What Masonry Isn’t

Every so often, I get a concerning email. It’s usually from a wife or girlfriend, who has some concerns about Masonry. However, often these worries are something a bit above my pay grade. I wanted to take some time to talk about these concerns in general, and talk about what Freemasonry isn’t.

Freemasonry isn’t a secret society. If it was, they wouldn’t be in parades, handing out candy and driving little cars. They wouldn’t be giving speech therapy to kids, or have pediatric hospitals with their name on it in bright red letters. You wouldn’t be able to find out basically whatever you want to know about Freemasonry with a quick Google search. Instead, it is correct to say that Freemasonry is a society with secrets. As I’ve said before, these secrets are ways of recognizing each other through handshakes, words and phrases.

Freemasonry doesn’t want to take your SO from you. It is taught in Masonry that your obligations to your family, your work, your God, come first. Freemasonry is not out to steal your SO from you, even though it may feel like there is something going on in the Masonic family every night of the week. If you feel that your SO is spending too much time on Masonic stuff, say so to them. They might not recognize it. If you feel that you continue to have issues, I would recommend going and speaking with each other and a moderator, so that everyone can ensure they are being heard and understood. I would not recommend bringing the rest of the Lodge into it.

Freemasonry isn’t a religion, or anti-religion. In fact, it’s the opposite. In order to become a mainstream masculine Mason, you must profess a belief in a higher power. (Depending on your jurisdiction, the wording may be different, some say higher power, some say God, etc.) A lot of ritual and stories told within Masonry are based on Judaeo-Christian teachings; that is, a lot of things used within Masonry ritual is taken right from the Bible/Torah. That’s not to say a Pagan or Muslim cannot become a Freemason, anyone who meets the requirements can become one. There’s a lot of talk about there being a “Masonic Bible”, you can read more about that here. There did used to be issues between Catholics and Masons, and although Catholicism may still deter people from becoming Masons, there is nothing that is stopping a Catholic man from becoming one. All of this being said, there are some Masonic auxillary groups that require the members to specifically be Christian.

Freemasonry isn’t/doesn’t __(insert conspiracy theory here). There’s a million conspiracy theories out there about Masonry. That they control the government. That they are secretly lizard people. That they control politicians. That they control celebrities. That there’s such a thing as a 99th degree Mason. That they have some secret power or ability that only those that achieve the highest level degree are privy to. There’s a million out there. Allow me to assure you, most all of these have no foundation of truth. (The only one I can think of would be the politician one, in the 1800’s a lot of politicians were Masons. That’s how/why the Anti-Masonic party was founded, which later became the Whig party.) I’ve watched these guys struggle to organize a pancake breakfast; the idea that they run the government is laughable.

The best thing you can do is educate yourself. There’s a lot of information and misinformation out there about Freemasonry. Arm yourself with knowledge. My first recommendation (beyond here!) is Brother Hodapp’s Freemasonry for Dummies. I’ve read this cover to cover, and it is always the first book I use for reference. (Sadly our signed copy got lent out and never returned.) It’s probably the most dog-eared, highlighted, annotated, bookmarked book in our collection. The great thing about this book is that it has an extensive resource section in the back with recommendations for more places to look on specific topics. Funnily enough, another great resource is Wikipedia, there’s quite an extensive section on Freemasonry. If you need help for information on any specific topic, don’t hesitate to contact me.

A Call for Help

I came across a very interesting video on CNN last night. The mother and uncle of Philando Castile, the young man who’s death recently sparked the protests in Dallas, that have, sadly, lead to more deaths.

I know that like many social topics, this is one that people feel very strongly about one way or the other. As this is not a blog about social and legal issues, I will not be sharing my opinion about what is going on, in hopes of staying as nonpartisan as possible.

However, in the midst of this tragedy, an unexpected Masonic topic came up, the one of brotherly relief. Many people are well aware that there are varying signs and phrases that Masons use, with varying degrees of secrecy. What I was not prepared for, however, was seeing one on CNN. You can see it at the end of the video below.

Please note, I would not normally share or talk about this, but because it was shown on a major news network, about a major news story, I felt that it was appropriate to mention. I will not talk further about what is said, other than that it is a call for help.

http://www.cnn.com/video/api/embed.html#/video/us/2016/07/07/philando-castile-mother-uncle-interview-full-newday.cnn

The concept is, basically, that if someone calls in help this way, that as long as they are a brother in good standing, you should not judge the situation, and do whatever you can to help.

That raises a ton of questions.

What is a brother in good standing?

Theoretically, it means only a brother who is current on his dues, and a member of a Grand Lodge that is recognized by yours. But what if they’re behind on dues? What if their GL is unrecognized? About eight Prince Hall Grand Lodges are still unrecognized by their mainstream counterpart in the United States. What if they are unable to be vetted for, for whatever reason? What’s more, what if the Brother has done something illegal, and is now asking for help? Does it matter what he’s done?

How can we not judge the situation?

The short answer: you can’t. As soon as you learn about the situation, any situation, you’ve already formed some sort of opinion on it. The question is if you can put aside your personal judgement to help someone who really needs it.

What falls under “whatever I can do to help”?

Just money? Just time? Both? Do you not have to assist if you are far away? Or are you obligated no matter where you are?These questions are never answered, this is something you must answer for yourself. Much like you must not pass judgement on the situation, you should make a judgement call about what is reasonable about how much assistance is warranted, both for the situation, and yourself.

If you would like to help RW Brother Clarence Castile, who asked for assistance in the video, a GoFundMe page has been created. However, I can’t help but feel he was asking for help on a much grander scale.

Masonic Funerals

Sadly, I had to put my dog down this week. It may be morbid, but it got me thinking about death, and talking with my husband about what he wants to happen when he is gone. I think this is a very important conversation to have with your loved ones. We talked about whether or not we would want a Masonic or OES funeral. But what exactly does that entail?

When a man is initiated into Masonry, he receives a special lambskin apron that is pure white. The color represents many things, including the “washing away of sins”, the blank slate of his mind, and the lamb of G-d. Usually, the only time he will wear the apron is when he receives it. The apron is then tucked away in a safe place. When the Mason passes, he is buried with the apron on, or it is burned, in the case of cremation.

As for the funerals, there are three major types you will see:

-Masonic

 

-OES

 

-Templar

Please note: this is a video of the Knight’s Templar Wreath Laying Ceremony. There is an actual funeral service, but it is fairly similar to this.

Many of the auxiliary groups have their own service rituals, but these are the most common that you will see. Often, a special prayer may be said when a member of a Lodge or Chapter passes, whether or not they have chosen to have a Masonic funeral. In addition, many groups have a special ritual evening that remembers all those who have passed in the last year.

Have you ever been to a Masonic funeral service? What did you think? Is it something you would choose for yourself?

 

Freemasonry and Sex

Alright, let’s start with this disclaimer.

This is an article for those 18 and up only. If you are under 18, and have questions about sex, please visit Scarleteen.

Now that that’s out of the way. There’s a couple of things that are never discussed in Lodge, religion and politics. However, there is another topic here, that is not even mentioned, sex. What does sex have to do with Freemasonry? More than you might think.

What does Masonry say about sex?

Sex itself is really only mentioned once, during the obligation itself. A Master Mason candidate swears that he will respect and uphold the integrity of another Master Mason’s wife, mother, daughter, or sister. Included in this bit, that he will not have “carnal intercourse” with them. So, not specifically sex, but can you think of any other kind of “carnal intercourse”? The idea here isn’t that a Mason can’t date another Mason’s sister, but more that he won’t do it behind his brother’s back, and more pointedly, won’t sleep with his brother’s wife.

The Demolay obligation includes that the candidate will respect womanhood, and a promise to not defame the character of any woman. Not exactly what is included in the Master Mason degree, but the general idea is the same. Interestingly, there is no such promise made in the OES, or Daughters of the Nile obligation, nor is there anything of the like in Job’s Daughters, or Rainbow Girls.

What about LGBT Masons?

Something that has come up in the last few years is whether or not the obligation should be changed, to include those in same sex relationships. Not every (L)GBT Mason’s SO is also a Mason of course, just like not every heterosexual Mason’s SO is in Eastern Star. Many people feel that this should be changed to include husband, son, father, and brother, while others feel that it is implied. If it is to be changed, as we know with Masonry, it will not be any time soon, especially not if you live in Georgia.

Yes, you read that right. If you are a gay or bisexual man, who lives in Georgia, you cannot become a Mason. The Grand Master barred any gay man from joining Freemasonry last year. Yes, you read that right. Of course, they also tried to eject someone for being a “non-white”, and also don’t allow fornicators to become Masons…. Good luck with that Georgia.

What about the T in LGBT? This is kind of a tricky subject, and from what I can tell, is mostly decided on a case by case basis. There are a couple of jurisdictions who ask if you were “born male” on their petition paperwork. If you’re interested in reading more about this topic, check out Being Transgender in the Masonic Community.

What about those of us who like to spice it up a bit?

I’m not going to lie to you, Freemasonry and the Masonic community is sometimes a bit like stepping back in time. It 100% supports the idea of the 1950’s household, complete with slippers and dinner on the table when the husband gets home from work. It’s starting to get away from that, but very slowly, as with all things in Masonry. This can be both a burden and a boon. Sometimes it’s kind of fun to play subservient housewife, who is only interested in cooking and magazines…right up until the time that an older Mason thinks I’m dumb because of whats in between my legs. My point is, it can be fun sometimes, but can get old very, very fast. I will be coming back to this topic when I discuss Masonry and Feminism later this year.

And then there’s the people who take things just a bit too far. Sometimes my research for this blog takes me to the depths of the internet; through some other family’s vacation photos to Washington D.C., to websites from the Geocities era, and somehow, I found myself at a website all about the Red Star.

Before you go Googling it, please know, it is absolutely NSFW. I just want to go on record, that this is absolutely, one-hundred-and-ten-percent, not Masonic ritual. It is someone’s (or a few people’s) fantasy. It is absolutely not real. The entire “ritual” is posted, and reads like a bad BSDM fanfiction. The basic idea, is that after a man becomes a Master Mason, his wife must undergo a ritual, turning herself completely over to him, becoming completely submissive. She then becomes his “red star”. It even comes complete with Bible quotes about being a good and subservient wife, so you know it’s legit; NOT! Again, seriously, this is not a real thing, a quick search will show you that it falls apart pretty quickly. But just in case you needed an idea for Valentine’s Day…

Ummm…

I guess the bottom line here is, Masonry and sex do not really mix, as it shouldn’t. Don’t sleep with other Mason’s SOs (unless you have their permission), don’t be a gay Mason in Georgia, and don’t believe everything you read on the internet, especially when it comes to Masonry.

 

Grand Lodge is this weekend, marking the third year of The Mason’s Lady! Hope to see some of you there!

How to Keep Freemasonry from Ruining Your Marriage, and Why It’s Not Supposed to Be That Way

Every week it seems, I receive an email or PM saying more or less the same thing. My husband joined Freemasonry behind my back. I don’t like how much time Masonry takes up. Freemasonry is ruining my marriage.

 There are dozens, if not more, forums stating the same thing. That Freemasonry wants nothing more than to take men away from their wives, their children, and their families.  Let me first assure you, that this is not the case. In fact, Freemasonry teaches that it should not be a priority in your life. Your family should always come first, as should work, school, and anything else that may be important in your life. Freemasonry should supplement and complement  your life, not take over it. Unfortunately, many new members jump into the deep end, and either become overexcited with all of the new opportunities, or feel guilted, or that they “should” do this or that event, and quickly find themselves overwhelmed. If you find yourself in this situation, either as a Mason, or an SO of a Mason, this is what I recommend doing.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. This is the biggest factor, and honestly, the easiest to do. However, it is also the most overlooked. If you feel that your SO is spending too much time at Masonic events, tell them. They may not realize that you are struggling with it at all, and think that everything is fine. Your partner is not a mind reader, no matter how much we may want them to be. I know that I can fall into the trap of being passive aggressive in hopes that my partner will somehow magically be able to guess what is wrong. If you have a problem, or even just a question, about Freemasonry, or anything else for that matter, speak with them about it. In addition to this, those who are members of Masonic organizations need to communicate clearly with their leaders. I know I have been goaded more than once into doing some event that I didn’t really want to because I felt I had to. Don’t be afraid to communicate your wants and needs to them. If you can’t make it to something, they will understand.
  1. Do your research. A lot of the time, the reason we don’t like, or are afraid of something, is because we don’t know about it. A lot of women tell me that they are concerned about the secrets that the Freemasons tell the men to keep from their wives. As I’ve said before, and I will say again: Freemason secrets are nothing more than handshakes, and ways to recognize each other. If you want to know for yourself, Google it. No, seriously. Anything that goes on in Lodge you can find on the Internet. I’ll even give you a leg up; the most commonly used book is called Duncan’s Masonic Ritual and Monitor. It’s even in handy dandy PDF form! A fair warning though- it is mind numbingly boring to read. However, if you are a Mason who has not yet received all of their degrees, or are someone who wants to someday become a Mason, I recommend you do not read it. Not knowing what is coming is half the fun of initiation. In addition to this, know that if you do read it, and ask your SO questions, they may not be able to answer them all. Although all Masonic secrets can be found with a quick search, the men who join still swear an oath to never reveal them.
  1. Get involved. This kind of goes hand in hand with number two. When T first told me about the Shrine, I imagined this super-secret bar that entrance could only be gained with the correct knock and password, that it would be far off the beaten path, maybe even underground. When I first went to the local Shrine, I realized I passed it a million times every week. It was plain, out in the open, open to the public, with large signs and statues advertising what organization lay inside. I think sometimes we let our imaginations carry us away. Lodge night quickly becomes men in dark robes, chanting in an underground chamber of a long forgotten castle. If you’ve never been to your SO’s Lodge, go! There is nothing stopping you from entering the building, meeting the other members, or even entering the Lodge room. Ask the Worshipful Master for a tour, I am certain he will be happy to. If you’ve been frustrated with your SO’s lack of answers, ask someone who may know there. Don’t just go when there are family events, go on Lodge night, go and have dinner with them before their meetings, ask if you can sit in on education lectures. You won’t be able to go to everything, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. Even just going to a Lodge meeting and sitting out with the Tyler, reading a book, can do wonders to put your mind at ease.
  1. Consider therapy. Don’t think of therapy as a bad thing. Just like Masonry, you want to make a good thing better. It may help you learn things about your SO you never knew before. This is why many religions require couples to go through some kind of counseling before they are married.  Often times, just having a third, neutral party can help more than you can imagine. Going to therapy can help you learn how to communicate better, which we all know leads to better relationships. Sometimes we realize issues are bigger than we thought, and sometimes they are in reality such a minute detail we don’t even remember why they seemed so big in the first place. Counseling and therapy can help give you perspective, and can help you grow as a person, and as a couple. I highly recommend it for anyone, not just those who feel they are having issues, Masonic or otherwise.
  1. If all else fails, back away. This, I feel like is also very difficult to do. If Freemasonry is causing enough discourse that your SO feels that it is ruining your relationship, it’s time to step away for a bit. Not from your relationship of course, but from Masonry. I feel like so often we feel obligated to do everything, especially as new members, that we get overwhelmed quickly, sometimes without even realizing it. Masonry will be there when you get back. Being a Mason is kind of like being a Jew, once a Mason, always a Mason (you do have to keep current on dues of course). It’s okay to take a break, Masonry will still be there when you are ready to return. Please, please do step away, especially if you feel that your relationship with your SO, or any other aspect of your life is suffering because of it.

Hopefully this helps at least one person out there. If you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me here, or email at themasonslady@gmail.com

 

Masonry and Patriotism

Hope everyone out there had a safe and fun 4th of July. Although the holiday is over, I wanted to touch on the spirit of it, patriotism, and how Masonry uses it as one of its pillars of foundation. If you’re looking for the winners of the Handbook for the Freemason’s Wife giveaway, you will find that at the end of this post.

Many of us who are Freemasons or members of Masonic groups, know how deeply rooted we are in patriotism. However, sometimes I think that even we do not realize quite how deeply seeded this virtue is held throughout the community. The opening of every Chapter, Lodge, Bethel, etc, includes the  Pledge of Allegiance, but I think that it goes far deeper than that. I think that Brother John Hillman said it best in a speech on the topic at during the communication of the Grand Lodge of Iowa,

“The candidate for the benefits of Freemasonry is halted on the very threshold to be admonished that piety and patriotism are supreme virtues, and he is assured that Masonry has no mantle of protection for the man who is a traitor to his country.” (Brotherhood,11)

     Wow. We know that piety, or godliness is a big deal is Masonry, I mean, its a membership requirement for just about every affiliated organization; and to put patriotism on the same level? Obviously, love for one’s country is a huge deal within the Masonic community, if it is to be held at such a high standard. Really, if you think about it, many of the other virtues and lessons taught within Masonic groups can be seen as components of patriotism. For instance, the Cardinal Virtues of DeMolay, are Filial love, Reverence for sacred things, Courtesy, Comradeship, Fidelity, Cleanness, and Patriotism. Almost all of these virtues can be seen as components of patriotism in one way or another. The idea that if one is patriotic, that many of these other virtues will follow with ease is not hard to imagine.

I think that a lot of the reasoning for why patriotism is so deeply rooted is due to when it was officially founded, and some of its early key members. The United Grand Lodge of England, or UGLE, was founded officially in 1717, almost 60 years before the Declaration of Independence. Freemasonry reached the colonies not too long after. In many ways, Masons helped shape America, as you may or may not know. There are a number of books on the topic, but I will touch briefly on it here.

  • On December 13, 1773, after a Masonic meeting, it was decided that the tea laden ships entering the Boston harbor should not be allowed to dock. After the signal given by Samuel Adams; John Hancock, Paul Revere, and a band of others, boarded the boats and dumped the tea overboard. They were (most) all members of the Boston Masonic Lodge
  • On April 18,1775, Samuel Adams and John Hancock were arrested for treason for their actions. Joseph Warren, also a Mason, rang the alarm bells of the city of Boston. Paul Revere went on his famous ride to call the Minutemen to arms, and so the Revolutionary War began.
  • On April 19, 1783, almost eight years to the day that the Revolutionary War began, the Commander in Chief, George Washington, declared the war was over, and signed a peace treaty. He was of course, a member of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22. During the time of the war, the head of the First Congressional Congress, Peyton Randolf, as well as the head of the Second and Third Congressional Congresses, John Hancock, we also Masonic brothers.
  • August 2, 1776, many of members of the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, and signed the Declaration of Independence. Nine of the signers were known Freemasons. One of the signers is recorded as having visited a Lodge, and as many as 18 other signers are suspected Freemasons. The known signers are as follows: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas McKean, Robert Treat, William Emery, Joseph Hewes, William Hooper, Richard Stockton, George Walton, and William Whipple. Another not oft thought of fact known about the Deceleration of Independence. It was written and signed on parchment paper, which we usually just think of as paper. However, before paper was commercially made, parchment was made out of thin slices of sheep skin, the very same material that Masonic aprons are made of.

Hopefully this has helped given some insight into why patriotism is such a big deal within the Masonic community. Please note that this does not end in the United States. Patriotism is considered a core value in Masonic groups throughout the world, with of course, their own countries being the core focus. Many countries out there have some key players throughout their history that our Masons. The United States, however, to my knowledge is one of the few (if not the only) country where a number of Masons played such a big role in helping shape and create their country.

Now the moment I know you’ve all been waiting for! The winners of The Handbook for the Freemason’s Wife  giveaway are Fresh From the Quarry and Jessica Ropke! Congratulations! Please send your contact information to themasonslady@gmail.com, and your book will be in the mail shortly. I want to thank everyone who took the time to enter, hopefully we can do something similar again in the near future. Have a great week!

The Masonic Membership Problem

Last week, my Chapter had a Past Matron and Patron dinner, after which we took time to honor those who had held that office, as well as give out a 50 year pin. When the Worthy Matron asked all those who had served as Worthy Matron or Patron to stand, I looked around the room. I was the only one not standing. I am the youngest in my Chapter by about 20 years. There are a few members my age, but I tend to be the only one who is there on a regular basis. My first thought was that I wished that there were more people at least in my generation that were members of my Chapter. My realization was that, at least partially, this is my fault. My 60+ year old Associate Conductress doesn’t know any 20 somethings, nor do any of the other members. Grandchildren are an option, but many member’s families do not live in the area. So, I have decided to take it upon myself to help breathe some new life into my chapter. Right now I am just doing some research, so this post is as much for myself as it is for you.

Problem

 The main issue is that Freemasonry, and most of its affiliated groups, are aging organizations. Many members are 60 years or older, and they do not have a great influx of younger members. I think that this happens for a few reasons. Many youth in youth groups like DeMolay or Rainbow for Girls, are not educated on the groups that help run and support them. Since they are often not, or undereducated, they do not become members of adult groups. This issue tends to extend far beyond the youth groups, and into society overall. Many people, especially young people, do not know that Masonry or OES even exist, or think they are long gone, or a secret society that no one can really join. This is, unfortunetly, something that we did to ourselves. Masonic groups attempted to be so secreative in the 50’s and 60’s, that people forgot any other way ever existed. This results in things like, adult children not knowing that their parent was a Mason or a member until their death. Masonry, at least Blue Lodge Masonry, is forbidden to advertise. This causes numerous problems, espeicially in today’s society of constant information. Many affiliated groups follow suit, except for the Shrine. The Shriners are the best known group of Masonry, because they are the ones that not only advertise, but members openly affiliate themselves in public. Even someone who claims to know nothing about Masonry has heard of a Shiner, or at least know them as “the guys with fezzes and tiny cars”. Unfortunetly, this can often lead to members who want to get through Blue Lodge degrees as quickly as possible so they can join the Shrine. Many Chapters, and a few Grand Lodges have changed their official policies on advertisement in order to attract new members. This seems to be doing well for those who go that route.

 

The other issue is not only attracting new members, but keeping the ones that we have. Member retention has been an issue for many years. Many people will join, go through all of the degrees, and rarely, if ever, show up again. I myself am guilty of this; I recently joined Daughters of the Nile and have not been back; the reason here is another issue, choosing the best time for optimal availability for most members. While my OES Chapter meets at 7:30 pm on aWednesday, Daughters of the Nile in my area meets at noon on a Thursday, yes, noon. People don’t come back for many reasons, often though, it’s because the group turned out to be different than what they expected. Many people join Masonic groups thinking it will be all hooded robes and secret handshakes, and are disappointed when it turns out to be more about paying rent and arguing about where money for building maintenance should be spent next. Education of the older generation can lead to issues as well. Many of our older members think than pancake dinners are the best way to bring in new members, which is often not the case.

 Solution(s)

 So, what can we do about these issues? Perhaps one of the biggest problems is that there are so many options out there to help recruit new members, that Chapters and Lodges often get overwhelmed, and much, if anything gets done. It is usually best to start with one or two options, and go from there. Most of the solutions are really quite simple. There’s a ton out there, just do a Google search for “getting new members” or the like. I will share with you a few of my favorites, that I am planning on addressing with my Chapter’s membership committee.

  • Have a membership committee- It sounds like such a simple solution, because it really is. Many smaller chapters do not have a dedicated committee just for membership. It’s really best to have a group of people that come together once a month or so, and come up with ideas for getting new members, as well as implementing them. Come up with fun new meetings to have, interview friends and family, and find out what is stopping them from joining; a lot can be done with this committee.
  • Promote it– As I said above, many Grand Lodges or Chapters may have a “ban” on openly recruiting through advertisement. That doesn’t mean that you can’t let people know you’re out there. I am currently working on my Chapter’s Facebook page to help spread the word. Even something as simple as a flyer left on a college campus or busy business can help. Many local Shrines buy billboard ad placement, but you don’t even need to know that far; your local, non-Masonic community just needs to know that you exisit. Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out, but be sure you won’t have any issues from your Grand Lodge.
  • Make your events with younger members in mind- The majority of Chapter and Lodge new members are those who are younger. That being said, being young often means that your schedule can be hectic. Make your meetings at an attainable time and day, so that as many people as possible can come. (I’m looking at you Sat’ra Temple). Have more events on weekends, or later in the evening. You could also plan alternative meetings, where just minutes are read, and no business is discussed; another option would be to have a more casual meeting in addition to a normal meeting, much like the difference between the 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. church services. Many people in their 20’s and 30’s have children, so be sure to have an option every so often where the whole family can come.
  • Offer a “one time deal” on your dues, and maybe even raise them- This is much more for the Lodges then anything else. My dues for OES are $20 a year, where I know that T’s Lodge is more like $150. When T joined the Shrine, it was because we were at a friendship dinner with a friend, and they were offering half off the first year of dues to anyone who signed up right there. It may also be worth it to look into rasing dues. While no one likes to pay more money, it allows the Masonic body to spend more money on new events.
  • Streamline the sign up process- This one, I am not so sure we can do a ton about, but I always feel like more can be done than what we currently do. From the day I signed my petition, until my initiation, almost 4 months had gone by. I will talk more about this next week, but while there are a number of steps to go through when signing a petition, sometimes I feel like they get pushed around a bit more than need be. I also feel like more education could be done  during the initiation process that could help deter people that are in it for the goat sacrifices.

So, what does the perfect Lodge look like as far as membership? I would say that T’s Lodge is actually pretty close to what I imagine a perfection would look like. His Lodge is actually so popular to join, that not only do they end up giving one degree or another each week, but they also have a waiting list to get in! What do they do that’s so different from my elderly Chapter? Not much. They have a number of young members, most of whom have been brought in by T. They are also very active, they have family dinners before every business meeting each month, they have a good time and go to the Shrine bar after every meeting, and they are active both in and out of the Masonic community. They just are a bunch of people who want to have a good time, and have no shortage of people that want  to join in. I hope that someday, my Chapter can say the same. If I don’t take the initiative to help my Chapter out, our future looks bleak.

What have you tried in your Chapter or Lodge that worked? What didn’t work at all? What do you think Masonry can do to help bring in new members? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this often heated topic. Next week I will be discussing what you should expect when you first sign your petition. Until then, have a great 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 Benefits of Being a Mason’s Lady

Why do you do it? Why support Masons if you can’t be one? Why bother spending 4 hours making food for a dinner you’re not really invited to? Don’t they hate women or something? It’s something that I’ve been asked probably more times than I care to really count. There are many answers to these questions (one of them being that I just like to cook), but there is one that I feel like is overlooked more than most. It’s not really talked about so much, because only those who are already in the same situation as myself realize it. There are benefits to being a Mason’s lady. I actually almost didn’t write this article, because I felt that it kind of undermined the entire fraternal idea, and seemed a little selfish, but, as T pointed out, it is the truth.

You get to feel like a princess.

I will be the first to admit, I am totally a tomboy. Never one for makeup, I shopped in the men’s section until my mid twenties (and sometimes still do). But, no matter how much any woman may deny it, there is something we can’t help but love when it comes to dressing up and going out on the town. Besides the normal business casual clothes I have that I wear to meetings and monthly Lodge dinners, I have a ball gown and two evening gowns in my closet; not only that, but all three have been worn within the last year, and will be worn again in the foreseeable future. Not many women actually get to go to cocktail parties anymore. Its just simply something that our society has shied away from. Masonry can help women fulfill the need of playing dress up that I am certain most all of us have had since children. What’s more, for those of us who love to shop (not me), Masonic events are always a decent excuse to go clothes shopping. Unlike men who can get away with two pairs of pants, three shirts, and a suit jacket, women are required to have a much more diverse closet. I know that I always feel special when I slip on my fancy gown, heels and makeup, and I can’t imagine that many women feel differently.

Pardon the rude language.

Chivalry is not dead.

Look anywhere on the internet, and you are sure to find something about the death of chivalry, or something about how women are assholes and men stopped trying, or whatever; its irrelevant. Freemasonry and its appendant bodies help bring back and perpetuate the ideals of Masonry. Men act like gentlemen, and women act like ladies. While this does mean you won’t hear anyone cursing up a storm in mixed company, it also means you will often find doors opened for you, drinks bought for you, and someone taking your coat. In many ways, being at a large Masonic event, or even just at a Lodge dinner, it like stepping back in time. Everyone does their very best to be polite and unoffensive, and cell phones at the dinner table are a scarcity. Many people, women included, are turned off by this aspect of Masonry. I for one, enjoy and welcome it. I have often felt that we could use a little old school etiquette in today’s world.

You get alone time.

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again, Masonry is awesome, because it gets T out of the house. Don’t get me wrong, I love the man to death, but I feel that everyone in all relationships is in need of some alone time. Since T has Lodge every Wednesday, that tends to be my “me” night. Wednesdays are the nights I take a long bath, order in from that Chinese place down the street T has disdain for, and put on a horror flick (which he can’t stand). Time apart helps both parties grow and helps your relationship overall evolve. These days, everything can get so crazy, that it feels like you barely have time for your SO, let alone yourself. Masonry is from a different era, and kind of helps slow us down. If you aren’t feeling the alone time, call up some friends and go out, have fun, no one says you have to be at home waiting for him to walk though the door while he’s at Lodge.

There’s more tangible, monetary benefits than anyone realizes.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of intangible benefits out there. The love and support that I receive from my Masonic family goes far beyond what I ever might have expected to get from them. That being said, its nice to have some tangible stuff too. Unfortunately, there’s nothing so simple as flashing your dues card for a discount on your hotel room like AAA. The majority of the benefits fit into one of two categories: monetary, and opportunities. There’s scholarships for everyone in your family, for just about anything you could ever want to do. College? Of course. But beyond that, band camp, leadership conferences, golf tournaments, the circus, ordering t-shirts online, and more. There is almost always a scholarship or monetary discount on all public events put on by a branch of Masonry for the members and their families. If you aren’t sure if there is a discount, or if you cannot afford something you really want (or need) to attend, ask those around you! They are sure to help you out, within reason of course. In addition to this, there is an emergency fund to help member’s families in dire need. You can read about that here.

The other thing that I think is overlooked pretty often is the opportunities available. Sure, there are plenty of opportunities for the Mason himself, and these are not as easily forgotten. Many of these opportunities extend to his family as well, both SO, as well as any children. These tend to come within two forms. The first is the formal opportunity, a chance to go on a field trip to Kansas City to see the DeMolay headquarters, or a last minute opening in an interesting conference. The other type of opportunity is more informal. This is the kind that comes not from the organization itself, but from its members. Always wanted to learn how to knit but never got the hang of it? Maybe the Junior Warden’s wife owns a yarn store. Kiddo is looking for his first summer job? Bro. John needs help tearing down an old shed on his property. The opportunities here are endless. A word of caution however, this is one of the reasons that people tend to get hung up on the idea of Freemasonry. No one should join Masonry in order to receive any of these benefits, they should simply be seen as an added bonus.

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Other little things that you may find happen as a Mason’s lady. Once T joined the local Shrine, I received my own “membership card” which is kind of neat. More or less it grants me access to the members only bar at the Shrine. T and I were able to take our engagement photos at the Scottish Rite, a beautiful building downtown. We were even able to get on the roof. These kinds of things are my favorite; the little things that don’t really seem like much, but always add up to every moment involved in Masonry being worth it.

I hope that I did not stray too far from the ideals of this blog, and didn’t come off as a selfish, coincided woman. If I did, I apologize. I actually almost titled this article “The Benefits of Putting up with Masonry”. There are a lot of pros and a lot of cons for being a Mason. Sometimes it might feel like the guys get all the pros and the girls get all the cons. Hopefully this article helps give some perspective on the pros for the ladies too. If you have any questions, or have any thoughts on this topic, please let me know. And as always, 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!