Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Chough

Today marks 1-year since I was initiated into the Commemorative Order of St. Thomas of Acon. The meet was quick with an exemplification of the ritual and I was asked to be Secretary for my Chapel. I look forward to this experience as this is my first Secretary position within a Masonic organization.

The history of this order is named after Thomas a Becket who was assassinated at the order of King Henry II and was a knighthood started in the crusades. Today order is headquartered out of England with provincial bodies around the world, the largest being the US. Knights wear a mantle and tunic, both of whom are white, with a red cross superimposed by a white cross, and ornamented with an escallop shell. For those knights who have performed the pilgrimage to the Canterbury Cathedral, a knight is entitled to wear the Badge of a Pilgrim on the right shoulder of the mantle. The Badge of a Pilgrim is three coughs upon a shield, two and one; the Choughs are black with red feet and beaks.

The Red-billed Chough is far strung bird as it breeds in the United Kingdom, Southern Europe, the Mediterranean, the Alps, and in some areas throughout Central Asia. It prefers to live in high mountains, but has also been spotted along coastal cliffs during breeding season. Etymologically the word chough is a combination of "ċēo" (an Old English word used to describe a jay, crow, and jackdaw) and "ceahhe" (an Old English word for daw)

The Chough makes an appearance in Greek mythology as well as Arthurian mythology. In the Grecian mythology, the Chough is known as the "sea-crow" and was considered sacred by the Titan Cronus and was said to be an inhabitant of Calypso's Blessed Island. In Cornish legend, King Arthur did not die after his last battle, but transformed into a Red-billed Chough. The legs and beak were red in memory of the last battle and, for which reason, killing a Chough was considered extremely unlucky.

I hope one day to make my pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral and earn this badge. I look forward to what experiences I will have in this chivalric order. Now to go through the transition period. [dramatic music]

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ye Antiente Order of Corks

At the Masonic Week held each year around the DC area there are many degrees and honors conferred and bestowed. One of those that I attended was Ye Antient Order of Corks, often referred to as "The Corks". This degree is considered to be a fun and social degree. This group is open to Master Masons who have also advanced through the Royal Arch or have served as Warden or Master of a Blue Lodge.

The name and principle logo of the order is a cork stopper seen primarily with wine bottles, and is often seen with a corkscrew inserted at an angle. Members are required to carry a cork in their pockets and if requested by another member need to be able to produce it on demand. If one is incapable to produce the cork, then he must pay a fine, which can be paid to the Treasurer of his Lodge to be used for charitable purposes.

It is unsure where the ceremony of this degree originated, but what records do exist are in the hands of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England. This however does not prove that the degree originated with this body, only that the records are currently in their possession. The ritual today is a satirical in nature and based around the era of Noah and the great flood. The intent is for members to have some fun while raising money for children's charities.

Titles of the officers vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In England the titles have a naval twist, but in America the Corks fall under the Allied Masonic Degrees and have two head officers: Grand Bung of the Americas and Grand Bung of the USA. These two are assisted by other appointed officers. While this body is open to those who meet the above mentioned requirements, it falls under the authority of the Allied Masonic Degrees in the USA.

References

1. Hochberg, J. (2014, February 19). Appendant Bodies. Retrieved from The Masonic Trowel: http://www.themasonictrowel.com/Articles/apendent_bodies/general/appendant_bodies.htm

2. Ye Ancient Order of Corks. (n.d.). Retrieved from Allied Masonic Degrees: http://www.alliedmasonicdegrees.org/cork.htm

3. Ye Antient Order of Noble Corks. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ye_Antient_Order_of_Noble_Corks

4. Ye Antiente Order of Corks. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA: http://www.allied-masonicdegrees.org/corks/

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jacques De Molay - 700 Years Later


Today marks the 700th anniversary since the day the last Grand Master, Jacques De Molay of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon was burned alive by order of the tyrant, King Phillip of France.


The Templars were famously arrested in France on iday, October 13th, 1307. Many were tortured and killed, to include the Grand Master, but after 7-years the commission of Cardinals decided for lifelong imprisonment. The Grand Master, and some of his senior officers, were paraded around in public by the French King, but in one last act of defiance the Grand Master and officers declared they were only guilty of betraying their Order by giving into torture and confessing to these false charges. The King was so enraged by it all that he did not wait for Papal approval, but isntead pronounced that De Molay and De Charney were relapsed heretics to be burnt at the stake. A pyre was set up on a small island on the Seine near Notre Dame. From my article 2012 article on Jacques De Molay I briefly discusses the manner in which he was murdered:
Contrary to the belief of the conventional "burning stake/pyre", it could not have been a stake with wood and accelerant at the base as the victim would die within minutes from asphyxiation. The fire and heat would rise and the flames would be swallowed, burning the lungs, and soon filling with fluid thereby causing asphyxiation. For De Molay to have lasted for a while and slowly burn, it would have required a pyre built by a stake in the center with a ring of fire, most likely hot coals, around it (think of the point within a circle as a diagram), which would cause an oven effect cooking him slowly and burning him from the feet up.
Before yielding his life to the flame, cursed the Pope and King, saying his and his fellow's deaths would be avenged, and that both, the Pope and the King, would join him in the Afterlife. The end of of De Molay and the end of the Templars has been the beginning of many conspiracy theories and stories that survive to this day.

Let us remember this man and all who lost their lives by the hands of tyrants and remember the warnings against fanaticism and fascism that this event teaches us.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Get out your green and grab a beer! It's St. Patrick's Day! Although favored as a day of drinking and celebration, this day is rooted in a Feast Day for Saint Patrick of Ireland to remember this historical figure and the introduction of Christianity into Ireland.

Saint Patrick was a Romano-British Christian missionary and bishop in Ireland, who also is referred to as the "Apostle of Ireland", and is one of Ireland's Patron Saints. He was born around 387 AD, depending on the source, in either England or Scotland, and lived until around 460 AD; it is mostly commonly believed that he died on March 17th for which reason this day is celebrated as a holiday.

Much of his early life is unknown, but from two authenticated letters, referred to as Confessio and Epistola, from Patrick that state some details about his life. He was born to Calpurnius and Conchessa who were Romans living in Britain. When he was 16-years old, he was captured from his home in England by pagan raiders and taken to Ireland where he would serve for 6-years as a slave before escaping and returning to his family. He would eventually become a cleric with the Roman Catholic Church and return to Ireland as an ordained Bishop around 432 AD.

By the time of the 7th century he would be revered as the Patron Saint of Ireland. The rest of his life is available through sources that are highly debated as they sometimes speak about two Patricks. Some theories suggest that Patrick was known as Palladius who was sent to Ireland to ensure the exiled Pelagians (a Christian sect that denied Original Sin) did not reestablish themselves among the Irish Christians and minister to the existing Christian communities.

Going back to the two letters of Patrick, the Confessio or Declaration is the more important of the two. It gives an account of some of his early life. He was born in Roman controlled Britain (although Rome would fall in a few decades) in an area called Banna Venta Berniae; the actual location is not known today, but is thought to be in Cumbria. This letter states that his father was named Calpornius who was a Deacon and his grandfather, Potitus, was a priest; at this time the Church did not prohibit priests from marrying or having kids. The letter continues with his captivity in Ireland where he served as a herdsman and his faith grew. He attributes his escape to divine assistance through a vision he had:
I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us."
Much of the rest of this document surrounds charges levied against him accusing him of financial impropriety (taking gifts and being paid for his ecclesiastical duties) and of course he denied these charges. He also speaks of his missionary work where he converted many, even some of the wealthy classes who still held on to their pagan roots.

Christian priests were not protected and often were beaten, robbed, arrested, and executed for exercising their duties. A clan chieftain attempted to kill him, but through his piety he won the pagan over which is said to be near Erin. This place is said to have been location to the first sanctuary dedicated by St. Patrick. This sanctuary would be a common retreat for St. Patrick and a church and monastery that was later built there. Today this place is known as Sabhall or Saul.

The second letter known as the Epistola, or Letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus, opens with a declaration of Saint Patrick stating that he has excommunicated Coroticus because he had put into slavery many of Patrick's converts. Coroticus is believed to be King Ceretic of Alt Clut (modern Dumbarton in the West-Central lowlands of Scotland); although this is contested. Some believe that this letter is what provoked the charges spoken in the other letter.

Although the theory of two Patrick's causes confusion, modern historians believed that the man that would be known as Saint Patrick died on March 17th, 460 AD in Saul. It is believed, but never proven, that he is buried at Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down (NE Ireland, UK).

Neither of the two letters that give details of his life gives dates, but the information therein contained can be dated. Other annals were written, but some of them were either based off of older writings or lost writings so their information cannot be verified or authenticated. Some give the name Cothirtacus which translates eventually into Patricius. Some writings portray him as a martial figure battling against pagans and false idols, but some of these writings contradict his own letters.

As I stated above, Saint Patrick was considered the "Apostle of Ireland" as he is credited with teaching the Irish about the Holy Trinity by showing the people the shamrock which he used to illustrate the Christian teachings of 3 persons in one God. This is why the shamrock is a primary symbol on St. Patrick's Day. The shamrock was used in Ireland prior to St. Patrick's adaption by many of the older polytheistic religions.

Ireland is well-known for there being no snakes present. Legend has risen to credit St. Patrick with this phenomenon. According to legend, he chased the snakes into the sea after he was attacked during a 40-day fasting. However, it is seen that Ireland never had snakes due to its climate and location in the world. Some believe theorize that the legend is allegorical in that snakes were seen as symbols for druids and that by bringing and spreading the message of Christ, he "banished the snakes from the island".

This Feast Day was officially recognized by the Catholic Church in the early 17th century, though it was celebrated much earlier by the Irish. It used to be common practice for people to wear a cross (often made of paper) on St. Patrick's Day; the most common cross associated with St. Patrick was the cross pattée. Originally the color most associated with St. Patrick was blue, but over the years the color green became associated with this Saint, most likely due to the shamrock and St. Patricks use of it to spread religious teachings among the natives. It has grown today to wearing green clothing.

St. Patrick has resonated greatly within the Irish culture ranging from traditional folklore and legends to a patriotic and national symbol, particularly in Catholic Ireland. A variety of parades and celebrations are performed on this day, and I hope everyone enjoys this day.

References

1. Moran, P.F. (1911). St. Patrick. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved March 15, 2014 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11554a.htm

2. Saint Patrick. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick

3. St. Patrick. (n.d.). Retrieved from Catholic Online: http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=89

4. Saint Patrick's Day. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Patrick's_Day

5. St. Patrick. (n.d.). Retrieved from Biography: http://www.biography.com/people/st-patrick-9434729

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Initiate

By Bernard Sexton

A youth who tracked unspoken mysteries
Worshipping beauty in a lost retreat,
Saw the vast inarticulate wonder of the world
And watching from a high, star-drenched, ultimate crag
He cried aloud to the vast unhearing hills, he spoke to Masters unseen--
"Power I would have of the swinging glory of words and the rushing wonder of song!" 

Thereat a wild wandering music drifted as wind thru his soul,
And he felt the dim virginal rhythms within, unperceived and unmated with words.

Yearning he leaned to that swift-flowing life, asking a share in its birth,
Praying the Makers of Wonder, the Weavers of Dream that he share with the wandering earth,
Her making of beauty and love--her envisioning palpitant life
As she moves thru the marvelling stars with her burden of sorrow and song.

Then a voice spoke aloud in his dreams where he fell in his fasting. It moved
The deeps of his soul as the moon moves the tides till it stirred the lost music of dreams. 

He awoke, and his face was alight with a reddening dawn in the east; 
In his heart was a song of the wonder of life, and the words at his calling 
Came flocking like birds from the marshes of sleep--then he knew 
That the Earth-Mother spoke with his voice. He went down to the valley still singing.