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The three pillars

Here is a chapter from the book Noord-Europa, Een der bronnen van de Maçonnieke symboliek. It gives a fair idea of how Farwerck presents his ideas. The translation was done by Google with a few corrections of myself. Images are below.

The three pillars are referred to in the lodges as those of Wisdom, Strength and Beauty and with a slight change in the placement of the sephiroth they can be associated with the kabbalistic columns formed by them (DL 103), although these have completely different names in relevant literature. Moreover, the kabbalistic columns stand in a flat plane and the masonic in a triangle, so that the cohesion is far to be found. It is furthermore doubtful that the building masters of the building huts or the members of the building guilds possessed any kabbalistic knowledge. There is not even a shred of evidence that the kabbalistic doctrine existed at the time of the first, no matter how high age is attributed to it. This is no more than a statement that only emerged in later times, and unsupported by any fact. But it is certain that the kabbalistic teachings became of interest in the time of the rise of speculative masons and then mainly in the circles from which they came. It can therefore be assumed that the kabbalistic columns have been brought into the masonic rituals by speculative masons. But in all likelihood they, like the two columns, connected with the emblems found in the rituals in which, under kabbalistic influence, the columns were given names that more or less corresponded with the older ones. The oldest examples of three sones placed in a triangle are hunebedden [dolmen] that consisted of a capstone, supported by three upright stones. They are known as dolmen and, like the larger hunebedden, were used for funerals. It is very likely that they were also used for worship, and although the number of upright stones may have had a practical purpose, three is the smallest number that can support a large slab, it is possible that some people already attributed a symbolic meaning to this at the time. What that was, was not delivered to us.

As mentioned above, the eastern part of the Pagan temples had been separated and in this part were the statues of the gods. They were apparently not always the same Gods, but often it was three and in Scandinavia mostly Odin, Thor and Freyr. This custom apparently also existed in Germania too, because according to a report in the vita S. Galli, Columban and his pupil Gallus in 612 in Bregenz allegedly found in a church the images of three pagan gods. These were removed by him, and thrown into Lake Constance. According to a message from Tacitus, the Goddess Nerthus took the place of the Scandinavian Freyr in Germany and it was her whose statue was carried around in spring and supposedly she will have replaced Freyr statues in the temples accordingly. The name Frouwe also appeared in Germania and this Goddess was identical to the Scandinavian Freyja, Freyr’s sister. Probably Nerthus was just another name for Frouwa, because her name corresponds to the Scandinavian Njörd, the father of Freyja and Freyr. Taking tours with the Goddess Frouwe (Nerthus) in our region probably still lives on in the spring summits of Queen May, Pentecostal Bride and similar customs, which confirm that the Scandinavian Freyr in Germany was replaced by a Goddess. In the temples the images of Wodan, Donar and Frouwa (Nerthus) will have been placed accordingly. Through various traditions, including for example the writings of Saxo Grammaticus, the memory of three statues in the pagan temples has survived for a long time and so we find in [the image below] a representation from 1645 of a pagan temple with the three Gods, Odin, Thor and Frigga in medieval apparel. We may, however, assume that the Gods in the temples looked differently. In pagan times – this is known with certainty from the centuries preceding the Christianization, the statues of the gods stood on columns, but we also have a report on this from Julius Caesar, who writes about the related Celts (d. Bell, gall. VI, 17): “Their main God is Mercury (the German Wodan): he has the most image columns. We also have a similar message from a much later time in a travel description of the Arabian Ibn Fosslan, in which he reports on a trade trip in the ninth century, when he visited the Swedish Warägers, who had founded a colony on the Volga, where he says, among other things: Once their ships have arrived at the anchorage on the Itil (Volga), everyone goes to a high pole erected there, which has a kind of human face and is surrounded by small columns of statues, behind which a few high columns have been erected, The Warägers pray and offer for these large wooden columns (H. T. 209), also from there have lying and later times we put statues of gods on columns, so that we are dealing with a widespread use. Not only has it been known in Christian times that there were three Gods in the Germanic temples, but also that they stood on columns. In the Chronicles of the Sassens from 1492 a woodcut depicts an image that would have been on a column found at Corvey. On which column the region of the Sachsen Hertoge und Gott would be engraved. What exactly is true or not relevant in this communication is currently less relevant; at least it appears that people knew that the Pagan Gods were on columns. In the collection of paintings by the prince of Donaueschingen there is a panel from 1460 depicting the healing of a possessed person. The spirit sworn by the devil banner escapes from the mouth of the possessed person in the form of a small dragon, and from the pillar next to him falls the image of the God who apparently adored the possessed person up to that moment. It is also worth mentioning a representation in Codex Aschaffenburg No.18 from 1260, on which three Gods fall from their columns (JG 72) and so there are various other data to be quoted, from which it appears that the Pagan Gods were still on columns Examples from the ancient world could hardly have played a role here, because columns with a statue of the gods only exceptionally existed.Now there were in the Germanic temples, as we often said, three Gods and the representation in Codex Aschaffenburg will There were therefore three pillars in the temples, and the overthrow of the Christianization probably caused the original play of the cone, which consisted of Figure 38 [not found online] of a woodcut by Christoph Maurer (1558-1661) appears from the overthrow of three cones.In connection with a large number of similar customs, we may assume that this game overthrows the image wanted to imitate the pillars of the three Gods revered by the forefathers. By turning it into a game, the population was brought in and it was thought that this would reduce the tendency to fall back on the old belief 9)

We still have a peculiar confirmation of the existence of three columns of the gods in the coat of arms of Millstatt am See [this image]. We see three columns on three hills and this probably points to an old holy place, because the famous shrine at Upsala, for example, also stood on three burial mounds. On the columns we see a goat’s head, a cat’s head and a donkey’s or horse’s head. The latter will probably be meant as a horse’s head, because to the above three gods the horse (Wodan), the goat (Donar) and the cat (Frouwa) were sacred . Instead of the statues of the gods, the Millstatt coat of arms displays their attributes, which is a camouflage that amounts to the same thing.

It goes without saying that in Christian times no worship of gods standing on columns became more patient but the columns remained. We have a clue from the time of the building huts and the later guilds will have taken them from this and passed them on to the freemasons. As far as the symbolism of the three columns at the building huts is concerned, we have a picture in the Villard de Honnecourt building huts book in which around the representation of fig. 40. This shows in the first place that in the first half of the thirteenth century the three columns placed in a triangle were known to the building huts.

The drawing is also very important because the three columns apparently stand around a fourth that is covered by the front of the three columns, but of which two curved wings are visible halfway. As a result, this fourth column has similarities with the Irmin column, which we know from the medieval sculpture on the Externsteine ​​near Horn in Lippe. He is kinked there, serving at the taking of the cross of Christ (fig. 41). The Irmin columns are mentioned several times in the old literature and we may infer that they are a were emblematic of the world column or the axis of the world, which was thought to run from the earth to the pole star and was related to the world tree. The fact that Villard de Honnecourt knew this world column is clear from Fig. 41a, which is also taken from his book of cabins. The architect here depicted the crucified Christ on top of an Irmin column. Spanuth (SA 126) deduces from a statement in Plato’s Kritias (119) that the Germans placed the sacrifices for the deity on top of the column, and in this line of thought Villard apparently also placed the Christ sacrifice on a column in its shape on the old Irmin column remembers.

For the three columns, Villard himself gives the explanation that the fourth column in the middle of it comes out at the top of the triangular plane and in a button on which an eagle sits. This is reminiscent of the Germanic world tree Yggdrasil, which ends in Walhal with its summit, while there is an eagle in the summit too. A further similarity is that, according to Villard, snakes have been signed under the base of the columns. This is in accordance with the statement in the Edda that the snake Nidhöggr gnaws at the root of the world tree. It is also remarkable that one of the three men on the platform raises the arms as if in ecstasy, while holding a staff in one hand that ends in a knot figure. The knot, however, is, as we shall see in more detail, an emblem of Wodan, the God of rapture and initiation. Of the other two men, one ponders over one thing and another (perhaps lived through, expressed by the first), while the third is writing. Villard calls the drawing a model for a gospel reader. However, it is not suitable for this and he must have meant something else.

From a slightly later period of that of Emperor Maximilian (1459-1519) we have a statement that also indicates that the building huts knew the three columns. This emperor was very interested in architecture, was often seen in the building huts and wrote even a book about it. That Baumei egg. In order to be able to visit the building huts, he was first included in the brotherhood, because someone who had not vowed to keep the secrets was not admitted to the building hut. In his book Weisskunig, Maximilian gives his own biography in the form of a novel, which includes the following: ‘There was talk of the Kunig, about the Grund gelernt hat, darauf ime of the Junig Kunww: es sei mit dem Stainwerch drew Hauptgepew, das erst zu dem Lust das other zu der Notdurft, that is zu der Sterkh. That’s why the Werchmeister woolens, that’s what the Pawerey with the Stainwerch gelernet ‘.

The ‘drei Hauptgepew’ apparently mean tre three main foundations, pillars or pillars, the third of which is then associated with Sterkh. Lust used to mean ‘charming’ and ‘lovely’, so that we may perhaps associate this word with Beauty. Notdurft means, among other things, ‘the indispensable’ and if we can declare this as ‘necessary background’, then this could be related to Wisdom. Although more or less controversial, we may therefore already find here the Masonic trio of Wisdom Strength and Beauty, which incidentally is also found several times outside the building guild in the Middle Ages.

We also find similar triplets and this is how the Germanic mystic Eckehart of Wisdom Power and Love, who he then relates to the Father. the Son and the Holy Spirit. With him there is no question of columns, but the striking thing is that of the three Gods who stood in the Germanic temples, Odin (Wodan) according to Snorri in his Heimskringla was the most wise among the Azan 10), Thor (Donar) by his power belt was the strongest Aze, while Freyja (Nerthus Frouwa) shared with Frigga (Fria) the functions of Goddess of marriage and of love. It is almost impossible that Eckehart has drawn on old tradition. It is also possible that, just as in Greece Venus, both the Goddess of love and beauty, this was also the case with the Germanic Goddess. The series could therefore also have been Wisdom Power and Beauty in Antiquity. However, we have no further instructions for this, so it is only a possibility that we suggest.The guilds also knew three related words. We can at least deduce this from the fact that these words were used by the Zunft, the association of mason companions that continued to exist for a long time after the dissolution of the guilds. For example, in the first stone laying, as we have already said, three strokes were given on the stone in the form of a triangle and the words pronounced Wisdom Truth and Power.

Finally, we would like to refer to the invocation of the English building guilds mentioned above (p. 44).

If we summarize the saying about these words, we see:

Germ Gods wisdomstrengthlove (beauty?)
Eckehart wisdomstrengthlove
Maximiliaan wisdom (?)strengthbeauty
Duitse Bouwgilden wisdomstrengththruth
Engelse Id wisdompowergoodness
Vrijmetselarij wisdomstrengthbeauty

All this gives the impression that there is a connection between these series and therefore also between the three pagan Gods standing on columns and the column names in the maconic lodges, although we also do not know exactly when and why the changes are in the third name arise.


7) There are also all kinds of variants in which the capstone is supported by several stones, with two access stones and a threshold, etc., but these are later forms of development of the original model with the three triangularly placed stones.

8) We find the same trio among the Laplanders, who took this from the Norwegians. They worshiped Hora-galles (Thorkarl – Thor) Woraldin-olma (Veraldar godh Freyr) and Bieka-galles the “strong windman” (the Wind God Odin).

9) Of the many related examples, we mention chopping down posts that used to be pretty much at spring, partying in Twente. Gelderse Achterhoek Limburg and Brabant took place and currently still at Laag-Keppel Hummelo Mheer and Gronsveld. Furthermore, it is related to the overthrowing of posts or blocks of wood, such as this used to be, at Hildesheim Halberstadt. Paderborn and Sebaldshausen were either hitting a pole like at Heveskes in Groningen, which became a child’s play in 1923, when the pole was cut down.

10) The Romans got to know Wodan when they were already familiar with the Gallic Mercury and we can assume that the character of this Celtic God was important for the identification of the Germanic. Now Caesar informs us that the Gauls considered him omnium inventorem artium, which indicates an intellectual meaning of Wodan (V A I 170). Just as Odin was considered a wise man in Scandinavia, this was apparently the case with Wodan in Germania.


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