Masonic Education for All

I’m not certain how often this is noticed, but I do tend to write about topics that either rub me the wrong way or rub others the wrong way. What can I say? Apparently, my writing motivation is just wired that way. Fair warning, this is a bit of a rant.

Recently, an acquaintance started a Masonic Education group. I think that this is a wonderful thing. Freemasonry tends to be a very large topic, and has a lot of nooks and crannies, sometimes the meaning of one sentence can be teased out for hours on end. I think that’s great. Any sort of intellectual conversation that is friendly, and makes you think, and challenges what you know and believe should always be encouraged in my opinion. It’s a wonderful way to further the community, as well as a great way to help people understand things in ways they might not have thought of before.

That being said. I will never attend the education group. It has nothing to do with the people running the group, or that I disagree or dislike the topics being discussed, or even that I simply don’t have the time. It’s because I’m not allowed.

Now, as many of you know, I am okay with not being allowed to become a Mason. I would simply like something similar for myself. Separate but equal. The only thing missing is the pedigree; alas, that is another post altogether.

However, I am a firm believer that Masonic education should be for everyone, both Masons, and non-Masons, as well as for men, women, and everyone in between. As it stands, Freemasonry supports this idea as well. UGLE has made a number of positive statements about the existence of the women’s Lodges. The Master Craftsman of the Scottish Rite is open to absolutely everyone. Many Annual Communications have Masonic Education breakfasts that are open. The first year that I attended an education breakfast, I was told that they would have to double-check that it was okay. When I got the go ahead, I was the only woman there. The following year, I was very happy to see other women attending.

I think that the thing that bothers me the most, is that not allowing open communication and education on Masonic topics is only furthering the issue of miscommunication about Freemasonry, not only online, but also in Lodges, and relationships. Turning inward and denying others something as simple as education hurts not only those you turn from, but also Freemasonry as a whole.

I would love to have a time where I could have an intellectual conversation about things like the symbolism used within the degrees. Yes, I understand secret work could not be discussed with non-Masons, but secret work is a very small portion of what Freemasonry is really all about. Discouraging interested non-Masons from conversing about Masonic educational topics often leads to disgruntled Google searches, which usually links either directly to ritual work, or a lot of misinformation. Education should be freely used and freely given; there are some topics that have a proper time and place, but that does not mean that someone should be denied completely. Get out there and educate yourselves!

 

What do you think? Does your Lodge or Masonic community have an education group? Have you ever attended? Why or why not? Do you think Masonic education should be for anyone who’s interested, or more regulated?

Other news: Be on the lookout! The Mason’s Lady will be featured on the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (SRNMJ) Blog later this month! I will be sure to link to it when it is posted.

Any questions or comments can be asked below, or at TheMasonsLady@gmail.com. Have a lovely month!

A Lapse in Dues

Welcome to 2018!

I will be honest with you, 2017 was a very busy year for us. We did not spend as much time with Masonry as we probably should have, and this resulted in less post ideas, (and therefore less posting). My goal this year, is 12 posts (once a month-ish). My big goal for this year is 100k views, last year we hit 93k, so this should be do-able. My big, big goal is to start working on the book. I did also switch to night shift at work, so if you get email replies from me at 3am, that’s why. I also recently joined /r/freemasonry’s Discord. I mostly do a lot of lurking, but that is now a way to contact me directly as well.

Like I said, I’ve been away from Freemasonry for the better part of a year. Sometimes, other things in life are more important, and sometimes, we just think that other things in life are more important. It’s okay, it happens.

Some of us pay dues, and never go to Lodge or Chapter after our initiation. That’s okay. Supporting Masonry with your money is still supporting Masonry. Sometimes it feels like we blink and we haven’t been to Lodge in three years even though it’s on our “to-do” list. Life happens.

Let’s say you, or your Mason are at a point where you want to get back into Masonry. Initiation and degree have come and gone, but it’s no longer part of your life. Besides diving back in, what can you do?

Keeping Current Dues

Keeping your dues current is the “easiest” way to keep up in Masonry. If you are able to pay your dues, do so, if you would like to continue to be involved in Masonry at some point again. Every jurisdiction has different rules for what happens with late dues, and suspension for dues not paid. In some jurisdictions, you cannot be suspended if you cannot financially pay your dues, and are otherwise in good standing. Other states do not take finances into account.

In Michigan, for example, it’s almost impossible to be suspended for non-payment of dues. However, in New Mexico, you have to re-petition if you let your dues lapse for more than a year. Kansas leaves it up to the individual Lodges. The bottom line is, if you don’t pay your yearly dues, you will be suspended (or possibly removed, depending on where you live).

Once you are suspended, you cannot visit other Lodges or attend meetings until your dues are current. In addition to this, if a relation attempts to use you as a Masonic relative while you are suspended, they will not be able; OES requires a Masonic relation in good standing.

Please note: Do not let financial burden keep you from paying dues. If you need assistance, contact your Worshipful Master/Worthy Matron.

Changing Lodges

Sometimes we avoid our Lodges and Chapters because it isn’t the right fit for us. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to change. Your Lodge will understand. It happens often in Masonry, and the members would rather that you attend meetings that you enjoy, rather than avoid ones that you’re miserable in.

Some Grand Lodges allow for dual or multiple memberships, allowing you full rights in multiple Lodges. This can sometimes avoid awkward conversations, as well giving the ease of flexibility. This does mean, of course, that you are on the hook for dues for both Lodges. The majority of OES chapters allow for multiple memberships as well. If you can’t, for any reason that’s okay too.

Do know, however, that your petition to change will be read during the minutes. Be prepared for questions about your decision. Do know that you do not need to tell anyone your reasons for wanting to change.

Burn Out

Burn out happens. A lot. I feel like it’s not really something that is discussed in Masonry a lot. T went to Lodge every week for 8 years. His eighth was the year he was Master. After that, he just needed time away. It’s understandable to need time away.

Freemasonry can take a lot out of you if you let it. I live in only a medium sized city, and we could find something Masonic to do every night of the week if we wanted to. Part of healing burn out is taking time off. You may ask, “How much time away do I need?” The only answer I can give you is, “enough”. You will know when you feel that desire to return to Masonry. It could be a month, a year, maybe three. That’s okay (just remember to pay your dues!)

Another part of healing burn out, is learning how to say no.  Maybe you don’t need to have a spaghetti feed on Monday, a kids carnival on Tuesday, and a fundraiser on Wednesday.  Learning what you can and can’t handle is all part of the super fun stuff we call adulting.

Demitting

Demitting could very well (and might!) be a post in its own right. There are two major reasons for demitting.

The first is if you want to change Lodges, but you don’t want to hold dual membership. After you are accepted into your new Lodge, you demit (resign) from your old one. You will be given a certificate of good standing from the secretary, and this is to be given to your new Lodge/Chapter.

The second is if you want to revoke your membership from any or all Masonic bodies. As you can imagine, I do not recommend that this is a decision that you take lightly. Do remember that you are able to simply walk away from Masonry, pay your dues, or not, and have, frankly, minimal consequences. However, if you choose to resign your membership, it may be much harder for you to rejoin the body that you demit from if you choose to return from the future. Some jurisdictions or Lodges may blackball you from rejoining, depending on your reason for demitting.

If your resolution this year is to get back into Freemasonry, I hope this helped. If your resolution this year is to get into Freemasonry, check out this post.

As always, if you have any comments or questions, feel free to contact me here, or themasonslady@gmail.com

Ladies’ Night

I’ve gotten a few emails recently inquiring about Ladies’ Nights. Since in many jurisdictions installations will be in the next few months, this is a popular time of year to be having the event. Please know that I am in the States, and so can only attest to what I know. If it is different where you live, feel free to speak up!

What is Ladies’ Night?

A Ladies’ Night is a celebration put on by a Lodge or Lodges. The idea is that it is an evening to honor the Ladies’ in the Mason’s life, not just their SO, but also their mother, daughter, sister, etc; anyone who supports him. Some of the more liberal Lodges have changed the name to “Partner Night” or “Significant Other Night” in order to be more inclusive.

Where did it come from?

The short answer is, no one really knows. That being said, there are records of festivals being put on in the 1700’s where both women and non-Masonic men were invited. They were not called Ladies’ Nights at this point, but the speeches that were given did indicate that at least one purpose of the festival was to thank the ladies for their support. They became what we know now around the 1940’s.

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What goes on there?

Exactly what the Ladies’ Night includes, depends on the Lodge. When T hosted his, it was a semi-casual dinner at the Lodge, with drinks, and also celebrated some patriotic elements. Some Lodges may bundle Ladies’ Night with celebrating Past Masters, living or deceased.

They may include toasts, speeches, drinks, dinner, dancing, and more. There is actually some (unofficial) ritual written for the evening. If you aren’t sure what exactly your Ladies’ Night will entail, do not be afraid to contact the Lodge’s secretary or Worshipful Master for more information. They will be happy to provide you with the details (sans any planned surprises for the ladies).

Ladies’ Nights tend to be a bigger to do outside of the States, especially the UK. Often these events can involve gloves, full gowns, tuxedos, champagne, you get the idea. These can often be grand affairs, and may include gifts for the ladies, black or white tie attire, toasts to the Queen, presentations, and poems and songs presented or sung by the Masons to the women.

In some jurisdictions, a similar ritual is conducted, called Ladies at the Table

What’s on the agenda?

To give you a general idea as to what may go on at a Ladies’ Night, this is an agenda taken from the Ladies Festival website. Please note that this is a very traditional agenda, and is more UK based.

  • Drinks reception
  • Photographs to be taken (if applicable)
  • Presentation of all guests to Worshipful Master and Lady
  • Marshal escorts Worshipful Master and his Lady to their table.
  • Chaplin to say Grace
  • Commence dinner, taking wine between courses
  • Coffee served, all stand to sing Masonic Grace (UK)
  • Remain standing to sing National Anthem sung (first verse)
  • Start the formal toasts:Marshal announces ‘ the Loyal Toast. The Queen’
  • President gives permission to smoke (if applicable)
  • Toasts, speeches & presentations
  • Marshal draws tickets for table prizes and Festival Committee sell raffle tickets
  • Claim attention to Worshipful Master, who will call up Festival Committee and Lady(s), to thank them and make a presentation
  • Marshal announces that the Worshipful Master and Lady are to retire
  • Let dancing begin –Worshipful Master and his Lady lead the dancing
  • Band break – draw raffle
  • Close the evening – form a circle for ‘Auld Lang Syne’
  • Final words from the Worshipful Master

What should I wear?

If you aren’t sure, ask! In some Lodges it is black tie four course meal, in others, it may be a t shirt and jeans family picnic. Usually either way you can get away with a modest cocktail or sun dress.

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What else should I know?

If you are the current Worshipful Master’s Lady, you may be asked to give a speech. Don’t fret! A Google search will give you a number of Ladies’ Night speech ideas. There are even a few poems dedicated to the evening. If you need help organizing your Ladies’ Night, I would recommend

Some Lodges are moving toward having Ladies’ outings, instead of the more traditional “ceremony”. Events I have seen include concerts, paint and sips, and spa days.

If you need help organizing your Ladies’ Night, or simply want to learn more, I would recommend this site.

It’s Not Masonry, He’s Just an Asshole

…And we’re back! Now that school is done and my job has started, life is starting to stabilize a bit. I’m hoping to keep us on a monthly schedule for new posts, so be on the lookout!

So, I get emails concerning Freemasonry fairly often, actually more often than I thought I would during my hiatus. About once or twice a month, I get an email with a question that is now fairly familiar to me. Everyone has their own story, of course, but the main idea is the same. Generalizing it a bit, it tends to be something along the lines of, “My husband goes to Lodge, even though he knows I don’t like it. He won’t help at home. I feel like Masonry is more important to him than his family.” While I would not usually say this so directly in an email, I will take the risk of making a blanket statement here. Freemasonry is not to blame, your husband is just an asshole.

Educate Yourself

I know I tout this a lot, but really, I think it is one of the most important bits of advice that anyone can give the SO of a Mason. It’s important for you to know and understand, what Freemasonry teaches, even in just a very general sense. You see, when a man takes his obligation, that is, when he kneels down and puts his hand on the volume of Sacred Law (usually the Bible), he swears that Masonry will not come first. Yes, you read that correctly. He swears that his obligations to his family, his job, and his deity of choice come before his obligation to Masonry. Think of Freemasonry a bit like a high school extracurricular. You’ve got to keep your grades up in your classes, that is, the important stuff, if you want to be involved. If Masonry is coming first, you’ve got problems; you’ll want to read the rest of this article.

I know that a lot of people have hang-ups about the secretive aspect of Masonry. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again here: Freemasonry is not a secret society, it is a society with secrets. And lets be real, their secrets aren’t even anything awesome. They consist of a few handshakes, ways to recognize each other, and some exact wording of some ritual. If you, for whatever reason, want to know these things, Google is your friend. That being said, I do not recommend looking these things up if you are a current candidate. It can ruin the immersion aspect.

Sometimes, especially “back in the day” (aka, 1950’s) Masons were ill or misinformed about what was and what was not a secret. It is not always spelled out in black and white. Because of this, many Masons simply chose to share nothing instead, which fed into all of the ideas about Freemasons that the conspiracy theorists love. Sometimes it can depend on the jurisdiction, but chances are, if it’s written out in plain, longhand English, it isn’t a secret. This can, of course, get more confusing with oral history jurisdictions, but that’s another article entirely.

Again, I do strongly recommend anyone dating a Mason to educate themselves as much as possible. Explore this blog, don’t be afraid to send me an email with specific questions. There is a lot of misinformation out there about Freemasonry. I’ve found that the best resources tend to be either in print, or in person. Brother Hodapp’s Freemasonry for Dummies is an excellent resource. I’ve read the whole thing cover to cover, and honestly can’t recommend it enough. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry is also excellent.

Going and meeting people in your Mason’s Lodge is also a very valuable resource. Not only will getting to know these folks possibly make you feel more comfortable, but it will also allow you to gauge how much time other Masons are spending at Lodge. Ask to meet the current Worshipful Master (essentially the President of the Lodge), ask to see the Lodge room. These things are okay for you to ask for, and again, doing so may make you feel more at ease.

Talk to your Spouse

I know I’ve given this advice probably about as often as I should take it myself. Sometimes, this is easier said than done. Life gets in the way sometimes. If you are feeling that your Mason is too involved in Lodge, and/or spending too much time there, make time to sit down and talk about it. Schedule it if you have to, but get it done. Find out what they like about Freemasonry, what they don’t like. What motivates them to attend so much? Is it because they enjoy the Masonic work so much? Their Lodge is just so super awesome? Or are they avoiding the obligations of work, home, kids, etc?

If it’s that they are so overjoyed by Masonry, awesome. What are you, as the SO, going to do with this information? Are you comfortable with this, or do you need them to tone it down a bit? Are you happy to help, get involved, or would you rather not? This is totally your choice. Do not feel pressure to get involved if you aren’t interested. It’s perfectly normal for spouses to have interests that their partners don’t.

That being said, sometimes just knowing what is going on at a Lodge meeting, or meeting the other members of his Lodge may help put your mind at ease. If he isn’t sure what he can tell you about what happens, I recommend reading over this post together, and talking about it. If you do want to get involved, don’t be afraid to jump in feet first. There’s always fundraisers, car washes, raffle tickets, fun nights, etc., etc. Don’t forget, it’s okay to say no sometimes when you need a break.

Alright, so, lets say that your spouse isn’t overjoyed and overexcited by the teachings of Masonry, and is instead using it as a way to avoid other responsibilities. He’s being a bit of an asshole by going to Lodge and getting more involved, despite your requests for him to not, for help with the kids, whatever the case may be. It happens. In this instance, I recommend two things: communicate, and get help.

Communicating and Getting Help

Obviously, direct, face to face communication is best. Speak directly with your SO about Freemasonry, how you feel about it, and the issues you are having. Its it just them spending too much time at Lodge? Too much money? Avoiding responsibilities? You just don’t like it? Let them know. Adulting is hard sometimes, but it is often unavoidable. Compromise is the key. You might not get exactly what you are looking for, but be sure that your partner is willing to listen and find a solution with you. If they are unwilling to budge, it’s time to sit down with a professional who can act as a moderator.

There’s a ton of tips online for communicating with your SO. It’s also something that everyone can be better about, no one is perfect. Some of these include using “I” statements, and finding both of your preferred love languages and communication styles. If you find that its not going well, or that you need help communicating, that’s just fine. The help is available, you just need to ask for it. Many local colleges offer free marital counseling. Sometimes its nice to just talk to a third party. If you are in a situation where your spouse refuses to go, just go by yourself until they join you.

In addition to this, do not be afraid to contact your Lodge if you are having issues with your Mason being too involved. It may seem weird to think about, but in a way, it is your Lodge too. Usually there is a phone number or email address available online under a Lodge’s contact information or on their website. If you aren’t sure which Lodge to contact, do a Google search for “[Your State] Grand Lodge”. This should have a site with all of your area’s Lodges and their contact information.

When you send an email or make a phone call, this will usually go to the Lodge’s secretary. When you contact them, you do not need to say anything more than, “I am ______’s partner. I need to talk to the Worshipful Master about a personal matter.” (I would not worry about confidentiality, Masons are good at keeping secrets, remember?) I would recommend meeting with him in person, if you are able. Hopefully they will be able to whisper some good council, and get your Mason back onto the right path.

As always, if you have any questions about anything mentioned in this article or otherwise related to Freemasonry, do not hesitate to contact me at themasonslady@gmail.com

 

 

Looking for Guest Writers!

Hey there!

I know things have been a bit quiet on this front, I am hoping I can get back to writing here in the next few weeks. Don’t worry, I’ve got some ideas brewing!

In the meantime, I would love to put a call out for anyone who may be interesting in writing a guest article! If you’re interested, feel free to comment here, or shoot me an email at themasonslady@gmail.com

Just wanted to give a heads up. School is kicking my butt this semester, so posts from now until December will probably be few and far between. Don’t fret! I graduate in May, and will be able to return to a more regular schedule then, if not before.

What Masonry Isn’t

Every so often, I get a concerning email. It’s usually from a wife or girlfriend, who has some concerns about Masonry. However, often these worries are something a bit above my pay grade. I wanted to take some time to talk about these concerns in general, and talk about what Freemasonry isn’t.

Freemasonry isn’t a secret society. If it was, they wouldn’t be in parades, handing out candy and driving little cars. They wouldn’t be giving speech therapy to kids, or have pediatric hospitals with their name on it in bright red letters. You wouldn’t be able to find out basically whatever you want to know about Freemasonry with a quick Google search. Instead, it is correct to say that Freemasonry is a society with secrets. As I’ve said before, these secrets are ways of recognizing each other through handshakes, words and phrases.

Freemasonry doesn’t want to take your SO from you. It is taught in Masonry that your obligations to your family, your work, your God, come first. Freemasonry is not out to steal your SO from you, even though it may feel like there is something going on in the Masonic family every night of the week. If you feel that your SO is spending too much time on Masonic stuff, say so to them. They might not recognize it. If you feel that you continue to have issues, I would recommend going and speaking with each other and a moderator, so that everyone can ensure they are being heard and understood. I would not recommend bringing the rest of the Lodge into it.

Freemasonry isn’t a religion, or anti-religion. In fact, it’s the opposite. In order to become a mainstream masculine Mason, you must profess a belief in a higher power. (Depending on your jurisdiction, the wording may be different, some say higher power, some say God, etc.) A lot of ritual and stories told within Masonry are based on Judaeo-Christian teachings; that is, a lot of things used within Masonry ritual is taken right from the Bible/Torah. That’s not to say a Pagan or Muslim cannot become a Freemason, anyone who meets the requirements can become one. There’s a lot of talk about there being a “Masonic Bible”, you can read more about that here. There did used to be issues between Catholics and Masons, and although Catholicism may still deter people from becoming Masons, there is nothing that is stopping a Catholic man from becoming one. All of this being said, there are some Masonic auxillary groups that require the members to specifically be Christian.

Freemasonry isn’t/doesn’t __(insert conspiracy theory here). There’s a million conspiracy theories out there about Masonry. That they control the government. That they are secretly lizard people. That they control politicians. That they control celebrities. That there’s such a thing as a 99th degree Mason. That they have some secret power or ability that only those that achieve the highest level degree are privy to. There’s a million out there. Allow me to assure you, most all of these have no foundation of truth. (The only one I can think of would be the politician one, in the 1800’s a lot of politicians were Masons. That’s how/why the Anti-Masonic party was founded, which later became the Whig party.) I’ve watched these guys struggle to organize a pancake breakfast; the idea that they run the government is laughable.

The best thing you can do is educate yourself. There’s a lot of information and misinformation out there about Freemasonry. Arm yourself with knowledge. My first recommendation (beyond here!) is Brother Hodapp’s Freemasonry for Dummies. I’ve read this cover to cover, and it is always the first book I use for reference. (Sadly our signed copy got lent out and never returned.) It’s probably the most dog-eared, highlighted, annotated, bookmarked book in our collection. The great thing about this book is that it has an extensive resource section in the back with recommendations for more places to look on specific topics. Funnily enough, another great resource is Wikipedia, there’s quite an extensive section on Freemasonry. If you need help for information on any specific topic, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Feminism and Freemasonry

This post is something that I’ve been thinking on for a while now. I know it’s not the easiest topic to discuss, nor is it everyone’s cup of tea, but if anyone out there is going to talk about it, it should be me.

We had our Conclave recently (basically DeMolay Grand Lodge). One of the events that happens after the banquet, during the dance, is the crowning of the new state sweetheart, as well as singing to the outgoing one. The traditions my state has developed over the years I would not exactly call kind. You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’ is sung to the outgoing sweetheart, surrounded by the majority of the guys, usually while she cries. Before the new sweetheart is actually crowned, all of the candidates stand together while the Jeopardy! theme is played, the crown bouncing from person to person. A friend who recently got engaged to a Master Mason and senior DeMolay witnessed this for the first time, she was so flabbergasted she almost walked out the door. And yet, I have no doubt that this tradition will continue for years to come.

As a feminist, as, most any woman really, I think that the first emotional reaction when learning about Freemasonry is anger, with thoughts of, “Why can’t I do that? Am I really that different? What gives them the right?” Unfortunately, I feel that learning that women cannot become Masons is only the beginning. I’ve been asked many times how I deal with it. I would consider myself a feminist, and I will be the first to admit that there have been many rage educing moments within Masonry for me. However, I do not feel that Masonry and feminism have to be mutually exclusive.

Recognize it for what it is

Freemasonry, as we know it today, was unified in 1717,  (and constituted about 100 years later). At that time, women not only couldn’t vote, but also couldn’t own property, and weren’t even really citizens in the United States. Everything was tied to your husband. You’ve seen Pride and Prejudice? Basically that. The revivals in Masonry in the 1920’s and 1960’s did not see many great changes for women. Yes, we could vote and own property, but any woman wearing pants in public was surely up to no good.

Lodge was a way for the man of the house to “get away from it all”. This tends to be the reason less often these days. I would attribute a lot of that to social and technological changes. That being said, it needs to be recognized that Freemasonry has always been the guys’ “safe space”. I personally, have no problem with this, and support it, as long as there an equal “safe space” for women. Unfortunately, I would not really say that this is the case. Many of the organizations people cite would not exist without masculine Masonry (OES, Daughters, etc), or are not as widespread as many of us wish (Order of Women Freemasons, Order of the Weavers).

In many ways, I feel that Masonry has never really left these bygone eras. Bits and pieces of ritual have changed over time, but overall, it’s the same. This, unfortunately, the social culture of many Lodges and OES Chapters is like walking into a time machine. In my state, women in OES were not allowed to wear pants to meetings up until 2014. Yes, I’m quite serious. Even at T’s Lodge, full of young men in their 20’s and 30’s, the women set up the meals, and clean up after the men begin their meeting, with naught a thank you in site. I of course, can only speak from my experiences, but this often is the aura of the Lodges and Chapters in my area.

Find the good bits

One of the best things you can do, not only with Freemasonry, but anything really, is to educate yourself. Find out why something is the way it is, if someone has ever tried to do anything about it, what the results were.

My research for the blog has found me sifting through numerous websites and books. I’ve learned so much I never would have otherwise. I find the women that have become masculine Masons particularly interesting, espcially because their exisitance tends to be covered up or denied. Freemasonry is not a secret society, but is a society with secrets; they have many secrets. Many of these can be found simply by looking.

Getting involved is another great way to find the postitives of Masonry. Many Daughters of the Nile Chapters have dancing or singing groups, start an OES Stitch’n’Bitch. Many Shrine clubs can be joined by the Shriner’s lady, and some of them are even ladies only. It often seems on the surface there is nothing there for us as women, but really, it just takes a little digging.

Be the change you want to see

I think that a lot of the trick is to make it all work for you. While I’m all for tradition, I rarely wear anything but pants to a Chapter meeting or Lodge dinner, unless its a special occasion. A small group of us have made a gaming club at our local Shrine, open to anyone who wants to join. T and I are DeMolay advisors, and feel that one of the best ways to make changes is to not only make them happen yourself, but help the future Masonic leaders grow and learn about all they can.

If there’s something about your Lodge, Chapter, or even Freemasonry as a whole that you don’t like, change it. There are, of course, more subtle ways to go about it, but sometimes the direct approach is best. If you’re gonna go out there and try to make big changes, know that every thing in the Masonic family happens at a snail’s pace. It took almost 5 years to raise the dues in our state by $1.50 to give 50 cents to each youth group. Don’t get frustrated. Don’t give up.

Sometimes you’ve just gotta suck it up

Or bite your tongue. Or coincide an argument. I’m not going to lie to you: if you are a woman involved in Freemasonry, and consider yourself a feminist, there will be times when you are blinded with rage due to the fraternity. Sometimes you just have to smile through your gritted teeth as you clear the dishes of men too lazy to do it themselves. It sucks, but, like many things in life, that’s just the way that it is. As many times as Masonry has pissed me off, I could not imagine giving up everything I’m involved in because of that.

 

Interview with a Mason’s Lady #1

So, there’s some a big post on the back burner, I need to mull it over a bit, and think about how I want to word it. In the mean time, I wanted to share with you a project I started a while ago- interviewing other Mason’s Ladies. If you or someone you know would like to share your Masonic story. please send me an email at themasonslady@gmail.com!

(Identifying information has been removed.)

Name: J. B.

Age: 36

Current Location: Seoul, South Korea

How were you made aware of Masonry? Do you come from a Masonic family?

I come from a very masonic family, more so on my mother’s side.  My great grandparents were in masons, shrine, and Daughters of the Nile (great grandmother). My Grandfather and great uncle were also Shriners (It was an exciting year when my great uncle because imperial potentate of the Shrine. I still remember attending the Shrine circus and seeing my Great uncle as ringmaster during his year as potentate in British Columbia).  My uncles and my cousin also became masons when my great uncle became imperial potentate (gotta support). My father was also a mason and would have become a shriner had he not passed away at an untimely age due to cancer. My Grandmother is a past queen of Daughters of the Nile and a Past Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star (I had the pleasure of using her gavel when I was honored queen in 1993 and am using is once again as Worthy Matron). My Mother was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star and Amaranth (unfortunately she quit when I moved to Korea as she was tired of dealing with the gossipy cattiness that inevitably follows an organization filled with a plethora of personalities).

When I turned 11 years old (Job’s Daughters range in age from 11-20), my Grandmother and Grandfather took me to an open installation of Bethel #31.  This was my very first time ever seeing anything masonic.  During the reception, I had my grandmother on one side of me and my grandfather on the other and they asked, “So what do you think? Would you like to join?” Of course, the immediate answer would be yes.  From that point on, I have been a diligent member of masonic affiliated organizations.

What is your perception of the current state of Masonry where you live? That is, how to you, personally view the Masonry around you? If applicable, how has it changed over the years, or from location to location?

I am lucky enough to be associated with both PHA and non-PHA masonic groups here on the Korean peninsula. For non-PHA lodges, there are two grand lodges represented: Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of the Philippines. They have no female organizations available here at this time.  For PHA the two Grand Lodges that I know of represented are: The Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction and the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. The PHA groups here are mainly military based and the non-PHA groups are mainly expat. I can clearly see that there is a small rift between the PHA and non-PHA groups. This is slowly changing. This year we have attended (Boyfriend and I are PHA Eastern Stars) the open installation of Macarthur Lodge of the Grand Lodge of the Philipines and have also attended various barbeques and other functions with Lodge Han Yang of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.  Unfortunately, the Grand Lodge of Scotland and the Grand Lodge of Washington PHA do not currently recognize each other making it more difficult to interact on a more official level.  Brothers of the lodges are currently working toward rectifying this situation.

As an expat member of a mainly military Chapter of the OES, it is very different for me to me involved in such a high turnover due to people leaving to a new location every couple of years for their career.  Even with this, we continue to thrive and have a strong sister and brotherhood.

As a mason’s “wife” of a non-PHA lodge, it feels very much the same as it did in Vancouver.  I feel very involved and have gained great friendships with many of the men and their wives.  I am also aware that I feel more of a connection with the brothers than some of the other wives due to my masonic upbringing.  I firmly believe that wives being involved in masonic affiliated organizations can bring very greater understanding and closer relationships.

Overall, I would say that whether as a child or an adult, whether PHA or non-PHA, whether in North America or Korea, the fundamental values remain the same: strive to be a better person and perform acts of charity. It is an honor and privilege to say that I am a part of masonic organizations.

 What is your favorite aspect of Masonry? Your least favorite?

Favorite: The camaraderie, the ritual work, and the virtues for which we all strive to embody.

Least favorite: the gossipy catty nature of some members within the order.

How has Masonry changed your relationships (SO, family, friends) for the better? Has it changed it for the worse as well?

I feel as though I have answered this within all my other answers.  Overall it has always changed it for the better. I have always been a part of masonic organizations and don’t know what my life would be like otherwise. I would certainly say however, that I would not change a thing.

If you could change one thing about your lodge/chapter, what would it be? Why?

Selfishly, I would wish that my sisters and brothers could remain in-country (Korea) longer. Our ritual work suffers due to the high turn-over rate however, the true reason is that I miss them very much when they are gone.

Were you involved in Job’s Daughters or Rainbow growing up? Looking back on those programs, do you have a positive, or negative view on them? How did they impact your life today?

I was a Job’s Daughter growing up and had a very positive experience.  I was very unpopular in school due to my, shall we say… eccentricities – I was weird and embraced it. I never cared because I had an amazing group of friends in both Job’s Daughters and DeMolay of whom many I am still friends with today. Jobies were my true friends and where I felt at home.  I know that many people may have had negative experiences due to the, as I have said before, gossipy and catty nature of people – especially girls.  I however, feel very thankful for my upbringing.  Jobies taught me not only decorum and virtues to strive toward, but also accounting, Robert’s Rules of Order, organization skills, public speaking, and most importantly how to lead in a diplomatic community.  Today, I still have a large community of friends that stemmed from my time in Jobies. More importantly, my closest friends (even though I only see them once a year or every other year) were also those I grew up with within masonic groups. My boyfriend (of whom I have been living with now for 6 years) was a DeMolay from Golden Ears Chapter. We were buddies for 15 years before we ever started dating.

 

My Boyfriend, is the current (now past) Right Worshipful Master of Lodge Han Yang #1048 of the Grand Lodge of Scotland located in Seoul South Korea and he is also a member of Lodge Southern Cross #44 of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia. As a masonic “wife,” I have had the privilege of meeting many amazing men and women here in Korea and wouldn’t change it for a minute. One of the nice things about dating a mason is that I know that the men he is hanging out with have certain values and morals they strive to achieve and therefore I always feel comfortable knowing he’s out having fun with them.  More often than not I am invited along for the fun.  I realize that there are many masonic wives that do not have the same view as me and worry when their husband comes home late into the night. I think that my view is different because I am very aware of and involved in masonic organizations and therefore have a better understanding of what they are doing any why.  I firmly believe that the wives with issues would feel much more secure if they were also involved in masonic affiliated orders.

If you have children, do you encourage them to be involved in Masonic youth programs, why or why not? If you do not have children, will/would you?

I absolutely would encourage my children to be involved in Masonic youth programs. I think my reasoning is pretty clear based on my own experiences.  Over and above the feeling of belonging and the wonderful skills I learned, I was also kept too busy to get into any trouble.  I never got interested in drugs, teen pregnancies, stealing cars or anything else that bored teenagers may decide is a good idea.  My mother knew all of my friends’ parents and never really had to worry.  I would go out late on many weekends to dances and such, however we always had 1 parent to every 5 girls.  Jobies also provided a community of parents for my mother to get involved in.

 Have you ever experienced misogyny from Masons? How did you react, and if in public, how did the others around you react? Did this incidence(s) change the way that you view Masonry? Why or why not?

I certainly have experienced misogyny from Masons (more so since I’ve been in OES in Korea).  There are a few members of lodges here who feel that women have no place within any masonic affiliated groups.  I usually don’t have any time to react before another Mason will break in information regarding female Masons in France etc. etc. Though it saddens my heart to meet men that feel negatively toward women having any involvement, I am quickly lifted by the much larger number of men –usually more educated on masonic knowledge – who come to the rescue and put them in their place. It hasn’t really changed my view on masonry at all.  Confucius said, “To study without thinking is futile, to think without studying is dangerous.” I know that in every walk of life there will be people who “think without studying” and it is their own downfall, not mine.

How do you feel about the “men only” rule? Do you agree or disagree with this rule? Why or why not?

I can understand why many women feel they should not be prevented from joining a lodge just because of their gender, however I disagree. Girls enjoy having their “girl’s night out” where they go out with just the ladies leaving their husbands and boyfriends to do as they will. Men also enjoy this experience. Men should be able to have the freedom to be a part of an organization that is only men.  Women should also have this same freedom.  Masonic affiliated organizations allow for this via Daughters of the Nile, Ladies of the White Shrine, Job’s Daughters, Rainbow Girls, and I’m sure many more that I can’t think of at the moment. They also have organizations that both men and women can enjoy together such as OES, Amaranth, Heroines of Jericho (PHA), and much more.  Masonic groups allow for men to have their men time, women to have their women time, and for men and women to come together.  On top of this, women are also very involved in many of the open events the lodges have and husbands have the same opportunity within the women’s organizations. I also have absolutely no problem completely female lodges as they have in England (to me this is just another masonic affiliated group). I not agree with the idea of forcing all masonic affiliated groups to be co-ed. There is a completely different dynamic within the co-ed groups and if lodges were forced to be co-ed, there would be no place for the men to have their “men time.”

What advice would you give to a new member or a new or fellow Mason’s lady? What questions would you want to ask them?

My advice would be to be prepared for the gossipy catty nature of human beings and to never let it bring you down.  Do your best to strive to uphold the virtues within your obligation and teach others to do the same.  If you model it, they will follow.  Remember all the good that comes out of these organizations and embrace the life-long friendships that will most certainly emerge. These organizations aren’t just about your chapter, court, etc, but about a connection world-wide.  People will move away, you will meet visitors from all over, and you will have the opportunity to remain in touch for a lifetime. Remember the charity work that embodies the order and that your contribution is important, but so is your humbleness. It doesn’t matter how many people know that you work hard, what matters is that you do indeed work hard.

I guess the question I would ask a new member is, “are you prepared to do your best to follow and embody the virtues and morality found within your obligation? Are you prepared to make this a life-long commitment through the good and the bad knowing that the good will always inevitably be greater?” I would also offer a welcoming place for any sister or brother to visit in Korea.