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The Cornucopia

Today in Masonic History we discuss the Cornucopia.

The Cornucopia is a symbol of plenty and abundance.

The Cornucopia as a symbol of abundance and of nourishment stretches back to Classical Antiquity (a period of time in the Mediterranean that generally encompasses the Greco-Roman period). It is most commonly associated with Zeus, King of the Greek gods. When Zeus was born he was hidden away by his mother to prevent Kronos, his father, from eating him, as he did Zeus' siblings. Kronos in doing this was trying to prevent the fulfillment of a prophecy that one of his children would destroy him. While Zeus was in hiding from his father, he was fed and cared for by various divine attendants including Amalthea (the Nourishing Goddess) who appeared in the form of a goat. The legend states that Zeus accidentally broke off one her horns. Later he gave to the horn to the world of man as it would provide whatever was desired.

In other myths of the period, Heracles (the Roman equivalent of Hercules) broke off the horn of a river god, with similar results as Amalthea's horn. The Cornucopia is associated with a variety of gods and goddesses around the Mediterranean.

The one Greek God that the Cornucopia is associated that is probably most fascinating to Freemasons, is it's association with Pluto, god of the underworld. This version of the God of the Underworld, formerly Hades, was taught in the Mystery Religions, sometimes called the sacred mysteries or mysteries. The Mystery Religions of the Greco-Roman world were religious schools that were only for the initiates. At least one source about the Mystery Religions states that "The main characterization of this religion is the secrecy associated with the particulars of the initiation and the ritual practice, which may not be revealed to outsiders." Pluto, probably to show the difference between him and Hades, is often depicted holding a Cornucopia in contrast to Hades who is depicted holding a drinking horn. Pluto was the giver of agriculture, mineral and spiritual wealth.

In modern times the Cornucopia has been adopted the world over as a symbol of prosperity and abundance. This is especially true in North America. In Canada an annual festival called Cornucopia is held. In several Central and South American countries the Cornucopia is depicted on their coat of arms. In the United States several states have the Cornucopia on their state flags and on state seals. It is most closely tied in the United States with the Thanksgiving Holiday.

For Freemasons the Cornucopia is most commonly known as the symbol for the stewards who are stationed in the Masonic South. The Masonic South is tied with nourishment of the brothers. Often one of the duties of the stewards is to help with meal preparation and other times when nourishment is provided to the members of the lodge.