It’s that time of year again. The air is cooler, the leaves are changing, and the kiddos are getting excited.Halloween is coming! If you don’t have any idea what your Halloween costume will be, perhaps some of these famous Freemasons can give you some ideas.
There’s American singer and cowboy actor Roy Rogers
Harpo Marx, the second oldest Marx brother
Colonel Sanders, founder of KFC
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the composer
Or, if you’re looking for a costume for the whole family, why not the Ringling Brothers?
Masonic hate groups have been around for as long as Freemasonry has exisited, and, with the help of the internet, they are more vocal than ever. I have no doubt that if you are open about your affiliation with Masonry, at some point, you will come into contact with someone filled with nothing but hatred for the organization. Almost weekly it seems that I receive emails asking me how I can stand to be involved with such a sinister group. I try to do what I can, but not everyone wants to listen to the truth. So what should be done when you encounter a person like this?
Brief history of Anti-Masons
Soon after the organization of UGLE, I will admit, some things got out of hand. It was not uncommon for the majority of government officials in a city to all be Masons, often blindly voting someone into office just because they were a brother. I’m not saying it was everywhere, but there were definitely people out there abusing the system and using their position of being a brother to help secure them, or their friends, into a position of power.
As you can imagine, the general public was not so gung ho about this idea. In 1828, after the Morgan affair occurred, a group of people got together and formed the Anti-Masonic party. This was kind of a big deal, because this was the first third party in America. They were a single platform party, and that platform was, you guessed it, being against Freemasonry.
Although they never really accomplished much as a party, aside from having a presidential candidate, they did leave a legacy behind. They were the first to use a lot of innovative techniques that are still being used today in the political world, such as nominating conventions and party newspapers. It also assisted with, and merged into the Whig party, which elected four U.S. presidents, which in turn, merged into the Republican party. So basically, a bunch of people hating Freemasonry is why we now have the Republican party today.
Around that same time, a number of states passed legislation restricting and regulating Freemasonry itself. In 1833, Vermont passed a law stating that the giving and willingly taking a unnecessary oath was a crime. The state of New York also created the Benevolent Orders law in order to regulate Freemasonry and similar organizations. These laws are still in effect, and if you would like to, you can do so here. http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/nycode/BVO/1
Please don’t take anything in this video seriously. This guy obviously has no idea what he’s talking about.
Masonic hate today
And, it continues. Not as openly as it once was, but to be fair, Masonry is not as out in the public eye as it once was either. Both sides of the argument tend to have a fairly strong online presence, which can be both a blessing, and a curse. While searching online simply for “Freemasonry” will not usually show you those opposed to Masonry, many other searches will, most notably “freemason secrets”.
Many people out there believe that Freemasonry is a secret society. This is not true at all. If Freemasonry was a secret society, you would barely know of their existence. They wouldn’t have pancake dinners, or own hospitals, they would do their best not to be known at all. A better example of a secret society would be something more along the lines of Skull and Bones (moreso before the movie). Instead, Freemasonry is a society with secrets. Freemasonry has a few secrets, and I will tell you them right now. Their secrets are their handshakes, ways to recognize each other, and some parts of the ritual work. They are not very well kept secrets however, and if you really really wanted to, you could find all of these secrets online.
Most of the anti-Masonry groups don’t like the idea that Freemasonry has secrets. There are many people who feel they are being lied to, or that there are more secrets than actually exist. Sadly, these groups often include the wives of Freemasons, who feel that they are being lied to by their spouses. If you ever find yourself on either side of this issue, I highly recommend that you look into counseling. Communication is a major component of a relationship, and it can be difficult when one is involved in a group like Masonry. The non-Masonic partner may also find that becoming involved with the Lodge, and other affiliated organizations helps ease the issue.
A lot of people say a lot of crazy things about Freemasonry. That we worship the devil. That we’re a corrupt society that wants to control the government. That we are the Illuminati. The most important thing you can do when you come across things like this is educate yourself. Don’t just know that that’s incorrect, but know why its incorrect. Learn what you can. Check out last week’s post on Masonic education for some resources. And of course, if you aren’t sure, ask. Also, if you want to hear some crazy theories about Freemasonry, check out YouTube, especially our good friend Creflo Dollar.
What to do when faced with Masonic hate
So, you’re hanging out with your friends, and you casually mention you’re going to the Lodge for dinner tonight. At some point in your life, someone will say, “Oh, is that for the Freemason stuff? Don’t they like, slaughter goats or something?” At this point, you have a few options, but only a few are positive ones. You could tell them no, laugh it off, and that’s the end of that. A better option, if possible, is to take this time to educate them on the subject. You don’t need to go into great depth unless they are genuinely interested, simply saying something like, “Not quite, most of our evenings are spent paying bills and donating money.” If they appear to want to know more, discuss what you can with them. Loan them your copy of “Is It True What They Say About Freemasonry?”. Help educate them. This will benefit themselves, yourself, and Freemasonry as a whole as well. Remember- that save for the cipher (if your jurisdiction uses it) and other ritual books, pretty much any Masonic book is available for anyone to read, regardless of whether or not they are a Mason.
However, what if you’re hanging out on Facebook, and you see a post shared by a friend of a friend. It says something along the lines of, “It was proven from Masonic books that Masons worship both Lucifer and Satan. They serve both the “good” Lucifer and the “evil” Satan.” (Yes, this is taken from a real website; not sure which books they were looking at.) What do you do if you come across that, or someone says something like that to you? Nothing. No, you heard me correctly. Don’t do anything. This is actually a lesson directly from Masonic ritual, and unfortunately often fuels the haters, because the Masons never speak up and deny anything. Your best bet is to just walk away.
Hopefully you will never have to use any of these tactics, but odds are, it will happen to you eventually. Just do your best to remain calm; it can become a heated topic very quickly. Work on being able to recognize when someone wants to actually learn or have a discussion about Freemasonry, and when it is just better for both of you to just walk away from the situation. And please, please, if you find yourself in a situation where you are having troubles about Freemasonry between yourself and your spouse, seek help. Sometimes even just having a third party that can act as a mediator can make all the difference in the world.
My grandmother died on Sunday. It was unexpected, though long coming. She was definitely getting up there in age, and had been diabetic for most of her life. She was never a member of OES, but was a Rainbow girl, and both of her parents were heavily involved in Masonry. In fact, her father was the one that I put on my own petition for Star. Within the Masonic community, death is something that is talked about, that we are reminded of constantly, and not just because of the aging membership.
Masonic Ritual and Death
Death is a reoccurring theme throughout various Masonic degrees. For instance, the major theme of the first degree, Entered Apprentice, is birth; for the Fellowcraft, childhood and becoming a man; for the Master Mason, our own mortality. Symbols discussed during the third degree include the hourglass, an emblem of the human life, and a reminder that we should use each minute wisely; the scythe, an emblem of time, that cuts “the brittle thread of life”; the setting maul, an emblem of causalities or diseases that may kill us; the spade, which digs our graves; the coffin, which contains our remains. The final symbol is one of hope, however, the sprig of acacia, which is evergreen, and reminds us that we have an immortal part that survives the grave.
When becoming a member of the Scottish Rite, as well as some other degrees, the candidate is placed in a chamber of reflection before being called upon to receive his degree. These chambers usually contain items that remind us of death and time, such as a skull, a sickle or scythe, an hourglass, and a candle. The idea here is that the candidate should take this time to meditate on how Freemasonry has and will change his life. He may be asked about his duties to his fellow men, himself, and God. Sometimes he is also asked to make a will while in the chamber.
A common symbol seen within and without of Masonry, is the skull and crossbones. Within Masonry, the symbol is most often seen within chambers of reflection or on tracing boards, used for teaching Masonic symbols. The skull and crossbones stands as the symbol for the phrase “momento mori”, which translates from Latin as “remember death” or “remember you must die”. It has been said that the skull and crossbones “stands as the primary reminder that death is ever immanent”. Some brothers choose a lighter thought, however, and feel that the skull and crossbones is not associated with death, but instead with rebirth, and serves as a reminder of the temporal worth that calls for spiritual and intellectual awakening.
The topic of death follows Masons even outside of the Lodge room. Many towns and cities have their own Masonic graveyards, that usually require that the person being buried be in good standing with a Lodge at the time of their death, as well as their spouse. Even at a non-Masonic graveyard, you will find square and compasses, the Eastern star, and many other Masonic symbols on the headstones.
There is also a public Masonic funeral ritual that all Masons are afforded if they are in good standing at the time of their death. Below is a recreation of the service.
A few of the other Masonic groups have their own ritual as well.These include Eastern Star, Templars (theirs is super awesome), and even DeMolay. There are also special ceremonies done during open Lodge/Chapter/etc to remember members who have passed. These are usually done once a year.
I want to leave you with the final paragraph that is said to the candidate at the end of the Master Mason degree. I encourage you to meditate on them yourself.
“Thus my Brother, we close our lecture on the emblems, with the solemn thought of death. We are all born to die. We follow our friends to the brink of the grave; and, standing on the shore of a vast and boundless ocean, we gaze with exquisite anxiety until the last struggle is over, and we see them sink into the fathomless abyss. We feel our own feet slipping from the precarious brink on which we stand. A few more rolling suns and we, too, will be ‘whelmed, ‘neath death’s awful wave, to rest in its stilly shades; and darkness and silence will reign around our melancholy abode.”
So, this week, I will be discussing an extremely controversial topic, arguably more so than the topic of women becoming Masons. I ask everyone reading this to please keep an open mind, and remember that we are all human beings with feelings and emotions of our own. If you have any questions about anything covered this week, please do not hesitate to ask.
Recently, something was brought to my attention that caused me to look further into the policies and relationships regarding transgender folk and the Masonic community. It was met with a lot of ignorance, and I hope for this post to help educate everyone out there in hopes that we can get on the same page and make a better Masonic community for everyone.
Alright. Let’s back up, and go over some definitions that you may or may not be familiar with. If you are more of a visual learner, check out the gingerbread man below. Think of these things as more of being on a spectrum, than hard and fast rules.
Gender Identity– How you, in your head, see yourself as far as your gender. This includes influences of hormones and how you may interpret them. Common gender identities include woman/female, man/male, bi-gendered (both male and female), genderless, and genderqueer (some mixture of male, female, both, or neither).
Gender expression- How you, in your everyday life, choose to express your gender to others. Common gender expressions include masculine, feminine, and androgynous. Ways to express your gender include clothes, the way you act and behave, the social rules you choose to follow or break, and the way that you interact with others.
Biological Sex- What’s in-between your legs. A measurable characteristic that includes sex organs, chromosomes, hormone levels and other related things. Biological sexes include male, female, and intersex (a medical condition where a child has a mixture of male and female sex organs)
Sexual Orientation- What’s in your heart. That is, who you’re attracted to. Common sexual orientations include straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and asexual (not attracted to anyone). Please know that these four identities (gender identity, gender expression, biological sex, and sexual orientation) can vary wildly from one another.
Transgender- Literally “across gender”. Someone who is transgender feels that their biological sex does not match their gender identity. Transgender is an umbrella term that encompasses anyone who crosses over or challenges their societies traditional gender roles or expressions. Some transgender folk may change their gender expression or biological sex to match their gender identity, some may not. Some transgender identities include Male to Female (someone born male and became female, MtF), Female to Male ( someone born female who became male,FtM), agender (without gender), bi-gender (both genders) and genderqueer (“weird” gender, usually some mix of gender identities. Often shortened to trans.
Cisgender- The opposite of transgender. This describes most people. Your gender identity matches the one assigned at birth (“It’s a boy!”). Cisgender includes male and female. Often shortened to cis.
Transition(ing)- When someone who identifies as trans, chooses to change their outward appearance and gender gender expression to match their gender identity. This may include going by a new name, wearing clothing of their chosen gender, and using different bathrooms. Not everyone who is transgender chooses to transition.
Preferred pronouns- Often, someone who is transgender may have different pronouns (he, him, she, her, they, them) than what you may be used to using. For instance, you might meet someone that you see as male, but they identity as female. If you aren’t sure, ask. It may seem a little rude, but its less rude than referring to someone the wrong way (think of it a bit like calling someone the wrong name). When in down, use they/them/their, or avoid using pronouns by simply always using the person’s name. Never refer to a transgender person, or someone’s gender you are not sure of as “it”. This is incredibly dehumanizing. Using a person’s preferred pronouns shows that you see them as a fellow human being, worthy of your respect.
What do I do if I met a transgender person?
Treat them like you would any other fellow human being. No, seriously. You’d be surprised. This video has an awesome narrative, is hilarious, and is a reminder, they are no less human than we are.
What in the world does this have to do with Freemasonry?
Actually, a lot. Think about it. Freemasonry is a very “male oriented” society. The Masonic community is sexist by nature. This does not need to be a bad thing, and never says anything like “women are better than men”, more like “men and women should have their own separate spaces”. They are exclusionary based on gender identity. If they get upset about women joining, think about how many of them would react to finding a trans person among their ranks.There have been a few cases that I know of. Most often, the ones that we hear about is after someone becomes a brother, and then decides to transition to female. Usually the person explains the situation to the Worshipful Master, and quietly leaves the organization before any transitioning actually occurs. This method helps keep the integrity of both the organization, and the person themselves. Unfortunately, there have been a few cases where a brother transitions to female, and has to be removed from the fraternity forcefully. So, if the question is, “Can someone who was born male, becomes a Mason, then transitions to female, remain a Mason?” The answer is no. However, someone in this case may be able to join Order of the Eastern Star, or possibly even Masonic women’s only groups. Co-Masonry may also be an option, as this issue seems to stem from the “male only” rule.
The opposite case, however, is not quite so cut and dry. If we are to ask, “Can someone who was born female, but has transitioned to male, become a Mason?” The answer is, it depends. In many jurisdictions, as long as someone is legally male, that is, they have the M gender marker on their driver’s license, that is the only requirement for membership. If a transman (FtM) passes (appears male enough that a unknowing person would assume they are male), there may be no question at all, and he may be made a Mason with many members none the wiser. However, some jurisdictions, including the Grand Lodge of Virginia, have barred transmen from petitioning. On the state’s petition, it asks if you were born male. Lying on the petition is not a great way to start a Masonic career. In the state of California, however, something like this is illegal. If you are a transgender male who is interested in persuing becoming a Mason, I highly recommend that you speak with the Worshipful Master in private. Often, Lodge email addresses will go directly to the Lodge secretary. I would recommend that you send an initial email asking for the WM’s information, and then speak only from him from there on. I wouldn’t worry too much about being outed, Masons are good at keeping secrets.
The secenarios and questions don’t stop there. “If a female was a member of OES, and then transitioned to male, could they become a Mason?” Depends on where they live, and how many Lodges are in their area. Someone in this position may find themselves blackballed very quickly. The Order of the Eastern Star is really kind of a interesting situation.”Could a female member of OES who transitions to male still be a member of OES? What about a male OES member transitioning to female?” Remember that there are different requirements for membership depending on your gender. Male members must be Master Masons, and female members must be related to a Mason in some way. “I think a member of my Lodge is transgender, what do I do?” Nothing. Chances are, someone has already worked out this situation. Please love and treat them like any other brother, and don’t speak ill of them. If you find yourself too uncomfortable, consider switching Lodges. Unfortunately, a lot of the questions out there will go unanswered, probably for years. As with many other topics in the Masonic community, there tends to be very much a “this is the way things have always been” and “I don’t like change” mentality. In addition to this, the topic of transgender members is a bit of a political one, which is something usually frowned upon in Lodge. It tends to be a very heated topic, and can bring out an ugly side of many members. For now, the best thing to say is that everything will vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, Lodge to Lodge, and situation to situation.
What does the future hold?
As I said previously, this is very much a “new” issue. As the years go on, I would imagine that many Grand Lodges and administrations for other Masonic organizations will develop policies as far as transgender folk are concerned, for better or for worse. These rulings will help greatly with these situations, though I’d imagine they will vary wildly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. As far as your own rulings on these situations, I would recommend that everyone keep an open mind and an open heart. Often we lash out against those that we do not understand. Please remember that just because someone is different from you, that they are any less human. If you are a transgender person, currently a Mason or considering joining Masonry, I recommend that you do not take the hate you will find on the internet to heart. User skipearth said it best on the Freemasonry subreddit, “We are made to love all and accept all without any hate both as Humans and as Masons.”
I went to a friend’s wedding this past weekend, and witnessed something amazing. It wasn’t the way the bride walked down the aisle, or the first song the couple danced to. My focus was much more on the supporting roles, specifically the best man and groomsmen. See, the groom in question is a former DeMolay, and a Master Mason, and so are all of his attendants. The four guys all met when they were boys in DeMolay, and although they often only saw each other at state events, as the diving time between them all is 3+ hours across the state of Nebraska. Even still, those bonds created when they were teenagers, was strong enough to last a decade or more, and they are still as involved in each others lives as ever.
Masonry is kind of funny that way. As I’ve said before, its definitely one of those things that gives what you put into it, whether its 1 night a month, or 3 a week. Whats more is that the people that you interact with within Masonic groups, any of them really, can have such a great impact on your life, even if you might not notice it for years to come. This is the power of fellowship, or brotherhood or sisterhood that Masonry offers us. Sometimes I feel that fellowship is something that is often discussed, but rarely actively sought. I would imagine that the goal of most Lodges/Chapters/etc. is for the bond of brotherhood to follow from the Lodge activities.
Unfortunately, many Lodges and Chapters tend to be behind the times as far as activities that can help strengthen the bond of the group. In my own Chapter, for instance, there tends to be a large age gap between the members. The majority of the members are over the age of 60, with a handful of us under 35. This can be a bit jarring, as the older crowd feels that a bridge party is a great idea, while the younger group would rather take their families to meet up at the zoo. So, what can be done? Often when we are looking for change, we are hit with the wall of, “That’s how it’s always been done,” which is great for say, ritual, but not so much when it comes to fellowship and fundraising activities. I read an interesting antic dote about this issue.
Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under the banana. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, researchers spray all the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result… all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it. Now, put the cold water away. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the stairs. To his shock, all the other monkeys assault him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted. Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm, because he is now part of the “team” and has learned the rules. Now, the monkeys that are beating him up have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. Finally, having replaced all of the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairs for the banana. If they could talk, they would simply say, “We’ve always done it that way.”
So, how can we avoid becoming these monkeys, or breaking the cycle if we already find ourselves in it? The simplest thing you can do, is provide a variety of fellowship activities. This means having both the bridge party and the zoo outing. This may mean that you have less people showing up to each event, but it may mean that much more to those who do come. The age gap is a much harder issue, and one that affects the majority of Masonic groups. While I am not one to say that you cannot have fellowship and become friends with the generation or two before you, it is much easier when you have things in common, which is usually defined by age. Most ladies in my Chapter still carry flip phones and paper calendars, while all of mine is on my iPhone. It may seem like a silly trivial difference, but you would be amazed at how alienating it can feel. The best solution to this is to find more folks in your age group that are interested in joining and being active. This, however, is often easier said than done. Another simple way increase fellowship and strengthen that bond with your fellow members is simply to be active, and give it time. As simple as that sounds, I have had many months where I am simply too busy to attend Star, and I know that it hurts my relationship with my fellow members. Go as often as you reasonably can.
How can we have a bond as strong as those four former DeMolays? For some of us, it may never happen. Sometimes it is just being in the right place at the right time. More often though, it is hard work that creates that bond. Making yourself both active and available; faking it until you make it can go a long way. There’s many strategies out there for attempting to increase the bond of fellowship. However, there’s nothing quite as good as being dedicated to your organization and fellow members. Everything else will follow in suite.
Hope everyone out there had a safe and fun 4th of July. Although the holiday is over, I wanted to touch on the spirit of it, patriotism, and how Masonry uses it as one of its pillars of foundation. If you’re looking for the winners of the Handbook for the Freemason’s Wife giveaway, you will find that at the end of this post.
Many of us who are Freemasons or members of Masonic groups, know how deeply rooted we are in patriotism. However, sometimes I think that even we do not realize quite how deeply seeded this virtue is held throughout the community. The opening of every Chapter, Lodge, Bethel, etc, includes the Pledge of Allegiance, but I think that it goes far deeper than that. I think that Brother John Hillman said it best in a speech on the topic at during the communication of the Grand Lodge of Iowa,
“The candidate for the benefits of Freemasonry is halted on the very threshold to be admonished that piety and patriotism are supreme virtues, and he is assured that Masonry has no mantle of protection for the man who is a traitor to his country.” (Brotherhood,11)
Wow. We know that piety, or godliness is a big deal is Masonry, I mean, its a membership requirement for just about every affiliated organization; and to put patriotism on the same level? Obviously, love for one’s country is a huge deal within the Masonic community, if it is to be held at such a high standard. Really, if you think about it, many of the other virtues and lessons taught within Masonic groups can be seen as components of patriotism. For instance, the Cardinal Virtues of DeMolay, are Filial love, Reverence for sacred things, Courtesy, Comradeship, Fidelity, Cleanness, and Patriotism. Almost all of these virtues can be seen as components of patriotism in one way or another. The idea that if one is patriotic, that many of these other virtues will follow with ease is not hard to imagine.
I think that a lot of the reasoning for why patriotism is so deeply rooted is due to when it was officially founded, and some of its early key members. The United Grand Lodge of England, or UGLE, was founded officially in 1717, almost 60 years before the Declaration of Independence. Freemasonry reached the colonies not too long after. In many ways, Masons helped shape America, as you may or may not know. There are a number of books on the topic, but I will touch briefly on it here.
On December 13, 1773, after a Masonic meeting, it was decided that the tea laden ships entering the Boston harbor should not be allowed to dock. After the signal given by Samuel Adams; John Hancock, Paul Revere, and a band of others, boarded the boats and dumped the tea overboard. They were (most) all members of the Boston Masonic Lodge
On April 18,1775, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were arrested for treason for their actions. Joseph Warren, also a Mason, rang the alarm bells of the city of Boston. Paul Revere went on his famous ride to call the Minutemen to arms, and so the Revolutionary War began.
On April 19, 1783, almost eight years to the day that the Revolutionary War began, the Commander in Chief, George Washington, declared the war was over, and signed a peace treaty. He was of course, a member of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22. During the time of the war, the head of the First Congressional Congress, Peyton Randolf, as well as the head of the Second and Third Congressional Congresses, John Hancock, we also Masonic brothers.
August 2, 1776, many of members of the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, and signed the Declaration of Independence. Nine of the signers were known Freemasons. One of the signers is recorded as having visited a Lodge, and as many as 18 other signers are suspected Freemasons. The known signers are as follows: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas McKean, Robert Treat, William Emery, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, Richard Stockton, George Walton, and William Whipple. Another not oft thought of fact known about the Deceleration of Independence. It was written and signed on parchment paper, which we usually just think of as paper. However, before paper was commercially made, parchment was made out of thin slices of sheep skin, the very same material that Masonic aprons are made of.
Hopefully this has helped given some insight into why patriotism is such a big deal within the Masonic community. Please note that this does not end in the United States. Patriotism is considered a core value in Masonic groups throughout the world, with of course, their own countries being the core focus. Many countries out there have some key players throughout their history that our Masons. The United States, however, to my knowledge is one of the few (if not the only) country where a number of Masons played such a big role in helping shape and create their country.
Now the moment I know you’ve all been waiting for! The winners of The Handbook for the Freemason’s Wife giveaway are Fresh From the Quarry and Jessica Ropke! Congratulations! Please send your contact information to email@example.com, and your book will be in the mail shortly. I want to thank everyone who took the time to enter, hopefully we can do something similar again in the near future. Have a great week!
Often, Masonry touches all of our lives, and we don’t even know it. Many people know a child who has been seen at the Shiner’s hospitals, or at the very least, have gone to a Shine circus or parade. These are usually things that the general public do not realize are run by Masons at all; often even people who attend these events do not even know what Masons are. The article this week will be a bit shorter than normal. There are a lot of short, sometimes silly little facts that have to deal with Freemasonry that don’t really fit into anywhere else. If it seems that this is well received, I may do similar posts in the future.
A brother was initiated into a Lodge while flying over Paris in a hot air balloon in 1879.
The record number of degrees given in a calendar year is held by Gate City Lodge #522 in Kansas City, Missouri. They met every day of the week, except for Sunday, and conferred 1,107 degrees in 1920. That’s an average of 21 degrees a week!
When Freemasonry first began, the majority of the members were Entered Apprentices, because only the Grand Lodge could raise them, and few got that privilege. They had only one sign, one token and one word; these were referred to as the honors. A Mason who was raised by the Grand Lodge had three signs, three tokens and three words, these were referred to as the Grand Honors. Many Grand Lodges still use the term Grand Honors to describe the highest honorary greeting that shows appreciation for someone who has gone above and beyond in their service for the Grand Lodge.
The laying of a cornerstone – the first stone placed when building a new building, came from the stonemasons guild. Freemasons continue this tradition and have a public ritual that can be done when a new building is built.
There have been a number of famous Masons, including:
o Charles Darwin –scientist and explorer
o Buzz Aldrin – first man on the moon
o Nine of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, including Benjamin Franklin
o Thirteen of the 39 signers of the U.S. Constitution, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington
o Fourteen U.S. Presidents
o Edward Jenner- discovered the cure for smallpox
o Alexander Fleming- discovered penicillin
o John Wayne- actor
o John Elway- football player
You can thank the Lodges in Lousiana for your profiencies (also known as proving up, showing that you have a certain passage from your degree memorized before moving onto the next), they started the practice in 1850.
When someone is under a lot of questioning, they may ask why they are “getting the third degree”. This phrase may have originated with the amount of questioning a initiate receives when receiving the Master Mason, or third, degree.
Know a non-Mason that sports a square and compass? In the court case of Hammer vs. the state of Indiana, in 1909, the Supreme Court ruled that it is a criminal offense to wear a symbol or emblem of an organization that you are not a member of. The reasoning behind it was that organizations with selective membership go through the process of determining whether or not the person is a good fit for the organization or society, and that wearing an emblem that of a group you are not a member of is deceitful and gives a false pretense.
There is a Masonic flag at both the North and South pole, as well as a fez at the North. These were planted by Brothers Richard Byrd and Bernt Balchen. They were dropped from their airplane when they flew overhead. When they returned to the North pole, Bro. Blachen dropped his fez from the airplane.
In 1872, theCommissionerof Patents that no one will be able to hold a trademark or trade name on the square and compass symbol for commercial purposes. This holds true today, and allows all of the different companies to make Masonic apparel.
I hope that you enjoyed this change of pace; as I said before, there are thousands of trivia bits when it comes to Freemasonry. Many of them cannot be fact checked, unfortunately , which is why I went with the ones that could be. If you have any questions, or know any Masonic trivia of your own, please feel free to contact me here, or at firstname.lastname@example.org Next week I will be looking at the Masonic ring. As always, have a wonderful week!
Today is one of those holidays that no one really celebrates except the post office and some banks. Kids will learn about it in school, but unless you have children of your own, I am sure that President’s Day is far from your mind. I wanted to serve as a reminder of the holiday today.
There are only 14 presidents who were also Freemasons, not all 43 like many conspiracy theorists would have you believe. They are:
If you would like to learn more about any of these men, check out this link, which includes dates, and Lodges of membership.
Many other presidents have Masonic rumors about them.
-Many people believe that Abraham Lincoln was a Mason, but he never went through with the degrees. He did turn in an application, but decided to wait to join until after the presidential election, so that it would not appear that he was joining only to seek votes. Sadly, he was assassinated before he was ever able to return.
-Lyndon Johnson received the Entered Apprentice degree, but he chose not to go further after being elected to congress in 1937. He felt that his congressional duties took up too much time.
-Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are both believed to be Masons, but at this time, their membership has not yet been confirmed.
-Ronald Regan is not a Mason, but is an honorary member of the Shrine.
-Bill Clinton was a DeMolay, but never became a Mason.
The Unfinished Portrait of George Washington
What’s the deal with George Washington?
If you have ever been in a Lodge room, and had time to look around, chances are that you would have seen a portrait of George Washington on the wall. It might seem a bit out of place to you. However, Washington was a extremely prominent figure, both in U.S. history, government, and Freemasonry. It is said that he embodied the ideals of both America and Freemasonry, so US Masons tend to revel him. Some Lodges may refer to him as “the perfect Ashlar”, a end goal for every Mason. The concept of each state having its own jurisdiction in Masonry, parallel Washington’s ideal of state’s rights. We use both of these models today. Any portarit of George Washington may be displayed within a Lodge, but the unfinished portrait of Washington done by Gilbert Stuart tends to be the most common.
I hope you enjoyed this short history lesson. Have a wonderful week!
The end of the year is just around the corner; but before we get to New Year’s there’s one last item to scratch off your list: Christmas. Buying Christmas presents can be overwhelming, not only as far as prices, but sometimes finding the “right” thing to buy someone is just as difficult. I would know- T and I ended up buying for 15 people this year! If you have someone who is a Mason, or who is involved in an apendant body, or is even interested in Masonry, there are tons of options out there for you to choose from, in a large range of prices. So fire up your Amazon Prime (worth it!), and let’s scratch some people off your gift list.
You can never go wrong with a book. There’s hundreds of books on Freemasonry and its related subjects, possibly even more. Here’s some I recommend.
Written by Bro. Hodapp, Freemasons for Dummies is an excellent book. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Masonry, whose SO is a Mason, is a new Mason, or has been involved in the craft for years. It covers a wide range of topics, from the History of the Templars, to top ten lists of Masonry. It is a wonderful resource, and I really feel that anyone who has even the slightest inkling of interest in Freemasonry read it. T and I have both read it cover to cover, and I use it as a resource for writing here.
A Bridge to Light is essentially an abridged version of Morals and Dogma. It describes all of the degrees of Scottish Rite Masonry, including a brief synopsis of each degree, as well as the regalia for each degree. It also gives the bottom line, and gives the virtue that each degree is trying to convey. I would not recommend this for someone who is not already a Scottish Rite Mason. Knowing what is coming with degree work really takes a lot of the magic out of it. This book is totally okay for any wives or non-Masons to read, as it gives away no secrets. As a bonus, its required reading for the Master Craftsman Program!
Okay, so, The Lost Symbol is a work of fiction. I repeat, this is a work of fiction. See how it’s written by Dan Brown? That’s how you know its fiction. That being said, it’s a pretty decent work of fiction. The reason I recommend this book, is the amount of accuracy within it. Yes, not everything said about Masons in it is true, but a lot of it is. Brown really did his homework for this one. It’s also an upcoming film.
There are tons of books out there, from Masonic history, to philosophy, to ritual assistance. If you aren’t sure what someone’s specific interests are, and these three don’t seem to fit the bill, I would start with The Lost Word, an online Masonic book retailer.
There are thousands of different types of jewelry related to Masonic organizations. Rings, necklaces, earrings, cufflinks, tie clips, if its shiny, they will put a S&C on it. Bear in mind that the vast majority of this stuff is from India, and not so great high quality heirloom kind of stuff. If you are okay with that, I will stick a list at the bottom of the “major” masonic retailers where you can get all sorts of stuff.
When buying a gift, usually the one thing you want to stay away from is a ring. Rings, especially for Master Masons, are a very personal thing, and is usually picked out by the individual, given to them by their mentor, or passed down in the family. If you are looking for Masonic rings, some good stores are JemsByJem, and MasonicRings.
For everything else, check out the mass market shops, Amazon, The Master’s Jewel, or, surprisingly, Etsy. There’s a lot out there on Etsy, but be sure to search for something like “square and compass ring” instead of “mason ring”, unless you want a ring made from a mason jar.
As I said above, if they can put a square and compass or other masonic symbol on something, they will. Hats, shirts, motorcycle jackets, ties, gloves, you name it, you can buy it. Again, the mass market shops have the largest variety, but there are also a lot of smaller shops out there. Grip or Token is awesome for baseball and stocking caps, and I think that Fraternal Ties can’t be beat for ties and pocket squares.
Posters, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments and more, they can all be purchased with a Masonic flair. Again, the mass market shops will give you the widest range of items. But don’t discount the little guy. The Masonic Family Catalog by Klitzner has some oddities. Who knew I always wanted a Shrine purse hanger? Fossil Bluff makes some really gorgeous pens and other handmade gifts. Even the Scottish Rite store has a pretty decent selection.Your Grand Lodge may even sell some items on their website. Don’t forget, if you are looking for something really specific to be made, you might want to ask a seller on Etsy, or even try your hand on Thumbtack.
These shops are essentially mass market shops. They churn out a ton of items, at a decent price. There is nothing wrong with this, however, sometimes their quality tends to be a bit lacking. However, they do, in my experience have the largest selection of cloth goods by far, as well as a wide variety of rings. These are the guys that usually come and sell items at Grand Lodge. They are however, pretty good as far as out of print books are concerned. If you are after a hard to find book, for example, The Eastern Star; The Evolution from a Rite to an Order, these places are going to be your best bet.
With the end of the year approaching, I wanted to both tie up some loose ends, as well as review the information I put up this year (which was a lot!). One of the items that has been on my to do list for a while, is to start creating a Masonic dictionary of sorts. There is one out there, but it tends to be more like an encyclopedia, and I wanted to create something short and sweet, and easier to digest. I hope to be updating the layout of the website after the holidays, so this will be something that will be permanently available, and always being updated.
Mason- A member of any Masonic Lodge that is recognized by its respective Grand Lodge. Also called a Freemason, or a speculative Mason.
Blue Lodge– Encompasses the first three degrees of Freemasonry. This is what most people think of when they hear the word “Freemasonry”.
Lodge- Can refer to going to meetings for Blue Lodge, a collective group of Masons that meet together, or the building that they meet in.
Worshipful Master- Acts as president and presides over all Lodge meetings for their respective Lodge. Is traditionally elected to the position. It is usually abbreviated as WM. For more on Lodge officers, look here.
Degree- A set of lessons, lectures, and floorwork presented to a candidate, that involves an oath.
Entered Apprentice- The first degree of Blue Lodge. Usually abbreviated as EA.
Fellowcraft- The second degree of Blue Lodge. Usually abbreviated as FC.
Master Mason- The third degree of Blue Lodge. This is often called the highest degree of all Masonry, due to its lessons. Usually abbreviated as MM.
The East- Historically a place of honor, as it is the direction the sun rises. In a Masonic Lodge, all business is conducted facing the East, and the WM sits in the East, facing the rest of the Lodge room.
Supreme Architect- This is how God is referred to most of the time within Masonic ritual. The idea is that it allows for Masonry to not be constrained to any one religion.
G- Often seen within the square and compass, G refers to many things within Masonry, the two major one being God, and geometry, the sacred art of Masons.
Square and compass- The universal symbol of Masonry. To learn more about its meaning, look here.
Sign of the good shepherd- Arms crossed, left over right, palms on the chest. This is the way that Master Masons and other Masonic groups pray. It is a symbol of a shepherd carrying a lamb on his back.
One rap of the gavel-The gavel, used by the WM in Lodge or other functions, helps communicate what needs to be done to those present. One rap of the gavel is a signal for all standing to be seated, or for everyone to be quiet and pay attention to the WM.
Two raps- Two raps of the gavel is a signal for all officers to stand.
Three raps- Three raps of the gavel is a signal for everyone in the Lodge, Masons or not, to stand if they are able.
So mote it be- This is the response given by Masons after the word “Amen” is said by the WM or chaplain. It simply means, “so may it be”, and is an affirmative of the prayer.
Grand Lodge- This group works as sort of an administration for all Lodges that belong to it in the state. It has its own officers and office.
Prince Hall- A branch of Freemasonry that is populated mostly by African Americans. There may be visitation between Prince Hall Lodges and Blue Lodges in your state. This varies from state to state.
York Rite- A branch of Freemasonry that started in England. The degrees pick up where the MM degree left off, and include Royal Arch, Cryptic Masons, and the Knights Templar.
Royal Arch- The first set of degrees within York Rite. It includes the Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason (sometimes called Holy Royal Arch) degrees.
Cryptic Masons- The second set of degrees within York Rite. It includes the Royal Master, Select Master, and Super Excellent Master degrees.
Knights Templar- The third set of degrees within York Rite, referred to as orders. They include the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross, The Passing Order of St. Paul, The Order of the Knights of Malta, and the Order of the Temple.
Scottish Rite- A branch of Freemasonry that started in France (despite the name). It too picks up where the MM degree left off. It includes four bodies.
Lodge of Perfection- the first set of degrees of the Scottish Rite. It includes degrees 4-14.
Chapter of Rose Croix– The second set of degrees of the Scottish Rite. It includes degrees 15-18.
Council of Kadosh- The third set of degrees of the Scottish Rite. It includes degrees 19-30.
Consistory- The fourth set of degrees of the Scottish Rite. It includes degrees 31 and 32.
Court of Honour- A court within Scottish Rite where membership is through invitation only, usually after it is felt someone goes above and beyond for Masonry in the area. It contains the 33rd degree.
Shrine–An appendant body of Freemasonry, once called the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Members must be Master Masons.
Temple- The building in which Shriners meet, akin to a Lodge.
Divan- The board of directors for a specific Shrine Temple.
Shiners Hospital- The major charity for the Shrine, a network of 22 hospitals in North America, that provide children with care for burns, orthopedic issues, and more, regardless of the family’s ability to pay.
Order of the Eastern Star– The Blue Lodge auxiliary group whose membership is extended to women related to a Master Mason, as well as Master Masons. Commonly abbreviated OES, or Star.
WM- Worthy Matron, head of a chapter of OES. Not to be confused with a Worshipful Master.
Daughters of the Nile- The Shrine auxiliary group whose membership is open to women related to a Master Mason, or another member of Daughters of the Nile. Usually shortened to Daughters.
DeMolay– A Blue Lodge auxiliary group for young men 12-21. Relation to a Master Mason is not required.
Rainbow for Girls– A Blue Lodge auxiliary group for young girls 11-21. Relation to a Master Mason is not required.