What to Expect at a Masonic Installation of Officers

I’m using the “better late than never” strategy for the blog currently. I apologize in advance if there is continued delay or lack of posts on my part, I am still struggling with health issues, hopefully we will get it figured out soon, and we can get back to the regularly scheduled programming.

As I said in my previous post, January is a very common month for installations. Many Lodges and Chapters choose to do their installations just before the Grand Lodge communication. In Nebraska, ours is in February, so we have installations in January. I know of other jurisdictions who’s Grand Lodge is in July or August, and they typically have their installations in June.

I was lucky enough to witness one installation, of T’s Lodge, which means his year as Master is finally over (yay!), and, I was also installed as Esther, a star point, in my Eastern Star Chapter.

What should I expect from an installation?

Every installation will vary a bit from Lodge to Lodge, or Chapter to Chapter, as well as from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, they all tend to follow the same general format:

  • Everyone assembles in the Lodge room
  • Introductions and opening remarks are made
  • A non-denominational prayer
  • Installation of officers
  • Presentations and closing remarks
  • Cake!

If you are interested in watching one, Sharptop Lodge #680 has their entire officer installation available on YouTube! (It is just over an hour.)

The number one thing to try to keep in mind is to be on time. In some Masonic organizations, there may be a lot of floorwork that goes on during an installation, and if you are late, you may detract from that, or worse, cause someone to lose their place.

As I said, everyone does their installation a bit different. At both Mizpah’s (T’s Lodge) and my installation, introductions of visiting Worshipful Masters, Matrons, Patrons, and Grand Lodge officers were all made after installation.

For the actual installation part, the format is almost universally the same in every Masonic organization. The Marshal will go and retrieve the person to be installed from their seat (usually somewhere on the Lodge room floor, and not on the sidelines), the Marshall will lead them to the altar, where they will be presented to the Worshipful Master (Worthy Matron. etc), they will take their oath of office, and then the Marshall will lead them to their new seat- usually the chair of their office during a normal meeting. In some Lodges, some parts will be done at the same time. For instance, at T’s Lodge, the Junior and Senior Deacons took their oaths at the same time, as did the Junior and Senior Stewards. At my installation, all of the star points were presented to the Worthy Matron at the same time. This helps cut down on the overall time of the installation.

Elected officers of Austin Lodge #12 waiting to be installed.

After the installation is complete, there is a chance for presentations, to the new Worshipful Master. This is usually from heads of other Masonic organizations (Scottish Rite, the Shrine), or may be personal (T got a watch and a pie server). If you have a gift for the new WM, this is your time to give it, whether you are a Mason or not. Note- it is not common to give gifts to the new WM, unless you are a close friend, or otherwise.

Directly after the installation, there is sometimes a receiving line to congratulate the new officers. There may also be photo opportunities.

What would a Masonic event be without cake? After the installation, refreshments are typically served. At T’s it was just cake and punch, and many met up for dinner at a restaurant later. Mine had a full, albeit small meal of sandwiches and chips. Regardless, there is sure to be time for fellowship. Be sure to congratulate the new officers, especially the new WM.

You can expect for a typical Masonic installation to last about an hour, not including refreshments and fellowships. Other organizations, those with more officers, such as Eastern Star or the Shrine, may take considerable more time. I know that my OES installation was about 2 hours, not including refreshment and fellowship afterward.

A final note about installations – check your local Masonic calendar to find out when they are. If they are open, and they will say something like, Mizpah Open Installation of Officers, or Mizpah Installation – Open, that means that anyone can attend. If someone walked in off the street and wanted to go, they could. If it is closed, and again, they will say something like Mizpzah Installation -Closed, that means that only the people who are members of that organization can attend. That being said, if you are at all interested about what goes on during Lodge, or any other organization, an installation is an excellent way to get some insight on how they do everything.

Aw yeah, Masonic cake!

Next week I will go over how to prepare for Grand Lodge, so be sure and check that out.

As always, I hope you have a great week!

History of the Installation of Officers

These next few weeks may be a small deviation from what you’ve come to expect from The Mason’s Lady. I am dealing with some health issues that make it hard to sit down and write for lengths of time. Because of this, I will be writing mini articles instead, for instance, the article for this week and next was originally to be one. Hopefully we will be back to regularly scheduled programming shortly.

January is a very popular month for installation of officers. In Nebraska, we use the calendar year as our Masonic year, so any officer’s term is from January to the next January. All officer terms all for a full year, regardless of when the installation occurs. Other common months for installation are June and July.

Installation of an officer

What exactly is an installation? How does it differ from an initiation

An installation is basically the swearing in of the officers for the year. Think of it kind of like when the president takes his oath. The officers take an oath, are given the jewels of their respective offices, and then we eat cake. Look next week for more about what actually goes on during an installation. Often, installations are public, meaning that anyone, Mason or not, can attend. If you have the opportunity, I would recommend that you go. Initiation on the other hand, is when someone becomes a member of the fraternity, when someone actually becomes a Mason, and takes the degrees. An initiation always closed, meaning that only Masons of a certain degree may attend.

Old school cool

What is the history of the installation ceremony?

The history of the installation ceremony is very unique, because before the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717, there is no mention of any kind of ceremony for installing officers. The Worshipful Master was elected, but there was no ceremony after the election.  The ceremony first came about in 1722, when the Duke of Wharton, who was the Grand Master of UGLE at the time, decided that when a new Lodge was formed, they must also have an installation of the first Worshipful Master. The rest of the proclamation from the Duke laid out the foundation for the ceremony. Throughout the years, the ceremony was adapted to include the rest of the officers, which is what we still use today.

If you’d like to read more about the history of the installation ceremony, check out Volume 18, issue 4 of the September 2008 magazine The Lectern. You can read it here: The Lectern.

That’s all for now, I apologize for it being short but sweet. Next week we will be looking at exactly what happens during an installation. If you have any questions about officer positions, you can check out this post.

What Actually Happens at Lodge

So, you’ve been with your Mason for a while now, you know he goes off to Lodge every week or two weeks, and you know he comes back late, you’ve maybe even been to a few of the dinners that they put on before the meeting. But what do they actually do at these meetings? What’s so important that it has to go on behind closed doors?  The answer might surprise you.

The Masonic Meal

Arguable one of the most important aspects of the Lodge meeting is the meal beforehand. Not every Lodge has them, but many of them do, some before, and some after the meeting. Usually potluck, although some Lodge’s have been known to cater dinners, the meal before the Lodge meeting tends to be the best opportunity for fellowship, not only between the members of the Lodge, but also between their families. I have never known a Lodge meal to not be open to families and friends, but some Lodges may have private policies. If it is open to the “public” (i.e. non-Masons), I highly recommend that you go. Not only is it a great homemade meal (it’s usually potluck, so ask of you should bring something!), but it also gives you a chance to get to meet all of the men that he spends time with every week. I know that it helped put my mind at ease to actually be able to put names to faces. Going to these dinners will also allow you to be more involved in the Lodge. At T’s Lodge, the women clean up after the meal (although, this is apparently not the norm elsewhere), and then we sit, chat, have coffee or play cards. It really helps facilitate the family feel of Masonry. We have family style dinners like this once a month, and I always look forward to it. Give it a shot at least once.

Opening of the Lodge

There are three main types of Lodge meetings. business meetings, where normal business is conducted; degree work, where a Mason receives a degree, this involves the majority of the secret ritual work; and other meetings, these may include papers or other presentations, or other special topics. How often each meeting occurs depends on the Lodge. Lodges meet anywhere from one to four times a month, plus any special committee meetings. Which of these meetings occurs when depends on the needs of the Lodge, some will only have business meetings with the occasional degree work, others may focus on the “fun” types of meetings. T’s Lodge (which currently has a waiting list!) only has time for degree work each week. However, every Lodge will have at least one business meeting each month.

Every meeting, regardless of what they may be doing, open and closes almost the same way each time (different degrees may be opened different ways, but always more or less the same thing). Please note that exactly what is said and done varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, however, many things stay the same throughout the country; therefore, I will be making this as general as possible. Before the opening of the meeting, all non-officer members sit where they please alongside the “north” and “south” parts of the Lodge room. (Some Lodges are not set up so that the Worshipful Master is sitting actually in the east, however, it is still referred to as the East.)  The officers come in, sometimes to music, and each of the officers take their respective positions (You can read more about that here.)  The Tyler is then put with the task of  securing the meeting from intruders, and an officer is asked to make sure that all present are Masons or candidates. There is then a ritual where each officer is called upon by the WM, and asked to relay the duties. and sometimes signs or other meanings of their office. This helps to remind each member why they are there, and also helps new members recall which station is which. A prayer is then given by the Chaplain, and the Pledge of Allegiance may be done. The Lodge is then open.

Order of Business

Business is then conducted. Even though you may think that it would, Masonic Lodges do not follow Robert’s Rules of Order. Instead, each Grand Lodge jurisdiction will lay out the order of each business meeting. Usually, it ends up something like this:

  • Reading and confirming of minutes– Just like you may in any other meeting, the minutes are supposed to be read, but they may be printed off, or displayed on a screen instead. They are then voted on, and if approved, archived.
  • Introduction of visitors – This is usually done by the WM, and may be skipped if the person is a frequent visitor.
  • Reading of petitions – The reading of petitions from potential new members. After a petition is read, the interview committee is formed.
  • Balloting on petitions– The interview committee will come back and give report on the candidate that they interviewed. A vote will then occur of the person is to receive the degrees of Masonry.
  • Reports of committees – Some jurisdictions may require this to be in writing, some may not. Committees are usually degree work, finances, fellowship committee, etc.
  • Applications for relief-  As I have stated before, a Mason is eligible to petition his Lodge to help him financially. Depending on the amount and situation, it may be voted on immediately. Often, Lodges will also include a list of members hospitalized, as well as recent deaths.
  • Reading of communications- Lodges get a lot of mail, usually from other Lodges, or other Masonic organizations. These are usually read to inform the members as to what else is going on Masonically in the area. The Grand Lodge may send out communications so often, and it is required that every Lodge read this communication during their business meeting. Bills, usually for the Lodge building, are also read and voted on during this time.
  • Unfinished business Exactly as it sounds, this is the time that any business that may have carried over from the last meeting is discussed.
  • New business Again, pretty simple here, any new business that the Lodge needs to take care of is discussed at this time.
  • Business for the good of the order- This is kind of open floor time, and gives members of the Lodge a chance to speak up about anything going on that they might want others to know about (usually things like fundraisers, school events, Girl Scout cookies, etc)
  • Ritual work and lectures – This is where the meetings can deviate. If the Lodge is conducting degree work, now is when they bring in the candidate. If someone is to give a lecture or other presentation, now is the time. Please remember that this portion may happen at different times during the meeting in different jurisdictions. If it is just a business meeting, nothing happens here.

Closing of the Lodge

When all business has been conducted to the satisfaction of the WM, the Lodge begins its closing ritual. It is usually much shorter than opening. The WM lets the Tyler know they are getting ready to close, the Chapalin gives another prayer, and the WM declares the Lodge closed. That’s it. Remember when I said you may be surprised about what goes on? You may be surprised how mundane, and occasionally boring it can be. However, Masonry is not only what happens in the Lodge room, but also outside it.

Tiny Cars and Funny Hats

When the general public hears you talk about Masonry, they usually have no idea what you are talking about. When the Shrine is brought up however, usually the response is, “Oh, you mean those guys in the funny hats and the tiny cars?” They are Shriners, members of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, or A.A.O.N.M.S. The Shrine tends to be the public face of Freemasonry today.

Where did it start?

It all started in 1870, in Manhattan. At the time, more than 3,000 men living in Manhattan were Masons. Some of these men made an effort to have lunch together as often as they could, on the second floor of the Knickerbocker Lodge. Each one of these men who attended this lunch were known as light-hearted jokesters, who talked often about starting a fraternal offshoot of Masonry who’s focus was fun and fellowship, over the emphasis on ritual of Blue Lodge. Two of the men, Walter Fleming and William Florence, decided to take action.

Florence was an actor who traveled the world. During a tour in France, he had been invited to a party thrown by an Arabic diplomat. During this party, a troupe of actors put on a play, in which, the members of the audience became members of a secret society. He felt that this play would make a wonderful basis for their new fraternity. After viewing the play a few more times, he returned with his information to Fleming.

Fleming was a man devoted to fraternalism. He took the ideas laid out by Florence, and created the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Together with the other lunch fellows, they drafted the ritual, created costumes and a greeting, and decided upon the now infamous fez. Florence and Fleming were initiated on August 18, 1870, and 11 other men followed on June 16, 1871

The first 13 Shriners

How can I join?

Despite the name, the Shrine does not have any Arabic connection, other than the origin story. A number of Shrines that used to be referred to as “temple” or “mosque” are now shifting to using “Shrine Center” instead, to help distance themselves. Many people believe incorrectly that it has something to do with Islam. Just like Blue Lodge Masonry, Shriners only require a belief in a higher power. A lot of people are under the impression that you can simply become a Shiner, and skip the first three degrees. This I think is largely due to the marketing campaign that they use. 2B1Ask1 is very popular, and the Shrine is the only branch of Masonry that really advertises at all.

In order to join the Shrine, a man must be a Master Mason in good standing. Before the year 2000, however, a Mason had to also be a member of York or Scottish Rite before he could join the Shrine. This was largely done to not only encourage the idea of work before play, but also to facilitate more membership in these groups. Unfortunately, they saw a lot of members join only to become a Shriner, and never be active in either of the Rites.

There are two women only organizations associated with the Shine, the Daughters of the Nile and the Ladies’ Oriental Shrine. Both are closely tied to the Shiner’s Hospital for Children. You can read more about those organizations here.

What they do

The Shriners do a lot, usually for their local community. While it is not to say that they do not have the plain, regular, boring, business meeting, their main focus is on fun, and you can see that through the work that they do.

Perhaps one of the best known units (which is basically like a club within the Shrine) is the parade unit. These units may include bands, equestrian units, color guard, motorcycle units and more. The most prominent and well-known however, are the mini car units, otherwise known as the motor corps. Usually it is a requirement that a Shriner own his own mini car in order to be a part of the unit, however many Shrine Centers are starting to move away from this, in order to encourage more participation.

Sooo tiny!

Other well-known activities that the Shiners put on are the Shrine Circus, and the East-West Game. 

Something that a lot of people do not seem to connect to the Shriners, for whatever reason, is the Shrine Hospital for Children. This is a network of 22 hospitals across North America (1 in Canada, and 1 in Mexico)  that sees children with orthopedic issues, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. Here’s the thing that makes it a bit different from the rest of the hospitals out there. EVERYONE that needs their services receives it, whether or not they can pay the bill. There have been some issues with that as of late, and some families have had their insurance billed, but the hospital is always sure that it is well within the families means. Those without insurance are covered 100%. The majority of the operating costs come from donations, many from Freemasons or Shriners themselves. Often a Shrine Center funnel’s its hospital donations to the closest hospital. For instance, all of our hospital donations here in Omaha fund the hospital in Minneapolis.  Patients do not have to be Masons, or related to a Mason in any way. The service is there for anyone who may need it. I feel that this truly helps the Shrine earn the nickname of “The World’s Greatest Philanthropy”.

Some Shrine clowns with a patient

The Shrine has a lot to offer, definitely a “something for everyone” kind of fraternity. There are always plenty of fun activities going on, usually with the focus being on the family, instead of just the Shrine member. Our local Shrine hosts and supports our DeMolay chapter, and it seems like there is something to do there every night of the week. If you are a Mason, or with a Mason, or even just looking to become one, and have a family, or want to attend a lot of social events, I highly recommend you look into joining the Shrine.

Naviagting Masonic Emblems Part II

Since our Master’s Ball is this weekend (more on that next week!), I am in a bit of a time crunch, so, I decided to go ahead with the second part of the Masonic emblem series this week. You can read part one here.

The crescent and scimitar

Probably the second most well-known Masonic emblem, after the square and compass, is that of the Shriners. Luckily for us, the Shriners are much more forthcoming as to the meaning of their emblem than anyone else seems to be.  The crescent and scimitar are most often seen displayed on the fez, the hat that a Shriner wears.  The scimitar (the sword) stands for the backbone of the fraternity, which are its members. The two claws that make up the crescent represent the Shriners fraternity and its philanthropy. The sphinx’s head stands for the governing body of the Shriners, the head of the organization. The five-pointed star inside of the crescent represents the thousands of children that the Shriners help through their philanthropy (most notably their hospitals) each year. Occasionally you will also see the phrase “Robur et Furor” on the emblem, which means “Strength and Fury”.

The Eastern Star

Perhaps the most misunderstood Masonic emblem is that of the Order of the Eastern Star. Each point of the star represents a different star point. The blue point with the sword and veil represent Adah, whose lesson is obedience to duty. The yellow point with the sheaf of wheat is for Ruth, whose lesson is adherence to religious principles. The white, with the crown and scepter represents Esther, whose lesson is the virtue of loyalty. The green point with the broken column is for Martha, who teaches us the virtue of endurance in a trial. Finally the red point with the cup is for Electa, who teaches ous the lesson of endurance of persecution. The altar with the book in the middle is exactly what you think it is, it represents the volume of sacred law that sits in the East. The word FATAL is the secret phrase used in OES. Please note: OES was created in the 1850’s, long before the inverted pentagram was associated with satanic ritual around the 1960’s.

The crest of the Order of DeMolay

DeMolay, the organization for young men, is also straightforward with their emblem. The crown  is symbolic of the Crown of Youth, and reminds a member of his obligations and the seven principles of his order. Each of the ten rubies along the sides of the emblem represent the Founder of the organization, and the nine original members. There used to be a mixture of pearls and rubies, with pearls representing living members, and rubies, deceased ones. The helmet on top represents the concept of chivalry, a reoccurring theme within DeMolay. The crescent in the center serves as a reminder to never reveal the secrets of the Order, nor the secrets of a friend. The five-armed white cross symbolizes the purities of ones intentions, and to always remember the motto, “No DeMolay shall fail as a citizen, as a leader, and as a man.” The crossed swords in the background are symbols of justice, fortitude, and mercy, and also symbolize the warfare DeMolays face against arrogance, despotism, and intolerance. The stars around the crescent serve as a symbol of hope, and  remind members of their obligations and duties that one brother owes to another.

The rainbow

Surprisingly, the International Order of Rainbow for Girl’s emblem is the hardest one to find out any information on, much more than any of the Masonic “secrets”. However, from what I can gather, the red, white, and blue stripe represents the flag of the United States; although Rainbow is an international organization, it was created here in the States. The hands below represent friendship. Each of the colors represent a different lesson taught in the organization. Red, love; orange, religion; yellow, nature; green, immortality; blue, fidelity; indigo, patriotism; violent, service.  BFCL stands for bible, flag, constitution, and lambskin, the four symbols of the order. The R in the middle simply stands for rainbow.

Job’s Daughter’s emblem

The emblem for Job’s Daughters is very quite simple. The three women in the triangle represent the daughter’s of Job, and each one holds a symbol important to the organization. The dove stands for peace and purity, the urn of incense represents prayer, and the horn of plenty represents the hope of reward for a job well done. The words “Iyob Filiae” literally means Job’s Daughters in Greek.

These are only the emblems for the most common Masonic organizations. There are many others out there, so occasionally you may come across an emblem that is unknown to you. A little research goes a long way in this case.

As always, have a wonderful week!

Navigating Masonic Emblems Part I

Between symbols and symbolism, there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to Freemasonry.While going over every symbol and emblem you may come across would take quite a while, even just those in blue lodge, I did want to take some time to explain those that you may see on a regular basis. Most all of these are associated with appendant bodies (save the first one). Unfortunately, time dictates that I cannot cover every one, so I will go over each of the more common ones.  A future post will cover symbols you will only find in blue lodge, as well as, perhaps, the symbols of the less common appendant bodies. While I cannot tell you all of the meanings behind every emblem, this can help you recognize the emblems associated with popular Masonic bodies. Please note: it is proper to say that all of these are emblems, that represent a specific group as a whole. Due to the nature of the English language however, I will be using the words emblem and symbol interchangeably.

The Square and Compass

Perhaps the most well know, most prevalent, and most easily recognized symbol of Freemasonry is the square and compass. This is the symbol of the Blue Lodge. The compass is on top, with the square below. Duncan’s Masonic Monitor from 1866 explains it thusly, “The square, to square our actions; The compass to circumscribe and keep us within bounds with all mankind.” The tools represent judgement and discernment, and more is given on these lessons within the degrees. You may find a square and compass with or without a G. In many English-speaking jurisdictions, especially within the United States, the G is there. It represents the Great Architect of the Universe, which is how Masons refer to G-d, as well as geometry, the science that Freemasonry is founded upon.

Both Scottish Rite and York Rite have different symbols associated with each degree.  I will only be covering some of the more common ones, please know that there are many more out there.



is the symbol for the Lodge of Perfection, which includes the 4th-14th degrees of the Scottish Rite. If you’re not sure what the squiggly line has to do with anything, it may help to know that it is not English. This symbol is the Hebrew letter Yod, which is the first letter of the sacred name of the Supreme Being YHWH- one of the Hebrew names for G-d. Each of the four letters represent different tenses of the verb “to be”. HVH- to be, HYH- was, YHYH- will be. G-d always has been, and always will be, at the heart of Freemasonry.

Double Headed Eagle

This emblem, which belongs to the 32nd degree of the Scottish Rite, also known as Commandery, has long been a hot button topic for the nay sayers of Freeemasonry. In fact, the double-headed eagle has been used as a symbol for many centuries, by many different kings and countries. In Masonry, it serves as an obvious symbol of duality, that unites two opposites into one wholeness, religion and science, for example.  It also teaches that one must look to both the past, as well as the future, in order to get a better understanding of the world around us. The 32 refers to its symbol for the 32nd degree (sometimes you will see it with a 33 for, you guessed it, the 33rd degree.) The phrase “Spes mea in Deo est” translates to, “My hope is in G-d.”

Triple Tau

Moving from the Scottish Rite over to the York Rite, the triple tau is the emblem of the first four degrees, commonly referred to as the Capitular Degrees, or Royal Arch Masonry. It is exactly as it appears, three T’s joined at their base. It is said that it has three different meanings, which only seems appropriate. The first, is that the letters T and H (the two bottom tau make up the H), make reference to Hiram of Tyre and Hiram Abif, the designer of the Temple of Solomon. Secondly, it can signify Templum Hierosolym, another name for the Temple of Jerusalem, and may serve as a reminder that the wearer of the emblem acknowledges himself as a servant of G-d. The third significance, is from Christians in Greek or Roman influence, who used it as a symbol of the holy trinity.

The Sword and Trowel

The sword and trowel is the symbol of the Cryptic Masons, which encompasses the next three degrees of the York Rite. The circle, as seen in many of the other emblems, has no ending and no beginning, and can represent infinity or eternity. It may represent freedom, unity, completeness, and harmony. It can also be a reminder of constraints, to constrain our prejudices, our passions, and our interests from betraying us. The triangle, which has three points, can serve as many reminders: the past present and future; the three Magi,the three stages of life; the three Great Pillars, etc. This is the first time that the sword and the trowel are seen together within Masonry. The sword is an emblem of duality, and not only symbolizes security, but also light, purification, righteousness, spiritual transition, and from its double-edged it shows us the defensiveness and destructiveness.  The trowel is a reminder of the Master Mason degree, where it is a major focus. The trowel is used to spread the cement of Brotherly Love that unites all of the stones (Brothers) into one common structure (the Fraternity).

The Seal of the Knights Templar

The Knights Templar make up the last few degrees of the York Rite, called orders. The interesting thing about this emblem, is that each part of it is the emblem of each specific degree within the order. The cross and crown represent the degree of the Knight of the Temple, also called the Order of the Temple. As the Order of the Knights Templar is a Christian order, the cross and crown makes sense, as it has been a symbol of Christianity for centuries. The black cross around it, called a Maltese Cross, is the symbol of the Degree of Knight of Malta, also known as the Order of Malta. The Maltese Cross became associated with the Knights when they were on the island of Malta, and appeared on the coins of the country in the 16th century. The crossed swords pointed downward are the symbol of the Degree of the Knight of St. Paul, also known as the Mediterranean Pass. The phrase “In hoc signo vinces” translates to “By this sign though shalt conquer”, which is a reference to the story of Constantine.

Often, only the cross and crown are used to signify the Knights Templar:

The simplifying of this symbol makes it easier to create an overarching symbol for York Rite (which Scottish Rite seems to be lacking):

I hope this has helped understand a bit more of the symbols you may see around your local Lodge, or even on cars on the freeway. I will be going over different auxiliary groups emblems in the future.

As always, let me know if you have any questions, and have a great week!

A Look at the Lodge Room and its Officers

I had wanted to give a bit of a history lesson as to why women can’t become Freemasons this week, but due to a hiccup in research, I was forced to go another route. Hopefully I can get that done for you guys soon.

In the meantime, I realized yesterday that I had never actually gone over not only all of the officer positions that a Mason may hold while in Blue Lodge, but hadn’t even discussed how a lodge room is set up! I can assure you that while this information may feel like I am giving away deep, dark Masonic secrets, I can assure you that this is not the case. Please also be sure to note that this information is only accurate for blue lodges within the United States. In the later degrees and organizations, there are different officer positions, and the lodge room is set up slightly differently. I do not think that there is much if any difference for Masonry in the UK, but I do not know that for sure.

The Lodge Room

A.k.a, the place where all the super secret rituals take place. You can go in there. No, really. If you ever visit a Masonic lodge, and would like to see the lodge room, chances are that if you ask, and they are not currently holding a meeting, you are welcome to go in. To be honest, it’s not anything too special to see, but every piece of furniture in the room has a special purpose. Every lodge room is different, some are very elaborate, some are very simple, but they all contain a few key elements.

  • All lodge rooms are orientated east to west. Or this at least the attempt. The front of the lodge room, where the Worshipful Master (more on him later) sits is east. Even if it is not actually in the east, it is still referred to as such.
  • It is a rectangular room with seats around the perimeter. The idea here is pretty simple, you want everyone to have a good view of what is going on. There’s usually no more than two or three rows of seats, so you (hopefully) don’t get stuck sitting behind someone with giant hair like you might at the movies.
  • An altar in the middle of the room with a sacred text on it. In many parts of the country, this may be the Bible. In others, the Koran or the Torah. Some lodges have all three. It is referred to, not as the Bible, but as the Volume of Sacred Law.
  • Three candles in a triangle position around the altar. Threes are important to Masons (three degrees, three lead officers, etc), and the triangle acts as a reminder of the compass. These are usually electric candles, though not always. These are used when the Volume of Sacred Text is read aloud.
  •  Special chairs in the room for officers. More on this later.
  • Two pillars with globes on top. One of these is a globe of the Earth, and the other of the heavens. The pillars are fashioned after the two bronze columns from Solomon’s Temple, which is the location that all of the degrees revolve around. These are usually near the Senior Warden, or near the main entrance.
  • An illuminated letter G. This may hang over the Worshipful Master’s chair, or over the altar. The G stands for both G-d and for geometry, because it was the secret knowledge of the operant (building) masons.
  • Other structures vary by lodge. The floor around the altar may be a black and white checkerboard, because Solomon’s Temple was described as having a similar floor. It may have giant stones, one rough, and one nice and polished, these are referred to as the rough and perfect ashlar, respectively, and are used in an analogy during degree work. You may also find the lodge’s original charter in the room, as well as other masonic and masonic affiliated pieces in the room. Often the blue lodge is not the only group that meets in this room, and so you may find artifacts of York Rite, Order of the Eastern Star, or others as well.

Typical Lodge Officers

Remember when I said earlier that every officer has their own seat? That’s because there are thirteen officers within the lodge, each with their own job. Not sitting in the same spot every time would disrupt a ritual a great deal! There are two ways to get an officer position to get in at the bottom and sit in (almost) every chair, one each year, for a total of 7 years, or simply be appointed or elected to the position. Every officer position has a jewel of their office.

Layout of typical officers seats

  • Worshipful Master – Starting at the top and working our way down, we begin with the Worshipful Master. This is the head honcho, the guy in charge. This office is the highest honor to which a lodge can appoint any of its members. He sits in the big chair in the East, and oversees all business of his lodge. He also presides over all ritual and ceremony.  Think of him as the president of the lodge. Someone who used to be the Worshipful Master but is no longer is referred to as a Past Master. Note: The use of the word “worshipful” here is a honorific meaning “worthy of respect”, not one to be worshipped. His jewel is the square.
  • Senior Warden– Next “in line” is the Senior Warden. He is the second of the three principal officers in the lodge, think of him as the first vice president. The Senior Warden may act as Master of the lodge if he is unavailable,. Usually he will become Worshipful Master next year. His jewel of office is the level.
  • Junior Warden This is where it can start to get confusing. Think of the Junior Warden as the second Vice President of the lodge. He is the third of the three principal officers in the lodge, and may also be able to act as Master of the lodge if he is unavailable. In some lodges, the Junior Warden is in charge of making sure that visitors have the necessary credentials. He is also usually in charge of arranging meals.The jewel of this lodge is the plumb.
  • Senior Deacon The role of the Senior Deacon is to act as the Worshipful Master’s messenger. He will often carry orders between the Worshipful Master and the Senior Warden.  He also assures that the Volume of Sacred Text is opened to the correct page at the beginning and end of the meeting, and also lights and extinguishes the candles around the altar. The jewel of this office is the square and compass with the sun in the middle. He carries a rod with the jewel.
  • Junior Deacon The Junior Deacon acts as the Senior Deacon’s assistant, making sure that correspondence between the Worshipful Master and the other officers are carried out. He is also in charge of making sure that the Tyler is guarding the door at all times, and assuring that visitors have been vouched for. Some jurisdictions split this into two positions the Junior Deacon and the Inner Guard. The jewel of this office is a square and compass with a moon in it, and he carries a rod with the same symbol.
  • Senior and Junior Steward The Stewards are the assistant officers. They are the first to be asked to fill in if an officer could not make it to lodge. They also have the role of escorting the candidates around the lodge room during the degrees. The Junior Steward acts as an assistant to the Senior Steward when necessary. Stewards may sit in a different location than seen above, as their location is never mentioned in the ritual. The jewel of this lodge is the cornucopia. They both carry rods with this jewel. 
  • Treasurer Up until this point, all of these officer positions are in the progressive line. That is, if you start as a Junior Steward, if your lodge uses the progressive line system, in seven years you will be Worshipful Master, if you sit in every seat. The Treasurer is not in this line, and his job is exactly what you would think. He is responsible for all financial transactions within the lodge, including dues. Usually the same person will hold this position for many years. His jewel is the crossed keys.
  • Secretary Again, you can probably guess what this officer does. The secretary is in charge of all correspondence to members, minutes of Lodge meetings, petitions of new candidates, holds a continuous roster of lodge members, as well as other administrative duties. He communicates with the Grand Lodge, types letters, and receives the mail. He must be very well versed in his Grand Lodge’s By-Laws, as well as his Lodge’s By-Laws. For this reason the same person holds this office for many years. His jewel is the crossed quill pens.
  • Marshall The Marshall is the Lodge’s conductor of ceremonies. His job is chiefly the organization of processions, and ensuring that there the correct etiquette is carried out within the Lodge meetings. It is also his job to formally introduce visitors to the Lodge. His jewel is the crossed batons.
  • Chaplain The Chaplain is the spiritual leader of the lodge. Although he may not be a Minister, Rabbi, or Imam, he acts as such within the Lodge. He is responsible for prayers in the opening and closing of the meetings, as well as during degrees and before meals. Everything the Chaplain does is strictly nondenominational. His jewel is the opened book. 
  • Tyler (or Tiler)- Perhaps one of the most important officer positions within the Lodge is the Tyler. It is his duty to ensure that only those who are qualified enter the Lodge room, and that there are no eavesdroppers or unneccessary interruptions. It is also his job to ensure that all who enter the Lodge room are wearing a Masonic apron. His symbol is the sword, and he also carries (a not very sharp) one. 
  • Other officers There are many other officer positions, although these tend to vary from Lodge to Lodge, as well as from Grand Lodge to Grand Lodge. These include: Inner Guard, Chaplain, Director of Ceremonies/Ritualist, Marshal, Senior and Junior Master of Ceremony, Almoner, Organist/Director of Music, Superintendent of Works, Immediate Past Master, Orator, Historian, Charity Steward, Poet Laureate, and Pursuivant.

Whew! I know that is a lot of information, so be sure and re-read it a few times if you feel like you didn’t absorb any of the information. There are also officer positions that only exist at the Grand Lodge level, but I will not be covering those at this time.

I hope everyone has a great week, and if anyone is in eastern Nebraska, and is interested in attending a Ladies at the Table on Saturday, send me a message!