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Many famous mottoes contribute to the great traditions and mystique of the Craft. One of the most intriguing is ‘Deus Meumque Jus,’ which appears prominently on Masonic regalia, most notably on items within the 32nd and 33rd degrees of the ancient and accepted Scottish Rite.
Considering its position on regalia of high importance, it’s clear that the motto is particularly significant and warrants an in-depth exploration. Let’s examine the origins of ‘Deus Meumque Jus’ and understand why it is such an important motto within Freemasonry today.
What does it mean?
‘Deus Meumque Jus’ is a Latin phrase that is commonly translated as ‘God and my right,’ or more appropriately ‘God and my moral rightness.’ However, there is an element of misunderstanding regarding the translation of the phrase.
Deus is straightforward enough to understand, as it is very commonly known as the Latin word for God. The confusion lies in the word Jus, as it relates to law and justice, so some speculate that the motto actually translates to ‘God my justice’ or ‘God my law.’
Brother Christopher Haddop perfectly summarises the contentious origins of the motto when he writes:
‘The motto is the Latin version of a French phrase that originated in England and used in a Masonic degree system named after Scotland that descended from French sources by way of Haiti with the help of a Dutch trader through Jamaica and eventually almost completely redefined in the United States.’
The same author tells us that the French translation of the phrase – ‘Dieu et Mon Droit’ – is actually the United Kingdom’s royal motto. This is thought to be a result of a legendary battle cry by England’s King Richard I during a battle in 1198. The motto refers to the longstanding notion of the divine right of kings.
Despite the rather spurious origins of the motto, within Freemasonry, we have understood the phrase as ‘God and my moral rightness .’ It is thought that, when seen on Masonic regalia within the 32nd and 33rd degrees, this is the intended meaning.
The motto’s use within Freemasonry today
The motto is associated with the number 33 in Freemasonry. This tradition is thought to originate from the fact that the number is sacred in Christianity and Hinduism and because there are 33 vertebrae in the spine. In Freemasonry, the motto is commonly seen on regalia within the 33rd degree.
The number was not selected at random by the founders of the Scottish Rite. Within Christianity in particular, 33 is significant. We know that it signifies the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit), and we’re also told that Christ was 33 when he ascended into heaven. What’s more, the gospels list 33 miracles that were performed by Christ throughout his life on earth.
So what’s the connection between the number and the motto?
It’s perhaps best understood within this religious framework. Taken literally from its Latin meaning, the motto signifies a brother’s relationship with the Supreme Being. It’s a reminder of the necessity to live virtuously under God’s watchful eye while conducting oneself in a way aligned with the fraternity’s values.
Still, a more profound interpretation might be that it represents an inner reign of the divine within each individual Mason. For instance, if we look at the structure of specific Masonic rituals, we see an external mirroring of inner elements of one’s being.
Simply put, to a brother, this means the Masonic teachings within his lodge layout a blueprint by which various aspects of the self may be set to order so that the lower parts of self are made to be the servants of the divine within.
Relating to the motto, Deus Meumque Jus could be understood as inward law and order (Jus) established within the self (Meumque), by the divine self (Deus) as the sovereign.
The motto seen on Masonic regalia
As has been discussed, the motto Deus Meumque Jus appears prominently on Masonic regalia, particularly within the 32nd and 33rd degrees of the Scottish Rite.
The double-headed eagle is the primary symbol of the 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite, and the motto can be seen inscribed across the foot of the symbol.
The double-headed eagle is commonly emblazoned upon rings and hats worn by brothers within the Scottish Rite. In this regard, it is thought of as a symbol of prestige, as the Scottish Rite is a rather exclusive section of Freemasonry.
You can identify the double-headed eagle by how the eagle’s wings are arranged. On regalia, the wings are usually pointed downward, although sometimes they are pointed up.
If the wings of the double-headed eagle are pointed up, this is usually a status of a Mason’s status, and in some jurisdictions of Freemasonry, upward-pointing wings are reserved for Masons within the 33rd degree only.
On the whole, as a Scottish Rite Freemason, you live under the symbolic protection offered by the double-headed eagle. All of the strength, courage, and foresight of the eagle manifests itself within the brothers of the Scottish Rite.
Conclusion: Deus Meumque Jus
As has been explored, the Masonic motto ‘Deus Meumque Jus’ has rather spurious origins. However, it’s an extremely important phrase within Freemasonry today. The fact that it appears so prominently on regalia within the exclusive 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite is evidence of this importance.
The motto’s significance lies in its religious foundation. The founders of the Scottish Rite have deliberately adopted it to reflect this and teach brothers about intriguing elements within the Craft.