Skeletons in the Lodge Room
September 08, 2015
As we often like to remind our readers, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library actively collects materials associated with any and all American Masonic and fraternal groups. This recent acquisition is a pin that was produced for members of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) in 1905. The two American Scottish Rite jurisdictions co-exist in the United States. The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) oversees Scottish Rite groups in fifteen states in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest. The SJ administers Scottish Rite groups in the other 35 states, as well as Washington, D.C. where their headquarters is located. The NMJ founded the Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1975.
The two jurisdictions don’t always follow the same ritual, but the symbols on this pin were also used by the NMJ during the 1800s and early 1900s. An illustration in The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, written by Charles McClenachan (1829-1896) in 1867 – who served as Chair of the NMJ’s Ritual Committee from 1882 to 1896 – shows the same skeleton holding a chalice and a banner (at the left side of the illustration - click on it to see a larger version). This prop was used in the ritual for the fraternity’s honorary 33rd degree ritual. When McClenachan wrote his book in 1867, the Scottish Rite conferred degrees in much the same way as local lodges. McClenachan’s illustration shows the men wearing sashes over their street clothes. A few years later, members changed their rituals to theatrical endeavors complete with sets, costumes and props.
The shape and materials of this pin were popular among fraternal groups during the late 1800s and early 1900s. The shield shape relates to fraternal symbolism, while the enamel face allowed for colorful and detailed decoration. The Museum’s collection includes at least one similar pin associated with the NMJ from 1901, while the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection includes several round enamel pins produced for local Knights Templar Commanderies in 1895.
This pin was probably given or sold to attendees of the SJ’s biennial meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 1905. Along the bottom is the Latin phrase, “Post Tenebras Lux,” which translates to “Light After Darkness.”
Top: Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction pin, 1905, unidentified maker, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2014.057. Photograph by David Bohl.
Bottom: Frontispiece, The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 1867, Charles T. McClenachan, author, Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Company, publisher, New York, New York, Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. Photograph by David Bohl.