The Symbolism of the Sword

The Symbolism of the Sword

The sword used to play an important role in Freemasonry, and still does so in many of the so-called "higher" degrees. In ancient times, it was a regular part of the dressing of a gentleman, but Masons were required to leave their swords in the Tyler's room before entering a Lodge. Its importance can be seen that even today, many Grand Lodges, still appoint a "Swords Bearer". Why is the sword so important?

The sword has a classic duality to it. In most cultures, any weapon symbolizes power - but this power can go both ways. On the one hand it kills and destroys, yet on the other it protects and is a central symbol for chivalry. No man was considered a true knight unless he was presented with his sword in an often elaborate ceremony. The Japanese Samurai went one step further, considering the sword to be their own spirit, and it was never to leave one's side. For this reason, even today, forgers of swords in Japan go through an elaborate ceremony before, during and after forging a new blade.

The Knights Templars swore that they would never draw their swords unless convinced of the justice of the cause in which they were engaged, nor to sheathe it until their enemies were subdued. Many swords, especially those from Spain, often had the following engraved on them "No me saques sin rason. No me embaines sin honor"; meaning Do not draw me without justice, do not sheathe me without honor.

The Tyler's sword should traditionally be one with a "wavy" blade, to symbolize the flaming sword that was placed at the east of the garden of Eden, which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). It should also never be sheathed, as it is the Tyler's duty to keep off, at all times, "cowans and eavesdroppers."

An example of a traditional Tyler's sword

Light:

Sword are also closely linked to light. Swords glitter, and the Crusaders used to call them “fragments of the Cross of Light.” The Japanese sword sacred to the Emperor originated in lightning, when the storm-god “Susa no O” kills an eight-headed snake, and pulls from its tail the sword called “Ame no murakomo no tsurugi.” This miraculous sword was given by the sun goddess Amaterasu to her grandson Ninigi when he descended to earth to become ruler of Japan, thus establishing the divine link between the imperial house and the sun, which continues today.

The Vedic sacrificial sword originated by Indra’s thunderbolt. Lightning is associated with water, and hence another link between the fire-sword-water that Wor. Conseil refers to. When God drove Adam and Eve from Paradise, he send Cherubins carrying flaming swords. These swords threw off lightning bolts (Genesis 3:24).

Fire:

In Alchemy, the fire in the furnace is called “The Philosopher’s sword.” The Anglo-Saxon word for sword was seax, meaning “the fire of the great fire”, the Italian word is spada, or sepada, meaning “the fire of the shining Father.”

Duality:

The sword is the most obvious symbol of a warrior, but can be taken in two ways:

  • Destructive - for purposes of killing and the like

  • Positive - Defending justice, destroying injustice and the like

This is often why a sword is often symbolically double-edged.

Furthermore, we have seen the sword being associated with fire which creates it, and war. One of the most common symbols of war is also the planet Mars, also called the planet of fire because of its color. However, a sword can also be cold because of its bare metal ? hence another duality.

Connetable:

The Connetable (Constable in English) was one of the original five officers of the royal household: the Senechal, Chambrier, Connetable, Bouteiller and Chancelier. The office is a very ancient one, since it existed in the late Roman Empire (comes stabuli, count of the stable). After the abolition of the office of Senechal in 1191, the Connetable was the most important officer in the army. His insignia of office was the straight sword, which represented the king's sword whose care was his. He carried before the king during the coronation ceremony. The same sword appears, held by a hand from a cloud, on both sides of his coat of arms.

Grand Ecuyer:

This office became a Great Officer under Henri III. He was customarily called "Monsieur le Grand." The insignia consists of the king's sword in its sheath and with the belt.

Note that the coat-of-arms of the Connetable, who works for the King, is a nakedsword, whereas the coat-of-arms of the Grand Ecuyer, who works with the King, is sheathed.

 

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