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Scallop-shell

The scallo pushed, the staff, and sandals form a part of the costume of a Masonic Knight Templar in his character as a Pilgrim Penitent. Shakespeare makes Ophelia sing-- And how shall I my true love know From any other one? O. by his scallop-shell and staff And by his sandal shoon!

The scallop-shell was in the Middle Ages the recognized badge of a pilgrim; so much so, that Doctor Clarke (Travels ii, page 538) has been led to say: "It is not easy to amount for the origin of the shell as a badge worn by the pilgrims, but it decidedly refers to much earlier Oriental customs than the journeys of Christians to the Holy Land, and its history will probably be found in the mythology of eastern nations." He is right as to the question of antiquity, for the shell was an ancient symbol of the Syrian goddess Astarte, Venus Pelagia, or Venus rising from the sea.

But it is doubtful whether its use by pilgrims is to be traced to so old or so Pagan an authority. Strictly, the scallop-shell was the badge of pilgrims visiting the shrine of Saint James of Compostela, and hence it is called by naturalists the Pecten Jacobacus--the comb shell of Saint James. Fuller (Church History ii, page 228) says: "All pilgrims that visit Saint James of Compostela in Spain returned thence obsiti conchis, 'all beshelled about' on their clothes, as a religious denotive there bestowed upon them."

Pilgrims were, in fact, in medieval times distinguished by the peculiar badge which they wore, as designating the shrine which they had visited. Thus pilgrims from Rome wore the keys, those from Saint James the scallop-shell, and those from the Holy Land palm branches, whence such a pilgrim was some times called a palmer. But this distinction was not always rigidly adhered to, and pilgrims from Palestine frequently wore the shell. At first the shell was sewn on the cloak, but afterward transferred to the hat; and while, in the beginning, the badge was not assumed until the pilgrimage was accomplished, eventually pilgrims began to wear it as soon as they had taken their vow of pilgrimage, and before they had commenced their journey.

Both of these changes have been adopted in the Templar ceremonies. The pilgrim, although symbolically making his pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulcher in Palestine, adopts the shell more properly belonging to the pilgrimage to Compostela; and adopts it, too, not after his visit to the shrine, but as soon as he has assumed the character of a pilgrim, which, it will be seen from what has been said, is historically correct, and in accordance with the later practice of medieval pilgrims.

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