Blog

Questions and Answers Craft Freemasonry Lodge Items and Regalia

Craft Freemasonry Lodge Items and Regalia:

Should the V.S.L. be placed so that it can be read by the W.M. or the Candidate?
The V.S.L. is an essential part of the Lodge when in session, and there is no specific role as to which way it should be turned. But when it is to be used by a Candidate for the purpose of taking an Obligation, it becomes in a certain sense his Book. Our Lodges are required to provide for each Candidate that particular version of Holy Writ which belongs to his faith, and for the Obligation, at least, there can be no doubt that the Book should be so arranged that he can recognize and read it.

Are the Wardens columns derived from the pillars?
The pillars are holders which carry the candles at the three pedestals. These are not to be confused with the two pillars which are present in many lodges either at the entrance or in front of the Senior Warden. One theory is that the Wardens columns are the sole remains of what once were Hour Glasses. The Senior Warden column would therefore mark the time at which the lodge was open. It would be interesting to know what other theories might explain this.

Why do the Wardens in a Craft Lodge raise and lower their Columns?
The usual explanations in the Lectures, etc., seem trivial, in view of the importance many Brethren seem to place on the columns being moved at the right time and placed in the right position.

One might fill pages with the various so-called interpretations of the functions of the Wardens’ Columns, and the reason for the things we do with them. By and large, our present procedure is a result of the work of the Lodge of Promulgation, 1809-1811, which was commissioned to make the necessary revisions in Lodge Work and Ritual, in preparation for the union of the rival Grand Lodges (in 1813).

On 23rd January, 1810, the situation of the Wardens was settled, J. W. in the South. Three days later, 26 January, the Lodge considered, and apparently agreed, the position of the Wardens’ Columns, and the agreed procedure was of course adopted at the Union.

The present explanation is indeed trivial, and that is invariably the case with such problems as “one up and one down”, “left-foot, right-foot,” ‘left -knee, right-knee,” etc., because each interpretation has to give a satisfactory explanation for a particular procedure and for the reverse of that procedure, which is virtually impossible. The only satisfying explanation in this case is the simplest of all, i.e., the procedure was laid down to mark a distinction between the Lodge when open and when closed.

During my American tour I visited Lodges in seven different jurisdictions, and never saw a Wardens’ Column, or Pedestal. In 18th century England, i.e., before the Union, both Wardens sat in the west (where J. D. and I. G. sit nowadays), almost certainly without pedestals or columns, but in many cases there would be a Pillar near each of them, which formed, so to speak ,the portal into the Lodge. No columns up or down, and that probably explains why there is no reference at all in early Masonic literature to the position of the columns.

Finally, in such questions as this there is rarely an answer as to what is “right” and what is ‘wrong”. The practice of your Lodge is right so far as you are concerned. Other Lodges do things differently; so much the better. For them, their practice is right, and none would dare say otherwise.

What is the origin of the black and white pavement?
The squared pavement, now preserved in our carpet almost certainly is derived from the floor pattern. This type of flooring is very evident in art particularly Dutch interiors of both churches and houses of Important people. As has happened so often freemasonry has used a common artifact and given it a more esoteric meaning.

THE WARRANT OF THE LODGE
We all know that when a lodge is consecrated, the consecrating officer presents to the first master the warrant of the lodge charging him to pass it to his successor when his year as master is over.

The master of a lodge when installing his successor uses such phrases as ‘I now pass into your care the Warrant of the lodge. For many years it has been in the hands of worthy and distinguished brethren and in entrusting it to your care I know that it will lose none of its lustre but will be passed to your successor pure and unsullied as you now receive it’.

Why then is this Warrant so important and why is the master so frequently seen to be carrying it into the lodge and why is he often seen to display it either before or immediately after the start of the lodge meeting?
The answer can be found in Rule 101 of the Book of Constitutions and it will no doubt come as a great shock to the reader to find that the warrant does not ‘belong’ to the lodge. The master in fact holds the Warrant in safe custody on behalf of the Grand Master.

The Master (the rule continues) shall produce it at every meeting of the lodge. Hence we can at once appreciate that a meeting at which the Warrant is not available is unconstitutional and cannot be held. The Master of the lodge is perhaps completely unaware for the entire period of his mastership that he is holding the Warrant in trust for the Grand Master, and it is to be recommended that the master be encouraged to address himself to Rule 101 most carefully before he is installed into the chair of King Solomon.

One oddity of Rule 101 is the unclear statement about ‘producing it’ and precisely what ‘producing it’ really meant in practice. This choice of words has caused much discussion for the use of the word ‘displaying’ might have been more specific. A Master would therefore be acting within the terms of this rule by simply holding the Warrant aloft for the brethren to see for he would indeed have ‘produced’ it. It is the case in the majority of lodges that the Warrant is removed from its case displaced in full to the assembled brethren but a lodge which does not conform to this practice should not be criticized providing always that the Warrant was present within the lodge room.

It is perhaps a good exercise for the Master to undertake the complete opening of the warrant case and displaying the warrant fully so that all present can see that they are taking part in a properly constituted and regular meeting of the lodge. This can however wear the Warrant out.

The Warrant is of course the document which gives authority to the lodge in general and the Master in particular to Initiate, Pass and Raise Candidates for Freemasonry – without the Warrant the lodge is not regular and ceremonies must not be performed.

The question is sometimes raised by lay brethren who see the Warrant of a lodge framed and totally ‘on show’ in a Masonic hall: ‘How can the master say ‘place in your hands the Warrant of the Lodge when it is firmly fixed to the wall of the Temple?’

A totally relevant question and one which can only be answered by the questioner allowing a free use of poetic licence, for the phrase used by the Master is one of free licence of the English language and should not be taken too literally.The author has on occasions heard the same phrase varied to the words ‘I now entrust to your care [indicating with his hand its position on the Temple wall] the Warrant of the Lodge’. This covers the situation equally as well and does not offend the ‘pure in heart’.

What then is the Centenary Warrant? Can this not be used in place of the lodge Warrant issued when the lodge was consecrated?
The answer to that question is NO and the reason is simple, the Centenary Warrant is the ‘official’ proof that the lodge has completed an unbroken period of one hundred years of activity and it permits the lodge members to wear a Centenary Jewel of the style and design emblazoned on the Centenary Warrant.

You will of course now appreciate that to try to use the Centenary Warrant in place of the lodge Warrant is completely wrong and should never be permitted, and more to the point the lodge is not regular!
The same comments of course apply equally to a Bicentenary Warrant, the purpose of which is to authorize the wearing of a bar on the Centenary Jewel with the engrossment ‘CC’ signifying two hundred years of continuous working.

Q. When did the ‘master’s emblems’ replace the rosettes on the apron worn by masters and past masters?
A. There is evidence to suggest that rosettes were being worn on aprons as early as the end of the eighteenth century, but there were no specific regulations laid down regarding the size of, or decorations on the aprons to be worn, though both the premier Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodge of the Antients had at times passed resolutions in their respective Grand Lodges which dealt with a specific matter.

In 1814 the Board of Works of the new United Grand Lodge of England made recommendations regarding the uniformity of Masonic regalia. For the first time the material, design, form and decoration of the masonic apron was agreed. The appropriate regulations were printed in the 1815 Book of Constitutions. The relevant wording for masters and past masters was:
to wear, in lieu and in the places of the three rosettes on the apron, perpendicular lines upon horizontal lines, thereby forming three several sets of two right angles, the length of the horizontal lines to be two inches and a half each, and the perpendicular lines one inch; these emblems to be of riband, half an inch broad, and of the same colour as the lining and edging of the apron. If grand officers, a similar emblem, of garter blue or gold.
There is some evidence that this emblem was being used on aprons just before the Union.

The design was almost certainly for the purpose of distinction; to show that the wearer had been through, or was occupying the Chair of King Solomon. After 1884 the emblems could be of silver or of ribbon.
In the 1884 edition there was a change in respect of Grand Officers of Grand Lodge, present and past; the new wording was ‘If Masters or Past Master, they may have the Master’s emblems of garter-blue or gold.’ In 1940 a similar sentence was added to the description of the apron worn by Provincial and District Grand Officers present and past.

In 1960 this sentence was deleted in respect of the apron worn by Grand Officers, (but not Officers of Provincial or District Grand Lodge); the words ‘and having the master’s emblems in gold’ were added to the preceding sentence.

Until 1960 it was possible for someone to be an Officer of Grand Lodge without having passed the Chair of a lodge; Past Assistant Grand Chaplain and Past Grand Organist are examples. Since 1960 it is expected that all Grand Officers will have been masters of a lodge, though this is not a formal requirement except for Grand Stewards and the Grand Tyler.

In the case of Provincial and District Grand rank, provision is made only that wardens and past wardens must already be an Installed Master; other Provincial or District Grand Officers need not be, but in most cases are. If they are not, then their aprons will have rosettes and not the master’s emblems. Brethren appointed to London or Overseas Grand Rank must be Installed Masters and their apron will, of course, show the master’s emblems.

I read of the custom of the candidate being presented with a pair of gloves on his Initiation; sometimes an additional pair was given for his lady. Can light be shed on this custom; when and how did it die out? Why do freemasons wear gloves?
A. Gloves were originally a necessary part of the operative mason’s protective clothing; there are many records showing they were supplied by employers.

From 1599 onwards there is evidence that initiates in some lodges had to supply a pair of gloves to every member present as part of his entry fee. In 1723 we have a record of the initiate having to give all those present a pair of women’s gloves; this became fairly general. One source says the gloves were regarded as symbols of the honesty and rectitude of action possessed by those worthy of admission into freemasonry. French Masonic documents from 1737 record that an entered apprentice receives from the lodge a pair of gloves for himself and another pair “for her whom he esteems the most”.

In England and Scotland the provision of gloves by the candidate for members of the lodge seems to have been dropped by the start of the nineteenth century; the cost was added to the entry fee. The wearing of gloves serves as a reminder of the protective clothing worn by the operative mason.

As additional information it should be added that gloves may be dispensed with at the discretion of the master, but this must apply to all present, not just the officers. Gloves may be worn by entered apprentices and fellow crafts except when taking their degrees.

They should not be worn by the master elect when taking his Obligation.

The emblem of office on the jewel worn by Stewards is described as the Cornucopia’. I know this is an emblem of ‘fruitfulness and abundance’ and can appreciate the reason for its choice. But can you tell us the derivation of the emblem?
A. – The young Zeus [who became the supreme ruler of the gods and mortals. and the chief of the twelve Olympians] grew up in the forests of Ida. For his nurse he was given the goat Amattheia. She was a wondrous animal whose aspect terrified even the immortals. In gratitude Zeus placed her among the constellations and from her hide, which no arrow could pierce, he made the redoubtable aegis. To the nymphs he gave one of her horns conferring upon it the marvelous property of refilling itself inexhaustibly with whatever food or drink was wished for: this as the horn of’ plenty (cornucopia).

The cornucopia’s true origin is probably to be found in the ancient belief that power and fertility resided in the goat’s or bull’s horn.

The cornucopia is the emblem on the jewel worn by Stewards in the Craft as well as in the Royal Arch. It has been adopted as a badge for The Grand Stewards’ Lodge, which stands without a number at the head of the list of lodges: it has also been adopted as badge by many other Stewards’ lodges and chapters.

The Questions and Answers given herein have been reproduced with the kind permission of The Brethren of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No 2076