What is the significance of the Double-Headed Eagle in Scottish Rite Freemasonry symbolism and mythology?

“These were the immortals to whom the term ‘phoenix’ was applied, and their symbol was the mysterious two-headed bird, now called an eagle, a familiar and little understood Masonic emblem.” (M.P.Hall, 1976, 108). The following essay makes a short insight into the ancient history and multi-rooted origins of the double-headed eagle, which has been used worldwide for centuries and is now one of the most – if not the most – important and recognizable symbols of the 31st-33rd degrees of Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

Many cultural references and a lot of historical evidential material may indicate that there is probably no other heraldic emblem like the double-headed eagle, in terms of its antiquity and significance. In order to clearly understand from whence it came into the Freemasonry symbolism we must, first of all, make sure we trace its history all the way back to the dawn of the Eastern Civilization. That is necessary because despite the fact that nothing in Scottish Rite Freemasonry is directly influenced by the rituals of Hittites or Chaldeans, yet one might with a fair share of certitude claim that this double-headed “bird of storm and thunder” owes its meaning to Asia Minor and its latter contacts with European civilization through warfare and trade with the Turks. (Parker A.C., 1983)

Often being referred to as the „Eagle of Lagash” the Masonic eagle, indeed, in many ways resembles the sacred emblem of this long-gone Sumerian city on the Tigris River. Five thousand years ago the double-headed eagle under the name of Imgig (often depicted with the head of a lion) indicated the majesty and power of Ningersu and Enlil (or under some other speculations – Ningersu and his wife, Bau), who are considered to be the patron deities of Mesopotamia. This inseparable unity of the Sun God and the Storm God designated the holy equality between them – worshipping one of them implied equally respectful tribute to the other.

Almost identical meaning had been carried by the eagle of two heads across the lands of Hittites, Hindoos, Indians of America and Arabians. It was called by many different names and variously conventionalized, however all of them bore similar significance within them – the union of solar and celestial forces. As a protective symbol the eagle was popular in early periods of the Chaldean culture, but then all traces of him fade and emerge only a little later in the art of the Hittites to the north-east of Assyria. Afterwards, the eagle was used by the Turcs who passed it on to the Crusaders. Christianity often depicts the two-headed bird in, for instance, its architecture – window ornaments, in particular. Prophet Elijah is often depicted with the eagle perched upon his shoulder, which may be explained as the double portion of grace bestowed upon this prophet. This image was also widespread in the Byzantine Empire, though chronologically it would be reasonable to assume that the Hittites used it before the Byzantines did. Long before the proclamation of Yahweh as …
Posted by: Regina Kauzlarich

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