So You’ve Decided to Join a Masonic Body, Part II

This week’s article is a continuation of last’s, what steps you need to take, and the Lodge/Chapter takes, when you join a Masonic organization. This week, I will be discussing the initiation itself. Please know that no secrets will be given away. I will not be going over any of the finer details. The majority of what is secret, is words, phrases, and handshakes so that members can recognize each other outside of the organization. While I do know a couple of secret handshakes, this mode of member recognition has kind of gone to the wayside since the internet. Also, while I will not be going over them here, you can find the entirety of initations online (as well as opening/closing ritual, iniatations, basically everything but the secrets); I do not recommend reading ritual work, especially initations, before receiving the degree, even if you do not plan on joining right away. There’s something magical about the first degree that you receive, and if you know what’s coming, part of that magic is lost.

Alright, so, your petition has been turned in, read, and approved for membership. Now you get to play the waiting game. When you receive the degree will have to be worked into the Lodge/Chapter’s schedule, or they may have to call a special meeting to get it done. Usually, once you receive word that you are approved to receive the degrees, your initation is usually within a month. Please remember that some Lodges/Chapters are “dark” (no meetings) for the summer, so if you apply in late spring, you may not have your initation until early fall. The night of, you will want to dress conservatively, it’s always better to be overdressed when getting initated, since you will be the focal point of the meeting. If you are joining an OES Chapter, I do not recommend wearing heels, as there is a lot of walking; you will want to be in comfortable shoes. This is also true for other Masonic bodies that meet in very large Lodge rooms.

You will of course, want to arrive a few minutes early. This is for a few reasons. In many organizations, you may have to wear a cloth or other clothing over what you are wearing. This clothing has symbolic meaning for the degree, or story, you are about to hear. The Lodge/Chapter will open, while you wait outside. This does not take too terribly long (about ten minutes), but does add to the anticipation. When joining a Lodge, they may ask you to stay in a room of reflection, which is usually a plain room, with a chair, and you are alone with your thoughts. They may or may not give you a thinking prompt while you wait. Usually, a member of the organization is tasked with waiting with you, and may explain a bit about what is to happen.

Someone will come and get you when it is time. Depending on the organization, you may be blindfolded, or “hoodwinked” before you enter the Lodge room.  When joining other organizations, the lights may simply be dimmed. As I said before, I will not (and cannot) go into details, but each Masonic organization follows the same general sequence of events. After being brought into the Lodge room, the Worshipful Master/Worthy Matron/Queen/etc., will ask if you come of your own free will, and sometimes if you believe in a higher power. You may get asked more questions, but your buddy will coach you through this beforehand. Once you are granted access to the Lodge room, you will be lead around to (most) all of the officers, and important points in the room. Eventually, you will end up in front of the altar.

This is one of the most important parts of the initation- the obligation. You will be asked to kneel if you are able, and place your hand upon the Bible, or other faith book of your choosing. You will then take a binding oath, that contains a couple of things, both that you swear to do, and not do. It is mostly things like, swearing to not divulge any secrets that you learn during your initation or any other meeting to a non member, that you will help a member in need, etc. The obligation does not include anything that is difficult to do, and really, anything that you probably wouldn’t do anyway. There is an important part, that many people against Masonry choose to ignore; you swear that will not Masonry to insult, jepordize, or have any other negative effect on your religion and family; or break any laws of your state or nation. Some Masons forget this part of the obligation as well, and choose to let Masonry run and eventually ruin their lives, marriages, and familes.

Something that definitely does not happen during degree work

The next section is where the degree is actually given, also known as conferred. Each group has their own specifics, but the general concept is the same. The person that led you around the room earlier will lead you again. This time you will be pausing to hear different stories, or different parts of the same story from some officers in the room. These stories are the foundation of Masonry. Do your best to listen to them as closely as you can, but it is unlikely that you will get everything during your degrees. This is a good reason to participate in doing degrees for others; you will remember things that didn’t quite get processed the first time around. OES, Daughters of the Nile, and a few others, tell many stories with a central theme. Groups like Blue Lodge and Scottish Rite, on the other hand, tell one story, that continues on throughout all of the degrees. If you are able, do read the degree work after you have received it, doing so will help you learn more about the building blocks of Masonry.

The final step, is to show you the secrets. As I’ve said above, the large majority of these are methods of recognition of members outside of regular group activities. If you are joining Blue Lodge, the majority of these will be given during the Master Mason degree. After that, you will be escorted to a seat on the side of the room, and any business that still needs to be conducted is. The night that I was initated, I actually got to vote right afterwards. After the Lodge/Chapters close, prepare for everyone to come and congradulate you. That evening, or soon after, you will be presented with your copy of the ritual book, and, at least in Blue Lodge and OES, the book of faith you swore your obligation on.

Even kitties want to join Masonic bodies!

And really, that’s it. While the core of an initiation is really quite simple, all of the details make it complex. All (most?) Lodges and Chapters require memorization of parts, as an open ritual book is not allowed in an open Lodge/Chapter. These parts can range to a paragraph or two, up to more than ten pages. A lot of work goes into initiating a candidate, although most of it is not done by the candidate. Relish the day that you are initated, as you only get to be on the receiving end once. They are often deep and thought provoking, more so than most people expect.

Hopefully these last two weeks have help ease minds, and perhaps even push a few people to join this week. Usually the scariest part is not knowing. If you have any questions about this, or any other Masonic topic, feel free to contact me here, or at If not, have a great week!

So You’ve Decided to Join a Masonic Body

So, you’ve decided you want to do it. You wanna bite the bullet and join the Masons, OES, the Shrine, DeMolay or otherwise. What do you actually need to do to accomplish this goal? These next few weeks I will be touching on how to join a Masonic organization, and a brief overview of what happens when you first join.

The first step is to find what’s out there. If you live in a large city, you may have many different Lodges or Chapters in the area. (There’s around 12 here in Omaha.) If you are in a less populated area, you may only have one to choose from. If you are lucky enough to have options, use that to your advantage. Every Lodge feels differently, they attract different kinds of members, and have different kinds of focuses, such as ritual work, or fellowship. If you are able to shop around, do it, and join the Lodge or Chapter that “feels” right to you.Just because you meet with members from a Lodge does not mean you are tied to them. You have no obligation to a Lodge or Chapter until your initiation, and even then, if you move, or change your mind, its just a few forms to put in to transfer. If you find that there is only one group in your area, rock it. Work with what you’ve got. If you just feel like you just can’t make it work, look into surrounding areas. Many people choose to drive an hour or more for the right Lodge or Chapter. If you are having issues finding a Lodge or Chapter in your area, you will want to contact your jurisdiction’s Grand Lodge.

The best way to decide if a Lodge or Chapter is right for you, is to go as a visitor to some of their events. This means dinners, fundraisers, outings, and any other activity that they may put on that does not take place in the Lodge room. Get to know some of the members, connect with people. You may find that the majority of members are far older than you are. This is pretty much the norm across the board as far as Masonry and its affiliate groups are concerned. Don’t let this discourage you. Yes, it may mean you can’t bond over technology or video games, but the older generation are wonderful for life advice. For instance, T and I are getting married in October, and my chapter has given me some priceless advice not only for getting married, but also married life. I guess what I’m trying to say here is don’t write people off just because they are much older than you are. You probably have more in common than you think.

Alright, so you’ve found the Lodge or Chapter for you, and you’ve talked with some of the members, and you think it should be a good fit. The next step is to ask for a petition. This is basically just a form that has all of your contact information on it, as well as a few questions about yourself. You can see a example Masonic petition here. A lot of it is pretty standard stuff, think of it kind of like a job application. Mostly they are looking for the fact that you are who you say you are. Always answer as truthfully as possible. If you look at the petition, question 30 is one of constant debate. This will be worded differently in every jurisdiction (and really the way this one is worded is a little harsh, but hey, it’s Texas). Basically they are looking for the answer that you believe in some kind of higher power. As you can imagine, this tends to be a hot topic, but that is for another day. At this point we will leave it at that every potential Mason (as well as many affiliate groups) require a belief in a higher power. Please note: Some jurisdictions will ask if you were born male. If you identify as male, and you have a M marker on your drivers license, this is good enough for most states, but don’t be surprised if they outright ask you. This is also a topic for another day. Don’t worry too much about finding Mason’s that you know to sign it, this is why you go and have dinner with them a few times. What’s more, many members will jump at the chance to be what we call “first line signer”s.

With your petition filled out and turned in, you play the waiting game. Your petition will be read at the next business meeting, whenever that should be. Hopefully your contact (the person who gave you the petition) will let you know. Technically the entire petition is to be read during the meeting, but this is not usually the case due to time constraints. After reading the petition, a committee is formed, with the purpose of interviewing you. Regardless of what a petition says, a committee is always formed.

The interview is often a nerve racking event for many people, although it really shouldn’t be. Someone from the Lodge or Chapter will arrange to meet with you, either in your home, or at another location (mine was at the Shrine, I know that others have had theirs at coffee shops). Again, they are just looking to make sure that you are who you say you are. It’s really all very informal. They will ask you about your job, your relationships, your get the idea. It kind of feels a bit like you are filling out a very odd dating profile. You will want to dress at least business casual for this meeting, your contact will tell you if you need to wear more than that.

Once the interview is over, the committee goes back to the members, and give a brief description of what you are like, and if they would recommend you to become a member. Remember: very rarely is someone turned down for membership. Usually if they are, it is for a major reason, such as identity theft, background issues that you lied about (felonies, etc), or simply not meeting the requirements of membership. The vote for membership for must be unanimous. Masonic groups use a small box that contain white balls (or cubes) and black balls. A white cube is a yes vote, a black ball is a no. And yes, this is where the term “blackballed’ comes from. If for any reason, a member recieves a black ball, they are barred from petitioning to any Lodge or Chapter for six months. When that six months are up, they may attempt again, but it must be at the same Lodge or Chapter.

How I was notified of my acceptance. Yes, it was typed on a typewriter.

Once you are voted on and accepted, you will be notified, usually by mail. Your initiation date is set, and you wait some more. Please know that this system of petitioning can take a very long time, especially if a Lodge or Chapter only meets once a month. When I petitioned to join OES, it was about 4 months from when I got my petition until I was initiated. It’s not a fast moving process, so don’t get too frustrated.

Next week, we will take a look at what happens during an initiation. Until then, have  a great week!