Freemasonry is
The knots of Freemasonry

Among the many decorative knots, we can observe at least one of these in our masonic symbols, from which we can then ask ourselves the question: ‘How do these apply to Masonry other than to emphasise how adept we are in tying ourselves in knots?’

Looking at the Mosaic Pavement, many lodge rooms have incorporated in the border of the tessellated pavement, knots which go by a variety of names. The variations of these ‘Figure of 8’ knots are also known as Reef Knot, Overhand Knot, Thumb Knot, and to some they are known symbolically as ‘love knots’ (Reference; Mackey’s Encyclopaedia of Masonry p807), as symbols of the brotherly love that prevails within the Fraternity.

A decorative Turk’s Head knotA decorative Turk’s Head knot worked in leather cordAll of these are a variation of the Trefoil Knot which is recognised as the basic knot.

One of the ‘forgotten’ symbols of Masonry is Solomon’s Knot, which, (along with the trowel, to which it could well have been figuratively tied) seems to have fallen off the back of the Craft Masonic symbolism truck.

Solomon’s Knot is a common name for a decorative motif used since ancient times, and is found in many cultures. Contrary to its name, it is actually classified as a link, and not a true knot, according to the definitions of mathematical knot theory.

Solomon’s Knot is suspected to have its possible origin in the Middle East. In the Tzippori National Park, in Israel, Solomon’s Knots are seen in the stone mosaics at the site of an ancient synagogue; elsewhere in the Middle East, historical Islamic sites also show Solomon’s Knot as being part of Muslim tradition. The extent to which it was distributed in the world can be shown from examples to the East, where it is woven into an antique Central Asian prayer rug, and to the West, in Moorish Spain of the Western Mediterranean area. Two versions of Solomon’s Knot can be observed in the recently excavated Yattir Mosaic in Jordan.

Solomon KnotA Solomon’s Knot appears in this ancient Roman mosaic in Aquileia.
Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto
The knot design appears on the textiles of the Kuba people of Congo, where it is called ‘Imbolo’. It is also known as the ‘Foundation Knot’ in the interweaving and interlacing which is a basis for many elaborate Celtic designs.

In Latin, this configuration is sometimes known as sigillum Salomonis, meaning literally ‘Seal of Solomon’. It was associated with King Solomon because of his reputation for wisdom and knowledge (and in some legends, occult powers).

Whilst it has never been a part of masonic thinking, the Endless Knot has been described as ‘an ancient symbol representing the interweaving of the Spiritual Path, the flowing of Time and Movement within That which is Eternal’. It is also possibly expressing the thought that ‘all existence is bound by time and change, yet ultimately rests serenely within the Divine and the Eternal’.

The similarity between the Solomon’s Knot and the Endless Knot, when viewed together is not so obvious. The Endless Knot, otherwise known as the Eternal Knot, is a symbolic knot, and one of the classified Eight Auspicious Symbols of Ancient Times. It is an important cultural marker in places significantly influenced by Tibetan Buddhism.

To achieve this, the symbol is given various interpretations including:

  • eternal love and friendship;
  • the eternal continuum of time;
  • the symbol of Samsara within Tibetan Buddhism, being the endless cycle of suffering birth, death and re-birth;
  • the inter-twining of wisdom and compassion;
  • the interplay and interaction of the opposing forces in the dualistic world of manifestation, leading to their union, and ultimately to harmony in the universe;
  • the mutual interdependence of religious doctrine and secular affairs;
  • the union of wisdom and method;
  • the inseparability of emptiness (Shunyata) and dependent origination, the underlying reality of existence;
  • a symbolic knot linking ancestors and omnipresence;
  • having no visible beginning or end, it symbolises the wisdom of Buddha.

The Gordian Knot is often used as a metaphor for an intractable problem.

To address a problem one has to disentangle an ‘impossible’ knot. In recent terminology the De Bono practice of ‘lateral thinking’ or ‘thinking outside the box’ has also come to be known as ‘cutting the Gordian knot’.

We all have our own Gordian Knots, created in the main from our own passions and prejudices, which is possibly why we are enjoined to keep them within due bounds. Our obligations to our brethren also add to the complexity of our own Gordian Knots as we exercise Charity (in the sense of understanding), sometimes accepting the problems of others in an endeavour to be of assistance.

Our Gordian Knots are sometimes so overwhelming that individuals are unable to cope, and some experience ‘mental health’ problems to describe their dilemma, in the same way that a flesh injury is considered a physical health issue.

ThreeKnotsOne might see some interesting parallels in Masonry when matters which are considered by some to be ‘un-masonic’ are being considered.

Yet another variation to this craft of interweaving is the Turks Head Knot. This is considered by many as a decorative knot, although it does have a number of specific applications.

Historically it has been used to identify the ‘king spoke’ of a ship’s wheel, where, with the ‘king spoke’ of the ship’s wheel in the upright position, the rudder is considered to be in the central setting.

In International Scouting it is used by qualified leaders to hold the ends of their scarf together.

Article extracted from Freemason magazine, March 2018, pages 28 and 29.

Join

In a world often dictated by hate and segregation, membership of an organisation capable of uniting men of all religions, colours and even accents is more relevant than ever.

To know more about Freemasonry and how to get involved, complete the form below and someone will get in touch with you.

Invalid Input

Invalid email address.

Invalid Input

Your phone number

Invalid Input

Invalid Input

Looking for a lodge to visit?

Can't find what you are looking for?

Please note that you must be logged in to search for members content.