The origin of the tassels

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by iainmason, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. iainmason

    iainmason Registered User


    In my occasional Masonic reading I am always happy to come across an explanation of an obscure point of ritual or Masonic symbolism. I am especially pleased to find the explanation rooted in the work of the ancient operative Masons. I came across such an explanation recently on the origin of the tassels in the four corners of the lodge.

    We are told in the Lecture to newly initiated Masons that the tassels represent the four cardinal virtues, temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice. The symbolism is striking but obscure, and it is hard to see any logical reason for the association. Furthermore, the symbol really doesn't shed much light on the reasons for the tassels, being there in the first place.

    The true origin of the tassels lies directly in methods used by the operative Masons when laying out their ground plan for a new building. The Master Mason commenced work by striking the centre of the piece of ground, and from it he plotted out the square or rectangle on which the walls were to rise. To do so he extended ropes from the centre pin to the four angles, and pegged them down at the corners of the building. It was simple then to check the four corners for trueness using the square and triangle. As the walls rose, from time to time a piece of wood was extended inward and a plumb line was dropped down to ensure that the walls were perpendicular and the angle as true on the upper tiers as on the base. These corner plumb lines are represented by the tassels hanging in the corners of our lodge rooms.

    In the ritual used in the old days these hanging tassels were taken as representing guides to enable a man to maintain an upright life; hence, the four cardinal virtues, namely temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice.

    By: W. Bro. R. E. Salmon; Published in

    THE TRACING BOARD, GRS; June, 1987

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