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MARK

The appropriate jewel of a Mark Master. It is made of gold or silver, usually of the former metal, and must be in the form of a keystone. On the obverse or front surface, the device or Mark selected by the owner must be engraved within a circle composed of the following letters: H. T. W. S. S. T. K. S. On the reverse or posterior surface, the name of the owner, the name of his Chapter, and the date of his advancement, may be inscribed, although this is not absolutely necessary. The Mark consists of the device and surrounding inscription on the obverse. The Mark jewel, as prescribed by the Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland, is of mother-of-pearl. The circle on one side is inscribed with the Hebrew letters fast n, and the circle on the other side with letters containing the same meaning in the vernacular tongue of the country in which the Chapter is situated, and the wearer's mark in the center. The Hebrew letters are the initials of a Hebrew sentence equivalent to the English one familiar to Mark Masons. It is but a translation into Hebrew of the English mystical sentence.

It is not requisite that the device or Mark should be of a strictly Masonic character, although Masonic emblems are frequently selected in preference to other subjects. As soon as adopted it should be drawn or described in a book kept by the Chapter for that purpose, and it is then said to be "recorded in the Mark Book or Book of Marks," after which time it can never be changed by the possessor for any other, or altered in the slightest degree, but remains as his Mark to the day of his death.

This Mark is not a mere ornamental appendage of the Degree, but is a sacred token of the rites of friendship and brotherly love, and its presentation at any time by the owner to another Mark Master, would claim, from the latter, certain acts of friendship which are of solemn obligation among the Fraternity. A Mark thus presented, for the purpose of obtaining a favor, is said to be pledged; though remaining in the possession of the owner, it ceases, for any actual purposes of advantage, to be his property; nor can it be again used by him until, either by the return of the favor, or with the consent of the benefactor, it has been redeemed; for it is a positive law of the Order, that no Mark Master shall "pledge his Mark a second time until he has redeemed it from its previous pledge. " By this wise provision, the unworthy are prevented from making an improper use of this valuable token, or from levying contributions on their hospitable Brethren.

Marks or pledges of this kind were of frequent use among the ancients, under the name of tessera hospitals and arrhabo. The nature of the tessera hospitalis, or, as the Greeks called it, XuSoXor, cannot be better described than in the words of the Scholiast on the Medea of Euripides (v 613), where Jason promises Medea, on her parting from him, to send her the symbols of hospitality which should procure her a kind reception in foreign countries. It was the custom, says the Scholiast, when a guest had been entertained, to break a die in two parts, one of which parts was retained by the guest, so that if, at any future period he required assistance, on exhibiting the broken pieces of the die to each other, the friendship was renewed.

Plautus, about two hundred years before Christ, in one of his comedies, gives us an exemplification of themanner in which these tesseToe or pledges of friendship were used at Rome, whence it appears that the privileges of this friendship were extended to the descendants of the contracting parties. Poenulus is introduced, inquiring for Agorastocles, with whose family he had formerly exchanged the tessera.

Ag. Siquidem Antidimarchi quaeris adoptatitium.
Ego sum ipsus quem tu quaeris.
Poen. Hem! quid ego audio?
Ag. Antidamae me gnatum esse.
Poen. Si its est. tesseram Conferre Ei vis hospitalem, eccam, attuli.
Ag. Agedum huc ostende; est par probe; nam habeo domum.
Poen. O mi hospes, salve multum; nam mihi tuus pater
Pater tuus ergo hospes, Antidamas fuit:
Haec mihi hospitalis tessera cum illo fuit.
Poenuul., acs. v, sc. 2, rer. 85.
Ag. Antidimarchus' adopted son,
If vou do seek, I am the vers man.
Poen. Ah! Do I hear aright?
Ag. I am the son oi old Antidamus.
Poen. If so, I pray you Compare with me the hospitable die I've brought this with me.
Ag. Prithee, let me see it.
It is, indeed, the very counterpart
of mine at home.
Poen. All hail, my welcome guest
Your father was my guest, Antidamus.
Your father was my honored guest, and then
This hospitable die with me he parted.

These tesseroe, thus used, like the Mark Master's Mark, for the purposes of perpetuating friendship and rendering its union more sacred, were constructed in the following manner: they took a small piece of bone, ivory, or stone, generally of a square or cubical form, and dividing it into equal parts, each wrote his own name, or some other inscription, upon one of the pieces; they then made a mutual exchange, and, lest falling into other hands it should give occasion to imposture, the pledge was preserved with the greatest secrecy, and no one knew the name inscribed upon it except the possessor.

The primitive Christians seem to have adopted a similar practice, and the tessera was carried by them in their travels, as a means of introduction to their fellow Christians. A favorite inscription with them were the letters II. T. A. II., being the initials of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The use of these tessarae, in the place of written certificates, continued, says Doctor Harris (Dissertations on the Tesserae Hospitalis), until the eleventh century, at which time they are mentioned by Burchardus, Archbishop of Worms, in a visitation charge.

The arrhabo was a similar keepsake, formed by breaking a piece of money in two. The etymology of this word shows distinctly that the Romans borrowed the custom of these pledges from the ancient Israelites, for it is derived from the Hebrew arabon, meaning a pledge.

With this detail of the customs of the ancients before us, we can easily explain the well-known passage in Revelation ii, 17: "To him that overcometh will I give a white stone, and in it a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." That is, to borrow the interpretation of Harris, "To him that overcometh will I give a pledge of my affection, which shall constitute him my friend, and entitle him to privileges and honors of which none else can know the value or the extent." The White Stone of Revelation ii, 17, has been understood as perhaps referring to the Tessara Gladiatoria given to the victor in the arena.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry


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