Glossary

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

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Alphabetically Arranged with Cyclopedic Meanings and Bible References

Sabbath

In the lecture of the Second or Fellow Craft's Degree, it is said, In six days God created the heavens and the earth, and rested upon the seventh day; the seventh, therefore, our ancient Brethren consecrated as a day of rest from their labors, thereby enjoying frequent opportunities to contemplate the glorious works of creation, and to adore their great Creator.  Gen. 1:31 -  Gen. 2:1-3 -  Isa. 58:13,14

Sackcloth

Whenever sackcloth is used in Masonry it is a symbol of grief and humiliation.

Sacred Law

The Sacred Law is a term applied to the Ten Commandments given by God to Israel and later written on two Tables of Stone for Moses.  According to a tradition of the Jewish Mishna, these commandments were explained to Aaron, then to Aaron and his two sons, then to Aaron, his sons, and the seventy elders, and then to all these and to the people.  Later Moses incorporated these Commandments in the sacred writings which he left as a permanent heritage to Israel and to the world.  The Sacred Law as given by God and as explained and handed down to Israel is accepted as binding upon all Freemasons.  It is repeated in the Fourteenth Degree A.A., Scottish Rite.  The Sacred Law as given to Moses... Ex. 20:1-17 -  Deut. 5:1-21

Saint John the Baptist

One of the Patron Saints of Freemasonry, and at one time, indeed, the only one, the name of Saint John the Evangelist having been introduced subsequent to the sixteenth century.  His festival occurs on the 24th of June, and is very generally celebrated by the Masonic Fraternity.  Dalcho (Ahiman Rezon, page 150) says that "the stern integrity of Saint John the Baptist, which induced him to to forego every minor consideration in discharging the obligations he owed to God; the unshaken firmness with which he met martyrdom rather than betray his duty to his Master; his steady reproval of vice, and continued preaching of repentance and virtue, make him a fit patron of the Masonic Institution."  Illustrations:  Sts John (1)  Sts John (2)  Sts John (3)  Sts John (4)

Saint John the Evangelist

One of the Patron Saints of Freemasonry, whose Festival is celebrated on the 27th of December.  His constant admonition, in his Epistles, to the cultivation of brotherly love, and the mystical nature of his Apocalyptic visions, have been, perhaps, the principal reasons for the veneration paid to him by the Craft.  

Salt

In the Helvetian or Swiss instructions, salt is added to corn, wine, and oil as one of the elements of consecration, because it is a symbol of the wisdom and learning which should characterize a Freemason's Lodge.  When the foundation-stone of a Lodge is laid, the Helvetian ceremonial directs that it shall be sprinkled with salt, and this formula be used:  "May this undertaking, contrived by wisdom, be executed in strength and adorned with beauty, so that it may be a house where peace, harmony, and brotherly love shall perpetually reign."  This is but carrying out the ancient instructions of Leviticus (ii, 13), "And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt."  Significant as are the references in the Bible to salt, as the rubbing of salt on the new-born child (Ezekiel xvi, 4); the allusions in Mark (ix,49,50), "For every one shall be salted with fire and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.  Salt is good: but if salt has lost its saltness, wherewith will ye season it?  Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another."  Jesus in Matthew (v,13) "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?  It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."  Salt to the ancient world was pronounced a substance dear to the gods (Plato, Timaeus) and to break bread and eat salt at a meal with others were symbols of plighted faith and loyalty.

Sanctum Sanctorum

Latin for Holy of Holies.  Every student of Jewish antiquities knows, and every Freemason who has taken the Third Degree ought to know, what was the peculiar construction, character, and use of the Sanctum Santorum of Holy of Holies in King Solomon's Temple.  Situated in the western end of the Temple, separated from the rest of the building by a heavy curtain, and enclosed on three sides by dead walls without any aperture or window, it contained the Sacred Ark of the Covenant, and was secluded and set apart from all intrusion save of the High Priest, who only entered it on on certain solemn occasions.  As it was the most sacred of the three parts of the Temple, so has it been made symbolic of a Master's Lodge, in which are performed the most sacred rites of initiation in Ancient Craft Freemasonry.

Sanhedrim

The highest judicial tribunal among the Jews.  It consisted of seventy-two persons besides the High Priest.  It is supposed to have originated with Moses, who instituted a Council of Seventy on occasion of a rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness.  The room in which the Sanhedrim met was a rotunda, half of which was built without the Temple and half within, the latter part being that in which the judges sat.  The Nasi, or Prince, who was generally the High Priest, sat on a throne at the end of the hall; his Deputy, called Ab-beth-din, at his right hand; and the Sub-deputy, or Chacan, at his left; the other senators being ranged in order on each side.  Most of the members of this Council were Priests or Levites, though men in private stations of life were not excluded.

Saracens

Although originally only an Arab tribe, the word Saracens was afterwards applied to all the Arabs who embraced the tenets of Mohammed.  The Crusaders especially designated as Saracens those Mohammedans who invaded Europe, and whose possession of the Holy Land gave rise not only to the Crusades, but to the organization of the military and religious orders of Templars and Hospitalers, whose continual wars with the Saracens constitute the most important chapters of the history of those times.

Sash

A broad width of the ribbon of an order that is worn across the left or right shoulder and gathered at the opposite hip.  When a sash is used, the badge is often connected at the gathering to a box or rosette made of the ribbon.  The ends of the sash can be fringed or cut in a straight, diagonal, or serrated line.  EXAMPLE

Satin finish

Satin finish produced by a revolving wheel of wire which makes many tiny scratches, giving the article a dull appearance.  Also called a Butler's Finish.  

Scarab

From the Latin Scarabaeus, a beetle, the ancient Egyptian symbol of longevity usually combining representations of the sacred insect with a pellet suggesting the sun, the whole sacred to the sun-god.  Sometimes the venerated beetle as a living soul is shown with outstretched wings or with the horned head of a ram.  Scarabs often are inscribed with mottos or other similar lettering.  EXAMPLE

Scepter

An ensign of sovereign authority, and hence carried in several of the high degrees by officers who represent kings.  EXAMPLE

Scorper

Small chisel for engraving, with blades of various shapes.

Screwback

A lapel pin or badge that has one or two threaded projections on the reverse and is secured to the lapel or tunic with a flat nut or nuts.

Scripture Readings

Why should the Bible be opened in the different degrees?  Because the work done in the various degrees, refer to different passages, of the Scripture, viz.:  1st degree 133rd Psalm, 2nd degree 7th Amos, and Eccles. 12 for the 3rd degree.  Psalm 133  -  Amos 7-8  -  Eccles. 12

Scythe

Is an emblem of time, which cuts the brittle thread of life, and launches us into eternity.  Behold! what havoc the scythe of time makes among the human race!  If by chance we should escape the numerous evils incident to childhood and youth, and with health and vigor arrive to the years of manhood; yet, withal, we must soon be cut down by the all-devouring scythe of time, and be gathered into the land where our fathers have gone before us.  In modern iconography Time is allegorized under the figure of an old man, with white hair and beard, two large wings on his back, an hourglass in one hand and a scythe in the other.  It is in this emblematic significance that the scythe appears in the Third Degree of Masonry.  Life is transitory and is certain to be cut down under divine decree... Job 14:2 -  Psalms 90:5,6  EXAMPLE

Seal

A stamp on which letters and a device are carved for the purpose of making an impression, and also the wax or paper on which the impression is made.  Many old Masonic Diplomas and Charters are still in existence, where the seal consists of a circular tin box filled with wax, on which the seal is impressed, the box being attached by a ribbon to the parchment.  But now the seal is placed generally on a piece of circular foil or paper with an adhesive backing.  The Seal of the Lodge is almost always kept by the Secretary.  EXAMPLE

Seal of Solomon

Seal of Solomon or the Shield of David, for under both names the same thing was denoted.  A hexagonal figure consisting of two interlaced triangles, thus forming the outlines of a six-pointed star.  Upon it was inscribed one of the sacred names of God, from which inscription it was supposed principally to derive its talismanic powers.  These powers were very extensive, for it was believed that it would extinguish fire, prevent wounds in a conflict, and perform many other wonders.  The Jews called it the Shield of David in reference to the protection it gave to its possessors.  But to the other Orientalists it was more familiarly known as the Seal of Solomon.   Among these imaginative people, there was a very prevalent belief in the magical character of the King of Israel.  He was esteemed rather as a great magician than as a great monarch, and by the signet which he wore, on which this talismanic seal was engraved, he is supposed to have accomplished the most extraordinary actions, and by it to have enlisted in his service the labors of the genii for the construction of his celebrated Temple.  In time, with the progress of the new religion, it ceased to be invested with a magical reputation, although the Hermetic philosophers of the Middle Ages did employ it as one of their mystical symbols; but true to the theory that superstitions may be repudiated, but will never be forgotten, it was adopted by the Christians as one of the emblems of their faith, but with varying interpretations.   The two triangles were sometimes said to be symbols of fire and water, sometimes of prayer and remission, sometimes of creation and redemption, or of life and death, or of resurrection and judgment.  But at length the ecclesiologists seem to have settled on the idea that the figure should be considered as representing the two natures of our Lord--His Divine and His human nature.  EXAMPLE

Seals, Book of Seven

The seal denotes that which is secret; seven denotes that which is perfect.  Hence the Book sealed with seven seals denoted knowledge perfectly secreted from the profane, and secure from all unhallowed search.  It is with this symbolism that the Book of the Seven Seals is adopted in one of the high degrees of the Knight of the East and West.  The book sealed with seven seals... Rev. 5:1

Secrecy and Silence

These virtues constitute the very essence of all Masonic character; they are the safeguards of the Institution, giving to it all its security and perpetuity.  They are enforced by various symbols, special ceremonies in the ritual, and by frequent admonitions in all the degrees, from the lowest to the highest.  In requiring secrecy and silence in the mysteries of the Order, Masonry follows the principles in existence in all ancient mysteries and systems of worship.  Moreover, since the mysteries, symbols, legends, tenets, and ritual of Freemasonry to which the membership of the Order is pledged to maintain secrecy and silence are all of the highest moral and ethical character, and in many instances profoundly religious and spiritual, there can certainly be no wrong in this requirement.  Nothing contrary to the laws of God and of the state, nothing immoral, sinful, or criminal is involved in this law of secrecy and silence.  The fact that multiplied thousands of men of the highest intelligence, of the most enlightened ranks, of the most profound piety and holiness -- leaders in church and in state and from whose lives there has radiated brilliance and luster and virtue for the uplifting of humanity, have without compunction of conscience obeyed this rule of secrecy and silence removes all questions of its pure and holy character.  Secrecy and silence recommended as commendable virtues, contributing to both security and perpetuity... Prov. 25:9 -  Prov. 17:28 -  Eccl. 3:17

Secretary

An important office in the Lodge, for it is necessary that it should be filled by a man who can not only make out the common transactions of the Lodge, but is also capable of comprehending the spirit of a lecture, and introducing it into the transactions, briefly and at the same time correctly.  The Secretary must be a Master Mason, and, when necessary, the brethren must assist him as copyists.  It is customary in many Lodges, on account of the numerous and often severe duties of the Secretary, to exempt him from the payment of annual dues, and sometimes even to give him a stated salary.  The Secretary, like the Treasurer, is only a business officer of the Lodge, having nothing to do in the ritualistic labors.  The Secretary acts, in his relation to the Lodge, in a threefold capacity.  He is its recording, corresponding, and collecting agent.  The emblem of his office is crossed quill pens.

Secret Societies

In its correct sense, a secret society is an association of men, or both men and women, in which certain methods of initiation, ideologies, doctrines, practices, means of recognition for one another, and purposes are made available only to those who pass through certain forms of initiation and make solemn pledges not to reveal anything whatever of the society to outsiders.  In a society of this kind complete secrecy of the object of the association, of the names of its membership, of the places and times of its meetings is maintained.  Such societies are usually treasonable, felonious, and criminal in character and objectives.  Freemasonry is not a secret society in this sense; it does not seek to conceal its existence and its objects.  The names of its members may be known to all who are interested; in fact, most Masons wear jewels of identification and are proud to be known as Masons.  Freemasonry may be regarded as a secret society only in respect to its ritual, some of its legends and symbols, its methods of inculcating its mythical philosophy and high moral, ethical, religious and spiritual truths, and certain signs of recognition.  Its design, its object, its tenets and the great truths which it teaches are as open as if its meetings were held on the highways instead of within the well-guarded portals of a Lodge.

Sectarianism

Faith in God and obedience to the moral and ethical law, whether this law is recognized from the Holy Scriptures or as written in the consciences of mankind, are basic requirements of the Masonic Fraternity.  In recognizing the fundamentals of Christianity, no sectarian tests are required, and bigotry of every kind is discouraged.  See The Builder Magazine April 1916 for an article related to this subject by Bro. Geo. W. Warvelle, Illinois.

Seeing

One of the five human senses, whose importance is treated of in the Fellow Craft's Degree.  By sight, things at a distance are, as it were, brought near, and obstacles of faith overcome.  So in Freemasonry, by a judicious use of this sense, in modes which none but Freemasons comprehend, men distant from each other in language, in religion, and in politics, are brought near, and the impediments of birth and prejudice are overthrown.  But, in the natural world, sight cannot be exercised without the necessary assistance of light, for in darkness we are unable to see.  So in Freemasonry, the peculiar advantages of Masonic sight require, for their enjoyment, the blessings of Masonic light.  Illuminated by its divine rays, the Freemason sees where others are blind; and that which to the profane is but the darkness of ignorance, is to the initiated filled with the light of knowledge and understanding.

Seek

He who is desirous of finding wisdom, must diligently seek for it; and if he would know the real design of Masonry, he must study, and observe, and meditate, on what he hears in the Lodge, otherwise the bondage of ignorance will never be removed.

Selamu Aleikum, E.S.

The Arabic salutation of Peace be with you; which meets with the response Aleikum es Selaam.  These expressions are prominently in use by ancient Arabic Associations.

Senior Deacon

The Senior Deacon is the especial attendant of the Worshipful Master.  Seated at his right hand, he is ready at all times to carry messages and to convey orders from him to the Senior Warden, and elsewhere about the Lodge as he may direct.  He conducts candidates during the degrees and brethren west of the altar under the direction of the Worshipful Master.

Senior Warden

As the sun is in the west at the close of day, so is the Senior Warden in the west, to assist the Worshipful Master in opening and governing the Lodge, to pay the Craft their wages, if any be due, letting none go away dissatisfied.   The duties of the Senior Warden are, in the absence of the Master, to preside, and govern the Lodge; in his presence, to assist him in the government of it.  In assisting the Master in the government of the Lodge; it is the duty of both officers to see that due silence is observed around their respective stations, and that the orders issued from the east are strictly obeyed.  But most of their duties in their peculiar positions are of a ritualistic nature, and are unnecessarily or improper to be discussed in this glossary.  In the absence of the Master, the Senior Warden governs the Lodge.  This is his inherent right.  He may, and often does, as a matter of courtesy, resign the chair to some Past Master present, but such Past Master always acts under the authority of the Warden, who has first to congregate the Lodge, that is, to call the brethren to labor, before he resigns the gavel of his authority into the hands of the Past Master.

Senses

Man is brought into communication with the external world by means of five senses, or organs of perception.  Seeing, hearing, and feeling are often referred to in Masonic instruction.  They are explained in the degree of Fellow Craft.

Seraphim - burning fiery

The Seraph, Seraphim in the plural, are celestial beings in attendance upon Jehovah.  Similar to the Cherubim, they are represented as having the human form, face, voice, two feet, and two hands, but with six wings.  With two wings they cover their face and with two, their feet, -- a sign of reverence, and with two they fly, significant of their speed in carrying out the will of God.  Seen by Isaiah in visionary form... Isa. 6:2,3

Series

The successive versions of a particular collectible item.  A most popular series of glasses is the famous Syria Shrine Temple Collection.

Serpent and Cross

This is a symbol used in the degrees of Knight Templar and Knight of the Brazen Serpent, with the serpent twined around the cross.  This symbol points to the incident in which Moses placed the Brazen Serpent on a pole as a remedy for the bite of the poisonous serpents that infested the camp for all who would look in faith, and to the fact that Jesus Christ fulfilled this type in his death on the cross.  The Brazen serpent of the healing of the Israelites and a type of Christ's death for the sins of man... Num. 21:9 -  John 3:14,15

Setting Maul

The "Setting Maul", in operative Masonry is used for setting stones, that is, tapping them to a firm seat in the mortar by urging them sideways into place.  It is in Speculative Freemasonry a symbol, in the Third Degree, reminding us of the death of the builder of the Temple, which is said to be effected by this instrument.  It is considered by some to be a symbol of untimely death.  In some Lodges it is improperly used by the Master as his gavel, from which it totally differs in form and symbolic signification.  The gavel is a symbol of order and decorum; the setting-maul, of death by violence.   EXAMPLE

Setting Sun

It is the duty of the Senior Warden to pay and dismiss the Craft at the close of day, when the sun sinks in the west; so now the Senior Warden is said in the Lodge to represent the setting sun.

Seven

In every religious system of antiquity, particularly in the mysteries of the ancients, the number seven holds a place of veneration.  This was true in a special way in the Jewish ritual, and held true in a large measure in Christianity.  In its etymological derivation the Hebrew term for "seven" presents the idea of sufficiency or fullness; the word therefore signifies perfection.  Seven is also a sacred number in Masonic symbolism, and occurs frequently in ritual and in other phases throughout all the degrees.

Seven Six-Pointed Stars

The constellation of "Seven Six-pointed Stars" in Masonry represents the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences:  They are Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy.  The Six-pointed Star symbolizes Divine Providence and is the Star of David or Shield of David.  This starry-decked heaven is where all good Masons hope at last to arrive by aid of that "Theological Ladder" which Jacob in his vision saw extending from Earth to Heaven, the principal rounds of which are denominated Faith, Hope and Charity, which admonish us to have Faith in God, Hope in Immortality, and Charity toward all Mankind. 

Seven Stars

In the Tracing-Board of the Seventeenth Degree, or Knight of the East and West, there is the representation of a man clothed in a white robe, with a golden girdle about his waist, and around his extended right hand are seven stars.  This is an apocalyptic degree, and seven stars representing the perfect number symbolize the true messengers of the Christ.  "And he had in his right hand seven stars"... Rev. 1:16

Seventy Years of Captivity

Royal Arch Masonry relates to the Babylonian Captivity of the Jews and to their return to Palestine and the rebuilding of the Temple.  This period is computed from the defeat of the Egyptians at Carchemish, when Nebuchadnezzar reduced the neighboring nations of Syria and Palestine to his subjection, to the overthrow of the Neo-Babylonian Empire by the Medo-Persians and the accession of Cyrus to the throne, when the edict permitting the Jews to return to Palestine was issued.  Seventy years of captivity foretold... Jer. 25:11

S.G.D.G.

A French acronym, meaning "Without government guarantee" (of quality or performance), usually preceded by Brevete.

Shagreen

Untanned leather with a roughened granular surface originally from the skin of a horse or wild ass, but now more commonly from sharks or rays.

Shealtiel

Q.  Who was Shealtiel? 

A.  Father of Zerubbabel.  Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them... Ezra 5:2

Sheffield plate

Devised by Thomas Boulsover ca.1743. Produced by fusing, with intense heat, a thin sheet of silver to one or both sides of a thick sheet of copper, the sheet then rolled down to the desired thickness for fabrication. By the 1860s it had been supplanted by electroplate.

Shekel

The shekel of silver was used in the days of Solomon and in the time following, but it was not in the form of a stamped coin, its value being determined by weight, usually at about fifty cents in our currency.  In about 144 B.C. Simon Maccabeus began the coinage of the silver shekel.  On one side was a Pot of Manna, with the inscription, "Shekel Israel"; on the reverse side was an emblem of the Rod of Aaron with three buds, and the inscription, Jerusalem the Holy."  Anciently used in offerings... Ex. 30:13  EXAMPLE

Shekinah

Heb. derived from SHAKAN, to dwell.  A term applied by the Jews, especially in the Targums, to the Divine glory which dwelt in the Tabernacle and the Temple, and which was manifested by a visible cloud resting over the mercy-seat in the Holy of Holies.  

It first appeared over the Ark of the Covenant when Moses consecrated the tabernacle; and was afterward, upon the consecration of the Temple by Solomon, translated thither, where it remained until the destruction of that building.  The Shekinah was the symbol of Divine glory; but the true glory of divinity is Truth, and Divine Truth is therefore the Shekinah of Masonry.

Shem, Ham, Japheth

They were the three sons of Noah who assisted in the construction of the Ark of Deliverance or Safety; hence their names are significant terms in Royal Arch Masonry... Gen. 7:7 -  Gen. 9:18,19

Shethar-Boznai

What was the order to Shethar-boznai and his companions, from Darius?  Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shethar-boznai and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, "Be ye far from thence."  Let the work of this house of God alone.  Ezra 6:6-15

Shewbread

The twelve loaves which were placed upon a table in the sanctuary of the Temple, and which were called the shewbread or bread of the presence, are represented among the paraphernalia of a Lodge of Perfection in the Ancient and Accepted Rite.  Bähr (Symbolik) says that the shewbread was a symbol of the bread of life--of the eternal life by which we are brought into the presence of God and know him; an interpretation that is equally applicable to Masonic symbolism.  EXAMPLE

Shibboleth

This word signifies a stream of water, or a full ear of corn, based on the idea of plenty in harvest because of abundance of water.  The Gileadites under Jepthah, who had just won a great victory over revolutionary Ephraimites, adopted this word as a test of soldiers fleeing across the Jordan because of the inability of the Ephraimites to pronounce the word.  In their native voice they were incapable of the aspiration sh, and so it is said they "could not frame to pronounce it right."  The use of Shibboleth as a test word... Judges 12:1-6

Shimshai

Q.  Why did Shimshai the scribe try to stop the rebuilding of the temple? 

A.  Then they came to Zerubbabel and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, let us build with you, but Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus king of Persia has commanded us.  Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shinshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions, a letter unto King Artaxerxes, asking him to stop the rebuilding of the temple.  Ezra 4:1-24

Shishak

Q.  Who was Shishak? 

A.  Egyptian king, plunderer of the temple 956 B.C. And it came to pass in the fifth year of King Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord.  1 Kings 14:25-28

Shittim - Acacia

The shittim or acacia, in the mythic system of Freemasonry, is pre-eminently the symbol of the IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL--that important doctrine which it is the great design of the Institution to teach. As the evanescent nature of the flower, which "cometh forth and is cut down," reminds us of the transitory nature of human life, so the perpetual renewal of the evergreen plant, which uninterruptedly presents the appearance of youth and vigor, is aptly compared to that spiritual life in which the soul, freed from the corruptible companionship of the body, shall enjoy an eternal spring and an immortal youth. Hence, in the impressive funeral service of our Order, it is said that "this evergreen is an emblem of our faith in the immortality of the soul. By this we are reminded that we have an immortal part within us, which shall survive the grave, and which shall never, never, never die." And again, in the closing sentences of the monitorial lecture of the Third Degree, the same sentiment is repeated, and we are told that by "the evergreen and ever-living emblem of immortality, the acacia" the Freemason is strengthened "with confidence and composure to look forward to a blessed immortality." Such an interpretation of the symbol is an easy and a natural one ; it suggests itself at once to the least reflective mind; and consequently, in some one form or another, is to be found existing in all ages and nations.  See The Builder Magazine - May 1918 for an article related to this subject by By Bro. H. A. Kingsbury, Connecticut.

Shoe

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."  EXAMPLE  Ex. 3:5 -  Ruth 4:7-9

Shovel

An instrument used to remove rubbish.  It is one of the working-tools of a Royal Arch Mason, and symbolically teaches him to remove the rubbish of passions and prejudices, that he may be fitted, when he thus escapes from the captivity of sin, for the search and the reception of Eternal Truth and Wisdom.

Shrine of North America

See an article on the History of the Shrine of North America

Side Degrees

These are certain Masonic Degrees, not in the regular routine of acknowledged Degrees, and not a part of Ancient Masonry, which are conferred on certain classes of Masons of the higher Rites.  They are commendable for wholesome diversions and instructive recreations.

Signet

A signet is a ring on which there is a device or impression, common among the ancients as a symbol of authority and used oftentimes for making impressions on important documents.  Such an impression from the signet of a ruler or king was the equivalent of a royal decree; the transfer of the signet-ring to another made him the representative of the king, and gave him the power of using the royal name.  Signets were extensively used by the Hebrews. They were worn on the finger, generally the index finger of the right hand.  In Masonry we have the "Signet of Zerubbabel," also called the "Signet of Truth," in the Royal Arch Degree.  Zerubbabel, governor of Judea and builder of the Second Temple, was the symbol of the searcher after Truth, and such is the meaning of the signet in Freemasonry.  It signifies that the person to whom it is given has attained certain degrees of truth, and assures him of advancement in his search.  Haggai 2:23 -  Gen. 38:18 -  Jer. 22:24

Sign of Distress

This is probably one of the original modes of recognition adopted at the revival period, if not before.  It is to be found in the earliest ceremonies extant of the eighteenth century, and its connection with the Third Degree makes it evident that it probably belongs to that Degree.  To Freemasons of the Nineteenth Century, it is called the Grand Hailing Sign, to indicate its use in hailing or calling a Brother whose assistance may be needed.  

Silver Cord

In the beautiful and effecting description of the body of man suffering under the infirmities of old age we find this expression, and it is defined as the spinal marrow, its loosening causes a stopping of all the nervous system and brings on the approach of old age and death.  This is a part of the Scripture reading of the third degree and forms an appropriate introduction to those sublime ceremonies, whose object is to teach symbolically the resurrection and life eternal.  Eccles. 12:6

Silver, other than sterling

Lower grade silver than the 925 sterling grade.  It was used in various countries in Continental Europe and Asia, but was often unmarked.  In Germany they used 800 grade or greater, which is usually marked; in Austria they used 750 or 800; in Belgium, 800 or 900; Denmark, a minimum of 826; Finland not less than 813; France, 800 to 925; Japan, 800 to 950; Norway, 830 to 925; Netherlands, 800 to 925; Russia, 875 to 916; Sweden, minimum 830; Switzerland. 800 to 935.  The marks on items from these countries are often difficult to read or understand, if they are marked at all.

Silverplate

A base metal, usually either nickel silver or copper, coated with a layer of pure silver by electroplating.  EXAMPLE

Simeon - a hearkening

The second point of the ancient English lectures, when the lecture of the twelve tribes of Israel formed a part of the basis of the system of speculative Masonry, and alluded to the preparation of the candidate, because it was said that Simeon prepared the instrument for the slaughter of the Shechemites a defenseless people.  Gen. 49:5-7

Sinai - pertaining to moon god

This is the mountain in Arabia between the wings of the Red Sea where Moses received from God the Law, and where he directed the construction of the Tabernacle.  Among Masons Sinai is a symbol of Truth; and in this symbolic sense it is referred to in some of the high degrees.  Scene of giving of the Law... Ex. 20:1-20

Sit Lux Et Lux Fuit

A motto used frequently in Freemasonry, although sometimes written, Lux fiat et Lux fit, signifying Let there be light, and there was light (Genesis 1:3); the strict translation from the Hebrew continues, "And the Lord took care of the light, that it was useful, and He divided the light from the darkness."

Skull and Cross-Bones

They are a symbol of mortality and death, and are so used by heralds in funeral achievements.  As the means of inciting the mind to the contemplation of the most solemn subjects, the Skull and Cross-Bones are used in the Chamber of Reflection in the French and Scottish Rites, and in all those Degrees where the Chamber constitutes a part of the preliminary ceremonies of initiation.  EXAMPLE

Slander - malicious talk

It is declared by the tenets of Freemasonry that "To defame our brother, or suffer him to be defamed without interesting ourselves for the preservation of his name and character, there is not the shadow of excuse to be formed.  Defamation is always wicked.  Slander and evil speaking are the pests of civil society, are a disgrace of every degree of religious profession, and are the poisonous bane of all brotherly love."

Smelling

Is that sense by which we distinguish odors, the various kinds of which convey different impressions to the mind.  Animal and vegetable bodies, and indeed most other bodies, while exposed to the air, continually send forth effluvia of vast subtility, as well in a state of life and growth, as in the state of fermentation and putrefaction.  These effluvia, being drawn into the nostrils along with the air, are the means by which all bodies are distinguished.  Hence it is evident, that there is a manifest appearance of design in the great Creator's having planted the organ of smell in the inside of that canal, through which the air continually passes in respiration.

Social Character of Freemasonry

Freemasonry attracts our attention as a great social institution.  Laying aside for the time those artificial distinctions of rank and wealth, which, however, are necessary in the world to the regular progression of society, its members meet in their Lodges on one common level of brotherhood and equality.  There virtue and talent alone claim and receive pre-eminence, and the great object of all is to see who can best work and best agree.  There friendship and fraternal affection are strenuously inculcated and assiduously cultivated, and that great mystic tie is established which peculiarly distinguishes the society.  Hence is it that Washington has declared that the benevolent purpose of the Masonic Institution is to enlarge the sphere of social happiness, and its grand object to promote the happiness of the human race.

Soldering

Uniting two metal surfaces or edges with a fusible metallic alloy.  Different metals require different solders, fluxes (usually borax) and techniques of application. Hard silver solder is usually made of 790 parts of silver and 210 parts of brass; soft silver solder is 710 parts of silver and 290 parts of brass.  Solder for brass is made from tin and lead. For soldering silver, heat is provided by a fine, accurately directed flame from a gas torch onto the joint, after the flux has been applied and before the solder is applied.  For brass, a soldering iron with a copper tip is heated in a flame, which is sufficient to melt the solder.  The work requires highly skilled craftsmen; there was no machine existing that could do the work automatically.

Solomon - peaceable

Freemasonry recognizes the high position held by Solomon in authentic history, and in tradition has preserved many significant Solomonic traditions and legends, often mythical, but always highly valuable in Masonic symbolism.  It is upon the well-known historical data concerning the notable career and superlative wisdom of Solomon, and particularly upon his outstanding work in the construction of the Temple, that Masonry recognizes him as a master-mind and a hero worthy of the highest commemorations.  Many of the well-known deeds of Solomon are celebrated in the most beautiful and significant rituals and ceremonies; but even more meaningful are ritualistic and symbolic rites founded upon Masonic traditions and legends known only to those who enjoy the privileges of membership in the Order.  Particular recognition of his decline in morals and spirituality, of his apostasy into idolatry, and of his grievous errors is given in some of the degrees, but not without full recognition of his repentance and restoration to the favor of God as set forth in the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Solomon, Temple of

See Biblical History of King Solomon's Temple

Sons of Light

The science of Freemasonry often has received the title of Lux, or Light, to indicate that mental and moral illumination is the object of the Institution.  Hence Freemasons are often called Sons of Light.

South

When the sun is at its meridian height, his invigorating rays are darted from the south.  When the sun rises in the East, we are called to Labor; when he sets in the West, our daily toil is over; but when he reaches the South, the hour is high twelve, and we are summoned to refreshment.  In Freemasonry, the South is represented by the Junior Warden and by the Corinthian column, because it is said to be the place of beauty.

Spelter

An alloy of copper and zinc used for brazing metalwork, and as a cheap substitute for bronze. Silvery-grey in color, the surface may be treated to resemble bronze. It is light, brittle and easily scratched.

Spes mea in Deo est

(My hope is in God.)  The Latin motto of the Thirty-second Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite.

Spinning

Process used for forming hollow items of sheet brass or silver. The sheet metal is cut to size, placed against a wooden mold or chuck in a lathe, where pressure is applied against it with a smooth tool while it revolves, to produce the desired form.

Spiritual Temple

The French Masons say:  "We erect temples for virtue and dungeons for vice"; thus referring to the great Masonic doctrine of a spiritual temple.  There is no symbolism of the Order more sublime than that in which the Speculative Mason is supposed to be engaged in the construction of a spiritual temple, in allusion to that material one which was erected by his operative predecessors at Jerusalem.  The idea of making the temple a symbol of the body is not, it is true, exclusively Masonic.  It had occurred to the first teachers of Christianity.  Christ himself alluded to it when he said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up"; and St. Paul extends the idea, in the first of his Epistles to the Corinthians, in the following language: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and the spirit of God dwelleth in you?"  1 Kings 6:7 -  1 Cor. 6:19 -  2 Cor. 6:16 - Heb. 11:8-10

Square

The Square is one of the most important and significant symbols in Freemasonry.  As such, it is proper that its true form should be preserved.  French Freemasons have almost universally given it with one leg longer than the other (like the one pictured above) thus making it a carpenter's square.   American Freemasons, following the incorrect delineations of Brother Jeremy L. Cross, have, while generally preserving the equality of length in the legs, unnecessarily marked its surface with inches; thus making it an instrument for measuring length and breadth, which it is not.  It is simply the trying square of a stone-mason, and has a plain surface; the sides or legs embracing an angle of ninety degrees, and is intended only to test the accuracy of the sides of a stone, and to see that its edges subtend the same angle.  In Freemasonry, the square is a symbol of morality.   This is its general signification, and applied in various ways:  1.  It presents itself to the neophyte as one of the Three Great Lights.  2.  To the Fellow Craft as one of his Working-tools.  3.  To the Master Mason as the official emblem of the Master of the Lodge.  Everywhere, however, it inculcates the same lesson of morality, of truthfulness, of honesty.  So universally accepted is this symbolism, that it has gone outside of the Order, and has been found in colloquial language communicating the same idea.    The Square, says Halliwell, Dictionary of Archaic and Provincial Words, means honest, equitable, as in "square dealing."  To play upon the square is proverbial for to play honestly.  In this sense the word is found in the old writers.  As a Masonic symbol, it is of very ancient date, and was familiar to the Operative Masons.   In the year 1830, the architect, in rebuilding a very ancient bridge called Baal Bridge, near Limerick, in Ireland, found under the foundation-stone an old brass square, much eaten away, containing on its two side surfaces the following inscription, the U being read as V:  I. WILL STRIUE. TO. LIUE.--WITH. LOUE. & CARE.--UPON. THE LEUL.--BY. THE. SQUARE., and the date 1517.  The modern Speculative Freemason will recognize the idea of living on the level and by the square.  This discovery proves, if proof were necessary, that the familiar idea was borrowed from our Operative Brethren of former days.  The square, as a symbol in Speculative Freemasonry, has therefore presented itself from the very beginning of the revival period.  In the very earliest catechism of the eighteenth century, of the date of 1725, we find the answer to the question, "How many make a Lodge?" is "God and the Square, with five or seven right or perfect Masons."  God and the Square, religion and morality, must be present in every Lodge as governing principles.  Signs at the early period were to be made by squares, and the Furniture of the Lodge was declared to be the Bible, Compasses, and Square.  In all rites and in all languages where Freemasonry has penetrated, the square has preserved its primitive signification as a symbol of morality.  EXAMPLE

Square and Compasses

With or without the Letter "G" the Square and Compasses is the Universal Symbol of Freemasonry.  This has been recognized and accepted as the Masonic emblem from the beginning of the 18th Century at least.  The United States Patent Office took note of this in 1873.  It told a flour manufacturer, and the world:  This device, so commonly worn and employed by Masons, has an established mystic significance, universally recognized as existing, whether comprehended by all or not, is not material to this issue.  In view of the magnitude of the Masonic organization, it is impossible to divest its symbols, or at least this particular symbol -- perhaps the best known of all -- of its ordinary significance, wherever displayed."  The manufacturer was denied the use of the Square and Compasses as a trade-mark.

Stamping

Impressing of designs or lettering from dies on to sheet metal by means of hammers or a machine. May be followed by hand chasing to sharpen up design details.

Stand To And Abide By

The covenant of Masonry requires every Mason "to stand to and abide by" the laws and regulations of the Order, whether expressed in the edicts of the Grand Lodge, the by-laws of his Lodge, or the Landmarks of the Institution.  Psalm 119:1-8

Star Setting

A popular setting in the 1890's in which the stone is placed in an engraved star and secured by a small grain of metal at the base of each point.

Stations

The positions occupied by the subordinate officers of a Lodge are called Places, as "the Junior Deacon's place in the Lodge."  But the positions occupied by the Master and Wardens are called Stations, as "the Senior Warden's station in the Lodge."  This is because these three officers, representing the sun in his three prominent points of rising, culminating, and setting, are supposed to be stationary, and therefore remain in the spot appropriated to them by the instructions, while the Deacons and other officers are required to move about from place to place in the Lodge.

Steel

Iron and carbon, with other metals such as nickel and chromium added to obtain the properties required in the manufactured item.

Sterling

The mark used in the United States as an assurance of the quality of silver articles. May also be found on some silver made in Ireland.

Sterling silver

A standard of 925/1000 fine, with 75/1000 of added metal, usually copper, to give it strength and stiffness. This standard is common to Great Britain and the United States which passed the Stamping Act of 1906, and any article stamped "sterling" is of assured quality.  It appears on Baltimore silver, 1800-1814, and after 1860 elsewhere.

Stewards

The Stewards are two in number, and are appointed by the Junior Warden.  They sit on the right and left of that officer, each one having a rod, as the insignia of his office, and wearing the cornucopia as a jewel.  Preston says that their duties are "to introduce visitors, and see that they are properly accommodated; to collect subscriptions and other fees, and to keep an exact account of the Lodge expenses."  Webb adds to these the further duties of seeing "that the tables are properly furnished at refreshment, and that every brother is suitably provided for," and he makes them the assistants generally of the Deacons and other officers in performing their respective duties.  There can be no doubt, from the nature of the office in other institutions, that the duty of the Stewards was originally to arrange and direct the refreshments of the Lodge, and to provide accommodations for the brethren on such occasions.  When the office was first established, refreshments constituted an important and necessary part of the proceedings of the Lodge.  Although not yet abolished, the Lodge banquets are now fewer, and occur at greater intervals, and the services of the Stewards are therefore now less necessary, so far as respects their original duties as servitors at the table.  Hence new duties are beginning to be imposed upon them, and they are, in many jurisdictions, considered as the proper officers to examine visitors and to prepare candidates for reception into the various degrees. 

Stickpin

A pin with an insigne, such as the Masonic Square and Compasses, at the top end.  The stickpin is usually worn on the lapel and distinguishes the bearer as a recipient of the order, decoration, or medal that is represented by the insigne.

Stone

The Masonic symbolism of the stone is very much the same as it was in Hebrew literature and mysteries -- the symbolism of faith and truth.  More broadly, the rough or unhewn stone is emblematic of man's evil and corrupt nature, while the hewn stone, or perfect stone, is emblematic of man in his improved and perfected nature.  "A rock" figurative of basic truth... Matt. 16:16-18

Stone of Foundation

The Stone of Foundation constitutes one of the most important and abstruse of all the symbols of Freemasonry.  It is referred to in numerous legends and traditions of Freemasonry; also it holds an important place in Jewish Talmudic writings.  In Masonry it is a symbol of the higher degrees, making its first appearance in Royal Arch Masonry.  It is, however, intimately connected with the construction of the Solomonic Temple, in its legendry history, and hence of importance in the first three Degrees.  Care must be taken to distinguish the Stone of Foundation from other stones which play important parts in the Masonic Ritual, such as the Corner-stone, the keystone, and the cape-stone.  These are treated under their proper headings.  It must be kept in mind also that this Stone of Foundation in Masonry is to be taken strictly in a mythical and allegorical sense, and not as historical record.  According to Masonic legend, the Stone of Foundation was placed at one time within the foundation of the Temple of Solomon, and afterward, during the building of the Second Temple, transported to the Holy of Holies.  It was in form a perfect cube, and had inscribed upon its upper face, within a triangle, the Ineffable Name of God.  Masonic tradition further has it that this "Stone of Foundation," on which the sacred name was mystically engraved, was placed by Solomon, with solemn rites, in the sacred depository of Dan and Asher on Mt. Moriah, at the center of the Most Holy Place, where the Ark was overshadowed by the shekinah of God.  Talmudic writers say that this stone was called the Stone of Foundation because it had been laid by Jehovah as the foundation of the world.  It is upon the allegorical sentiments and symbolic meanings of these legends that Masonry uses the Stone of Foundation.  There are various legends as to the origin of the Stone of Foundation, one claiming that it was possessed by Adam, handed down to Seth, and on through the Sethite line to Noah, and that Noah left it on Mt. Ararat where it was later discovered by Abraham.  After Abraham, it was in possession of Jacob and with a break, it is next in the hands of Moses when he led Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land, and ultimately in the possession of Solomon.  It was used by Adam as an altar; formed a pillar upon which Jacob rested at Bethel; and held sacred by all others through whose hands it passed.  The legend which claims that Enoch made a triangular plate of gold, triangular in form and with the Ineffable Name engraved, which was placed upon a stone in cubic form and placed in an underground temple on Mt. Moriah is popular.  According to this legend, this Stone of Foundation was discovered by Solomon in the excavations on Mt. Moriah for the building of the Temple.  This Stone of Foundation, after having been placed in the Temple, as already explained, was later removed by Solomon and placed in a secret and safer place, from which it was recovered and placed in the Second Temple.  For the Mason who has advanced through the Royal Arch Degree, and on into higher degrees, these legends and the symbolic deductions are of great moment.  The Foundation Stone of the earth, called "corner-stone," laid by God... Job 38:4-7

Stone That The Builder Rejected

It was neither oblong or square, and has reference to the "keystone" or copestone.  According to Masonic legends, the builders of the Temple of Solomon became bewildered when they received this particular stone, and as it was neither oblong or square as they were used to receiving subsequently threw it aside.  They later found that this stone was very necessary and important, and that it was to become the head of the corner.  The Bible make this "rejected stone" a type of the Christ, who is indeed the "chief stone" in the building of Christian character and of the Kingdom of God... Psalms 118:22 -  Matt. 21:42 -  Mark 12:10 -  John 1:4 -  1 Pet. 2:4,6

Strength

This is said to be one of the three principal supports of a Lodge, as a representative of the whole Institution, because it is necessary that there should be Strength to support and maintain every great and important undertaking, not less than there should be Wisdom to contrive it, and Beauty to adorn it.  Hence, strength is symbolized in Masonry by the Doric column, because, of all the orders of architecture, it is the most massive, by the Senior Warden, because it is his duty to strengthen and support the authority of the Master; and by Hiram of Tyre, because of the material assistance that he gave in men and materials for the construction of the Temple.

Sublime

The word is from the Latin Sublimis, meaning lofty, an allusion properly expressive of the teaching in the final symbolic ceremony of our ancient Craft.  The Third Degree is called the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason, in reference to the exhalted lessons that it teaches of God and of a future life.

Sun

The "Sun" as the source of material light reminds the Mason of that intellectual light of which he is in constant search.  The Worshipful Master who rules and governs his Lodge is said to be the symbol of the rising sun in the east.  The sun, therefore is the symbol of sovereignty, the hieroglyphic of royalty; and signifies absolute authority.  As the sun rules the day, so does the moon govern the night; as the sun regulates our years, so does the moon mark the passing months.  These symbols in Masonry are known as the "Lesser Lights".

Superficies

The 'regular progression of science from a point to a line, from a line to a superficies (plane), from a superficies to a solid' is the way in which Freemasonry explains the process by which the Deity brings the four levels of existence into being.  It is a neo-platonic device which can be traced through literature of the Renaissance, via medieval Spain, to Alexandria.  From this geometrical perspective the process starts with a point; the point moves, and in doing so generates a line; the line moves, in a direction not parallel to itself, and generates a plane (superficies); the plane, moving in a similar way, generates a solid.

Swastika

The swastika is an ancient symbol recognized as a religious sign and in some cultures as a good luck symbol.  It is a sacred symbol derived from Sanskrit, the language of the Hindu civilization dating back several thousand years.  It can also be found on Buddhist inscriptions, Greek coins, and Byzantine buildings.  It was a widely used symbol among the Native Americans.  The swastika appears in the form of a cross in which the arms are bent at right angles in a given direction.  In 1920, the swastika became the symbol of the National Socialist Party of Germany and was added to the German flag from 1935-45.  Over the ensuing years, it became a symbol of hate and oppression in most countries around the world.  Today, it still evokes horrific memories, and in some countries German memorabilia with the swastika is banned from sale. 

Sword

The sword is in chivalry the ensign or symbol of knighthood, especially in defense of the cause of the Christ. The sword is said to be endowed with the qualities of justice, fortitude, and mercy.  Hence the Knight is charged that he should never draw his sword unless convinced of the justice of the cause in which he is engaged, not to sheathe it until his enemies are subdued.  In Freemasonry, the use of the sword as a part of the Masonic clothing is confined to the advanced degrees and the Degrees of Chivalry, when, of course it is worn as a part of the insignia of knighthood.  In the Symbolic Degrees its appearance in the Lodge, except as a symbol is strictly prohibited.  The Masonic prints engraved in the eighteenth century, when the sword, at least as late as 1780, constituted a part of the dress of every gentleman, show that it was discarded by the members when they entered the Lodge.   The official swords of the Tiler and the Pursuivant or Sword-Bearer are the only exceptions.  EXAMPLE

Sword Pointing to a Naked Heart

The "Sword Pointing to a Naked Heart" demonstrates that Justice will sooner or later overtake us, and that although our thoughts, words and actions may be hidden from the eyes of man, they are not hidden to the All-Seeing Eye.

Symbol

What is the derivation, and use of a symbol?  Latin, Symbolum.  A word derived from the Greek sumbolon from sumballein, to suspect, divine, compare; a word of various meaning, even with the ancients, who used it to denote a sign, a mark, watchword, signal, token, a sealring, etc., its meaning is still more various in modern times.  Freemasonry is a complete system of symbolic teaching, and can be known, understood and appreciated only by those who study its symbolism, and make themselves acquainted with its occult meaning.  To such, Freemasonry has a grand and sublime significance.  Its symbols are moral, philosophical and religious, and all these are pregnant with great thoughts, and reveal to the intelligent Mason the awesome mystery of life, and the awful mystery of death.  Rom. 16:25

Symbolic Degrees

The first three degrees of Freemasonry, namely, those of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow-Craft, and Master Mason, are known, by way of distinction, as the "symbolic degrees."  This term is never applied to the degrees of Mark, Past, and Most Excellent Master, and the Royal Arch, which, as being conferred in a body called a Chapter, are generally designated as "capitular degrees"; nor to those of Royal and Select Master, which conferred in a Council, are, by an excellent modern usage, styled, "cryptic degrees," from the crypt or vault which plays so important a part in their ritual.

 

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