The Beautiful Virgin Of The Third Degree

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season when the sun enters that sign. This figure of the goddess Rhea, it will be seen, resembles somewhat the virgin of Cross, standing by the broken column, holding in her hand a sprig of acacia instead of the spikes of wheat. Rhea was the daughter of Sky and Earth (Coelus and Terra). She was also the mother of Jupiter and wife of Saturn, also known as Kro-nos, or Time. This would quite naturally permit the association of the figure of Saturn and his scythe—or Time—with that of the virgin. In the Dionysiac Mysteries, Dionysus (who is the same as Osiris, the personified sun-god) is represented as being slain. Rhea (who is also identical with Isis and Virgo) goes in search of his body, which she at last finds, and causes it to be buried with due honor. Now if, as Dr. Mackey admits, this legend was introduced into the fraternity established by Hiram at the building of King Solomon's temple, and forms the basis of the third degree of Freemasonry, this figure of the goddess Rhea would be a very appropriate emblem of that degree.

Thus the present emblem of the beautiful virgin requires but slight modifications to bring it into entire harmony with all the ancient traditions and mythology. The pretended history illustrating the emblem, which Cross admits he invented, should be expunged from the ritual, and the figure of the beautiful virgin represented somewhat after the manner here depicted.

The open book and funeral urn are omitted for the reasons before given. In the left hand thus placed at liberty is the evergreen, or sprig of acacia, because in her left hand Virgo holds the spear of ripe wheat, for which masons have substituted the former as an emblem of immortality—although to those who are familiar with the beautiful utterances of St. Paul, the spike of wheat is as significant an emblem of eternal life as the evergreen. Says the apostle:

But some will say, How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come? Fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die, and that which thou sowest is not that body which shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or some other.

The right hand is represented as resting on the broken column, because the ancients figured Virgo, under the name of Rhea, with her right hand resting on a stone pillar.

The alterations thus made in the emblem are but slight, and nothing is omitted but the "funeral urn" and the "open book." The latter is represented by Cross in a shape entirely unknown to the ancients, whose only books were in the form of rolls of manuscript. The handsome octavo volume, which he has placed on the broken column, looks as if just issued from the press, and is a gross anachronism. Those who are 146

familiar with the lectures belonging to the third degree will find an additional and masonic reason for placing the evergreen in the left hand, "for, as the left is considered the weakest part of the body," it is thus more significant of its mortality: the acacia, therefore, placed in the left hand, more clearly teaches us that, when the body, by reason of its weakness, crumbles into dust, the soul of man, rising from the "rubbish" and ruins of its earthly tabernacle, shall dwell in perpetual youth in that "temple not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." Behind the figure of the virgin stands the form of Saturn, or Time, not counting the ringlets of her hair, but pointing upward toward the summit of the zodiacal arch. This beautiful daughter of the skies, Virgo, according to other mythological legends, is also the husband of the sun, who, when he entered the constellation Virgo, was said to espouse her.

The whole emblem may therefore be astronomically explained as follows: The virgin weeping over the broken column denotes her grief at the death of the sun, slain by the wintry signs. Saturn standing behind her and pointing to the summit of the zodiacal arch denotes that Time will heal their sorrows, and, when the year has filled its circuit, her lord the sun will arise from the grave of winter, and, triumphing over all the powers of darkness, come again to her embraces.

The emblem of the beautiful virgin, thus represented and explained, is not only an eloquent expression of affection weeping over the loss of a beloved friend, but also a mystic symbol of some of the leading facts of astronomy, and a significant emblem of the immortality of the soul.

The Evergreen ...

Has been selected by masons as an emblem of immortality, because, when in the icy grasp of winter the whole vegetable kingdom lies dead, it alone blooms in beauty, reminding us of the vernal equinox, when all nature shall revive again:

". . . . the evergreen That braves the inclement blast, And still retains the bloom of spring When summer days are past;

And though the wintry sky should lower,

And dim the cheerful day, It still retains a vital power, Unconscious of decay."

The Sprig of Acacia

Q. Has the sprig of acacia any further signification?

A. The astronomical significance of the "evergreen, " which we have substituted for the Egyptian acacia, and its allusion to the vernal equinox and the doctrine of immortality, has already been fully explained and illustrated. The symbolism of the acacia is, however, more extended. The acacia grows in Egypt, and is the plant from which gum-arabic is obtained. It is also the acanthus of Herodotus and Strabo.

The thickets of acanthus, alluded to by Strabo, still grow above Memphis, at the base of the low Libyan hills. In going from the Nile to Abydos, you ride through the grove of acacia, once sacred to Apollo, and see the canal traversing it, as when the geographer visited that city. (Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians," Chapter VI)

The acacia is also a symbol of innocence. "The symbolism here," says Dr. Mackey, is of a peculiar and unusual character, depending not upon any real analogy of form or use of the symbol to the thing symbolized, but simply on the double or compound meaning of the word. For acacia, in the Greek language, signifies both the plant in question and innocence or purity of life. ("Symbolism," Chapter XXVIII)

We think Dr. Mackey is mistaken in this. He does not seem to have been aware, or has overlooked the fact, that one species of the acacia is a sensitive-plant.

Pliny mentions a sensitive acacia about Memphis. One is now common on the banks of the Nile above Don-gola (the Acacia asperata). The "Mimosa Lubek" also grew of old in Egypt, and the Copt Christians have a silly legend of its worshipping the Saviour.

(Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians")

The peculiar nature of the sensitive-plant has in all ages excited the wonder and superstition of man, and there is no doubt that it was the Acacia asperata, or mimosa, which was the species of the acacia held as a sacred plant by the ancients. The word acacia is of Greek origin, and to the lively and poetical imagination of the Greeks this sensitive-plant, thus shrinking from the touch, was an expressive symbol of that innocence which in like manner shrinks from the rule contact of the world—and thus they named it acacia, a word which means innocence. It therefore appears that there is a real and beautiful analogy "between the symbol and the idea symbolized," and that this symbolism does not "depend simply on the double or compound meaning of the word" acacia, as stated by Dr. Mackey; this sensitive plant being named "innocence" because it was the natural and appropriate emblem of innocence and purity.

The Letter "G"

Q. Is the custom of displaying the letter "G" in masonic lodges of any great antiquity?

A. That it can not be must appear evident when we reflect that masonry existed long before the English language. The letter "G" as displayed in the lodge is, however, a necessary and appropriate substitute for the equilateral triangle, so prominently used as a sacred symbol by our ancient brethren.

The Equilateral Triangle

A. For two reasons: 1. The triangle is the true significator of that noble masonic science, geometry—since, without a knowledge of its form and properties, that science is impossible. It was upon the triangle that Pythagoras erected his celebrated and invaluable "Forty-seventh Proposition." He is also said to have discovered that the sum of all the angles of any triangle is equal to two right angles. It is more probable, however, that he brought these two propositions, together with a knowledge of the true system of the universe, with him from Egypt, where he went to pursue his studies, and was initiated into the Mysteries.

2. The equilateral triangle is also a sacred symbol of the Deity, being the same in its form as the ancient Greek delta, or letter "D." The Phoenician letter "D," as well as the Egyptian, was of a similar form. The equilateral triangle, in the Greek tongue, as well as many other ancient languages, was thus the initial letter of the name of Deity. In the days of Pythagoras we are told that, whenever an oath of unusual importance was to be taken, it was administered on the equilateral triangle, as, by so doing, the name of God was directly invoked. This oath is said never to have been violated. The EQUILATERAL TRIANGLE, therefore, since it is at once the emblem and essence of geometry, and the initial letter of the name of Deity, should be seen in the midst of every regular masonic assembly.

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  • lewis
    Is theAcacia an emblem of the vernal equinox?
    3 months ago

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