Tubal Cain: The Father of Smithcraft

Tubal Cain is credited with inventing the trade of blacksmithing. His name is mentioned in the Bible in connection to metalworking. Tubal Cain was not only a master smith, he was also an inventor and craftsman. His mark has been found on many pieces of ancient metalwork. They were not just items of decoration, either; they were tools for hunting and skinning animals, weapons, farming tools, household utensils, and jewelry. Learn more about this interesting character by reading on!

“And the third brother, Tubal Cain, found smithcraft of gold, silver, copper, iron, and steel… – Albert Mackey, The Legend of the Craft

Freemasonry’s primary symbolism can be traced back to the teachings of the Hebrew and Christian religions. The development of Speculative Masonry in Europe during the 18th century, a time when Christianity in all its manifestations was important to daily life, is understandable. Brethren at the time aspired to better themselves and their community via ritual, and what better place to take these lessons from than scripture?

Masonic ceremonies, as well as those of their numerous affiliated bodies, have evolved over time, although many continue to use Judeo-Christian origins to express universal truths. When it comes to Masonic beliefs, many people believe that stories and symbols from the Bible are the best way to explain them. However, it is equally important to point out that the fraternity accepts men of any race, religion, or creed into its ranks.

Tubal Cain

A sculpture by Andrea Pisano of Tubal Cain working in his forge, circa 1334-36

Freemasons believe Tubal Cain, who appears in Genesis 4:22, is a biblical figure included in Freemasonry. Tubal Cain, a descendant of Adam and Eve and the son of Lamech and Zillah, is known as the first blacksmith. Although it is unknown when Tubal Cain first appeared in the Speculative Masonic ritual, Albert Mackey, the great Masonic author and historian, refers to him as the “first to work with iron and brass” in his book, A Lexicon of Freemasonry. Mackey wrote that Tubal Cain in this passage:

…introduced many arts into society which tended towards its improvement and civilization. Tubal Cain is the Vulcan of the Pagans, and is thought to have been closely connected with ancient Freemasonry. Faber says that “all the most remarkable ancient buildings of Greece, Egypt, and Asia Minor, were ascribed to Cabirean or Cyclopean Masons,” the descendants of Vulcan, Dhu Balcan, the god Balcan, or Tubal Cain. Oliver says, “In after times Tubal Cain, under the name of Vulcan and his Cyclops, figured as workers in metals and inventors of the mysteries; and hence it is probable that he was the hierophant of a similar institution in his day, copied from the previous system of Seth, and applied to the improvement of schemes more adapted to the physical pursuits of the race to which he belonged.”

Mackey believes Tubal Cain can be viewed as our Masonic ancestor because of his substantial contributions to the science of craftwork.

The Third Degree

Because he was the first to teach others how to work with metal and forged tools, Tubal Cain is revered in Freemasonry as a forefather of all master artisans. As a teacher, he demonstrates the importance that Masons take on passing on their knowledge to their fellows.

To accomplish the third degree, a Brother must learn to employ the working tools of the Craft to execute the purposes of the Divine Artist. He can only acquire the rank of Master Mason, living his life fully in the light of Freemasonry, by learning the moral and philosophical principles given in the lodge by knowledgeable and experienced Brothers who are treading in the footsteps of Tubal Cain.