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masonic matters

Mason's Wound

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

"The secret of life isn't what happens to you, but what you do with what happens to you."
Brother Norman Vincent Peale

We are all willing to whisper good counsel into the ear of a Brother, and to help him be aware of any danger he is headed towards, but that depends on us being close enough to him with the time to verbally say something to him. Sometimes we might not be close enough to whisper good counsel - wouldn't it be nice to have some means of reminding a Brother about how a Mason should act if he needs good counsel?

Well our good Brother gave all of us there a fine idea on just how to do that. He said the Masons in his area catch the eye of their brother, and just use their one hand to reach over and touch their opposite arm just above the elbow as a reminder that he should stop, and think about his words or actions. I liked that, I haven't had the chance to use it - but I like it - ours is a gentle craft, and that gesture is a gentle reminder. But then I thought, "would my Brother know what that gesture meant?" Well, maybe not, unless however he was at the same gathering I was at.

Well in looking for some information on another subject I came across some information on that gesture. It has something to do with the Templars, how accurate I can't say, but it is interesting. In Mackey's I found that the gesture refers to something called a "Masons Wound" and "Nicolai" in his appendix to his "Essay on the accusations against the Templars" says that in a small dictionary from the beginning of the 18 century, the following definition is to be found: "Mason's Wound, it is an imaginary wound above the elbow, to represent a fracture of the arm occasioned by a fall from an elevated place."

In the 7 volume "History of Freemasonry" by Mackey he writes about the theory of Nicolai and the Royal Society, and the Freemasons. Niclolai writes that both organizations had the same object and the difference in their proceedings arose only due to a difference of opinions. "One society felt that the knowledge it had to pass on should be available to everyone, and the other felt that it should only be communicated to a small number of chosen recipients. Therefore, the Royal Society held open meetings, and the Society of Freemasons had private meetings. Nicolai says that in those days the Freemasons were devoted to the King and opposed Parliament, and after the death of Charles I in 1649 the royalists, uniting and fearing to be known as such, joined the assemblies of Freemasons for the purpose of concealing their own identity, and the good intentions of the Freemasons being well known, many persons of rank were admitted to it."

They agreed upon some private signs and modes of recognition, by which the friends of the royal cause might be able to distinguish each other from their enemies. After the death of Oliver Cromwell and the abdication of his son Richard, it became necessary to bind themselves still more closely. They selected a new devise and anew sign, "and in their meetings spoke allegorically of taking care, in that wavering and uncertain condition of falling, lest the arms should be broken." Now you know how that gesture came about and what it alludes to, maybe if we have a chance to use it we will be able to help a Brother get back on track.

"You cannot separate what you do from what you are." Gary Kinder

Do you like questions? Questions about Freemasonry? I do. If we like questions do we like the kind we have a ready answer for? That will make us look quite knowledgeable? Do we also like the kind of question that stumps us? When someone asks a question - that tells me he wants to know more, and many times it tells me I need to know more about Freemasonry.

I bring this up because I recently was asked some questions that sent me to looking things up. Let me tell you about some of them.

In the last issue of Masonic Matters I mentioned that in the book "Centennium" it was reported that our Grand Master A.T.C. Pierson issued a dispensation for a Military Lodge in Pembina, Dakota Territory. A good Brother of ours, who knows quite a bit about Masonry and history, wrote that maybe that information was not correct. He understood the Dispensation was for a Warrant for a Lodge at Fort Abercrombie, and then switched to Pembina, and that the Grand Lodge of North Dakota laid a cornerstone at Fort Abercrombie "noting that important fact just this June." Well Since I was just reporting on something I read in a book, I figured I'd better find out more about it.

While I was attending a meeting held by our Grand Lodge in St. Cloud, MNI noticed that North Star Lodge #23 had the Proceedings of the Minnesota Grand Lodge going back to its beginning in 1853,1 didn't have time to look at the material then as everyone was leaving and they didn't want to lock me in the building. But as luck would have it I was able to return to North Star Lodge to witness the presentation of a Hiram Award to a fine man and Mason, Brother Darrell Day, and I was able to get some time to do some reading. (Research?) The following information can be found in the book of the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota from 1853 to 1869 on page 470.1 will quote from the Grand Master's address on October 27, 1863.

"About the middle of last month I received an application signed by W.Bro. C.W. Nash, J.L. Armington, A.T. Chamblin, Charles H. Mix, and eight others, who were en route for Pembina, Dakota Territory, for a Dispensation authorizing them to open and work a Lodge. Pembina is the most northern point in the territory of the United States - a great central point were concentrates a large amount of emigration, and of travel between the two oceans. The want of a Lodge at that place has been long felt and often expressed; and as the Brethren named were active, well informed, and discreet Masons - the first two former Masters, and the latter Wardens of Lodges within this Jurisdiction - and as they expected to remain in that hyperborean region for at least two years, I granted a Dispensation to establish a Lodge at Pembina."

Well there it is right from the Proceeding of the Minnesota Grand Lodge, and Grand Master A.T.C. Pierson. Maybe they were en route from Fort Abercrombie -1 don't know - and our then Grand Master doesn't say where they were en route from. Well be that as it may, that was the only dispensation the Grand Lodge of Minnesota ever issued for a Military Lodge, and it was never named. So thanks to a Brother asking a question I was moved to do some research. By the way research in this instance is just looking things up in a book. And in my opinion the words of the Mason who issued the dispensation is the best authority on the Lodge at Pembina.

"You don't have to go overseas to be a missionary. You just go into your world and do your best to make a difference. Do what you can one life at a time, right here at home." Bobbie Mason
While visiting a Lodge that was having some degree work I was asked why the Wardens have Columns to dispose on their pedestals, and what do those columns represent? I thought I knew the answer and gave it since I was asked, but since I wasn't 100% certain neither were the Masons I was visiting with 100% certain I knew what I was talking about, so when I returned home I started cracking the books. I looked up the subject of "Warden's Columns" in Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia and this is some of what I found.

"The two Wardens' columns, it is possible but is not certain that these represent Jachin and Boaz."

Jones, in his 'Freemasons guide and compendium' says; "it seems that Jachin and Boaz do not stand like sentinels in English Lodges, for the two columns were formerly given more prominence by being placed on either side of the entry way so that one must pass between them to enter the Lodge."

Jones also says he is of the opinion that the two Wardens' Columns took the place of the larger columns which were abandoned. And evidently in English Lodges the two Wardens' Columns are all that is left of the three great pillars. Well if that's true they couldn't represent Jachin and Boaz, they must be Strength and Beauty, Doric & Corinthian. But why then do the Wardens Columns have round globe-like features on their tops?

Again Coils: "Early rituals (1730) spoke of "three Grand Pillars" which supported the Mason's Lodge, and represented the first three Grand Masters. In the 18th century stood before, to the side, or behind, the Master and one was similarly placed with respect to each warden."

In the Encyclopedia of Freemasonry it says this about the Senior Warden. "He represents the column of Strength. He has placed before him, and carries in all processions, a column, which is the representative of the right-hand pillar that stood at the porch of King Solomon's Temple. The Junior Warden has a similar column, which represents the left hand pillar."

I continued to look into books I have on hand and found that the Wardens Columns, and the Deacons Rods are related. And since someone also asked the question as to why the Stewards Rods are colored White, I pursued that too.

The Rod or staff is an emblem of power, and as with the Wardens Columns they are a today a Badge of Office, when a King carries it, it is called a scepter, but when carried by an inferior officer it becomes a Rod, verge, or staff. At one time the Deacons, Stewards, and Marshal of a Lodge all carried Rods. The Rod or Staff in addition to being an emblem of power and authority is a symbol of protection. "Thy Rod and they staff they comfort me."

In the Military the Rod became a "Baton" in the hands of the Marshal, and the Baton was adopted by Freemasonry as the badge of office for the Marshal of the Lodge.

"Smith's edition of the Pennsylvania "Ahiman Rezon" refers to a procession in 1778 where the Wardens carried "wands tipped with gold," and also the Wardens Columns."

At the time of Webb's Monitor, published in 1797, and as shown in Preston's Illustrations of Masonry, the Deacons received the Columns as the badges of their office. "A short time later" meaning soon after 1804 but most likely before 1807 the Columns were transferred to the Wardens and Rods were given to the Deacons. According to Mackey's Encyclopedia - after 1822 all the "Monitors" referred to the Columns for the Wardens and the Rods for the Deacons. So after about 1822 the columns were everywhere recognized as the insignia for the Wardens, and the Rods, Wands, or Staves, as belonging to the Deacons.

White as a color - Here is an explanation as to why they are white, "the Steward's Rod is an imitation if the White Staff borne by the Lord High Steward of the King's household." A real simple explanation as to why Freemasonry adopted the White Rods for the Lodge Stewards.

The Rod is the badge or ensign of the office of Steward of the Lodge, or of the Grand Stewards in the Grand Lodge, on the top of which is the same insignia as is the Stewards Jewel, and the same system of Jewels and Rod Tops follows for the Deacons as well.

The first formal account of the Stewards and their White Rods is found in the Book of Constitutions from 1738. On June 24, 1724, is recorded, the Stewards were walking "Two and two abreast with white rods."
The use of the White Rods comes from the political usages of England, where the Steward of the King's household was appointed by the delivery of a staff, the breaking of which dissolved the office. In those times, going back to the reign of Edward the 4th at least, the "White Staff' was the proper insignia for both the office of Steward and Treasurer. In 1792 Preston wrote about the "Grand Treasurer with his staff." In America the custom of the Treasurer carrying a Rod has been abandoned. However, the custom was derived from the old custom of the Treasurer of the King's household to carry a staff as the ensign of authority.

"In the old "customary books" we are told that the Steward or Treasurer of the household received the White Rods as a badge of office from the King himself. The King would present the Rods with these words: "Tennez le baston de nostre maison." (Receive the Staff of our house.)"

An interesting comment in Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry is this about the Deacons of a Lodge. "The proper Badge or Ensign of office of a Deacon, which he should always carry with him in the discharge of the duties of his office, is a Blue Rod surmounted by a pine-cone."

Somewhere the Color of the Deacons Rod became Black, at least here in America, I don't know yet when or why the change in color was made. But since the duties of the Deacon's is to carry messages from the Senior Warden and orders from the Master about the Lodge the Pine-cone was replaced with a Square and Compass as the top of the Deacons Rod. In the Square & Compass of the Junior Deacon is a representation of the Moon, for the Senior Deacon a representation of the Sun is in the Square and Compass. And as mentioned above the same S&C with the Moon or Sun is in the Jewels of the Deacons, which they wear because it alludes to the Three Lesser Lights, and why the Senior Warden is in the West and the Master is in the East.

So after all of that I still stand by the answer I had in the first place. The Wardens Columns represent the pillars at the porch of the temple, Jachin and Boaz. If one would inspect the Columns in some Lodges we might find that in addition to Globes being represented on the Wardens Columns there are also Lilies, Network and Pomegranates depicted in the carvings of the wood. While the Columns of Doric, (representing Strength,) would be quite plain, and the Corinthian, (being the most beautiful of the 5 orders,) would have two rows of leaves and eight volutes sustaining the abacus, and it wouldn't look like an orb. But that is assuming that the Warden's Columns are an accurate depiction - in more modern production of the columns it would seem to me that they would be turned out on a lathe for a faster, simpler product, and thus be much plainer. I think that the columns will vary from Lodge to Lodge.

I find it quite interesting that when looking up information about the Wardens Columns I was led to the Rods which was another question asked the same night, and on to other things that are also related in some way to the first question. In Speculative Masonry one thing many times leads to another.

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Last modified: March 22, 2014