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De Steensplinter

Rondom De Korenschoof * various authors (2006)

A while ago I ran into a small Dutch publisher that I did not yet know. It seems that “De Steensplinter” (‘the stone splinter’) did not start as a Masonic publishing house, but when I looked at the catalogue, many titles are Masonic. I got myself two titles about symbolism, one (reviewed earlier) not specifically Masonic, the present one is. That is to say: is in basis.

“Rondom de korenschoof” means ‘around the sheaf of corn’. The book was published by a Masonic lodge called “De Korenschoof” for their 50th aniversary. It was written by 4 authors and does not only speak about the symbolism of corn in Freemasonry, but the authors widened their subject to “nature and plant-symbolism in Freemasonry”. This resulted in an interesting little book (192 pages).

The book starts with general information about symbolism and rituals. After this short introduction by K. Verhoeff, A.M. van Harten takes over to say a few things about ‘nature religions, ancient myths and plant symbolism’. The author writes about Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, the Romans and ends with Mithras and Attis; of course there is special attention for grain symbolism.
P. Stam follows with an essay about ‘plant symbolism in some world religions’. This is a nice, short text about plants, their fruits and products made of the plants and/or the fruits in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The following text was the main reason to buy this book. ‘Grain in folk-belief in North-Western Europe’ by, again, A.M. van Harten. North-Western Europe and Freemasonry, would that be a modern-day version of Farwerck? Yes and no. No, mainly because the author seems to have forgotten (or ignored) the work of Frans Farwerck who was not only a Freemason, but also wrote extensively about folk-belief in North-Western Europe. Instead, Van Harten uses Melly Uyldert when he gives information about the Germanic peoples (so it cannot have been the choices during WWII to choose his source). With all respect to the late Uyldert, but she was not exactly a scholar. Farwerck would have made a more logical and certainly better source. Having said that, I know not all information in this essay is very accurate. Nonetheless it makes a nice read about sowing, harvesting, grain, straw, sheafs left on the field, corn-spirits, folk-art, festivities, etc. A text about subjects that I read of before, but this time from another kind of source.
The same author then writes about ‘plant symbolism and Freemasonry’. Again he uses sources that I wonder if they were the best choice, but here Van Harten seems to be better in place. This chapter is pretty detailed speaking about well-known Masonic plant symbols, but also about much lesser well-known. The chapter also deals with two very specific Rites, so this essay may be mostly interesting for people with an interest in Freemasonry.

The last chapter is about the “De Korenschoof” lodge itself. The lodge was founded by Freemasons with an agricultural background, so their preference for agricultural symbolism is natural. This also resulted in the fact that this lodge has a fairly unique annual “harvest lodge”, which sounds a lot like a contemporary Masonic continuation of ancient harvest festivals (Farwerck would have been delighted). This chapter contains many and lengthy quotes from the Ritual that the lodge uses and may not be too interesting for non-Masons.

All in all this is a nice little book with an interesting approach to symbolism.

2006 Uitgeverij De Korenschoof, isbn 9057170256

Gekruiste Benen * Henry MacGillavry (2000/2013)

I ran into this book ‘by accident’ and was mostly caught by the subtitle which is (translated) “a study of the functioning of symbols”. However there is indeed information about symbolism in general, the little book (100 pages) is mostly about the symbolism from the title: crossed legs.

The author was born in 1908, this book was first published when he was 92. This slightly revised reprint was printed a year after MacGillavry passed away, at the age of 104! MacGillavry was a Freemason and however he did publish books (at the same publisher) about Masonic subjects, “Gekruiste Benen” is not one of those.
The author starts by mentioning earlier investigations into the subject, but the present title mostly continues with the works of Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781), A. MacLaine Pont (1883-1955), W. Kat and… Frans Farwerck! Initially the author mentions Farwerck only briefly, later he goes into more details about Farwerck’s theories which he posed in an article in the periodical Nehalennia of 1959 about the same subject. A nice surprise.

MacGillavry refers to his named predecesors on the subject and decided to not use a massive amount of images like Farwerck usually does, but to stick to a few good examples. These are printed in not-smashing quality in the book (a few in colour in the reprint). There are many, many examples of people depicted with their legs crossed (while standing, sitting or laying) both from ancient history and more recently on paintings. The author treats different theories such as that these images refer to the God of Sleep (Hypnos) and/or the God of Death (Thanatos), to a border-crossing (Kat) or to a Cosmic cycle (Farwerck), but since none of these theories can be used at all known images, the author comes to the conclusion that they refer more generally to a transition. This idea does not rule out the other theories.

Along the way you can Egyptian, Roman, Mithraic, Christian, etc. symbols surrounding the figures with crossed legs. It makes this little book a nice read.

2000/2013 Uitgeverij De Steensplinter, isbn 9789057170331