The History of our Coat of Arms:
Countries, Kingdoms, Governments, Empires, families, others Institutions and even medieval knights have been using various Symbols, banners, labels etc. to identify, protect and distinguish themselves from others. So was, and still is today, the Coat of Arms one such method of identification. A Coat of Arms consists of various elements, these elements include, but are not limited to; a shield, supporters, crest, and a motto. There are many elements within our lodge’s Coat of Arms that can give us some indication of the history of the formation of the Lodge and English Freemasonry in South Africa. Sadly there are no known records available that can give us clear suggestions of exactly when or how our founding brothers chose the elements hidden in the Coat of Arms, but modern experts can still identify these elements and provide us with some interpretation and clarity on what some of those features might have symbolised and what they still represent today. Some of them are clearly associated with Freemasonry – symbols like the All-Seeing Eye and the Square and Compasses, and even some about the History of our Lodge – but what other mysteries are hidden there?
Lets explore some of the elements within our Coat of Arms…
The All-Seeing Eye:
The all-seeing eye, also known as the Eye of Providence, is a symbol showing an eye, often surrounded by rays of light and sometimes enclosed by a triangle. It is sometimes interpreted as representing the eye of God watching over humankind (or divine providence). Today, the Eye of Providence is also associated with Freemasonry.
The Eye first appeared as part of the standard iconography of Freemasons in 1797, with the publication of Thomas Smith Webb’s Freemasons Monitor. Here, it represents the all-seeing eye of God and is a reminder that a Mason’s thoughts and deeds are always observed by God (who is referred to in Masonry as the Great Architect of the Universe).
The Square and Compasses:
The Square and Compasses (or, more correctly, a square and a set of compasses joined together) is the single most identifiable symbol of Freemasonry.
Both the square and compasses are architect’s tools and are used in Masonic ritual as emblems to teach symbolic lessons. Malcolm C. Duncan’s Masonic Monitor of 1866 explains: “The square, to square our actions; The compasses, to circumscribe and keep us within bounds with all mankind”. However, as Freemasonry is non-dogmatic, there is no general interpretation for these symbols (or any Masonic symbol) that is used by Freemasonry as a whole.
The ribbon on the Coat of Arms displays our Lodge’s name, Hillbrow Lodge, and it also indicates that our Constitution was registered as Number 3046 in the English Constitution of Freemasonry.
Our Lodge was founded in 1904, during the reign of Edward VII, the reining monarch of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 1901 until his death in 1910.
King Edward VII was also a Freemason and as Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, he was the 4th Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England from 1874 until his Accession to the throne in 1901.
The Mountain Range:
The mountains depicted in the Coat of Arms could be a reference to South Africa and our vast and beautiful landscape. The mountains could also depict the strength of stone, or the gold reefs and mountains found throughout the Witwatersrand.
Our lodge was one of several lodges founded in Johannesburg following the resumption of normal masonic activities after the South African War. Probably the most important and significant reason for the establishment of Johannesburg (where our lodge is still based to this day), was the discovery of gold back in 1886.
The original Coat of Arms of our lodge is also proudly draped on a gold badge and presented in all of our meetings and formal gatherings.
The Lion, Unicorn and Union Jack:
During the foundation of our lodge, a lot of our brothers might have been British Soldiers serving in Southern Africa under the British Empire. The reference to the Union Jack not only indicates our routs but also clearly marks us as a lodge founded under the English Constitution of Freemasonry.
The Lion and Unicorn are also the Dexter (right) and Sinister (left) Supporters on the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom: The Lion, passant guardant representing England and the Unicorn the symbol of Scotland.
Servabo Fidem – Translated from Latin, it means; “I shall keep faith”. This motto has been used by various organisations through History and it is fitting to our lodge and Freemasonry in general. Freemasonry places considerable stress on Faith, Hope and Charity.
Faith should not necessarily be connected to Christianity, Judaism, Islam or any other religious believe system, but rather the believe in a Supreme Being, or as we Freemasons generally refer to it, the Great Architect of the Universe.
This is rather appropriate as Freemasonry and our Lodge accepts anyone of lawful age and good report who seeks to join of their own free will, no matter their religious background, social standing and beliefs…
Our Coat of Arms contains a lot of symbolism. We Masons understand that Freemasonry is “a science of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols”. How true is this definition of Freemasonry when it comes to something so plain as our Coat of Arms? It contains symbolism about Freemasonry, symbolism of our origins and symbolism of our Lodge in particular.
To the layman, it may look beautiful. It may seem old-fashioned. Or some may only see a picture or logo with a lot of things in it, but to a Freemason, and now to you, it will have a lot more meaning. It is something beautiful to behold and even more beautiful to understand.
Some may say that it hides a lot of secrets about our lodge and about Freemasonry, and this is “so typical of a secret society”, but what is so secretive about this? Do you feel that there are hidden objects, elements or symbols contained in our Coat of Arms?
Everything is out there and clearly visible, if you just care to look beyond the obvious, see beyond what you believe, and believe beyond what you see…
Bro. JJ (Kobus) Snyman, Hillbrow Lodge 3046EC, 2014