The purpose of this website

Much has been written about the Kirkwall Scroll, but surprisingly few books. Many of the texts concern itself with the dating of the scroll, sometimes an author ventures into an interpretation of the symbolism of the scroll. So far I have not ran into an author that used the scroll the other way around.

I think is is fairly safe to date the scroll around about 1780. So if people see symbolism on it of not only “craft” / “symbolic” degrees, but also Mark Master, Excellent Master, Royal Arch, Templar degrees, does that mean that all these degrees were already worked at the time in either London or Kirkwall? Let’s try to figure out if a conclusion in the vein of ‘I see an arch, so there is Royal Arch symbolism on the scroll’ makes sense and if so, if that says anything about the period that such degrees emerged.

Some (Royal Arch) degrees are known to have been worked in Ireland, Scotland and England since the 1740’ies, but some other (such as Royal Ark Mariner) seem to have appeared later. If any degree can be identified with any certainty on the scroll and the scroll is from before 1786, when it was presented to the lodge, we would have the earliest mentions of such degrees.

On this website we are looking at the symbols, trying to take note of the context and individual symbols. Would it be possible to identify rites/degrees and if so, would it be possible (or probable) that these rites were known? Could we even find out where they were practiced? That could give an idea of where the scroll was painted for example and maybe even how the degrees traveled around the country that is now the United Kingdom. The most enigmatic element in that regard is the frequent reference to Templar degrees. If that is true, the scroll can’t be older than 1779 and even in that case, the Templar degrees would have had to have traveled from Dublin to either London or Kirkwall rapidly.

There is a suggestion that several higher degrees were worked in the Ancient Stirling lodge in the 1740’ies. It is from this lodge that the Kirkwall lodge was founded. Did the Kirkwall lodge get its degrees from Stirling and if so, did William Graeme receive the degrees that he would later choose to portray on the Kirkwall scroll in Kirkwall or did he already receive them in his mother lodge in the London area? His mother lodge was an English Antient lodge.

Day (see “literature“) tries to connect every symbol to a certain degree. He sometimes fails to do so and then bluntly talks about “purely Christian degrees” (panel 2) for example. Or he is certain about the Mark degree (panel 7), while the best-known Mark symbol is absent. Day sees “craft” degrees in the panel at the bottom (panel 8 in his counting), suggesting that the scroll is ‘progressive’. Panel 8 is visible when working in a craft degree, panel 7 for the next degrees (“Mark” and “Excellent Master”), panel 6 for the Royal Arch, panel 5 for Templar degrees, panel 3 for “Ark Mariner” and “Red Cross (of Babylon)” degrees and finally, “purely Christian degrees” on panel 2. Panels 1 and 4 are not Masonic in his thinking.
Does the order make sense? It would mean that each panel relates to one or two degrees and yet, to name one example, “Knight Templar” symbols are hinted at in panel 3 and panel 5. So if each panel is a tracing board, we should be talking about different “Knight Templar” degrees in this case.
And what would these “purely Christian degrees” be, especially when thinking that they are supposedly the highest degrees as they are on panel 2. More about that here.

I’ve formulated a few questions that can be commented on individually. Also I cut out the different panels and from the panels the individual symbols, so that each element can be discussed either in context or on its own.

Cooper (see “literature“) has a different approach regarding the degrees. In several panels he sees “craft” and other degrees combined which as purpose to make a bridge between these degrees. Also he writes that in “Antient” the “Mark” and “Excellent Master” come between the third degree and the “Royal Arch”, while in other lodges, “Royal Arch” came first. That is indeed the order of the degrees on the scroll, reaffirming the suggestion that the scroll is English Antient.

In the “chronology” I tried to make a time-line of events and the earliest mentions of degrees.