Thursday, September 01, 2011

Lore of the Ring

When researching Freemasons For Dummies, I came across the urban legend that there are no 33rd degree rings in pawn shops because 33rd degree Masons dabble in witchcraft and are immolated in the practice of Magick™. Apparently, so this one goes, the ring goes *poof!* along with the body.

There are no howlers quite as hilarious as anti-Masonic howlers.

The truth is that the ring given to the 33rd degree Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, at least in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, is either to be buried on the finger of the Brother when his end comes, or returned to the Supreme Council by his family so that it may be passed to another generation of Freemasons.

As to the symbolism, it has a triangle or delta (with the number "33"), in plain gold with no other color, and three distinct rings, which might be interpreted as 3+3. Inside, it is inscribed with the phrase "Deus Meumque Jus", meaning "God and My Right" (or perhaps more clearly, 'God and my moral rightness').

As to the three rings, my own interpretation from here on is 'Think twice before speaking once.' But that's just me.

There are approximately 11,000 33° Scottish Rite Masons in the United States, roughly split 50/50 between the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and the Southern Jurisdiction. And for those who have asked, the 33° ritual in the two jurisdictions is VERY different.

The number 33 was not just selected at random by the originators of the Scottish Rite. It has long been considered sacred within Christianity for several reasons. It is the multiple use of three, signifying the Holy Trinity. Christ was 33 years old when he ascended into heaven, and the gospels list thirty-three miracles performed by Christ. (Dan Brown is incorrect when he states, appropriately on page 333 of The Lost Symbol, that God is mentioned thirty-three times in the Book of Genesis. God is actually mentioned thirty-two times, in the first chapter of Genesis of the King James Bible.)

Thirty-three also appears in the Old Testament and other Jewish writings. Jacob had thirty-three children; Mosaic Law required that a woman purify herself for thirty-three days after her male child was circumcised; the holy day of Lag B’Omer occurs thirty-three days after the start of Passover; and the Seal of Solomon, or Star of David, made up of two intersecting triangles, is considered a graphic representation of 3+3. It also plays a prominent role in Kabbalah.

The religions of Islam, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Hinduism all associate sacred meanings with the number thirty-three. There are even thirty-three bones in the human vertebrae. Therefore, it appears in the Scottish Rite as a symbol of the fraternity’s universality as well as the perfection that every man should aspire to achieve in his soul.

Another curious aspect of the numbers thirty-two and thirty-three in regards to the Scottish Rite is that both Charleston, South Carolina, the birthplace of the Rite in 1801, and Jerusalem, location of Solomon’s Temple, lie between the 32° and 33° latitude. For many years it was common for Scottish Rite officers to include the latitude of their location when writing letters, articles or papers.

The double-headed eagle is the principal symbol of the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite. It is not, as is mistakenly referred to in Brown’s text concerning the tattoo on Mal’akh’s chest, using his nipples as the bird’s eyes, a “double-headed phoenix.” The legendary phoenix, rising from the ashes, as described in Greek (and earlier) mythology, is not what depicted here at all.

Rather, the symbol comes from an early European rite of degrees called the Order of the Royal Secret, from which the Scottish Rite descended in 1801. The Royal Secret’s most advanced degree was called “The Knight of the White and Black Eagle.” The French Masonic authority that issued a patent (a document that authorizes the formation of new chapters) in 1761 was called the Council of the Emperors of the East and West. They used the double-headed eagle as a heraldic device (like a logo) on their documents, and it is believed they had appropriated the imagery from the period of the division of the Roman Empire into an eastern and western empire under the Byzantine emperors. The image of the double-headed eagle also appears in heraldry of the Holy Roman Empire, Germany, Austria, Russia, Armenia, Albania, Serbia and many others. It also appears as a symbol of the Greek Orthodox Church.

What makes the image specific to the Scottish Rite is the triangle on the eagle’s breast, and the number “33.”


  1. An excellent post that helps to differentiate fact from fiction.

  2. Nice write up. Still hoping to join the SR myself someday, when the time is right. Thanks!

  3. Brother, love your article. However, as an English teacher I can't in good faith let you go on with an error showing. You said 33rd degree Masons are "immolated in the practice of magick". If that is the case, there would be no 33rd degree masons, because to immolate means to burn or incinerate someone, like the Buddhist monks who self-immolated during the Viet Nam era. I love your article. - Br. Dan Bristol

  4. Dan, that's the joke of the legend. The claim is that 33rds can't help themselves after a few years, eventually succumb to the "dark side," read an Albert Pike satanic incantation, and go out in a blaze of glory. And that's why there aren't any old 33rd rings around.

  5. Chris, if you are aware of any printed or interwebs reference for that urban legend, I would be most apppreciative. Best regards to you and Lady Alice.

  6. Brother Chris,
    Great as usual. I always enjoy reading what you write, and learn in the process. Take very good care of yourself.

  7. That was an excellent explanation. I have been a freemeason since 1979, I am a 33rd in the Scottish Rite, a Past Master, a Shriner, a Knight Templar, and an Knight of the Red Cross of Constantine. I wear my 33rd ring to church even when acting as a lector and serving communion, in a mainline (Lutheran) church. I have yet to be smitten dead for such blasphemy. I am extremely disappointed that I have not yet been let in on the plans for world domination and the turn to the dark side, even after going through all these degrees. These conspiracy theories are hilarious, and provide much entertainment. Continue to fight the good fight against ignorance.

    1. :) I wear Dad's 14th level ring to a Lutheran church. I had it cut down for me when he passed. I wanted a reminder to always wear, along with Mom's wedding ring. The pastor was miffed, but I really didn't care. Satan did not visit me. I too did not get the memo on world domination. And I always have my Dad near. It is a man's ring, but no one says anything. I got my backbone from Dad, too.

  8. Bro. Chris, Don't forget about us "enlisted guys." The double eagle is also a symbol of the Sublime Princes as well :-). To Bro. Doug, which Lutheran Church? Missouri Synod?

  9. "As to the symbolism, it has a triangle or delta (with the number "33"), in plain gold with no other color, and three distinct rings, which might be interpreted as 3+3. Inside, it is inscribed with the phrase "Deus Meumque Jus", meaning "God and My Right" (or perhaps more clearly, 'God and my moral rightness')."

    This is yet another in the plethora of cases, these including everything that President Barack Obama says, in which one of sufficient knowledge must conclude, as does South Park character Kyle Broflovski about those claiming to have seen bigfoot, that the OP is either stupid or he is lying:

    "Dieu et mon droit (French pronunciation: ​[djø e mɔ̃ dʁwa]) (meaning God and my right) is the motto of the Monarch of the United Kingdom outside of Scotland. It appears on a scroll beneath the shield of the version of the coat of arms of the United Kingdom used outside of Scotland. The motto is said to have first been used by Richard I as a battle cry and presumed to be a reference to the divine right of the Monarch to govern. It was adopted as the royal motto of England by King Henry V with the phrase "and my right" referring to his claim to the French crown.

    The motto is French for literally "God and my right", meaning that the king is "Rex Angliæ Dei gratia": King of England by the grace of God.

    For the Royal coat of arms of the Kingdom of England to have a French rather than English motto was not unusual, given that Norman French was the primary language of the English Royal Court and ruling class following the rule of William the Conqueror of Normandy and later the Plantagenets. Another Old French phrase also appears in the full achievement of the Royal Arms. The motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense ("Spurned be the one who evil thinks"), appears on a representation of a garter behind the shield. Modern French spelling has changed honi to honni, but the motto has not been updated.

    Also, in response to the implication from the OP's other comments that it is preposterous to associate Freemasons with magick, there is a great deal of evidence which could be presented, but why don't we just hear it from the goat's mouth, in the form of Henry Clausen?:

  10. And just in case anyone might have gotten the impression from "Mr." Clausen's denunciation of "ceremonial magick" that Freemasons are truly averse to magick and/or witchcraft as most people think of it, here are a few videos featuring Freemason Carroll "Poke" Runyon who, according to Metapedia, "went through all the degrees of the Scottish Rite and the York Rite. He served as an officer in three active Golden Dawn temples, then founded his own church, the Church of Hermetic Sciences (C.H.S.)"

  11. Gosh, I loved the photo if the ring which I have seen for myself only twice in my life. Pity there wasn't more about it--I do not like uneducated guesses and want to know the meaning, if any, of the ring's details. President Harry Truman wore one. I'd love to know why he wore that on his left pinky. This article at least gives some bare bones info.

  12. Let's see... 7 cervical vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae, 5 lumbar vertebrae, 1 sacrum, 1 coccyx = 26. 33-26 = 7. Maybe they include in the count, the 5 fused sacral segments...that would increase the count to 30 (26+4=30 [we already counted 1 of the sacrum]). Maybe, the skull is considered to have 3 segments ?

    1. Cervical spine: 7 vertebrae (C1–C7)
      Thoracic spine: 12 vertebrae (T1–T12)
      Lumbar spine: 5 vertebrae (L1–L5)
      Sacrum: 5 (fused) vertebrae (S1–S5)
      Coccyx: 4 (3–5) (fused) vertebrae (Tailbone)

      Total: 33


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