Gathering the Cedars of Lebanon... Gustave Doré


"Careful with that Axe, Eugene!" -- Pink Floyd, 1968.


As regards the antiquity of this degree, we can look no farther than 1758, when the Emperors of the East and West were established at Paris. This was the genesis of the Rite of Perfection, which climaxed with the AASR. When Freemasonry expanded in the wake of the reforms which occurred in 1717, and later with the Stuart Cause, we see a gradual rise in the development of rites and degrees.

From Gould's chart, (III Gould, facing p. 378, 1903 American Edition, in Red Morocco, as well as from other sources):

1728 - 1730. RAMSAY'S RITE. Six Degrees. England. Established by Andrew Michael Ramsay.

1743 RITE DES VIELLE-BRU in 8 plus degrees. Established by Samuel Lockhart, adherent of Charles Edward Stuart, Toulouse.

1747. 15 April. PRIMORDIAL CHAPTER OF ARRAS, established by Charles Edward Stuart.

1754 24 November. CHAPTER OF CLERMONT in Six Degrees (Rite of Perfection). Paris. Established by Chevalier de Bonneville.

1756, Paris. KNIGHTS OF THE EAST. Established by "Valois".

1758, EMPERORS OF THE EAST AND WEST, 25 Degrees, Paris. Established by a Council.

1801 ANCIENT AND ACCEPTED SCOTTISH RITE, in 33 Degrees, Charleston.

From our research, we gather that all or most of the High Degrees in the Emperors of the East and West were created at the same time. Later, they were revised and added to, and we get the 33 degrees of the AASR. We will give a thumbnail sketch of the other significant branch of the Masonic tradition, later. That is, of course, the Rites of Memphis and Misraim.

Just what purpose the degrees of the Emperors served is not to be found so easily amongst all the hundreds of pages spent on the subject. The principal high degrees that have existed can be placed in the following categories:

(Above the three Craft Degrees)

Now, most rites usually have a Royal Arch of some sort, a series of Elu (Elect) Degrees, a Rose+Croix, Ecossais, and Qadosh. These are the core degrees of the High Degree Rites. In the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, we would say, 9° - 11°; 13°, 15°, 17°, 18°, 30°; 32°. But the extra degreesm like the 16°, 19° - 29°, 31°, 33°, and the nursery grades like the 4° - 12°, and 14°, require some stretching to fit them into the schema. Well, the 23rd to 29th are simple enough, and the 33rd, even the 31st, and the 19th and 20th. But the 16th, the 21st, and the 22nd are rather extraneous: unless there is a very important, but concealed symbolism, or historical connection. In the 22nd, the Historical Connection is not to be found in the pretended history of the degree - that of the Sidonians.


In brief, the degree commemorates the Sidonians, who felled cedars for the Ark of Noah, the Ark of the Covenant, and the Temple of Solomon, even if the two Arks were made of Acacia wood; they organized themselves into colleges to worship the Grand Architect of the Universe and fell cedars for Israelite projects. A high-born Prussian Knight, at the time of the Crusades, finds them in their college, at labor, and seeks admission. He is denied entrance, unless he can perform a year's worth of labor. This being satisfied, he becomes a Knight of the Royal Axe, which he is given, so he can fell cedars.

The Axe is inscribed with Hebrew letters, which signify Lebanon, Sidonians, Noah, Shem, Ham, Japheth, [the members of this College are claimed as descendants of Japheth]; Moses, Aholiab, Zerubbabel, Nehemiah, Ezra. This then is the Royal Axe. Why Israelite names on an Axe significant to the Sidonians, who were pagans, who worshipped a different pantheon? According to William Foxwell Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan, pp. 148-150, Eshmun and Astronoe were the Chief Deities of Sidon. Eshmun being the god of Healing, like Asklepios, Shulman, Imouthis, I-M-Hetep, and Astronoe being a version of the Ishtar of Nineveh.

The Sacred Word, Al-Shadai, is significant, since it equates with Set, Shaitan, Nergal, and Shadu, the Mountain. The Degree is attributed (in Blanchard's work), to the planet Mars, as is Nergal. Set is Sith, in Greek, and we have written elsewhere, that the Sethians trace their name to Set, rather than Seth, son of Adam, and sith is a component of Do-Sith-eos, which is significant, since the first such Dositheos we have on record came to Samaria, in Assyrian times, one of the Nergal Fire Priests of Cutha.

El-Shaddai, according to Albright, is 'He of the Mountains' -

SADDAY: He of the Mountains.
AL: The Exalted One.

The explanation in Words, 156, that the word means 'AL, who conquers,' may work, but only in connection with the identification of the mountain gods with destruction which was a common idea in Asia Minor at least. There they had Earthquake Gods as well as Volcano Gods (which might be significant, considering Djebel ad-Druz in the Hauran). Due to the fact that at least three major continental plates meet in Asia Minor, these Earthquake Gods were important: and the result is the largest number of earthquakes anywhere on the planet, including 'dangerous' California!

Now we present the Legend, as Pike gives it in his corpus of writings:

The Tsidunai or Phoenicians were ever ready to aid the Israelites in their holy enterprises. The tie between them was the mysteries, into which the principal persons of both nations were initiated; Moses having necessarily received them in Egypt, before he could marry the daughter of a priest of On. These mysteries, modified by Solomon, or perhaps at an earlier day by Joshua or even Moses, to suit the genius and manners of the Jewish people, became Masonry, such as it was practiced at the building of the Temple, and such as it has in part come down to us. Khurum, King of Tsur in Phoenicia, and Khurum Abai, also a Phoenician and not a Jew, were likewise initiates; and hence the intimate connection between them and Solomon, as Masons. The people of Tsidun, a city of Phoenicia, were employed by Noah to cut cedars on Mount Libanus, of which to build the ark, under the superintendance of Japhet. His descendants repeopled Tsidun and Phoenicia, and at a later day his posterity, under Adon Khurum, cut in the same forests cedars for King Solomon: and at a time still later, they felled timber on the same mountain to construct the second Temple.

Upon the same mountain it is said that they established Colleges or Associations of Artificers, like those of Etruria and afterward of Rome. Of this we can only say that it is possible, because associations of workers have been common in all ages.

It is supposed that there were Colleges of Artificers in Etruria, as there certainly were at Rome; and Phoenicians, who voyaged far and traded everywhere, and who honored the skill of the Architect and Artisan, no doubt had similar colleges.

Wherever such associations existed, they necessarily had modes of recognition of each other; and they were honored everywhere. Solomon himself, whose wisdom gave him a true idea of the dignity of labor, built a palace on the mountain, to which he often repaired to inspect the progress of the work. The names of the Patriarchs who were the Superintendents of the workmen on the mountains at different periods are preserved in our pass-words. The institution of Colleges upon Mount Libanus was perpetuated by the Druses, from whom the Crusaders obtained a knowledge of this or a similar Degree. - Liturgies, pp. 58-59 (part IV).

And the same mountain was that same Mount Hermon, where the Sons of God came down, and found the Daughters of Men, to be fair...


Waite's New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry

It should be understood that Libanus is Lebanon and that according to the traditional history it was the Sidonians who cut down cedars on that memorable mountain (1) for the building of Noah's ark, (2) for the Ark of the Covenant, (2) for Solomon's Temple, and (4) for that of Zerubbabel. The Prince of Libanus constitutes the twenty-second Degree of the Scottish Rite, and its alternative title is Knight of the Royal Axe. It is the Sidonians presumably who are at work in one of the apartments - hewing, sawing, planing, copying designs and so forth - when the Candidate enters among them. Here is a plain issue within its own measures, but as those who make Grades of this quality must also stultify, his perfect title of entrance is that he is a Christian Knight of Rose-Croix, who should know of another Lebanon than that where Sidon worked, to say nothing of ages intervening between the dawn of Easter and the leading epochs of Jewish history or the days of Ark and Flood. ... - II-302.


The Royal Axe

The Royal Axe explained.
The application of the following letters, the initials of every name which we retain in our memory.


on the side of the blade of the Royal Axe, signifies



on the top of the Royal Axe,



on one side of the handle,



on the same side,


















on the lower blade of the Axe,



on the top of the handle on the other side,



next on the top of the handle on the other side,

















On the top of the Axe or jewel, a golden crown to hang by a ribbon, or collar of a rainbow color, in the form of a collar on the breast; it may also be worn from the right shoulder to the left hip. - Cross, Templar's Chart, Supplement. pp. 76 - 77.


Nuakh: Quiet, Rest, repose.
Betsel-Al: Shade of AL.
Yapat: Enlargement.
Aholai-Ab: Coruscation of the Father.
Tsidunai: Men of Sidon.
Lebanon: Mount Libanus.

Noah and Yaphet were builders of the Ark; Betsel-Al and Aholiab, of the Tabernacle of Moses.

The Tsidunai or men of Sidon worked for Solomon, in procuring timber for the Temple, from the mountain-range of Lebanon.

The only signification of the words is their connection with Labor, -- on the Ark, the Tabernacle and the Temple.

Sacred Word:

yd#-l) , Al or El Sadai, Sadi, Shedi, or Shadai. 'AL, who conquers,' or 'The Destroyer': perhaps the Phoenician Sun-God, Shadid or Shadad.

d# , shed or sad, 'a woman's bosom;' and Shadi, perhaps 'Nature, the producer;' and Al-Shadai, the Great Nature-God, the impersonation of the Powers of Nature, worshipped by men before they conceived of a separate and creative personal Deity. - The Book of the Words, pp. 155 - 156.

This latter meaning, may be seen in relation to the academic definition of Shaddai with the term Mountain.



Our notes

The link between the 22nd and the 25th degrees is interesting. The theme in the explanations of the 22nd Degree is the Sect of the Druzes. There is no Legenda for the 22nd Degree. There is, however the Legenda for the 25th Degree, presented above. That Legenda is all about the Druzes, or so we are told by Pike. However, as we demonstrated, it is not nearly as simple as that. It may refer to Druzes, but it really is referring to the Ikhwan as-Safa.

We have found this to be the case, as far as the knowledge derived from French travellers in the region during the 19th Century. Also, we know that it was urged by some that God withdrew himself from the hierarchy of the Druzes and went over to the Alawites. Not that we want to be a bone of contention here, but there are reasons to hold that all of these groups are related, but that the Upper Management (INNER) picks and chooses where it wants to go from time to time, and doesn't stay in one place forever. The Upper Management Levels of all Orders that Exist today, have at one time been directed by the Instructors / Secret Chiefs / Unknown Superiors, but that is not necessarily the case as this is being written. Just look at the state of disarray that these various organizations are in.

Perhaps instead of the Desert Tabernacle in the 23rd to the 25th Degrees, we place it in the Lebanon, within view of Mount Hermon. That is not impossible. The Druzes are regarded as the descendants of Hivites / Cuthites, who are the most prominent group of the Serpent Tribe. Although their doctrines are not really pagan Serpent Worship, the dualism is not too far off from that which we presented above in reference to the Ophites.

The historians claim that once this degree was connected to the 21st Degree, the Noachite or Prussian Knight. Indeed, it is a Prussian Knight who begs affiliation with the College of Sidonians. The Prussian element is reprised in the 27th Degree.

Perhaps the role of knighthood and nobility in these degrees was designed to give the relatively ordinary man who would have gone through the ceremonial a sort of guided tour, a Cooks' Tour of Chivalric Orders, so to speak.

Now, for our purposes here, we shall run through the significance of certain elements - the Location, the Axe, the Druzes. Mackey informs us (I Mackey 403a-b):

"This degree is especially interesting to the Masonic scholar in consequence of its evident reference to the mystical association of the Druses, whose connection with the Templars at the time of the Crusades forms a yet to be investigated episode in the History of Freemasonry."

In studying the Axe, we shall give notice to a couple of important symbols. In studying the location, we shall see it to be an important place in the history of the world. In studying the Druzes, we shall see their connection to our story.