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.

Navigating Masonic Emblems Part I

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

The Square and Compass

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

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



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

Double Headed Eagle

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

Triple Tau

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

The Sword and Trowel

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

The Seal of the Knights Templar

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

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

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

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

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