A great many of our Masonic ceremonies, and the paraphernalia associated with them, have their origins in the distant past, in ancient mystery rites of thousands of years ago, as well as in the customs and practices of the operative building masons of the middle ages.
In the ancient mythologies of Greece and Rome, Mercury (in the Greek, Hermes) was "the winged messenger of Jove" who carried the messages and commands of the chief Deity to the four corners of the heavens. As an
In the Ancient Mysteries, the Herald, who conducted the candidates through the ceremonies of Initiation, always carried a wand surmounted by the figure of the caduceus of Mercury, and to it was attributed the power to ward off the spirits of evil which might impede the progress of those in search of the spirit of light and good. Even in the present day some religious denominations carry a crucifix in processions which is presumed to have the same effect.
It was the custom in the medieval building age for a selected Craftsman to be entrusted with the task of carrying the messages and instructions of the Master Mason, or Architect of the building, to the various departments of the work and to see that they were correctly and punctually executed. In the ceremonies within the Lodge he carried out similar duties as assigned to him by the Master Mason, and in the period of Transition from Operative to Speculative Freemasonry his duties included the introduction and conducting of candidates who were being "made Masons," and the performance of various acts similar to the work of Deacons today.
In the early Speculative period the Deacon's wand was surmounted by the caduceus, and in some foreign Grand Lodges it is still used as the insignia of the Deacons and the emblem on their wands. Towards the latter part of the eighteenth century Christian influences were instrumental in substituting the dove, the present emblem, as more appropriate to Biblical concepts of the messenger than the pagan symbol of Mercury.
Even outside the Craft wands are not unusual as British marks of office. Church wardens and sheriffs carry them, as do certain officials in the houses of parliament. They add to the dignity of our ceremonies in the Lodge and have their use in forming the square within which candidates are obligated, and Grand Lodge officers are received and honoured. Our new Brother will note, therefore, that like many other usages and customs associated with the Craft, there is a wealth of ancient symbolism even in such a simple thing as the Deacon's wand. The deeper significance becomes more apparent, too, when we realize that a symbolic sense the Wor. Master in the Lodge represents the G.A.O.T.U. the Light of the East. It will be interesting to note also that in some parts of the British Isles it is still the custom for the Wor. Master to send his Deacon bearing a special message of invitation to the hotel or residence of a visiting Brother for his attendance at Lodge. Many Brethren from British Columbia who visited the Old Land were very appreciative of this rather unusual form of Masonic courtesy.
R.J. Bushby, PM
Mt. St. Paul Lodge 109
Well, we know that they use them to form an arch over a visiting dignitary when escorting him into lodge, but what other uses are there.
It was suggested at one practice that the wands be left behind when conducting a candidate as they just get in the way, and I, as D. of C. ,very foolishly, was inclined to agree. But everything in the Masonic ritual has a reason or a hidden meaning that we have to root out so that we understand why we do what we do.
The word asherah is the name given to the wooden staff, approx. 6' in length which was carried by the attendants to the high priests in ancient times and was the insignia of their office.
The wooden staffs were named for the Goddess Asherah who was the mother of twins Shachar and Shalem who were respectively the God of Dawn and the God of dusk. That is significant as will become apparent later.
The word deacon is a derivation from a Greek word which in translation means attendant.
So two deacons with wands are the equivalent of two attendants with asherahs. In the J.W. lecture it states that a Masonic lodge is situated due east and west for three reasons.
1st - The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Remember Shachar and Shalem the Gods of dawn and dusk, sunrise/sunset, there is a connection there.
2nd - We'll put that one aside as it has no significance here.
3rd - The tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon were so situated. We'll take the tabernacle of Moses because he and his followers were always on the move, and it provides a great example of the use of the Asherah.
All holy or sacred buildings at that time were situated due east and west and the tabernacle of Moses was no different except that Moses and his followers were on the move for 40 years. So the tabernacle, which was of course a tent, had to be dismantled and re-erected every time they moved, and at the rebuilding it had to be situated due east and west.. So Moses and his two attendants, complete with asherahs, would go to the chosen site where the tabernacle was to be erected just before dawn, accompanied by the heavy gang who were going to do the erecting. Moses would then choose the spot where the altar was to be and instruct one of the attendants to place his asherah on that spot. When the sun rose above the horizon, the rays from the sun would strike the asherah and send a long thin shadow towards the west. The other attendant would then place his asherah on the other end of the shadow and that would designate the centre line of the proposed tabernacle. The heavy gang would then move in and erect the tabernacle with the altar at the east end and the entrance at the west end.
Just as an aside, that is the way that all lodges were set out, with the altar in the east directly in front of the W.M.. The idea of having the altar in the centre of the lodge is a fairly recent one and I think is peculiar to North America. However, that's by the way and is of no importance here.
Obviously, the magnetic compass had not been invented at that time so all holy and sacred buildings had to be set out with the aid of two asherahs and K.S. temple was no different.
And so, the asherah, being the very first tool or implement to be made use of at the building of the temple makes them of extreme importance from a Masonic historical point of view, and as such should be carried at all times as the insignia of the office of the deacons and in particular when conducting a candidate.
And that brethren is why the deacons carry wands.
From the “Traveling Templar” Blog
(The below is written from an American point of view but will still be of interest to our readers. Ed.)
There is so much symbolism within Freemasonry and often we overlook some of it that is plain sight. Some often have questions, but never really ask as to why we use it. One such question surrounds the use of the staffs by the Senior and Junior Deacons. These officers as well as the Stewards and Marshall carry a staff or a similar implement. Some of our ceremonies, regalia, rituals, and symbols can be traced back to ancient days, the medieval days of Operative Masonry, and some through the evolution of our degrees during the early years of Speculative Freemasonry.
The word "deacon" comes from the Greek word "diakonos" meaning servant, attendant, or messenger. This definition is appropriate to these officers as they serve as the messenger of the Worshipful Master and Wardens. The duties may change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but a realistic look at their duties is as follows. The Senior Deacon, who sits as the messenger between the Worshipful Master and Senior Warden, introduces and accommodates visitors; conducts and guides new candidates during the rituals; attends at the altar during the opening and closing ceremonies; and takes control of the ballot box. The Junior Deacon, the messenger between the Wardens, attends to all alarms at the door; ensures the security of the Lodge alongside the Tyler; and assists during the initiation and opening/closing rituals (a bit different from here in Victoria. Ed.).
In the early years of Speculative Freemasonry, not all Lodges had Deacons and if they did they may not have had the same duties as they do now. In some Lodges the Deacon was the presiding officer while the Wardens often served as the financial officer. During the Great Schism, the rivalry period between the Antients and the Moderns, the former had Deacons while the latter had Stewards (there were some exceptions as there always is). With the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the Lodge of Promulgation recommended the adoption of both the Deacons and Stewards as they were seen as useful and necessary. Through a succession of the ages we now have two Deacons as we see them today.
Both of the Deacons carry staffs. The name of these implements may change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Looking at history, Deacons were associated with columns, but around 1822 the Wardens took over the columns as the symbol of their office while the Deacons were given the staffs. The tops of the staffs have changed and do vary with each jurisdiction. The tops are also the jewels of the office, which today is the sun for the Senior Deacon and moon for the Junior Deacon, both within the Square & Compasses. In the early years of the UGLE, the staffs were topped by pine cones, but this would then change to doves that are also seen as messengers. The dove was also a symbol of peace and harmony, and the Deacons should remember they are officers of peace. One can see this during the initiation when the Senior Deacon is escorting the candidate. The Senior Deacon places himself between the candidate and the Altar, thus protecting the Altar from the uninitiated man, but once the candidate becomes a Master Mason, the Senior Deacon moves to his left side.
The use of staffs by officers is very symbolic and has been used in a variety of cultures. The most obvious use is by the Greek god, Hermes, who was the messenger of the gods, just as the Deacons are the messengers within the Lodge, and who carried the caduceus. This wand was used to ward off evil and to ensure that he was unimpeded in his journey. Carrying a staff is a mark of authority and we see this with the king's scepter, the bishop's or verger's staff, the mace of Parliament, and, Biblically, with the staff of Moses. Now we can't talk about the Deacon's staffs without talking about the rods that are carried by the Stewards of the Lodge as one of the origin theories of these implements surrounds the Stewards of the King in England. These Stewards carried a white rod which was a symbol of their authority appointed by the King. Other officers carried rods such as the usher of the Lord Chamberlain's department who carried a black rod.
One such theory that caught my eye was from the works of Bro. Bill Douglas. In his 2001 article, he talks about a hillside carving that is located on the south coast of England. In Sussex County near Wilmington is what is known as the "Long Man of Wilmington" which displays a man with arms outstretched and in each hand he holds a staff or "asherah". This figure stands 125-feet tall. The word "asherah" refers to wooden columns or staffs that represented the goddess Asherah. These were 6-feet in length and were carried by attendants of priests and stood as the insignia of their office. The goddess Asherah was the mother of twins named Shachar, the god of dawn, and Shalem, the god of dusk. Thus we see a connection to Masonry as the Deacons carry staff, one with the sun and sits in the East, representing the rising Sun or dawn; and the Junior Deacon with the moon as the jewel of his office to represent the end of the day or dusk.
Bro. Bill also makes a reference to Moses' Tabernacle. We learn in the 1st degree that all Lodges are a representation of King Solomon's Temple which was an exact model for the Tabernacle erected by Moses, which was situated due East and West to commemorate the East wind which assisted in the exodus of the Jews out of the land of Egypt. The tabernacle was not a permanent building, but a tent that was dismantled and erected each time the Jews moved through the Wilderness. Prior to dawn the attendants would go to the chosen site and one of them would place the staff or asherah on the spot. When the sun rose, it would send a shadow towards the western horizon. The second attendant would then place his staff at the other end of the shadow. This line would designate the center line of the tabernacle.
The Deacons serve as proxies for the Worshipful Master and Senior Warden. While the Junior Deacon carries messages to the Junior Warden it really is the Senior Warden who he represents and assists; the Junior Warden has the Stewards to assist him in a variety of roles. The staffs have been decorated to represent the Deacons role in the Lodge as messengers and protectors of peace and harmony. Those who serve as Deacons need to knowledge, vigilant, and steadfast that they may be able to perform their duties with impressive zeal