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.

IMG_0412

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!

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.

The Masonic Wife

This week, I wanted to discuss something that both comes up fairly often on this blog, and is relevant in my own life right now: Masonry, marriage, and divorce. Most often, when folks search out information about this topic, they come across one of two websites; the Phoenix Masonry Masonic ritual, and the ever popular “Masonry- A Marriage Wrecking Ball” website. Unfortunately, neither of these websites are affiliated with regular masculine Masonry, and so everything on them must be taken with a grain of salt. Many of the questions couples have about the topic are scattered across the internet, I would like to bring them all together.
Who is a Masonic wife? How is it different from a Mason’s Lady?
As I have said before, Freemasonry was created officially in 1717, with the formation of UGLE. Although the world has changed since then, Masonry has not always changed with it. Most women during it’s inception were married before they were 21, obviously this is no longer the case. However, within Masonry, most invitations and benefits continue to be extended to a Mason’s wife, not his long time live in girlfriend. For instance, unless you are legally married, a woman who has no other Masonic relationships cannot join the Order of the Eastern Star. If you think that’s kind of dated, welcome to Masonry.
A Masonic wife, and a Mason’s Lady are often used interchangeably. However, I do not feel that this is truly the case. A Masonic wife is simply the wife of a Mason. That’s it. Being married to a Mason does not obligate her to anything, Lodge dinners, appendant bodies, in fact, she may not even like the fact that he is a Mason (more on that later). A Mason’s Lady, however, I feel is quite different. A Mason’s Lady can be any woman who supports a Mason, and Freemasonry. This can be his wife, his girlfriend, his mom, grandmother, neighbor, etc. A Mason’s Lady may chose to show her support by joining appendant bodies, attending Lodge dinners and other events, or any other way she can think of. You can be a Mason’s Lady without being a Masonic wife, and vice versa.

What are the benefits of being a Masonic wife?

Becoming a Mason’s wife opens you up to a world of possibilities. Being married to a Master Mason grants you the ability to join any of the Masonic bodies that allow women: Order of the Eastern Star, Daughters of the Nile, Order of the Amaranth, and more. Usually this is the only requirement for the groups that allow women. For example, your husband does not need to be a Shiner in order for you to join Daughters of the Nile, although you may get more out of it. You can learn more about these organizations here.

if you choose to support your Mason by being active in Lodge activities, you will never find a lack of something to do. We live in a moderately sized Midwestern city, and there is a Masonic function going on almost every night of the week. There also many travel opportunities, especially within the Shrine. I know that our potentate is organizing an Alaskan cruise this year, and the Grand Master is hosting a Florida getaway.

One of my favorite parts of my SO being a Mason, is that I have an excuse to get all dressed up and mingle, fairly often. If you and your Mason plan on being fairly active socially, I would recommend investing in some nice dress clothes. One or two suits and a tux should be just fine for him. I know we ladies do not get off that easily; but, if you enjoy shopping, think of it as a bonus. If you enjoy being social and meeting new people. Masonic functions are perfect for just that. If you are more introverted (like myself), Masonic functions can serve as a test ground for the “real world”. I’ve become more relaxed with meeting new people and improving new social skills since being more involved with Masonry.

What are the disadvantages to being a Masonic wife?

I will be the first to admit, it is not all sunshine and rainbows all the time. T is Master of his Lodge this year, and this is added stress for both of us, making sure there is a candidate, food, organizing meetings, it can be a lot of work. In addition to this, sometimes the jealousy monster rears its ugly head. It can be hard to give up your SO for 2+ (at our house, more like 6 with bar time) hours to people you may not know on a weeknight. I’ve found that the best cure is for Lodge night to become the nights that I pamper myself. As I’ve said before, I usually treat myself to a nicer dinner and watch a horror movie (which T hates). I do my best to make it my “me” time.

If you choose to get involved with Masonry, you may have to limit yourself and your Mason how involved you really are. Remember when I said there are activities every night? That can have it’s downsides. We usually go to 3 activities a week (DeMolay, Lodge + one other), and even that feels like it can be a lot. As a Masonic wife you need to be able to say no, even if that game feed put on by the Dave Crockett Club does sound super awesome.

What about this marriage ritual? Are there Masonic wedding rings?

You may have seen pictures of a Masonic wedding floating around on the internet. Actually, you can find the entire ritual here. While it is a very interesting read, this wedding (if I recall correctly) was preformed in Puerto Rico. This ritual is only sanctioned by the Grand Lodge of Turkey, so unless you have a Turkish Lodge in your area, you are probably out of luck if  you wanted to use this ritual for your wedding. From what I have found, no other couple have been married in this fashion.

One question that many Masons ask is if there is such thing as a Masonic wedding ring. There isn’t really. You may, however, use any Masonic ring that you hold the degree for as a wedding ring. This practice is not common, and is really not recommended. The reasoning is that if you were to become divorced, you may still associate Masonry with those feelings toward your ex, which may lead you to be less active or leave the craft.

To be a bit PG-13 for a moment, if I may, there are a number of websites out there that discuss becoming a Mason’s
“red star” and are all about becoming submissive to your Mason. This is all based in fantasy of course, and have no relation to actual Freemasonry.

How does divorce factor into all of this?

One of the things that the sensationalists want you to believe is that Masonry will ruin your marriage and steal your man. And probably your goats. Or something like that. It simply isn’t true. I have found that some women really struggle with their SO being a Mason. The best advice I can give to people in this situation is communicate with your partner, and get involved. You may feel that he is spending too much time at Masonic events and you would like him to be home more. Tell him that, or he won’t know. Often, the biggest fear is the fear of the unknown, if you get involved with Masonry, you may find that it squelches that fear.

If, for some reason, you and your Mason become divorced, this has no bearing on your memberships in organizations that you are currently a part of. However, you do lose your eligibility to join a new organization unless you have a different Masonic tie (father, uncle, etc). You may find strength within the organizations if this happens. This is one of the benefits of hanging out with women much older than yourself – many of them have been there.

Being a Masonic Leader

Between two leadership conferences, September was definetly leadership month. Although September has passed us, I want to share with you some of the things that I learned during the month. If you think that this doesn’t pertain to you, or you think the whole concept is kind of lame, and too full of jargon, I want to challenge you to read on before just moving on to a different website. That’s because not only does everyone have the potiental to be a leader, but in one way or another, everyone is one, whether you realize it or not. Being a leader simply involves guiding, directing, or influencing others. That’s it, pretty simple. Leading can not only mean acting as WM of your Lodge, but it can also be encouraging your kids to make good choices. Naturally, this can have a positive or negative connotation, while “leadership” is usually seen positively, “ringleader” is not so much. Usually, this is something that most people do naturally, in one way or another, whether you realize it or not.

 The Nebraska Triennual Masonic Youth Leadership Conference

I spoke at length about what everyone got to do at MYLC this year. If you missed that, you can check it out here. The keynote speaker, Josh Shipp, was beyond awesome. He had a ton of amazing things to say, and I’m afraid the meager notes I took will not allow me to do him justice. He made two points that really stuck with me, that I want to go over briefly.

 Don’t be average. When it comes to things like leadership, this seems fairly self explainatory. However, it can also be the most difficult to actually accomplish. When we deviate from average, either above, or below, people tend to take notice. As I’ve said before, your leadership can be both a positive and a negative thing. If you’re at work and you go above and beyond whats needed, and you encourage others to do so, that’s awesome. The opposite, not so much. Being outside the norm almost always puts you in a position for potential leadership. The more you strive to be above (or below) average, the more likely people around you will notice, and if they like what they see, are likely to follow you. Don’t be afraid to be different or weird, that is an advantage you can use when it comes to influencing others.

Don’t be afraid to be human. Actually, the exact quote from Josh is, “Your imperfections make you human. Your humanity makes you influential.” If you have car trouble and are late to a meeting, or you fumble the powerpoint, you don’t need to draw attention to it. These actions can actually cause people to be more likely to follow your lead, because it makes them realize that you aren’t a person who is in a completely unobtainable position, you are someone who is just like them.

As I said in my MYLC post, if you ever get a chance to hear Josh Shipp talk, do it. The guy is amazing. You can find out more, including free videos at www.joshshipp.com

The Grand Lodge of Nebraska’s First Annual Leadership Conference

During the GL Leadership conference, a man named Hal came and spoke with us about simple things that we can do everyday to become leaders. He told us that he keeps this list in his bedside table, and looks at it every night. All of these pertain to Masonry, but more than that, many of them can also be accomplished at work, or at home.

1. Always prepare for a meeting, whether or not you are leading the meeting.

2. Demonstrate that you listened, and heard what was said. Usually through taking notes and asking questions.

3. Share leadership opportunities with those around you. Let someone else take the stage.

4. Say thank you for those who helped you along the way.

5.Give credit to others for their contribution to your success. If you’re walking along and you see a turtle up on a fencepost, you know that he didn’t get there on his own.

6. Don’t be in a hurry.

7. Two can accomplish more than one.

8. To be appreciated as a helper, set the example.

9. Be a good citizen.

10. Give thanks spiritually.

All seems pretty basic right? That seems to be the trick that the majority of leadership conferences seem to skip over. It really is that simple. If you have ever read, or seen the play All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, by Robert Fulgrum, you may remember the Kindergarten Creed. If not, it’s below. Check out the similarities between the creed and what Hal had to say.

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don’t hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours.

Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.

Flush.

Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life –learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.

Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup- the roots go down and the plant goes up, and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup, they all die. So do we.

And remember the Dick and Jane books, and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all, LOOK.

Being a leader is really about doing all those things that you already do, and some of the things you don’t do, but you know that you should. It doesn’t seem like it really should be that simple, but it really is.

What Actually Happens at Lodge

So, you’ve been with your Mason for a while now, you know he goes off to Lodge every week or two weeks, and you know he comes back late, you’ve maybe even been to a few of the dinners that they put on before the meeting. But what do they actually do at these meetings? What’s so important that it has to go on behind closed doors?  The answer might surprise you.

The Masonic Meal

Arguable one of the most important aspects of the Lodge meeting is the meal beforehand. Not every Lodge has them, but many of them do, some before, and some after the meeting. Usually potluck, although some Lodge’s have been known to cater dinners, the meal before the Lodge meeting tends to be the best opportunity for fellowship, not only between the members of the Lodge, but also between their families. I have never known a Lodge meal to not be open to families and friends, but some Lodges may have private policies. If it is open to the “public” (i.e. non-Masons), I highly recommend that you go. Not only is it a great homemade meal (it’s usually potluck, so ask of you should bring something!), but it also gives you a chance to get to meet all of the men that he spends time with every week. I know that it helped put my mind at ease to actually be able to put names to faces. Going to these dinners will also allow you to be more involved in the Lodge. At T’s Lodge, the women clean up after the meal (although, this is apparently not the norm elsewhere), and then we sit, chat, have coffee or play cards. It really helps facilitate the family feel of Masonry. We have family style dinners like this once a month, and I always look forward to it. Give it a shot at least once.

Opening of the Lodge

There are three main types of Lodge meetings. business meetings, where normal business is conducted; degree work, where a Mason receives a degree, this involves the majority of the secret ritual work; and other meetings, these may include papers or other presentations, or other special topics. How often each meeting occurs depends on the Lodge. Lodges meet anywhere from one to four times a month, plus any special committee meetings. Which of these meetings occurs when depends on the needs of the Lodge, some will only have business meetings with the occasional degree work, others may focus on the “fun” types of meetings. T’s Lodge (which currently has a waiting list!) only has time for degree work each week. However, every Lodge will have at least one business meeting each month.

Every meeting, regardless of what they may be doing, open and closes almost the same way each time (different degrees may be opened different ways, but always more or less the same thing). Please note that exactly what is said and done varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, however, many things stay the same throughout the country; therefore, I will be making this as general as possible. Before the opening of the meeting, all non-officer members sit where they please alongside the “north” and “south” parts of the Lodge room. (Some Lodges are not set up so that the Worshipful Master is sitting actually in the east, however, it is still referred to as the East.)  The officers come in, sometimes to music, and each of the officers take their respective positions (You can read more about that here.)  The Tyler is then put with the task of  securing the meeting from intruders, and an officer is asked to make sure that all present are Masons or candidates. There is then a ritual where each officer is called upon by the WM, and asked to relay the duties. and sometimes signs or other meanings of their office. This helps to remind each member why they are there, and also helps new members recall which station is which. A prayer is then given by the Chaplain, and the Pledge of Allegiance may be done. The Lodge is then open.

Order of Business

Business is then conducted. Even though you may think that it would, Masonic Lodges do not follow Robert’s Rules of Order. Instead, each Grand Lodge jurisdiction will lay out the order of each business meeting. Usually, it ends up something like this:

  • Reading and confirming of minutes– Just like you may in any other meeting, the minutes are supposed to be read, but they may be printed off, or displayed on a screen instead. They are then voted on, and if approved, archived.
  • Introduction of visitors – This is usually done by the WM, and may be skipped if the person is a frequent visitor.
  • Reading of petitions – The reading of petitions from potential new members. After a petition is read, the interview committee is formed.
  • Balloting on petitions– The interview committee will come back and give report on the candidate that they interviewed. A vote will then occur of the person is to receive the degrees of Masonry.
  • Reports of committees – Some jurisdictions may require this to be in writing, some may not. Committees are usually degree work, finances, fellowship committee, etc.
  • Applications for relief-  As I have stated before, a Mason is eligible to petition his Lodge to help him financially. Depending on the amount and situation, it may be voted on immediately. Often, Lodges will also include a list of members hospitalized, as well as recent deaths.
  • Reading of communications- Lodges get a lot of mail, usually from other Lodges, or other Masonic organizations. These are usually read to inform the members as to what else is going on Masonically in the area. The Grand Lodge may send out communications so often, and it is required that every Lodge read this communication during their business meeting. Bills, usually for the Lodge building, are also read and voted on during this time.
  • Unfinished business Exactly as it sounds, this is the time that any business that may have carried over from the last meeting is discussed.
  • New business Again, pretty simple here, any new business that the Lodge needs to take care of is discussed at this time.
  • Business for the good of the order- This is kind of open floor time, and gives members of the Lodge a chance to speak up about anything going on that they might want others to know about (usually things like fundraisers, school events, Girl Scout cookies, etc)
  • Ritual work and lectures – This is where the meetings can deviate. If the Lodge is conducting degree work, now is when they bring in the candidate. If someone is to give a lecture or other presentation, now is the time. Please remember that this portion may happen at different times during the meeting in different jurisdictions. If it is just a business meeting, nothing happens here.

Closing of the Lodge

When all business has been conducted to the satisfaction of the WM, the Lodge begins its closing ritual. It is usually much shorter than opening. The WM lets the Tyler know they are getting ready to close, the Chapalin gives another prayer, and the WM declares the Lodge closed. That’s it. Remember when I said you may be surprised about what goes on? You may be surprised how mundane, and occasionally boring it can be. However, Masonry is not only what happens in the Lodge room, but also outside it.

Navigating Masonic Emblems Part I

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

The Square and Compass

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

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

Yod

This:

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

Double Headed Eagle

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

Triple Tau

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

The Sword and Trowel

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

The Seal of the Knights Templar

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

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

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

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

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

Green-Eyed Lady

I don’t know about you guys, but last week was kind of a crazy one. It went something like this:

Tuesday:DeMolay

Wednesday: Lodge

Thursday: OES

Friday-Sunday: DeMolay Conclave

Monday: T meets with a candidate.

Then the whole cycle repeats again with DeMolay on Tuesday! Since I had to work Wednesday, as well as the weekend, I did not get to see T much, not to mention that relaxing time alone with him was non-existent.  While I do appreciate knowing that he is men of high moral values, sometimes it can feel like Masonry can eat at your social, as well as personal life. This can tend to lead to feelings of jealousy, resentment, and all kinds of other icky stuff.

Why do I feel this way?

Let me start off by saying that any feelings you may have toward Masonry, either overall or just your Mason’s involvement, are perfectly valid. However, you’ve got to own those feelings, and if you don’t like the way that you feel, then you need to figure out what you can do to change the situation. A common reaction for women to have when they first learn about Masonry, is not true jealousy, but envy. Envy simply says, “I want what you have. Gimmie.” This is usually from the feeling of exclusion that many women experience when they realize that they cannot join regular Masonry, I know that I certainly did. Envy does not have to lead to jealousy however, and can in fact lead to very motivating thinking, such as being involved with auxiliary groups as much as possible.

Jealousy, on the other hand, says “I want what you have, and until I get it, you shouldn’t have it either.” This step beyond envy not only attempts to push you forward, but also aims to hold the other person back. Most often, when it comes to jealousy and Masonry, the feeling stems from two sources- fear and insecurity.  Many types of fear can cause us to feel jealous when our Mason is away at Lodge. Usually, however, this jealousy comes from fear of loss, and fear of the unknown. Staring with the latter, fear of the unknown si obvious when it comes to Masonry and it’s auxiliary groups. If you and your Mason just started dating, or if he is a new member, this is incredibly common. Often, new members are not sure what it is that they can tell their spouses, and therefore tend to not say anything at all. If you do not do your research (please do!), your imagination can dream up all sorts of awful things going on at the meetings. It is always important to educate yourself. Ask your Mason what you would like to know about what goes on. If he is unsure, I recommend you talk to senior members of his lodge, or pick up this book.

Fear of loss is also an extremely common root of jealousy for those involved with Masons. You see it all the time on the anti-Masonic wives “forums” (none of which seem to have been updated since 2003). Usually it sounds something like this:

I’ve two boys 21 and 17. Everyone who has responded has hit it right on the money. I thought I was the only one who was feeling this way. My husband sits on the couch and reads this little blue book after work til its time to go to bed. Not to mention he is gone every Saturday all day long for ceremonies out in the woods. Yes he calls all of them brothers now and yes I agree this is a CULT!! All he does now is spends several hours a week with them. Hours that he could be spending with his own family, working on the lawn, keeping up the pool. Nope that is on the back burner as well as me and our youngest son. Everything is so private that I don’t know where he goes or what he is doing. They have secret handshakes and secret codes. I am found home alone most of the time now. I can see that they are more important than me. Divorce is on my mind more than ever. Its a CULT and they have brainwashed him. (Gizzy) 

Ignoring for a moment all of the cult and brainwashed business, it is very clear that this woman is not only jealous of the time her husband spends involved in Masonry, but also feels that she is losing him, and therefore her marriage and everything that goes along with it, to Masonry. Very closely related to the fear of loss, another cause of jealousy is simple insecurity. The insecurity may come from anything, although most often when talking about Masonry and jealousy, the insecurity is insecurity of the relationship, or yourself. This is where the feelings of “Well, what if he meets a younger, more involved woman at Grand Lodge?” “How can I compete with a bunch of guys he is so involved with and have so much in common with?” come from.

Taming that beast

So, how can you get rid of all these nasty feelings? There are lots of suggestions out there, but I will just go over the main ones.

Recognize your jealousy, and keep it in check. Often, just recognizing that the jealousy is there can help alleviate some of the hold it has on you. In addition to this, it is important to be mindful of your own emotions, and a big part of this is knowing yourself. Try taking several deep breaths, and attempt to detach yourself from the intensity of the emotion you are feeling. This can help give you a better idea as to where its coming from, and why. Be sure and spend time alone, dancing, listening to music, going for a walk, or even just meditating, to help process your emotions.

Educate yourself. As I said above, jealousy can often come from fear of the unknown. There can be a lot of unknowns when it comes to Masonry, so it can help a great deal to turn as many of those unknowns into knowns as possible. As I linked above, I strongly recommend FreeMasonry for Dummies, as a very nice introduction, that provides resources for more in-depth information if you feel you are still lacking. Ask your Mason questions. If he doesn’t know, ask the senior members of his Lodge. If his Lodge has a library, ask if you can borrow books (they won’t be hiding any secrets there though!) You may be surprised as to how much of Masonry isn’t a secret.

Communicate with your Mason. Perhaps one of the most important, and simplest answers. If you do not tell your Mason that you are jealous that he is spending three nights a week at Lodge, he may think that everything is fine and dandy. You’re not a mind reader, and neither is he. If you feel that he is spending too much time at Lodge, and not enough at home, let him know, and try to work out a compromise. You two may decide that two nights a week is a maximum, or, perhaps that Masonry is just not good for your relationship at this time in your lives. If you don’t speak up, nothing will change, and you will find yourself just getting more and more frustrated.

Get involved. While I know that this is not the answer for everyone, many women find attending Lodge dinners and other Masonic functions quite enjoyable. You may find solace with the Sisters in the Order of the Eastern Star, or just with the ladies who play cards during the business meetings. Attending Masonic events will not only help you expand your social circle, but you may find that once you realize just how boring waiting for a three-hour Master Mason degree to be done can be, that you are more okay with your Mason attending more Masonic functions. Getting involved goes hand in hand with educating yourself, and helps eradicate the fear of the unknown.

Perhaps the most important thing to say about it all is simply: Own your feelings. Don’t let them own you.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful week, and as always, feel free to contact me with any questions!

Ladies at the Table

Ever have one of those days where everything falls perfectly into place, where nothing deviates from the plan, and everything works out just wonderfully? Saturday was not that day. T and I were set to host Ladies at the Table at the lodge, and numerous things went wrong, including my truck breaking down, the smoker not cooking the brisket not once, but twice, and I think I caught the stove on fire at one point. Luckily, T’s quick thinking resulted in us only being 30 minutes behind schedule, and we were able to have a wonderful dinner and table lodge with our friends and family.

Ladies where?

Ladies at the Table is a very different kind of Masonic event. It is not a degree, a ritual, or ceremony, but it does fall under the jurisdiction of your Grand Lodge, and is usually held at Grand Lodge Communications. The idea is that this is the time for a lodge to show their respect and honor toward a Mason’s lady, widow, mother, daughter, sweetheart, sister…I think you get the picture.  Since, more often than not, the Mason will leave his lady home while he eats at the lodge, this is an opportunity for her to come and feel not only welcomed, but supported and honored in her role as a Mason’s lady. It also gives the ladies of the lodge a chance to not only meet the men that her Mason has been hanging out with, but also the other ladies at the lodge, and perhaps spark her interest in joining the Masonic community.

I will get to how the whole business runs, and it really is quite fun, in a moment. First, I want to go over where the idea came from in the first place. During the 18th century, another type of Masonry was being practiced in France, called French Rite, which was established to parallel Masonry. These “Adoptive Lodges”, were women only, and were called such because a regular Masonic lodge “adopted” them. These lodges had four degrees, Apprentice (or Female Apprentice); Compagnone (or Craftswoman); Maitresse (or Mistress); and Parfaite Maconne (or Perfect Mason.) The fourth degree ended with a Table Lodge, or ceremonial banquet. There is a large possibility that young Englishmen, that were en route to be trained as British military officers attended the final degree, or at least the dinner that followed, and brought it back to regular Masonry .The table lodge is still practiced today in many regular jurisdictions, you may have attended one on Saint John’s Day, or around the winter holidays. Please note- Ladies at the Table is not Adoptive Masonry. It is simply a  borrowed ceremony that is used by a regular Lodge of Masons to show respect and honor to the Ladies of their Lodge.

The “U” shape. Not ours, I did not think that far ahead!

How is this different from a regular Lodge or Chapter meeting?

If you’ve never been to a table lodge, or Ladies at the Table before, you will find that it is quite unlike anything else you have experienced within Masonry before. As I said above, it is not a Masonic ritual, in fact, T and I decided to make ours a very casual, relaxed event. This does not mean, however, that it is not without it’s own set of governing rules. While these vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, as well as Lodge to Lodge, I will give you a general idea:

  • Traditionally there are 5 courses and 7 toasts to the meal. Our Lodge decided to be much more informal, and relaxed, and therefore had 3 courses, and probably 10 toasts. Some will say that this does not make it a true “table lodge”, but I think that a lot of things like this you need to adapt to fit your own needs and desires.
  • The tables are set in a U shape, with the altar, holding the Bible or other holy book, in the center. T had been in charge of choosing the ritual and letting me know what we needed, and after all of the stress of the day, we realized we had missed this part. Life goes on.
  • Wine is the only alcohol served. You may see a lot of rules about how much wine everyone should be poured, or even what alcohol percentage the wine should be. Unless your Grand Lodge has specific rules for this, do what suits your needs.
  • The ladies should not be the ones cooking, or serving this meal. The idea is to show how much you appreciate them by doing what they normally might on any other lodge night.
T demonstrating the meaning of the word

T demonstrating the meaning of the word “Fire.”

How does the whole thing work, though?

The table lodge is opened similarly as regular lodge might, albeit a much abridged version, with only a few speaking parts, all suitable for the public of course. Usually the opening ceremonies include a short history of the table lodge, or of  Ladies at the Table itself, as well as a history of the lodge that it is taking place in.The Chaplin gives a prayer to open. All of the work is conducted by the Worshipful Master, of course, who sits in the middle table of the “U” with his lady. After opening the Ladies at the Table, dinner is served. When everyone has had their fill, the real fun begins.

In addition to their water cups, everyone has a large shot glass at their seat. This is a special type of shot glass that is a bit thicker on the bottom, and with good reason. It is referred to as a “cannon”, and looks like this. After dinner is over, but before the toasts begin, someone, either the Worshipful Master or the Steward, instructs those attending how the toasts will be done. It goes something like this:

WM: “Brother Senior Steward, charge and align the Cannons of the column of the North. Brother Junior Steward, charge and align the Cannons of the column of the South.” The Stewards fill everyone’s cannons with wine.

WM: “Brothers Senior and Junior Steward, are you cannons charged?” They answer affirmatively.

The WM recognizes the person giving the toast, all rise, and the toast is given.

WM: “With me…” Everyone repeats the last line of the toast, for instance, “to the United States of America,” raising their cannons normally.

WM: “Ready.” Everyone  brings their cannons closer to their body.

WM: “Aim.” Cannon is brought to the lips.

WM: “Fire!” The shot of wine is downed.

WM:”Order.” The cannon is brought to just above the table.

WM: “Arms.” Everyone slams their cannon down on the table, hopefully at the same time, resulting in a terrific noise. (Usually it tends to get better with time, and then worse again.)

Traditionally, there are seven toasts made, as I stated above. At a Ladies at the Table, they are as follows:

  • To the first lady of the United States
  • To the wife of the Grand Master
  • To 3 different women of the Lodge
  • To our mothers
  • To our ladies

We chose to do things a bit differently, and added many of our own toasts, including:

  • To our service men and women
  • To the United States of America
  • To our Grand Lodge
  • To the Craft
  • T also added a special poem he had found about the ladies for the final toast. You can see that here.
The cannons being charged.

The cannons being charged.

So, the point is….?

If you are thinking to yourself that there must be something more to this than having a nice dinner, shooting wine, and being with the ladies of the lodge, then you would be pondering what else there is for some time. The whole point is to relax, have a nice time, and be with friends and family.

If any of you are interested in hosting your own Ladies at the Table, let me know! I would love to hear stories of the way that other Lodges decide to put it on. Make it your own, and start your own tradition!

An Introduction to Scotch

At least around here, there tends to be one popular drink among Masons- single malt scotch. In fact, not only does our local Scottish Rite put on a scotch tasting every so often (with one next week!), but during major events like Grand Lodge, everyone brings out their bottles, and it becomes almost a traveling scotch club, with everyone trying new varieties and enjoying the fellowship that goes along with sharing a similar hobby. I will be the first to admit that I was not a fan of the stuff the first few times I tried it, but now it’s almost my exclusive drink, and with good reason.

What exactly is scotch?

Scotch, or scotch whisky, or single malt scotch,is very simply, a whisky made in Scotland in a very specific manner (actually, by specific laws!) It is almost easier to say what single malt scotch is not. It is not made in America, like Maker’s Mark, or Jack Daniels, nor is it made in Canada, like Crown Royal, it isn’t even made in Ireland, like Jameson. Perhaps the easiest way to tell where it is made is by the bottle- if it says whisky, it is made in Scotland, anywhere else is whiskey, usually even marked “Irish whiskey”, for Jameson, for example.

In addition to this, there are five categories of scotch whisky itself:

  • Single malt- a scotch made by one distillery, made only with malted barley mash, the topic of this post
  • Single grain- a scotch made by one distillery, made with a grain other than barley, like corn or rye
  • Blended scotch – a blend of one or more single malt and one or more single grain
  • Blended malt- a blend of single malts, that were all made at different distilleries
  • Blended grain- a blend of single grains, that were all made at different distilleries.

It can be a little confusing and overwhelming at first, but for the purpose of this post, we will only be discussing single malt scotch whisky, which means it was made with 100% malted barley mash, by a single distillery, in Scotland.

There’s different types of scotch?

So, when I first started drinking scotch, I was thinking about it more like vodka. Yes, some vodkas are a better quality than others, and therefore taste a bit better, but they are essentially all the same vodka.  This is not true at all with scotch. Think about scotch more like wine.  Not only do you have the option between red and white, but also merlot, cabernet, chardonnay, riesling and many more. Scotch is much more like wine, because where the distillery is located in the country, tends to dictate its flavor. So, just like you know that you may love syrahs and hate pinot noirs, the same tends to be true about scotch. If you enjoy a scotch from one location, you will probably enjoy another from a different distillery. The nice thing about scotch is that there are only 6 (traditionally 5) regions that scotches come from, instead of the numerous types of wine.

Starting at the bottom and working our way up, the regions of scotch are:

  • Lowland– These are considered the most light bodied scotches, because they are (usually) triple distilled. There are only 4 distilleries open in the lowlands currently, Ailsa Bay, Glenkinchie, Auchentoshan, and Bladnoch.
  • Cambelton- The scotch from this region is peaty (scotch talk for smokey), and tends to have a hint of salt. Cambelton was once the scotch capital, with over 30 distilleries. Now, only three remain: Glen Scotia, Glengyle, and Springbank
  • Islay- Pronounced “eye-luh”, scotches from this region tend to be the strongest and the smokiest. This is usually accredited to the high winds and seas. Distilleries in this region include  Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore, and  Ardbeg.
  • Highland- The region loved in my house the most, Highland scotches tend to have underlying tastes of peat and smoke, and are usually considered to be very full-bodied. The region is further divided, into Northern ( full and rich), Southern (light, dry and fruity), Eastern (full, dry and very fruity), and Western (full, with lots of peat and smoke). Some distilleries in this region include Oban, Glenmorangie and Dalmore
  • Speyside- Now considered the center for whisky, Speyside scotches have some of the most complex flavors, usually very sweet. The distilleries will often use water right from the river Spey, that cuts through the region. Some distilleries include Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet, and The Macallan
  • Island-Although technically considered part of the Highland region, distilleries in the Island are starting to make a name for themselves. There is no hard and fast rule, although they do tend to be fairly mild, usually somewhere in between a Highland and an Islay, with a focus on the peaty flavor. Distilleries in this region include Highland Park and Talisker

This stuff tastes like gasoline, is there a better way to drink it?

If you are lucky, you have a community of scotch drinkers in your area, probably at your lodge or shrine. If not, you may want to try going to  bar and ordering a scotch, chances are they will only have one or two for you to choose from, unless it is a specialty bar. Usually, scotch is ordered in drams, with one dram equaling to about 2 ounces. Unless you have been a rye drinker for years, I can almost guarantee that you will not care for scotch the first (few) times you give it a try. The first time I did, I thought it smelled and tasted like kerosene, and as the smell burned my nose hairs, I wondered who in their right mind would be willing to drink this stuff. I’ve been drinking scotch for about a year now, and even still, there are times when I am not in the mood to drink it down. However, much like wine, there is a preferred method of drinking a scotch.

  • I cannot say this enough, SCOTCH IS A SIPPING DRINK. Not only because it allows you to appreciated the flavor more, but because bottles of the stuff can easily break the $100 mark. It’s not something you take shots of and not something you make mixed drinks with (that’s what  whiskey tends to be for).
  • There is a special kind of glass for scotch, you can get them here, although there is nothing wrong with drinking it out of a tumbler, preferably glass.
  • While adding ice is generally considered poor form, chilled or not is really up to you. They do make special rocks called whisky stones that keep your drink cold without adding water, you can get those here.
  • Some people do add water to their scotch, since it will help cut the burn, and allows you to taste flavors that may of been masked by it. Add slowly, however, and taste your scotch before adding more.
  • As far as actually drinking it is concerned, first, you will want to nose, or smell it. Don’t stick your nose in the glass, you shouldn’t feel any burn in your nose. A swirl or two will help release more of the scent. Then, take a tiny sip, just enough to cover your tongue. In order to get the real flavor, you will want to hold it in your mouth for a bit, about 10 seconds or so. You might think that your tongue is shriveling up and dying, but after a few seconds, the burn will dissipate, and you will actually get the flavor of the scotch. Moving your tongue around, you will be able to detect different flavors. After you swallow, you will be able to detect the finish on your tongue and gums. Remember- even the most expensive scotch will burn your tongue if you just sip and swallow it, without actually tasting it.

Okay, I’m willing to try it, but how do I decide which one?

Buying scotch is again, a bit like buying wine. Scotches have different years, and distilleries will usually produce specific years, with the occasional unusual year that tends to be a special edition. The years refer to the number of years they spent in the barrel. Unlike wine, however, scotch does not age in the bottle, so a 12 year scotch will always be a 12 year scotch in the bottle, opened or not. Scotches are usually referred to by their year, followed by their distillery, for example, the 14 year Oban is a favorite at our house. Usually the younger the scotch, the cheaper the price, but they tend to carry the  harsher  burn, and the more subtle the flavors.

There tends to be two scotches that are recommended most often for the beginner scotch drinker:

The 10 year old Glenmorangie, from the Highland region. This was my first scotch as well. It tends to be fairly inexpensive as far as scotch goes, at around $35 a bottle. That may sound like a lot, but remember that one bottle will last you for weeks, perhaps longer, depending on how often you drink.The flavor is fairly fruity, mostly citrus and peach, with hints of vanilla and honeysuckle. It is beautiful in it’s complexity within it’s simplicity.

The second most recommended scotch for a beginner is the 12 year Glenlivet. It is a Speyside scotch, and while it does not have the complex flavor of the Glenmorangie,  it does have a very easy to drink taste of oak and vanilla. It is actually the most popular single malt sold in the United States. The price is comparable to the Glenmorangie, at around $30 a bottle.

Remember that the first bottle that you buy is not as important as trying new scotches and improving and expanding your palate. Each bottle will give you a better idea of flavors that you enjoy, as well as those that you do not care for.

What does all of this have to do with Masonry?

On the surface, not much. Remember, however, that a major component of Masonry is brotherhood. Similar hobbies, intrests, likes and dislikes help foster and nurture the brotherhood within a lodge or even jurisdiction. If your lodge or area has a scotch club, go to a meeting and check it out. If you do not, start one with like minded brothers. Many activities can be brought about from scotch drinking, from just trying drinks from each others collections, hosting scotch tastings, or even visiting Scotland to go on a tour of your favorite distilleries. It will help bring you and your brothers closer, which makes for a stronger lodge. Don’t forget to invite the ladies! Just because scotch is often labeled as “the gentleman’s drink” doesn’t mean women don’t like it as well. While a scotch tasting does not make for a great family activity, it does make for a nice evening out with your lady.