The double-headed eagle is one of the best-known symbols of the Scottish Rite, one of the additional Masonic groups a Master Mason may choose to join after he completes the three Masonic degrees: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason. The next series of twenty-nine degrees (the Fourth through the Thirty-second) are performed in costume as morality plays for the benefit of the initiates, who make up the audience, with one “exemplary” on stage for the rituals.
Freemasons often call the Scottish Rite the “University of Freemasonry,” because the degrees are designed to supplement and amplify the lessons of the first three degrees by exploring the philosophy, history, and ethics that guide its members. The twenty-nine degrees are further broken into four groups: the Lodge of Perfection, the Council of Princes of Jerusalem, the Rose Croix Chapter, and the Consistory. A double-headed eagle with a shield on its chest with the number “32” is the symbol of the Consistory degrees. The carving was probably once displayed in a building that housed a Scottish Rite Valley, as the local bodies are termed. This example is missing the sword that would have been held horizontally in its talons.
Stacy C. Hollander, "Scottish Rite Double-Headed Carving," exhibition label for Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection. Stacy C. Hollander, curator. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2016.