The anchor, as a symbol of hope, does not appear to have belonged to the ancient and classic system of symbolism. The Goddess Spes, the word meaning Hope, was among the ancients represented in the form of an erect woman, holding the skirts of her garments in her left hand, and in her right a flower-shaped cup.
This goddess was honored with several temples at Rome and her festival day was observed on August 1. As an emblem of hope, the anchor is peculiarly a Christian, and thence a Masonic, symbol. It is first found inscribed on the tombs in the catacombs of Rome, and the idea of using it is probably derived from the language of Saint Paul (Hebrews vi, 19), “which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast.”
The primitive Christians looked upon life as a stormy voyage, and glad were the voyagers when it was done, and they had arrived safe in port. Of this the anchor was a symbol, and when their brethren carved it over the tomb, it was to them an expression of confidence that he who slept beneath had reached the haven of eternal rest. This is the belief of Kip, Catacombs of Rome (page l12). The strict identity between this conclusion and the Masonic idea of the symbol will be at once observed.
“The anchor,” says Mrs. Jameson in her Sacred and Legendary Art (1, page 34), “is the Christian symbol of immovable firmness, hope, and patience; and we find it very frequently in the catacombs, and on the ancient Christian gems.”
This representation of the anchor is the peculiar attribute of Saint Clement, and is often inscribed on churches dedicated to him.
But there is a necessary connection between an anchor and a ship, and hence, the latter image has also been adopted as a symbol of the voyage of life ; but, unlike the anchor, it was not confined to Christians, but was with the heathens also a favorite emblem of the close of life. Kip thinks the idea may have been derived from them by the Christian Fathers, who gave it a more elevated meaning. The ship is in Freemasonry substituted by the ark. Mrs. Jameson says in the above work that “the Ark of Noah floating safe amid the deluge, in which all things else were overwhelmed, was an obvious symbo1 of the Church of Christ. . . .
The bark of St. Peter tossed in the storm, and by the Redeemer guided safe to land, was also considered as symbolical.”
These symbolical views have been introduced into Freemasonry, with, however, the more extended application which the universal character of the Masonic religious faith required. Hence, in the Third Degree, whose teachings all relate to life and death, “The ark and anchor are emblems of a well-grounded hope and a well-spent life. They are emblematical of that Divine ark which safely wafts us over this tempestuous sea of troubles, and that anchor which shall safely moor us in a peaceful harbor where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary shall find rest.”
Such is the language of the lecture of the Third Degree, and it gives all the information that is required on the esoteric meaning of these symbols. The history that is here added by Doctor Mackey of their probable origin will no doubt be interesting to the Masonic student.