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Sign of Distress

This is probably one of the original modes of recognition adopted at the revival period, if not before. It is to be found in the earliest ceremonies extant of the eighteenth century, and its connection with the legend of the Third Degree makes it evident that it probably belongs to that Degree. The Craft in the Eighteenth Century called it sometimes the Master's Clap, and sometimes the Grand Sign, which latter name has been adopted by the Freemasons of the Nineteenth Century, who call it the Grand Hailing Sign, to indicate its use in hailing or calling a Brother whose assistance may be needed.

The true form of the sign has unfortunately been changed by carelessness or ignorance from the ancient one, which is still preserved in Great Britain and on the Continent of Europe. It is impossible to be explicit; but it may be remarked, that looking to its traditional origin, the sign is a defensive one, first made in an hour of attack, to give protection to the person. This is perfectly represented by the European and English form, but utterly misrepresented by the American. The German Rite of Schroeder attempted some years ago to induce the Craft to transfer this sign from the Third to the First Degree. As this would have been an evident innovation, and would have contradicted the ritualistic history of its origin and meaning, the attempt was not successful.

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