The Triple Tau
Graig Huber

The triple tau is one of the most recognized symbols of the Royal Arch Degree and Freemasonry in general. In 1859, the General Grand Chapter of the United States adopted the triple tau (as we see it today) as the Grand Emblem of Royal Arch Masonry. As with most symbols in Freemasonry, the true symbolic meaning of the triple tau has been lost over several centuries of the craft. In scripture, the triple tau plays a central role when the wrath of God slew the first born Egyptians. The triple tau was the symbol placed on the doorposts of Hebrew families:

“And they shall take of the blood, and strike it on the two side-posts, and on the upper door - post of the houses, where in they shall eat” Exodus 12:7 “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt" Exodus 12:13

The author, Roy A. Wells, in the book Some Royal Arch Terms Examined puts forth a very interesting thought on how the triple tau has “evolved” over time - in other words the original symbol looked different than the current one we know and recognize today. He states: “We now have to look at an entirely separate symbol which has occurred in Christian symbolism, one with which the Triple Tau is also associated; it is a Latin Cross surmounted, superimposed, or resting upon the letter H. It has been described as ‘Holiness supporting Trinity’ and an early example of that occurred in The Trinity College, Dublin MS, dated 1711, where it is to be seen heading a short masonic catechism.”

If one looks at the triple tau today and then right next to it pictures a letter “T” over a letter “H” one can easily see how the symbol could have evolved over the years. Wells goes further by referring to a manuscript from George Claret in 1845: “…There was likewise a Triple Tau, or Letter T, a mark of character affixed to the summonses of R.A.Masons, when summoned on other than usual occasions. The Triple Tau, or letter T, is translated from the Hebrew, a mark or sign spoken of by Ezekiel, when it is said to the man with the writer’s inkhorn… In ancient times this mark was placed on the forehead of all those who were acquitted by their judges, as a proof of their innocence; and military commanders caused a T to be placed on all those who had escaped unhurt from the field of battle, denoting that they were in perfect life…”

From a single T to the symbol we know today - What do you think? As always, Freemasonry gives us the gift of looking at our craft's ancient symbols and researching them to make our own conclusions. The Indiana Monitor and Royal Arch Mason’s Guide, produced by the Grand Chapter of Indiana, concludes nicely that “..it (the triple tau) represents those who through their knowledge of The Word are set apart from those without this knowledge…The end of the Masonic quest has arrived. Man has reached the state of perfection. He now realizes that the kingdom of heaven is within."