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Three was considered among all the pagan nations as the chief of the mystical numbers, because, as Aristotle remarks, it contains within itself a beginning, a middle, and an end. Hence, we find it designating some of the attributes of almost all the gods. The thunderbolt of Jove was three-forked; the sceptre of Neptune was a trident; Cerberus, the dog of Pluto, was three-headed; there were three Fates and three Furies: the sun had three names Apollo, Sol, and Liber; and the moon three also—Diana, Luna, and Hecate. In all incantation, three was a favorite number; and hence, the poet says, numero Deus impari gaudet. A triple cord was used, each cord of three different colors, white, red, and black, and a small image of the subject of the charm, was carried thrice around the altar.
The Druids paid no less respect to this sacred number. Throughout their whole system, a reference is constantly made to its influence; and so far did their veneration for it extend, that even their sacred poetry was composed in triads.
In all the mysteries, from Egypt to Scandinavia, we find a sacred regard for the number three. In the rites of Mithras, the Empyrean was said to be supported by three intelligences, Ormuzd, Mithra, and Mithras. In the rites of Hindustan, there was the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. It was, in short, a general character of the mysteries, to have three principal officers, and three grades of initiation.
In Freemasonry, the number three is the most important and universal in its application, of all the mystic numbers. Thus we find it pervading the whole ritual. There are three degrees of Ancient Craft Masonry—three principal officers of a lodge—three supports—three ornaments—three greater and three lesser lights—three movable and three immovable jewels—three principal tenets—three rounds of Jacob's ladder—three working tools of a Fellow Craft—three principal orders of architecture—three important human senses—three ancient Grand Masters—three recreant F.-. C.-.—and indeed, so many instances of the consecration of the number, that it would exceed the limits of this volume to record them.
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