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 hobbies..you 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!

Women of Freemasonry: Adah

So, I didn’t realize until today, that only two of the five star points have been discussed! I’ve obviously been slacking a bit. If you’ve missed out on the others, you can find their stories here:

  • Adah- the daughter (this one)
  • Ruth – the widow
  • Esther – the wife
  • Martha – the sister
  • Electa – the mother

The story of Adah is a little bit like that of Electa; there was an unnamed woman in the Bible, whom Rob Morris, the creator of the Order of the Eastern Star, simply gave a name to, and made a star point. Adah has a bit more story behind her than that of Electa however. Adah is the name given to the daughter of a man called Jephthah, who is talked about in the Old Testament book of Judges (more specifically, Judges chapters 11 & 12, you can read the original here). Jephthah had a bit of a shaded past, his mother was a prostitute, and his father could have been any number of men. Because of this, he was driven out of his hometown, and basically became an outlaw, all because of his heritage.

The lady Adah. Or, at the very least, Jephthah’s daughter.

He became known as a bit of a fighter in the area. There were a number of skirmishes and wars going about at this time, and soon enough, Jephthah and his people found themselves being attacked by a people known as the Ammonities. Everyone in the area asked Jephthah to lead them into battle, and he agreed. He also agreed, that if he was victorious in this fight, he was willing to lead the people from there on out. Just before battle our friend Jephthah made a bit of a boo-boo. He made a bargain with G-d, that if he was victorious in the battle, he would sacrifice whatever was the first thing to come out of his house when he returned.

You see where this is going, right?

Jephthah is victorious, and everyone is quite happy with the result. The celebration is short lived however, because the first thing that comes out of his house upon his return, is his daughter, called Adah (in OES). Jephthah really doesn’t want to go through with this sacrifice anymore, but after explaining the situation to his daughter, she agrees that the vow must not be broken. It is said that she asked for it to be delayed by two months, so that she could spend some time with the other women of the village, and “mourn her virginity”. After that time, Jephthah did as he vowed.

Part of me really wonders if anyone read the stories of the women that were picked to be the star points. As you can imagine, this story carries a lot of controversy with it. The story is incredibly similar to that of Isaac, except in Adah’s case, her father actually goes through with her murder. Some versions say that she simply was banished to the mountains, or that she was to remain a virgin forever, but the majority of the versions agree that the sacrifice was made.

So, what does that mean for people in OES? What does this story of sacrifice teach us?

As far as the story given during an initiation, Adah teaches us fidelity, loyalty, and intelligence. The first two I can heartily agree with. I am not so certain that if my father told me he had vowed something similar, that I would have gone through with it. Another big thing Adah focuses on is innocence. Adah was a virgin, yes, but she was also probably a fairly young girl as well, since she was not yet wed. Both Adah and Jephthah were willing to fulfill their obligations, even if doing so meant death for one, and a great loss for the other. I think that this is the biggest lesson in this story.

So often we say we are going to do something, and don’t. Its so easy to sign up to help out at an event, and instead of going, stay home and watch TV. I think that those of us in the Masonic communities are at risk for this kind of behavior, not because we are bad people, but because there tends to be so many things to sign up for, so many events that need help, committees that need chairs, and parts that need to be done. It can be easy to get bogged down. Never forget that its okay to say no. No one will fault you for it, many older Masons are aware that burnout can happen very quickly. Simply do what you can, and when it is time to fill your obligation, don’t drag your feet, go willingly, like Adah and Jephthah, even if it does feel like its going to end in your death.

I will leave you with this short poem I found about Adah. There are a number of them out there about each star point. Perhaps at one point I will collect them all together.

ADAH
“Obedience”
Our Star life’s not always easy,
We do need rare courage now,
Like that of young, heroic Adah,
Keeping her father’s awful vow.

We obey, as she has taught us,
Sometimes cry o’er life’s ills;
But steadfast we turn our faces
Far from Adah’s lonely hills.

This world has obedient daughters,
Carrying out a hard command;
We must seek them — weary, troubled,
Their quiet trust and true obedience
Are examples naught can mar.
Bring a candle of rare courage
To the first point of our Star.

As always, have a wonderful week.

Round Up

This past weekend. T and I helped coordinate and run a statewide DeMolay event called Round Up. I am not certain if other states do this, or anything similar, but this has been an event at least since T was a DeMolay. The entire weekend is a series of sports competitions between chapters. It started as many weekend Masonic events do in Nebraska, with the three hour drive to Kearny with a van full of teenage boys.

After a quick lunch, we headed off to The Big Apple, a family entertainment complex with bowling, go karts, mini golf, and more.

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The first competition was an individual one, billiards. One of T’s brothers actually ended up winning first place!

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The second competition was team volleyball. They ended up doing both Chapter teams, as well as composite teams made up of players from the various Chapters around the state.

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While not a competition, The Big Apple also had go-karts, which the boys were able to race in.

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The final competition was mini golf. The course there was probably one of the coolest I’ve ever played.

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I mean, it was really, really cool.

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Like I would drive out there again just to play there.

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Luckily we are in Kearney fairly often for Masonic events, so we will be back.

All of these competitions ended up taking about 6 hours. So I ended up spending a lot of time in the arcade.

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They had bowling as well, which was supposed to be a competition, but we barely had enough time to do what we did.

We then went back to the hotel, and had a quick bite to eat.

Afterwards, the boys went to the hotel’s volleyball pit, to play a few rounds of Quidditch.

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If you ever get a chance to play, or even watch a match of Quidditch, do it. It is highly entertaining.

The guys then headed over to the local YMCA, for, you guessed it, more sports.

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The games of the evening were soccer and basketball, done the same way that they did the volleyball.

The Y also had a small arcade as well, which some of the nerdier guys preferred.

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They also had a bounce house, which the adult advisers had to test first, to make sure that it was, you know, safe.

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It was about 10pm by this point. I headed back to the hotel for some much deserved sleep.

Some of the guys, on the other hand, headed to a local Lodge for a Priory investiture.

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The Priory is a sub-group of DeMolay for boys 16 and older. Investiture is just a fancier word for initiation. I wish that I had been able to stay awake for it, hopefully next time.

Sunday morning was spent doing a DeMolay long form initiation. See, normally, most DeMolay chapters only do a short form initiation when they welcome new members. There is actually an entire play for the DeMolay degree, similar to the ones done during the Scottish Rite degrees. However, this takes a large degree team that many chapters do not have access to. So, once a year at Round Up, Nebraska Chapters have all of their new members go through the long form initiation so that they are able to experience the entire thing. While any adult adviser (including myself), or parent of a DeMolay can watch the ritual, it is still considered secret work, and so cannot be shared here.

After the ritual, awards were passed out for the sporting competitions. Lets just say that Omaha Chapter is not known for its sporting prowess. We then said our goodbyes, and headed home. All in all, a pretty great, if not a bit exhausting, weekend. The sweethearts had a jail fundraiser for Relay for Life where you could pay to put people in “jail” (no phones, no fun), and ended up raising over $500 over the weekend.

On a completely different note, I have created a Tumblr for the Mason’s Lady. Much of what is here will be reflected there as well, as well as some other extras. You can find it here.

The Masonic Ring

I wanted to talk this week about something that tends to be a lengthy and often heated topic, even among Brothers. The issue is often that the Masonic ring can mean many different things to many different people. Some see it as a symbol of their own Masonic journeys and their dedication to the craft, others see it as an opportunity to share Freemasonry with the world and educate others on the topic, and of course, still others see it simply as a ring, and no more.

What is a Masonic ring?

It seems like such a simple question, but it does not have a simple answer. As we know, there are three degrees given within the Blue Lodge, Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason. Although many things are given to a man when he joins a Lodge (even more so when he becomes a MM), a ring is not one of them. Actually, as a rule, no rings are given to a Mason from his Lodge at all. In fact, there are only two official rings given within Freemasonry to a candidate. Those are the rings given after receiving the 14th and 33rd degrees of the Scottish Rite. Any other ring you may see, has been chosen and purchased by the candidate, or given to him from a friend or family member. Most often the rings that you will see people wearing are rings with a square and compass (Blue Lodge rings) or rings with the double headed eagle (usually 32nd degree Scottish Rite rings). Some men may get new rings after their year as Worshipful Master, or after joining a appendant body (Scottish Rite and the Shrine are the most popular as far as rings are concerned.) It is often recommended (though not necessarily followed) that a man not wear a ring, or other Masonic markings until he has received his Master Mason degree.  There is no requirement that a member wear a ring or any other type of jewelry that may mark him as a Mason.

What does a Masonic ring mean?

Again, this seems like such a simple question, but has no correct answer. There are as many meanings to a Masonic ring as there are men wearing them.. I found this reason interesting:

To be forever bound to your obligation, which is your solemn promise, made of your own free will, before the Great Architect of the Universe, as well as your family, friends and brothers signifying your true and heartfelt desire to be forever bound in unity with the fraternity.

This is of course, not the only answer to the question. Some men use it as a kind of unspoken public promotion of their dedication to the fraternity and their Brothers. Others may wear it in hopes that someone may see it and inquire about it, and bring a new Brother to the fraternity. There are many stories of men who found themselves with a petition in their hands after they had asked a stranger about their Masonic rings. It can also serve as a way to identify other brothers whom you may not know. Of course, simply owning and wearing a Masonic ring is not enough; there are a number of phrases and passes taught to a new Mason that helps identify other Brothers who may be strangers. This is actually very important to identifying members, especially today when anyone can get on the internet and order a ring.

What’s the right way to wear a Masonic ring?

I bet you’re figuring out a pattern in this week’s article. Again, there is no correct answer here. There is no correct or proper way to wear a Masonic ring, except for the way that you feel comfortable wearing it. Many men wear the ring on the ring finder of their right hand, opposite of their wedding band. If you want to wear it on the first finger of your left hand however, no one is going to come knocking on your door wanting you to correct it. Usually, however, it is considered improper to wear more than one Masonic ring at the same time (save that for lapel pins!). In addition to this, many Masons do not recommend using a Masonic ring as a wedding band. The idea here is that if something happens that ends the marriage, you may associate those feelings with the fraternity, and it may  be best to just keep those two things separate.

The big discussion among the brethren is of course, which way the square and compass should be pointing when wearing a Masonic ring. Some men choose to wear the ring so that the two legs of the compass point toward themselves. Some say that this is to remind them of their obligation, or to remind themselves that they are Masons, and that it should reflect in all that they do. For these men, the ring serves as a self reminder of the tenants they honor and the fraternity that they represent. Others wear their rings so that the two legs of the compass point away from themselves. It is said that wearing the ring in this manner, that others see his actions and associate them with Masonry. Wearing the ring with the points facing out is actually more historically accurate. In the past, the rings were used as signet rings, for sealing the wax on letters, and this wearing points up would cause the seal to be right side up. A shorted version of this debate is that the points down reflects the light inward, and the points up reflects it outward. There is no right or wrong way to wear a Masonic ring, you may simply choose to wear it the way that you grab it off your bedside table in the morning. There are no edicts from any Grand Lodge stating the “correct” way to wear a Masonic ring, the choice is yours.

Where can I get a Masonic ring?

Some of us are lucky enough to receive rings as gifts when we receive degrees, or be handed family heirlooms. Others are not so lucky, and we are tasked with finding our own rings. There are thousands out there in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and prices. My number one recommendation for someone that is in the market for a Masonic ring is to look at pawn shops.It’s less of a gamble than buying online, since pawn shops will only buy in rings that are gold plated at the very least.Antique stores are also a great place to look. You may get lucky and get a great price on a really nice ring. Even if you think your town is too small to have any Masonic items in the shops, check it out anyway, you may be pleasantly surprised.

There are a lot of places to get Masonic rings online, and navigating the sites looking for the right one can be a bit daunting.Masonic rings come in many shapes and sizes. T’s looks like a class ring, whereas my OES rings are much smaller and delicate. Many Masonic rings are mass produced, if you are willing to spend a bit more, you can get something custom made. As long as you are a Master Mason, there is no rule as far as what a ring has to have, or can’t have. However, please respect the fraternities, and do not wear a ring for degrees that you have not yet received. It is considered bad taste, and in many areas can bar you from ever receiving the degrees.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Amazon is a great source, especially if you aren’t looking to spend much. The rings here start at just $2.

JemsbyJem is a great ring resource, and has some specialty rings you might not find elsewhere, like a Masonic EMT ring.

The Master’s Jewel also has some very unique rings, however as they are all handcrafted they can become quite pricey.

Etsy can be great if you’re looking for an antique or something unique like a spoon ring. Buy carefully here though, often people resell items that you can find for a much cheaper price.

Gordon’s Masonic Rings are great because they are all stainless steel, handmade, and all rings cost the same amount- $105.

Even Walmart and Target get in on it.

If none of those stores have anything you like, you may want to check out the mass market Masonic stores. Again, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and many of these stores carry the same item, so be sure and shop around.

Macoy

Lauterer– Check out the sidebar for more rings

Red Tower Regalia

The MAAC

Freemason Store

Please note that often these store sell more than just Masonic rings, and will usually also sell rings for the major appendant bodies. So, if you are looking for an OES ring, or a Shrine ring, or anything else, many of these stores will also carry them.

Hope that this was an insightful look into something that seems so simple. Have a wonderful week!

Myths about Masonry, Part II

Alright! It’s time to wrap up last week’s article on myths about Masonry. If you missed last week’s article, please check it out for a small intro to the topic, as well as some other myths.

Myth #4- Masons worship the devil, or are involved in witchcraft

I was thinking about where this comes from the other evening in chapter, and came to the conclusion that there are a couple of major contributing factors. As I said last week, Masonry is not a religion, does not take the place of anyone’s religion, and actually requires that someone already have a faith before joining. I think that the first major influence that lead people to believe that Masons were devil worshipers came from G.O.A.T. As you know, goats, or goat heads, are often seen as symbols of devil worship or witchcraft, usually for the purpose of animal sacrifice. You may have seen many Masonic jokes or postcards that show Masons with a goat, or may have heard someone talk about “riding the goat” at a meeting. The Masonic phrase for God, the “Great Architect of the Universe”, or G.A.O.T.U., used to be referred to as “God of All Things” or G.O.A.T. This was changed quickly after the rumors began. In Chapter, I sit at Esther, which is the middle point of the star, and the point that causes so much controversy. I was thinking of why Rob Morris chose an inverted star, also called a pentagram, to represent the order. The traditional line used is that the star “points down to the manger”. This may have some truth, as OES tends to be very Christian oriented. I think that there may be simpler reasons, however. A Chapter room with all officers in attendance is 18 people. That alone can make for a crowded room, and the layout of the officers doesn’t help. If Esther’s point were at the top of the star, it would put three people in a row- the Chaplin, Esther, and the Marshall, which not only would make for a crowded front of the room, but would also result in a very empty back of the room. On top of this, another thought came to me as I sat at this point. If the star was not inverted, and the top point was Esther, this would have the star “point” to the East, and to the Worthy Matron. This may have given people the wrong idea, and think that the Worthy Matron and Patron were those that were meant to be worshiped and revered instead of God. Unfortunately, we may never know the true reason Morris chose this symbol. In addition to these points, someone who is a Satanist could become a Mason, and many have. Often hysteria about a topic begins when someone takes one example and begins to apply it to everyone else that fits even some of those same characteristics.

Myth#5- There are Masonic symbols hidden everywhere, if you know what to look for

Like many myths, this is one that is rooted in some truth. There are Masonic symbols everywhere, if you know where to look. All seeing eyes, double headed eagles, pentagrams, the square and compass, even the cornerstone of a building are Masonic symbols, and can be found almost anywhere if you look hard enough. Many older buildings may have served as a Masonic Lodge, and still bear their symbols. Money, movies, and more things that start with M (as well as those that don’t) can be hiding Masonic symbols “in plain sight”. The important thing to remember here is- many of these symbols are not exclusive to Masonry. Many people claim that the all Seeing Eye on the back of a US dollar is proof that Masons control the government. This symbol actually came from the artist Pierre Du Simitere, who was not a Mason. The concept can be traced back at least as far as ancient Egypt, where the eye of Horus was used as a symbol of power and protection. The pentagram, the symbol for OES, did not acquire any occult meanings until the 19th and 20th centuries, well after Masonry was established. Funnily enough, there is little argument about where the symbols of the Order of the Knights Templar came from. As far as there being a secret square and compass hidden in Washington D.C. that is the secret to the map of the super-secret Masonic treasure? Wishful thinking and often a cause of pareidolia, the scientific word for the psychological phenomena when we perceive vague stimuli as being significant. It has been theorized that humans are hard wired to see patterns like this, to make sense when there is none, in hopes of processing the information a bit easier. This is also the same phenomena that cause someone to see Jesus in a piece of toast.

Myth #6- Freemasonry is a secret society

This one we kind of did to ourselves. A lot of the idea of Masonry being a secret society came about during the 1950’s and 1960’s, its last real big boom. During the obligation, initiates swear that they will not let known any of the secrets presented to them during their initiation. The trouble is, it’s never explicitly stated what is a secret, and what is not. As T says, the only secrets are handshakes, and words of recognition. In our state, anything that is secret is written in code in the ritual book. In OES, all secrets are omitted from writing, and only given by word of mouth (which makes them that much harder to learn). You can learn all you want about Masonry, learn about each officer and what they do, much of the degree work, and even some of a Lodge’s actual business and never even graze learning a secret. The biggest secret in Masonry is that much of our meetings consist of paying the bills, and arguing over who has what percentage share of the building (my Chapter is going through this now, it’s not much fun to deal with, or to listen to). Nothing I ever write here will be a secret, and I have gone fairly in depth on a number of topics. If someone realty wanted to learn the secrets of Masonry, a quick Google search would probably do the trick. I would not, however, recommend doing so if you are, or are ever planning on being involved in the Masonic family. Freemasonry is not a secret society. A secret society would keep its existence hidden, and its membership secret. If Masonry is a secret society, we are doing a terrible job at it. We are very open, not only about our existence, but also about what we stand for, and the work that we do. Freemasonry isn’t a secret society, it’s a society with secrets.

There are a ton of myths and misconceptions out there surrounding Freemasonry. I may return to this topic in the future, simply because there are so many. These are kind of the common ones that you may come across in your lives. If you have any questions about any of these, or have a myth I did not cover that you would like to know about, please feel free to send me an email at themasonslady@gmail.com.  We will be kind of continuing this theme a bit next week, when we look at the sutble ways that Masonry affects the world around us. Have a wonderful week!

The Daunting Task of Memorization

I’m not going to lie to you, I am really good at putting things off. Like many of you, I’m sure, if cleaning, homework, or even writing on this blog can wait until later, it will probably happen. This, unfortunately, leaves me in the position I am in currently. The deadline is swiftly approaching, and I have not even started on what needs to get done. In this case, I have been putting off some memorization work.

As some of you may know, I was invited to act as the star point Esther in my OES chapter. The normal opening work is only a paragraph, but for an initiation, its more like nine. We are having a “straw” (or practice) initiation tomorrow night at our meeting. How much of my part do I have memorized? Zlich, nada, nothing. This article is as much for me as it is for you.

Memory work is a large part of Freemasonry and its appendant bodies. When everyone has their parts memorized, it helps make the opening of the chapter, or the degree given to a candidate, seem seemless and smooth. When someone does not know their part, it shows, and it can be painful to watch, and even jarring to the candidate.Ideally, all ritual work should be memorized, most, if not all, Masonic groups do not allow an open ritual book in an open chapter meeting. There are exceptions to this of course, my OES chapter has a prompter who does have an open ritual in order to help those who stumble get through their parts (although I am sure she could do her job without it). Few, if any boys in my DeMolay chapter have their parts memorized, although T is offering cash money to those who do, in hopes of making the meetings run more smoothly.

How do I even begin?

Memorization can be a daunting task. It feels like you will probably never get there, and that everyone who has their parts memorized are some kind of super geniuses with some sort of memory lobe in their brains that you seem to be missing. The biggest thing to remember about memorization, is that it takes time. You can’t just sit down for 15 minutes and be able to repeat something word for word after the first time. Memorization takes a lot of repetition, not only reading the parts at home, but also attending meetings. There is a big difference between sitting on your couch repeating your part to your cat, and saying the same part in front of a room full of people, and remembering all of the coordinating floorwork, signs, and passes.

The first step to memorizing a part of ritual is to read it. Not just once either, but several times. Be sure to look up words that you do not know the meaning of, or do not know how to pronounce. Ritual work is almost written in its own language, and often includes words that are no longer common in today’s vocabularies. Try to understand the meaning of the part; you will remember what to say a lot better if you understand what the message is trying to convey, rather than simply repeating words. The next thing you want to do is look at the punctuation. Pauses occur often in ritual work, and often have a purpose. You may need to wait for the canidate to reach a certain part of the room, or for a sign to be given to you, before you continue on with your part.

How do I actually memorize it?

There are a ton of different methods out there as far as ways to memorize a part. Once you feel familiar with the part, the hard work begins. I know that the way that T memorizes, and the way that he teaches others to memorize, is to look at the first sentence, repeat it a few times, then close the book, and repeat it aloud; also known as rote memorization. He then moves onto the next sentence, and repeats both the first and the second sentence, returning to the beginning when he gets stuck. This is a very common method for memorization. There is only one flaw with it; people tend to start strong and end weak, because they know the ending better. A solution to this is to work backwards once you are able to repeat it forwards. If you decide to do this, you start with the last sentence, and then add the second to last sentence, working in the same manner as the way that you learned the part before. You may also find that breaking it into parts also makes it easier to memorize in this manner. Be sure to say the parts aloud, there is a big difference between reading the parts in your head, and actually speaking the words.

Another idea is to study your part before you go to bed, and then go back through it when you wake up, to see how much you remember from the night before. Using this method gives your brain to process what it is you’re learning. The reason for this is that your brain is more active in the morning right after you wake up, so anything that you study just before bed or as soon as you wake up is more likely to stick. This method also helps encourage long-term memorization, as you will have to recall the part from day-to-day.

You may also find that seeing the parts done helps you remember the parts themselves. If you have a number of other Lodges or Chapters in your area, visit as often as you can. You will find that you will begin to pick up and cues and words without even thinking about it. This is also very useful for new members, who have not been exposed to a lot of the ritual work.

Utilize technology that is available to you. There are a number of websites and apps out there to help you memorize parts. You may be able to find the part that you need available online, so that you do not also have to type up the part, which can often be lengthy. The majority of these websites and apps basically do the same thing. You read the part, and words are slowly covered up, eventually only showing a blank page. Some websites that do this are Memorize Now and Memorizer an app that works in a similar fashion is iMemorize (available for iOS and Android). Another app that you may find useful is called Memorize Anything. Basically a fancier version of the voice recorder, this app allows you to record yourself saying the part, and then play it back to you at any time.

Memory work can seem like a daunting task. However, the biggest part of memory work, is that it takes time. If you have a part to memorize, take a little time every day, just 15-20 minutes, to work on your piece. Within a week you will find it comes much easier to you, and a few weeks later, you should have no issue reciting your part from memorization. The biggest tip I can give is; learn from my mistake, don’t put off memory work until the last-minute!

Leader of a Nation

Today is one of those holidays that no one really celebrates except the post office and some banks. Kids will learn about it in school, but unless you have children of your own, I am sure that President’s Day is far from your mind. I wanted to serve as a reminder of the holiday today.

There are only 14 presidents who were also Freemasons, not all 43 like many conspiracy theorists would have you believe. They are:
  • George Washington
  • James Monroe
  • Andrew Jackson
  • James Polk
  • James Buchanan
  • Andrew Johnson
  • James Garfield
  • William McKinley
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Howard Taft
  • Warren Harding
  • Franklin Roosevelt
  • Harry Truman
  • Gerald Ford

If you would like to learn more about any of these men, check out this link, which includes dates, and Lodges of membership.
Many other presidents have Masonic rumors about them.
-Many people believe that Abraham Lincoln was a Mason, but he never went through with the degrees. He did turn in an application, but decided to wait to join until after the presidential election, so that it would not appear that he was joining only to seek votes. Sadly, he was assassinated before he was ever able to return.
-Lyndon Johnson received the Entered Apprentice degree, but he chose not to go further after being elected to congress in 1937. He felt that his congressional duties took up too much time.
-Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are both believed to be Masons, but at this time, their membership has not yet been confirmed.
-Ronald Regan is not a Mason, but is an honorary member of the Shrine.
-Bill Clinton was a DeMolay, but never became a Mason.

The Unfinished Portrait of George Washington

What’s the deal with George Washington?
 
If you have ever been in a Lodge room, and had time  to look around, chances are that you would have seen a portrait of George Washington on the wall. It might seem a bit out of place to you. However, Washington was a extremely prominent figure, both in U.S. history, government, and Freemasonry. It is said that he embodied the ideals of both America and Freemasonry, so US Masons tend to revel him. Some Lodges may refer to him as “the perfect Ashlar”, a end goal for every Mason. The concept of each state having its own jurisdiction in Masonry, parallel Washington’s ideal of state’s rights. We use both of these models today. Any portarit of George Washington may be displayed within a Lodge, but the unfinished portrait of Washington done by Gilbert Stuart tends to be the most common.
I hope you enjoyed this short history lesson. Have a wonderful week!

Masonic Journeys (No, the other kind)

Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts and illness did not allow me to attend Nebraksa’s Annual Communication (aka Grand Lodge). Luckily for me, however, the installation of Grand Lodge officers did not occur at Grand Lodge, and will not be until next weekend. The incoming Grand Master is a dear friend, and someone who helps promote The Mason’s Lady, and I hope to be there to show my support for him. That being said, I am going ahead with the planned programming for this week, traveling as a Mason’s lady.

UGLE guys do Grand Lodge with style

How is it different from any other trip?

In short, it’s not, except for a few differences. If you attend Grand Lodge, or another closed/invite only Masonic event, you may not have a great deal of time to spend with your significant other if they are not also a Mason. Often, the larger events will have programs for the ladies, this can be anything from luncheons and free time, to group shopping and other outings. These programs usually occur during the times that Lodge is held at the event, for any reason (although usually it is for voting or similar purposes). Often, the ladies will have a great deal more free time then the Masons do, so prepare accordingly.

There may also be required panels or meetings that you need to attend, or the freedom to pick from a few, or even have free time. It all depends on how the event is set up.

Is there anything special that I need to bring?

There are a number of items that you may not think to bring with you on a Masonic trip, that can be extremely helpful.

  • Business or Contact Cards- You will be meeting a lot of people. Chances are, you won’t remember all of them, even if you agree to do the middle chamber lecture for them next month. Having business or contact cards on you at all times is not only very convenient, but it gives others the impression that you are prepared and think ahead. Even if you do not work for a business that offers you cards, there are a number of companies online, such as vistaprint, where you can create your own. Add any information that you feel is necessary, just be wary of adding your Lodge or any Masonic emblems if you will be using them for any other purpose.
  • Membership/Dues Cards- At large events where you don’t know everyone, during closed sessions (such as Lodge that is held during Grand Lodge), dues cards will be required at the door for entry. Be sure that you have yours, and they they are up to date, and in good condition. If you need new ones, contact your Lodge or Chapter secretary. You may want to consider getting a special billfold or business card holder (such as these) to keep your cards safe and sound.
  • Garment Bags- This is something you will want before you head out for your trip. Being a Mason or a Mason’s Lady requires an investment in nice clothes, and you want to protect that investment. Packing your clothes in the proper luggage will help keep them looking their best. There are a number of types of garment bags out there, including ones that match your exisiting luggage. You can find Masonic luggage here.
  • Your own iron- Again, with keeping your nice clothes nice. Yes, your hotel probably has an iron and ironing board in your room. However, it will probably be different than the one that you have at home, and you will probably be more comfortable with yours from home. In addition to this, the settings on irons can often vary widely, and if you know that your iron works, it is probably better than taking a chance on a burned shirt.
  • That scotch you’ve been saving for a special occasion- It’s no secret that Masons and booze go together like peanut butter and jelly. Most often, after the day’s work is done, the drinking and fun begins. Many Grand Lodges have a hospitality suite that has snacks, and may or may not have a bar. At other events, private parties in rooms are encouraged. Long Masonic events are a great time to meet new people, and new scotches. Be sure to make sure that alcohol is allowed at your event, however, and as always, be responsible.
  • A good book- There can be a lot of downtime during Masonic events. You might not be interested in any of the panels and decide to catch up on some rest, or there may be a two hour lunch break so that everyone can set up for the closed Lodge meeting. Bringing a book, games, or a laptop is strongly encouraged at longer Masonic events.

Although I was not able to attend Grand Lodge this year, it does mark the official one year anniversary of the Mason’s Lady. I feel that I have grown greatly as a person, and as a member of Masonic organizations, simply through the time and research that The Mason’s Lady requires. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but I would not trade it for anything. Have a great week!

What to Expect at a Masonic Installation of Officers

I’m using the “better late than never” strategy for the blog currently. I apologize in advance if there is continued delay or lack of posts on my part, I am still struggling with health issues, hopefully we will get it figured out soon, and we can get back to the regularly scheduled programming.

As I said in my previous post, January is a very common month for installations. Many Lodges and Chapters choose to do their installations just before the Grand Lodge communication. In Nebraska, ours is in February, so we have installations in January. I know of other jurisdictions who’s Grand Lodge is in July or August, and they typically have their installations in June.

I was lucky enough to witness one installation, of T’s Lodge, which means his year as Master is finally over (yay!), and, I was also installed as Esther, a star point, in my Eastern Star Chapter.

What should I expect from an installation?

Every installation will vary a bit from Lodge to Lodge, or Chapter to Chapter, as well as from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. However, they all tend to follow the same general format:

  • Everyone assembles in the Lodge room
  • Introductions and opening remarks are made
  • A non-denominational prayer
  • Installation of officers
  • Presentations and closing remarks
  • Cake!

If you are interested in watching one, Sharptop Lodge #680 has their entire officer installation available on YouTube! (It is just over an hour.)

The number one thing to try to keep in mind is to be on time. In some Masonic organizations, there may be a lot of floorwork that goes on during an installation, and if you are late, you may detract from that, or worse, cause someone to lose their place.

As I said, everyone does their installation a bit different. At both Mizpah’s (T’s Lodge) and my installation, introductions of visiting Worshipful Masters, Matrons, Patrons, and Grand Lodge officers were all made after installation.

For the actual installation part, the format is almost universally the same in every Masonic organization. The Marshal will go and retrieve the person to be installed from their seat (usually somewhere on the Lodge room floor, and not on the sidelines), the Marshall will lead them to the altar, where they will be presented to the Worshipful Master (Worthy Matron. etc), they will take their oath of office, and then the Marshall will lead them to their new seat- usually the chair of their office during a normal meeting. In some Lodges, some parts will be done at the same time. For instance, at T’s Lodge, the Junior and Senior Deacons took their oaths at the same time, as did the Junior and Senior Stewards. At my installation, all of the star points were presented to the Worthy Matron at the same time. This helps cut down on the overall time of the installation.

Elected officers of Austin Lodge #12 waiting to be installed.

After the installation is complete, there is a chance for presentations, to the new Worshipful Master. This is usually from heads of other Masonic organizations (Scottish Rite, the Shrine), or may be personal (T got a watch and a pie server). If you have a gift for the new WM, this is your time to give it, whether you are a Mason or not. Note- it is not common to give gifts to the new WM, unless you are a close friend, or otherwise.

Directly after the installation, there is sometimes a receiving line to congratulate the new officers. There may also be photo opportunities.

What would a Masonic event be without cake? After the installation, refreshments are typically served. At T’s it was just cake and punch, and many met up for dinner at a restaurant later. Mine had a full, albeit small meal of sandwiches and chips. Regardless, there is sure to be time for fellowship. Be sure to congratulate the new officers, especially the new WM.

You can expect for a typical Masonic installation to last about an hour, not including refreshments and fellowships. Other organizations, those with more officers, such as Eastern Star or the Shrine, may take considerable more time. I know that my OES installation was about 2 hours, not including refreshment and fellowship afterward.

A final note about installations – check your local Masonic calendar to find out when they are. If they are open, and they will say something like, Mizpah Open Installation of Officers, or Mizpah Installation – Open, that means that anyone can attend. If someone walked in off the street and wanted to go, they could. If it is closed, and again, they will say something like Mizpzah Installation -Closed, that means that only the people who are members of that organization can attend. That being said, if you are at all interested about what goes on during Lodge, or any other organization, an installation is an excellent way to get some insight on how they do everything.

Aw yeah, Masonic cake!

Next week I will go over how to prepare for Grand Lodge, so be sure and check that out.

As always, I hope you have a great week!

Can’t join ’em? Support ’em!

The other night, we had some friends over to play D&D, and have some drinks. A couple of them have expressed interest in becoming Masons in the past, but have never really chosen to follow through.  They have a lot of questions, as many folks that consider joining do. One of them asked me a question that I hadn’t ever really thought of before, no one had ever asked me it so directly. I was actually at a loss for words for a moment, and had to collect my thoughts. I’ve had some time to think on it now, and I’ve think I’ve come up with some pretty good answers to the question: “Why are you so involved with Masons even though you can’t become one?”

I appreciate and support the values and lessons taught, and see the results.

As most all of us know, Freemasonry is all about making good men better. And from what I have seen, they do exactly that. T has been Worshipful Master this year (so close to being done!), and I have seen improvement just over the last year. He has always been a good communicator, but as the year has progressed, I feel that he is better at anticipating both what he needs, and what he needs from me, and is not afraid or unwilling to let me know.  He has always done pretty well with follow through (although he does subscribe to the better late than never theory), but is now more willing to take on more responsibilities, within Masonry, at work, and at home. We are still working on the time management bit though! My roommate Tom joined T’s Lodge this year, and has taken to Masonry like a duck to water. He too, has shown vast improvement in his attitudes at home and work.

The three core values of Freemasonry are Relief, Truth, and Brotherly love. This is really the backbone of Masonry. Relief:Masons are taught to give help to those in distress, and to give to charity. You can read more about relief and how it pertains to Freemasonry hereTruth: Masons are taught to not only be truthful when dealing with others, but also to be truthful to themselves.  Masonry requires this of all its members to hold this moral as highly as possible in both their public and private lives. Brotherly Love:This does not only mean Brothers, but everyone. Masonry teaches that everyone deserves tolerance and respect for their opinions. They are also taught to act with compassion and understanding, especially when dealing with a fellow brother. Let’s think about these morals for a moment. Re-read them, and really think about what they mean. Aren’t these the values that everyone tries to uphold? Isn’t this what we mean when we say someone is a “good person”?  Why would you not want to support an organization, that not only upholds, but also teaches and emphasizes the importance of these values?

It helps make the world a better place.

Millions of dollars are given to charities through Masonry every year. Seriously, millions. Each Grand Lodge has a charity or two that they fund. The Shrine has the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children, and Scottish Rite has Rite Care, often, each Grand Worshipful Master (or equivalent) will pick a “project” charity or two that they want to help raise funds for. All of the women’s auxillaires donate money to charities, often different ones than the men, to help spread the giving around. This year, for my state, it was the Alzheimer’s association. The youth, as well have their own charities, although these are usually constant, like HIKE for Job’s Daughters. More than this, many states have their own children’s home and retirement homes that are run largely by donation. Our Scottish Rite runs a large ranch style facility for at risk youth. The running joke at Grand Lodge and other large conferences is that you never want to enter with cash in your pocket, because you won’t be leaving with it.

Anyone can give money though. It doesn’t take much time or effort. Masons, it seems, are never satisfied unless they go above and beyond. In addition to the money that they give, Freemasons and their affiliated groups also organize and run fundraisers for charities, put on other events for charity; the women at Grand Lodge hold a toy drive, the circus is a fundraiser for the hospitals; and also participate, and encourage others to participate in outside events put on by charities and other fundraisers, regardless if it is a Masonic charity or not. In addition to this, many groups also make hospital visits, see their ill members in their homes, provide scholarships and generally try to spread goodwill and that good old brotherly love around.

The opportunities it provides T, me, and my future family.

The list here is almost endless. The new people to meet, the places to go, the secrets to learn, the time to give, the knowledge to give and receive, the personal and public growth. The opportunities that Masonry provides T and I, and will provide for our future children is enormous. While it is usually frowned upon to mention that you are a member of a Lodge on a job resume, you can say that you are a member of a philanthropic organization. Many people would not know what DeMolay is, but many of my coworkers know that I volunteer and help run a group for young men. These opportunities should never be a sole reason for becoming a Mason, but I won’t lie to you, it is not without its benefits. We have met many people with Masonry that we would not have known otherwise, many of whom are willing to help us out in our public lives.

It gives me alone time.

Distance makes the heart grow fonder. This has been the biggest piece of advice that my mom has given to me concerning my relationship with T ; while my father is not a Mason, he does have a career that keeps him away from home. Mom is right. Not spending every minute of not work time with your SO causes you to cherish the time that you do get to spend together more. This is especially true when your schedule looks anything like ours- something going on almost every night of the week.

In addition to this, it gives me the alone time that I need, something that isn’t emphasized perhaps as much as it should be in this day and age. I am an introvert by nature, and need time away from other people to help recharge my batteries. I know not everyone is this way however. So, I also take the time that T is away at Lodge to do things for myself, a long bath, a nice dinner, watch that movie on Netflix I know he would never like. While T’s Lodge time is his time with the boys, it’s my me time.

It’s fun as hell.

As I’ve said before, even in this article, the Masonic calendar in our area is very busy, with something almost every night of the week. This also helps provide a “something for everyone” sort of atmosphere, which I am certain is one of the goals for Masonry. There are clubs and events for every taste, from a white tie ball, to having drinks in the bar with friends. Not only does Masonry provide us with opportunities to better ourselves, but it also provides a great time with wonderful people. Freemasonry is a ton of fun.

Just because I can’t be one, doesn’t mean I can’t be part of the Masonic family.

Can I be a Mason? No. Can I become a Daughter of the Nile, a member of OES, Order of the Amaranth, White Shrine of Jerusalem, Beauceant, youth advisor and more? Hell yes. Just because you aren’t one of the guys doesn’t stop you from being able to join the Masonic family. Even if you choose not to join formally, you can still be a part of it by supporting your Mason in any way you feel comfortable. Go to events, meet new people, have a good time. It can be very daunting and intimidating at first, but I guarantee you they are some of the most genuinely nice people out there who only want to see your family succeed.

Support your Mason. Without your support, your rough ashlar will never become perfect.