day procession though the Town of Youghal, Co. Cork.

However, there is more controversy here when Fifield Dassigny’s wrote the following in his book “A serious and impartial enquiry into the cause of the present decay of Free-masonry in the Kingdom of Ireland”, published in Dublin in 1744:

…a certain propagator of a false system some few years ago in this city [Dublin] who imposed upon several very worthy men under a pretense of being Master of the Royal Arch, which he asserted he had brought with him from the city of York; and that the beauties of the Craft did principally consist in the knowledge of this valuable piece of Masonry. However he carried on this scheme for several months and many of the learned and wise were his followers, till at length his fallacious art was discovered by a Brother of probity and wisdom, who had some small space before attained that excellent part of Masonry in London and plainly proved that his doctrine was false.”

But whatever the intrigue, recognition of the Royal Arch was essential to the Union of the two Grand Lodges and this was achieved in 1818 by the somewhat ambiguous wording of the Preliminary Declaration of the Book of Constitution, which states

“…pure Antient masonry consists of three degrees and no more, namely the entered apprentice, the fellowcraft, and the master mason, including the Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch…”

In conclusion, like the Craft, the origin of the Holy Royal Arch has been lost and we have no records to give it the antiquity or history we would like, but I would encourage all Master Masons to consider membership of this beautiful Order and complete the cycle of what is considered, under the English Constitution and being “Pure and antient Masonry”

<ends>

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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article By Mike Lawrence Part Three

The second Temple, known to us as the third or Grand and Royal Lodge, was reconstructed and stood between 516 BC and 70 AD. During this time, it was the centre of Jewish worship, which focused on the sacrifices known as the Korbanot. In Judaism, the Korban is any of a variety of sacrificial offerings described and commanded in the Totah. King Solomon’s Temple was destroyed in 586 BC when the Jews were exiled during the Babylonian captivity. Construction of a new temple was begun in 535 and completed in 516, with its dedication in 515. As described in the Book of Ezra, rebuilding of the Temple was authorised by Cyrus the Great and ratified by Darius the Great. The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its second Temple on August 4th 70 AD, ending the Great Jewish revolt that began in 66 AD.

9

 

The story in our ritual which relates to the discovery of the vault, probably takes its rise from any number of contemporary books that were available at the time when the ritual was being formulated. For example, we already know that the many of the Craft ritual phrases and certain usages can be found in the works of Shakespeare, Bunyon, Milton, Bronte, and some of the comtemporary pracitices of the time, so it would figure that Royal Arch ritual would contain phrases, practices or other things that were common or available at the time.

Thus, we read of The Ecclesiastical History of Philostorgius, born 364 AD, translated and published in 1669 in a book entitled, “Solomon’s Temple Spiritualised.” The book records that the Roman Emperor, Julian the Apostate, ordered the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, during the course of which a cave was discovered by a workman who was lowered by rope into the vault. He discovered a perfect square and, in its centre, a column upon which was found a book wrapped in fine linen cloth. The first words being “In the beginning was the word” The book was the entire Gospel of St John. This verse incidentally played a very important part in the early Holy Royal Arch ceremony but was dropped during the 1835 ritual revision.

10

 

QCCC member Harry Mendoza, also tells us that references to the discovery of a law-book during repair work that was being carried out on the Temple can be found in 2 Kings, Chapter 22 and 2 Chronicles, Chapter 34. This book mentioned, many commentators identify as Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible, and which both record Hilkiah the priest finding the book of the law that the Lord had given Moses.

Robert McCoy’s “A Dictionary of Freemasonry”, a late 19th century publication also records the early finding of a vault in the ruins at Yucatan, where the explorer recorded the following: “The only way of descending was to tie a rope around the body and be lowered by the Indians…”

Therfore, as you can see, it is not beyond the realms of anyone’s imagination to understand where the allegorical story originated.

But this idea of taking an existing story to accentuate salient points of our discipline or to highlight its meaning should in no way detract from the important message of the Holy Royal Arch. It all degrees in Freemasonry, traditional histories were written for that very purpose and have little or no historical accuracy and it still pains me to this day when exponents of our ritual sincerely and honestly believe that all Masonry is based on historical fact.

This I think is an indictment on our society and clear evidence of our failure to educate our people by allowing them to continue to serve in ignorance rather than provide proficient instructors and accurately presented resources. Strong words I know, but I stand by my view.

11

 

So, having now established some of the basic facts about the Holy Royal Arch, i.e. where we are and what we are doing, perhaps a simplified recap will put things into a better perspective. So here are ten questions:

1) Where are we?

2) Where did we come from?

3) Who allowed us to come back to Jerusalem?

4) Who are we?

5) Who sits at the head of the Sanhedrin?

6) Who are they assisted by?

7) What did Cyrus give us permission to do?

8) What did we do to help the reconstruction?

9) What did they discover?

10) What was the reward for the industry and fidelity of the workmen?

Answers:

1) In Jerusalem!

2) Babylon, the captivity now being over!

3) Cyrus, the King of Persia!

4) The Grand Sanhedrin!

5) Zerubbabel, Haggai and Joshua!

6) Ezra and Nehemiah!

7) To rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem

8) We hired three workmen to clear the ground in order to receive the foundations. They made a discovery of great importance which they immediately conveyed back to us.

9) The name of the True and Living God Most High! Which was lost through the untimely death of Hiram Abiff.

10) They were made members of the Grand Sanhedrin!

We complete the story of the Holy Royal Arch in the next and final part of the Article.

 

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Holy Royal Arch…Whence Come You? A four part article by Mike Lawrence Part Two

In part two, we take a brief look at the main characters of our drama.

Zerubbabel, was the grandson of Jehoiachin, penultimate King of  Judah. He led the first band of Jews, numbering 42,360, who returned from the Babylonian captivity in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia. It was also Zerubbabel that laid the foundation of the second Temple in Jerusalem the next year. Muslim historian, Ya’qubi attributed the recovery of the Torah and the Books of the Prophets to him instead of Ezra. Little else is known about him.

6

Haggai, was one of the twelve minor prophets and the author of the Book of Haggai. He was the first of three prophets (with Zechariah, his contemporary, and Malachi, who lived about one hundred years later). His ministry belonged to the period of Jewish history which began after the return from captivity in Babylon. We are told that when the work of rebuilding the temple had been put to a stop through the intrigues of the Samaritaina and having been suspended for eighteen years, the work was resumed through the efforts of Haggai and Zechariah who exhorted the people, which roused them from their lethargy.

 Joshua, the son of Josedech and the first High Priest of the second Temple, should not be confused with that other Joshua who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites and who we will all remember from the second degree, prayed fervently to the Lord to continue the light of day. Sadly, I can find no further details other than our own allegorical association with Zerubbabel and Haggai.

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Ezra, the “scribe” led the second body of exiles that returned from Babylon to Jerusalem and was author of the book of Scripture which bears his name. He was the son, or perhaps grandson, of Seraiah. All we know of his personal history is contained in the last four chapters of his book. We also learn that in the seventh year of the reign of  he obtained leave to go up to Jerusalem and to take with him a company of Israelites. The King manifested great interest in Ezra’s undertaking, granting him “all his request” and loading him with gifts for the house of God, being the Second Temple, whose construction had now commenced. Again we must not confuse Scribe Ezra with, the priest of the same name that returned with those to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel.

 Nehemiah, the son of Hachaliah was probably of the tribe of Judah and was one of the “Jews of the dispersion”. In his youth he was appointed to the important office of royal cup-bearer at the palace of Shushan. Like Ezra, the King Artaxerxes Longimanus, seemed to have been on terms of friendly familiarity with him, for after Nehemiah had heard of the mournful and desolate condition of the Holy City, he was filled with sadness of heart. At length, we learn the King observed his sadness of countenance and asked the reason. Nehemiah explained it all to the King and obtained his permission to go up to Jerusalem and there to act as Governor of Judea. He went up in the spring of 446 BC (eleven years after Ezra), with a strong escort supplied by the King. On his arrival he set himself to survey the city, and to form a plan for its restoration; a plan which he carried out with great skill and energy, so that it was completed in about six months. We are told that he resembled Ezra in his fiery zeal, in his active spirit of enterprise, and in the piety of his life, but he was of a fiercer mood and he had less patience with transgressors. He was a man of action rather than a man of thought, and more inclined to use force than persuasion.

The three Sojourners are representative of the workmen needed to rebuild the second Temple and humbly wished to participate in the great and glorious undertaking. They were nobly born of the House of Judah, but due to the lateness of their application they were tasked to prepare the ground for the foundations which they cheerfully accepted.

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Those are the characters or main players in our ritual drama and it were they that formed part of the Grand Sanhedrin, which as I previously explained is what the lodge room represents during the Exaltation ceremony of the Holy Royal Arch, and we, as Companions of that Order, are also part of that ruling council.

The Great Sanhedrin, which is what the Convocation is representative of, was an assembly of Jewish judges who constituted the Supreme Court and legislative body of ancient Israel. In total there were 71 Sanhedrin members. During the period of the second Temple in Jerusalem, prior to its destruction in 70 AD, the Great Sanhedrin would meet in the Hall of Hewn Stones in the Temple during the day, except before festivals and Shabbat.

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Now the objective of the ritual authors was to restore to Freemasonry the true secrets of a Master Mason, lost as we know, by the allegorical death of one of the brightest characters in Masonry, Hiram Abiff. In order to repair that loss, another allegorical story was prepared, its origin we will discuss a little later, but the vehicle for such a message was the building of the second Temple in Jerusalem.

In part three we look at the where the theme of the ritual may have taken its rise and recap with some simple questions and answers.

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Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence. Part Four

To conclude the article, I began with the question “Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees?” and I first looked at the start of the squared stone building industry in England in the early Middle Ages. This was followed by a look at the organisation of Masons in England and Scotland in the high and late Middle Ages. I then moved to that period what modern day Masonic historian’s call the “transition” which is in fact, the reasons that made men, who were not involved in the building trade or craft want to become non-working or Accepted mason and join a lodge alongside working masons.

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So, to answer the original question, I think we may apply the following scenario, first put by Revd. Barker Cryer:

“There is a realisation amongst Masons that ritual material once possessing infinite mystical value had at some time been discarded from some old practices and suddenly revived and expanded into a rite purporting to restore the genuine secrets”

Can we apply this to Mark Masonry?

The first record we have of Mark Masonry in England is on 1st September 1769 at the Royal Arch Chapter No. 257 when certain brethren were made Mark Masons, after which they chose their mark.

Obviously for there to be a ceremony on that night would certainly indicate a ritual of some kind was used which logic dictates would have been introduced before that date. We know that there is an occasional reference to the term “mark” in several earlier documents, but the same goes for “arch”, but they are not necessarily used in the context with which we understand Mark or Holy Royal Arch to be, so sadly this does not indicate a full separate degree or ritual being practiced earlier than 1769.

The re-introduction of assigning marks could be considered as a once discarded practice, but the Mark ceremony does not have the same antiquity and therfore cannot be.

So, the answer to the first scenario is, NO!

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Secondly, the Revd. Barker Cryer says:

“One of the peculiarities of ritual growth is that customs discarded from the ritual or ignored through lack of understanding in one place surprisingly turns up in another at a much later date.”

This could apply to Mark Masonry as the use of marks, the discarding of spoilt stones and the name Adoniram, pre-date Craft practices, but this does not necessarily prove a direct unbroken chain or link beyond the Craft. After all, much of the Craft system is evident in Mark Masonry, the giving of tokens, signs and words, the administration set up, the position of some of the Officers and the use of the lodge room, which as we know was a late 18th century innovation. Lately, the Mark Degree did developed an independent Lodge room, but this was not prior to the development of the Craft Lodge room.

So, we could partly answer yes to the second scenario, but not with any conviction as we still have no further clues to the antiquity of the Mark Degree, nor that it was ever an independent order.

The final point to make is that we must not confuse the use of mason’s marks and their antiquity, particularly as they have been found on the earliest of squared stone buildings, as being the basis for an independent Mark Degree. Marks were used by all trades to identify the producer or maker or the origin of the piece of work and in this case, given to all qualified stone masons who were not, at that time, known as Mark Masons.

There may even have been a short ceremony involved in the choosing of a mark at the end of an Apprenticeship, but end of Apprenticeship rituals (being one of fun, frivolity and initiation into the trade generally at the expense of the newly qualified individual) was by no means exclusive to Masons. I am sure so many of the more mature Freemasons, will recall from your youth, before the advent of Health and Safety, the things that were done to blood the newly qualified Apprentice on the completion of his indentures.

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It was the French that had a great fondness for religious and chivalric ceremony and this is evident by the development of hundreds of Masonic, non-Masonic and quasi-Masonic degrees which are held by the Grand College of Rites and which included such rituals as:

The Egyptian Rite                    The Rite of Memphis

The Order of Dervishes           The Rite of Mizraim

The Martinist Order                The Early Grand Rite of Scotland

Then we have:

The Rite of Memphis Mark     The Travelling Mark

The French Mark                     The Black Mark

The Ragon Mark

Therefore, many of the Degrees which have, these days, attached themselves under the Masonic banner were developed in France in the early 18th century and their antiquity, which appears to have been lost in the midst of time, in truth date back no further than that.

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So whether we like it or not, we are left with the knowledge that as our Craft Ritual bears little resemblance to pre-1717 practices, particularly as most of the its ritual, dress and surroundings etc., were innovations developed many years after, so I believe Mark has that same distinction.

Mark Masonry is not older than the Craft Masonry, it is not a direct or closer link to Operative Masonry, nor as it is often described “a completion of the Second Degree”, nor is it actually officially recognized within the Grand Lodge of England, as being “pure and antient masonry.”

However, like the Craft, knowledge of its past and its development should never detract from this most beautiful and friendly Degree or the deep spiritual message it contains, neither should it go unacknowledged the great role played and the work carried out by the Mark Benevolent Fund.

For more information about the Mark Masonry please visit:

https://markmasonshall.org/orders/mark-master-mason

https://markmasonshall.org/mbf-home/mark-benevolent-fund

<ends>

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Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence. Part Three

To begin the third section, I will just touch briefly on the subject of assemblies. Surviving records do seem to indicate that not only were there some kind of organisation for masons, but that the organisation covered a much larger area which seems directly opposed to the town based “Craft Gilds” or Mysteries.

We certainly find records of the minstrels, who like the itinerant masons had to wander about the country to find work, were subject to wide territorial jurisdictions.  Certainly, John of Gaunt established a court at Tutbury in 1381 to enact laws for minstrels and to determine controversies affecting them which covered five neighboring counties.

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It is not therefore implausible to consider that masons may have had a similar system and that is exactly what the Regius MS seems to indicate. The Cook MS also refers to annual or triennial congregations of Masters and Fellows which were said to have been established by Athelstan. That Stone workers and Freemasons had customs is not in doubt as we find in the building accounts of Sandgate Castle in 1539, a jurat or member of a municipal body was paid his expenses while riding to communicate with the Controller or Master of the Works “…concerning the use and customs of freemasons and hewers…”

So just to recap where we are at the moment, firstly we took a look the start of the squared stone building industry in England and then we looked at the development of the organisation of Masons.

Now we need to examine that period which modern day Masonic historian’s call the “transition” which is in fact, the reasons that made men, who were not involved in the building trade or craft, want to become non-operative or Accepted masons and to join a lodge or working masons.

The end of the late middles ages was a period of outstanding importance in the history of the building trade, because it was marked with four great events or movements: the dissolution of the monasteries, the Renaissance, the Reformation and the opening up of the New World.

 

Following the dissolution of the monasteries, Henry VIII gave gifts of monastic lands and estates to his friends and supporters.  As you know many of the buildings were razed and in many cases the materials used to build fine residences for these Lords, Earls and Barons.

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The effects of the Reformation caused the decline in the importance of the Church, particularly as an employer, coupled with the Renaissance which saw the emergence of planning and design being carried out by gentleman or scholars not Master Masons. Its more immediate effect during the Renaissance was the change in architectural styles which saw the introduction of the more classical style. The Reformation introduced new employers as the religious building program slowed considerably and the emphasis moved to the building of Palaces, Stately homes and municipal or official buildings.

The effects on the building industry of opening up the new world were also calamitous and the great influx of the new trade in materials, precious metals and various other commodities led to a redistribution of existing wealth. These “Nouveau riche” who became known as the “Gentry” caused considerable expansion in private building, a change in the employment conditions of masons and as you would expect, a change in the old-time customs and usages.

The Reformation with its movement from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism had already reduced the status of the cathedral craftsman and the sudden great rise in prices for which there was not a proportionate rise in wages, left masons impoverished, but stimulated building activity by the lowering of wages and real building costs.

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Collectively, this led to major changes in the industry ranging from, as explained, the introduction of gentleman architects, to the masons loss of status and that once great industry with its usages, customs, practices and legends, was now in decline as new employers, who imposed new conditions, took the place of Church and Crown.

 

In his exposure “Masonry Dissected” published in 1730, Samuel Pritchard quotes the catechetical question, “What do you learn by being a Gentleman Mason?” Answer: “Secresy, Morality and Goodfellowship.”

And it is to Gentleman or Accepted mason that we now look, not the Speculative Mason as this term was not properly introduced into our Masonic speak until about 1757.

But we must ask: “What induced gentlemen to join a lodge?”

In a similar sense, religious historians have the same dilemma seeking to explain why men became Quakers or Methodists while others remained in the mainstream Church of England. Some might argue it was an accident, for example being in the right place at the right time.

No doubt George Fox or John Wesley had great persuasive testimonies which effected people’s beliefs, other may have joined because of a family connection, following in father’s footsteps for example. However, the trouble with Masonry is why would men join a body whose fundamentals were in part, secret at the time of joining, and whose rites and secrets were not known until he had bound himself by an oath.

In the 17th century more than any other period, men were definitely preoccupied with the pursuit of secrets we have for example: Alchemy, Astrology, Rosicrucianism, the biblical Apocalypse, to name but four. However, 18th century poet Goronwy Owen expected his membership would help himto find the “hidden wisdom of the ancient druids”, while William Stukeley states in his autobiography that “curiosity led him to be initiated into the mysteries of masonry, suspecting it to be the remains of the mysteries of the ancients.” So, if curiosity was one reason we have at least three others.

The first suggests they had an interest in Architecture and we have already learnt how Master Masons now became gentleman architects, while in the 1723 Constitutions Anderson himself commented on the Gothic style saying it was “a barbarous product of the Dark Ages” and praised the various Italian architects of the Palladian style.

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In in York, antiquary Francis Drake and his contemporary Edward Oakley, both leading Freemasons of the 1720’s commented on the giving of lectures on architecture and geometry in the lodge. In fact, Drake claimed that in London lodges and other parts of the kingdom, lectures on the same were given at every meeting.

Evidence of one such lecture delivered in 1723 by Dr. William Stukeley still survives in the British museum and is entitled, “The Roman Amphitheatre at Dorchester” While other contemporary lodge minutes tell us that at the Old King’s Arms Lodge, Master Martin Clare read part of the “Architecture of Palladio”  “to which the Society were very attentive.” Similarly, George Payne presented a lecture about the “Manner of Building in Persia.”

So even if we consider that Drakes assertion that lectures “on the same were given at every meeting” were an exaggeration, his remarks do at least suggest that architecture played a somewhat small part in the early Grand Lodge meetings. This is somewhat confirmed as late as 1735 when William Smith in his book “A Pocket Companion for Freemasonry” stresses the importance of a knowledge of architecture by Freemasons.

The second reason might have been an interest in the antiquity of Freemasonry like Sir William Dugdale who believed that Freemasonry derived from a company of Italian masons in the time of Henry III who was commissioned by the Pope to travel across Europe building cathedrals and churches. Elias Ashmole, whose third wife was the daughter of Dugdale and a name to whom you are all familiar with collected much historical material pertaining to the building of Winsor castle. While Randle Holme clearly states in his famous work, “Accademie of Armory” of 1688, “I cannot but honor the Fellowship of the Masons because of its antiquity…”

 

The third reason was of course was the desire for convivial company and apart from the dining clubs and fraternities I mention in my Cornwallis Lecture of 2009 there were other such as:

The Order of Jeopardy,

The Friends of Awakening Nature

The Order of Noah

The Society of Bucks

The Jerusalem Sols

The Salamanders

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So there is in fact little doubt that during this period of time, “conviviality” appears to have been a prominent characteristic of lodges and in 1722, Freemasons had the dubious honor of being included in the English version of “The Praise of Drunkenness” which obviously prompted the previously mentioned Francis Drake of York to declare in a speech, “…the pernicious custom of drinking…which we of our nation too much indulge…I wish I could not say that I have frequently observed in our own Most Amicable Brotherhood.”.

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This ends the third part.

 

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Is the Mark Degree older than the Craft Degrees? A four-part article by Mike Lawrence – Part Two

We commence the second part of this article with a look at the term ‘Lodge’. A word often found in old manuscripts and spelt in a variety of ways for example: logia, logge, loygge, luge, ludge, a word derived from old French Gallic, meaning hut and which appears to have been used both in England and Scotland in three different senses:

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A) In both countries, the term lodge was used to designate a mason’s workshop that was generally erected in connection with all building operations. Hence, we read in the Vale Royal Abbey building accounts of 1278, that carpenters were paid to erect lodges. The same goes for masons’ lodges and workshops at Catterick Bridge in 1421, Kirby Muxloe Castle in 1481. Then we have details of repairs to masons’ lodges at Beaumaris Castle in 1330 and Westminster Abbey in 1413.

 

The lodge was in fact a workshop where masons cut, dressed and carved stone and it would be fair to say that they would also have taken their permitted breaks within its walls, as at the lodge attached to York Minster in 1370 and St Giles, Edinburgh in 1491. It is also most likely that within its walls, questions affecting the masons trade were discussed along with difficulties experienced during work, techniques, grievances and without doubt, superstitions, fables and stories passed down from the beginning of English squared stone building. We must bear in mind that the Regius MS c.1390 and the Matthew Cooke MS c.1450, our earliest MS contain both charges and the legendary history of the craft.

B) In both countries, the term lodge was often used to describe a group of masons working together on the same building operation. Thus we find references to them at York in 1352 which refers to by-laws and ordinances, Canterbury in1429 which refers to its members as the “masons of the Lodge“, Aberdeen in 1481 which refers to conditions of employment and Edinburgh in 1491 which refers to written statements of old established customs. In effect, it is highly probable that the lodges were in fact much older than the respective dates shown which is only the earliest traceable evidence and not necessarily the start or formation dates.

C) In Scotland, the word Lodge was also used to describe an organised body of masons associated with a particular town or district. In the Schaw Statues of 1598 &1599 we read that “Edinburgh shall be the first principle lodge and Kilwinning the second.” From the St. Clair Charters of 1601 & 1628 we learn of other territorial lodges at St. Andrews, Dundee and Glasgow to name but three. These lodges carried out certain official duties of a trade nature including the regulation of Apprentices, keeping records of the reception and entry of Apprentices, the admission of Fellow Crafts and assigning marks to members. Other duties included settling disputes between Masters and their servants, ensuring no cowans were employed, ensuring Masters did not employ Apprentices or Journeymen of other Masters, collecting funds by way of fees and fines, relief of the distressed, feasting at the expense of the candidate and conferring the Mason Word on qualified members.

But the organizational set up in both England and Scotland were different. Scotland had “Incorporations”. Very briefly, these existed in certain Scottish burghs for the ruling and governing of particular crafts. Established under what is called the “seals of cause”, they were rules and statutes made by the craftsmen and approved by the municipality. Part of the role of the Incorporations was to protect the public or consumer by seeing that the work was properly carried out by authorised and qualified craftsmen to an good quality level.

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In England there were “Craft Gilds”. Surprisingly, the term “Craft Gild” was an invention by 19th century historians who used it to distinguish a particular type of medieval municipal organisation which was concerned, like the Incorporations, with industrial trade regulation and quality, from that other municipal organisation, the “Merchant Gild” which was more concerned with the trading of goods for the whole town.

In medieval documents the organisation which we call a “Craft Gild” is described as a fellowship or mystery, the term has nothing to do with secrets or mysteries of ancient mythology as has long been believed, but the mystery of the craftsman’s trade or his skill, which he long considered his ‘secrets’ and which he would only pass on to an accredited apprentice.

However, since the beginning of the belief that there is a transitional link between stone/operative masons and non-operative or accepted masons, Masonic writers have wrongly devoted considerable space and time to the stone workers fraternities and their mysteries by mistakenly overlooking the fact that the secrets and mysteries of an artisan was his professional skill and not ritualized secrets or mysteries from an ancient civilization.

In essence, there is little evidence to prove that a mason’s fraternity of this kind existed at all in London before the13th or 14th centuries. For example, the names of those elected and sworn in, in 1328 from the various Mysteries in London to represent the government of these organisations included no masons whatsoever. But things change and in 1356, the introduction to the “Regulations for the Trade of Masons” state that, “unlike other trades, Masons had not been regulated in due manner by the folks of the trade” actually implying that there were no craft guilds or mysteries up to that date. However, it was another twenty years later in 1376, that we find the first specific reference to a permanent organisation of masons in London, when four masons were elected to the Common Council to represent the Mystery and the probability is that an organization for masons was established sometime between 1356 and 1376.

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There is some belief that mason’s organisations existed in towns like Chester and Newcastle, because of the evidence we have that masons participated and performed miracle plays in those towns. The trade regulations in the “York Memorandum Book” of 1376 to 1419, contains details of over forty trades, but no reference to masons, and the same is for Coventry. In Chester there is evidence of the participation in such plays appears in the late 16th century, while at Newcastle a Masons Company was incorporated in 1581 with certain duties which included the presentation of a Corpus Christi play. However, we do find specific mention of wallers, bricklayes, daubers and slaters who were granted Charters under Henry VI 1422-1471.

From the Ordinances of 1481 and 1521 it is clear that we have the London Masons Company, a medieval fraternity or mystery with an oligarchy formed or forming within it, as had happened in many other trades.

Interestingly we note here that “foreigns” or non-freemen were not allowed to be employed, while freemen are available. Restrictions were placed on apprentices, one allotted per member and two for liverymen or those that had twice been wardens. Restrictions on the employment of “foreigns” or non-freemen applied up to 1666, when the rebuilding of London, after the great fire, changed the monopolies once held by the mason’s trade.

One of the problems relating to the mason’s trade which one might have considered part of their “ordinances and records” might concern the control or issue of mason’s marks. The Blacksmiths, helmet makers, bladesmiths and braziers of London were all subject to regulation by way of the maker’s marks, but certainly in London no provision regulating the use of marks has been traced in the Masons ordinances, nor has any book survived in the archives, although masons marks can be found on the earlier built Westminster Abbey.

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Having said that, documents dated 1452 do in fact refer to marks and we are told: “A fellow who has learned the work may appear before his Master and, on exhibiting proof of his skill, the Master may award him a mark…and…the master shall within 14 days of his becoming a Fellow, deliver to the new craftsman his mark.”

End of part two.

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