The symbolism of the gloves
While the wearing of gloves is easily understood when it is a question of protecting oneself or the other from possible contamination, in terms of symbolism, the wearing of gloves is interpreted above all as an element of social hierarchy within the framework of clothing.
Although the gloves and apron are worn by Freemasons from the earliest English and Scottish lodges by descent with their companionship origins, Masonic customs were aligned with what was done in the nobility while attaching an ethical value to it. In most cases, it is white gloves, in some degrees, black gloves are worn; in some lodges, only officers wear them.
Some gloves are decorated with an acacia leaf, others with the square and the compass, others with three dots!
To avoid an embarrassing disparity of uses, the most serious lodges specify exactly what it is agreed to do.
Do you have to take off your gloves before you give your obolus?
It is a basic question for the sisters and brothers of the lodges who have kept this ancient tradition; it elicits various answers:
Yes, because you shouldn't soil your gloves with silver, which is considered an impure metal?
No, because one must not soil one's hands with silver considered to be an impure metal?
Yes, because giving is a gesture of the "heart"!
No, because in the dressing room, from the beginning to the end of the outfit, gloves must always be worn!
Remember that the wearing of white gloves from the first English lodges can be linked to the fact that at that time it was an attribute of the church dignitaries. In the old rituals, white gloves were offered to new initiates with a pair for them and a pair for the woman they cherished. Each new initiate was reminded "that a Mason should never dip his hands in iniquity." (As history proves that Masonic obediences have a lax definition of iniquity, it is understandable that in some lodges the wearing of white gloves has been abandoned, as it no longer corresponds to the moral obligation it is supposed to symbolize).
In the secular world, gloves were part of the clothing of the aristocracy, then of the bourgeoisie and also of the army; it was customary, as far as gloves were concerned :
to take them off or to keep them on, before shaking the hand of the person one wants to greet or salute; several explanations are given to explain this difference in attitude: for example, the ancient fear of being poisoned, the age of the interlocutors, the gender, etc.
in the army, they are part of the category 1 uniforms worn by officers and non-commissioned officers at public or private receptions (joint codes: A1, A2, A3) which are compulsory for official events and in this case they are never taken off!
Everyone knows that rituals are conventions and that the important thing is that everyone understands and is understood for the gestures they are led to perform.
In the lodge, there are two important moments when the ritual specifies that you must take off your gloves:
- when you take an oath...
- and during the chain of union.
Moreover, through our companionship, gloves send us back to work; to work properly, we need gloves on the one hand to protect our hands and on the other hand to better handle tools.
This reminder allows us to question certain assertions: Isn't there a confusion between the white colour of the gloves and the gloves themselves?
Since the logic of the Masonic approach favours authenticity and the will to serve, it is understandable that the act of giving an obole with a gloved hand affirms a charitable will.
The wearing of gloves can be understood as a symbol of participation in the work, and the white colour of the gloves refers to the nature of the work in relation to Justice and devotion!
The wearing of gloves does not alter the intrinsic quality of the carnal contact of the hand, which symbolizes individual commitment and respect for Masonic values.
If one wished to carry out a hierarchy of the symbolic values of these three elements one could place them in this decreasing order:
1. The bare hand: it refers us to our authenticity,
2. The color white: it symbolizes the purity of our intentions,
3. Gloves: they evoke our taste for work and research.
In conclusion, yes, one must take off one's gloves before depositing an obole in the Widow's trunk, for the same reasons as one disengages oneself before taking the oath or before placing oneself in the chain of union.