Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Marking out the ground for the foundation

(The working tool pictured left -a Skirret - was handmade by Bro. Bearss from Palmer Lodge #372, Fort Erie, Ontario)

One of the working tools of the Third Degree in the Emulation ritual is the skirret. For those of us used to the Preston-Webb tradition, this tool is not one which we are used to seeing, but it is one which is important for Master Masons to be familiar with and employ.

As you can see by the photo, it is like a spool of thread with a handle. The loose end of the thread has a loop which will catch the center pin. The skirret's thread is allowed to unwind and held taut. Once the length is reached, a piece of chalk may be used to mark the foundation, the skirret's thread ensuring a straight line. The skirret's thread, when allowed to unwind, becomes longer than any practicable ruler or straightedge but it is just as true. It is similar to a modern-day chalkline.

The Emulation ritual explains that the skirret "is an implement which acts on a centre pin, whence a line is drawn to mark out ground for the foundation of the intended structure." This is the operative use of the skirret, and the ritual goes on to explain that, for the Speculative Mason, "the Skirret points out that straight and undeviating line of conduct laid down for our pursuit in the Volume of Sacred Law." We are instructed that the skirret is a tool specifically to be used in preparation for laying a foundation.

Bro. James Marple in his article "The Mason's Skirret" points out that what makes the skirret so special is "that it is used before the foundation of a building is laid; and, therefore, the skirret is generally used before the other working tools. A skirret allows a person to see the precise location for the foundation. Consequently, the surrounding ground can easily be designated for other purposes. Initial use of the skirret enables changes to be made to the mark rather than, later, to change a finished foundation of stone or concrete."

When we consider these qualities in relation to the Volume of Sacred Law, the skirret is the tool which helps us to understand how the Volume of Sacred Law applies to our own lives. We are instructed that the Volume of the Sacred Law is "the rule and guide of our faith." How do we apply this to our daily life? Through the straight and undeviating line as set by use of the skirret. It allows us to map out the foundation of our character and allow us to see the footprint upon which our Temple will be built.

For my American Brothers, take a moment and think about how important this missing, yet vital working tool is to a Master Mason - both in the construction of your own inner Temple and in the building of our new Brothers' Temples as well.

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