Scottish Witchcraft And The Third Degree

Most Scottish Freemasons will bristle with indignation on reading the title of this piece. However, it is a theory tentatively proposed many years ago by two of the best and brightest Masonic scholars of all time.

Douglas Knoop and Gwilym Peredur Jones, (who published as G.P. Jones) were both Professors of Economics at the University of Sheffield.

G.P. Jones was not a member of the Craft, but Knoop was an active Freemason, and together they wrote extensively on the history of Freemasonry. They are still widely quoted today, and as a Past Master of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Research, No. 2076, widely considered the foremost Masonic research Lodge in the world, Knoop might be considered a member of the ‘authentic’ school of Masonic research.

However, when discussing another school of Masonic research, the ‘imaginative’ school, Knoop and Jones write:

Actually, the imaginative school did not consist of writers utterly careless as to their facts, nor ought the verification of facts, which is characteristic of the authentic school, to be considered sufficient in itself and as excluding all need of imagination. Imagination as a substitute for facts is useless: as a guide to facts it may be invaluable.

In their 1947 book The Genesis of Freemasonry, Knoop and Jones, whilst considering changes in the practice of communicating the ‘Mason Word’ over the centuries, displayed a degree of imagination by allowing themselves to speculate on the origins of the five points of fellowship, as contained within the third degree. They state in that book:

As a possible explanation of seventeenth-century development, we would suggest, though only tentatively, that the five points of fellowship may have originated in practices connected with witchcraft or some other superstition, of which there was then no lack in Scotland.

In a footnote, they reference an incident from Perth, Scotland in 1623:

The 16th day of May 1623, Patrick Ruthven, skinner in Perth, compared and declared that he being bewitched by a Margaret Hornscleugh. Isobel Haldane came to see him; she came into the bed, and stretched herself above him, her head to his head, her hands over him and so forth, mumbling some words; he knew not what they were. The said Isobel confessed the said cure and deponed that before the said Patrick was witched, she met him and forbade him to go until she had gone with him.

Whether this Patrick Ruthven was a member, of at least a cadet branch of the noble Ruthven family of Perth is not known; but the latter were themselves posthumously (and falsely) accused of witchcraft, and stripped of their lands, titles and privileges, following an alleged failed attempt by John Ruthven (styled the Earl of Gowrie) and his brother Alexander, to abduct or murder King James VI, at Gowrie House, Perth, on 5 August, 1600.

This incident is however shrouded in mystery and intrigue. The Ruthven family had certainly been noted for their interest in alchemy and other esoteric subjects over several generations.

It is possible that Knoop and Jones were closer to the truth concerning the genesis of Freemasonry than they themselves realised.

Editor’s Note:
The Genesis of Freemasonry by Douglas Knoop and G.P. Jones is out of print but second-hand copies are available from Abe Books

Article by: Kenneth C. Jack

 Kenneth C. JackPast Master of a Craft Lodge, Past First Principal of a Royal Arch Chapter, Past Most-Wise Sovereign of a Sovereign Chapter of Princes Rose Croix.

Member of Sovereign Council, AASR, 30°, the Red Cross of Constantine, Royal Order of Scotland, Societas Rosicruciana in Scotia,V°, Order of the Secret Monitor, Masonic Knights Templar, Free Gardeners...etc.

Extensively published in various Masonic periodicals throughout the world including: The Ashlar, The Square, The Scottish Rite Journal, Masonic Magazine, Philalethes Journal. Also published in the private annual transactions of several Masonic bodies.

Recent Articles: Kenneth C. Jack

Charles Mackay: Freemason, Journalist, Writer

Kenneth Jack looks at life of Bro Charles Mackay: Freemason, Journalist, Writer, Poet; and Author of ‘Tubal Cain’.

more....

Sir Robert Moray

A Mother Lodge and a Connection Uncovered, a claim that Sir Robert Moray was the first speculative Freemason to be initiated on English soil.

more....

Freemasonry & Fraternalism

What is it that connects a very old, well-known Crieff family, with a former President of the United States of America?

more....

Bro. Andrew Petrie Cattanach

The life of Bro. Cattanach, a theosophist occultist and Scottish Freemason

more....

The Mysterious Walled Garden of Edzell Castle

Explore the mysterious walled garden steeped in Freemasonry, Rosicrucianism, and Hermeticism.

more....

Dr. George Dickson: Scottish Freemason and Occultist

Bro. Kenneth explores the life of Dr George Dickson a Scottish Freemason and Occultist

more....

Freemasonry in the Works of John Steinbeck

We examine Freemasonry in the Works of John Steinbeck

more....

Renegade Scottish Freemason

Who was John Crombie and why was he a 'renegade'?

more....

The Colour Purple - Its Derivation and Masonic Significance

What is the colour purple with regards to Freemasonry? The colour is certainly significant within the Royal Arch series of degrees being emblematical of Union.

more....

Bro. Edward Macbean

Edward MacBean bridging mainstream Freemasonry with the fringe esoteric branches of Freemasonry

more....

Scottish Witchcraft And The Third Degree

How is Witchcraft connected to the Scottish Third Degree

more....

The Author - an ode

By Bro. Anthony Oneal Haye (1838-1877), Past Poet Laureate, Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2, Edinburgh.

more....

Masonic Research in England c1930

An article which appeared in an American Masonic magazine, c1930 and which was reproduced in England, provoking a little controversy.

more....

masonic knowledge

making good men better

share the square with two brothers

click image to open email app on mobile device

Share this article ....