Ashlar Chippings

New Master 

Making one’s very first toast to the Provincial Grand Master at Installation can be something of an ordeal.

As you would imagine I was very nervous, so the DC wrote down a few words on the back of an old Summons: the trouble was, he was a doctor and I took one look at the scrawl and said to him: Am I supposed to read this or take it three times a day?’

Veiled in Allegory and illustrated by Symbols


Allegory of true and false wisdom. Etching by J.G. Bergmüller
IMAGE LINKED: Wellcome Collection Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Allegory – A subject which recalls another by reason of its analogous context.

For instance, a bunch of grapes, because of the time of the year in which it is harvested, is symbolic or allegorical of Autumn.

Allegorical subjects were very popular during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The gods of classical mythology all had objects sacred to them.

The laurel was sacred to Apollo (Helios); the vine to Bacchus (Dionysius); the lightning bolt and the eagle to Jupiter (Zeus); the lionskin and club to Hercules (Hercules); and the caduceus to Mercury (Hermes), the names in brackets being the Greek equivalents of the Roman names first given.

These attributes, standing by themselves, were symbolic of the gods who bore them.

In Christian art both the lamb and the fish symbolized Jesus Christ.

Groups of this kind were termed trophies, Symbolism was carried to great lengths, especially in the eighteenth century, when sets of porcelain and bronze figures represented the Seasons, Continents, Elements (Earth, Fire Air and Water), and so on, the meaning of which could only be deduced from the symbols they carried.

Thus, flowers represented Spring; a sheaf of corn, Summer; grapes, Autumn; and a brazier, Winter. Everyone was expected to be sufficiently well acquainted with this kind of symbolism to be able to identify the meaning.

[George Savage, Dictionary of Antiques, as quoted in Symbolism in Craft Freemasonry by Bro Colin Dyer. In considering the need for symbolism and allegory, we should remember that literacy was far from universal in past times.]


Whilst visiting a Lodge in April 2012, the Master asked why it was taking so long to prepare a ballot. The ADC replied:

‘We seem to have lost our balls’.

Whereupon the Master said: ‘There’s no answer to that!’

The Lodge erupted!


A ballot box
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

*These ‘Chippings’ were featured in previous issues of The Square and are reproduced with permission of the author.

Article by: Hugh O'Neill

Hugh O'Neill

Past Master of Craft lodges under the constitution of the United Grand Lodge of England. Member of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076, the world’s premier Masonic research lodge. Masonic historian and orator on Masonic topics.



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