As Honest Maughbin will you tell

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by Luigi Visentin, Jun 1, 2020.

  1. Luigi Visentin

    Luigi Visentin Registered User

    Disclaimer: this post is about the "Master's word" as indicated in the catechisms and exposures of early eighteen century. Any reference or resemblances to actual rituals, rites, degrees, known, imaginary or secret words, persons living or dead, events, facts, locations, characters or business is purely coincidental. I could continue for another couple of pages but I hope that the idea of the disclaimer is clear. In any case: "read at your own risk"! :D;)

    Some time ago in one post it has been cited the following sequence, taken from the Dundee Manuscript of 1727, better known as The Mason’s Confession:

    I know the Master᾿s Part full well
    As Honest Maughbin will you tell

    The usual opinion that most Masonic words are Hebrew terms is not correct for the ancient terms. Some are indeed derived from Bible but others are deriving from the British, or better Britton root of Freemasonry. In some cases, like for example, for the ancient word related to the degree of Fellow, the lucky similarity between a Hebraic word and a Briton/Celtic one, together with the ancient meaning of the word "Companion" justifies the use of the Hebraic term. However this post is about the Master's word, that is the Maughbin of the title.

    The word Maughbin was associated with the degree of Master and is reported in a large number of variants, especially considering the small number of existing catechisms. This word refers to a "grip/word" recognition system, but it also appears "alone" in a couple of specific sentences inserted in the catechisms. The variants are the following:


    In other cases, it exists the abbreviated form "M.B.". From A Mason's Examination of 1723 we know that it is a compound word. Some scholars have assumed a Hebrew origin but this explanation is wrong particularly referring to the meaning of the sentence as this Maughbin is called as a "reliable" witness. Therefore, one old explanation like the one referred to the version Magboe, which should have meant "Marrow in the bone" looks meaningless and, more likely, it was a mnemonic sentence to remember the word itself and not its meaning.

    A much better explanation is a word for which we have a Britton/Celtic version and its translation in Latin. This word is Machtiern is a word composed of Mach and Tiern(os) and is of Briton origin (declined in may different forms due to the different Briton's dialects as for example makko-tigernoi). Around the twelfth century, it was latinized into Mathibernos (pl. Mathiberni). Apart from the similarity with the versions indicated on the catechisms, the initials of both words correspond. If we then consider the version of the Copiale Cipher (around 1750) "M....B...N..." we also find an n after the b but before the end of the word, so M(athi)B(er)N(os) also conforms to this version.

    The Machtiern was the medieval equivalent of a Roman Magister (tigernoi was also the Britton translation of Decurion), in some cases called "tyrant" but not in the derogatory sense of the term, but in that of those who exercised both civil and military power. The Machtierns were typical of Britons's territories even if the final version, Machtiern was used mainly in Brittany (Armorica), were there were families who handed down this power.

    The term Machtiern has been the subject of various studies but it most correct meaning is "chief guarantor" or "noble guarantor", likely because one of his functions was similar to a public notary. We have evidences of this role, for example, in the Redon Cartulary, an ancient Breton register in which various facts from the end of the first millennium are recorded, where the Machtiern are witnesses of the sale and purchase and transfer of property. In other words, the Machtiern was the guarantor that a certain transaction had taken place within the terms stated.

    At this point it is logical to call a Maughbin, that is, a Mathibernos, as a witness if we want to confirm that what is being affirmed is true. The wide powers that they had, allows giving easily explanations about the other use of this word in ancient catechisms but these interpretations must be taken with care as not supported by other elements. In other words the possible explanation could be right but there could be another one, also related to the Machtierns, with the same degree of validity.
    streeter likes this.
  2. streeter

    streeter Registered User

    Thank you for this. Interestingly I was raised with 'Sussex Working' in Brighton England very many years ago. One word in the group of five that you include was given me at my raising in the Grand Stewards Lodge in that Jurisdiction. And also, it was an 'and or word'. I was given two words at my raising. Robert Streeter.
  3. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

    I don't think this is a discussion which should take place on the internet.

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