[Grand Lodge]
[Calendar] [Search] [Resources] [History] [Links] [Sitemap]

Pillars and globes, columns and candlesticks
By Bro. Harry Carr
In the Q.C. Lodge summons, dated 22nd December, 1961, there was a brief note relating to the Wardens' Columns which attracted considerable attention and comment. As author of the note, and Secretary of the Lodge, I had to answer a number of letters on that subject and on several other topics closely allied to it. During the course of this work it became obvious that there is much confusion on the subject of Pillars, Globes, Columns and Candlesticks, on the dates and stages of their introduction into the Craft, and most of all, perhaps, on the curious way in which some of these items (which originally had places in the ritual, or furnishings, in their own right) are now made to serve a dual purpose, thereby adding to the confusion as to their origins.
There are, apparently, two main reasons for these difficulties. First, we have grown so accustomed to seeing our present-day Lodges all more or less uniformly furnished that we accept the furnishings and their symbolism without question. Secondly, the Lectures on the Tracing Boards are given so rarely nowadays that most brethren are unfamiliar with the subject, or with the problems that are involved.
This essay was compiled, therefore, not with the intention of answering all the questions that arise, if indeed that were possible, but in order to separate the various threads which are now so badly entangled.
As these various items appear in our modern procedure, there is an extraordinary mixture of ritual-references with odd items of furniture, some of which had a purely practical origin, while others were purely symbolical. I have tried to deal with each of these features separately, showing, as far as possible, their first introduction into the Craft, and tracing the various stages through which they passed into our present usage.
Extract from the Lecture on the Second Tracing Board: —
... the two great pillars which were placed in the porchway entrance on the south side... they were formed hollow, the better to serve as archives to Freemasonry, for therein were deposited the constitutional Rolls... These pillars were adorned with two chapiters... [and]... with two spheres on which were delineated maps of the celestial and terrestrial globes, pointing out " Masonry Universal ".
The two earliest pillars in the literature of the Craft are those described in the legendary history which forms a part of the Cooke MS., c. 1410, one of the oldest versions of the "Old Charges ". The story goes that they were made by the children of Lamech, in readiness for the destruction of the world by fire or flood. One of the pillars was made of marble, the other of " lacerus ", because the first would not burn and the other would not " drown ". The pillars were intended as a means of preserving ". . . all the sciences that they had found ". This legend dates back to the early Apocryphal writings, and in the course of centuries there arose a number of variations in which the story of the indestructible pillars remained fairly constant, although their erection was attributed to different heroes. Thus, Josephus ascribed them to Seth, while another Apocryphal version says they were built by Enoch.1
For some reason, not readily explained, the early MS. Constitutions all favour the children of Lamech as the principals in this ancient legend, which was embodied in the texts to show how all the then-known sciences were preserved for mankind by this early piece of practical mason work.
The " Old Charges " were designed primarily to display the antiquity and high importance of the Craft, and it is highly significant that Solomon’s two pillars do not appear in the early versions. David and Solomon are named among a long list of Biblical and historical characters who ". . . loved masons well . . .", and who confirmed "their charges", but Solomon’s Temple receives only a casual mention, and the pillars are not mentioned at all. It seems fairly certain, therefore, that in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries Solomon’s two pillars had no special significance for the mason craft.
The first appearance of Solomon’s pillars in the Craft ritual is in the Edinburgh Register House MS., 1696, in a catechism associated with the " Mason Word " ceremonies.
The earliest-known reference to the " Mason Word " appears in 1637, in a diary-entry made by the Earl of Rothes, and although no kind of ceremony is described in that record, it is reasonable to assume that the " Mason Word " ceremonies were already known and practised at that date. The Edinburgh Register House MS. is the oldest surviving document which describes the actual procedure of the ceremonies. The text is in two parts. One section, headed " The Forme of Giveing the Mason Word ", describes the rather rough and ready procedure for the admission of an entered apprentice, including an oath, a form of " greeting ", and certain verbal and physical modes of recognition. There is also a separate and similar proŌdure for the "fellow craft or master ". (Only two degrees were known at that time.)
The second part of this text is a catechism of some seventeen questions and answers, fifteen for the E.A. and a further two for the " F.C. or master ". It is probable that these questions, with the obligation, entrusting and greeting, represent the whole of the " spoken-work " of the ceremonies at that time.
The questions are of two kinds: —
(a) Test questions for the purpose of recognition.
(b) Informative questions for the purpose of instruction and explanation.
Among the latter we find the first faint hints of the beginnings of Masonic symbolism.
A question in the catechism of 1696, and in six of the texts that followed soon after, runs: —
Q.Where was the first lodge ?
A.In the porch of Solomon’s Temple.
Now, the Edr. Reg. House MS. is a complete text; no part of it has been lost or obliterated during the 260 years or so since it was written, in 1696. In fact, there are several related texts belonging to the next twenty years, which amply demonstrate its completeness. It is therefore noteworthy that in this whole group of texts the two earlier pillars, built by the children of Lainech, have virtually disappeared. Barely a hint of them remains in any of the ritual documents from 1696 onwards. The Dumfries No. 4 MS., in a question dealing with the loss of "... the noble art or science ", says that "... it was found in two pillers of stone the one would not sink and the other would not burn". This text follows immediately with a note on Solomon’s choice of names for the two pillars, and the explanation indicates a fusion of the notable characteristics of Solomon’s pillars with those of the earlier Antediluvian pair. It seems likely, therefore, that when the ceremonies were shaped, or re-shaped, to contain their allegorical link with Solomon’s Temple, the Temple pillars were adopted in place of the earlier pair, and the latter were never restored. There is, in fact, no proof that the earlier "indestructible" pillars had ever formed any part of the admission ceremonies, but we know very little about the ceremonies in their earliest forms. It seems fairly certain, however, that Solomon’s pillars achieved a really important place in the Craft ritual at some time between c. 1500 and c. 1630.
Soon after their first mention in the early ritual-texts these two pillars became a regular part of the " furnishings " of the lodge, and it is possible to trace them from their earliest introduction up to their present place in the lodge-room, as follows: —
(1) Their first appearance as part of a question in the catechism, with much additional evidence that they then had some esoteric significance. The early catechisms are particularly interesting in this respect, because they indicate the probability that both of Solomon’s Pillar-names belonged at one time to the E.A.
(2) They were drawn on the floor of the lodge in chalk and charcoal, forming part of the earliest versions of our modern " Tracing Boards ". In December, 1733, the minutes of the Old King’s Arms Lodge, No. 28, record the first step towards the purchase of a " Floor Cloth ". (A.Q.C., vol. lxii, p. 236.) " Drawings " on the floor of the lodge are recorded in the minutes of the Old Dundee Lodge, No. 18, from 1748 onwards. The Herault Letter of 1737 describes the " Drawing ", and L'Ordre des Francs-maçons Trahi affords evidence that Floor-cloths were already in use in several lodges. The latter are both French exposures, but there is ample English evidence of the same practices.
(3) Between c. 1760 and 1765 several English exposures of the period indicate that the Wardens each had a column representing one of the Pillars, as part of his personal equipment in the lodge. The following extract is typical: —
"The senior and junior Warden have each of them a Column in their Hand, about Twenty Inches long, which represents the two Columns of the Porch at Solomon’s Temple, Boaz and Jachin.
The Senior is Boaz, or Strength.
The Junior is Jachin, or to establish."
(From Three Distinct Knocks, 1768.)
(4) Finally, the two pillars appear as handsome pieces of furniture, perhaps four to eight feet high, standing usually at the western end of the lodge room. The earliest descriptions of the lay-out of the lodge in the 1700s show both Wardens seated in the west, facing the Master. The two pillars were generally placed near them, forming a kind of portal, so that the candidates passed between them on their admission, a custom which exists in many lodges to this day.
This was perhaps the last development of all, though some of the wealthier lodges may have possessed such pillars at a comparatively early date. When we consider how many lodge rooms (especially in the provinces) still use pairs of large pillars, it is surprising that the eighteenth and nineteenth century inventories make no mention of them. Probably this was because they were part of the equipment of Masonic Halls, so that they belonged to the landlords and not to the various lodges that used the rooms.
So we trace the two pillars from their first appearance as part of a question in the ritual through various stages of development until they become a prominent feature of lodge furniture.
But modern practices are not uniform. in regard to the pillars ; in London, for example, there are very few lodges which have the tall pillars, but they are always depicted on the second T.B., and they appear in miniature on the Wardens' pedestals.
The Biblical descriptions of Solomon’s pillars give rise to many problems, especially as regards their dimensions and ornamentation. For us, the chapiters, bowls or globes which surmounted them are of particular interest, because of ritual developments and expansions during the eighteenth century.
In this particular problem a great deal depends on the interpretation of the original Hebrew text. The chapiters appear in I Kings, vii, 16: "... and he made two chapiters..."
The word is = Ko-thor-oth = chapiters, capitals or crowns. Later, in verse 41, without mention of any further works, the text speaks of "... the two pillars and the two bowls of the chapiters..." The Hebrew reads = Gooloth Ha-ko-thor-oth and the word Gooloth is a problem. Gooloh (singular) means a ball or globe; also, a bowl or vessel, and various forms of the same root are used quite loosely to describe something round or spherical.
Our regular contacts with modern lodge Tracing-Boards and furnishings have accustomed us to the idea that Solomon’s two pillars were surmounted by chapiters or capitals, with a globe resting on each, but that is not proven. The early translators and illustrators of the Bible were by no means unanimous on this point, and the various terms they used to describe the chapiters, etc., show that they were not at all certain as to the appearance of the pillars. To take one example, the Geneva Bible, of 1560, a very handsome and popular illustrated Bible, which seems to have been much used by the men who framed the Masonic ritual:—2
At I Kings, vii, v. 16, "... and he made two chapiters ...", there is a marginal note, Or pommels ", i.e., globular features. At this stage the Geneva Bible clearly indicates that the chapiters were globes or spheres, and not the crown-shaped heads to the pillars that we would understand them to be.
Among the illustrations to this chapter in the Geneva Bible there are several interesting engravings of the Temple and its equipment, including a sketch of a pillar, surmounted by a shallow capital, with an ornamental globe poised on top. A marginal note to this illustration speaks of "The height of the chapiter or round bal vpon the pillar of five cubites hight... " (My italics.) So the chapiter was a round ball.
At II Chron., iv, v. 12, the same Bible gives a new interpretation, "... two pillars, and the bowles, and the chapiters on the top of the two pillars ..." Here it is evident that the " bowles II and the chapiters were two separate features.
Whether we incline to bowls or globes, there is yet another interpretation which would exclude both. The accounts in both Kings and Chronicles refer to the pomegranate decoration which was attached to the " bowles II or bellies of the chapiters (I Kings, vii, v. 41, 42, and II Chron., iv, v. 12, 13), and from these passages it is a perfectly proper inference that the chapiters were themselves " bowl-shaped II, and that there were neither bowls not globes above them.
Although the globes were finally adopted in Masonic furniture and decoration as head-pieces to Solomon’s Pillars, they came in very slowly, and during a large part of the eighteenth century there was no uniformity of practice on this point. The Trahi, one of the early French exposures, contains several engravings purporting to be " Plans II of a Loge de Reception ; in effect they are Tracing Boards for the Ist and 2nd combined, and another for the 3rd degree. The Apprentice Plan contains illustrations of the two pillars, marked J. and B., both conventional Corinthian pillars, with flat tops. There is also, among a huge collection of symbols, a sketch which is described in the Index as a " sphere ", a kind of lattice-work globe used in astronomy to demonstrate the courses of the stars and planets.
The Lodge of Probity, No. 61, Halifax (founded in 1738), was in serious decline in 1829, and an inventory of its possessions was taken at that time. One item reads: " Box with Globes and Stands."
The Phoenix Lodge, No. 94, Sunderland (founded in 1755), has a pair of eighteenth century globes, each mounted on three legs, standing left and right of the Master’s pedestal. All Souls' Lodge, No. 170 (founded in 1767), had until 1888 a handsome pair of globes, each mounted on a tripod base, clearly of eighteenth century style, similarly placed left and right of the W.M. The Lodge of Peace and Unity, No. 314, Preston (founded in 1797), in a recent sketch of its lodge-room, shows a pair of globes on low, three-legged stands, placed on the floor of the lodge, left and right, a yard or two in front of the S.W.
Among the unique collection of lodge equipment known as the " Bath Furniture " is a pair of globes, " celestial and terrestrial ", on the customary four-legged stands, each about 24in. high, and the minutes show that they were presented to the Royal Cumberland Lodge in 1805. It is interesting to observe that the equipment also includes a handsome pair of brass pillars, each about 5ft. 9in in height, standing as usual in the west, and each of them surmounted with a large brass bowl. These date from the late eighteenth century.
Pillars with Bowls" The Royal Cumberland Lodge, No. 41, Bath
In this case especially, as in all the cases cited above, there is no evidence of globes on top of the B.J. pillars ; the globes formed a part of the lodge equipment entirely in their own right.
The frontispiece to Noorthouck’s Constitutions of 1784 is a symbolical drawing in which the architectural portion represents the interior of the then Free Masons' Hall. At the foot of the picture, in the foreground, is a long table bearing several Masonic tools and symbols, with two globes on tripod stands, and the description of the picture refers to "... the Globes and other Masonic Furniture and Implements of the Lodge ".
All this suggests that the globes were already beginning to play some part in the lodge, or in the ritual, although they were not yet associated with the pillars. But even after the globes or bowls had begun to appear en the pillars, there was still considerable doubt as to what was correct. This is particularly noticeable in early Tracing Boards and decorated aprons, some showing " bowls ", and others " globes ". (See illustrations, pp. 140-1 in A.Q.C., vol. lxxiv, for pillars with bowls, and ibid., p. 52, where the pillars are surmounted by profuse foliage, growing presumably from bowls.)
To summarize: -
(1) In the period of our earliest ritual documents, 1696 to 1730, there is no evidence that the globes formed any part of the catechism or ritual, and it is reasonably certain that they were unknown as "designs" or as furnishings in the lodges.
(2) Around 1745 it is probable that the sphere or globe had been introduced as one of the symbols in the "floor drawings" or Tracing Boards. There is no evidence to show that it appeared in the catechism. There are several highly-detailed catechisms belonging to this period, 1742 and later, but the globes are not mentioned in any of them. The appearance of the sphere in the 1745 exposure is the only evidence suggesting that it played some part in the more or less impromptu explanations of lodge symbolism which probably came into practice about this time, or shortly afterwards.
(3) In the 1760s and 1770s, Solomon’s Pillars with globes appear frequently in illustrations of lodge equipment and on aprons, but there is no uniformity of practice. In some lodges (as we have seen and shall see below) the globes were already a recognized part of the lodge furniture ; elsewhere they surmounted the pillars, and were probably being "explained" in "lectures". In other places the globes were virtually unknown.
The tradition that the globes on Solomon’s Pillars were covered with celestial and terrestrial maps is certainly post-Biblical, and appears to be a piece of eighteenth ' century embroidery to the rituaL We may wonder how this interest in earthly and heavenly maps arose, and there seems to be no sure answer. The early catechisms, c. 1700 to 1730, all indicate a rernote interest in the subject, e.g.:
Q. How high is your lodge
A. . . . it reaches to heaven 3
. . . the material heavens and the starry firmament.4
Q. How deep5
A. . . . to the centre of the earth.5
There are also the more frequent questions relating to the Sun, Moon and Master Mason, with subsequent variations and expansions. These questions may well be the first pointers towards the subsequent interest in maps, and the sphere symbol of 1745, noted above, carries the subject a stage further.
The Lodge Summons of the Old Dundee Lodge, dated c. 1750, showed three pillars, two of them surmounted by globes depicting maps of the world and the firmament. A certificate issued by the Lodge of Antiquity in 1777 displayed, inter alia, a similar pair of maps. The 1768 edition of J. and B. has an engraved frontispiece showing the furniture and symbols of the lodge, including two pillars surmounted by globes—one with rather vague map markings, and the other clearly marked with stars.
The various sets of geographical globes in pairs, described above (not "pillar-globes"), all indicate a deep Masonic interest in the celestial and terrestrial globes during the later eighteenth century.
Preston, in his Illustrations of Masonry, 1775 edition, in the section dealing with the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, dwelt at some length on the globes and on the importance of astronomy, and, of course, on the spiritual and moral lessons to be learned from them.
All this seems to imply that the maps were beginning to appear at this time, in the verbal portions of the ritual, but, so far as my study goes, the earliest text that clearly indicates the maps as part of the ritual is Browne’s Master Key, dated 1802, with a reference to ". . the celestial and terraqueous globes".
The Biblical accounts of the casting of the pillars make no mention of their being cast hollow, although this may be inferred from the fact that, if they had been solid, their removal from Zeradatha and their final erection at Jerusalem would have been a quite exceptional feat of engineering. Jeremiah, lii, v. 21, states that they were formed hollow, the metal being cast to a thickness of "four fingers", but there is no suggestion that this was done so that the pillars might serve as "armoires", or containers of any kind, or that Solomon used them for "storing the constitutional Rolls".
Here again is a curious piece of eighteenth century " Masonic embroidery ", and it seems possible that this was an attempt to link the pillars of Solomon with the two earlier pillars upon which " all the sciences " had been preserved. The earliest Masonic note I have been able to find on the subject is extremely vague. In 1769, Wellins Calcott wrote in his Candid Disquisition, p. 66: —
"... neither are the reasons why they were made hollow known to any but those who are acquainted with the arcana of the society..."
This was undoubtedly intended to suggest that the hollow pillars were designed to serve some peculiarly Masonic purpose, but Calcott says nothing more on the subject, and I have been unable to trace that "hollow" pillars formed any part of the eighteenth century Masonic ritual.
Extracts from the Initiation Ceremony:—
"...the three lesser lights in Freemasonry ... situated S., W. and E. and are meant to represent the Sun, the Moon, and the Master ... The Sun to rule the day ... etc.
Extracts from the Lecture on the First Tracing Board:—
Our Lodges are supported by three great pillars. They are called Wisdom, Strength and Beauty. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn . . . but as we have no noble orders in architecture known by the names of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty, we refer them to the three most celebrated, which are, the Ionic, Doric and Corinthian.
Three Pillars. The problems relating to the furnishings of the lodge do not end with Solomon’s two pillars. As early as 1710 an entirely different set of three pillars makes its appearance in the catechisms and exposures.
In the early ceremonies, apart from the very brief forms of Oath, Entrusting and Greeting, the body of the ritual work was made up, as we have already noted, of Questions and Answers, including those which exhibit the first simple attempts at speculative interpretation. Among these there arose a whole series of questions which brought the answer " three ". The earliest and most consistent of these were: —
Q. Are there any lights in your lodge ?
A. Yes. Three . . .
Q. Are there any jewels in your lodge ?
A. Yes. Three . . .
These two questions and answers appear in the earliest version of the catechisms, the Edinburgh Register House MS., of 1696, and (with variations) in almost every version of the exposures throughout the eighteenth century. The three pillars appear for the first time in the Dumfries No. 4 MS., which is dated about 1710:—
Q. How many pillars is in your lodge.
A. Three.
Q. What are these.
A. Ye square the compass & ye Bible.
The three pillars do not appear again in the eleven versions of the catechisms between 1710 and 1730, but the question arises, with a new answer, in Prichard’s famous exposure of 1730, Masonry Dissected: —
Q. What supports a Lodge
A. Three great Pillars.
Q. What are they called ?
A. Wisdom, Strength and Beauty.
Q. Why so ?
A. Wisdom to contrive, Strength to support, and Beauty to adorn.
The same questions appeared in the Wilkinson MS., a version which may be dated c. 1727, and in a whole series of English and Continental exposures throughout the eighteenth century, invariably with the same answer, "Three, Wisdom, Strength and Beauty". In the 1760s, the exposure J. and B. added several further questions, which allocated the pillars respectively to the Master, S.W. and J.W. But the descriptions of lodge furnishings at this date do not include any such pillars, and it must be emphasised that these pillar-questions belong to a period long before there was any idea of turning them into actual pieces of furniture in the lodge-room.
Early lodge inventories are too scarce to enable us to draw any definite conclusions from the absence of references to any particular items of lodge furnishings or equipment. While it is fairly certain, therefore, that the early operative lodges were only sparsely furnished, it is evident, from surviving eighteenth century records, that soon after the 1730s there were already a number of lodges reasonably well equipped. Nevertheless, early references to sets of three pillars among early lodge records are extremely rare. A set of three pillars was mentioned in the records of the Nelson Lodge in 1757, and the Lodge of Relief, Bury, purchased a set of three pillars, for W.M., S.W. and J.W., in 1761. To this day, the ancient Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel), No. 1, now over 260 years old, uses a set of three pillars, each about three feet tall. The Master’s pillar stands on the Altar, almost in the centre of the Lodge ; the other two stand on the floor at the right of the S.W. and J.W. respectively. (The three principal officers, there, do not have pedestals.)
This is perhaps the proper moment to draw attention to the gradual evolution of ceremonial procedure as we are able to trace it from the Old Charges, the exposures, and other items of evidence that survive. The ceremonies, in their earliest stages, did not require the handsornely furnished lodge-rooms we know today. There were no chequered carpets, no pedestals and no special furnishings. In England a copy of the Old Charges and a Bible were enough. In Scotland they managed without the Old Charges, and for " out-entries " they probably dispensed with the Bible, too.
It seems likely that the earliest special furnishings used in a lodge-room were a set of three candles ; three lights, in one form. or another, were, as we have seen, one of the oldest features in our ceremonies. The "two pillars" used in the early ceremonies were drawn on the floor of the lodge, or on a floor-sheet, with three candles, in the form of a triangle, to illuminate them.
The three candles, " three lesser lights " as we know them today, are among the oldest details of Craft ritual. They made their first appearance in 1696-1700, when they are said to denote the Master, Warden and fellow craft. In the succeeding catechisms they were given a variety of meanings. Prichard’s exposure of 1730 contained two sets of " lights ":—
Q. Have you any lights in your lodge ?
A. Yes, three.
And Prichard added a note: "N.B. These Lights are three large Candles placed on high Candlesticks."
Q. Why so?
A. Sun to rule the Day, Moon the Night, and Master-Mason his Lodge.
It will be noted that this is our modern ritual almost word-for-word. Prichard’s second set of lights were three windows in the E., S. and W. Three candlesticks, or three large candlesticks, are perhaps the most constant items in the eighteenth century lodge inventories.
Perhaps the first hint of a combination between these two sets of equipment, three candlesticks and three pillars, appears in the records of the Old Dundee Lodge, which purchased, in 1739, a set of three candlesticks of elaborate design in Doric, Ionic and Corinthian styles. (They are still in use today.) The connection is perhaps not immediately obvious, but these were the architectural styles associated with the attributes of the three pillars belonging to the Master and Wardens, "Wisdom, Strength and Beauty". The Masonic symbolism of the three pillars had been explained by Prichard in 1730, and it is almost certain that the Old Dundee Lodge was putting the words into practical shape when it ordered its set of candlesticks to be made up in these three styles.
The Dundee candlesticks may serve as a pointer to what was happening, but it was by no means general practice. Hutchinson, in 1769, in his description of the furnishings of the lodge, spoke at some length of the three lights or candles, but he made no mention at all of the three pillars, and sets of three pillars are usually absent from early inventories and lists of lodge equipment.
And so we can trace the three pillars from their first introduction, as a purely symbolical question in the catechisms, through the period when their symbolism was expanded, until they were equated with specific architectural styles. From the time when these three pillars were beginning to be explained in this fashion, i.e., in the early 1700s, it is fairly safe to assume that they were already appearing in the " Drawings ", Floor-Cloths or Tracing Boards. We know, of course, that they appeared regularly in the later versions, but the general pattem of their evolution seems to indicate that they were almost certainly included in many of the early designs that have not survived.
In the 1750s, and the 1760s, we have definite evidence, (meagre indeed), that sets of three pillars were already in use as furniture in several lodges, and this adds strong support to the view that they had formerly appeared in the Tracing Boards. When, towards the end of the eighteenth century, the lodge rooms and Masonic Halls were being furnished for frequent or continuous use, the three pillars became a regular part of the furnishings, occasionally in their own right, but more often as the ornamental bases for the three " lesser lights ", thus combining the two separate features into the one so frequently seen today.
The growth in the number of symbols, as illustrated in the French exposures of the 1740s and in the English versions of the 1760s, deserves some comment. In the Grand Lodge Museum there is a collection of painted metal templates, belonging apparently to several different sets. There are pillars with globes, a set of two small pillars without globes, and a separate set of three pillars. There is also a set of templates of " Chapiters and Globes ", i.e., headpieces only, clearly designed for adding the globes on to normal flat-topped pillars. All these, with many other symbols, were used in drawing the " designs " on the floor of the lodge. As early as 1737, when the " floor-drawing " showed only " steps " and two pillars, it was a part of the Master’s duty to explain the " designs " to the candidate, immediately after he had taken the obligation.6 There appears to have been no set ritual for this purpose, and the explanations were doubtless given impromptu. From 1742 onwards there is substantial. evidence that the number of symbols had vastly increased,7 and this would seem to indicate a real expansion in the "explanations", implying some sort of dissertation akin to the later " Lectures on the Tracing Boards ".
Many of these old symbols, which appear frequently on the later eighteenth century Tracing Boards and in contemporary engravings, etc., have now disappeared from our modem workings, among them the Trowel, Beehive, the Hour-glass, etc., and it is interesting to notice that in the U.S.A., where much of our late eighteenth century ritual has been preserved, these symbols, with many others, appear regularly on the Tracing Boards.
In this brief essay, I have confined myself only to a few symbolized items of our present-day furnishings whose origins are liable to be clouded because of standardization, but there is a whole world of interest to be found in the remaining symbology of the Craft.
1.For an excellent survey of pre-Christian and other early versions and variations of this legend, see Knoop, Jones and Hamer, The Two Earliest Masonic MSS., pp. 39-44 and 162-3.
2.It provided the interpretation for some of the proper names in the ritual.
3.Sloane MS., c. 1700; Knoop, Jones and Hamer, The Early Masonic Catechisms, p. 42.
4.Dumfries No. 4 MS., c. 1710, ibid., p. 56.
5.Prichard’s Masonry Dissected, 1730, ibid., p. 112.
6.The Herault Letter, 1737. See translation in Leics. L. of Research Reprints, No. xiv.
7.Le Catéchisme des Francs-maçons, 1742, and L'Ordre des Francs-maćons Trahi, 1745, and in the Frontispiece of a whole stream of English exposures that began to make their appearance from 1762 onwards.

Reprinted with permission of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum, the Transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, UGLE vol lxiv (1962). [pp. 204-11.]. Footnotes renumbered as endnotes.


© 1871-2024 Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon A.F. & A.M. Updated: 2004/04/09