The Two Headed Eagle

Origins of The Two Headed Eagle, now associated with The Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite

R.W.Bro. W.J. Chetwode Crawley

One of our earliest and best known Irish Masonic researchers was the late R.W. Brother W. J. Chetwode Crawley LL.D. D.C.I. Past Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of Instruction in The Grand Lodge of Ireland, Founder Member and frequent contributor to Quatuor Coronati Lodge No 2076 U.G.L.E. and a full member of The Supreme Council 33rd Degree Ancient & Accepted Rite of Ireland.

Buried away in Volume 24 of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum issued in the year 1911, is a fascinating and little-known article entitled ‘Two Corner Stones Laid in the Olden Time’. Here we are going to look briefly at the first of these cornerstones which sets out the origins of the two-headed eagle, probably the most ornamental and most ostentatious feature of the Supreme Council 33rd Degree Ancient and Accepted (Scottish ) Rite, comprising a carving of a double-headed eagle, surmounted by an imperial crown.

In the case of Supreme council this device seems to have been adopted sometime after 1758, initially, by a high grade known as Emperors of the East & West: Researches suggest that this marks its first involvement with Freemasonry, before it became the symbol representative of the Sovereign Prince Masons of the Rite of Perfection.

Then in 1801, The Rite of Perfection with its 25 degrees was amplified at Charleston U.S.A. into the Ancient and Accepted Rite of Thirty-Three degrees, which continued to use the double -headed eagle, as its most distinctive symbol.

rite of perfection

Fascinating as all the foregoing may be, we have to go back some 5000 years to find the origins of this symbol in the city of Lagash in southern Babylonia.

Here in the year 3000BC, when the King of the day – Gudea had its origin recorded on his terracotta cylinder scrolls, which still survived and are now held in the collections of The Louvre.

The story recorded on these cuneiform cylinders clearly proves that the double-headed eagle of Lagash is the oldest royal crest in the world. It was in use some 1000 years before the exodus from Egypt and more than 2000 years before the building of King Solomon’s Temple.

For those of you who still have access to a Masonic library and museum, I would highly recommend a visit when you can study the full detail provided by our erudite Brother.

Article by: Robert Bashford

Further Reading:

Read more on the symbolism and use of the double-headed eagle within other cultures

Discover Irish Freemasonry –

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