Masonic Articles and Essays
Very Illus ..... Bro. Kristine Wilson-Slack 33°
Freemasonry is a tradition steeped in symbolism. Everywhere one looks in a Lodge, there can be found a new symbol, a new dimension of meaning waiting to be discovered. The Stewards, officers of the Lodge, conduct the ceremonial work but what deeper elements of our mystic understanding do they reveal?
Freemasonry is a solar ritual, designed to mark the sun’s movement throughout the year. While other esoteric and religious institutions track the moon, Freemasonry uniquely ties with the Sun. The Principal Officers of a Masonic Lodge mark the times of the day, and with their moving counterparts, their deacons, they mark the times of the year. This is very specific to the officers in the East and West, where one marks the Summer Solstice (East) and one marks the Winter Solstice (West). The South also marks the Sun but in the Equinoxes of the year, the sun is directly overhead at Noon.
This is where I believe the Stewards come into play. While the Officers in the East and West have their moving counterparts, so does the Officer of the South – the J.W. In his Principles of Masonic Law, Bro. Albert MacKay stated that the Stewards are appointed by the J.W. and sit to the right and left of him in the South. This makes sense if they represent Capricorn and the Tropic of Capricorn which is in the south. This is further evidenced by the symbol associated with the Steward, the cornucopia.
In antiquity, the cornucopia was called the “horn of plenty.” It symbolized abundance and nourishment, commonly a large horn-shaped container overflowing with produce, flowers, or nuts. Traditionally, the horn was a goat’s horn, as noted above, and is associated with Capricorn.
The Stewards sit on opposite sides of the J.W. but are not to the extremes of being in the West or the East. This indicates that they are a midway point between the two, marking the Solstice periods. The reason for this may become a little clearer if we look deeper into both the astrological sign of Capricorn, materially and esoterically.
The sign of Capricorn has three flavors – that of the river goat, the land goat, and the mountain goat. Together they represent the cycle of life: I believe this is the spiritual life, not simply the physical life. Starting in water, the emotional realm, we move to subdue those emotions as we begin on an esoteric path. We move toward the land; however, this is the land of all men, not the land of those on the path. The mountain goat represents the man who is striving, yearning for that higher “self” and for continued improvement. He is still “of earth” but he has lifted himself beyond the simple ideas of the physical and emotional worlds.
The female goat generally represents nourishment and abundance while the male goat often is a sign of stamina and virility. Both are representative of abundance and fecundity. The horn, traditionally represents the masculine, when it is point-side up, representing the giving of abundance, and point-side down representing the feminine and receptive principle.
Capricorn is also an earth sign, representing practicality and the life-giving nature of Earth. It is grounded and rich with the cycle of the entire Earth – birth, life, and death. The sign is ruled by Saturn.
Cancer and Capricorn begin their cycles on the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, respectively and it’s appropriate to discuss a little of the “Tropics” they represent. The tropics are the longitudinal lines on Earth where the sun can be seen directly overhead, on their respective days. In the area between the tropics, the sun has little movement and may generally be seen “directly” overhead at any time of the year. This tropical zone is considered also the most temperate place on Earth, and seemingly where human life on Earth began.
Here, let’s turn back to Freemasonry. In all of these discussions regarding light and the sun, it is important to remember that Freemasonry is a northern hemisphere-focused ritual, and as such is focused primarily on the symbolism of the northern hemisphere. This is not to say Freemasonry isn’t practiced or relevant to the southern hemisphere. I mention it here only to inform readers that some of this terminology may need to be reversed to be applicable.
The J.W. has a responsibility to mark the sun at “high noon,” according to some. This is both a physical place and an emotional one. The physical is clear – when the sun is directly overhead. This seems obvious. However, it is also the place of “no shadow.” and clearest vision. Everything is visible and illuminated. This leads to the emotional meaning of the phrase, which is “a crisis or event that is likely to decide finally what is going to happen in a conflict or situation.” It appears to be the place in which the ultimate decision of that which is made manifest is decided. Could this be the link between the J.W. and the I.G.?
Let’s also look at the South as a place of Beauty. Beauty can be felt and seen but it is generally seen. One needs Light to see Beauty made manifest. Therefore, it seems logical that Beauty would reside in the place of greatest light – that where the sun is always overhead. I think there is also something to the point that the Tropic of Capricorn is the southernmost point of least light to people of the northern hemisphere. This appears to represent the moment before sunset, where darkness begins, which seems to be under the influence of the West, or the S.W.
Consequently, we see the idea of the North as a place of potential, a place of the antithesis of light. While the Stewards frame the place of greatest light, their mirrored selves frame the place of greatest darkness. But this is not pure darkness. It is the darkness that is visible to all, which shows us the contrast to the positivity of the Light. In other words, we all need to have a point that we can understand: what is Dark, and where do we need to tread to stay in the Light.
Lastly, the Stewards represent the idea of abundance and plenty within the realm of thought and ideal. That is, there is a universal plentitude that is there to help us empower our higher consciousness and spiritual attributes. Awareness, the ability to see and experience more beyond this physical realm, is perpetual, just as the Cornucopia is perpetual in its plenty. I am not speaking about material goods but about the Light that lifts us to a better humanity.
The Stewards mark and do much esoterically for the Lodge and the ritual. While they might seem like a minor role in the ritual at play, they have a greater purpose to the solar meaning and symbols within our Work. They encourage us to look to our inner steward, the one who reminds us of the Abundance of the Divine and of the Universe, and that which guides us on a path of Light.
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