Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Escallope Shell

Since I was invited to join the Commemorative Order of Saint Thomas of Acon I was interested in the particular logo, the Escallope Shell. Last Saturday I was initiated into this Order and I have researched much on this peculiar emblem.

By definition, an escallope shell is a decoration in the form of a scallop shell. A scallop is a marine bivalve mollusks that has a radially ribbed shell with the edge undulated (as seen on the right). Shells, regardless of shape, are normally seen as a positive symbol and have been used throughout the history of man for various purposes.

According to Christian tradition, the scallop shell was an emblem of James the Greater and is a popularly used icon by pilgrims on the way to St. James shrine at Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The pilgrims would wear the scallop shell on their hat or clothing, as a mark of their pilgrimage, and later would become a symbol for any pilgrimage in general. One could also carry a scallop shell with and use it when asking for food as even the most poor should be able to afford to offer the pilgrim a scoop of food without burdening their own household so we see the shell emerge as a symbol of charity, even in the smallest way. The scallop shell is associated with this James as legend holds that a knight, or sometimes thought to be a bridegroom, fell into the ocean. Through the miraculous power of St. James (Santiago) the man emerged covered in scallops. To some pilgrims the shell's design symbolizes the many starting points from which medieval pilgrims may begin their journey and that all the roads, like the radial ribs on the shell, are drawn to a single point, the shrine of St. James.

Along with St. James the Greater, the scallop shell is also an emblem of his brother St. John the Evangelist, both of whom were early followers of St. John the Baptist and of Jesus Christ. Many early Christian artworks may show the Baptist pouring water from a scallop shell during Christ's baptism at the River Jordan.

The scallop shell is also a symbol of Baptism and one can also see that priests use scallop shell shaped dishes to poor water over the heads of the catechumen. A catechumen is one receives instruction from a catechist in the principles of the Christian religion with a view to baptism.

Shells have long been used throughout history which shows that Stone Age people used seashells to adorn their jewelry, homes, and boats. In many cultures shells were used as money or emblems of various pagan gods. In Roman mythology, shells were symbols of prosperity, regeneration, nurturing, and fertility for which reasons the shell is a representative of Venus, the goddess of love and fertility. Venus is said to be created from the foam carried ashore atop a scallop shell.

In the Order of St. Thomas of Acon, there are three types of escallope shells used to describe ones position: Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Those who wear Bronze shells are members or officers in the local Chapel. Those with Silver shells are Provincial Grand officers. Lastly, the Gold shells are worn by Grand officers. Each of these 3 metals has its own symbolic meanings. Like the symbolism of the shell, I will just cover the metal symbolism briefly as there are many avenues I could discuss with this subject.
Bronze: This metal is a dualistic symbol of human nature, wisdom, warfare, judgment, and humility.

Silver: Through its bright appearance this metal is emblematic of purity, truth, clarity, awareness, vision, and strength.

Gold: Considered the most precious metal, it represents divine nature, perfection, justice, power, strength, success, and immortality.
As Freemasons, let us remember that we start out as Bronze, malleable and impressionable, and through the tests of time, education, and with the guiding hand of God, may we be like the brilliant Silver that when the end of our days comes and we pass beyond the veil of mortality may we flourish in Golden immortality with Him who sits as Judge Supreme.


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2. A Few Christian Symbols and Their Meanings. (n.d.). Retrieved from Hope Evangelical Lutheran Church: http://www.hope.evangelical-lutheran.ca/symbols.htm 

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10. Gold. (n.d.). Retrieved from Symbolism Wiki: http://symbolism.wikia.com/wiki/Gold 

11. Mary and the Scallop Shell. (n.d.). Retrieved from University of Dayton: http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/questions/yq2/yq273.html 

12. Metal Symbolism. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Metal Craft: http://www.themetalcraft.net/p/metal-symbolism.html 

13. Saunders, T. (2010, February 14). The Pilgrim's Scallop Shell: A symbol of love...? Retrieved from Pilgrimage to Heresy: http://pilgrimagetoheresy.blogspot.com/2010/02/pilgrims-scallop-shell-symbol-of-love.html 

14. Scallop Shell Symbolism. (n.d.). Retrieved from University of Texas at Austin: Digital Writing and Research Lab: http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~bump/images/arch/shells/Shellsymbolism.htm 

15. Scallop: Symbolism. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scallop#Symbolism 

16. Seashell: Religion and Spirituality. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seashell#Religion_and_spirituality 

17. Venefica, A. (2007, November 1). Symbolism of Silver. Retrieved from Symbolic Meanings: http://www.symbolic-meanings.com/2007/11/01/symbolism-of-silver/

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