Glossary

Browse the glossary by clicking on any of the letters below.

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Alphabetically Arranged with Cyclopedic Meanings and Bible References

Maccabees

A heroic family, whose patriotism and valor form bright pictures in the Jewish annals.  The name is generally supposed to be derived from the Hebrew letters, M.C.B.I.--which were inscribed upon their banners--being the initials of the following words in the Hebrew sentence, Mi Camocha, Baalim, Iehovaj, meaning, "Who is like unto thee among the gods, O Jehovah?"  has been appropriated in some of the high Scottish degrees as a significant word.

Magi

The ancient Greek historians so termed the hereditary priests among the Persians and Medians.  The word is derived from mog or mag, signifying priest in the Pehlevi language.  The Illuminati first introduced the word into Masonry, and employed it in the nomenclature of their degrees to signify men of superior wisdom.

Magi, The Three

The "Wise Men of the East" who came to Jerusalem, bringing gifts to the infant Jesus.  The traditional names of the three are Melchior, an old man, with a long beard, offering gold; Jasper, a beardless youth, who offers frankincense; Balthazar, a black or Moor, with a large spreading beard, who tenders Myrrh.  The patron saints of travelers.  "Tradition fixed their number at three, probably in allusion to the three races springing from the sons of Noah."  The three principal officers ruling the society of the Rosicrucians are styled Magi.

Maher-Shal-Al-Hash-Baz

In Templarism what does this word refer to?  Signifies "Speeding to Prey."  Name of Isaiah's son, symbolizing the Assyrian conquest of Damascus and Samaria.  Isiah 8:1-4

Mahogany

Indigenous to Central America and the West Indies, a dark reddish wood, occasionally used as a veneer or the main body of an artifact.  EXAMPLE

Majolica

A low fired earthenware coated with an opaque glaze or slip, and painted with brightly colored lead glazes.

Maker's mark

The distinguishing mark of a silversmith or goldsmith. Registered at an assay office in Britain.  It should be noted that makers occasionally had the same initials, but their marks differed in the style of the letters and shape of the cartouche. Some makers changed their marks over the years.  A reliable reference work should be consulted to check a mark.  EXAMPLE

Malleable

Capable of being extended or shaped by beating with a hammer; ductile.

Mallet or Setting Maul

This was an instrument in setting up the stone in the building of King Solomon's Temple;  it is an emblem in the Third Degree.  In the Mark Master Degree, it is one of the working tools, having the same emblematic meaning as the common gavel in the Entered Apprentice Degree.  The correction of the irregularities of temper, the curbing of the aspirations of unbridled ambition, the suppression of the malignity of envy, and the moderation of the ebullition of anger are exacted in this degree.

Manna, Pot of

This is one of the three articles laid up in the Ark of the Covenant by Aaron, the other two being Aaron's rod that budded and a copy of the Book of the Law.  In the substitute Ark, commemorated in the Royal Arch Degree, representations of the Pot of Manna and of the other articles are used.  Manna is considered in Masonry as a symbol of life, not the transitory life on earth, but the enduring one of the future world; hence the three articles in the Ark are considered as symbols of that eternal life which is the design of the Royal Arch Degree to teach.  Ex. 16:4,32,35 -  Psalms 78:24 -  John 6:32,33 -  1 Cor. 10:1-3

Mark

The appropriate jewel of a Mark Master.  They are made of gold, silver, or copper and must depict the form of a keystone.  On the obverse or front surface, the device or "mark" selected by the owner must be engraved within a circle composed of the following letters: H.T.W.S.S.T.K.S.  On the reverse, the name of the owner, the name of his Chapter, and the date of his advancement, may be inscribed.   Also see Chapter Penny.   EXAMPLE

Market Value

The average current value of an item based on its intrinsic value and the demands of buyers and sellers.

Marquetry

Decorative, pictorial, inlay of contrasting woods set into a veneered surface.  EXAMPLE

Mason

What is the derivation of the word Mason?  As a practical question, we are compelled to reject all fanciful derivations which connect the Masons etymologically and historically with the Greeks, the Egyptians, or the Druids, and to take the word Mason in its ordinary signification of a worker in stone, and thus indicate the origin of the Order from a society or association of practical and operative builders.  We need no better root than the Mediaeval Latin (Maconner), to build, (Maconetus), a Builder.  1 Kings 7:13-22

Masonry

What is Masonry?  The erection of buildings and consecrating them to the veneration of God, we will admit was the purpose of the builders, of the ancient operative art.  While the Masons of the Speculative Sciences operate in a spiritual sense, employing the tools of the Operative Mason as symbols, and using veiled allegories, from the Bible to convey to their initiates a lesson and belief, that there is life beyond the grave.  1 Kings 6:2  -  1 Cor. 3:10-14

Mason's Wife and Daughter

There is a degree conferred upon the wives, daughters, sisters, and mothers of Master Masons, to secure to them, by investing them with a peculiar mode of recognition, the aid and assistance of the Fraternity, or of individual Masons in a time of distress.  See Blue Slipper Pin.

Master of the Lodge

Q.  Why should a Master of a Lodge be well informed? 

A.  Because, if Masonry be as it is defined, "a science of morality, clothed in allegory and illustrated by symbols," it is evident that a successful teacher (and the Master is, in an emphatic sense, a teacher) must qualify himself by a diligent investigation of these symbols and veiled allegories--the myths and legends of Masonry--their mystical application, and the whole design of the institution in this, its most important feature, must constitute his study.  St. Mark 10:17

Master Builder

In an operative sense, a Master Builder is, a high intellect artificer, an architect, a skilful worker, who with proper materials such as was furnished by Solomon and Hiram king of Tyre, and placed in the hands of such a man as, "the widow's son of the tribe of Naphtali," we may readily understand the magnificence of such an edifice as the Solomonic Temple.  However, with reference to Speculative Science and that spiritual builder, we cannot lose sight of that builder, who erects the Temples of living stones--teaching strict rectitude and justice towards his fellow-men; and that their demeanor should be marked by the level of courtesy and kindness; while uprightness of heart and integrity of action, symbolized by the plumb, should be their distinguishing characteristics; and thus guided by the moveable jewels of Masonry, they may descend the vale of life and joy, of hope in being accepted by the Most High, as successful candidates for admission into the Grand Lodge above.  1 Kings 7:13-51  -  1 Cor. 3:9-17

Master Mason

What is the symbolism of a Master Mason, and how represented?  The Master Mason represents man, when youth, manhood, old age, and life itself, have passed away as fleeting shadows, yet raised from the grave of iniquity, and quickened into another and better existence.  By its legend and all its ritual, it is implied that we have been redeemed from the death of sin and the sepulcher of pollution; and the conclusion we arrive at is, that youth, properly directed, leads us to honorable and virtuous maturity, and that the life of man, regulated by morality, faith, and justice, will be rewarded at its closing hour, by the prospect of eternal bliss.  Romans 6:4-5 

Match safes

An American term familiar throughout the Art Nouveau period.  The matchsafe was small compared to the larger version that came after 1905, when they were called "match boxes."  They were made in gold, silver or plated base metals and were a fovorite "conceit" for Art Nouveau motifs.  In the United States patent records, the term is used indiscriminately applied to pocket, stand-alone and wall holders.  EXAMPLES

Matte Finish

A finish that produces a finely granular texture and dull color to the metallic surfaces of a phaleristic item.  Opposite of a gilt finish.

Maundy-Thursday

The Thursday before Easter.  Maundy is derived from the Latin word mandatum (meaning commandment), the first word of a religious chant sung by pilgrims on that day at the time of the washing of feet.  It also refers to Christ's words after he had washed the feet of the disciples at the Last Supper (John 13:34), "A new commandment I give unto you."   Maundy-Thursday is sometimes called Shear Thursday, alluding evidently to the shearing of beards and heads in preparation for Easter.  Foot washing before Easter was part of the rites of the Roman Catholic Church from about the fourth century, and the act itself was performed by Pope, prelates, priests and nobles.  Doles or alms were then given the poor and these gifts were called maunds.

Maverick

An unidentifiable specimen.

Medallions, Masonic

This term is applied to pieces of metal, of various forms but generally similar to coins, not intended for circulation as money, or means of exchange, struck and distributed in commemoration of some important event.  EXAMPLE

Melchizedek - king of righteousness

King of Salem, and a priest of the Most High God, of whom all that we know is to be found in the passages of Scripture read at the conferring of the degree of High Priesthood.  Some theologians have supposed him to have been Shem, the son of Noah.  The sacrifice of offering bread and wine is first attributed to Melchizedek; and hence, looking to the similar Mithraic sacrifice, Higgins is inclined to believe that he professed the religion of Mithras.  He abandoned the sacrifice of slaughtered animals, and, to quote the words of St. Jerome, "offered bread and wine as a type of Christ."  Hence, in the New Testament, Christ is represented as a priest after the order of Melchizedek.  In Masonry, Melchizedek is connected with the order or degree of High Priesthood.   Gen. 14:18-20 -  Psalms 110:4 -  Heb. 5:6 -  Heb. 7:1-4

Membership, Right of

The first right which a Freemason acquires, after the reception of the Third Degree, is that of claiming membership in the Lodge in which he has been initiated.  The very fact of his having received that Degree make him at once an inchoate member of the Lodge--that is to say, no further application is necessary, and no new ballot is required; but the candidate, having now become a Master Mason, upon signifying his submission to the Regulations of the Society by affixing his signature to the book of by-laws, is constituted, by virtue of that act, a full member of the Lodge, and entitled to all the rights and prerogatives accruing to that position.

Mercy

The point of a Knight Templar's sword is said to be characterized by the quality of "mercy unrestrained," symbolical of the sublime lesson of genuine chivalry that "mercy to a conquered foe was an indispensable requirement of a true Knight."  Mercy to man, even to an enemy, is Divinely enjoined... Micah 6:8 -  Luke 6:36  - Col. 3:12

Mercy Seat

The lid or cover of the Ark of the Covenant was called the Mercy-seat or the Propitiatory, because on the day of the atonement the High Priest poured on it the blood of the sacrifice for the sins of the people.  EXAMPLE

Metals

In the divesture of metals as a preliminary to initiation, we are symbolically taught that Freemasonry regards no man on account of his wealth.  The Talmudical treatise Beracoth, with a like spirit of symbolism, directs in the Temple service that no man shall go into the Mountain of the House, that is, into the Holy Temple, "with money tied up in his purse."

Metal Tools

We are told in Scripture that the Temple was "built of stone made ready before it was brought thither, so that there was neither hammer, nor axe, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was in the building" (1st Kings 6:7).  Freemasonry has adopted this as a symbol of the peace and harmony which should reign in a Lodge, itself a type of the world.  But Clarke, in his commentary on the place, suggests that it was intended to teach us that the Temple was a type of the kingdom of God, and that the souls of men are to be prepared here for that place of blessedness.  There is no repentance, tears, nor prayers: the stones must all be squared, and fitted here for their place in the New Jerusalem; and, being living stones, must be built up a holy temple for the habitation of God. 

Metaphorical Supports of Masonry

What are the metaphorical supports of Masonry?  Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty; the three great pillars, or metaphorical supports, and it is a singular coincidence, and worthy of thought, that the letters composing the English name of Deity should be the initials of the Hebrew words wisdom, strength, and beauty; G.O.D.  Gomer, Oz, and Dabar.  Psalm 111:10  -  Job 12:13  -  Psalm 27:4

Michael - who is like unto God

He is chief of the Archangels, the leader of the Celestial hosts, and especially the protector of Israel.  He is prominently referred to in the Twenty-Eighth Degree of the A. A. Scottish Rite, or Knights of the Sun.  Prince of Israel... Dan. 10:13,21

Middle Chamber

Q.  Of what is the expression middle chamber a symbol? 

A.  Abiding place of truth, reached by ascending that symbolic winding stairway of life, where the symbol only of the Word can be given, where the truth is to be reached by approximation only, and yet where we are to learn that, that truth will consist of a perfect knowledge of the G.A.O.T.U.  1 Kings 6:8 

Minute Book

Every Lodge shall have its by-laws fairly written, and shall also keep a book or books in which the Master, or some brother appointed by him as Secretary, shall enter the names of its members, and all persons initiated or admitted therein, with the dates of their proposal, admission, or initiation, passing, and raising; and also their ages, as nearly as possible, at that time, and their titles, professions or trades, together with such transactions of the lodge as are proper to be written.

Minutes

The records of a Lodge are called its Minutes.  The Minutes of the proceedings of the Lodge should always be read just before closing, that any alterations or amendments may be proposed by the Brethren; and again immediately after opening at the next Communication, that they may be confirmed.  But the Minutes of a Regular Communication are not to be read at a succeeding extra one, because, as the proceedings of a Regular Communication cannot be discussed at at an extra, it would be unnecessary to read them, for, if incorrect they could not be amended until the next Regular Communication.

Miter

This was the name given to the head-covering of the high priest.  It was made of dark linen twisted in many folds around the head, ornamented with a golden band or crown on which was inscribed in Hebrew the words which signify "Holiness Unto The Lord."  The miter is worn by the High Priest of the Royal Arch Chapter, because he represents the Jewish High Priest, although conformity to the form does not obtain.  The prelate of the Commandery of Knights Templar wears a miter, different, however, in form.  It is a conical cap, divided in the middle, so as to come to two points, one in front and one behind, symbolic of the two Testaments, the Old and the New.  Instructions concerning the Miter of the Jewish High Priest... Ex. 28:4,36-39 -  Lev. 16:4

Monitors

Monitors are those manuals published for the convenience of Lodges, and containing the Charges, General Regulations, emblems, and account of the public ceremonies of the Order, are called Monitors.  The amount of ritualistic information contained in these works has gradually increased: thus the monitorial instructions in Preston's Illustrations, the earliest Monitor in the English language, are far more scanty than those contained in Monitors of the present day.  As a general rule, it may be said that American works of this class give more instruction than English ones, but that the French and German manuals are more communicative than either.  Of the English and American manuals published for monitorial instruction, the first was by Preston, in 1772.  This has been succeeded by the works of the following authors:  Webb, 1797; Dalcho, 1807; Cole, 1817; Hardie, 1818; Cross, 1819; Tannehill, 1824; Parmele, 1825; Charles W. Moore, 1846; Cornelius Moore, 1846; Dove, 1847; Davis, 1849; Stewart, 1851; Mackey, 1852; Macoy, 1853; Sickles, 1866.

Monogram

The Royal initials of a sovereign or lesser ruler that appears in the design of certain insignia.  The monogram is usually surmounted by a crown; and if applicable, incorporates the sovereign's ascension numeral.  A monogram composed of interwoven initials or highly stylized initials which suggests a code is called a cypher, also spelled "cipher".  A reversed cypher is a type of cypher with one or more of its initials placed backwards.  Cyphers are popular motifs placed on the ivory handles of Knight Templar swords.  EXAMPLE

Moon

The adoption of the moon in the Masonic system as a symbol is analogous to, but could hardly be derived from, the employment of the same symbol in the Ancient religions.  In Egypt, Osiris was the sun, and Isis the moon; in Syria, Adonis was the sun, and Ashtoroth the moon; the Greeks adored her as Diana, and Hecate; in the mysteries of Ceres, while the hierophant or the chief priest represented the Creator, and the torch-bearer the sun, the officer nearest the altar, represented the moon.  In short, moon-worship was as widely disseminated as sun-worship.  Freemasons retain her image in their Rites, because the Lodge is a representation of the universe, where, as the sun rules over the day, the moon presides over the night; as the one regulates the year, so does the other the months, and as the former is the king of the starry hosts of heaven, so is the latter their queen; but both deriving their heat, and light, and power from Him, who, as the Greatest Light, the Master of heaven and earth, controls them both.

Morality of Freemasonry

No one who reads our ancient Charges can fail to see that Freemasonry is a strictly moral institution, and that the principles which it inculcates inevitably tend to make the Brother who obeys their dictates a more virtuous man.  Hence the English Lectures very properly define Freemasonry to be "a system of morality."  In the American system, morality is one of the three precious jewels of a Master Mason.  Morality an indispensable requirement... Isa. 1:14-17

Moral Law

"A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law."  For Masons enjoying the benefits of the Jewish religion or of Christianity this requirement comprehends also the law of nature, which is "the will of God, relating to human actions, grounded on the moral differences of things; and discoverable by natural light, obligatory upon all mankind," and written on the human conscience.

Morris, Rob, LL.D.

He was one of the best informed, most widely traveled, most learned and prolific Masonic writers, and a most active and aggressive Masonic worker.  Born August 31, 1818; died in 1888; nearly forty years of his life span of seventy years was devoted to Masonic research, propagation, and ministrations.  He was also the founder of the Order of the Eastern Star

Moses - saved from the water

Moses was the God-called and divinely qualified leader of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Divinely inspired Law-giver of Israel.  He is referred to in some of the higher degrees in Freemasonry, especially in the Twenty-Fifth Degree, or Knight of the Brazen Serpent, in the Scottish Rite, where he is represented as the presiding officer.  Also in the Royal Arch of the York Rites, whose ritual is framed on the Mosaic symbolism.

Mosaic

A type of decoration created by using small rectangles of a material set flush with the surface of the body to create a design.

Mosaic Pavement

The "Mosaic Pavement" is a representation of the ground floor of King Solomon's Temple.  The Mosaic Pavement is emblematical of human life checked with good and evil.  The "Blazing Star" reminds us of that awe inspiring period when the Almighty delivered  the two tablets on stone, containing the Ten Commandments, to His faithful servant Moses on Mt. Sinai; when the rays of His divine glory shone so bright that none could behold it without fear and trembling.  It also represents the sacred name of God, as a universal spirit who enlivens our hearts, who purifies our reason, who increases our knowledge, and who makes us wiser and better men.

Mote

From an old Anglo-Saxon word, motan, meaning "to be allowed," as in the phrase So mote it be, meaning So may it be.

Mother-of-pearl

An iridescent substance which lines the interior of many species of mollusk shells.  EXAMPLE

Motto

The maxim of an order.  The motto is stipulated in the statutes of the order, and it is often inscribed on the order's badges and medallions.  By far, the majority of mottoes is a summary of the qualities and service recognized by the order, such as, "Valor, Loyalty, and Merit."  In a few instances, the abbreviation of the motto is used as the inscription on the order's badges and medallions.  Several of these, namely I.H.S. and I.H.S.V. are Christian symbols.  I.H.S. is a monogram for Christ and is derived from the first three letters of Ihsus, the name of Jesus in Greek.  These letters are also the abbreviation for the Latin phrase Iesus Hominum Salvator (Jesus Savior of Man).  I.H.S.V. is the abbreviation of the Latin phrase In Hoc Signo Vinces (In this sign you will conquer).  The source of the phrase is the miraculous events the Roman Emperor Constantine claimed to have experienced which led to the defeat of his rival, Maxentius, at the battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D. and the conversion of Constantine to Christianity.  According to Constantine's own doubtful account, he prayed to the "Supreme God" for help in defeating Maxentius who allegedly was a master of the magical arts.  The response to his prayers was the sign of the cross, presumably the Chi-Rho emblem, above the noonday sun followed by the words In Hoc Signo Vinces.  Now invigorated, Constantine marched on Rome to confront Maxentius; however, one more miracle would take place.  On the eve of the battle, Christ appeared in a dream and commanded Constantine to use the sign as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies.  Constantine obeyed by adopting the Labarum, the Imperial battle standard with a finial consisting of the Chi-Rho emblem.  Subsequently, Maxentius was induced to fight outside of the safety of the city walls and was vanquished.

Mourners Go About The Streets

What is the significance of this expression?  In early biblical days professional mourners were hired to lament a death.  This expression appears in the 12th chapter of Ecclesiastes, referring to youth, manhood, and old age.

Mouth to Ear

The Freemason is taught by an expressive symbol, to whisper good counsel in his Brother's ear, and to warn him of approaching danger.  "It is a rare thing," says Bacon, "except it be from a perfect and entire friend, to have counsel given that is not bowed and crooked to some ends which he hath that giveth it."  And hence it is an admirable lesson, which Freemasonry here teaches us, to use the lips and the tongue only in the service of a Brother.

Music

One of the seven liberal arts and sciences, whose beauties are inculcated in the Fellow Craft's Degree.  Music is recommended to the attention of Freemasons, because as the "concord of sweet sounds" elevates the generous sentiments of the soul, so should the concord of good feeling reign among the Brethren, that by the union of friendship and brotherly love the boisterous passions may be lulled and harmony exist throughout the Craft.  The Fellow Craft lecture explains Music as that elevated science which affects the passions by sound.  There are few who have not felt its charms, and acknowledged its expressions to be intelligible to the heart.  It is a language of delightful sensations, far more eloquent than words; it breathes to the ear the clearest intimations; it touches and gently agitates the agreeable and sublime passions; it wraps us in melancholy, and elevates us in joy; it dissolves and inflames; it melts us in tenderness, and excites us to war.  This science is truly congenial to the nature of man; for by its powerful charms the most discordant passions may be harmonized and brought into perfect unison; but it never sounds with such seraphic harmony as when employed in singing hymns of gratitude to the Creator of the universe.

Mystagogue

The one who presided at the Ancient Mysteries, and explained the sacred things to the candidate.  He was also called the hierophant.  The word, which is Greek, signifies literally one who makes or conducts an initiate.

Mysteries, Ancient

Each of the Pagan gods, says Warburton (Divine Legation I, ii, 4), had, besides the public and open, a secret worship paid to him, to which none were admitted but those who had been selected by preparatory ceremonies called Initiation.  This secret worship was termed the Mysteries.  And this is supported by Strabo (book x, chapter 3) who says that it was common, both to the Greeks and Barbarians, to perform their religious ceremonies with the observance of a festival, and that they are sometimes celebrated publicly, and sometimes in mysterious privacy.  Noel (Dictionnaire de la Fable) thus defines them:  Secret ceremonies which were practiced in honor of certain gods, and whose secret was known to the initiates alone, who were admitted only after long and painful trials, which it was more than their life was worth to reveal.  As to their origin, Warburton is probably not wrong in his statement that the first of which we have any account are those of Isis and Osiris in Egypt; for although those of Mithras came into Europe from Persia, they were, it is supposed, carried from Egypt by Zoroaster.  The most important of these Mysteries were the Osiric in Egypt, the Mithraic in Persia, the Cabiric in Thrace, the Adonisian in Syria, the Dionysiac and Eleusinian in Greece, the Scandinavian among the Gothic nations, and the Druidical among the Celts.  In all these Mysteries we find a singular unity of design, clearly indicating a common origin, and a purity of doctrine as evidently proving that this common origin was not to be sought for in the popular theology of the Pagan world.  The ceremonies of initiation were all funereal in their character.  They celebrated the death and the resurrection of some cherished being, either the object of esteem as a hero, or of devotion as a god.  Subordination of Degrees was instituted, and the candidate was subjected to probations varying in their character and severity; the rites were practiced in the dead of night, and often amid the gloom of impenetrable forests or subterranean caverns; and the full fruition of knowledge, for which so much labor was endured, and so much danger incurred, was not attained until the aspirant, well tried and thoroughly purified, had reached the place of wisdom and light.

Mystic Tie

What is the Mystic Tie of Freemasonry?  That sacred and inviolable bond which unites men of the most discordant opinions into one band of brothers, which gives but one language to men of all nations and one altar to men of all religions, is properly, from the mysterious influence it exerts, denominated the mystic tie; and Freemasons, because they alone are under this influence, or enjoy its benefits, are called "Brethren of the mystic tie."  Psalm 133:1-3 - Gen. 13:8

Myth

The word myth, from the Greek, meaning a story, in it original acceptation, signified simply a statement or narrative of an event, without any necessary implication of truth or falsehood; but, as the word is now used, it conveys the idea of a personal narrative of remote date, which, although not necessarily untrue, is certified only by the internal evidence of the tradition itself.  The word was first applied to those fables of the Pagan gods which have descended from remotest antiquity.  As applied to Freemasonry, the words myth and legend are synonymous.  Freemasonry is a symbolic institution--everything in and about it is symbolic--and nothing more eminently so than its traditions.  Although some of them--as, for instance, the Legend of the Third Degree--have in all probability a deep substratum of truth lying beneath, over this there is superposed a beautiful structure of symbolism.  History has, perhaps, first suggested the tradition; but then the legend, like the myths of the ancient poets, becomes a symbol, which is to enunciate some sublime philosophical or religious truth.  Read in this way, and in this way only, the myths or legends and traditions of Freemasonry will become interesting and instructive.

Myth, Historical

A historical myth is a myth that has a known and recognized foundation in historical truth, but with the admixture of a preponderating amount of fiction in the introduction of personages and circumstances.  Between the historical myth and the mythical history, the distinction cannot always be preserved, because we are not always able to determine whether there is a preponderance of truth or of fiction in the legend or narrative under examination.

Mythical History

A myth or legend, in which the historical and truthful greatly preponderate over the inventions of fiction, may be called a mythical history.  Certain portions of the Legend of the Third Degree have such a foundation in fact that they constitute a mythical history, while other portions, added evidently for the purpose of symbolism, are simply a historical myth.

Mythology

Literally, this word means the science of myths; and this is a very appropriate definition, for mythology is the science which treats of the religion of the ancient Pagans, which was almost altogether founded on myths or popular traditions and legendary tales; and hence Keightly (Mythology of Ancient Greece and Italy, page 2), says that "mythology may be regarded as the repository of the early religion of people."  Its interest to a Masonic student arises from the constant antagonism that existed between its doctrines and those of the Primitive Freemasonry of antiquity and the light of that the mythological mysteries throw upon the ancient organization of Speculative Freemasonry. 

Mythology is a field of study that is not easily defined, being as much a composite of many other subjects of human inquisitiveness and investigation as it is a unique arena all its own.

Ultimately it might be said that the student of mythology is one who conducts inquiries into some of the most basic concerns of humankind

  • Who are we?

  • How was the world made?

  • What is the correct manner to conduct oneself during religious ceremonies?

  • What is the relationship between inner life and outward appearances?

  • What happens to the individual at the moment of death, and after?

as these have been expressed by the many and diverse cultures in the world both past and present, including one's own, through the traditional spiritual stories or myths to be found within them.

The mythographer, busy collecting and compiling myths for study, at one time or another may examine in depth all such stories as can be found historically within a given region (i.e., the Mediterranean) or those that are distributed world-wide but related by theme or content (i.e., creation myths).

The student/professor will at the same time proceed to apply analysis to the myths or stories, coming at them from varying perspectives, comparing them, interpreting them, enjoying them, and frequently sharing them with others.

The term "mythology" is also often applied to the entire body of myths of a given culture; thus one may speak of Greek mythology, or Polynesian mythology. Such mythologies usually, though not always, consist of a large number of interrelated stories involving a pantheon of gods and goddesses said to have lived "long ago" and most often to have created the world and the first people to have ever lived. Sometimes these gods and goddesses may be said to live even today and to "inhabit" a sacred location or to be "embodied" by certain objects or animals.

Many interesting theories and conjectures have been put forth especially in the last 150 years by various students of mythology as to what all this storytelling is about and why virtually every known culture in the world has generated its own system of myths and legends most sharing a number of themes and ideas which appear to be nearly universal and common to all peoples everywhere, yet each also with countless and intriguing features unique and specific to itself.

The study of myths can last for a semester, or a lifetime, and might be thought of as a grand romp through some of the most colorful stories ever told.

Myth, Philosophical

This is a myth or legend that is almost wholly unhistorical, and which has been invented only for the purpose of enunciating and illustrating a particular thought or dogma.  The Legend of Euclid in the manuscripts of our Ancient Craft is clearly a philosophical myth.

 

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