Not long ago I wrote an article for the Masonic Magazine "Living Stones" in which I addressed the underlying symbolism of the stewards and that of the Gate of Capricorn, known as the 'Gate of the Gods', which is symbolized by the position of the stewards in the Lodge Room of Freemasonry.
The one thing I dislike after writing an article or a blog entry is re-reading it, re-reading it brings to my awareness what I may have left out, and the abundance of my grammatical errors. Yet on the positive side it sometimes allows me to continue on down the rabbit hole of Masonic symbolism, a journey I rather enjoy, this is one of those entries.
Just after the article was published my Lodge performed an Entered Apprentice Degree ritual, during the slide show lecture, which replaced the tracing board of old, my mind was drawn to the illustration of the beehive, of which all candidates, (I prefer the word initiate) are told a very 'industrious' interpretation of.
Something struck me how simplistic the interpretation given was and low and behold my hunch was correct.
Little did I realize until I began my research I was about to continue with my investigation of the Gates, synchronicity was once again kicking in.
Now let's look at the symbolism of the 'beehive' on a very different level, we'll call it the inner level, one I assure you early modern Freemasonry knew perfectly well (considering the third Grand Master of Freemasonry John Theophilus Desaguliers is credited with the creation of the planetarium, and it's in this planetarium we will be ascending).
Up, up we go into the evening sky, up to what is called in Freemasonry the Royal Arch.
Sandwiched between the distinctive forms of Leo, the lion, and Gemini, the twins, lays the faint outline of the constellation Cancer, Latin for crab. The Tropic of Cancer, an imaginary line circling the globe at 23.5 ° north latitude, was given that name because that is where the Sun is directly overhead at the moment of the summer solstice, June 22, and 2,000 years ago (the line was named the Sun was in the constellation Cancer on that date).
Just how important this day in June is to Freemasonry can't be underscored, know as Midsummer, the time centered upon the summer solstice, the exact dates vary between different cultures, yet in Freemasonry this is the time we celebrate the birth of John the Baptist, one of the two patron saints of Freemasonry.
For those that never got a chance to read my article in Living Stones I make the case that the three degrees of the Blue Lodge have hidden within their inner symbolism the Three Mothers, water, air, and fire. The Entered Apprentice Degree is all about Water and its underlying symbolism.
But what about the beehive, you may be asking?
Within water sign Cancer there is a star cluster named Praesepe (pronounced prē-sē’-pe) also known as the “Bee Hive.” Praesepe is an ‘open cluster’ which spreads out, similar to a swarm of bees over a large area of the sky, with more than forty stars visible to the eye as a cloudy patch at night.
As part of the constellation of the Crab (Cancer) Praesepe is said to be located in the gate of the emergence of life. Recognized by the Platonists of ancient Greece as the highest point of heaven, this was the known as the “Gate of Men” though which souls descended to earth from heaven. It is the opposite of the “Gate of the Gods” found in Capricorn, the subject of my article in Living Stones magazine, where souls of the departed ascended back to heaven.
The constellation of Cancer has few stars and was known as the “dark sign” The darkness of this sign or constellation was regarded as ‘feminine,’ representing the darkness of the womb which gave birth to human souls. Cancer is the symbol of generation, for it is the house of the Moon, the great Mother of all things and the patroness of the life forces of Nature. Diana, the moon goddess of the Greeks, is called the Mother of the World. Concerning the worship of the feminine or maternal principle, Richard Payne Knight writes:
"By attracting or heaving the waters of the ocean, she naturally appeared to be the sovereign of humidity; and by seeming to operate so powerfully upon the constitutions of women, she equally appeared to be the patroness and regulatress of nutrition and passive generation: whence she is said to have received her nymphs, or subordinate personifications, from the ocean; and is often represented by the symbol of the sea crab, an animal that has the property of spontaneously detaching from its own body any limb that has been hurt or mutilated, and reproducing another in its place."...The Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology.
One of the myths associated with Cancer that should be of interest to Christian brothers is the myth involves the two eyes of the crab, the stars Asellus Borealis, and Asellus Australis, Latin terms for the Northern Ass (donkey), and the Southern Ass.
In between the two donkeys is Praesepe, called by astronomers of old as the 'manger', from which the donkeys appear to be feeding. The beasts were put in the sky to honor the donkeys ridden by the gods in their great battle with the Titans. It is said the loud braying of the donkeys confused the Titans, who had never heard such a noise, and helped win the battle for the gods.
Within the basilica of St. Mary Major (Batilica di Santa Maria Maggiore), in Rome, it has in its center the smaller chapel of the Praesepe where is preserved the sacred crib or cradle, consisting of five boards of the manger in which the infant Jesus is said to have been deposited at his birth, enclosed in an urn of silver and crystal with a fine gilt figure of the child on the top.
This crib forms the subject of a solemn ceremony and procession on Christmas Eve, which actually falls six months later in the sign of Capricorn, the time of John the Evangelist. The reason I make note of this is: last year Pope Benedict insinuated that no animals were present as normally symbolized in the manger at the birth of the Christ, and they probably weren't, they were present in the constellation of Cancer.
"In Cancer, which had risen to the meridian at midnight, is the constellation of the Stable and of the Ass. The ancients called it Præsepe Jovis. In the north the stars of the Bear are seen, called by the Arabians Martha and Mary, and also the coffin of Lazarus."...Mankind Their Origin and Destiny.
Here we find another instance of ancient pagan myth embodied in Christianity, yet most followers have failed to see its esoteric meaning. Maybe, just maybe, the brothers of old realized much of Christianity was based on a solar myth of old.