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Stepping over the coffin: a misunderstood ritual practice?

The crossing of the coffin is not a frequent gesture in the various rites practiced by human beings.

In Freemasonry, it is practiced three times during the last three steps of the master's (mistress') march, on the occasion of the ceremony of elevation to mastery.

In some rituals, stepping over is interpreted as the evocation of a vertical dimension.

In reality, this ritual practice of crossing over in a Masonic ritual is particular; without any obvious, coherent and logical symbolic content. Especially since we do not find this gesture in Christian rites.

Everything happens as if it were a magic gesture of possession and transmutation that allows the transfer of the soul of the deceased to the soul of the celebrant by activating his resurrection. It would look more like a popular animist practice!

This crossing ritual is found in mortuary rites in Africa; here is a description:

The ritual of "stepping over" consisted of speaking in front of all witnesses to say or reaffirm one's loyalty and probity which one has shown towards a father or a mother during one's life on earth. effect, when it was a question of the death of an old man, after the announcement of the death and as soon as the preparations are completed for the burial, in addition to the rites of washing or body, of taking the last meal and dog slaughter (only for the burial of men in some Moose communities), before the rite of the last round of the mortuary plot, the rite of stepping over the frame takes place. on its terrace. All the sons, daughters and relatives are invited to come and give a last testimony of their loyalty and fidelity to the deceased. Each candidate for the exercise, stops in front of the frame and pronounces the discourse like: "During your lifetime I have never betrayed you or told lies about you, even less done what is forbidden towards you. If I did, you who are in your truth, don't leave me. If I have not been loyal to you only in complicity with the ancestors, you grab my foot to bring me there”. He straddles the body three (3) and the women four (4) times. It is therefore necessary to know that when you have committed a package, it is better not to venture. Examples of crimes can be infidelity in the couple, rape, theft, slander and slander having led to serious damage to the morality and/or notoriety of the deceased during his lifetime. When a candidate is at fault and strives to perform this rite, the harbinger of his next punishment will be to stumble or fall in public, proof that the deceased has entered to "catch his foot". (Sources: Dr Patrice KOURAOGO, Research Fellow, Sociologist at CNRST-INSS)

A mortuary practice present in the West Indies

On the one hand, "The women tidied the house, covered the mirrors white sheets and adorn the bed with the finest attributes after a board has been placed on the mattress to keep the body straight. It was also a tradition to have all those who feared the dead straddle the remains ». (Source: Antilles: Funeral rites of yesteryear)

Pesach and the crossing over

Everyone knows that Passover is the name of a Jewish holiday; Bernard Marquier in his book From Moses to Hiram: And if that was Freemasonry?" refers to Passover:

But not everything is simple because in the Jewish tradition, there is also a ban on stepping over!

The enjambment is also... a versification technique used in poetry

Rejection at the beginning of the next verse of one or more words essential to understanding the meaning of the first verse (Source CNRTL)

In conclusion:

The stepping over of the empty coffin in the Ritual of Rise to Mastery is a gestural symbol with no logical explanation; except ignorance on our part, this symbolism is not found in any Christian tradition of the end of the Middle Ages. We have to keep looking!


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