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This word is used among Freemasons with two very different significations.

  1. When addressed as an inquiry to a visiting Brother it has the same import as that in which it is used under like circumstances by mariners. Thus: "Whence do you hail?" that is, "Of what Lodge are you a member?" Used in this sense, it comes from the Saxon term of salutation huel, and should be spelled hail.
  2. Its second use is confined to what Freemasons understand by the tie, and in this sense it signifies to conceal, being derived from the Saxon word helan, to hide, the e being pronounced in Anglo-Saxon as a in the word fate. By the rules of etymology, it should be written hate, but is usually spelled hele.

The preservation of this Saxon word in the Masonic dialect, while it has ceased to exist in the vernacular, is a striking proof of the antiquity of the Order and its ceremonies in England. "In the western parts of England," says Lord King (Critical History of the Apostle's Creed, page 178), "at this very day, to hele over anything signifies, among the common people, to cover it; and he that covereth an house with tile or slate is called a helliar."

"As regards the Anglo-Saxon hele, it survives of course in the word Hell-the covered world-of the Apostle's Creed, but," says Brother Canon J. W. Horsley, (page 21, Transactions, Quatuor Coronati Lodge, volume xxvi, 1913), "I thought until lately that a hellyer, that is, a thatcher who covers over with thatch the sticks of corn, was only North Country. However, lately when asking who had so well covered a stick close to Detling Church I was told it was a hellyer from the next village. And in the best dictionary of the Kentish dialect I find:

  • Hele (heel) verb, to cover
  • Heal (heel) verb, to hide, to cover anything up; to roof in.
    ''All right! I'll work Jim; I've only just got this 'ere row o taturs to heal." Heler (hee-ler) substantive. anything which is laid over another: as, for instance, the cover of a thurrick, or wooden drain.

To the above information Brother Doctor Hammond added that in the West of England, the word "hele" is used at the present time, and its common pronunciation there and on the moors of the Cornish Country is hale (see also Heler). From correspondence with Brother Charles E. Funk in regard to the pronunciation of the word, we learn he is convinced that in most Lodges until 1750, and perhaps even later than 1800, the words hele, conceal, reveal, were perfect rhymes pronounced hayl, concayl, revayl, as they would be in Ireland today, but modern dictionaries give the pronunciation as heel.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

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