symbolism the Lambskin Apron holds precedence. It is the initial gift
of Freemasonry to a candidate, and at the end of life's pilgrimage it
is reverently placed on his mortal remains and buried with his body in
the grave. Above all other symbols, the Lambskin Apron is
the distinguishing badge of a Mason. It is celebrated in poetry and
prose and has been the subject of much fanciful speculation.
Some Masonic writers have contended that initiation is
analogous to birth, or our advent from prenatal darkness into the
light of human fellowship, moral truth and spiritual faith.
Much ancient lore has been adduced in an effort to show that the
Lambskin Apron typifies regeneration, or a new life, and this thought
of resurrection may be the cause of its internment with the body of a
deceased brother. At least it will serve until a better
reason is advanced for this peculiar custom in the Masonic burial
service. The association of the lamb with redemption and
being born again is expressed by John, the Apocalyptic Seer, who had a
vision on the Isle of Patmos, and beheld the purified and redeemed
"of all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues,"
Of them it was said, "These are they which came out of great
tribulation and have washed their robes and made them white in the
blood of the Lamb."
By many it has
been regarded as a great religious symbol. In our present conception
there are three parts of man, body, soul and spirit; what the body is
to the soul, the soul is to the spirit, namely , a house or
habitation, but in oriental thought there were seven parts of man,
four earthly and three heavenly, four physical and three spiritual.
The four sides of the square symbolized the four physical and the
three sides of the flap, or triangle, symbolized the three spiritual
parts of man. the apex of the triangle or point of the flap stood for
the seventh part of man which was called Atma and which means the
eternal spark, the divine flame, the indestructible spirit of the
living God in every human being. In this aspect it means
that God is not a looker on at the life of anyone; God is under every
man, God is part of every man.
A badge is either
good or bad by reason of that for which it stands. aside from
mysticism, It is believed, there are five distinct things
of which the Lambskin Apron is a badge. Firstly,
in its use, it is a badge of service. In his
book on "Symbolical Masonry," Brother H. L. Haywood had an
interesting chapter on "The Apron wherein the Builder
builds," and says it "was so conspicuous a portion of the
costume of the Operative Mason that it became associated with him in
the public mind and thus gradually evolved into his badge." By it
Speculative Freemasonry seeks to distinguish the builder and place
upon the brow of labor the laurel wreath of dignity and honor.
Secondly, made of
Lambskin, it is in its fabric, a badge of sacrifice.
The Lamb in all ages has been not only an emblem of innocence, but
also a symbol of sacrifice, and he who wears this Apron with
understanding must be prepared for the time when hard things are to be
done when trials are to be endured, and fortitude glorified.
Thirdly, in its color it is a badge of purity. White is
the clean color that reflects most light.
The third is the
rite of investiture or purification; that is, the presentation of the
Apron. In a qualified way it bears the relationship to the
lodge that baptism does to some churches. It is the
external symbol of an inner purification. The Psalmist
asked: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?"
and answering his own question said, "He that hath
clean hands and a pure heart." The Apron when
correctly understood is the pledge of a clean life. The
testimony that a candidate means to live pure, speak true, right
wrong, and reverence conscience as king. When we turn to
the Ritual for its interpretation, we find the Apron to be an
inheritance from the past, and so, in the fourth place, it is a badge
of antiquity, "more ancient than the Golden Fleece and Roman
Eagle." A ministerial brother once said that the Masonic Ritual
was couched in stilted phrases and extravagant language, and as an
illustration referred to the ritualistic speech used in the
presentation of the Apron. The most specific way of
conveying thought and expressing truth is by comparison. It is
difficult to comprehend an idea unless we can correlate and compare it
with something already known. The Order of the Golden Fleece here
referred to was founded in the year 1492 by Philip, Duke of Burgundy.
The Roman Eagle became Rome's Ensign of imperial power about one
century before the Christian era. While the Apron has come
down to us from the very sunrise of time. "Hebrew Prophets often
wore Aprons." They were used in the ancient mysteries
of India and Egypt. They were used by early Chinese secret
societies. By the Jewish religious sect called Essenes.
They were employed as emblems by the Incas of Peru.
The Aztecs of Mexico, and the prehistoric races of the American
As a badge of
antiquity the Apron exalts the greatness and glory of the past in its
present contribution to human good and happiness. The Apron is
a badge of honor. It is declared to be "More
honorable than the Star and Garter." Here we have another
comparison. The Order of the Star was created by John II
of France at the beginning of his reign in the middle of the 14th
Century. It was a royal plaything and at the time of its
formation its founder was engaged in acts of despotism and
destruction. The Order of the Garter was formed by
Edward III of England in 1349. It was composed of the King
and twenty-five Knights and originated in the false pride and
fantastic pomp of Medieval manners. Edward A. Freeman, an
English historian, says: "The spirit of knighthood is above all
things a class spirit. The good knight is bound to endless
courtesies toward men and women of a certain rank; he may treat all
below that rank with any degree of scorn and cruelty."
"Chivalry is in morals what feudalism is in law. Each
substitutes personal obligations devised in the interest of an
exclusive class, for the more homely duties of an honest man and a
good citizen." Freemasonry is in striking
contrast to such conceptions. It stands for
dissipation of discord and dissension, for the promotion of peace, the
pursuit of knowledge and practice of brotherhood. For
untrammeled conscience, equality of opportunity and the divine right
of liberty in man, for devotion to duty, the building of character and
rectitude of life and conduct. Its symbolical supports are
wisdom, strength and beauty; the principal rounds of its
theological ladder of faith, hope, and charity. Its
primary tenets are brotherly love, relief and truth; its cardinal
virtues are fortitude, temperance, prudence and justice.
Its temple is erected to the Master Builder, its Great
Light is the Word of Revelation and at its center is an Altar of high
and holy purpose. Like the shadow of a rock in a weary land,
like a shining light in the window of a home, is the spirit of
Freemasonry. Calling man from the circumference of life,
to find the Supreme Being, at the very center of the soul of the
When we consider
the messages delivered by these Orders and the Lambskin Apron - one
speaking the language of class distinction, special privilege and the
divine right of kings; the other telling the story of exact justice,
equality of opportunity, and the brotherhood of man - it is not a
stilted phrase and an exaggeration of speech to say that the badge of
a Mason is more honorable than the Star and Garter.
As a badge of honor, the Lambskin Apron spells out
honesty of purpose, integrity, uprightness of character, and
soundness of moral principle.