MasonicEducation.com > Articles

TAKE ME AS I TAKE YOU

TAKE ME AS I TAKE YOU

by Harold Grainger, W.M.
King Solomon Lodge No. 31, F,A.A.M.
Washington, D.C.

This Short Talk Bulletin has been adapted from
an inspirational speech which Worshipful Brother
Grainger delivered to a District of Columbia Lodge.

Let us talk about hands, and their impor-
tance to man and Masons. A man's hands are
often a true indication of the crafts and skills of
their owner. Long tapered fingers are found on
an artist or a musician. Big expansive hands are
found on a blacksmith or a metalsmith. There
are those who believe that the past and the
future can be read in the skin folds of the palm
of the hand. Inasmuch as the feet have just as
many lines, if not more, it gives us cause to
wonder why the lines of the hands reveal more
than the lines in the feet. To be legal, a
signature must be in a man's own hand. Our
ancient brethren could not write and many
documents were affixed by one of two
methods: l) he made his mark an "X" or a
thumb-print, or he imprinted the parchment
with his teeth. Another manner of binding a
contract is taught in the first degree to confirm
all things .... and yet another method was the
exchanging of a coin. This latter method is still
used when we read "in consideration of the
dollar in hand, receipt of which is hereby
acknowledged, etc." In daily life we use such
expressions as "Hand delivered" .... ''To
learn first hand" .... "I bought it second-
hand" .... a clock has "Hands" rather than
pointers.
The small boy closes his fist and firmly
states, "That's the truth by Golly!" Unknow-
ingly he has sworn by "The Gol" or the hand,
which was anciently the promise of a will-
ingness to forfeit the hand if the owner was not
telling the truth.
A runner wins a race "Handily" (not footi-
ly); a race horse is "Handicapped" and we at
once know what has happened to the horse.
This usage derives from the ancient games when
a wrestler who was stronger or larger than his
opponent, had one hand tied or capped.
We "Lend a hand" even when our help is
only the loaning of some money.
In the era of uncivilized man, the upraised
open hand was a sign that no weapon was being
concealed and was therefore a sign of "peace."
Still later, and in a similar vein, when knights
wore armor, to remove a gauntlet and extend a
bare hand was a sign that though the knight was
dressed for battle he came in peace. Even today
we remove a glove to shake hands. though we
may never have known the reason for this
display of etiquette, we are stating by action
rather than by words, "I won't hurt you. "-"I
will gladly take your hand because I trust you. "
In Babylonia it was the custom of the king
during the festivities of the New Year to grasp
the hands of the statue of Marduk, the prin-
cipal God. This act was to symbolize the
transfer of power from their deity to the king.
So important and persuasive was this act, that
when the Assyrians defeated the Babylonians
and occupied their land, they, too, felt compell-
ed to submit to this ritual. It was the king's duty
to pass a sense of divinely acquired security on
to his people.
This custom became embedded in English
kings and the legal system called "Hand
girth" (anyone who stood under the king's pro-
tection or "Hand girth") was under the king's
hand. This fell down to the use on medieval
feudal estates (where it was customary for all
the tenants to swear fidelity to a new lord and
master). During the ceremony of swearing, the
new lord clasped tightly the hands of his tenants
by covering their hands with his. There was
more to this custom than the mere transference
of power. It was by clasping the hands, it
prevented the tenant from drawing a weapon,
and that was a safeguard for the master. This
system was obviously the result of a bitter
lesson learned in even earlier times. Those of
you who were compelled to study the Greek
classics will remember the story Ovid related,
how the mother of Hercules, a woman named
Alomena, was forced to suffer in childbirth for
seven days because her enemies sat before her
house with their hands tightly clasped. Pliny the
Elder, in his writing, warned against interlacing
your fingers anywhere near a pregnant woman
or near a sick man who was being given
medicine. Polynesian natives ostracize anyone
who has handled a corpse with their bare
hands.
Ancient Greeks in order to prevent the ghost
of a sucicide victim from haunting would cut
off the dead person's hands and bury them
separate from the body. It was thought that
without hands, a ghost could not navigate in
the dark of night.
There are pleasant thoughts relating to
hands also .... such as the Eskimo tradition of
carving a mask for the hunt ceremony. On the
mask was depicted two hands and a hole was
drilled through the hands. This symbolized the
need to allow some of the hunted game a
chance to pass "Through the hands" to insure
future generations the opportunity of the hunt.
Since kings hands have in all times been
symbolic, it is fitting that they, too, have
special powers. In 18th century England, the
disease known as scrofula (now called tuber-
culosis) was called the "King's evil" and it was
claimed this malady could be cured by the
king's touch.
During the reign of Charles I, he is said to
have "cured" 100,000 cases. William of
Orange who followed the Charles Stuart kings
to the throne of England scoffed at the practice
and is said to have admonished one of his sub-
jects who asked for the ''Hand girth'' or the
laying on of hands "God gives you better
health and more sense." Curiously, there is
another macabre use of the hand-this is called
the "Hand of Glory" and its powers were
legion. This "Hand of Glory" was a hand cut
from a man hung on the gallows. Nursing
mothers would gladly bring their babies to the
public execution so that the hangman could
stroke their infant with the dead man's hand.
There was always a ready market for such
hands as the burglars of the day believed that a
hanged man's hand could stupefy every sleeper
in a house so that the intruder might go about
his underhanded work undisturbed.

While most of us may not know how to play
a game called ''Morra, '' we have seen it played.
This game was a favorite sport in Roman times.
Two players would hold their hand clenched
and at a count of three would throw it open. A
number of fingers one would call odd and one
would call even. You probably recognize the
game. It was said that a truly honest man was
he who would play Morra in the dark.

With all this importance in all areas of the
world and in all times, it seems only fitting that
"Hands" were used with significance in
Freemasonry from its earliest times. Indeed our
ancient Brethren, the operative Mason, made
his living with his Hand Tools. Can we be sur-
prised then at the use of "Hand to back" or of
the E.A. being instructed that our sign of fideli-
ty was two right hands joined or by two fingers
supporting each other by the right hand? Fideli-
ty has its own sign. We use it when we pledge
allegiance to the flag and in many Jurisdictions
when we are at prayer.

Your hand can work for Freemasonry when
you take the time to call another Brother on the
telephone, be he sick or well; be his need great
or small. Reach out and touch his life. Touch is
universal.

Touch is the expression of love. A vase of
priceless beauty and value was once a lump of
clay moulded by two hands. We are enthralled
by our nation's accomplishments in space.
These vast space machines were assembled by
human hands. "The strong grip of a Master
Mason" can accomplish many things. Shake
the hand of your Brother with pride. Be proud
of your Lodge. Be proud of Freemasonry.
Don't lose your grip. You have earned the right
to take me as I take you.

Wor. Bro. Grainger resides at 14914 Laurel Oaks Lane,
Laurel, Md. 20707.

A BROTHER'S HAND
By George B. Staff

When you're feeling all downhearted,
And life's hard to understand,
Say, it's fine to feel the pressure
Of a brother's friendly hand.

Just to know he sympalhizes,
Though he doesn't say a word;
How it starts your courage climbing,
As your heart is touched and stirred.

With an arm across your shoulders.
And a grip you love to find,
How it makes you feel the bounding
Of the hearts of humankind.

It is just a little token
Of an evergrowing band,
For there's faith and hope and courage
In a brother's friendly hand!