Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for the Lion's Paw

[This is the 12th of my April A-Z Challenge series of posts on Symbols, Glyphs, and Sigils. Each day I'll try to include some material that old-school role-playing gamers will find useful, but I can't guarantee that there won't also just be a few posts filled with weirdness for the sake of weirdness....]

Today is another secret hand signal (like old Ficus)... this time a handshake of recognition amongst the Freemasons.  I don't think I'm giving away anything TOO ├╝ber-secret, here, since the source of my image below is almost 150 years old, and it is often derided by Masons who talk about its many errors.

Specifically, many modern-day Masons say that the Spock-like separation of fingers is no longer done that way...

Suffice to say, the "Lion's Paw" is taught to the new Mason at a climactic point in their final initiation ceremony, and it involves death, resurrection, and bonds of brotherhood that are meant to extend beyond the grave.  In some versions, it also involves some grisly imagery of flesh tearing away from the bone.  When introducing it, they often mention the biblical Lion of the Tribe of Judah, which is often identified with Jesus by Christians.

It reminds me of one of the most memorable scenes from the third of C. S. Lewis' Narnia books.  Poor annoying Eustace -- the Steve Urkel of this book -- was turned into a dragon because of his bad behavior.  But God-Lion Aslan knew that the only way to fix him was to remove that pesky dragon skin...
But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they were all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as they had been before. Oh, that's all right said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this underskin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke - "You will have to let me undress you." I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.

The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.
That did the trick for Eustace's inner character, too... but yikes!

This whole "secret handshake" thing also got me thinking about secret societies in RPGs. They're usually encountered for highly skilled members of certain elite classes (assassins, monks, thieves, etc), but what about the Average Joe?  Suppose that there is a secret order of plain, zero-level folks... but with JUST a bit of magic contained in that arcane handshake. The performance of the handshake allows one order-member to temporarily transfer one or more of his hit points to his fellow.  When you've got only 1d4 hp, a brotha can really help out a brotha with just a very minor gesture like this!  The recipient's gain will dissipate in 24 hours, but the giver's loss will need to be healed as if any other type of damage had been done.  If someone gets help from multiple people and gets a full HD of hit points, that's also equivalent to a "life energy level" when encountering level-draining undead.


  1. I think there's the tiniest bit of synchronicity between our posts, today -- particularly regards the significance of the Lewis outtake, if one is feeling generous and flexible.

    Only mine's not quite so leonine.

    Another excellent post, Cygnus.

    1. Thanks! I just got to read yours, too... wow! Let me ponder a bit, and I'll leave a comment there.

      Have you read or seen Shadowlands, William Nicholson's semi-biographical story about Lewis? It left me with very similar feelings to those you described in your post....

    2. Is the adaptation with Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger? If so, yes. It's been a very long time but I believe I remember appreciating it.

      What I posted on is also captured fairly well with .

      Have read Ch. 1, v. 26 - 30 of the Book of the Law. My opinion is that it articulates -- as you say -- very poetically, a basic belief of mine which I hinted at in a prior post, .

      The post is long and a bit silly in spots but the paragraph after the words 'The Endgame' are what I'm referring to.

      Finally, how do you post hyperlinks in a comment?

    3. Yes on the Hopkins/Winger movie... I saw it around the same time as I read the play script, but I can't remember if one was substantially different from the other.

      Saudade: I never knew that word before. I'm amazed that it has its own holiday! The more I think about this whole phylum of nameless longings, I think it's also related to a body-centered, physical feeling that I've had (a handful of times in my life) and never knew how to classify: an expectant heaviness in the chest, in which the passing of each breath feels like something momentous is about to happen. It's a feeling of "Just one more piece to put into the puzzle and it will be complete." As a teen I called it "Omni" (maybe after the Guccione magazine, which always advertised momentous things to come...)

      Re: The Endgame: Yowza! First: This is a novel I want to see. How's the process going? Second: I think this may also be pointing to what Nietzsche's Zarathustra saw -- VERY dimly -- through smoky glass. Whatever's coming, I have a feeling it will laugh at our current conception of analog vs digital as two distinct things...

      Posting hyperlinks: I type it as the vanilla HTML "a href" tag, but if I do it here, it will try to make a live link. Let me try to add lots of spaces to see if that will fool blogger. (I'll do it in the next comment in case it messes up and I have to delete and try again...) :-)

    4. < a href = " URL " > words to click on < / a >

      Remove all spaces to make it come alive...

    5. Is that 'Omni' with Dick Teresi and Judith Hooper? I'm going to try out the vanilla HTML tag, < a href = " " > here < / a > (crossed fingers.)

      In case it doesn't work:

      That is a great book, btw.

      As for the body-centered feeling, that has me shaking my head with amazement. You do seem a very optimistic individual, remarkably so. I experienced similar sensations at a particular time for a very different reason -- it was while I was working on three manuscripts which came out in a bit of a rush in 2008. My own trunk would be seized by a need to relieve the burden of the stories wanting out. And the one you read about was the first I wrote. The revisions stalled shortly after that post. I submitted the third one I wrote and have two different agents who have requested revisions. I've worked on that one this month, some.

      'Whatever's coming, I have a feeling it will laugh at our current conception of analog vs digital as two distinct things...'

      I know something is coming, too. And I don't know about the distinction or lack thereof between things which we currently understand, but I do sense that our current conceptions are laughable.

    6. Duh. Just registered the 'remove all spaces.' Let me try one more time.


    7. Another good book recommendation... I didn't know about Teresi and Hooper. My Omni was a glossy magazine published by the guy who also put out Penthouse. (They certainly tried to "sex up" futurism and sci-fi, but there was no other relationship between the magazines...) :-)

  2. That's a fun RPG/handshake idea :) What I'm mostly coming away from this post with, though, is the fact I really need to write a story with some sort of secret society soon ;)

    ~ Rhonda Parrish