Masonic Rods and Staffs

                        The Masonic Rods and Staffs 
                          by  C. Richard Walk, PM 

    Why This Program Was Prepared 

    I have been told that in Virginia the stewards have "Rods" beside 
    their chairs and beside the Deacon's chairs are "Staffs" and that 
    was about all the information I had about these metal poles of the 
    lodge room.  As a steward, I sat by them for two years and possibly 
    another two years as a deacon.  I thought I had to know more about 
    them and began to ask questions.  The answers I obtained about 
    these instruments did not satisfy my curiosity and with the 
    prodding of Worshipful Brother William A. Meyer of Springfield 217, 
    I decided to put together a program on the Rods and Staffs. 

    As I did the research, two things from the Middle Chamber of the 
    Fellowcraft degree kept running through mind.  The first was "Tools 
    and implements of masonry and symbolic emblems most ex,pressive are 
    selected by the fraternity to imprint on the mind wise and serious 
    truths".  The other was "The lapse of time, the ruthless hand of 
    ignorance and the devastations of war have laid waste and destroyed 
    many valuable - - - - ". 

    What Are Rods and Staffs 

    The first thing I did was find a definition.  I found that Rod and 
    Staff may be used interchangeably.  However, from a biblical sense, 
    staff meant support; such as, "Bread is the staff of life". 

    History and Development 

    The development was as follows: 

    1.  Club 

    2.  Stave 

    3.  Staff (spear, arrow, etc.) 

    4.  Wand (supernatural) 

    5.  Baton (marshal) 

    6.  Mace (only one made entirely of metal) 

    7.  Scepter (surmounted by globes) 

    8.  Crozier (surmounted by a cross) 

    9.  Rod (divining) 

    10. Masonic Rod (surmounted by symbolic devices) 

    The meaning of the above developed in this way: 

    1.  Brute Force 

    2.  Power 

    3.  Leadership 

    4.  Delegated Authority 

    5.  Correction 

    6.  Protection 

    7.  Support 

    8.  Effort 

    9.  Progress 

    10. Prosperity 

    11. Peace 

    Power has been associated with the devices throughout their 
    development. We might think of power in the following ways:

               Outwardly             Inwardly 

               To Strike             To Support 

               To Chastise           To Promote Peace 
                                     and Prosperity 

               To Correct            To Protect 

    Special Forms of Rods 

    Some special forms of the Rods are: 

    1.  Caduceus of Mercury 

    2.  Rod of AESCULAPIUS 

    The caduceus of Mercury was a winged rod entwisted by two serpents. 
    The Rod of AESCULAPIUS was a rod entwisted with one serpent and is 
    now the symbol of our medical profession. 


    Rods and staffs are each mentioned more than one hundred times in 
    the bible.  The best known verse is the 23rd psalm.  Here the 
    hooked staff was used to beat down the grass and retrieve straying 
    sheep.  The rod was used for protection.  Other well known parts of 
    the bible are: 

    Adam selected a branch to use as a staff to lean on. 

    Rod of Moses turned into a serpent when he threw it down.  (Wisdom 
    by effort). 

    How Did Rods and Staffs Get Into Masonic Lodges? 

    There is no evidence that they were used by operative Masons.  In 
    Britain the Grand High Steward presided over the King's household 
    and carried a white Rod.  This may have been the start of the 
    Masonic Rod but it probably came from Ushers in the House of 
    Parliament. One usher carried a black rod and the other a white 
    rod.  People would be seated by calling a "black rod" or "white 
    rod" depending on where they wished to be seated. 

    The first mention of Masonic Rods was in a procession of Grand 
    Lodge in 1724 in which the Grand Stewards carried white rods 
    symbolizing purity and innocence. 

    As late as 1812, Deacons in Pennsylvania carried columns in 
    procession.  Deacons first carried blue rods tipped with gold, 
    symbolizing friendship and benevolence.  Later they were tipped 
    with a pine cone in imitation of the Caduceus of Mercury. 

    It is also reported that rods were used in early lodges to find 
    eavesdroppers in the eaves of the lodges. 

    Symbolism of the Rods and Staffs 

    Symbolism requires individual thought and interpretation to be of 
    any value.  Each individual may interpret things in his own way.  
    For example: looking at a picture of a river may bring to the mind 
    of some a fishing experience, to some it may be sailing or boating 
    and to others peace and solitude.  The important thing is that it 
    has meaning to the individual and can help him perfect his ashlar.  
    So, the following statements must not be considered final, but 
    rather suggestive of the endless possibilities of rod symbolism. 

    It could symbolize a plumb line pointing to heaven and could mean 
    moral rectitude, or to set our lives to lead to immortality. 

    The Stewards rods could remind us of the perfect parallel lines and 
    John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. 

    They could mean authority or power. 

    They could remind us of a lever. Archimedes said "Give me a lever 
    and a place to rest and I will move the world". How infinitesimal 
    are the forces exerted by the mechanical lever as to the spiritual 
    force exerted by the Masonic Rod on the minds and hearts of men. 

    The devices on top the rods represent the forces of nature acting 
    beneficially for mankind. 

    Oliver Day said "The glorious orbs of night and day (referring to 
    the moon and sun of the deacon staff) have not yet lost their power to 
    stir the thoughts of divinity in the human mind". 

    The moon on the Junior Deacon's staff is a water spilling moon.  
    The water spilled on the ground with sunshine, as represented by 
    the sun atop the Senior Deacon's, on the growing crop brings forth 
    the fruit of harvest overflowing in the cornucopias in the rods of 
    the Stewards. 

    The story of the cornucopias goes like this:  When Zeus was an 
    infant, he was raised by the two daughters of Melisseus.  His 
    daughters were virgins so for nourishment, Zeus was given the milk 
    of the goat Amalthea.  When Zeus became ruler of the Gods, to show 
    appreciation for his early care and nourishment, he placed the goat 
    Amalthea in the heavens as a constellation.  To the daughters of 
    Melisseus, he gave each one horn of the goat with the provision 
    that as long as they lived, whatever they desired they only had to 
    express the wish and it would be supplied from the goat's horn in 
    over-flowing abundance.  And so the cornucopias of the steward's 
    rods are overflowing with the fruits of the harvest to symbolize 
    the abundant material and spiritual life which faithful masons may 
    hope to enjoy. 

    Rods and Staffs from State to State 

    There are many differences in the way the rods and staffs are used 
    from state to state, indicating that the lapse of time, and 
    ruthless hand of ignorance has played a significant roll in this 

    In Maine, the stewards have white rods.  The deacons use black.  
    There are lodges in Virginia that use white and black rods. 

    In Illinois and Washington the rods and staff's are both used and 
    are carried at a 45 degree angle. 

    In Colorado the candidate is led into the lodge by the stewards 
    carrying the rods upright. 

    There are no stewards in Pennsylvania (at least as positioned 
    officers in the lodge room). 

    In Illinois the stewards keep their hand on the rod at all times. 

    In Washington and Illinois at funerals both the steward's rods and 
    deacon's staffs are used. 

    In Virginia Funerals Stewards with their rods upright lead the 
    procession of masons into the funeral home.  Deacon's staffs are 
    not used. 


    The 23rd Psalm states that "Thy rod and thy staff comfort me", and 
    this is a time to comfort the family. 

    They also represent the lines that touch the circle which 
    circumscribes our bounds throughout life - - - - - - - - - -from 
    initiation into masonry until death. 

    They also may represent the lines of brethren at the altar that 
    were in support of the deceased brother. 

    Deacons Please Prepare Your Rods and Staffs 

    While Deacons are preparing the rods and staffs.  The narrator 
    draws and discusses the following figures: 

    (Graphics not reproduced) 

    As the rod officer carries the rod at a 45 degree angle, he 
    demonstrates an important proposition of Geometry.  The point of 
    his shoulder (L1) and hip (L2) produce straight parallel lines as 
    he walks. 

    The rod (A-B) cuts these two lines.  The alternate interior angles 
    (a & a') are equal.  This fact is useful to surveyors but can also 
    be used to illustrate a practical application of the law of 
    conservation of energy. 

    (Graphics not reproduced) 

    Looking at Figure 2, if a carpenter needs to produce one hundred 
    eight inch boards, eight feet in maximum length and with a 45 
    degree miter on one end, he would take one saw cut at a 45 degree 
    angle as shown above on fifty boards.  To produce the one hundred 
    boards only fifty saw cuts are needed and there would be no waste.  
    Had he done otherwise, he would have wasted twenty-two feet of 
    lumber plus time and energy in making fifty additional saw cuts. 

    The semicircle described by the point of the rod demonstrates 
    another useful proposition. 

    (Graphics not reproduced) 

    Lines drawn from one end of the diameter to any point on the semi-
    circle and from there to the other end of the diameter form a 90 
    degree angle.  It is believed by some that the ancient operative 
    Masons used this construction technique for the purpose of making 
    and checking their oblong try squares. 

    A sailor is guiding his ship uses the same principle.  This is 
    illustrated below. 

    (Graphics not reproduced) 

    L1, L2 - Landmarks   -   Obstruction  -  Safe Course    -   Danger 

    If there is a danger area in the sea, the sailor could construct a 
    semicircle with landmarks L1 and L2 on opposite ends of the 
    diameter.  Then in sailing around the obstruction he would make 
    sightings to both L1 and L2.  If the angle is 90 degree (P), he 
    would be sailing on the semicircle.  If the angle became acute 
    (P"), he would also be safe but if it became obtuse (P') he would 
    know that the ship is approaching the danger area and will take 
    steps to correct his course. 

    The Deacons Return and Their Rods and Staffs are placed in Position 

    The white steward rods are pointed out. 


    Brother Albert L. Woody; Past Master of an Illinois Lodge who was 
    commissioned Grand Lecturer in 1939 and Editor of the Illinois 
    Masonic Enlightener and now serving masonry in the state of 
    Washington, wrote an article titled "Masonic Rods.  Their Use, 
    History and Symbolism".  In it he had an interesting idea.  He 
    thought of the rods and staffs as the operative part of our lodges.  
    That is, if you would envision lighted rods in a dark lodge room as 
    the rod officers performed their ritual, the rods would "cut out" 
    many of the implements used by operative masons, such as the 
    square, compasses, semicircles, the point, a line, plane, arc, 
    curve, etc. 

    What we are going to do tonight is try to demonstrate what we 
    believe he had in mind. 

    Brother Deacon - lower the lights. 

    Behold, the stewards rods (glowing); perfect parallel lines, 
    representing the Holy St. Johns. 

    Brothers Sr. & Jr. Deacon: 
    Show a point atop your staffs.  (Small light on top of staffs lit).  
    This point represents the individual with no extensions and 

    Brother Deacons: 

    Extend the point to a line (slowly lighting staff from point to 
    bottom).  The point now is extended to a line, which may represent 
    our own expansion in one direction and as an entered apprentice are 
    able now to help ourselves. 

    Brother Jr. Deacon: 

    Come to the east as you do just before obligating a candidate. The 
    line now forms a superfice and may represent an individuals 
    extension in a second direction indicating he can now support 
    himself and family. 

    Brother Jr. Deacon: 

    Go from a superfice to a solid (goes completely around lodge 
    squaring corners).  This may remind us that when our life is based 
    on a solid foundation we can support ourselves, our family and 
    contribute to the relief of - - - - - - - -. 

    Brother Jr. Deacon: 

    Form the fourth part of a circle (a 90 degree turn to the left). 
    Notice that as the rod officer makes the turn, the tip of his staff 
    cuts out an arc or 4th part of a circle.  Then when the question is 
    asked "What is a square", the answer is - - - - - - - - - -. 

    Brother Sr. Deacon: 

    Form the letter "G" as if balloting.  (As he performs ritual): 
    Notice, - - - - - - - - - - the letter "G" is being formed. 

    Brothers Sr. & Jr. Deacon: 

    Form the 180 degree clockwise motion. 

    Notice, after giving - - - - - - - - - - -  to the Sr. Warden, the 
    tip of their rods form a 180 degree clockwise motion.  It also 
    occurs in other movements in the ritual. 

    It is a symbol of life and is the course the sun takes from rising 
    and setting. 

    The candidate travels in a clockwise motion in his progress through 
    the degrees. 

    It is one of the most ancient rights known to man. 

    Brother Jr. Deacon: 

    Perform the ritual at the door.  (While demonstrating).  Notice - - 
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    This may remind us of the scripture verse (I believe Matt. 6:1) 
    regarding the dispensing of charity.  "Let not the left hand 
    knoweth what thy right hand doeth". 

    Brothers Sr. & Jr. Deacon: 

    Prepare to receive the Master and move to the candidate. 

    With the sun atop the Sr. Deacon's staff between the square and 
    compasses and the moon likewise between the square and compasses of 
    the Jr. Deacon's staff and now the Worshipful Master between the 
    compasses formed by the staffs and the jewel he wears we may recall 
    that as the sun rules the - - - - - - * - - - - -. 

    As the Master stands under the staffs forming the compasses and 
    wearing his jewel and them moves to the candidate, we are reminded 
    that the  moral lessons of these implements extend from the 
    Worshipful Master to Candidate. 

    May We Have The Lights 

    Brethren, this program has only scratched the surface about the 
    valuable meanings hidden in the rods and staffs. As the poet Andrew 
    Lang said "The eye of each man sees but what it is capable of 
    seeing".  The purpose of symbolism is to develop each craftsman's 
    capacity "to see" the wealth of meaning hidden in our symbolic 

    It is our sincere hope that this program has in some small way 
    provided a better appreciation for the Masonic rods and staffs, for 
    it is certain that a better understanding of these important 
    functions is desirable for the well being and progress of our