A "New" Working Tool

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

One aspect of our ancient Craft that fits right into this so-called Age of Diversity is the fact that our various rituals are nothing if not diverse. All I have to do to find a ritual that looks strange to me is to drive just a few miles west into Kansas (no offense, Kansas).

Rather than gripe about the potential for this to add to any "confusion among the Craft" I think it's better to look at it from the point of view that, like most diversity, it makes things more interesting.

That said, there is a certain ritualistic continuity here in the US through which we all "recognize" the degree work in spite of the fact that a Steward may hold his rod differently in one jurisdiction than he does in another. Years back, however, I saw a group of Brothers from the United Kingdom perform a Third Degree. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around some of that.

I found something fascinating in the Emulation Rite practiced in the UK and elsewhere: a "new" working tool. In the words of Otha Wingo, a Past Master and Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research, "The Emulation Rite surprises us with three Working Tools for this degree: the Skirret, the Pencil, and the Compasses."

The Pencil and Compasses: I get that. The Skirret: never heard of it.

I just had to know what that was. Go ahead… Google it and depending on which one of the accepted spellings you use, you'll wind up with a biography of actor Tom Skerritt… or a vegetable of the same name. Believe me, it's hard to find. The Internet may not be your best source for obscure and archaic working tools.

Still, a little perseverance paid off.

A Skirret is a wooden tool shaped like the letter "T" — about halfway down the vertical stake is another piece of wood parallel to the one at the top. The two wooden cross-pieces are connected by a dowel at each end. A long piece of string is wound around the dowels.

(And if the paragraph above doesn't prove "a picture is worth a thousand words," nothing will).

When in use, the craftsman unwinds the long piece of string from its spindle and uses it to lay out the design of the structure being built. It acts on a center pin from which a line is drawn out to mark the ground in the fashion of a chalk line:

"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."

In certain instances, with the spindle as the center, it is also handy for drawing a large circle.

The Skeritt's symbolism is fairly straightforward: it represents the straight, true and undeviating conduct we must use to lay out the course of our lives in our pursuit of more light:

"...the Skirret points out that straight and undeviating line of conduct laid down for our pursuit in the Volume of Sacred Law."

So there you have it: the Skirret — a working tool so ancient it's not only not in use today, but it's also almost forgotten; yet brand new to many of us in the United States.

And, I might add, now among my favorites.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.


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