Freemasonry and J. K. Rowling – Strike 8

As the last days of what seemed like an interminable January faded, speculation about the next instalment of Robert Galbreath’s Strike-Ellacott series was given a welcome boost as J. K. Rowing posted a new header on her X homepage. Strike sleuths were quick to identify the Art Deco façade of Freemason’s Hall in London, which is the headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England, the governing body for Freemasonry in England.

Dr Beatrice Groves has written about the connection between the square and compass masonic symbol and the Deathly Hallows symbol, but the image here is the coat of arms of The United Grand Lodge of England. The compass and square is represented here on the left side of the shield aligned as a chevron. The official description given by the collage of arms is:

Arms : Per pale gules and quarterly azure and Or, dexter on a chevron between three castles argent a pair of compasses extended of the third, sinister cross quarterly of the fourth and vert between in the first quarter a lion rampant of the third, in the second an ox passant sable, in the third a man with hands elevated proper vested of the fifth the robe crimson lined with ermine, and in the fourth an eagle displayed also of the third; the whole within a bordure of the first charged with eight lions passant guardant of the third.
Crest: On a wreath of the colours, A representation of an Ark supported on either side by a cherub proper, with the motto over in Hebrew characters “Holiness to the Lord”.
Supporters: On either side a cherub proper.
Motto: Audi, vide, tace

The shield is a combination of the arms of the Masons’ Company, a London guild of operative masons granted in 1472. This is the three castles separated by the compass and square. The other half of the shield belonged to the Atholl or Antient society of Freemasons with merged with Grand Lodge to form the United Grand Lodge in 1813. The shield of the Atholl Masons is comprised of the symbols of the four evangelists, the lion (Mark), the bull (Luke), a man (Matthew) and the eagle (John). I was not the first to notice the similarity between these symbols and the Hogwarts Houses. The motto: “Audi, Vide, Tace”, means “Hear, See and be Silent” enforcing the famed secrecy of Freemasonry.

J. K. Rowling by dint of her sex is ineligible for membership. It is curious however, that she has both grown up and ended up in areas that are particularly noted for their Freemasonry. Lodges within the Masonic Province of Bristol are unusual for several reasons. All lodges within Bristol meet at the Freemason’s Hall, Bristol and despite the drop in popularity for the craft it boasts 38 Craft Lodges, 14 Royal Arch Chapters, and 7 Mark Lodges, 3 Royal Ark Lodges. It is also home to the esoteric Rite of Baldwyn comprising of seven degrees:

Iº − Craft Freemasonry
Entered Apprentice
Fellowcraft
Master Mason

IIº − Supreme Order of the Holy Royal Arch

IIIº − Knights of the Nine Elected Masters
IVº − The Ancient Order of Scots Knights Grand Architect
Order of Scots Knights Grand Architect
Order of Scots Knights of Kilwinning
Vº − Knights of the East, the Sword and Eagle
VIº − Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta
Knights of St John of Jerusalem
Knights Templar
VIIº − Knights of the Rose Croix of Mount Carmel

The Royal Arch degree is unique in England for including the ceremony of “Passing the Veils” symbolising the path to enlightenment that a mason undergoes as he progresses in the craft. Given Peter Rowling’s upward social mobility from working class apprentice to engineer and moving from the Bristol suburbs to middle class Tutshill, it isn’t beyond reason to wonder if Peter might have been tempted by the social and career advantages that freemasonry might have offered him and exposed a young Joanne to some of the symbolism.

Edinburgh, as well as being the home of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, is also home to if not the oldest lodge in the world, then at least the one with the oldest records. Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary’s Chapel) No. 1 has minutes of meetings from 31st July 1599. There have long been arguments between this Lodge and the one in Kilwinning on the other coast of Scotland as to which is the oldest. (see IVº of the Rite of Baldwyn above)

We don’t yet know what the meaning behind the header will be for book eight, but the secrecy, symbolism and ceremony of Freemasonry would prove a fertile ground for Rowling, Robin, and Strike to explore.

 

 

Comments

  1. B. N. Wallis says

    I’ve been wondering how the whole Charlotte-was-murdered scenario might play out (assuming your excellent thesis is correct). I think it would be most dramatic if it was something that the police or a journalist were investigating, thereby putting the Strike-Robin relationship into a new level of jeopardy. I feel that Rowling isn’t especially critical of the police, not as an institution – even Troubled Blood, involving police work from the 70s, took the route of one policeman with mental health problems rather than a force riddled with misogynistic incompetence. Maybe it’s too much of a cliché, but perhaps it would be easier to have bent coppers if they were masons, and then a conspiracy might work and the full weight of the law could be deployed to make life worse for Strike. It would be another play with cults and secrecy themes.

    At least, with the masons, we can hope that Robin won’t risk her life going undercover again… although it now seems a given that she will…

    Has there been a retrospective analysis of Rowling’s use of Twitter headers as part of her storytelling process?

  2. Susan Stacy says

    Clicking on the link to Dr. Beatrice Groves I am taken to the Rowling Library website. I would be interested in reading what she has written on Masonic symbols and the Deathly Hallows symbol. But I was unable to learn how to find it through that link. Is there another way to access this information?

  3. Nick Jeffery says

    Hello Susan! If you click on the magazine from the link, you will find Dr Groves’ article on page 16.

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