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.

A Look at the Lodge Room and its Officers

I had wanted to give a bit of a history lesson as to why women can’t become Freemasons this week, but due to a hiccup in research, I was forced to go another route. Hopefully I can get that done for you guys soon.

In the meantime, I realized yesterday that I had never actually gone over not only all of the officer positions that a Mason may hold while in Blue Lodge, but hadn’t even discussed how a lodge room is set up! I can assure you that while this information may feel like I am giving away deep, dark Masonic secrets, I can assure you that this is not the case. Please also be sure to note that this information is only accurate for blue lodges within the United States. In the later degrees and organizations, there are different officer positions, and the lodge room is set up slightly differently. I do not think that there is much if any difference for Masonry in the UK, but I do not know that for sure.

The Lodge Room

A.k.a, the place where all the super secret rituals take place. You can go in there. No, really. If you ever visit a Masonic lodge, and would like to see the lodge room, chances are that if you ask, and they are not currently holding a meeting, you are welcome to go in. To be honest, it’s not anything too special to see, but every piece of furniture in the room has a special purpose. Every lodge room is different, some are very elaborate, some are very simple, but they all contain a few key elements.

  • All lodge rooms are orientated east to west. Or this at least the attempt. The front of the lodge room, where the Worshipful Master (more on him later) sits is east. Even if it is not actually in the east, it is still referred to as such.
  • It is a rectangular room with seats around the perimeter. The idea here is pretty simple, you want everyone to have a good view of what is going on. There’s usually no more than two or three rows of seats, so you (hopefully) don’t get stuck sitting behind someone with giant hair like you might at the movies.
  • An altar in the middle of the room with a sacred text on it. In many parts of the country, this may be the Bible. In others, the Koran or the Torah. Some lodges have all three. It is referred to, not as the Bible, but as the Volume of Sacred Law.
  • Three candles in a triangle position around the altar. Threes are important to Masons (three degrees, three lead officers, etc), and the triangle acts as a reminder of the compass. These are usually electric candles, though not always. These are used when the Volume of Sacred Text is read aloud.
  •  Special chairs in the room for officers. More on this later.
  • Two pillars with globes on top. One of these is a globe of the Earth, and the other of the heavens. The pillars are fashioned after the two bronze columns from Solomon’s Temple, which is the location that all of the degrees revolve around. These are usually near the Senior Warden, or near the main entrance.
  • An illuminated letter G. This may hang over the Worshipful Master’s chair, or over the altar. The G stands for both G-d and for geometry, because it was the secret knowledge of the operant (building) masons.
  • Other structures vary by lodge. The floor around the altar may be a black and white checkerboard, because Solomon’s Temple was described as having a similar floor. It may have giant stones, one rough, and one nice and polished, these are referred to as the rough and perfect ashlar, respectively, and are used in an analogy during degree work. You may also find the lodge’s original charter in the room, as well as other masonic and masonic affiliated pieces in the room. Often the blue lodge is not the only group that meets in this room, and so you may find artifacts of York Rite, Order of the Eastern Star, or others as well.

Typical Lodge Officers

Remember when I said earlier that every officer has their own seat? That’s because there are thirteen officers within the lodge, each with their own job. Not sitting in the same spot every time would disrupt a ritual a great deal! There are two ways to get an officer position to get in at the bottom and sit in (almost) every chair, one each year, for a total of 7 years, or simply be appointed or elected to the position. Every officer position has a jewel of their office.

Layout of typical officers seats

  • Worshipful Master – Starting at the top and working our way down, we begin with the Worshipful Master. This is the head honcho, the guy in charge. This office is the highest honor to which a lodge can appoint any of its members. He sits in the big chair in the East, and oversees all business of his lodge. He also presides over all ritual and ceremony.  Think of him as the president of the lodge. Someone who used to be the Worshipful Master but is no longer is referred to as a Past Master. Note: The use of the word “worshipful” here is a honorific meaning “worthy of respect”, not one to be worshipped. His jewel is the square.
  • Senior Warden– Next “in line” is the Senior Warden. He is the second of the three principal officers in the lodge, think of him as the first vice president. The Senior Warden may act as Master of the lodge if he is unavailable,. Usually he will become Worshipful Master next year. His jewel of office is the level.
  • Junior Warden This is where it can start to get confusing. Think of the Junior Warden as the second Vice President of the lodge. He is the third of the three principal officers in the lodge, and may also be able to act as Master of the lodge if he is unavailable. In some lodges, the Junior Warden is in charge of making sure that visitors have the necessary credentials. He is also usually in charge of arranging meals.The jewel of this lodge is the plumb.
  • Senior Deacon The role of the Senior Deacon is to act as the Worshipful Master’s messenger. He will often carry orders between the Worshipful Master and the Senior Warden.  He also assures that the Volume of Sacred Text is opened to the correct page at the beginning and end of the meeting, and also lights and extinguishes the candles around the altar. The jewel of this office is the square and compass with the sun in the middle. He carries a rod with the jewel.
  • Junior Deacon The Junior Deacon acts as the Senior Deacon’s assistant, making sure that correspondence between the Worshipful Master and the other officers are carried out. He is also in charge of making sure that the Tyler is guarding the door at all times, and assuring that visitors have been vouched for. Some jurisdictions split this into two positions the Junior Deacon and the Inner Guard. The jewel of this office is a square and compass with a moon in it, and he carries a rod with the same symbol.
  • Senior and Junior Steward The Stewards are the assistant officers. They are the first to be asked to fill in if an officer could not make it to lodge. They also have the role of escorting the candidates around the lodge room during the degrees. The Junior Steward acts as an assistant to the Senior Steward when necessary. Stewards may sit in a different location than seen above, as their location is never mentioned in the ritual. The jewel of this lodge is the cornucopia. They both carry rods with this jewel. 
  • Treasurer Up until this point, all of these officer positions are in the progressive line. That is, if you start as a Junior Steward, if your lodge uses the progressive line system, in seven years you will be Worshipful Master, if you sit in every seat. The Treasurer is not in this line, and his job is exactly what you would think. He is responsible for all financial transactions within the lodge, including dues. Usually the same person will hold this position for many years. His jewel is the crossed keys.
  • Secretary Again, you can probably guess what this officer does. The secretary is in charge of all correspondence to members, minutes of Lodge meetings, petitions of new candidates, holds a continuous roster of lodge members, as well as other administrative duties. He communicates with the Grand Lodge, types letters, and receives the mail. He must be very well versed in his Grand Lodge’s By-Laws, as well as his Lodge’s By-Laws. For this reason the same person holds this office for many years. His jewel is the crossed quill pens.
  • Marshall The Marshall is the Lodge’s conductor of ceremonies. His job is chiefly the organization of processions, and ensuring that there the correct etiquette is carried out within the Lodge meetings. It is also his job to formally introduce visitors to the Lodge. His jewel is the crossed batons.
  • Chaplain The Chaplain is the spiritual leader of the lodge. Although he may not be a Minister, Rabbi, or Imam, he acts as such within the Lodge. He is responsible for prayers in the opening and closing of the meetings, as well as during degrees and before meals. Everything the Chaplain does is strictly nondenominational. His jewel is the opened book. 
  • Tyler (or Tiler)- Perhaps one of the most important officer positions within the Lodge is the Tyler. It is his duty to ensure that only those who are qualified enter the Lodge room, and that there are no eavesdroppers or unneccessary interruptions. It is also his job to ensure that all who enter the Lodge room are wearing a Masonic apron. His symbol is the sword, and he also carries (a not very sharp) one. 
  • Other officers There are many other officer positions, although these tend to vary from Lodge to Lodge, as well as from Grand Lodge to Grand Lodge. These include: Inner Guard, Chaplain, Director of Ceremonies/Ritualist, Marshal, Senior and Junior Master of Ceremony, Almoner, Organist/Director of Music, Superintendent of Works, Immediate Past Master, Orator, Historian, Charity Steward, Poet Laureate, and Pursuivant.

Whew! I know that is a lot of information, so be sure and re-read it a few times if you feel like you didn’t absorb any of the information. There are also officer positions that only exist at the Grand Lodge level, but I will not be covering those at this time.

I hope everyone has a great week, and if anyone is in eastern Nebraska, and is interested in attending a Ladies at the Table on Saturday, send me a message!