I’m not certain how often this is noticed, but I do tend to write about topics that either rub me the wrong way or rub others the wrong way. What can I say? Apparently, my writing motivation is just wired that way. Fair warning, this is a bit of a rant.
Recently, an acquaintance started a Masonic Education group. I think that this is a wonderful thing. Freemasonry tends to be a very large topic, and has a lot of nooks and crannies, sometimes the meaning of one sentence can be teased out for hours on end. I think that’s great. Any sort of intellectual conversation that is friendly, and makes you think, and challenges what you know and believe should always be encouraged in my opinion. It’s a wonderful way to further the community, as well as a great way to help people understand things in ways they might not have thought of before.
That being said. I will never attend the education group. It has nothing to do with the people running the group, or that I disagree or dislike the topics being discussed, or even that I simply don’t have the time. It’s because I’m not allowed.
Now, as many of you know, I am okay with not being allowed to become a Mason. I would simply like something similar for myself. Separate but equal. The only thing missing is the pedigree; alas, that is another post altogether.
However, I am a firm believer that Masonic education should be for everyone, both Masons, and non-Masons, as well as for men, women, and everyone in between. As it stands, Freemasonry supports this idea as well. UGLE has made a number of positive statements about the existence of the women’s Lodges. The Master Craftsman of the Scottish Rite is open to absolutely everyone. Many Annual Communications have Masonic Education breakfasts that are open. The first year that I attended an education breakfast, I was told that they would have to double-check that it was okay. When I got the go ahead, I was the only woman there. The following year, I was very happy to see other women attending.
I think that the thing that bothers me the most, is that not allowing open communication and education on Masonic topics is only furthering the issue of miscommunication about Freemasonry, not only online, but also in Lodges, and relationships. Turning inward and denying others something as simple as education hurts not only those you turn from, but also Freemasonry as a whole.
I would love to have a time where I could have an intellectual conversation about things like the symbolism used within the degrees. Yes, I understand secret work could not be discussed with non-Masons, but secret work is a very small portion of what Freemasonry is really all about. Discouraging interested non-Masons from conversing about Masonic educational topics often leads to disgruntled Google searches, which usually links either directly to ritual work, or a lot of misinformation. Education should be freely used and freely given; there are some topics that have a proper time and place, but that does not mean that someone should be denied completely. Get out there and educate yourselves!
What do you think? Does your Lodge or Masonic community have an education group? Have you ever attended? Why or why not? Do you think Masonic education should be for anyone who’s interested, or more regulated?
Other news: Be on the lookout! The Mason’s Lady will be featured on the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (SRNMJ) Blog later this month! I will be sure to link to it when it is posted.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
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:
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!
Just a reminder that Halloween is this Friday. If this is news to you, you may want to start thinking of a costume. Why not a famous Freemason? Here’s some examples to get those creative juices flowing.
There’s Frontiersman David Crockett
Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s
Master Escape Artist Harry Houdini
Shaquille O’Neal, former NBA star
Of course, we can’t forget the ladies! Always popular are Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross
And Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie, both of whom are members of OES.
Of course, if you really run out of time, there’s always…
…the conspiracy theorist.
If you do end up dressing like a famous Freemason, let me know! I would love to showcase your costume here. As always, have a wonderful week, and a safe and fun Halloween!
When my roommate, Tom, first joined the Lodge, I’m pretty sure he did not own any dress clothes, I think perhaps simply because he had never needed them before. Unfortunetly, jeans and a t-shirt will not get you far in Masonry. In fact, many levels of dress are needed with the Lodge- some may require you to wear a suit or tuxedo every meeting, where as others are much more lax. Regardless of your Lodge’s dress code, you will eventually attend some Masonic or other function where you will need to know how to care for dress clothes. And so, Tom, this one is for you.
Not the way you want to be showing up to your first Grand Lodge formal dinner.
Where to get dress clothes
At the store, obviously, right? Well, the issue here is that nice clothes often come with a not so nice price tag. If you are one of the lucky ones out there for whom money is no object, you can probably skip this section. For the rest of us, read on.
Thrift stores- Buying clothes at thrift stores takes the most patience, but also gives the highest reward. I have bought $150 dresses for $2 before, but that does not mean that I was lucky enough to just walk in and pull it off the shelf. You best bet is to find out where the thrift stores are near you, and go often, about every 2 weeks or so. Since they get so many donations, what will be on the shelves will change often. Usually you will find khakis and polos here, although many thrift stores will often carry suit jackets. Full suits are harder to come by, while tuxedos are almost unheard of. Don’t forget to look at their ties, belts, and shoes! Watch out for stains, and don’t forget, that if it doesn’t fit you perfectly, if you feel that it’s worth it, you can get it tailored.
Garage sales– Similar to thrift stores, you will want to shop early and often. Unfortunately, these usually only go on during the summer. You will of course, have less of a selection at a garage sale, but they can be good locations to pick up shoes, hats, and other accessories such as cufflinks.
eBay/Amazon– As you know, these places sell everything. Be sure to have a measuring tape around, or know your measurements, as you will want to be sure to order the correct size.
TJMaxx/Kohl’s- These stores carry tend to carry last year’s items that didn’t sell, but lucky for you, nice dress clothes never go out of style. They have large sales often, so be sure and check them out.
Suit stores/Tuxedo rental shops- Don’t buy “off the rack”. What you are looking for here are the tailored suits that no one picked up, the rentals that they are retiring, last season’s suits that are on sale, or even an item with a small flaw, that you or a tailor could fix. Sometimes you may have to ask if they have anything like this, so call ahead before heading out.
Other people’s closets– No, I don’t mean wandering into people’s houses looking for dress clothes. Ask your family and friends if they have any unwanted dress clothes in the back of their closets. Chances are, they may have similar tastes to you, and you will have a better idea of who may wear a similar size to yourself.
Make your forefathers proud. You know, by dressing nice.
What you will need:
For a fairly active Mason, attending Lodge or other events 3 or 4 times a month, I would recommend (at least):
3 pairs of khakis
3 or 4 dress shirts
1 suit, or suit jacket
1 pair of dress shoes (black is your best bet)
A large variety of ties, belts, bow ties, vests, etc.
You will also need:
Hangers- preferably wood, with plastic being the nicer, cheaper alternative. Try to stay away from wire. There are a million types out there, but you will be fine with the basic hanger for a while.
An iron – The more you spend, the better it will work, the nicer your clothes will look
An ironing board- these come in a variety of shapes and sizes
You may also want:
A lint brush
A small sewing kit
A Tide pen
Using the iron
Irons come with instruction manuals. I’m sure that everyone throws it away as soon as the box is opened. However, you should get to know your particular iron. The one thing you will need, is water. There should be a small flap near the top of the iron for the water to go into. Many people recommend using distilled water only, however, I have used tap water for years without issue. The better irons will have the temperature settings for specific fibers. If you are unsure what the garment you are ironing is made up of is made out of, check the tag. The tag will also tell you whether or not you should iron the article of clothing. For more on what all those funny symbols mean, head here.
Caring for polos and khakis
Often, if you are not an officer, or your lodge does not have a strict dress code, you can wear khakis and a polo to most Masonic events, perhaps even your Lodge meetings. Taking care of polos is extremely simple. Think of them simply as fancy t-shirts. You can wash them in the washing machine, and hang them when they come out of the dryer. Usually no ironing is needed, but if it is, simply lay the shirt flat, and press, using the heat indicated on the tag.
Khakis are a little bit trickier. While you can wash and dry them according to their care tag, they will still need to be ironed. While I could go step by step on how to iron the pants, I think a video will work a bit better:
Be sure and hang the pants up after ironing if you are not wearing them right away. You will want to fold them in half length wise, and have this fold be what is hanging on the hanger, like so:
Caring for a suit
For the most part, dress shirts, that is, long-sleeved button up shirt that you wear with khakis or a suit, can be washed in the washing machine. As always, check the label on the shirt, as many specialty fabrics such as silk must be hand washed or dry cleaned only. Much like khakis, they will need to be ironed once you take them out of the dryer. Shirts are a bit trickier than pants, so be sure to watch the ironing video below:
The suit itself, on the other hand, that is, the jacket and the matching pants, CANNOT be washed in the washing machine. Please, do not even try. You will ruin it. It will need to be dry cleaned. You don’t need to take it to the cleaners every time that you wear it, in fact, you shouldn’t. Instead, you can care for it in between cleans by going over with it with a lint brush. You can also usually use a tide pen if necessary. If it gets some wrinkles, you can lightly press it, but as always, be sure to check the tag.
Caring for a tuxedo
You lodge may require that all officers or members wear a tuxedo, or you may only wear one for Grand Lodge. However, if you find yourself wearing one more than twice a year, it is probably worth it to buy a tuxedo instead of renting one. If you are unsure where to purchase one, ask the company that you usually rent from. They may sell there, and if not, they can point you in the right direction.
Usually you are able to wash and dry the tuxedo shirt in the washing machine. It is simply just a dress shirt with more fabric. While ironing, you will want to press the front folds away from the button holes, so that they lay flat.
The tuxedo itself will need to be dry cleaned, however, like a suit, there are ways that you can care for it in between cleanings. If you do not wear it more than a few times a year, I recommend that you store it within a garment bag, to help keep the dust and other nasty things off of it.
What to do in case of emergency
Unfortunately, things do not always go the way that we want them do, even with clothing. I recommend that you get a tide pen that you keep on you at all Masonic events, especially those that serve dinner. The other thing I can recommend to you is to get a small sewing kit, so that you can sew back on buttons and repair small holes.
Of course, you may not have the time, or be comfortable with doing this. If this is the case, I recommend that you find a good tailor in your area. Small wear and tears are usually inexpensive to fix. Having a good tailor is also recommended for altering clothing, which is nice to have in case of weight gain or loss. It is also great to buy a suit “off the rack”, and have it tailored to you, which is much cheaper than buying a tailored suit.
Unfortunately, sometimes we get distracted while ironing, or may not get to a stain as quickly as we would like to. More often than not, the best case is to donate the clothes. Usually things like this cannot be repaired, or if they can, the clothing may not look “right” again. Lucky for you, you know where to get new ones inexpensively!