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The Oblong Square

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Spreading Capitular Light And Knowledge In Colorado
Vol.Iv      May 1, 1971         No. 2  

A few words and a few of the expressions used in Masonry seem always to bring up a certain amount of controversy, one of these is the “oblong square.” This expression has caused any amount of study, and a great amount of speculation concerning it. For years I’ve heard statements such as “a square is a square, an oblong is an oblong, each has four right angles, but there has never been known a oblong square or a square oblong.” This to me is like saying a horse is a four-footed animal, and a saw is an instrument for cutting wood, there- fore, there is no meaning to the word”sawhorse.”

What are the facts? We find the term “oblong square” actually used by recognized Masonic authorities and in literature, and this fact demands an explanation and justifies an attempt or ascertain what was meant by the term. It is found in literature-Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe describes the court enclosed for a tournament as “forming a space of a quarter of a mile in length and about half as broad. The form of the enclosure was an oblong square.: Shakespeare describes the courtyard of a certain castle as being twice as long as broad, in the shape of an “oblong square.” Certainly these and other writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would not be using words that were not understood by the reading public of that day.

The old Rituals also describe the drawing of “the lodge” on the floor of the room where the communications were held. This drawing was done with chalk, charcoal or clay. and after the degree was conferred, the newly admitted brother was required to wash it out and mop it up. The drawing is always described as an “oblong square. It had three steps at the end, the first called the Entered Apprentice step, the second the Fellow Craft step, and the third the Master’s step. Each was called the step of an oblong square. The candidate was taught to approach the East on the first, second, or third step of an “oblong square”, according to the Degree which he was to receive.

From this brief explanation I conclude there has been and still is a meaning which justifies the term, “oblong square”. Trades and other organizations frequently make use of a term in a sense peculiar to that trade of organization and different from the commonly ascribed or accepted definition of the term. Therefore, even if the term “oblong square” had no other sanction that Masonic usage, it would be perfectly proper for Masons to use it in their own way as a Masonic term. We have many terms used in a sense peculiar to Masonry, such has “Hele”, “Cable-tow” , “Cowan”. To my mind the retention of these old terms in our Ritual is a proof of the antiquity of the Order and illustrates how knowledge is preserved from generation to generation, our atentative ear, instructive tongue, and faithful breast.

Justin 0. King Capitular Information Committee