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, 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° 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.”


Halcyon Lodge 498 said...

An excellent post that helps to differentiate fact from fiction.

John Benton said...

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

Wrath said...

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

Chris Hodapp said...

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.

Mark Koltko-Rivera said...

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.

Don said...

Very nice article

Jim Guffey said...

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

Doug Neidermeyer said...

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.

Larry Dittmer said...

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?