We meet in our Lodge room so often that it’s easy to take for granted the things that we see around us and what takes place.
There are times however when those who are new to Freemasonry or who are getting more interested in what we do want to know what certain things are or why they happen as they do
Everything in the Masonic Ritual has a reason or a hidden meaning that we have to root out, in order to understand why we do what we do.
On the South coast of England, in the county of Sussex, near the Town of Wilmington, there is carved into the hillside the figure of a man with his arms outstretched and in each hand he holds an Asherah or staff.
The figure is 125 Feet high. Nobody knows who carved it there, but it is known to be several thousand years old.
The word ASHERAH is the name given to the wooden staff, approx 6 foot in length which was carried by the attendants to the high priests in ancient times and was the insignia of their office.
One of these things we so easily take for granted is why Deacons and the Directors of Ceremonies have something similar Wands.
Wands didn’t suddenly appear from nowhere. Here’s an explanation for why and where they are today.
Before the magnetic compass had been invented, in the past all holy and sacred buildings had to be set out due East and West with the aid of two Asherah’s, and King Solomon’s Temple was no different. And of course our Ancient Brethren the Master Masons, were setting out our Churches and Cathedrals.
At the spot where the altar was to be, one of the attendants was instructed to place his Asherah on that spot. (Note: In a Lodge meeting…I would have the Senior Deacon hold his Wand vertical in front of the WM’s Pedestal)
When the sun rose above the horizon, the rays from the sun would strike the Asherah, and send a long thin shadow toward the West. Note: In a Lodge meeting…I then would have the Junior Deacon hold his Wand vertical in front of the SW Pedestal)
The other attendant would then place his Asherah on the other end of the shadow, that would designate the center line of the proposed tabernacle. East West.
And so the Asherah, being the very first tool or implement to be made use of at the laying out of the Holy Buildings, makes them of extreme importance from a Masonic historical point of view/ and as such SHOULD or even MUST should be carried at all times as the insignia of the office of Deacons. and in particular when conducting a candidate.
As with the very name of this office, the source of our practice lies in what took place in the old parish churches of our land
The 2 Principal lay officers of each local Church had for a thousand years been called the Wardens, which name came from the old Northern French word ‘Wardein’ meaning ‘to protect’ or ‘to Guard’ and was the word the Anglo Saxons used.
The Wardens protected the rights of the people in the church and as a sign of their authority, they were given Rods which were later called ‘Wands’.
To this day the Wardens in a local Anglican Church carry wands when on duty.
In the Middle Ages the lodge of stonemasons on a working site was ruled by a Warden who protected the rights of the working craftsmen and as a sign of his authority he too had a Rod.
When the Masons created their Trade Guild, they followed the custom of having a Master instead of the Rector as in a Church, and they had two Wardens, and all three of them had Wands.
Eventually this practice was also adopted in guild lodges and that is why when the guild and lodge separated the custom of having a Master and two Wardens remained.
In some old lodges the Wands were further adorned with a cross for the Master Moon for the Senior Warden and a Sun for the Junior Warden. The cross originally represented Christ the head or cornerstone.
The Moon represented the close of the day, and the Sun at the meridian. After the 1813 Union the new form of ceremonial encouraged by the Duke of Sussex, required that the three principal offices of a lodge should not leave their places as they had done in the previous century
The office of Deacon which had been introduced into some of the Atholl, or Antients Lodges as assistants at the table mainly for help with eating, drinking or bearing messages from the Master,were now given the duty of attending on Candidates, which had previously been discharged by the Wardens.
To show that they were now acting with the authority of the Wardens, they were given the Wands of those Senior officers, and that is why, to this day in the Grand Lodge rooms at Queen Street in London England, and in Sunderland and, Durham, you will see the Deacons carrying wands that have a Sun and Moon on them. This proves to whom those wands really belong.
What is more it is when we understand how the Deacons originally behaved that we appreciate why at the opening of a Lodge they are described as those who carry messages from the Master to the Wardens.
It is only at the Installation that they are told of their further tasks of attending on the Candidates.
It is only right that we should know why the Wands held by the Deacons no longer have a Sun and Moon.
In some 18th century lodges the knowledge of the classics, suggested that the figure of the messenger of the gods Mercury was a most apt symbol, just because he carried messages and did so with promptness.
Hence many lodges still have wands with his figure on them.
Since the dove was the creature that symbolized peace, and was also the messenger that showed Noah a leaf of a tree emerging from the subsiding flood, this was adopted as the most common new attachment to the wands.
Whilst these latter symbols accurately represent part of the Deacons’ tasks they have obscured the original source of the wand’s authority. At least we can now see them being used and appreciate better their significance.
What is even more intriguing is the fact that because the Worshipful Master was also not allowed to move from his place, his Wand or Rod was given to a new post Union Officer the Director of Ceremonies.
He was the one who now controlled the work on the floor of the Lodge made sure that all the officers were present and accompanied or even introduced any special visitors on their entry.
It is worth noting that it was not intended that he should ever take charge of the gavel, which was placed in the hands of the Worshipful Master at his Installation.
As another matter of interest, it should be noted that just as the original Rod or Wand of a church rectorwas surmounted by a cross, so the Wand entrusted to the Director of Ceremonies from the Master, still has a cross at its top.
It is also worth noting that the first conductors of an orchestra were provided with a wand, but as this in time became unwieldy, it was duly shortened to a baton or stick.
When visiting you may see some Directors of Ceremonies now have a Baton rather than a Wand.
As in the Queensman Lodge 2694, that meets at Grand Lodge in London, it’s part of the Military Circuit of Lodges, and the DC is a former RSM, and he has a Regimental Baton at the Festive Board. In the end the authority it symbolises is the Master’s and not just that of the D.C.
The latter always needs to remember whom he serves.
It is therefore easy to understand why Provincial Stewards carry rods without any adornment on the top, as they do not hold an Office in the Lodge they are visiting.
W.Bro.Ron Baker PPAGDC(Bucks) United Grand Lodge of England.