To uncover the head in the presence of superiors has been, among all Christian nations, held as a mark of respect and reverence. The Eastern nations uncover the feet when they enter a place of worship; the Western uncover the head. The converse of this is also true; and to keep the head covered while all around are uncovered is a token of superiority of rank or office. The king remains covered, the courtiers standing around him take off their hats.
To wear the hat in an assemblage has been thus done as a sign of equality and it is so worn in the English Parliament and in certain Masonic Lodges on the Continent of Europe. So very common is the ceremonial use of the hat wh`en at labor by the presiding officers of a Masonic Body in the United States and to a far less frequent extent elsewhere, Bristol, in England, where a hat is worn being an exception to the general rule there, that one naturally looks for instances of any similar character in other directions. Among the Romans we are told in Fiske's Classical Antiquities (page 237) that they prayed with the head covered or veiled, capite velato. The woolen cap, the pileus (page 298) was allowed only to the free by birth or manumission, but forbidden to slaves. Fiske says (page 289):
The liberating of slaves took place in several ways. The most ancient mode seems to have been by will manumissio per testamentum, on the decease of the master. There were two other modes, censu, and per vindictam; the former was when the slave, with the master's consent, was enrolled in the taxation list as a freedman, the latter was a formal and public enfranchisement before the praetor. In the last case, the master appeared with his slave, before the tribunal, and commenced the ceremony by striking him with a rod, vindicta; thus treating him as still his slave. Then a protector or defender, assertor liberntatis steps forward and requests the liberation of the Slave by saying hunc hominen liberum esse aio, jure Quiritium, the last nord referring to the inhabitants of Cures a Sabine town, after the union of the Romans and Sabines, being equivalent to meaning citizenship.
The first of the two similar expressions was followed by the other, indicating that it was the owners will the slave should be freed. Then the master, who has hitherto kept hold of the slave, lets him go, e manu emittebat, and gives up his right over him with the words, hunc hominem libertum esse volo. A declaration by the praeter that the slave should be free formed the conclusion. To confirm this manumission the freed slave sometimes went to Terracina and received in the temple of Feronia a cap or hat, pious, as a badge of liberty. The slave to be freed must not be under twenty years of age, nor the person setting him free under thirty.
The goddess of fruits, nurseries, and groves, Feronia, had a Temple on Mount Soracte where a grove was especially sacred to her. She was honored as the patroness of enfranchised slaves, who ordinarily received their liberty in her Temple.
Another, and a custom that prevails in our own times, is mentioned by Dr. George C. Williamson, Cunous Survivals (page 92), writing of the House of Commons, London, "A member has to wear his hat when he is to address the House, and there is often confusion when the member is unable to find his hat at the moment, and to put it on, before he addresses the Speaker, but, were he to rise without his hat, he would be greeted immediately with cries of 'Order, Order'!"
Pascal's Provincial Letters, American edition of 1850 translated by Rev. Thomas McCrie of Edinburgh, Scotland (page 79), gives a curious reference to the old Paris proverb about voting without speaking, Il opine du bonnet comme un moine en sorbonne, means literally: "He votes with his cap like a monk in the Sorbonne" alluding to the custom in that place of learning of taking off the cap when a member was not disposed to speak, or in token of agreement with the rest (see also Nicole i, page 184, Ludovici Montaltii Litterae Provintciales).
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