Prince Hall Masonry

I recently attended a large public Masonic event with a friend who is not in the Masonic community at all. He seemed to enjoy himself, but at one point in time, he kind of paused, glanced around the room, and leaned in to whisper to me, “Everyone in this room is white. What gives?” Knowing that this would take a bit of an explanation, I told them I would have to explain on the ride home. Have you ever noticed this yourself? Do you know why this is the case? The reason may astound you, especially in this day and age.

UGLE was formed in 1717, and freemasonry began in the United States around 1740. Let’s put that into perspective. The US was not its own country at this point, as the Revolutionary War didn’t occur until 1775, slavery wasn’t abolished until 1865, and electricity didn’t enter homes until 1882. So, as you can imagine, the people forming Lodges in the American colonies were all white landowners, many of whom owned slaved and all of whom lit their house by candle. Now, who can be made a Mason? Ritual states that an idiot, a madman, or a fool cannot be made a Mason, for fairly obvious reasons. However, the ritual also states that they must be a man, of lawful age, and freeborn, meaning no one who is a slave or was once a slave can become a Mason. Now, that last requirement is really not such a big deal now days, where the point is kind of glossed over and assumed; but you bet it was a big deal in the 1740’s when Lodges were popping up all over the colonies.

To give you an idea what it was like at that time, Albert Pike was quoted stating, “”I am not inclined to mettle in the matter. I took my obligations to white men, not to Negroes. When I have to accept Negroes as brothers or leave Masonry, I shall leave it.” There were some black Masons at this time, usually from non-segregated jurisdictions. However, if they had to go to a segregated jurisdiction, they would often not be recognized. What’s more, while black Masons could meet as a Lodge, join the processions on St. John’s day, and give funeral rites, they could not preform degrees, or any other essential functions of a Lodge.

Prince Hall Then

Prince Hall

Sometime before the beginning of the Revolutionary War, a black, freeborn man named Prince Hall approached St. John’s Lodge in Boston, Massachusetts along with fourteen other men, seeking admittance to the order. They were turned away. They persevered however, and turned to Lodge #441, which was a member of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The fifteen men were approved to join, and received their degree on March 6, 1775. Just so you have an idea of when this was happening, Parliament had declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion that February, and the beginnings of the Revolutionary War took place that April. In 1782, the Lodge became attached to a military unit made up of British soldiers stationed in Boston. When the soldiers moved on, the black men decided to form their own Lodge, called African Lodge No.1, and Prince Hall was named the Grand Master.

They were, however, unable to create a charter, so they contacted UGLE for one. By some miracle, they granted it, and African Lodge No. 1 was changed to African Lodge No. 459. This was the first, officially recognized, all black Lodge in America. The African Lodges grew quickly in the area, so much so that Prince Hall had been named Provincial Grand Master for the African Lodges. In March of 1797, another African Lodge was formed in Philadelphia, and in June of that same year, another in Rhode Island. Despite their popularity and growth, the majority of Masons refused to recognize members of the African Lodges, even though they had received a charter from UGLE, and therefore were entitled to all Masonic rights, such as visitation to other Lodges. A few Grand Masters were sympathetic, but knew it would be a long time before recognition (that could hopefully lead to integration) would occur. If only they knew how long it would take.

Prince Hall died in 1807, and the three African Lodges got together to form a Grand Lodge, which they renamed Prince Hall Grand Lodge, in his honor.

Prince Hall Now

Dedication of the Prince Hall Masons Monument at Cambridge Massachusetts, September 13, 2008

 

What you’re about to read will surprise you. It may infuriate you, or make you question your membership within the Masonic community. If you feel this way, I highly encourage you to help facilitate within your own community events between your Lodge and your Local Prince Hall Lodge.

As of the last list compiled (which was 2011), do not recognize any member of a Prince Hall Lodge to be a Mason:

Alabama

Georgia

Florida

Tennessee

Mississippi

Louisiana

Arkansas
South Carolina

West Virginia

Let me say that again. Even though members of this Lodge can trace their roots back to African Lodge No.1, and have charters issued by the United Grand Lodge of England, these states still, well over 200 years later, do not recognize these men as Masons.

 

Many other states recognize the members as Masons, but do not extend to them full recognition. So, they could come and visit the “mainstream” (common colloquialism for majority-white Lodges), but they could not say, join (they would have to start all over), or vote. In fact the first Lodge to recognize Prince Hall Lodges was Connecticut, and that wasn’t until 1989. No, that’s not a typo, that’s almost 200 years later. Nebraska was the second state to recognize them in 1990, but made bigger waves by also allowing visitation.

Prince hall also has their own appendant Masonic groups. However, these are hardly recognized by any of the mainstream Masonic groups. Their Royal Arch Grand Chapters are recognized by 9 U.S. Jursdictions, and 1 Canadian one. Their Cryptic Mason Grand Councils are recognized by 3 states, and their Knights Templar Grand Commadaries are also recognized by 3 (different) states. The only state that recognizes all three groups is Illinois. In 2001, the Shines of North America voted to recognize all Prince Hall Shrines.

Now, I want to be very clear, that this does not mean that a black man cannot join a mainstream Lodge. To my knowledge, there is no Grand Lodge that has laws against this. However, actually becoming a member as a black man may be easier in some states than others.

So, what are Prince Hall Lodges like today? To be honest, I am not terribly familiar with them as they currently exist. In my city, PH has their own Lodge, Shrine, OES, Scottish Rite, and other auxiliary groups. They tend to be much more hidden from the public eye than mainstream Masonry, and to be honest, I can’t blame them. They have created a culture completely unlike mainstream Masonry. Nothing less than suit and tie is worn to Lodge, along with their signature white gloves. Officers often wear tuxes, even for a simple business meeting. OES is a much bigger deal. They actually use a different degree system, which includes the Queen of the South degree, which was the degree that originally served as the bridge between the OES and Daughters of the Nile degree. They have their own Shrine women’s auxiliary called Daughters of Isis. They also have their own Scottish Rite women’s auxiliary called the Order of the Golden Circle. It is a very different Masonic community, and I am sad to say I know next to nothing about it.

If there is a Prince Hall visitation day in your area, I highly recommend you do your best to attend. If it doesn’t exist, help organize one. They are our brothers and sisters in Masonry, we have so much to learn from each other, and it makes my heart heavy that we have pushed them away for so long, and continue to do so.

Masonic Hate and You

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.

Masonic Education

You might have noticed that there was no post last week, you didn’t miss it, it just wasn’t there. I started nursing school last week, and needed a bit of a break from the additional work from The Mason’s Lady. So what does this mean for you? Sadly, I will be switching to posts every other week, instead of once a week while I am in school for the next few years. There will certainly be times when I am able to post more often. This should mean that the posts are that much more awesome!

Since school has started for myself, and for pretty much every school age child out there, I figured I would talk about a topic that was relevant to the time of year – Masonic education.

An EA tracing board

History of Masonic Education

Back in the day, with both speculative and operative Masonry, it was through the brotherhood that the young man received much of his education. Within operative Masonry, that is, stone cutters and building-builders, becoming a Mason meant literally becoming an Entered Apprentice; this is how he would learn his craft, and when he had mastered the craft and was able to take his own apprentices, he was called a Master Mason.

When speculative Masonry, or Freemasonry as we know it today, came about, formal education past a certain age was only for those who were extremely rich or talented. However, when a young man was able to become a Mason, the group made sure that he was not without education. During the Fellowcraft degree, there is a lengthy (I believe about 13 pages) lecture called the middle chamber lecture. It is here that the brother receives his formal, yet nontraditional education. The topics covered in the middle chamber lecture include: Order in Architecture – Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite; The Five Senses of Human Nature – Hearing, Seeing, Feeling, Smelling and Tasting; and The Seven Arts and Sciences – Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, and Astrology.Many of these topics now seem common sense to us, but remember that (for the most part), this is the same lecture given to candidates since the 1700’s.

Another important item used in Masonic education were tracing boards (note, these are different from trestle boards, as T and I discovered). Initially, these were chalk drawings on the floor or table where the Lodge met. Before the degree, or during, various Masonic symbols or emblems were drawn by the Worshipful Master or Tyler. These were used to make reference to during the degrees, a symbol being pointed to at the appropriate time in the degree. These were then mopped up or wiped away by the candidate afterwards, to help remind him of his oath to secrecy. After print became more readily available, permanent tracing boards were made. The symbols included often range from degree to degree, and Lodge to Lodge. They have since fallen out of favor.

Mason Busters showing us why Masonic Education is important

Mason Busters showing us why Masonic Education is important

Masonic Education Today

Masonic education has come a long way. A candidate no longer relies solely on the education provided during the degrees, in fact, for most people the information given is a nice review of the third grade. As I said before, tracing boards have fallen out of favor, and slowly, but surely, Lodges are beginning to add technology to their Lodges, and some use power points or short animations instead.

The internet is teeming with Masonic information, some correct, and some not so much. A word of advice: take everything you read about Masonry online with a grain of salt; although you can find all of the degree work online, it will mean so much more to you if you don’t know what’s coming when you receive them.

As far as websites are concerned, you’d might imagine that http://www.masonbusters.com is going to have a bit of a bias when discussing Masonry. Here are some websites that I’ve found that seem to know what they’re talking about:

However, since Masonry seems to always be slow to get with the times, your best bet for education is always books.

One of the best things you can do for yourself, and for Freemasonry, is to educate yourself about it.After you drop the kids off at school, take the time to pick up a book yourself, even if its just for a few minutes. Get out there and learn!

Masonry and Death

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.

Masonic Funerals

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.”

-Nebraska Monitor of Ceremonies

Women of Freemasonry: Martha

The time has come to (finally) finish up the stories of the star points; it only took two years! As a reminder, the star points are:

Adah: The Daughter

Ruth: The Widow

Esther: The Wife

Martha: The Sister (this one)

Electa: The Mother.

If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, you’ll want to check out The Order of the Eastern Star: A Primer.

Mary, Martha, and Jesus

The reason that I saved Martha for last, is because her story doesn’t all happen in one chunk. She appears a few times throughout the New Testament, usually alongside her sister, Mary, who is generally accepted to not be Mary Magdalene. Unfortunately for Martha, a lot of her story is kind of set up as a Goofus versus Gallant type of business. When we first meet her, in the Gospel of Luke, she is with her sister, both listening to Jesus and his disciples. Mary chooses to sit quietly, listening, whereas Martha takes the approach that I probably would have, and worries about all of the things that need to be done for the visitors. Martha asks Jesus if he cares at all that her sister isn’t helping at all, and he assures her that only one thing needs to be done, which is what Mary is doing. The lesson that is quoted here often is, “Martha worked, Mary listened.”

We meet Martha a second time in the Gospel of John. This is definetly one of the more famous stories of the New Testament, and where the story used for Martha’s star point comes from. Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, fell quite ill at one point. The sisters knew that Jesus was near, and they sent a messenger to him, to let him know of the illness. Jesus chose to send back a vague reply, afterwhich, Lazarus died and was buried. Four days later, while they were still grieving, they heard that Jesus would be returning to their city. Martha rushed out to meet him, and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you anything you ask.”  Jesus then said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” To which Martha replied, “ I know he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection, and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and he who lives and believes in me never dies. Do you believe this? (Traditionally, “Believest thou this?)” Martha replied that she did, and Jesus took her to her dead brother’s tomb, and told her to open it. He then called out to Lazarus, who walks out of the tomb, alive again.

We see Martha one last time, later in the book of John, where she serves a meal held in the honor of Jesus and her brother.

Although it is broken up into a few pieces, there is a glaringly obvious lesson taught by Martha; that of faith. Martha kept faith in Jesus, even after he did not appear when they called to him, even after the death of her brother Lazarus. Although Martha is a New Testament heroine, it cannot be denied that the lesson can be brought to all other walks of faith as well. Not so much that you should have faith in Jesus, but more that you should have faith in something, especially something that is more than yourself.  While holding steadfast onto faith in an hour of dire need can be quite trying, it often makes of a better outcome. An oft quoted reason for choosing Martha, was that it was known that the majority of OES members would be homemakers like Martha, not dreamers like her sister Mary. Martha was shown multiple times worrying about the state of the household, and serving guests in her home. Personally, I feel that Martha is the most relatable of the star points. Maybe we haven’t all lost our husbands, or been forced to give up our religion, but I would imagine that most all of us have had a time where our faith, in anything, was questioned, and maybe even faltered. Martha serves as the reminder for how important it can be.

Sister Martha

To some hearts overburdened with sorrow;

And to whim the world seems dark and drear,

May your voice be the one to speak comfort,

To the saddened ones bring hope and cheer.

And to teach, Death is the only portal,

That through which breaks Eternity’s dawn,

Thus revealing the glory and splendor,

And the light of an eternal morn.

The bright morn of a day never-ending,

Of a life all-immortal to come,

Which ours will be, through a faith in God’s promise,

Ours at last when our Life’s day is done.

Being Transgender in the Masonic Community

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.”

DeMolay Conclave 2015

I was lucky enough to attend DeMolay Conclave this past weekend. This is an event that is not like any other in the Masonic community. In the state of Nebraska, Conclave includes a state ritual competition, the election and installation of the state officers, and of course, finishes with a banquet and dance.

Conclave was held this year in Grand Island, Nebraska, about two hours away from Omaha. The event started early Friday morning with the ritual competition. Basically, the boys choose a part (or parts) that they want to learn, and then preform them in front of a panel of judges, usually older DeMolays. The parts range from the preceptors, which are a paragraph long, to the flower talk, which encompasses many pages. T is the state ritual director, and so he gets to be in charge of picking all of the judges, and all of the paperwork. The participants are scored on a number of items, including ease, number of prompts needed, words skipped, and dress.

Fun at the waterpark

After a quick lunch, the guys got ready for the long form initiatory and DeMolay degrees. Now, this is something that is done a bit different than the rest of the Masonic organizations. A long form degree requires at least 16 members on the degree team, something that is difficult to accomplish with teens, especially in the busy summer months. So instead, often when a new member wants to join, they will conduct a short form degree, which takes about half of the amount of people. The long form degrees are then conducted at the two major state events, Conclave and Roundup, to any new members that have joined since the last state event. While these degrees are not “public” per se, any advisor or parent is more than welcome to watch them. If you ever get the opportunity to watch a long form degree for DeMolay, I highly recommend it, especially since (at least in our jurisdiction) it is done in full costume.

As a reward for their hard work, they guys were treated to a casino night by the state Sweetheart (a member of Job’s or Rainbow that has been chosen to represent the girls groups in DeMolay). Far after many of the younger members went to bed, the older guys were on their way to a local Lodge building. In our state, we are lucky enough to have a recent re-established chapter of the Chivalric Knights  of the Holy Order of the Fellow Solders of Jacques DeMolay, or Priory, for short. This is a group within DeMolay that is made up of boys over the age of 16. They have their own fun nights, as well as state events, both within and separate from DeMolay events. For Nebraska’s Priory, it is not an advancing line, so every year, their leaders are elected and installed at Conclave. They also initiated new members during this time.

The Sir Knights chosen for Priory leadership for 2015

Bright and early the next morning, the Chapter room was opened for elections for state officers. One of T’s brothers ran, and won! The girls running for state Sweetheart also gave their speeches and answered questions shortly there after. After all of the speeches and voting was finished, a very special honor was given to a select number of DeMolays, the Degree of Chevalier. This is the highest honor that can be given to an active DeMolay for distinguished service to the group. Interestingly, this degree is not given by active DeMolays, but instead by past DeMolays who have also received the honor. T and a number of his friends were able to bestow this honor to three boys, one of whom was one of T’s brothers. Unlike regular degree work, the Degree of Chevalier is a public ceremony, open for anyone to watch.

The boys spent the afternoon at the waterpark, having the opportunity to relax before the banquet. Now, when I was told that there was a banquet Saturday evening, I assumed that meant it was DeMolays, advisors, and parents only. What I didn’t expect was the amount of support brought out by the rest of Nebraska’s Masonic Community. The Grand Master was there, as was the Grand Line for OES, and almost all of the potentates from around the state. There was not a Masonic group that went unrepresented that night. It swells my heart with joy to know that all of these people, many of them well beyond my years, have full support of DeMolay, and all of its members.

The only downside to having that much support, is that every representative is encouraged to bring greetings from their group, which can often end in lengthy speeches. I myself am used to this from other Masonic events….a bunch of teenage boys however, had a much harder time keeping still and quiet. After everyone had their say, the awards for the ritual competition were given out. Unfortunately, Omaha chapter didn’t do so hot. Hopefully next year will be better. After this, the new state officers were installed by former DeMolays who were also state officers in their time. The Priory put on a wonderful arch of steel for this installation. They did a better job than I’ve seen some Templars do.

Installation of 2015 State Officers

After the room was nice and full of antsy teenagers and tired adults, it was time for the dance. I’m not sure how it started exactly, but at every major DeMolay (and I assume every major Job’s and Rainbow) event, there is a dance. Luckily, even though most of them are highschoolers, it tends to be an atypical highschool dance. I think that the fact that there are some songs that have ritualistic dances to go with them helps. Many of the adult leaders and advisors were once in a Masonic youth group, so they often know the dances as well, which helps encourage the teens to be a little less awkward, even if the girls do outnumber the boys three to one.

You many wonder why I often give a report of DeMolay events I attend. This is not to just take up space, or tell you about this fun weekend I had. Kiddos in the Masonic youth groups are the future of Masonry. If we want the groups that we enjoy to continue for years to come, we need to do our best to make sure that we can retain these members as adults. At one point during the banquet, the Grand Master had everyone who was once a DeMolay and is now a Master Mason to stand up. Well over half of the adult men in the room stood. One thing that I haven’t told you about this weekend, we had maybe only 30 active DeMolays attend it. So often do we get caught up in other things that don’t matter, that we push aside the things that do. DeMolay, Job’s Daughters, and Rainbow for Girls teaches extremely valuable life lessons that help guide a youth to lead a good life. Isn’t that all we want for our children? Please, do what you can to support Masonic youth groups, the best thing to donate is your time. Without Masonic youth, Masonry may become a thing of the past in years to come.

The Bond of Brotherhood

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.

Masonry and Patriotism

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 themasonslady@gmail.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!