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Wage, of which wages is the collective plural, remotely descended from the Latin vas, having the meaning of pledge, security, pawn, or a promise to pay backed up by security. After it entered into modem languages it had a peculiar history; it became “gage,” a pledge or pawn, appearing in our engage, disengage, etc., but having no relation with gage, one of our Working Tools; “wager" in the sense of a bet; in another context it became “wed,” the act of marrying, so called because of the pledges given; and “wage” in the sense of compensation for service given. An “allowance” is a one-sided form of payment, depending on the will of the giver; a “stipend” is a fixed sum, usually nominal, and is supposed to be paid as per a permanent arrangement; a “salary” (from sal, or salt, the old pay given soldiers) is an amount fixed by contract, and estimated over a relatively long period of time, year or month; “wages” are paid to laborers over short periods of time, or at the completion of the required task. In Speculative Masonry the Master Mason symbolically receives “wages,” rather than salary, because they represent the rewards that come to him as rapidly as he does his work; and, as the etymology of the word suggests, they are certain, something one may bank on.

- Source: 100 Words in Masonry

Articles On Wages On This Page

The Wages of an Entered Apprentice

Source - William Harvey, J.P.

The Catechisms of the Craft and the conventional Lecture on the Tracing Board of the Second Degree, all of which speak with that authority which belongs to age, tell us that the Wages of an Entered Apprentice are Corn, Wine, and Oil. Sometimes it is added that he received Corn for food, Wine for nourishment, and Oil for comfort. The broad difference that was sought to be set up between the Apprentice and the Fellowcraft apparently was that the Fellowcraft was paid in coin while the Apprentice was paid in kind. I fear it would be very difficult to produce any authority for this, and probably the distinction between the Masons of the two degrees is the invention of some imaginative brother who ma have got the hint from a practice that was not uncommon among early operatives. Two or three centuries ago the conditions of labour were laid down as firmly as they are to-day by our powerful Trades Unions. A master could not employ more than a certain very limited number of apprentices-often the number was restricted to one-and these apprentices were taken bound to serve their masters for a period of seven years. Not unfrequently, alike in mason and other trades, the apprentice went into residence with his master, and during the early years of his apprenticeship received no remuneration except board and lodging. Only when he became a journeyman, or Fellow-craft, and was free from the master who had taught him his business, was he entitled to wages in the form of cash. If, as is possible, some elaborator of Freemasonry, got the hint here as to the remuneration of an apprentice, one can easily understand that commonplace language such as " board and lodging " would not appeal to him and that he would seek to ornament the matter with just such a combination of words as " Corn, Wine, and Oil.

One of the traditions of the Craft, dearly beloved by uncritical Freemasons, says that the whole number of workmen engaged on the Temple at Jerusalem amounted to 217,281 persons, and that of these, 80,000 were Fellowcrafts, and 30,000 were Entered Apprentices-the latter of whom were arranged into one hundred lodges with three hundred members in each. This immense multitude was paid weekly on the sixth day of the week; and one tradition solemnly asserts that the 80,000 Fellowcrafts toiled up the Winding Stair to the Inner Chamber to receive their wages. Mackey tells us in his " Lexicon " that the Fellowcrafts " were paid in corn, wine, and oil," and the authors of " The Reflected Rays of Light upon Freemasonry," adopting the same view say, " What could be more absurd than to believe that eighty thousand craftsmen had to ascend such a stair, to the narrow precincts of the Middle Chamber to receive their wages in corn, wine and oil?" It is very evident that Mackey and the authors of " Reflected Rays " have misread the Lecture on the Second Tracing Board. It was the Entered Apprentice who received the corn, wine, and oil, and wherever he got it, he did not receive it in the Inner Chamber. To gain access to that apartment a workman required the pass-grip and password of a Fellowcraft, and it is obvious that no Entered Apprentice could have possessed these.

One may pause here for a moment to remark that, according to another tradition all the workers of every degree were paid in current coin. The total wages bill is alleged to have amounted to about 140,000,000 Pounds Sterling, and it was distributed among the craftsmen on a progressive scale which was quite obviously adjusted on the principle of the more honour the more pay. At the one end of the industrial line stood the humble Entered Apprentice who received one shekel, or about 2s 3d of English money per day, while, at the other end, was the Super-Excellent Mason who received 81 shekels per day, equal to about 9- 2s 3d sterling. One Masonic author very generously describes this as " only a fanciful speculation of some of our ancient brethren," and we may return, therefore, to our Corn, Wine, and Oil.

If I am right in my theory that the Wages of an Entered Apprentice in Speculative Freemasonry were suggested by the board and lodging which were the reward of the Operative youth while learning his trade, I think it is clear that the person who fixed the Wages of the Speculative Apprentice found his material in the Volume of the Sacred Law. We read in the Second Chapter of the Second Book of the Chronicles that, when Solomon appealed to the King of Tyre for assistance in building the Temple, he said, " Behold, I will give to thy servants, the hewers that cut timber, twenty thousand measures of beaten wheat, and twenty thousand measures of barley, and twenty thousand baths of wine, and twenty thousand baths of oil." The offer of Solomon was accepted by the King of Tyre, who replied, " Now, therefore, the wheat, and the barley, the oil, and the wine, which my lord hath spoken of, let him send unto his servants: and we will cut wood out of Lebanon, as much as thou shalt need." The account preserved in the fifth chapter of the First Book of the Kings, indicates that the gifts were made annually to Hiram's work people, but there is a discrepancy as to the amount. In lst Kings the Wine is omitted, and the Oil is set down at " twenty measures " equal to about 1640 gallons, whereas the 20,000 baths of 2nd Chronicles were more than ten times as much, being the equivalent of about 165,000 gallons.

It is clear that these gifts of Corn Wine, and Oil were made to the hewers of wood in the forests of Lebanon, none of whom were Entered Apprentice Masons, but it would be unprofitable and useless to linger upon a discussion of the matter, as the Wages of the First, Degree in Speculative Freemasonry are merely symbols upon which to meditate, and from which to draw inspiration for everyday duties.

Corn, Wine, and Oil were the three staple crops of the Holy Land, and each of them entered into the fibre of the national life, furnishing figures of speech for the Hebrew poets, and points for the proverbs of the people.

CORN was always regarded as an element of national wealth. It formed part of the tribute brought to Hezekiah on the restoration of the priesthood. Bread was one of the signs of welcome and goodwill to Abraham.

WINE, in a metaphorical sense, represents the essence of goodness. Jerusalem, Israel, the Messiah, the righteous - all are compared to wine. The wicked are likened unto vinegar, and the good man who turns to wickedness is compared to sour wine. An :abundance of wine was regarded as an indication of prosperity. Jacob blessed Judah that " he washed his garments in wine, and his clothes in the blood of grapes." We read in the ninth chapter of judges that, when the trees went forth to anoint a King, they said unto the vine, " Come thou, and reign over us;" whereupon " the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the e trees ? A writer in the "Jewish Encyclopedia" says that as wine "cheereth God" no religious ceremony should be performed with other beverages.

OIL was one of the most important and perhaps the most characteristic of the products of Palestine. It is mentioned no fewer than two hundred times in the Bible and, with one exception, the references are to "olive oil," as it is expressly termed in Exodus and Leviticus, according to the more correct rendering of the Revised Version of the Scriptures. Oil was largely used in the preparation of different kinds of food, and it was spread upon bread very much in the same way as we use butter; it was employed in the lighting of houses and places of worship-that used in the Temple being no doubt of the finest quality like the "beaten oil" for the Tabernacle - and it occupied a very prominent place in the ceremonial of anointing kings and priests- The metaphorical uses of the word " oil " are many. Part of the blessing of Asher was that he should "dip his foot in oil," that is, that he should have a large measure of worldly prosperity by finding abundance of oil within his territory. In the book of the Proverbs we find the foolish use of oil quoted as a token of extravagance and a source of poverty, while the husbanding of it is a certain proof of wisdom. Words of deceit are said to be smoother and softer than oil; and cursing is said to permeate the life of the wicked even as oil soaks into bone. The power and use of oil are illustrated in many ways in sacred writings. The scholars of Palestine were often referred to as "sons of oil." One injunction has a singularly poetic fancy about it: "Ye shall take olive oil to light the Temple as an atonement for your souls which are like to lamps" The yoke of Sennacherib was said to have broken " because of the oil which Hezekiah lighted in the schools;" and we have a singular parallel to this in the saying of one of the early English reformers who, when Ridley was burned at the stake, exclaimed: " Thou hast lighted such a fire in England to-day, Master Ridley, as shall not be put out." One common and significant use of Oil in Palestine was that of anointing the heads of guests entertained at a festive meal, and from this daily custom oil came to be regarded as a symbol of joy and gladness.

The Wages of an Entered Apprentice constitute the Masonic elements of consecration. Corn, Wine, and Oil figure very prominently in the elaborate ceremonial by which buildings are solemnly set apart and dedicated to the purpose of Freemasonry. After appropriate exercises of prayer and praise, the junior Warden, handing the Cornucopia to the consecrating Master, says: "In the dedication of Masonic Halls, it has been of immemorial custom to pour corn upon the Lodge in token of the divine goodness exhibited in the liberal provision made for all our wants, spiritual and temporal. I, therefore. Present to you this vessel of corn, to be employed by you according to use and wont.," The Master thereupon accepts the vase and, sprinkling some corn upon the floor,- says: " In the name of the great Jehovah, to Whom be all glory, I do solemnly dedicate this Hall to Freemasonry."

Thereafter the Senior Warden presents the Vase with Wine, saying: " Right Worshipful Master, Wine, the symbol of strength and gladness, having according to ancient custom been used by our brethren in the dedication and consecration of their Lodges, I present to you this vessel of Wine, to be used on the present occasion according to established Masonic form." And the Master, sprinkling some of the wine upon the floor, says: " In the name of the Holy Saint John, I do solemnly -dedicate this Lodge to Virtue.

Finally, the Substitute Master approaches with the vase containing Oil and says: " Right Worshipful Master, I present to you, to be used according to ancient custom, this vessel of oil, an emblem of that joy and peace which should animate every bosom on the completion of every important undertaking." And the master, sprinkling some oil upon the floor, says: " In the name of the whole Fraternity, I do solemnly dedicate this Lodge to Universal Benevolence."

In ancient days Corn, Wine, and Oil constituted the wealth of the people, and were esteemed as the main supports of life. The Psalmist counts them among the greatest blessings mankind enjoys, and you may recall that he brings them together in the 104th Psalm where he speaks of them as "Wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart." It is sometimes said that modern Freemasonry is but ancient sun-worship disguised. We believe in a beneficent Creator; the sun worshipper paid his adorations to the glorious luminary of the day to whose genial agency the fruits of the earth -corn, wine, and oil-were due. To that extent we have a community of thought, and Freemason and sun-worshipper alike look from Nature up to Nature's God.

Moralising upon the Wages of the Entered Apprentice as symbols instinct with meaning to the Mason who would be true to the altruistic spirit of the Craft, the Rev. Thaddeus Harris says: "Wherefore my brethren do you carry Corn Wine, and Oil, in your processions, but to remind you, that in the pilgrimage of human life you are to impart a portion of your bread to feed the hungry, to send a cup of your wine to cheer the sorrowful, and to pour the healing oil of your consolation into the wounds which sickness hath made in the bodies, or affliction rent in the hearts of your fellow-travellers."

And surely brethren, that is the sum and substance of the matter. As Entered Apprentices we receive these Wages in spirit, not to expend upon ourselves but as a constant source of aid to our less fortunate Craftsmen. As Corn is an emblem of Plenty, let us be abundant in the measure of our brotherly love, ever ready to use what means God hath given us to assist a brother who may claim our help. As Wine is an emblem of Cheerfulness, let us foster the spirit of joy and gladness so that, when sorrows throw their shadows upon life, we may be enabled to look forward to the brighter day when the trials of our earthly pilgrimage shall be forgotten, and sadness shall be unknown. And as Oil is an emblem of Peace may it be ours to extend the boundaries of her Empire, so that strife and discord may be banished for ever from the mind of man. " Nothing," says Emerson in one of his Essays, " nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles." And this personal note is emphasized in a striking passage in one of Ruskin's "Lectures." "People," he says, "are always expecting to get peace in heaven: , but you know whatever peace they get there will be ready made. Whatever making of peace they can be blest for, must be on the earth here." The whole teaching of the Craft is the promotion of peace on earth, goodwill to men, and it is the personal duty of everyone of us to advance the cause. of the universal brotherhood of man.

Brethren, I do not know that any one could leave a sweeter memory behind him than just this that he had faithfully used the Wages of an Entered Apprentice. The day will come when the walls of our Lodge shall know us no more, and we shall live in the recollection of our fellows for but a little while - a month, a year, at the most a generation. But that recollection will be a sacred one if those with whom we have laboured recall our names from time to time, and tell those who did not know us that, faithful to our trust, we were ever ready to relieve distress, aid the weak, and comfort the mourner. Thus shall we have proved our right to the Wages of an Entered Apprentice, and thus may we hope for the recognition that awaits all faithful Craftsmen at the hands of the Great Architect of the Universe.

About William Harvey, J.P.

Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland; Pres. Dundee and District R.W.M.'s and P.M.'s Assn.; Provincial Grand Bard of Forfarshire; M.M. Stirling Royal Arch, No. 76 ; Hon. Mem. Caledonian Dundee, NO. 254; R.W.M., Progress Dundee, No. 967, 1914-.6; Charter Mem. Dundee St. Mary No. 1149; W. Sub. M. Ubique, Dundee, NO. 1192; Hon, Mem. No, 6, R.A,; Hon. Mem. No. 164, R.A; P. H., No., 27l R.A.; Hon. Mem. No- 416, R.A.; Founder and First Principal No- 421, R.A.; Hon. Mem. No. 423 R.A.; Founder No- 449 R.A. DUNDEE:

- Source: William Harvey


“. . . travel in foreign countries and receive Master’s Wages.”

Our Operative brethren received their Master’s Wages in coin of the realm.

Speculatives content themselves with intangible wages - and occasionally some are hard pressed to explain to the wondering initiate just what, in this practical age, a Master’s Wages really are.

The wages of a Master may be classified under two heads; first, those inalienable rights which every Freemason enjoys as a result of fees, initiation and the payment of annual dues to his Lodge; second, those more precious privileges which are his if he will but stretch out his hand to take.

The first right of which any initiate is conscious is that of passing the Tiler and attending his Lodge, instead of being conducted through the West gate as a preliminary step to initiation. For a time this right of mingling with his new brethren is so engrossing that he looks no further for his Master’s Wages. Later he learns that he also has the right of visitation in other Lodges, even though it is a “right” hedged about with restrictions. He must be in good standing to exercise it. It will be denied him should any brother object to his visit. If he is unaffiliated, in most Jurisdictions, he can exercise it but once in any one Lodge. If private business (such as election of officers or a lodge trial, etc.) is scheduled, the Master of the Lodge he would visit may refuse him entrance. But in general this right of visiting other Lodges is a very real part of what may be termed his concrete Master’s Wages, and many are the Freemasons who find in it a sure cure for loneliness in strange places; who think of the opportunity to find welcome and friends where otherwise they would be alone, as wages of substantial character.

The opportunities to see and hear the beautiful ceremonies of Freemasonry, to take from them again an again a new thought, are wages not to be lightly received. For him with the open ears and the inquiring mind, the degrees lead to a new world, since familiarity with ritual provides the key by which he may read an endless stream of books about Freemasonry.

The Craft has a glorious history; a symbolism the study of which is endless; a curious legal structure of which law-minded men never tire’ is so interwoven with the story of the nation as to make the thoughtful thrill; joins hands with religion in the secret places of the heart in a manner both tender and touching. These “foreign countries” have neither gate nor guard at the frontier . . . the Master Mason may cross and enter at his will, sure of wages wherever he wanders within their borders.

Master’s Wages are paid in acquaintances. Unless a newly-made Master Mason is so shy and retiring that he seeks the farthest corner of his Lodge Room, there to sit and shrink into himself, inevitably he will become acquainted with many men of many minds, always an interesting addition to the joy of life. What he does with his acquaintances is another story, but at least the wages are there, waiting for him. No honest man insures his house thinking it will burn, but the insurance policy in the safe is a great comfort, well worth all that it costs. It speaks of help should fire destroy his home; it assures that all its owner has saved in material wealth will not be lost should carelessness or accident start a conflagration.

No honest man becomes a Freemason thinking to ask the Craft for relief. Yet the consciousness that poor is the Lodge and sodden the hearts of the brethren thereof from which relief will not be forthcoming if the need is bitter, is wages from which comfort may be taken.

Freemasonry is not, “re se,” a relief organization. It does not exist merely for the purpose of dispensing charity. Nor has it great funds with which to work its gentle ministrations to the poor. Fees are modest; dues are often too small rather than too large. Yet, for the brother down and out, who has no coal for the fire, no food for his hungry child, whom sudden disaster threatens, the strong arm of the Fraternity stretches forth to push back the danger. The cold are warmed, the hungry fed, the naked clothed, the jobless given work, the discouraged heartened.

Master’s Wages, surely far greater than the effort put forth to earn them.

Relief is not limited to a brother’s own Lodge. In most Jurisdictions there is a Masonic Home, in which, at long last, a brothers weary body may rest, his tired feet cease their wandering. No Freemason who has visited any Masonic Home and there seen old brethren and their widows eased down the last long hill in peace and comfort; the children of Masons under friendly influences which insure safe launching of little ships on the sea of life; comes away thankful that there is such a haven for him, should he need it, even if he hopes never to ask for its aid.

Stranded in a strange place, no Freemason worries about getting aid. In all large centers is a Board of Masonic Relief to hear his story, investigate his credentials and start the machinery by which his Lodge may help him. In smaller places is almost invariably a Lodge with brethren glad to give a sympathetic hearing to his troubles. To the brother in difficulty in what to him is a “foreign country,” ability to prove himself a Freemason is Master’s Wages, indeed.

Freemasonry is strong in defense of the helpless. The Widow and the orphan need ask but once to receive bounty. All brethren hope to support their own, provide for their loved ones, but misfortune comes to the just and unjust alike. To be one of a world wide brotherhood on which widow and child may call is of untold comfort, Master’s Wages more precious than the coin of gold.

Finally is the right of Masonic burial. At home or abroad no Freemason, know to desire it, but is followed to his last home by sorrowing brethren who lay him away under the apron of the Craft and the Sprig of Acacia of immortal hope. This, too, is Wages of a Master.

“Pay the Craft their Wages, if any be due . . .”

To some the practical wages briefly mentioned above are the important payments for a Freemason’s work. To others, the more intangible but none the less beloved opportunities to give, rather than get, are the Master’s Wages which count them.

Great among these is the Craft’s opportunity for service. The world is full of chances to do for others, and no man need apply to a Masonic Lodge only because he wants a chance to “do unto others as he would others do unto him.” But Freemasonry offer peculiar opportunities to unusual talents which are not always easily found in the profane world.

There is always something to do in a Lodge. There are always committees to be served - and committee work is usually thankless work. He who cannot find his payment in his satisfaction of a task well done will receive no Master’s Wages for his labors on Lodge committees.

There are brethren to be taught. Learning all the “work” is a man’s task, not to be accomplished in a hurry. Yet it is worth the doing, and in instructing officers and candidates many a Mason has found a quiet joy which is Master’s Wages pressed down and running over. Service leads to the possibility of appointment or election to the line of officers. There is little to speak of the Master’s Wages this opportunity pays, because only those who have occupied the Oriental Chair know what they are. The outer evidence of the experience may be told, but the inner spiritual experience is untellable because the words have not been invented.

But Past Masters know! To them is issued a special coinage of Master’s Wages which only a Worshipful Master may earn. Ask any of them if they do not pay well for the labor.

If practical Master’s Wages are acquaintances in Lodge, the enjoyment of fellowship, merged into friendship, is the same payment in larger form. Difficult to describe, the sense of being one of a group, the solidarity of the circle which is the Lodge, provides a satisfaction and pleasure impossible to describe as it is clearly to be felt. It is interesting to meet many men of many walks of life; it is heart- warming continually to meet the same group, always with the same feeling of equality. High and low, rich and poor, merchant and money-changer, banker and broom-maker, doctor and ditch-digger all meet on the level, and find it happy - Master’s Wages, value untranslatable into money.

Ethereal as a flower scent, dainty as a butterfly’s wing, yet to some as strong as any strand of the Mystic Tie all Freemasons know and none describe, is that feeling of being a part of the historic past. To have knelt at the same Altar before which George Washington prayed; to have taken the same obligation which bound our brethren of the Mother Grand Lodge of 1717; to be spiritually kin with Elias Ashmole; to feel friendly with Oliver, Preston, Krause, Goethe, Sir Christopher Wren, Marshall, Anthony Sayer to mention only a few; to be a brother of Craftsmen who formed the Boston Tea Party; to stand at Bunker Hill with Warren and ride with brother Paul Revere; to be an apprentice at the building of St. Paul’s; to learn the Knot from a Comacine Master; to follow the Magister in a Roman “Collegium,” aye, even to stand awed before those mysteries of ancient peoples, and perhaps see a priest raise the dead body of Osiris from a dead level to a living perpendicular - these are mental experiences not to be forgotten when counting up Master’s Wages.

Finally - and best - is the making of many friends.

Thousands of brethren count their nearest and their dearest friends on the rolls of the Lodge they love and serve. The Mystic Tie makes for friendship It attracts man to man and often draws together “those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.” The teachings of broth-erly love, relief and truth; of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice; the inculcation of patriotism and love of country, are everyday experiences in a Masonic Lodge. When men speak freely those thoughts which, in the world without, they keep silent, friendships are formed.

Count gain for work well done in what coin seems most valuable; the dearest of the intangibles which come to any Master Mason are those Masonic friendships than which there “are” no greater Master’s Wages.

- Source: Short Talk Bulletin - Feb. 1933
Masonic Service Association of North America

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