Offices of the Craft Lodge

Many thanks to Bro Chris McAuley of The Belfast Masonic Lodge No 651 for submitting the following article.

Offices of the Craft Lodge

It is the hope that this small paper will shed some light amongst the inquisitive ‘younger’ brethren as to the symbols, history and purpose of the Offices of Craft Masonry.  As I write this, I am mindful that my own lodge (Belfast 651) is getting ready to install it’s officers on the 5th of January 2013.  Some of whom will be moving to a new office, or indeed some will be receiving office for the first time.

What is an Officer?

Officers are elected by members of the lodge to serve in various positions of the lodge, normally for the tenure of one year.  Every lodge is required to have a Worshipful Master, a Senior Warden, a Junior Warden, a Senior Deacon, a Junior Deacon, a Treasurer, a Secretary, an Inner Guard and some lodges also have a Tyler.

 The concept of the Lodge officer can be traced to the establishment of Guilds under the reign of Edward III in the 1400’s.

There was a long tradition of trade guilds accepting as members men who had no connection with the trade.  By the fourteenth century the great livery company, the Taylors and Linen Armourers were admitting as liverymen country gentlemen who sold them wool for export to the Netherlands.  They even admitted King Edward III as a liveryman, after they had lent him money to pay for his wars which they knew he would never repay” [1]

Local government bodies grew out of these trade guilds as the guilds had property and notable financial assets as well as skill in administration and organisation.  Many Guild members became the town Mayors, Sheriffs and Clerks.

The concept of the ‘Jewel’ of office came from how these men distinguished their rank, they wore a metal jewel which symbolised their position, authority and responsibility.  We continue this tradition today in our Masonic lodges.

Masonic jewels of office are symbolic in nature (as everything is within the craft), as mentioned previously, the names of the offices were not ‘created’ by Freemasonry, they came from the City guilds.  City guilds had Wardens (as did Operative Masonic Guilds and Synagogues[2]), Deacons are known in most Christian churches and historically were used in the various Trade Incorporations in the City of Glasgow[3].

Jewels of Office

The symbology contained within the Jewels of office found in the masonic world can vary immensely, but most are generally similar.

 

The Worshipful Master


The Worshipful Masters Jewel is that of the Square, the Square is said to be one of the ‘moveable’  jewels of the lodge (as are the Level and Plumb Rule) as they are worn by the Master and his Wardens and are transferable to their successors on the night of installation.

The Square was known to all ancient civilisations as the symbol of the earth, conversely the symbol of the Heavens was seen as a circle.  If we then look at the Square and Compasses combined with the Square, we see Heaven and Earth portrayed in Freemasonry.

 “The Square was once an emblem of the Chinese Emperors as lords of the Earth, which was conceived in Chinese cosmology as square.  In more recent times the square has become the symbol of the Lodge Master in Freemasonry, the Square’s right angle symbolising a Mason’s duty to uphold moral righteousness, justice and truth.”[4]

The Worshipful Master sits in the East, symbolic of the rising Sun and presides over the lodge with more authority than that of a manager or chairman (as his rulings cannot be disputed in open lodge).

Although the Masters full title is Worshipful, this does not mean that he is ‘worshiped’ – rather that this is a throwback to the Guild titles, a title of respect.  Indeed we use this today in the law courts, calling a Judge ‘Your Worship’, to give respect for the position occupied by the individual.

Once a year it is traditional for master masons to elect one of their number to preside over them for the following year. Again this is possibly a reflection of the Guild system again, the Livery company certainly changed Wardens and the Master each year through annual election.

Tracing the Worshipful Masters Role through History

Remembering that in the middle ages the Guilds also were involved in community governance, it would have been impossible to have every Mason attend civil government meetings.  Therefore one suitably qualified individual was elected by members of the Guild to represent their views in local government.  This would also have been the case when operative masons would have met with a client, specifying the work and then briefing brethren of the lodge on the job they were undertaking.

The Worshipful Master was also responsible for making sure that the members of the craft upheld all its traditions, such as the number of apprentices that were entering the stone masons trade, and that they were being individually trained by their masters.

These laws and practices were laid down by a document called the Schaw Statues (the 1st being issued in 1598 and the 2nd being issued in 1599), William Schaw was appointed by King James VI of Scotland as Master of Works and Warden General in 1583. An example of one such law would be:

No Master shall take more than three ‘prentices in his lifetime, without the special consent of all wardens, deacons and masters of the sheriffdom in which the then to be received ‘prentice resides.”[5]

Kevin Gest suggests that the Worshipful Master would have been the liaison between the Architect of the building and the Master Masons.  He would also have been consulted on the especially difficult tasks facing the design and construction of the tenured task.

“In smaller projects he would have been architect, surveyor, project manager, materials manager, personnel manager, accountant, payroll manager and so on.

[In larger projects in the 17th century] Again there would have been a requirement for one person to have been the liaison between the Architect and the men doing the work.  He may have even have been consulted on the best way to approach the construction, drawing on the skills and knowledge of the Master craftsmen”[6]

The Past Master Jewel

The Irish Past Master Jewel is distinct from it’s English counterpart, it is the Square and Compass framing the Letter ‘G’.  The English Past Master Jewel is an expression of the 47th Proposition of Euclid, otherwise known as Pythagoras Theorem.

 

 Fig1: Irish Past Master Jewel                                         

 

Fig2: English Past Master Jewel

With regards to the significance of the English Jewel, we will note that from the point of view from the operative Stone Mason, Pythagoras theorem was the best way to check whether a corner is square and also gives him the basis to the foundation of the geometry of right angled triangles[7].

The Senior Warden’s Jewel


The Senior Warden’s Jewel is again one of the ‘moveable Jewels’ of the lodge, it was seen by the Ancient civilisations as a symbol of Equality and Justice, it was given to represent Magistrates within the guild system.

The Senior Warden is symbolic of the Setting of the Sun, this is notable as he assists the Worshipful Master when opening and closing the Lodge.  He is the Second most important lodge officer in the lodge room.

In the operative Guilds his duties were to pay the craftsmen their wages, and if any legal disputes arose within the company, he would have attempted to resolve them.

You may also note that the two Wardens (Junior and Senior) have small wooden columns in front of their positions.  When the lodge is at labour, the Senior Warden’s column is placed upright and the Junior Wardens is flat.  This symbolises that the Senior Warden is in charge of the craftsmen, when the Lodge is at rest (or refreshment), the opposite is the case – the Junior Warden’s column is upright, while the Senior Warden’s is flat on its side.

The Junior Warden’s Jewel


This Jewel is the Plumb Rule, it is seen as symbolising the connection of Heaven and Earth and teaches us to walk in a righteous manner, and keeping the straightway along the paths of virtue.

“It is the symbol of rectitude of conduct and inculcates that integrity of life and undeviating course of moral uprightness which can alone distinguish the good and just man.  As the operative mason erects his temporal building with strict observance of that plumb-line, which will not permit him to deviate a hair’s breadth to the left or to the right, so the Speculative mason guided by the unerring principles of right and truth inculcated in the symbolic teachings of the same implement, is steadfast in the pursuit of truth, neither bending beneath the frowns of adversary nor yielding to the seductions of prosperity”[8]

The Junior Warden sits in the south, which like the Worshipful Master and Senior Warden symbolises the position of the Sun, this time it symbolises the Sun in the position of Midday. In this manner the Junior Warden is responsible for the brethren when the lodge is at the period of refreshment.

Tracing the Wardens Role through History

Again another Role which we can trace through the Guild system, like other such historical roles, it has been adapted through the years to serve additional purposes.  Bernard E Jones notes

As far as the warden is concerned it may be a derivative word of guardian, a person who had a responsibility to guard”

In the Middle Ages, when a major project was undertaken, there was the Worshipful Master and a deputy, who was known as a Warden, as the guild system developed, the wardens took the responsibility for ensuring that the proper work practices were upheld and the correct amount of individuals being admitted to the craft.

The Treasurer’s Jewel


The Treasurer’s Jewel is self-explanatory,  the pair of crossed keys signify that he is the collector and distributor of all Lodge monies – as he holds the key to the cashbox.  He is the chief financial officer of the lodge, he pays all debts by order of the Worshipful Master with the consent of the lodge and renders a yearly financial report.

The Secretary’s Jewel

 

Again a self-explanatory Jewel, the crossed quill pens denoting that the secretary’s main duty is to be the lodge’s recorder.  The Secretary generally sits to the left of the Worshipful Master, and his duties require him to handle correspondence to members, record minutes of the lodges meetings, organising petitions of candidates and general administration duties.

The Director of Ceremonies Jewel

 

The Director of Ceremonies (DOC) Jewel is that of the crossed wands, it symbolism is closely linked with the wands of Hermes.  The office of DOC has been recognised as an Additional Office since 1884, he is responsible for the directing the application of ritual in the lodge.

The Almoner


The Almoner’s jewel is a purse, this symbolises his duty to dispense monies towards needy cases.  He is also responsible for being in contact with lodge members who are sick, and also maintains a contact with Widows of former members, so that the lodge may assist them in times of need.

The Chaplain’s Jewel

 

The Jewel of the Chaplain of the lodge is that of the open book, this open book represents the Volume of Sacred Law, this is not defined as any particular sacred book, but rather it represents all sacred texts.  The volume of sacred law is seen as part of the ‘furniture’ of the lodge, it is primarily symbolic of the sincerity and truth of the person taking an obligation upon it.

Historically there are instances of it’s use in the Old Charges of Operative masons.

“Then one of the elders holds out a book and he or they shall place their hands upon it and the following precepts shall be read”

In the Colne Manuscript No.1, dated around 1685

“One of the elders taking the Bible shall hold it forth that he or they which are to be made Masons may impose and lay their right hand upon it and then the Charge shall be read”[9]

The main duty of the chaplain is to direct the lodge members mind towards the deity through the opening and closing prayers and to say grace during the festive board.

The Triangle that is behind the Volume Sacred Law represents the Deity, our Scottish Rite brethren suggest that the triangle represents the Force, Purpose and Will of the Almighty in everything he does.

The Deacons Jewel

 

The Irish and I believe English constitutions symbol of the Deacon is that of the Dove, The Deacons role in the craft came after the Union between the Ancients and Moderns in 1813.  Prior to this, Deacons were most commonly found working under the Ancient Grand Lodge.

As an aside, the symbol for the Deacon used to be Hermes/Mercury, the Messenger of the Gods.  You can see one of these older Jewels in the Masonic museum in the Grand Lodge of Ireland in Dublin.

The oldest mention of Hermes within the Craft comes from Grand Lodge Manuscript No 1, dated in 1583

“The great Hermanies that was Cubys Sonne, the which Cubye was Semmes Sonne, that was Noes Sonne.  The same Hermanies was afterwards called Hermes the father of Wysdome; he found one of the two pillars of stone and found the science written therein, and he taught it to other men”

Within history we see two mentions of Hermes, firstly by the Greeks as the messenger of the Gods, and second the great Mercury as he was named by the Romans.  Not commonly known is the name the Egyptians used for him, Thoth – the God of Wisdom.  The craft venerates Hermes/Mercury as  the inventor of mathematics, the creators of the Old Constitutions looked at him as such, he is also venerated by the Cooke Manuscript.

“It is to him the legend of the Craft(referred to in the old constitutions) refers; and indeed the York Constitutions, which are of importance, though not probably of the date of 926 assigned to them by Krause, and say that he brought the custom of making himself understood by signs with him to Egypt.  In the first ages of the Christian church, this mythical Egyptian philosopher was in fact considered the inventor of everything known to the human intellect.  It was fabled that Pythagoras and Plato had derived their knowledge from him, and that he had recorded his inventions on pillars”[10]

We can also see the linkages with the Hermetic legend in the staffs or rods which the deacons carry, they are symbolic of the caduceus(or wand) which Hermes/Mercury carried.

Moving back to the symbol of the Dove in contemporary Craft Masonry, its origins are much simpler.  If we recall the story of Noah in the VSL in Genesis, after forty days and forty nights, a raven was sent out to check if there was any dry land after the flood, it never returned.  Next a dove was dispatched, it returned with an olive branch – a message that the waters were receding.

So much like it’s counterpart in Hermes, the symbol of the Dove is taken as the faithful messenger. Which is exactly what the Deacons, junior and senior do, to carry messages around the lodge room.

Senior Deacon’s Role

The Senior Deacon usually sits either to the right hand of the Worshipful Master, or behind him (“At the back of the chair”).  His duty is to carry all the Worshipful Masters messages around the lodge.

Junior Deacon’s Role

The Junior Deacon usually sits at the right hand side of the Senior Warden or behind him.  His duty is to carry all messages from the Senior Warden throughout the lodge.

The Inner Guard Jewel


The inner Guard’s Jewel is that of two crossed swords, his duties are to see that brethren are correctly dressed upon entering the lodge and he has special duties relating to the admission of candidates.

The Stewards Jewel


The Stewards Jewel is the symbol of the Cornucopia, the symbol of plenty (In English Cornucopia means the ‘horn of plenty’).  It’s origin is in Greek mythology, when the Child Zeus accidentally broke on the horns of the goat which suckled him, his nurse, filled it with an inexhaustible supply of food and drink.  Another version of the story of the cornucopia also comes from Greece, this time linked to the Labours of Hercules.  When Hercules fought Achelous – who was in the form of a Bull, his broken horn was filled with food and drink by the Naiads.

Mythological the Cornucopia is also a phallic symbol, when empty it is considered feminine and receptive, it is also associated with ‘Mother’ Goddesses like Fortuna and Demeter – this interpretation of the symbol is closely linked to one of the possible forerunners of the Craft, the Eleusinian Mysteries.

The Stewards duties can range from helping arrange the dinning when the lodge has ceased labour or has gone to refreshment to helping layout the lodge, making sure that the VSOL is open on the correct page and that the Jewels are ready for the lodge officers to wear before the Lodge is at Labour.

 


[1] Jasper Ridley, The Freemasons, Pg 18

[2] Honorary Officers who arrange Worship in the Synagogue

[3] Stephen Jackson, Trade Incorporation Ceremonial Chairs, Pg2

[4] Jack Tresidder, The Complete Dictionary of Symbols, Pg 85

[5] Except of the Schaw Statues – 1598, you can read both statues at - http://www.themasonictrowel.com/Articles/Manuscripts/
manuscripts/shaw_statutes/shaw_statutes.htm

[6] Kevin Gest, The Mandorla and Tau, Pg 154

[7] In Andersons Constitutions the most important element for a Master Mason to be able to formulate is the right angled triangle.  This formed the basis of most of our Operative brethren’s skill, and why their workmanship was coveted.

[8] Dr Albert Mackey, Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry, Vol1, Pg 213

[9] Duncan Moore, The Symbolism of the Lodge Room, Pg69

[10] Dr Albert Mackey, Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry, Vol1, Pg 212

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