Masonic Halloween

Just a reminder that Halloween is this Friday. If this is news to you, you may want to start thinking of a costume. Why not a famous Freemason? Here’s some examples to get those creative juices flowing.

There’s Frontiersman David Crockett

Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s

Master Escape Artist Harry Houdini

Shaquille O’Neal, former NBA star

Of course, we can’t forget the ladies! Always popular are Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross

And Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie, both of whom are members of OES.

Of course, if you really run out of time, there’s always…

…the conspiracy theorist.

If you do end up dressing like a famous Freemason, let me know! I would love to showcase your costume here. As always, have a wonderful week, and a safe and fun Halloween!

Masonic Costumes

Halloween is coming up, so I figured now would be the perfect time to discuss some Masonic costumes. Not for Halloween mind you, we will save that for next week, but the traditional garb worn by Masons and other affiliated organizations worn at meetings or for other purposes. Please keep in mind that many of these outfits are only worn for special occasions, or not at all, these are simply the traditional outfits.

You may see other garb worn at Lodge, Scottish or York Rite, but these are usually only used for degree work, and then, usually only during special times (competitions, full form degrees, and the like). Also know that many Lodges or chapters may not have access to the extensive costumes that others do. I know that many of the costumes kept at our Scottish Rite have been around since the 1960’s or even earlier, most are hand sewn, and since they tend to not be used very often, they are for the most part in very good shape. If you ever get a chance to see a Masonic costume room, I highly recommend it. There is a large variety of costumes, and the amount of time and work that went into making them is astounding.

Blue Lodge

This is the costume or outfit that you are most likely to see, although usually a more simplistic version. During Lodge, a Mason will wear an apron that is either plain white, or has the symbol of his office on it (if he is an officer) unless he is taking his Entered Apprentice degree, in which case he will wear no apron at all, until he is presented with his lambskin apron. The apron is a symbol of the purity of life. In addition to this, officers will also wear the jewel of their office, simply the symbol of their office on a cord. You can read more about the symbols of the offices here. The picture above is that of a member of the Grand Lodge, someone who holds a state office. The only difference between a Grand Lodge officer and a Lodge officer’s garb is the degree of ornateness. The Grand Lodge aprons and jewels are often very showy. In Canada, the aprons may be red and gold instead of blue and gold.

The Shrine

As T just eloquently put it, “The fez is the apron of the Shrine.” You will not ever see anyone wear both an apron and a fez, and in fact, in cases where both would be appropriate, the apron supersedes the fez. As I have discussed before, the Shrine was inspired by a play set in the Middle East, and incorporated many components of that into its ritual and other work. The fez takes its name from the holy city Fez, Morocco. Like Blue Lodge Masons, Shiners also wear a jewel of office. These may be on a cord, as in Blue Lodge, or on a pin, as shown here. Often, an officer will also receive a fez that has the title of his office, in addition to his plain fez.

York Rite

Royal Arch Masons within the York Rite rock the red jacket and apron. Other than that, the idea is the same as Blue Lodge, jewel and apron of office when appropriate. Shown is a member of a local Chapter.

Cryptic Masons within York Rite also follow the same garb laid out by Blue Lodge, although they use purple instead of blue. Again, same general idea. Shown is a member of  a Grand Cryptic Council.

The Templars easily have the coolest Masonic costume outside of those used for degree work. The big fluffy hat is called a chapeau, and all members receive a sword during their initiation. All of the swords are silver or steel, except for the Commander’s (Templar equivalent of WM), which is gold. Crosses are used throughout the costume, as a requirement of joining the Templars is a belief in Christianity (or at least a willingness to fight for them). The entire outfit provokes thoughts of the military. The entire outfit replaces the apron.

Scottish Rite

There are over 15 different hats worn within the Scottish Rite, all symbolizing different degrees and statuses. The two you will see most often however, are the 32nd and 33rd degree hats. The 32nd degree hat is shown above. Often, aprons are not worn at Scottish Rite meetings, except for degree work, and even then sometimes the candidate is the only one who finds himself in one. This may vary from Consistory to Consistory of course. Unlike other appendant bodies, the hat and the apron may be worn together.

There are many different variations on the 33rd degree hat for Scottish Rite, but it will always be white. Many other hats exist for the Scottish Rite, and they vary greatly in color, ornateness, and jurisdiction. They are, however, generally all the same shape.

Many other Masonic costumes exist out there. Job’s Daughters has a traditional gown, Rainbow has a color system for their courts. DeMolay has a traditional outfit as well, and it includes a cape! In addition to these, there are countless outfits for degree work, which are usually not used too often; alas, that is a different article altogether.

What a Relief!

I would like to start things a bit differently this week with a story:

A young man passed a pawnbroker’s shop. The money lender was standing in front of his shop, and the young man noted that he was wearing a large and beautiful Masonic emblem. After going on a whole block, apparently lost in thought, the young man turned back, stepped up to the pawnbroker, and addressed him: “I see you’re wearing a Masonic emblem. I’m a Freemason too. It happens that I’m desperately in need of $50 just now. I shall be able to repay it within ten days. You don’t know me; but I wonder whether the fact that you are a Freemason and that I am a Freemason is sufficient to induce you to lend me the money on my personal note.”

The pawnbroker mentally appraised the young man, who was clean-cut, neat and well-dressed. After a moments thought, he agreed to make the loan on the strength of the young man being a Freemason.  Within a few days the young man repaid the loan as agreed and that ended the transaction.

About four months later the young man was in a Lodge receiving the Entered Apprentice Degree; he had not really been a Mason when he borrowed the $50. After he had been admitted for the second section of the degree, the young man looked across the Lodge room and saw the pawnbroker from whom he had borrowed the $50. His face turned crimson and he became nervous and jittery. He wondered whether he had been recognized by the pawnbroker. Apparently not, so he planned at the first opportunity to leave the Lodge room and avoid his benefactor. As soon as the Lodge was closed he moved quickly for the door, but the pawnbroker had recognized the young man, headed him off and, to the young man’s astonishment, approached him and greeted him with a smile and outstretched hand.

“Well, I see you weren’t a Freemason after all when you borrowed that $50,” the pawnbroker commented.

The blood rushed to the young man’s face as he stammered, “No, I wasn’t, but I wish you’d let me explain. I had always heard that Freemasons were charitable and ready to aid a Brother in distress. When I passed your shop that day I didn’t need that $50. I had plenty of money in my wallet, but when I saw the Masonic emblem you were wearing, I decided to find out whether the things I’d heard about Freemasonry were true. You let me have the money on the strength of my being a Freemason, so I concluded that what I had heard about Masons was true, that they are charitable, that they do aid Brethren in distress. That made such a deep impression on me that I presented my petition to this Lodge and here I am. I trust that with this explanation you will forgive me for having lied to you.”

The pawnbroker responded, “Don’t let that worry you too much. I wasn’t a Freemason when I let you have the money. I had no business wearing the Masonic emblem you saw. Another man had just borrowed some money on it, and it was so pretty that I put it on my lapel for a few minutes. I took it off the moment you left. I didn’t want anyone else borrowing money on the strength of my being a Freemason. When you asked for that $50, I remembered what I had heard about Masons, that they were honest, upright, and cared for their obligations promptly. It seemed to me that $50 wouldn’t be too much to lose to learn if what I’d heard was really true, so I lent you the money and you repaid it exactly as you said you would. That convinced me that what I’d heard about Masons was true so I presented my petition to this Lodge. I was the candidate just ahead of you.”

From the January 1977 New Mexico Freemason

There are three main guidelines that Freemasons are taught, three main ideas to strive to achieve. These are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. The two others I will be discussing in a later post; the one I would like to focus on here is relief, or charity. Masons are perhaps best known for their charity work, it is one of the few things that tends to put them in the public view. First and foremost, relief refers to helping out fellow brothers. This is discussed at more length here. This does not necessarily mean that there needs to be an emergency in order for relief to be given, just that a brother is in a tight spot, and could use some assistance. The point is, if you need help, do not hesitate to ask a brother.

The more known about type of charity when it comes to Masonry is public charity. Freemasons have a number of their own charities that assist the public, in addition to contributing to pre-established ones.

Shriner’s Hospital

Perhaps the most well-known Masonic charity is the Shriners Hospital for Children, owned by, you guessed it, the Masonsic appendant body Shriners International. They have numerous locations all over the United States, however they only specialize in four areas: burns, cleft palate, orthopedic and spinal cord injuries. This sets it apart from the children’s hospital that you may have in your city that will see children with a large variety of issues. Focusing on only four areas allows them to have more specialists and more specialized equipment, therefore being able to provide a higher level of care for the children that see them. A major aspect of Shriner’s Hospital is that they will not turn down a family because of their inability to pay. As a member of the Shrine, you pay a $5 “hospital assessment” fee with your dues, which goes directly to the hospital. In addition to this, many Shrines will hold fundraisers for the hospital, as well as individual hospitals themselves holding fundraisers. The Shriner’s Hospital is the beneficiary of many wills as well, of both Masons and non-Masons.

Masonic-Eastern Star Homes

A quick Google search of “Masonic-Eastern Star home” will give you results for two vastly different age ranges. Both the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children, and the Masonic-Eastern Star Retirement homes are services provided by Blue Lodges and Star chapters. However, only one of these are a charity the children’s home. The concept is similar to that of the Shriner’s Hospital, no one is turned away due to their inability to pay. The children’s homes offer safe havens for children who may not otherwise be able to live at home: runaways, cases of abuse or neglect, or simply children of divorce. The homes provide them with a stable environment to grow in, and almost all of the children’s homes have on campus schooling. There is no requirement that the child be that of a mason, or related to one in any way. The homes are funded by Masons giving donations, non-Masons giving donations, and of course fundraisers. Many children that attended the homes go on to join the Craft. These homes are generally run by a board of MM or Star members. There is not one overarching organization for these homes, instead they are usually run by the jurisdiction they reside in.

Rite Care

A little bit different, the Rite Care clinics are the charities of the Scottish Rite. Rite Care provides speech and language therapy for children (as you might have guessed!). The idea is that while schools often provide speech and language therapies at school, a school therapist may be seeing several children in one day, and often there is simply not enough time for some kids to get the help that they need. Alternatively, some children may require more intense therapy than may be able to be provided in the school setting. Usually Rite Care clinics are associated with a local hospital, in the big O the clinic works alongside the university hospital. There are currently over 175 clinics in the United States, giving tens of thousands of children the ability to communicate with the world. Most of the funding comes from the Scottish Rite Foundation, as well as from local Scottish Rite lodges, and of course, non-Masonic donations. Again, no child is turned away because of an inability to pay.

There are numerous other Masonic affiliated charities. To give you an idea…

  • Blue Lodge: CHiP program
  • Job’s Daughters: HIKE (Hearing Impaired Kid’s Endowment Fund)
  • Knights Templar: Knights Templar Eye Foundation
  • Royal Arch: Royal Arch Research assistance Program (Supports research into auditory perception disorders in children)
  • Grottos of North America: Humanitarian Foundation Dentistry for the Handicapped
  • Cryptic Masons: Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation (Supports arteriosclerosis research)
  • And a LOT more!

This is only in the United States of course. Over in the UK the Masonic charities are very well-organized, and are all overseen by the Grand Charity. They also have the Royal Trust for Boys and Girls, the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution, and the Masonic Samaritan Fund.

So, we know that Masons give charity, and who they give to, but why is it that they give to charity? Surely there is something beyond “this book said it was a good idea”. I think it is best summed up in this song:

All in the Family

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I work at a children’s hospital in my city, caring for babes and teenagers alike. While I was at work this past weekend, my mind wandered to Freemasonry, and how it relates to and affects our families.  After a few quick Google searches, I was a bit flabbergasted to learn that there was actually little to no factual, informative material on how the two interact, and indeed, support one another.

Generation to generation

Perhaps the most common, and often the most asked about topic when it comes to Masonry and family is that of Masonic lineage. Since Masonry was very popular in the 1920’s and 30’s, many of your grandparents or great (or perhaps even great-great), grandparents were involved. You may be surprised to discover this about your family, but with a little bit of digging, asking family, and making some phone calls, it is fairly easy to ascertain a distant relative’s lodge.  This does take a bit more legwork than just doing a Google search, because most lodges do not keep records of past members on their websites, and even if they do, it is usually only the names of past Worshipful Masters. If you are having a hard time tracking down a relative’s credentials, I would recommend contacting the Grand Lodge that you believe they were a member of most recently.

Something that happens not as often as I think it should is one family member raising another into the lodge. This is most often seen as father to son, but I have heard numerous stories of uncle to nephew, cousin to cousin, (blood) brother to brother, and even occasionally, a son raising his father.  T was lucky enough to be raised by his wonderful stepfather, who also installed him as Worshipful Master this year; and¸will be raising T’s oldest brother near the end of this year.

Sometimes, however, I think that sometimes there is a break between generations, usually for one of two reasons, but of course not limited to these two. The first case is that the father is not sure how to approach the subject with his son. For whatever reason, the Mason may feel uncomfortable discussing it, or may not be sure how to approach the topic. Related to this, the father may feel that his son needs to ask, since Masonry heavily enforces the “to be one, ask one” concept. The other way that it usually skips a generation, is that the son may not be interested, or may reject his father’s invitation. This was the case with my own family, as my father was invited to join lodge by my grandfather, but my father was not interested in Masonry at the time. I was more than happy to pick up the torch and continue the tradition of being a Masonic family.

The Masonic Family

Usually when someone is discussing the idea of the Masonic family, they are talking about all of the groups related to Masonry, Blue Lodge, Job’s Daughters, Scottish Rite, etc.  And, it is true, Masonry is a type of family within its own right, both within a specific organization, as well as between. There is, however, another type of Masonic family, perhaps the one that the outsider may think of first- the family raised in and brought together through Masonry. Freemasonry actually lends itself to this idea quite easily.

When you think about it, the idea really makes sense, and the organization of Masonry is that every family member can be a part of it. As you know, there are numerous organizations for women and youth. In addition to this, however, all lodges and jurisdictions put on some sort of family event at least once a year, but usually much more often than that. These usually include picnics, trips to the zoo and circus, or even just a BBQ at the lodge building. The nice thing is that it does not usually take much to organize a family event, and it allows you to meet other families that you already have something in common with-Masonry. If, for some reason, events do not happen like this at your lodge, suggest them to the Worshipful Master or events committee, or even volunteer to put it together yourself.

One of the things that Masonry offers that I feel are not mentioned as much as it should be, is support. Yes, usually support for the Mason is mentioned, however the amount of support that is available to the family as a whole is usually not mentioned to anyone other than the Mason himself.  One of the focuses of Freemasonry is charity, and this extends to its members as well. The two main ways of support that Masonry offers are financial- the Masonic Relief Fund is set up by every lodge and grand lodge, to serve as assistance in dire financial straits. The other form of financial support is through scholarships- for college, mostly, although my chapter does give one out for a Masonic youth band camp. In addition to the financial support, Masonry offers a wide array of emotional support as well; not only through fellowship, but also through actual support groups, such as Masonic widows and widowers. These vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction of course, but many groups are moving online, making them more accessible.

Most often, when you look for something regarding Masonry and families, you will quickly come across two kinds of posts: you will find a lot of conspiracy theorists stating that Masonry is evil and set out to brainwash the men and kidnap the women, and, you will find a number of women that claim that Masonry is the reason for their divorce. Please remember, that above all else, Masonry teaches that family comes first. Masonry is not out to take your husband away from you, nor is it looking to ruin your marriage. Instead, enjoy the nights that your husband goes to lodge, do something nice for yourself, or something special with your children. If you feel that he is becoming too involved in lodge, or that it is becoming a priority over his family, communicate that with him. If he, for whatever reason, does not agree with you, or is not interested in talking with you about it, contact his Worshipful Master and express your concerns to him. In addition to this, if you have a question about lodge, Masonry, or anything related, or simply want to learn more, ask. The only things he cannot share with you are usually specific words or phrases used in the ritual, and secret symbols, such as handshakes.
The point of all of this is, quite simply, that Masonry is more than just something for the Mason, or the man of a household. Masonry can easily encompass the entire family’s needs and social calendar. More than that, Freemasonry allows for a family tradition to be started, or continued, and is something that is easily passed on from generation to generation. Nothing is cooler than receiving pins that belonged to a great-grandparent whom you never met, and know that you stand where they once did. It is a way of bringing the entire family together, not drive you apart, as some people would have you believe. Long story short, Freemasonry is a family affair.