Masonic Shoe Folk Art Snuff Box

dated 1836


Here is a superb folk art snuff box in the shape of a shoe and covered in Masonic symbolism hammered with tiny brass nails.  On the sole the words "Forget Me Not" are worked into the design as well as the date it was made... 1836.

Among the ancient Israelites, the shoe was made use of in several significant ways. To put off the shoes, imported reverence, and was done in the presence of God, or on entering the dwelling of a superior.   To unloose one's shoe and give it to another was a way of confirming a contract.  Thus we read in the book of Ruth, that Boaz having proposed to the nearest kinsman of Ruth to exercise his legal right by redeeming the land of Naomi, which was offered for sale, and marrying her daughter-in-law, the kinsman, being able to do so, resigned his right of purchase to Boaz; and the narrative goes on to say (Ruth iv, 7 and 8), "Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor; and this was a testimony in Israel.  Therefore the kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thee.  So he drew off his shoe."  The reference to the shoe in the First Degree is therefore really as a symbol of a Covenant to be entered into.   In the Third Degree the symbolism is altogether different.  This this degree the ceremony of taking off the shoes, as a token of respect, whenever we are on or about to approach holy ground.  It is referred to in Exodus (iii, 5), where the angel of the Lord, at the burning bush, exclaims to Moses:  "Draw not nigh hither; put off they shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."  The Rite, in fact, always was, and still is, used among the Jews and other Islamic and Oriental nations when entering their Temples, Mosques and other sacred edifices.  It does not seem to have been derived from the command given to Moses; but rather to have existed as a religious custom from time immemorial, and to have been borrowed by the Gentiles, through tradition, from the patriarchs.  The direction of Pythagoras to his disciples was, "Offer sacrifice and worship with thy shoes off."




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