Bare breast; sex or symbolism? Freemasonry de-mystified.
Freemasonry - sex rite or symbolism?
It seems rather strange to most people that, when he is Initiated into Freemasonry, a new Mason has his breast laid bare and his trouser leg rolled up. I have even seen it postulated that it represents some kind of obscure and obscene sex rite, but I have to say, when I look around an average Lodge Room at the age of many of the members, it is very difficult to imagine such a thing as being even physically possible, let alone likely!
That kind of speculation is easily de-mystified by considering some of the background to the ceremonies and allegory of Freemasonry.
The first thing to get squarely into mind, is that Freemasonry IS NOT a secret society. Apart from the traditional means of recognising one-another, everything about Freemasonry is completely open and in the public domain. Indeed, it is very common to find a Freemasons' stand at many a County Show or local exposition, and Open Days are frequently held at Masonic Lodges in many areas. Even the traditional methods of recognition (for example the masonic hand-shake) can be easily found with the help of Google. So, despite popular misconception, Freemasonry is clearly not secret at all.
The next thing is to consider that the fraternity is hundreds of years old, and most of its ceremonies have remained more or less unchanged throughout that very long period. Therefore, what may seem rather strange in the modern world, was perfectly normal when it was first introduced all those ages ago. In those times, the baring of the breast symbolised the opening of the heart, and there is much illustration of that social tradition in the paintings and drawings of the age. The rolling up of the trouser leg means that the knee is made bare, which also has a solid root in the symbolism of the day. At one point during the ceremony of initiation, the new Mason takes an obligation - a declaration of allegiance to the moral principals of the fraternity, and a confirmation that he will conform to the moral duties of his own religion (Freemasonry is secular, and whilst membership requires a belief in a Supreme Being - eg God, Allah - it is not a religion in itself). That obligation is taken on the sacred book associated with his own religion (for example a Christian would use the Holy Bible, a Muslim would use the Koran, and so on) and he kneels in front of the book on what is considered for the purpose to be holy ground. Accepted custom in those days demanded that shoes must be removed before standing on holy ground, and likewise knees should be bare before kneeling upon it.
So there you have it in a nutshell; confirmation that Freemasons do indeed roll up their trouser leg and bare their breast, along with the reasons why. Remember, it only happens when a man is being Initiated into the fraternity and afterwards advances to become a Master Mason. Freemasons don't run around at their meetings with trousers rolled up and shirts undone! Meetings are very dignified, and there is a great deal of respect given to the preservation of old customs which retain a unique link with good men from bygone ages.
Some of those good men can be found at: