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The Order had its secret rites and signs of recognition, and the members were distinguished by badges indicative of their degree or rank. So powerful did this association become, that men of the highest rank—princes and even kings—were proud to wear the mystic cincture of the brotherhood. None were admitted to membership under the age of fifteen, nor over that of fifty. No one who had not shown that he did not fear to face two men equally as strong and well-armed, or who had not proved himself by some distinguished act of heroism, could be received. The associates were to regard and address each other as brethren. They were bound together in a friendship which was cemented by solemn oaths, and consecrated by the rites of religion. The rules which governed them were most strict. They were devoted to a life of celibacy. No females were allowed to step on the island or to enter the city. Afraid of the softening influence of female charms, the chief of the Fraternity might have exclaimed, like St. Senanus, to any stray dame who attempted to allure the brethren :
« Oh, haste and leave this pirate isle,
Unwelcome bark, ere morning smile,
A female form I see;
But the brothers of Jomsburg were obliged at last to yield to the might of love, and so far modified their rules as to allow those to marry who desired to do so.
Many distinguished persons were members of this Order. Sweno, a prince of Sweden ; Sigvald, and Thorkell the Tall, and Bjarni, a celebrated navigator, whose voyages led to the discovery of America, A. D. 984, were among them. While they were bound to protect each other, they were obliged by their oath to assist and aid all the weak and unfortunate. They were buccaneers, or sea-rovers, it is true; but then it must be remembered that in those rude and early times, that was considered an honorable calling, and was the only career of activity which was open to them.
The Jomsburg brothers had no fear of death. Their discipline—the whole teaching of their ritual -was admirably calculated to create feelings of contempt of all danger. Their faith in immortality was intense and earnest. When death came to them, although in the most terrible and painful form, they met it with composure, and even with joy.* Several of them were at one time taken prisoners, and doomed to death by beheading. A Norwegian chief, named Thorkell Leire, was the executioner. The prisoners being seated on a log of wood, with their legs bound together by a rope, osier twigs were twisted in them. A slave was then placed behind each to keep his head steady, by holding fast the twigs twisted into a band for that purpose. The executioner began his sanguinary task by striking off the head of him who sat outmost on the log. After he had beheaded the next two, he asked the prisoners what they thought of death. “What happened to my father,” said one, “must happen to me. He died, so must I.”
* Vide Jomsvikinga, Saga. The Heimskringla, vi., 38, 47 ; and Muller's Sagabib, iii., p. 39.
Another said : “I remember too well the laws of Jomsburg to fear dying."
A third declared : “A glorious death is ever welcome to me, and such a death as the present is far more preferable than an infamous life, like that of Thorkell's."
"I only beg of thee,” said a fourth, “ to be quick over thy work; for thou must know that it is a question often discussed at Jomsburg, whether or not a man feels any pain after losing his head. I will therefore grasp this knife in my hand ; if, after my head is cut off, I throw it at thee, it will show that I retain some feeling ; if I let it fall, it will prove the contrary. Strike, therefore, and decide the question, without further delay.”
“Strike the blow in my face," said the next ; “I will sit still without flinching ; and take notice whether I even wink my eyes ; for we Jomsburg people know how to meet the stroke of death with out betraying emotion.”
"I fear not death,” said another, a beautiful youth,“ since I have fulfilled the greatest duty of my life.”
We do not present this association, and the others noticed in this article, as by any means perfect specimens of ancient Freemasonry. On the contrary, they had great and numerous imperfections. But then they were rude attempts in a rude age to realize that Ideal of Brotherhood which is more perfectly accomplished in the modern Order of Free and Accepted Masons. Nevertheless, these early associations will be studied with interest by all earnest members of our Order, who find pleasure in tracing the history of that principle of fraternal love, which is destined at last to control the life and action of this world.
Masonic form of the First Christian Church.
The reader who has followed us through these pages must of necessity be struck with the fact, which we have sufficiently demonstrated, that nearly, if not quite all of the normal institutions of antiquity, were secret or Masonic societies. The moral life and civilization of the nations were born in their secret sanctuaries, and through them communicated to the world.
We now proceed to show that Christianity-itself the revelation of eternal truth, and wisdom, and love-sought the same agencies, and surrounded itself with the same Mysteries, the better to protect itself from the enmity of the world, and to work its way into the heart of Humanity.
Those ancient documents known as the “ Apostolical Constitutions and Canons,” make frequent mention of the disciplina arcani, or secret discipline of the most ancient church. Irenæus, Tertullian, Clemens, Origen, and Gregory, of Nyssa, also furnish us abundant proofs that the ancient church was a secret society. Indeed, so well known was this