Memento Mori-Death and the Mysteries

From dust we came and to dust we all must return…

Masonic symbolism and ritual is riddled with images and symbols of our mortality. Why is this? Is it because the fraternity is morbid, or is there a deeper, philosophical reason behind it?

There are very few things that we can all be certain of in this world, but our mortality is not one of them. We all will inevitably come to an end and thus continue the infinite cycle of life. We have always been taught to fear death, ever since we were old enough to understand what it is. But do we really know what it is? The simple answer is “no”. Many mystical traditions teach that death is not the end, but the beginning of a new life. This concept caries through nearly every religious tradition up to the current day.

Death as a symbol is very powerful. It reminds us of the short time that we have here. When we face our mortality it has a profound effect on our consciousness. Not only does it remind us that we should make the most of our short time on earth and to do good in the world, but it also helps us accept that change is inevitable and that we should embrace the unknown. It is also symbolic of the endless cycle of the universe. The universe is constantly dying and being born again. It is this concept that brings us to symbolic death and rebirth.

We see this concept of death and rebirth in the majority of, if not all ancient religious traditions. We see this in the slaying of Osiris by Set and his Resurrection, by Jesus’s death and Resurrection, etc. It is the death of the material and the birth of the spiritual.   It is symbolic of a new start that an individual has after becoming enlightened, or saved. It also serves the reminder that we must do our best to live life to the fullest and not take anything for granted. With this rebirth, after a symbolic death, we are encouraged to start anew, with a new sense of obligation to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures.

The symbolism of Freemasonry contains many references to death, or Momento Mori. As previously discussed in my blog, the Chamber of Reflection is a perfect example of Masonic symbolism in which the individual is brought face to face with their own mortality. The Chamber consists of a dark room, lit only by candlelight, a table with various symbolic items including a skull, and an ink well and quill for writing a last will and testament. There is also a bible, or holy book that the candidate must read certain passages from that remind them of the importance of living a virtuous life.

Another instance of death symbolism in masonry is in the Legend of Hiram Abiff. Hiram Abiff is the craftsman that is brought in by King Solomon and Hiram, King of Tyre to adorn Solomon’s Temple. Hiram Abiff is given the keys to the mysteries by King Solomon and is the Master Craftsman of the Temple. He is later accosted by three ruffians who hope to obtain the secrets from him, but he refuses, as they are not ready to receive them yet. They end up taking his life. Hiram Abiff is eventually raised by King Solomon and resurrected, bringing the legend full-circle. It is through this legend as told in the Third Degree that the candidate is taught not to be greedy and to seek what is not entitled to them, but to also understand the virtue in secrecy. They are also taught that they must die a symbolic death, to be reborn as a new, spiritual being.

The trestle board or tracing board (a wooden board with symbols on it) that is used for the Third Degree has a coffin and a skull on it. These symbols are representative of Momento Mori, and of the death of the material that the initiate is to go through on their path to finding Light.

To the casual observer these symbols may be grim, or even frightening, but to the initiate they take on much more positive and reaffirming concepts that can be a constant reminder of the impermanence of life and the importance of living with fervency and zeal and being constantly ready to alleviate the suffering of others in any way possible. In doing so, our existence can be etched into the fabric of time as our charity extends beyond the grave.

3rd Degree Tracing Board

 

Here is another article that I found that relates. Hope you enjoy!

The Skull and Crossbones and it’s Masonic Application

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Venus Rising

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Right as dusk is overtaken by the night, a bright object becomes strikingly visable in the sky. What is that radiant object on the western horizon that shines like a star? Is it a star? Actually, no. It is the planet of Venus in it’s most visible state of the year. During the month of November, Venus is at it’s brightest moment. It was known in ancient times as the “evening star”(or the “morning star” depending on what cycle it was in). Venus is the only planet in our solar system named after a female figure. In Ancient Greece, there was a deity name Aphrodite that was the Goddess of Love. This character was used later in Roman mythology as the deity Venus. She was a symbol of femininity and love. Our fellow planet Venus being her namesake. This divine feminine character has been perpetuated in all great traditions in one way or another. Ancient Egypt has Isis, who represented the same attributes. Roman philosopher, Pliny the Elder, once claimed that Venus was the Roman equivalent of Isis. This sacred feminine spirit even finds it’s way into Christianity today with the Virgin Mary. What these women-figures represent is pureness and love. They represent the caring side of our consciousness that we so often lose touch with.

Robert Lomas explains a special significance given to Venus in his book “Turning the Solomon Key“. He explains that George Washington, along with Pierre Charles L’Enfant, set out to design the new capital city of Washington D.C. with certain stellar alignments at work. This tradition of stellar alignment goes back to time-immemorial and has been used by all great civilizations. They laid out the city planning with Sacred Geometry in mind, as well as the implement of an alignment of Venus with the Capitol building. Once every eight years, when rising on the easter horizon, Venus aligns perfectly with the point on top of the Capitol building’s dome. This alignments was a symbolic way of blessing the city with the divinity of Venus. It was also thought to imbue the city with the power of good and balance needed to create a working democracy. This is a far cry from what conspiracy theorists have said about the Capitol City!

The symbol for Venus is the same symbol that is used to denote the female gender. The symbol consists of a cross with a circle on top of it. images This is the very same symbol used in alchemy to represent copper. Copper is a powerful conductor and is abundant in the earth. It is one of the most widely used metals on the planet. It is primarily abundant at the earth’s core. Our planet is often referred to as the feminine deity of “Gaia” or “Mother Earth”. It would make sense that this metal would be associated with the feminine deity of Venus as well. The Greeks also referred to Venus as “Phosphorus”, which meant the “bringer of light”. It just so happens that phosphorus is a widely used element in Physical Alchemy.

In Latin, the term for Venus was a “lucifer“, which meant “shining one”, “light-bringer” or “morning star”. Venus also appears on the eastern horizon when it is not in the west. The term “lucifer” became the name for the fallen angel in the bible. As Venus rises on the western horizon, it appears before the light of all of the other stars of the sky can be seen. It therefore, has the appearance of falling from, or being detached from the heavens. Despite the fact that the name Lucifer is only mentioned once in archaic versions of the Bible, and was meant to be a reference to the King of Babylon, it has become synonymous with Satan in our modern society. This is a long-standing misinterpretation which has caused so much confusion and so many problems. One such major issue that it has caused is in it’s misinterpretation from an infamous hoax, started by Leo Taxil. Leo Taxil, who was an infamous hoax artist, played a prank on Freemasonry that is still the fodder of anti-masonic sentiment, even to the present day. Lampooning Freemasonry and the Roman Catholic churches opposition to Masonry was the intention of the Taxil Hoax. Taxil accused the Freemasons and the Catholic church of working together in satanic bonds. This hoax was perpetuated by Taxil until, after converting to Catholocism, he decided he should revoke his statements. He came out publicly and admitted that it was all a fabrication. Unfortunately, the damage to Freemasonry was permanent. Anti-masonic groups use this very hoax against Masonry to the present day. This, along with the misinterpretation of the term “lucifer”, just goes to show how far a misunderstanding can go. Venus to the ancients was looked at as representing love, light and beauty, yet the term lucifer which was given for Venus has been turned into something that represents darkness and Satanism. What a mess!

The bright evening star or morning star, depending on what cycle Venus is in, has obvious significance. Whether we realize it or not, our lives are being effected by it’s presence in our skies. Through this month of November, we should take notice of this brilliantly-shining planet and revel in it’s beauty and think of it in the way the ancients did. As a symbol of purity and love. We should take this purity and love and apply it in our own lives. Passing their beauty to all fellow creatures. This is our own way to become a bright light, lighting our way through the dawn’s and dusk’s of our lives.

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