[Grand Lodge]
[Calendar] [Search] [Resources] [History] [Links] [Sitemap]
SYMBOLS INDEX
ARS QUATUOR CORONATORUM
APRON CLASPS
.
'THE SERPENT'
BY BRO. NIGEL D. BROWN
Of all the plants and animals which figure or have figured in Freemasonry the one that is probably given the least thought is the serpent.
In the early days of Freemasonry the caduceus of Mercury (or Hermes) was a branch of olive wood around which were entwined snakes. Mercury was in olden times the emblem of the Deacons and some old lodges have retained this symbolism. The change to the dove was probably influenced by the Duke of Sussex, to replace a pagan association by one from the Old Testament.
From the earliest times the serpent was shown coiled around the tree of life and was a reminder of the knowledge of good and evil which came to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It was the subtle serpent which persuaded Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Another interesting connection is that 'the tree of the serpent' is the cassia (C. acutifolia) to which we have already referred. This same tree provides some of the spices and oils used to embalm the dead. From these and other aspects of symbolism in the history of man, the serpent has the dual interpretation of representing the power of evil and also divine wisdom. When depicted with its tail in its mouth it forms a circle and this symbolizes eternity and, more specifically, the eternal wisdom of God.
But where today is the serpent to be seen in Freemasonry? There are several manifestations in degrees and Orders beyond the Craft but, other than on the old certificate or chart framed on the wall in the anteroom, it will be found — with a genuine masonic significance — only, in circular form, on the centenary jewels prescribed for lodges and Royal Arch chapters. There may be those who will wish to remind me that the clasps on the majority of masonic aprons are almost invariably in the form of a snake. I would have to comment that exactly the same type of fitment was used on the school belts which boys usually wore a half-century ago — and at some schools may still do so.
Purely as a demonstration of the lengths to which 'symbolatry' (a word coined, it is believed, in the Transactions of the Lodge of Research, Leicester) can go, I add an 'explanation' of the belt and clasp. 'It is a reminder that all are encircled by the power of Holy Wisdom but that there is nevertheless evil round about us. Above all, it serves to warn the Master Mason that, as he is invested with his distinguishing badge by the Senior Warden, he is undertaking no brief responsibility. It is for eternity'

Excerpted, with permission from Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. "The Plants and Animals of Fremasonry" Nigel D. Brown. Ars Quatuor Coronatorum vol. civ (1991). pp. 220-21.

ANTI-MASONRY | ESSAYS & PAPERS | GRAND LODGE OF BC AND YUKON | HOME | LINKS | SITEMAP
[Anti-masonry]
Grand Lodge Webmaster
© 1871-2017 Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. Updated: 2009/02/14
freemasonry.bcy.ca/aqc/serpent.html