The Masonic Apron
You have heard it said ever since, and possibly before, you became a Mason that there is a purpose for everything in Masonry, and that it illustrates a scientific point. That is true of the Masonic Apron as well. The clothing of a Master Mason is his unsoiled white Lambskin Apron, revered for the symbolic initiatory rite of Purity. But there are a number of other reasons for the symbolism in the Apron to be reverenced by the seeker of Light also. The basis of our Craft has its foundation in the science of Geometry, and the Masonic Apron fits in this science quite well. Sometime in your Masonic career you may possibly be asked some questions about the Square and Compasses, the Masonic Apron, and a host of other symbols pertaining to the Craft and it would be beneficial to you, and the one inquiring of you, to know how to respond to these inquiries knowledgeably and with conviction.
I have heard the question asked, "Why is the Compasses opened at the angle of 60 degrees?" and "What is the purpose of the Square in the symbol of the Masonic Order?"
I did not have an answer, at least not one that I could be comfortable with because I did not know for sure either. Now, after studying for a while, I have an answer that I can impart to you that will explain these questions a little further. I don't assume to be an expert in this area, but in keeping with the Geometry of the Craft, and the quest for knowledge that we all seek, I can be comfortable with these answers.
An answer, but not the only answer, to the first question, "Why is the Compasses opened at the angle of 60 degrees?", is that it is necessary to illustrate geometrically part of the mechanics of the solar system in which we live.
The attached diagram of the Masonic Apron, along with this answer, will aid you in understanding these processes. It has to do with the precession of the equinoxes. For those of you who are not familiar with this phenomena, I will need to explain it briefly. An equinox occurs twice each year, once in the spring (the vernal) and once in the fall (the autumnal) and is defined as, "the precise time when the sun crosses the equator, making the day and night everywhere equal in length" (Webster's dictionary). Each year these equinoctial points occur earlier in the current year than in the year before (precess or precede) due to "a wobble in the axis of the earth that inscribes a small circle with a radius of 23.5 degrees around the north ecliptic pole, with a consequent westward drift of the equinoxes" (Grolier Encyclopedia).
This whole process takes approximately 25,920 years. As the earth's axis inscribes this small circle, the equinoxes move through the Zodiacal Chart. There are 12 houses in the Zodiacal chart, dividing the circle into 12 equal sections of 30 degrees each. Dividing 12 into 25, 920 gives the answer of 2,160 years per 30 degrees of arc. Now, observe the diagram. Here you will find that I have drawn a square of eight measures and have divided it into 4 rectangles, two of 3X4 and two of 4X5. Dissected diagonally at the top you can discern the bib of the apron. Then, dissected from the point of the bib to the outside corners at the bottom of the apron demonstrates the exact proportions of the Great Pyramid of Cheops on the Giza Plateau in Egypt. Over this apron you can see superimposed the Square and Compasses. Concern yourself with the left side of the apron only, for now.
If you will measure all of the angles of every line that conjuncts with any other line on the left side of the apron you will arrive at 2,160 degrees total. The right side of the apron is an exact duplicate, in degrees, of the left side, bringing the total to 4,320 degrees.
Is this significant? You bet! Another sacred symbol of the Masonic Order is the cube. A cube has 6 perfectly square sides. If we liken the apron, with the Square and Compasses superimposed on it, to one side of the cube and multiply the number of degrees it contains times six, the answer is 25,920 degrees, which demonstrates that the ancients were in possession of a knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes and the wobble of the axis of the earth and illustrated it in just this way. FASCINATING!!! It also demonstrates that they were familiar with the leap year as well.
As to the second question, "What is the purpose of the Square in the symbol of the Masonic Order?". Other than its obvious allegorical reference to the moral aspect of our Order, is that it too, is necessary to arrive at the above answer. But I am sure there is far more to this emblem than I have related here. My research continues on the Square.
Brethren, the research that I have illustrated here is not a discovery that I have made entirely by myself, but some that I have taken from a book by Frank C. Higgins entitled The Beginning of Masonry. The angles illustrated on the apron I discovered myself.
Accurately measure the angles of all the lines present on the apron where they conjunct with any other line in the top left rectangle of three by four. Done correctly, you should come up with a total of 900 degrees. Do the same with the 4X5 rectangle directly below it. You should come up with a total number of degrees of 1260. The two figures, 900 and 1260 total 2160 degrees. Multiply this answer by two, for each half of the apron, and that answer by six, for each face of the cube, and you can see for yourself.
Bill Edwards P M
Riverdale Lodge #709