By Melissa Cole, Curator
The exhibition Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight will be closing soon at the Oshawa Museum so I thought this ring from the OM’s collection would be a great item to highlight since it belonged to the donor’s mother who was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star or (OES) for short.
The OES is a masonic organization that is the sister organization of the Freemasons. It is the largest fraternal organization to which men and women both belong, although the majority of its members are female. The stated purposes of the organization are: Charitable, Educational, Fraternal and Scientific; but there is much more to it than that. Dr. Rob Morris, a very well-known and active Mason, is credited with founding the Eastern Star. It is believed that the OES had its roots in France as early as 1703 – a decade before the inception of the first Grand Lodge of London in 1717. Morris admitted that he borrowed the structure of the organization from the French who introduced the “Androgynous degrees” into America when they came to help out the Americans in their struggles against Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. He knew that the ancient landmarks of the order did not permit women from joining the fraternity and thus harbored his ideas for many years without action. It was in 1850 when Morris wrote the initiatory Degrees of the order. He first initiated his wife and daughters and expanded to some neighbor ladies. The signs and modes of recognition given to them, he freely communicated to Masons so that they would be able to recognize the newly initiated women.
In 1868, Morris passed his mantle on to Robert McCoy, a fellow mason, to carry on and expand the work of the Eastern Star. He wrote the rituals of the order as they exist today. These degrees centred on the lives of five biblical heroines which are represented on this ring.
In order to be a member of the OES you must be 18 years of age, believe in a supreme being and be related to a male Freemason through one of the following ways:
- Affiliated Master Masons in good standing
- the wives
- legally adopted daughters
- half sisters
- great granddaughters
This 5 pointed, inverted star represented on this ring reflects the five points of the Order of the Eastern Star which are female biblical figures that are associated with a color, a cardinal feminine virtue and, in some cases, a season of the year.
Lets take a closer look at each of the points represented on this inverted star which is featured on this ring.
The first point is Adah, Jephtah’s daughter from the Book of Judges. She is associated with the youth of spring and the color blue. Her cardinal virtue is respect for the binding power of a vow. She is symbolized by a sword and shield symbolizing how she sacrificed her life to save her father’s honor.
The second point of the Order of the Eastern Star is Ruth, the widow from the Book of Ruth. She is associated with the abundance (symbolized through the sheaf of barley) and growth of summer and the color yellow. Ruth’s cardinal virtue is piety.
The third point is Esther, the wife from the Book of Esther. Esther is associated with the color white but does not represent a season. She is symbolized through a crown and scepter. Esther’s cardinal virtue is fidelity to family and friends.
The fourth point of the Order of the Eastern Star is Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus in the Gospel of John. Martha is associated with the end of life (symbolized through the broken column), winter and the color green. Martha’s cardinal virtue is undeviating faith through hardship.
The fifth point is Electa, the mother and the elect lady from the Second Epistle of John. She is associated with the full maturity of life, autumn and the color red. Electa’s cardinal virtue is patience. This is symbolized through the cup representing charity.
Inside the center of the star is a pentagram (5-sided figure) with an altar as the logo’s focal point. The open book upon the altar signifies obedience to God’s word.
Local Eastern Star chapters select their own charities and places of service in their own communities. Each year special charities are selected for that year’s emphasis and might include volunteer programs in elementary schools or volunteers in literacy programs and specific community outreach. To learn more about OES visit www.easternstar.org
Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight will be on display at the Oshawa Museum until August 31, 2016. This exhibit is travelling from the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.