How Ancient is the Golden Fleece

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by My Freemasonry, Aug 6, 2015.

  1. Jason_Pelias_Louvre_K127.jpg

    When the Senior Warden puts the apron on the newly initiated brother, he tells him that the badge with which he is being invested is "more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle; more honourable than the Star or Garter, or any other order in existence". So, how old is that badge?

    The Order of the Golden Fleece was a chivalric order founded in 1430 by Philip the Good of Burgundy. The Order of the Eagle was founded in 1433 by Albrecht von Habsburg, Duke of Austria, who later became the Holy Roman Emperor.The Order of the Garter was founded in 1348 by King Edward III of England,and The Order of the Star, in 1351 by King Jean II of France. These are all orders of knighthood, members of which are allowed to wear the distinctive badge of the Order.

    Notice that the Orders of the Golden Fleece and the Eagle are actually the most recent, but that the Senior Warden describes the badge of a mason as more ancient than they are. Isn't that odd? The authors of the Work may in fact be referring not to the medieval Order of the Golden Fleece, but rather to the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, recorded in the third century BCE by Apollonius of Rhodes, the librarian of the great library at Alexandria. And the Roman Eagle they refer to could be the Standard of the Roman Army used in the first century BCE. But the legend of the Golden Fleece is a myth of Hercules and the gods, not a real event. And the Roman Army's Eagle was a standard carried into battle, not a badge worn by an individual.

    No, I think if we look closely at the Work we can see the answer. It says that the badge of a mason is older than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle. It does not however say it is older than the Star or Garter. Does that not imply that it is not as old as they are? When the Senior Warden tells the candidate that Freemasonry is older than the Order of the Golden Fleece, but not as old as the Order of the Star; he is saying that the Craft dates from somewhere between 1351 and 1430!

    What was happening in the world at that time? The Norman cathedral at York was being torn down and replaced by the present Gothic structure; the British Parliament was passing laws which formally organized the trade guilds, including one statute in 1389 which required that guilds and brotherhoods submit charters and letters patent; and the Halliwell Manuscript containing the Regius Poem was written. This manuscript, which some date to 1390, contains the oldest record of Freemasonry which we have, and was the basis for the Ancient Charges which are found in our Bookof Constitution. Thus I believe that the authors of the Work were stating that Freemasonry had its origins in the stonemason's guilds formed in the late 14th century - or at least the apron did.

    Source: W. Bro. David Cameron, Grand River Lodge, No. 151, Waterloo
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  2. Levelhead

    Levelhead Premium Member

    The SW dont tell him that. The WM tells him that as he presents the newly obligated brother with the apron.

    As least in FL thats how its done.

    And I'm sure of it as I'm putting on an EA degree from the east in NOV.

    Sent from Mossy Oak Swamp Bottom.
  3. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

    It may be of value to consider the use of aprons in the ancient mysteries.
  4. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

    Brother, you make a VERY interesting point. I had never really noticed that it only speaks of age regarding the Golden Fleece and Roman Eagle. This is wonderful food for thought.

    That being said, simply because it mentions the age of some but not all doesn't mean that it isn't older than those. Look at this comparison the other way...
    "more ancient than the Golden Fleece or Roman Eagle; more honourable than the Star and Garter, or any other order in existence"

    It says that the apron is more honorable than the Star and Garter, but it says that AFTER mentioning the Golden Fleece and Roman Eagle. Are we to assume that the apron is not as honorable as those two? Certainly not.
    In addition, you mentioned the Order of the Eagle, and yes, Albrecht von Habsburg LATER became the Holy Roman Emperor, but I think it's a stretch to say that the Order of the Eagle and the Roman Eagle are the same thing. I like your line of thinking, but I'm not sure all the gaps have been filled in yet.
  5. pointwithinacircle2

    pointwithinacircle2 Rapscallion Premium Member

    More food for thought, from:

    Regius Poem/Halliwell Manuscript

    This manuscript is admitted to be the oldest genuine record of the Craft of Masonry known. The general consensus on the age of the document dates its writing to between the late 1300s and the middle of the 15th century, and from internal evidence its author appears to have been a West of England clergyman. The manuscript was recorded in various personal inventories as it changed hands until it came into possession of the Royal Library, which was donated to the British Museum in 1757 by King George II to form the nucleus of the present British Library.

    During this time, the document was generally described as a poem of moral duties. The significance of the document as relating to Freemasonry was not realized until it was featured in an article on Freemasonry by James Halliwell in 1840.

    The text of the document states that Freemasonry was brought to England during the reign of King Athelstan from 924 to 939.

    In Egypt he taught it full wide,
    In divers lands on every side;
    Many years afterward, I understand,
    Ere that the craft came into this land.
    This craft came into England, as I you say,
    In time of good King Athelstane's day;
    He made then both hall and even bower,
    And high temples of great honor,
    To disport him in both day and night,
    And to worship his God with all his might.
    This good lord loved this craft full well,
    And purposed to strengthen it every part,
    For divers faults that in the craft he found;
    He sent about into the land
  6. hanzosbm

    hanzosbm Premium Member

    Trying not to go off on too much of a tangent, but...

    Aethelstan came to power somewhat questionably. He was the illegitimate son on the king. When the king died, he wasn't considered by everyone to be his father's son but instead was looked at more as the progeny of his mother. While his parents weren't married, she was his first consort. Maybe a stretch, but one could consider him a widow's son.
    His name means "noble stone".
    He was battling the Vikings, men from the north. I wonder if he considered them coming from a place of light or darkness?
    Some people consider Aethelstan to be the inspiration for King Arthur. A ruler who considered everyone as equals and was searching after that which was lost (the grail).

    Some interesting parallels. ...discuss.

    Edited to add: after doing some research, Arthur is first mentioned a bit before Aethelstan's birth, so he can't be the basis of the figure, but by the time of the Regius Poem, various deeds may well have been intertwined.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2015
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  7. Canadian Paul

    Canadian Paul Registered User

    In a Scottish lodge instead of the 'Order of the Garter' it is 'The Order of the Thistle' that is mentioned. In its present form it was formed in 1687 as a revival of an earlier Order. it is the most senior Chivalric Order in Scotland and second only to the Garter in the UK as a whole. The exact wording used says the EA apron is "more ancient than the Golden Fleece or the Roman Eagle, more honourable than the Order of the Thistle, or any other Order in existence..." . The presenting of the apron is, I think, one of the most solemn moments in the ceremony, second only to the Obligation.
  8. Warrior1256

    Warrior1256 Site Benefactor

    VERY interesting!
  9. Bloke

    Bloke Premium Member

    I think you will find that particular Arthur was invented in the French Romances...
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  10. JamestheJust

    JamestheJust Registered User

    I rather think that Arthur is the subject of the strange and unchristian third verse in Blake's Jerusalem.

    Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
    Bring me my Arrows of desire:
    Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
    Bring me my Chariot of fire!
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