Masonic symbols (2nd part)
Although the Masonic approach can concern all symbols, we will speak of Masonic symbols by referring to those expressly cited in the various Masonic rituals. A symbol can have several meanings, and each one is free to put a personal content into it; we think it is not uninteresting to explain the "first" meaning as it can be deduced from the reading of ancient texts. This lexicon will not deal with terms that do not have a symbolic content; (editor's note: this list will be progressively increased and completed).
Mallet: tool used in several trades including the army; the name mallet should be considered as a generic name grouping other nouns (which explains why other words are associated in particular to find the reality of the stonemason); in the Bible its symbolism is bivalent (tool of deliverance or perversion); in Freemasonry, its symbolism derives mainly from that of the operative lodges: the hammer symbolizing the authority of Zeus!
Coat: symbol of clothing origin, it is worn (white, black or red) in certain degrees and certain rites; its symbolic content is of biblical origin and can be understood from the principle that quotes the Gospel according to Philip: "The Holy Spirit is our clothing"; one could assimilate the coat to the black robe worn by the sisters!
Walk : a gestural symbol par excellence, present in many ritual expressions, it is present in the lodge in several forms:
-entering and leaving the lodge
Steps: architectural symbol most often used in iconographic form or in textual references. We find in Freemasonry the biblical content of the progression towards heaven, i.e. God (cf. also the symbolism of the staircase and the ladder).
Mercury: hypothetical substance imagined by alchemist thought to identify the feminine principle. Its introduction in the Masonic ritual, at the level of the cabinet of reflection with Sulphur and Salt, denotes the influence of alchemical thought on Masonic thought in the 18th and 19th century.
Mirror: reflecting natural object or element used symbolically in the Bible and present in the Masonic ritual; the current interpretation differs from the biblical content by introducing a psychological connotation related to the Socratic maxim "know thyself"!
Obole: An ancient monetary unit quoted in the bible and used to signify monetary contributions. It has become the symbol of the offering for the solidarity of mutual aid. To obole one can associate the hospital brother (or elementary), the charity trunk.
Naos: Architectural element of the temple of ancient Egypt which was taken up in the Masonic rites known as Egyptian! Symbolically it is a sacred virtual space related to the divine.
Level: Tool but also concept of state of consciousness; in this last sense it is quoted in the Bible "I will make righteousness a ruler, and justice a level (Mishkeleth); and hail shall carry away the refuge of falsehood, and waters shall flood the refuge of falsehood." (Isaiah 28:17). The tool also symbolizes equality.
Black: Symbol of a color found in many decorations. The symbolic value of black is not univocal; in Freemasonry, we also refer to its alchemical content.
Orient : The East in the Bible symbolizes a look towards God; in Freemasonry we evoke the great Architect of the Universe and more broadly spirituality in a process of freedom of conscience!
Lost Word: The concept of "lost word" appears in the myth of Hiram! Hiram's death leads to the loss of a secret that only Hiram possessed! The myth of Hiram introduces the concept of "substituted speech" to replace "lost speech"! One may think that this is a representation of the "secret" of the masters in the companion tradition! The symbolism of the lost word is part of the Masonic symbolic elements that are not strictly biblical!
Mosaic paving stone: architectural symbol which surely had no symbolic value at the origin of the English lodges and which took one, in the XIXth century, following an esoteric "reading" of binarity!
Pelican: animal symbol of Christic inspiration that can be found in certain grades and in certain rites! The sacrifice of the Pelican symbolizes the sacrifice of Jesus Christ!
Phoenix : legendary animal symbol invented by the Greeks, taken up by certain Jewish scholars, and adopted by the Fathers of the church, although it is not mentioned in the Bible, it is found in some Masonic rituals, particularly the Rectified Scottish Rite which has made it "its" symbol! Symbol of resurrection for some, symbol of permanence for others!
Pentagram: in its original sense it is a letter and then it became the name of a geometric shape with five equal sides corresponding either to the five-pointed star or to a regular pentagon. Depending on the position of the vertex we will speak of a straight or inverted pentagram! Its symbolic use dates back to antiquity and is attributed a magical power (pentacle). In Freemasonry, it should not be assimilated to the five-pointed star! It is part of the symbols of the Kabbalah and occultism and represents, in an upright position, the microcosm. Anti-Masons find in it the proof of a so-called diabolical impregnation with the inverted position.
Rough stone: biblical mineral symbol; in Masonry it is sometimes wrongly assimilated to the profane world through the expression "roughing out one's rough stone"! It is a more complex symbol than is generally thought! Petra (the stone) is an element of the divine! It is related to the 1st degree.
Cubic stone: a mineral symbol which, in some countries (especially France) has been added to the initial symbols, to differentiate it from the rough stone; it also has an alchemical connotation! It is related to the 2nd degree.
Pillar: architectural symbol present in certain rites: three in number, placed in the centre of the lodge around the lodge board, they symbolise wisdom (Ionic style), strength (Doric style) and beauty (Corinthian style); on each pillar a candle will be lit at the opening of the work.
Tracing board: Utilitarian symbol, wooden board or sheet of paper, introduced in the eighteenth century to identify the specificity of the master's work; from this term derives the "board" work presented in the lodge and the verb floor, study and exhibit! To be linked to the biblical injunction "Thou shalt make boards for the tabernacle. They shall be made of acacia wood and placed upright." ( Exodus 26:15-30 )
Dagger : warrior and vengeance symbol of the 9th degree of the reaa ;
Ruler: utilitarian symbol of companion origin which symbolizes the measurement; it is sometimes represented with its 24 divisions; symbol of the 2nd degree!
Dress: symbol of clothing which symbolized a priestly function; today, in Freemasonry it is exclusively worn by women, either black or white, according to the rites and obediences!
Red: colorimetric symbol associated with the Jakin column; red in the Bible refers to God! Besides the Jakin column, red is very present in the lodge either visually as in the REAA or by the evocation in the use of the adjective "flamboyant".
Long necklace: clothing symbol: a simple ribbon to support a jewel and placed around the neck. It does not symbolize anything but helps to identify a dignitary or an officer.
Seal of Solomon: geometric symbolism of Hebrew origin (to which a magical power was attributed) introduced in the 18th century in certain rites with an alchemical connotation!
Salt: mineral symbolism present in the cabinet of reflection to be understood in the biblical sense "You are the salt of the earth!" (Mt 5:13)
Sun: astronomical symbol present in the East; biblical symbol related to the day and to Gabaon and all that happened there!
Sulphur: Mineral symbol; in its biblical sense it symbolizes the wrath of God; it is present in the reflection cabinet as a threat! It is sometimes given an alchemical meaning but it is not sure that it is appropriate!
Apron: a symbol of clothing of companionly origin in relation to the symbolism of work!
Lodge carpet: graphic symbols; in the first lodges they were drawn on the floor with chalk and then made at the end of the meeting; then they were printed or embroidered on a cloth; in its entirety, the lodge carpet corresponds to the degree to which the work is devolved (1st, 2nd or 3rd in blue lodge).
Tau : graphic symbol of Kabbalistic origin present in the 13th degree of the reaa ; divine symbol .
Temple of Solomon : it symbolizes in the Bible, the "House of God on earth" that Hiram was in charge of building.
Earth: (in the expression "trial of the earth" - the word trial must be understood in the sense of feeling) in fact it is the time spent in the cabinet of reflection carried out prior to the initiation; this symbol has several meanings; one can consider that the first meaning is biblical and refers to the Prima Materia!
Triangle: graphic symbol recognized since antiquity (sacred triangle or 3-4-5) which allowed astronomical calculations of the location of celestial deities. In Freemasonry, it is the equilateral triangle of biblical origin that is used in connection with the Holy Trinity.
Three: symbol of the numbers; if the number 3 does not have in itself a symbolic value in lodge, the number is omnipresent to him: symbol of belonging with the 3 points, symbol of beginning in the initiatory process represented afterwards by the numbers 3.5.7 etc
Widow's trunk: utilitarian symbol designating the box into which alms are slipped at the end of the dress, it symbolizes charity and or solidarity.
Trowel: symbol of the tools; it is mentioned in the bible where it is associated with the sword; it is the symbol of the master mason in a companionship sense of the finished work!
Ballot box: utilitarian symbol as a box collecting the black and white balls used to make a vote, the ballot box symbolizes equality in the expression of a choice.
Green: symbolism of colours very present in the rectified Scottish rite where it represents a grade.
Widow: legendary character, mother of hiram; the Freemasons are symbolically the children of the widow; the widow's trunk is also referred to as the collection of alms.
V.I.T.R.I.O.L.: graphic symbol present in the reflection cabinet: acronym of Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem which translates as Visiting the interior of the earth and, rectifying, you will find the hidden stone . Borrowed from alchemy.
Volume of the Sacred Law (VLS): Name used to allow freedom of conscience in the choice of the reference book on which the oaths are taken.
Voyage(s) : symbol of a movement, borrowed from the tradition of the companionship which one finds in the 2nd degree.
Starry vault : astronomical symbol in relation to the heavens mentioned in the Bible, it symbolizes the link between the human and the divine.