Rods and Staffs Talk

What Are Rods and Staffs

The first thing is to look for a definition. Rod and Staff may be used interchangeably. However, from a biblical sense, staff meant support; such as, “Bread is the staff of life”.


Rods and staffs are each mentioned more than one hundred times in the bible. The best known verse is the 23rd psalm. Here the hooked staff was used to beat down the grass and retrieve straying sheep. The rod was used for protection. Other well-known parts of the bible are:

Adam selected a branch to use as a staff to lean on.

Rod of Moses turned into a serpent when he threw it down. (Wisdom by effort).

Later Moses held high his rod until the water was surged back by a mighty wind till the ground was visible

Moses quelled the rebellion of Korah by smiting the rock at Meribah with his rod and used it to bring forth water

Aaron showed the priority of the Levi tribe when his rod budded forth and he later used it to stay many devastating plaques and important victories over the desert tribes

Other Historical Concepts

The most-common non-biblical mention of the rod can be found in the form of the Caduceus of Mercury and the rod of Aesculapius .


The caduceus of Mercury is a winged rod entwisted by two serpents and is often erroneously associated with healing and medical arts. In reality, it is the Rod of Aesculapius, a rod entwisted by a single serpent is the proper symbol of the medical profession.

The caduceus (or magic wand) that Mercury carried consists of three elements: a rod, a pair of wings and the two intertwined serpents. The rod is emblematic of power and authority. In the hands of primitive man, the largest club and the power to wield it were mighty persuaders as to who was the leader of the tribe. The caduceus is legended to have the power of producing sleep. Milton refers to it as the opiate rod.

How Did Rods and Staffs Get Into Masonic Lodges?

There is no evidence that they were used by operative Masons although there are some compelling theories as to their likely use. One such theory is that they were used as shadow markers — much like a reverse plumb line — where a stationary rod is used to cast a shadow of sunlight and make a directional reference at a given time on a specific day.

The latitude of the Jerusalem Temples is such that placing a rod in the ground and marking the shadow of the rising sun on morn of the summer solstice (St. John’s day in Freemasonry) and again of the rising sun at the winter solstice (the other St. John’s day in Freemasonry) the resulting two lines form the apex of a perfect triangle, sometimes called the Delta of Enoch.

Considerable consideration is given this form in the 13th Degree of the Scottish Rite, called the Royal Arch of Enoch or Master of the Ninth Arch.

In reality, the location of the Temple is not geometrically unique. I feel especially foolish having spent several hours creating a computer model to test this, only to discover that any point on earth that is between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn form the same angles on the same dates. It does serve to point out that given this regularity, it is possible to calculate a specific standard angle on a given date and at a know standard time, which would be dawn, dusk or when the sun is at its zenith or meridian height.

In Britain the Grand High Steward presided over the King’s household and carried a white Rod. This may have been the start of the Masonic Rod but it probably came from Ushers in the House of Parliament. One usher carried a black rod and the other a white rod. People would be seated by calling a “black rod” or “white rod” depending on where they wished to be seated.

The first mention of Masonic Rods was in a procession of Grand Lodge in 1724 in which the Grand Stewards carried white rods symbolizing purity and innocence.

As late as 1812, Deacons in Pennsylvania carried columns in procession. Deacons first carried blue rods tipped with gold, symbolizing friendship and benevolence. Later they were tipped with a pine cone in imitation of the Caduceus of Mercury.

It is also reported that rods were used in early lodges to find eavesdroppers in the eaves of the lodges.

Rods and Staffs Get In Kansas Lodges

The rods carried in Kansas Lodges are non-specific in color, but it is one of the few jurisdictions where handling, placement and carrying of rods is well defined and documented. Here, the rods are considered an integral part of the uniform and are carried by the Deacons and Stewards at almost all times when they move from their stations. They are carried vertically, with the base about 6 inches off the floor, arm in a natural, loose, downward position, in a loose grip between the thumb and first two fingers, with the fingers pointing down, on the right shoulder. When the right hand is in use, such as while receiving the pass and token of   the pass, there is a 4 step movement to place it on the left shoulder, where they are carried in a like manner. After completion of the duty, they are returned to the right shoulder, again, in 4 steps. If both hands are required, such as saluting the Worshipful Master, the rod butt is placed on the floor and the rod is leaned against the right shoulder, freeing both hands. When placing the Great Lights, the rod is placed in a stand next to the altar.

When escorting visitors, the rod is carried in the right, and the person is gripped with the left. There are no special rod salutes, and they are never used for pointing or prompting of a candidate. One exception when a rod is not carried is while the Senior Deacon is conducting voting.

Symbolism of the Rods and Staffs

Symbolism requires individual thought and interpretation to be of any value. Each individual may interpret things in his own way. For example: looking at a picture of a river may bring to the mind of some a fishing experience, to some it may be sailing or boating and to others peace and solitude. The important thing is that it has meaning to the individual and can help him perfect his ashlar. So, the following statements must not be considered final, but rather suggestive of the endless possibilities of rod symbolism.

It could symbolize a plumb line pointing to heaven and could mean moral rectitude, or to set our lives to lead to immortality.

The Stewards rods could remind us of the perfect parallel lines and John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.

They could mean authority or power.

They could remind us of a lever. Archimedes said “Give me a lever and a place to rest and I will move the world”. How infinitesimal are the forces exerted by the mechanical lever as to the spiritual force exerted by the Masonic Rod on the minds and hearts of men.

The devices on top the rods represent the forces of nature acting beneficially for mankind.

Oliver Day said “The glorious orbs of night and day (referring to the moon and sun of the deacon staff) have not yet lost their power to stir the thoughts of divinity in the human mind”.

The moon on the Junior Deacon’s staff is a water spilling moon. The water spilled on the ground with sunshine, as represented by the sun atop the Senior Deacon’s, on the growing crop brings forth the fruit of harvest overflowing in the cornucopias in the rods of the Stewards.

The story of the cornucopias goes like this: When Zeus was an infant, he was raised by the two daughters of Melisseus. His daughters were virgins so for nourishment, Zeus was given the milk of the goat Amalthea. When Zeus became ruler of the Gods, to show appreciation for his early care and nourishment, he placed the goat Amalthea in the heavens as a constellation. To the daughters of Melisseus, he gave each one horn of the goat with the provision that as long as they lived, whatever they desired they only had to express the wish and it would be supplied from the goat’s horn in over-flowing abundance. And so the cornucopias of the steward’s rods are overflowing with the fruits of the harvest to symbolize the abundant material and spiritual life which faithful masons may hope to enjoy.


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