In the Great Light of Masonry, In the book of Ruth, there is a passage that refers to the Rite of Discalceation; the plucking off of one's shoe: "Now this was the manner in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning changing, for to confirm all things; a man plucked off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor; and this was a testimony in Israel." Ruth 4:7 KJV

 There is much to be learned about all of the symbolism of the Rite of Discalceation, and not all of it has to do with Masonry. For many years, not so long ago, almost every wedding party leaving the church had tin cans and shoes trailing behind the car with the Bride and Groom in it. There is some symbolism in having the shoes tied to the back of the car. There was an ancient custom of throwing a shoe after the Bride in a wedding. This symbolized the renunciation of control over her by her parents and the transferring of that control to the Groom.

 In The Great Light of Masonry some of the symbolism of taking off one's shoe and giving it to another was a renunciation of rights or the transferring of rights. It's interesting that when a shoe was given to bind a bargain, or to renounce a right, each party to the agreement kept one shoe, because the possession of one shoe by each person was evidence of the transaction.

 Much of the Symbolism of Discalceation also has to do with Masonry as well. For instance to the Candidate the absent shoe in the first two degrees "denotes that he is forming new ties, and taking upon himself new obligations." In the process he is casting off all degrading ties of the past, and he is to "climb the heights of intellectual and moral achievements and cultivate the tenets of brotherly love, relief and truth." The symbolism to the candidate is that rights are being transferred to him and that mutual obligations are being assumed.

 Among Masons, the use of this ceremony indicates much symbolism. In one instance it is symbolic of the initiate agreeing to surrender his own will in all that relates to the order and become obedient to its ancient laws; and in another sense the symbolism is of the candidate's truthful testimony to the Brethren of the Lodge. In addition, the plucking off of one's shoe Masonically symbolizes sincerity of intentions in entering on an important work. "It is a sign of consecration to that work and of a persevering effort to complete it."

 The use of shoes from the first use was, and is, to protect the feet from the ground being traveled over, and from the extreme heat and cold experienced in most climates. In the third degree when both shoes are removed the symbolism has to do with when approaching a sacred place the shoes are removed to avoid contaminating Holy Ground. A good explanation of this is given in the Masonic Concordance of the Holy Bible: "Since washing was a symbol of purification and consecration, a worshiper, before taking part in a sacred ceremony, must either take off his ordinary garments, wash himself, [the rite of Lustration] and put on clean clothes, or wash both his garments and himself.  Shoes, however, could not be washed and must be removed. "Masonically the symbolism of being without shoes in the third degree is as approaching a consecrated place, and devotion to a holy purpose.


By Ed Halpaus, Grand Lodge Education Officer, Minnesota
Extracted from the SCRL bulletin, February, 2005