A Dove was released from the Ark by Noah, but 'found no rest for the sole of her foot and she returned; the second time she came back and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf, while the third time she 'returned not again unto him.' (Genesis 8:8-12).
In this way, the dove and its olive branch carry the dual symbolism of the messenger (from the dove) as well as purity, peace and innocence (from the olive branch).
Some say it is because of the last sentence above that the Dove appears on a Deacons wand, however here are some more thoughts. Below is an extract from a recent presentation to Craft masons and other sources.
Source 1 "This degree also has in my view many connections with the Craft and some say it actually precedes the Craft. Whilst there are records dating back to 1790, the legend of Noah and his family were regularly enacted throughout England in the Mystery Plays of the seventeenth century, and by the middle of that century there was reputedly a Masonic Degree of "Noachites". However, the first authentic record of the Degree of Royal Ark Mariner appears in the minutes of a meeting held in Bath in 1790.
The Royal Ark Mariner ritual is obviously based on the story of Noah and includes two of his sons Japeth and Shem. To demonstrate this apparent connection, I would ask why do deacons in a craft lodge have a Dove carrying an Olive branch, of all the symbols that could have been chosen for those wands why these?
Both rituals use a blindfold
Do you know who Tubalcain was, not what he was, but who he was and why does he form part of a craft ceremony?
Bearing in mind the story of Noah precedes the craft story, the craft degrees use some of the cardinal virtues exemplified in the Royal Ark Mariner degree, brotherly love, truth and charity.
Some say there are other striking similarities as well. The Royal Ark Mariner degree like the craft is based around the building of a large structure, the Ark in the Royal Ark Mariners whereas the craft is the building of a temple, the Royal Ark Mariner degree includes two sons where as the craft uses two pillars. There are other similarities as well. The reason I give these examples is again to acknowledge whilst the Craft is the reason we are all here and the beginning of our masonic journey, in my humble view is not the be all and end all. There are many twists and turns along our way that need to be examined or considered."
Source 2 "Royal Ark Mariner is a completely separate Degree, administered by the Mark Grand Master, for which candidates must already be Mark Master Masons. Its precise origin is unknown and its earliest-known workings as a degree were in various places in the 1790s. However, there are earlier documents that refer to Noah in a Masonic context, and even an unconfirmed eighteenth century "Grand Lodge of Ark Mariners".
The degree's ceremony of Elevation equates the admission of the candidate to Noah's progress to salvation through employing his skills and labour in building the Ark which carries him and his family to the haven of rest. It is often suggested that Masonic rituals originated in the mystery plays of the medieval Guilds.
Like "recognised" Masonic ritual, these plays often included moral and spiritual teachings. The story of the Flood and the salvation of Noah was certainly one such theme, so is very likely to be a source for the Royal Ark Mariner degree and ritual, and is clearly represented in the use of the rainbow and dove with olive branch in the Jewel.
There are obvious parallels between Noah, the biblical builder of the Ark, and Hiram Abif, the legendary architect/chief builder of the first Temple. It is also notable that Tubalcain - the "first artificer in metals" was not a contemporary of Hiram or Solomon, but the half-brother of Noah. Early eighteenth-century Masonic documents even suggest a legend that Noah's sons sought the secrets of their dead father, paralleling the Third Degree legend of the death of Hiram.
It is not surprising, therefore, that early masons may well have regarded Noah as an original Grand Master - a precursor (in ritual stories) of Hiram.
The degree of Royal Ark Mariner has been under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons since 1871. Prior to that date it had been worked in various other Lodges, especially Mark lodges. The Mark Grand Master is also "Grand Master of the Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners", and administers it through the Grand Master's Royal Ark Council. Similarly, each Mark Provincial Grand Master has jurisdiction over all RAM lodges within his Province.
(Thanks to the District Grand Lodge of Spain)
Whatever your views about the origins of the Royal Ark Mariner Degree and its connection or otherwise with the Craft, we can offer you a beautiful and interesting degree. As all Royal Ark Mariner lodges must be moored or attached to a Mark Lodge, in most cases in this Province the Royal Ark Mariner Degree is held before a Mark Lodge on the same evening, thereby reducing the number of nights out, the cost of membership and temple rents and of course dining, as these are usually included within the cost of a Mark lodge.
Don’t be one of those who miss out on an interesting fun degree. Either speak to a brother who you know and is a member and ask for more details, or contact the Provincial Grand Secretary via the contact details on the website at www.essexmark.co.uk or email to EssexProvSec@britishmasons.uk.
This is the second in a set of 9 teasers in this campaign and previous teasers can still be found on the Essex Mark website by clicking on the Teaser of the Month button on the front page.