This is emphatically the color of Freemasonry. It is the appropriate tincture of the Ancient Craft Degrees. It is to the Freemason a symbol of universal friendship and benevolence, because, as it is the color of the vault of heaven, which embraces and covers the whole globe, we are thus reminded that in the breast of every brother these virtues should be equally as extensive. It is therefore the only color, except white, which should be used in a Master’s Lodge for decorations. Among the religious institutions of the Jews, blue was an important color. The robe of the high priest’s ephod, the ribbon for his breastplate, and for the plate of the miter, were to be blue. The people were directed to wear a ribbon of this color above the fringe of their garments; and it was the color of one of the veils of the tabernacle, where, Josephus says, it represented the element of air. The Hebrew word used on these occasions to designate the color blue or rather purple blue, is tekelet; and this word seems to have a singular reference to the symbolic character of the color, for it is derived from a root signifying perfection; now it is well known that, among the ancients, initiation into the mysteries and perfection were synonymous terms; and hence the appropriate color of the greatest of all the systems of initiation may well be designated by a word which also signifies perfection.
This color also held a prominent position in the symbolism of the Gentile nations of antiquity. Among the Druids, blue was the symbol of truth, and the candidate, in the initiation into the sacred rites of Druidism, was invested with a robe composed of the three colors, white, blue, and green.
The Egyptians esteemed blue as a sacred color, and the body of Amun, the principal god of their theogony, was painted light blue, to imitate, as Wilkinson remarks, “his peculiarly exalted and heavenly nature.”
The ancient Babylonians clothed their idols in blue, as we learn from the prophet Jeremiah (x, 9). The Chinese, in their mystical philosophy, represented blue as the symbol of the Deity, because, being, as they say, compounded of black and red, this color is a fit representation of the obscure and brilliant, the male and female, or active and passive principles.
The Hindus assert that their god, Vishnu, was represented of a celestial or sky blue, thus indicating that wisdom emanating from God was m be symbolized by this color. Among the medieval Christians, blue was sometimes considered as an emblem of immortality, as red was of the Divine love. Portal says that blue was the symbol of perfection, hope, and constancy. “The color of the celebrated dome, azure,” says Weale, in his treatise on Symbolic Colors, “was in divine language the symbol of eternal truth; in consecrated language, of immortality, and in profane language, of fidelity.”
Besides the three degrees of Ancient Craft Freemasonry, of which blue is the appropriate color, this tincture is also to be found in several other degrees, especially of the Scottish Rite, where it bears various symbolic significations; all, however, more or less related to its original character as representing universal friendship and benevolence.
In the Degree of Grand Pontiff, the Nineteenth of the Scottish Rite, it is the predominating color, and is there said to be symbolic of the mildness, fidelity, and gentleness which ought to be the characteristics of every true and faithful brother.
In the Degree of Grand Master of all Symbolic Lodges, the blue and yellow, which are its appropriate colors, are said to refer to the appearance of Jehovah to Moses on Mount Sinai in clouds of azure and gold, and hence in this degree the color is rather a historical than a moral symbol.
The blue color of the tunic and apron, which constitutes a part of the investiture of a Prince of the Tabernacle, or Twenty-fourth Degree in the Scottish Rite, alludes to the whole symbolic character of the degree, whose teachings refer to our removal from this tabernacle of clay to “that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” The blue in this degree is, therefore, a symbol of heaven, the seat of our celestial tabernacle.
Brothers John Heron Lepper and Philip Crossle contributed to Ars Quatuor Coronalorum (volume xxxvi, part 3, page 284), a discussion of Masonic Blue from which the following abstract has been made. Reference being first directed to other contributions to the subject in Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (xxii, 3; xxiii); and to the Transactions, Lodge of Research (1909-In, page 109), the authors state their belief that the Gold and Blue worn by the officers of the Grand Lodge of Ireland and the members of the Grand Master’s Lodge, Dublin, are symbolical of the Compasses from the very inception of a Grand Lodge in Ireland, the symbolism being introduced there from England in or before 1725. After the first dozen years some variations were made in the established forms and the opinion is hazarded that one of these changes was from sky-blue to the dark Garter Blue for the ribbons and lining of the aprons then worn by the officers of the Grand Lodge of England, afterwards the Moderns.
On Saint John’s Day in June, 1725, when the Earl of Rosse was installed Grand Master of Ireland, he was escorted to the King’s Inns by “Six Lodges of Gentlemen Freemasons,” the members of one “wore fine Badges full of Crosses and Squares, with this Motto, Spes mea in Deo est (My hope is in God), which was no doubt very significant, for the Master of it wore a Yellow Jacket, and Blue Britches.” Brethren of the Grand Lodge still wear working aprons with yellow braid and yellow fringe with sky blue border on a plain white ground with no other ornament. These are probably syrnbolical of the compasses as in the following quotation from a spurious ritual published in the Dublin Intelligence, August 29, 1730:
After which I was clothed.
N.B. The clothing is putting on the Apron and Gloves.
Q. How was the Master clothed?
A. in a Yellow Jacket and Blue Pair of Breeches.
N B The Master is not otherwise Clothed than common. the Question and Answer are only emblematical, the, Yellow Jacket, the Compass, and the Blue Breeches, the Steel Points.
At a Masonic F�te in the Theater Royal, Dublin, December 6, 1731, we find “The Ladies all wore yellow and Blue Ribbons on their Breasts, being the proper Colors of that Ancient and Right Worshipful Society.”
From the first the Grand Lodge of Ireland issued Lodge Warrants bearing Yellow and Blue ribbons supporting the seal showing a hand and trowel, a custom continued until about 1775.
The Grand Lode of Ireland preserves a cancelled Warrant issued June 6, 1750, to erect a Lodge No. 209 in Dublin. On the margin is a colored drawing of the Master on his throne and he wears a yellow jacket and blue breeches-with a red cloak and cocked hat-all of the Georgian period. An old picture-said to be after Hogarth-in the Library of Grand Lodge of England shows a Freemason with a yellow waistcoat. Our late Brother W, Wonnacott, the Librarian, thought the color of this garment was no accident and is symbolical of the brass body of the Compasses.
Up to recent years the members of Nelson Lodge, No, 18, Newry, County Down, Ireland, wore blue coats and yellow waistcoats, both having brass buttons with the Lodge number thereon. The color of the breeches has not been preserved but no doubt it was intended to be the same as the coat.
Union Lodge, No. 23, in the same town, must have worn the same uniform, for there is still preserved a complete set of brass buttons for such a costume.
These two Lodges, 18 and 23, were formed in 1809 from an older Lodge, No. 933, Newry, warranted in 1803. But from the fact that in Newry there still works the oldest Masonic Lodge in Ulster, warranted in 1737 and also from the fact that. Warrant No. 16, originally, granted in l732 or 1733, was moved to and revived at Newry in 1766, there can be no question but that Masonic customs had a very strong foothold in that town.
That this custom was an old custom in Newry is also shown by the coat and vest which the late Brother Dr, F, C. Crossle had made for himself, he being intensely interested in Masonic lore, and having learned from the lips of many veteran Freemasons in Newry. that. this was the old and correct Masonic dress for festival occasions. It is true we cannot assume a general practice from a particular custom, as in the case of the Newry usage, nevertheless the latter is another link in the chain.