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Baculus

The staff of office borne by the Grand Master of the Templars. In ecclesiology, baculus is the name given to the pastoral staff carried by a bishop or an abbot as the ensign of his dignity and authority. In pure Latinity, baculus means a long stick or staff, which was commonly carried by travelers, by shepherds, or by infirm and aged persons, and afterward, from affectation, by the Greek philosophers. In early times, this staff, made a little longer, was carried by kings and persons in authority, as a mark of distinction, and was thus the origin of the royal scepter.

The Christian church, borrowing many of its usages from antiquity, and alluding also, it is said, to the sacerdotal power which Christ conferred when he sent the apostles to preach, commanding them to take with them staves, adopted the pastoral staff, to be borne by a bishop, as symbolical of his power to inflict pastoral correction; and Durandus says, "By the pastoral staff is likewise understood the authority of doctrine. For by it the infirm are supported, the wavering are confirmed, those going astray are drawn to repentance." Catalin also says that "the baculus, or episcopal staff, is an ensign not only of honor, but also of dignity, power, and pastoral jurisdiction."

Honorius, a writer of the twelfth century, in his treatise De Gemma Animoe, gives to this pastoral staff the names both of bacutus and virga. Thus he says, ''Bishops bear the staff (baculum), that by their teaching they may strengthen the weak in their faith ; and they carry the rod (virgam), that by their power they may correct the unruly.'' And this is strikingly similar to the language used by St. Bernard in the Rule which he drew up for the government of the Templars.

In Artiele I xviii, he says, "The Master ought to hold the staff and the rod (bacutum et cirgam) in his hand, that is to say, the staff (baculum), that he may support the infirmities of the weak, and the rod (cirgam), that he may with the zeal of rectitude strike down the vices of delinquents."

The transmission of episcopal ensigns from bishops to the heads of ecclesiastical associations was not difficult in the Middle Ages; and hence it afterwards became one of the insignia of abbots, and the heads of confraternities connected with the Church, as a token of the possession of powers of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Now, as the Papal bull, Omne datum Optimum, so named from its first three words, invested the Grand Master of the Templars with almost episcopal jurisdiction over the priests of his Order, he bore the baculus, or pastoral staff, as a mark of that jurisdiction, and thus it became a part of the Grand Master's insignia of office.

The baculus of the bishop, the abbot, and the confraternities was not precisely the same in form. The earliest episcopal staff terminated in a globular knob, or a tau cross, a cross of T shape. This was, however, soon replaced by the simple-curved termination, which resembles and is called a crook, in allusion to that used by shepherds to draw back and recall the sheep of their flock which have gone astray, thus symbolizing the expression of Christ, "I am the good Shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine."

The baculus of the abbot does not differ in form from that of a bishop, but as the bishop carries the curved part of his staff pointing forward, to show the extent of his episcopal jurisdiction, so the abbot carries his pointing backward, to signify that his authority is limited to his monastery. The baculi, or staves of the confraternities, were surmounted by small tabernacles, with images or emblems, on a sort of carved cap, having reference to the particular gild or confraternity by which they were borne.

The baculus of the Knights Templar, which was borne by the Grand Master as the ensign of his office, in allusion to his quasi-episcopal jurisdiction, is described and delineated in Munter, Burnes, Addison, and all the other authorities, as a staff, on the top of which is an octagonal figure, surmounted with a cross patee, this French word being applied to the arms having enlarged ends. The cross, of course, refers to the Christian character of the Order, and the octagon alludes, it is said, to the eight beatitudes of our Savior in His Sermon on the Mount. The pastoral staff is variously designated, by ecclesiastical writers, as virga, ferula, cambutta, crocia, and pedum.

From crocia, whose root is the Latin crux, and the Italian croce, meaning a cross, we get the English word crozier. Pedum, another name of the baculus, signifies, in pure Latinity, a shepherd's crook, and thus strictly carries out the symbolic idea of a pastoral charge.

Hence, looking to the pastoral jurisdiction of the Grand Master of the Templars, his staff of office is described under the title of pedum magistrate seu patriarchale, that is, a magisterial or patriarchal staff, in the Statuta Commilitonum Ordinis Tempti, or the Statutes of the Fellow- soldiers of the Order of the Temple, as a part of the investiture of the Grand Master, in the following words:

Pedum magistrale seu patriarchale, aureum, in cacumine cujus crux Ordinis super orbem exaltur; that is, A Magisterial or patriarchal staffl of gold, on the top of which is a cross of the Order, surmounting an orb or globe. This is from Statute xxviii, article 358. But of all these names, baculus is the one more commonly used by writers to designate the Templar pastoral staff.

In the year 1859 this staff of office was first adopted at Chicago by the Templars of the United States, during the Grand Mastership of Sir William B. Hubbard. But, unfortunately, at that time it received the name of abacus, a misnomer which was continued on the authority of a literary blunder of Sir Walter Scott, so that it has fallen to the lot of American Freemasons to perpetuate, in the use of this word, an error of the great novelist, resulting from his too careless writing, at which he would himself have been the first to smile, had his attention been called to it. Abacus, in mathematics, denotes an instrument or table used for calculation, and in architecture an ornamental part of a column; but it nowhere, in English or Latin, or any known language, signifies any kind of a staff.

Sir Walter Scott, who undoubtedly was thinking of baculus, in the hurry of the moment and a not improbable confusion of words and thoughts, wrote abacus, when, in his novel of Ivanhoe, he describes the Grand Master, Lucas Beaumanoir, as bearing in his hand "that singular abacus, or staff of office," committed a gross, but not uncommon, literary blunder, of a kind that is quite familiar to those who are conversant with the results of rapid composition, where the writer often thinks of one word and writes another.

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