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Swords In Royal Arch Masonry

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When we think of Swords in masonry we first think of the Tyler’s sword. The ritual teaches us that the sword is to aid the Tyler in the performance of his duties to keep cowans & eavesdroppers from participating in our rituals. According to Mackey the Tyler’s sword was to have a blade that is wavy or serrated in order to represent the flaming sword that guarded the Garden of Eden. However, since these style swords are not easily found the Tyler’s sword tends to be a double edge sword that is one of the orders of Chivalry; or it can be a military sword with one edge. These swords represent the expediency over the historical ritual of Masonry.

The other two swords found in use in the Royal Arch is the sword that lies on the floor of the chapter on the north of the Altar, and the Grand Sword Bearers Sword, The sword that lies on the floor with the trowel represents the sword that the craftsmen needing to use to defend themselves from raiders when they were building the second temple. But what is the significance of the Grand Sword? Why does the Grand First Principal require a Grand Sword Bearer. What is the significance of the sword?

The tradition of Sword Bearer stems from the Roman days when the Public Magistrate would in a public procession be preceded by two attendants, the first carried a bundle of sticks tied together which represented unity & the other carried a Sword which represented the ability to deliver justice for those who would destroy the unity. After the fall of the Roman empire this tradition was followed by the nobles of the middle ages & during that time the sword grew from the Roman Short Sword to a impressive double edged sword of great size that required the bearer to hold it in both hands. This had the effect of making people nervous for it provided the bearer with the ability to inflict injury for a wide distance around him. It also had an impressive effect when the noble was proceeded by a Sword bearer on foot while the Noble was in their finery on a Horse. Upon the event of gunpowder the use of the sword came to an end as a weapon of war, however, the office of Sword bearer became more prestigious as the formation of guilds (original Unions) & society as a whole moved into a more ceremonial frame of mind.

In Masonry the office of the Sword bearer has within it the symbolism of a double meaning. The first meaning signifies the power of the magistrate (the Grand First Principal) the judge the arbiter of the fate of the chapters for the good or ill, life or death. The second meaning is the restraint of one entrusted with the material assets of such power, power which is not one’s own, but power that one carries for another, power that belongs by right, not to the bearer of the sword but to the person on whose behalf the sword is carried. This brings forward much food for thought for those whom the sword is entrusted must be such a character and disposition to serve loyally. They were chosen with this feature so that the magistrate need not fear being basely murdered or traitorously deprived of assistance when unhorsed the bearer must be a man of bridled ambition and a generous spirit.

Therefore, are we not all Sword Bearers, for as Masons we carry the ensign of the majesty of the craft and the honour of the Grand Master. We have freely chosen our Grand First Principals and entrusted them with nearly absolute power over the Chapters and they in turn, trust in our faithfulness, our loyalty.

I must say that, I consider being the Grand Sword bearer a great honour & privilege, however it would be a heavy burden if it were not for the support & comradely that I feel each time I perform my duties for Grand Chapter & the Grand First Principal, For companions, all of you are in a sense sword bearers for each one of you carry the message of our gentle craft which becomes a builder of each others character & supports each other in a time of trial. Thank-you

Brian A. Richnian 27/10/2000

PS - Part of this presentation was taken from a paper written by a past Sword Bearer from Washington State & given to me by a Companion from Washington.