The Meaning of Laurel
The Laurel, commonly used in wreaths, plays an important role in three Masonic (Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction) degrees, namely the 4th degree (Secret Master), the 27th degree (Knight Commander of the Temple), and the 32nd degree (Master of the Royal Secret). But what does the laurel represent?
It is interesting to note that in ancient times, a wreath of Laurel was given to the victor in the Pythian games, whereas the victor in the Olympic games was given a wreath of wild olives, the Nemean games a wreath of green parsley. The laurel was said to communicate the spirit of prophecy and poetry, and was seen as a purifying plant with powers of immortality. It was, therefore, common to put laurel leaves under one’s pillow to gain inspiration through dreams. Pythia, the high priestess of Delphi who would sit on her tripod to foresee the future and receive divine wisdom, did so while chewing Laurel leaves. Laurel leaves also surrounded the Temple of Apollo, to cleanse the soul before entering. Today the laurel is seen as a symbol for peace and victory.
In the 4th degree, the laurel signifies the hopeful expectation of success in the search for the True Word, and is prominently displayed on the apron. The parallels to victory are thus very evident in this degree. The 27th degree teaches us that the laurel symbolizes the good opinion our brethren have for us, and again is prominently displayed on the apron. The laurel is also used in the ceremony, symbolizing victory over the passions, and is given to the candidate at the end of the ceremony. The meaning of the laurel in the 32nd degree is not explained but probably refers again to victory, being the last degree.
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