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:






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?


So You’ve Decided to Join a Masonic Body

So, you’ve decided you want to do it. You wanna bite the bullet and join the Masons, OES, the Shrine, DeMolay or otherwise. What do you actually need to do to accomplish this goal? These next few weeks I will be touching on how to join a Masonic organization, and a brief overview of what happens when you first join.

The first step is to find what’s out there. If you live in a large city, you may have many different Lodges or Chapters in the area. (There’s around 12 here in Omaha.) If you are in a less populated area, you may only have one to choose from. If you are lucky enough to have options, use that to your advantage. Every Lodge feels differently, they attract different kinds of members, and have different kinds of focuses, such as ritual work, or fellowship. If you are able to shop around, do it, and join the Lodge or Chapter that “feels” right to you.Just because you meet with members from a Lodge does not mean you are tied to them. You have no obligation to a Lodge or Chapter until your initiation, and even then, if you move, or change your mind, its just a few forms to put in to transfer. If you find that there is only one group in your area, rock it. Work with what you’ve got. If you just feel like you just can’t make it work, look into surrounding areas. Many people choose to drive an hour or more for the right Lodge or Chapter. If you are having issues finding a Lodge or Chapter in your area, you will want to contact your jurisdiction’s Grand Lodge.

The best way to decide if a Lodge or Chapter is right for you, is to go as a visitor to some of their events. This means dinners, fundraisers, outings, and any other activity that they may put on that does not take place in the Lodge room. Get to know some of the members, connect with people. You may find that the majority of members are far older than you are. This is pretty much the norm across the board as far as Masonry and its affiliate groups are concerned. Don’t let this discourage you. Yes, it may mean you can’t bond over technology or video games, but the older generation are wonderful for life advice. For instance, T and I are getting married in October, and my chapter has given me some priceless advice not only for getting married, but also married life. I guess what I’m trying to say here is don’t write people off just because they are much older than you are. You probably have more in common than you think.

Alright, so you’ve found the Lodge or Chapter for you, and you’ve talked with some of the members, and you think it should be a good fit. The next step is to ask for a petition. This is basically just a form that has all of your contact information on it, as well as a few questions about yourself. You can see a example Masonic petition here. A lot of it is pretty standard stuff, think of it kind of like a job application. Mostly they are looking for the fact that you are who you say you are. Always answer as truthfully as possible. If you look at the petition, question 30 is one of constant debate. This will be worded differently in every jurisdiction (and really the way this one is worded is a little harsh, but hey, it’s Texas). Basically they are looking for the answer that you believe in some kind of higher power. As you can imagine, this tends to be a hot topic, but that is for another day. At this point we will leave it at that every potential Mason (as well as many affiliate groups) require a belief in a higher power. Please note: Some jurisdictions will ask if you were born male. If you identify as male, and you have a M marker on your drivers license, this is good enough for most states, but don’t be surprised if they outright ask you. This is also a topic for another day. Don’t worry too much about finding Mason’s that you know to sign it, this is why you go and have dinner with them a few times. What’s more, many members will jump at the chance to be what we call “first line signer”s.

With your petition filled out and turned in, you play the waiting game. Your petition will be read at the next business meeting, whenever that should be. Hopefully your contact (the person who gave you the petition) will let you know. Technically the entire petition is to be read during the meeting, but this is not usually the case due to time constraints. After reading the petition, a committee is formed, with the purpose of interviewing you. Regardless of what a petition says, a committee is always formed.

The interview is often a nerve racking event for many people, although it really shouldn’t be. Someone from the Lodge or Chapter will arrange to meet with you, either in your home, or at another location (mine was at the Shrine, I know that others have had theirs at coffee shops). Again, they are just looking to make sure that you are who you say you are. It’s really all very informal. They will ask you about your job, your relationships, your get the idea. It kind of feels a bit like you are filling out a very odd dating profile. You will want to dress at least business casual for this meeting, your contact will tell you if you need to wear more than that.

Once the interview is over, the committee goes back to the members, and give a brief description of what you are like, and if they would recommend you to become a member. Remember: very rarely is someone turned down for membership. Usually if they are, it is for a major reason, such as identity theft, background issues that you lied about (felonies, etc), or simply not meeting the requirements of membership. The vote for membership for must be unanimous. Masonic groups use a small box that contain white balls (or cubes) and black balls. A white cube is a yes vote, a black ball is a no. And yes, this is where the term “blackballed’ comes from. If for any reason, a member recieves a black ball, they are barred from petitioning to any Lodge or Chapter for six months. When that six months are up, they may attempt again, but it must be at the same Lodge or Chapter.

How I was notified of my acceptance. Yes, it was typed on a typewriter.

Once you are voted on and accepted, you will be notified, usually by mail. Your initiation date is set, and you wait some more. Please know that this system of petitioning can take a very long time, especially if a Lodge or Chapter only meets once a month. When I petitioned to join OES, it was about 4 months from when I got my petition until I was initiated. It’s not a fast moving process, so don’t get too frustrated.

Next week, we will take a look at what happens during an initiation. Until then, have  a great week!

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.


 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.


 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!

Women of Freemasonry: Ruth

It’s been a bit of a crazy week at our house, school is out of session for T’s brothers, so we see them much more often, and his eldest brother graduated High School. I ordered the first Master Craftsman (more on that next week) program for myself, so I will have a bit of school work. T’s Lodge does not go dark for the summer, but my Chapter cuts down to one meeting a week, so there is a lot more time for fun activities.  Since its been so crazy, I wanted to go back to the basics and work on finishing up the star points.  The two we have left are Ruth and Martha. Martha, who appears often throughout the bible and therefore has many stories attached to her, I will leave for another time. Ruth is the woman I would like to focus on today. If you’d like to go back and read any of the other star point stories, they are:

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

Ruth, like Esther, has an entire book of the Bible named after her (those are the only two named after a woman). The book, unlike many books in the Bible, is set up in chronological order, and is a stand alone story. It is broken up into four chapters, kind of like acts in a play. When we first meet Ruth, a terrible famine has taken over Israel, and has taken the life of her husband as well as his brother and father. Her mother in law tells her to go and remarry. Ruth’s sister in law goes with some hesitation, but Ruth tells her mother in law Naomi, “”Intreat me not to leave thee, [or] to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people[shall be] my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, [if ought] but death part thee and me.” (Ruth 1:16–17 KJV)”

So, Ruth goes with Naomi back to her home town, Bethlehem. Ruth knows that she needs to be able to support both herself and her mother in law, so she goes to the field to glean (harvest) wheat, as it was the beginning of the barely harvest. The field that she happened to harvest in that day belonged to a man named Boaz. He had heard of Ruth’s kindness, and unwillingness to leave her mother in law after the deaths of her husband and children. Boaz was actually a close relative of Naomi’s, which under Levite law obligated him to marry his kin’s widow, you guessed it, Ruth. So, Naomi sent Ruth down to the threshing floor, and submit herself at the feet of Boaz.

However, Boaz knew that another man was a closer kin then himself. Luckily for them, the man was not willing to risk his inheritance, so he gives up his right to marry her.  The two are wed, and Ruth eventually becomes the great-grandmother of the biblical hero David. Not exactly the most romantic story out there, but one that a lesson can be learned from nonetheless. An interesting note here; Ruth is often touted as being the first convert to Judaism. This is true, she was born a Moabite, and converted to Judaism. This is often shown through the passage found in Ruth 1:16-17 (seen above). It can be argued that Ruth converted for Naomi, whom Ruth refused to leave, even though Naomi warned her becoming a Jew may not allow her to lead and easy life. It could also be said that Ruth converted for Boaz, whose kindness allowed her to support herself and her mother in law.

Also like Esther, Ruth has a Jewish holiday that involves her, called Shavuout. The holiday is a celebration of the anniversary of the day that God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel on Mount Sinai. The celebration, though small, includes eating dairy products, staying up all night and studying the Torah, and reading the book of Ruth. The book of Ruth is read for a few reasons: King David, one of Ruth’s desendants, was born and died on Shavuot; Shavout is harvest time; The gematria (numerical value) of Ruth is 606, the number of commandments given at Sinai in addition to the 7 Noahide Laws already given, for a total of 613; Ruth was a convert, as were all the Jews when the Torah was given; the central theme of the book of Ruth is loving and kindness, as is the central theme of the Torah; and that Ruth was allowed to marry Boaz on an interpretation of the Oral Law.

So, it isn’t ever really implicitly stated, but each of the star points exist because they embody the “ideal” of that role. For example, Electa is the ideal mother, Adah the ideal daughter, etc. Which is a little weird when you realize that makes Ruth the ideal widow. How can someone be the ideal widow? The Grand Chapter of Ohio states that it is because “she cherished her family, faith, and inheritance of her husband above her every personal ambition, her original native allegiance, and her originally heathen religion.” Ruth knew who she was, even when everything in her life seemed lost. Imagine loosing your husband, and living with your mother in law, and being so dedicated to her and her family, that you are willing to give up your own identity, your own birthright, to show your love for her. That’s some pretty powerful stuff. Even if we are not yet widows, we can learn from the kindness that Ruth showed to her family, even in times of desperation. It is also a wonderful reminder, I think, to turn to your family in times of need.

Although there is an entire book about Ruth, it is not a terribly long one. If you get a chance, pull out a Bible or Torah and read it. If you are unable to do so at home, you can find the book of Ruth in its entirety here.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns, either here, or you can email me Have a wonderful week!

Women of Freemasonry: Adah

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

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

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

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

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

You see where this is going, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, have a wonderful week.

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!

Naviagting Masonic Emblems Part II

Since our Master’s Ball is this weekend (more on that next week!), I am in a bit of a time crunch, so, I decided to go ahead with the second part of the Masonic emblem series this week. You can read part one here.

The crescent and scimitar

Probably the second most well-known Masonic emblem, after the square and compass, is that of the Shriners. Luckily for us, the Shriners are much more forthcoming as to the meaning of their emblem than anyone else seems to be.  The crescent and scimitar are most often seen displayed on the fez, the hat that a Shriner wears.  The scimitar (the sword) stands for the backbone of the fraternity, which are its members. The two claws that make up the crescent represent the Shriners fraternity and its philanthropy. The sphinx’s head stands for the governing body of the Shriners, the head of the organization. The five-pointed star inside of the crescent represents the thousands of children that the Shriners help through their philanthropy (most notably their hospitals) each year. Occasionally you will also see the phrase “Robur et Furor” on the emblem, which means “Strength and Fury”.

The Eastern Star

Perhaps the most misunderstood Masonic emblem is that of the Order of the Eastern Star. Each point of the star represents a different star point. The blue point with the sword and veil represent Adah, whose lesson is obedience to duty. The yellow point with the sheaf of wheat is for Ruth, whose lesson is adherence to religious principles. The white, with the crown and scepter represents Esther, whose lesson is the virtue of loyalty. The green point with the broken column is for Martha, who teaches us the virtue of endurance in a trial. Finally the red point with the cup is for Electa, who teaches ous the lesson of endurance of persecution. The altar with the book in the middle is exactly what you think it is, it represents the volume of sacred law that sits in the East. The word FATAL is the secret phrase used in OES. Please note: OES was created in the 1850’s, long before the inverted pentagram was associated with satanic ritual around the 1960’s.

The crest of the Order of DeMolay

DeMolay, the organization for young men, is also straightforward with their emblem. The crown  is symbolic of the Crown of Youth, and reminds a member of his obligations and the seven principles of his order. Each of the ten rubies along the sides of the emblem represent the Founder of the organization, and the nine original members. There used to be a mixture of pearls and rubies, with pearls representing living members, and rubies, deceased ones. The helmet on top represents the concept of chivalry, a reoccurring theme within DeMolay. The crescent in the center serves as a reminder to never reveal the secrets of the Order, nor the secrets of a friend. The five-armed white cross symbolizes the purities of ones intentions, and to always remember the motto, “No DeMolay shall fail as a citizen, as a leader, and as a man.” The crossed swords in the background are symbols of justice, fortitude, and mercy, and also symbolize the warfare DeMolays face against arrogance, despotism, and intolerance. The stars around the crescent serve as a symbol of hope, and  remind members of their obligations and duties that one brother owes to another.

The rainbow

Surprisingly, the International Order of Rainbow for Girl’s emblem is the hardest one to find out any information on, much more than any of the Masonic “secrets”. However, from what I can gather, the red, white, and blue stripe represents the flag of the United States; although Rainbow is an international organization, it was created here in the States. The hands below represent friendship. Each of the colors represent a different lesson taught in the organization. Red, love; orange, religion; yellow, nature; green, immortality; blue, fidelity; indigo, patriotism; violent, service.  BFCL stands for bible, flag, constitution, and lambskin, the four symbols of the order. The R in the middle simply stands for rainbow.

Job’s Daughter’s emblem

The emblem for Job’s Daughters is very quite simple. The three women in the triangle represent the daughter’s of Job, and each one holds a symbol important to the organization. The dove stands for peace and purity, the urn of incense represents prayer, and the horn of plenty represents the hope of reward for a job well done. The words “Iyob Filiae” literally means Job’s Daughters in Greek.

These are only the emblems for the most common Masonic organizations. There are many others out there, so occasionally you may come across an emblem that is unknown to you. A little research goes a long way in this case.

As always, have a wonderful week!

Women of Freemasonry: Electa

Before I begin, let me say, Happy Mother’s Day! I am so grateful for all of the wonderful mothers in my life, they do so much for all of us.

For Mother’s Day, I thought I would return the star points of Order of the Eastern Star. Now, you may not think this topic to be terribly mother oriented, but Electa is known as the mother. In fact, all of the star points represent a potential time in a member’s life:

  • Adah- the daughter
  • Ruth – the widow
  • Esther – the wife
  • Martha – the sister
  • Electa – the mother

Her gentle smile and yielding heart

Shall grace our world no more;

She chose the true but bitter part,With never-falling skill,

He treasures up His bright designs,:

And works His gracious will.

Where does Electa come from?

The truth is, Electa does not come from the Bible in the way that the four other heroines of OES do. Electa is the only one that is never named, the name was created for her solely for the purpose of the ritual. I think this is fudging a bit, perhaps there may of been a different heroine that could have been worked into the star points, but, Electa does fit in her own way, so perhaps her name is not as important as we may think it to be. The name Electa was chosen, because 2 John was addressed to “the elder to the elect lady and her children..” Some translators have actually attached the name Kyria to her.

What is her story?

Here again, there may of been some liberties taken. OES references her story being in 2 John, but there’s not much there. Instead, her story is based in Masonic tradition. The story goes, that she was born and raised in Asia Minor, and brought up as a pagan. At some point, she converted to Christianity, probably during the era of St. Paul. Regardless of when and where and how, she would of definitely been a very important and influential woman within her community, this is obvious by her title. She was known for her kindness towards the less fortunate, giving money to the poor, and caring for and sheltering those in need, and filling the bellies of hungry travelers.

As most all of us know, during St.John’s time, Christianity became a nuisance to those who did not follow it, and an edict was put out by the Roman government that was issued against anyone who proclaimed to be a Christian, under penalty of death. The “test” given to people, was that they were given a crucifix and were told to stomp on it, as a showing of a renouncing of any lingering Christian faith. Electa, for she wouldn’t be the heroine of the story otherwise, refused to comply with the edict, and refused to renounce her faith.

Instead of killing her outright, perhaps because she was so well known and loved within the community, the Romans chose instead to throw her and her family into the dungeon for a year. After this time she was brought out, and again offered to renounce her faith. Electa again refused to do so. The Romans didn’t like this so much of course, so they followed through on their threat and killed her. More than that however, they crucified her entire family in front of her, before allowing her to die.

You can read a short analysis of 2 John here.

What does she teach us?

Even though it is an allegorical story, Electa can still teach us many things. Perhaps the strongest here is that principles, not matter what they may be, never die. This woman had the strength to profess her faith to the world, even though she knew that it would get her and her family killed. Even though it meant the loss of everything that she had, wealth, good fortune, family, and even her own life. She was willing, however, to undergo these things in order to stand by her faith. Electa teaches us strength and courage, to stick by what we believe in, no matter how hard it may be, or how alone we may feel. “Endurance of persecution”

More than that though, Electa taught us the simplest lesson that is too often overlooked, “That we love one another.” While this may not seem as emphasized in her story, Electa is called the mother with good reason. She had wealth, and perhaps a position of power, regardless, she was living comfortably. Even still, she brought in anyone who needed assistance, regardless of their social or financial status, and did not worry about how it may change the way that others may see her. This, is truly why she is called the mother, for like our own mothers, she teaches us to love unconditionally. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the most difficult lesson of all.

Order of the Eastern Star: A Primer

This week is a little crazy- my birthday is tomorrow, and I have two exams, as well as working during the week, so I apologize if you have seen this before (you will if you followed me here from Reddit), but my free time is a little short this week. We will be returning to your regularly scheduled programming next week, with an article on the first known woman to become a regular mason. (Yes, you read that right!) One last bit before I get started, in case you don’t read this- I started a twitter account for this blog, check it out at @themasonslady , and say hi!

What is the Order of the Eastern Star?

The Order of the Eastern Star (or Eastern Star, or OES), is the world’s largest fraternal organization that can be joined by both men and women. It is a member of the Masonic family, but joining does not make a member a mason. It’s more of an axillary group, that supports masonic lodges, masonic youth organizations, as well as their own agenda. Like all Masonic organizations, they support membership when in need, both financially and emotionally. They also provide a framework for introspective thought and philosophical discussion on ethical and spiritual topics.

Who can join OES?

In order to be eligible to receive the degrees of Eastern Star, a woman must be a: wife, daughter, adopted daughter, mother, widow, sister, half sister, granddaughter, stepmother, stepdaughter, stepsister, daughter-in-law,grandmother, great granddaughter, niece, great niece, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, or aunt of a Master Mason in good standing. (Basically, if you can prove you are in some way or another related to a Mason who is paid up, you’re in.) Former members of Job’s Daughters and Rainbow Girls are also eligible to join. Men wishing to join the order must be Master Masons. All members must be at least eighteen.

How do I join OES?

Step 1) Find a chapter in your area.

Step 2) Ask for a petition, fill it out, return it.

Step 3) Interview with members of your prospective chapter.

Step 4) ????

Step 5) Profit.

But, what do they *do*?

I can’t answer for other chapters, only for what goes on in Nebraska. In Nebraska, OES is the majority supporter for the Masonic youth organizations- Job’s Daughters, Rainbow Girls, and Demolay. They also operate the Masonic-Eastern Star Home for Children – a place for kids who are either wards of the state or are having other troubles. They also provide scholarships to college students and support other minor charitable efforts in their respective local areas.

What about the degrees? Is there memory work?

There are five  degrees, received in one night. There is no memory work required for initiation. There is, however, memory work involved if you would like to be an officer.

Why did you chose to join?

Eastern Star was very important to my great-grandparents; I never got to meet any of them, so this is a way for me to connect with my family’s past. I can now say I have walked the same path my great-grandmother did, almost 100 years ago. I also think that it is a great way to connect with T, as a lot of the rituals are similar to what they do in lodge. I cannot, of course, share any of the secret work with him, just has he cannot share his with me; I think its kind of nice to have my own masonic secrets.

Does there have to be a guy involved?

It’s not the way that I would have it set up, but yes. MMs are involved in a number of different ways. There’s two male only officer positions that they can hold- Worthy Patron and Associate Worthy Patron. My chapter current has a MM also sitting the position of Chaplin, Sentinel (Tyler), and I was lucky enough to have a MM who is a good friend of mine as Host (I’m not sure if blue lodge does this- he sat with me before I was called in, and after my initiation, to help me with the rest of the meeting, introduced me to people, etc). I’m not sure about the rest of the positions, I know that the points and matron positions must be held by women (obviously), but I don’t see why a MM couldn’t be say, treasurer, or secretary. Otherwise, MMs are full, voting members, but it does tend to be a bit of a role reversal, the MMs are there to support the sisters, the girls run the show here.

I was orginally upset about this fact, that a man must be there in order for a chapter of OES to be open. Now that I am a member of Eastern Star, I realize, I was looking at it all wrong from the beginning. In the Blue Lodge, the MM does his work, with support from his wife. In Eastern Star, the opposite is true, the Sister does her work with the support of her husband. MMs are present in the Star, but it is a support role, the women are truly the ones in charge here. Much of my offense was simply ignorance, but I believe it to be one of those things you cannot really get over until you are already in.

If you still disagree with this, there are women’s only orders within the masonic family.

Everyone asks me “Why would anyone want to join OES?”

There is kind of a huge stigma involving OES within the masonic family. When I told our masonic friends I was joining, everyone had something to complain about it, mostly about how boring it was, and how much marching there was. I ignored them, I wanted to find out for myself. Yes, it is true that watching grass grow would be more exciting than listening to a chapter open. However, I think that there is a lot of wiggle room for change, and that your chapter is what you make of it. I would love to change people’s thoughts about OES, and make it something more attractive, something at people will want to join. If you are reading this right now, chances are you are in the “next generation” of masonry. We are the ones that will bring about the positive change to this organization. I also believe that if we do not, it will be gone in the next 20 years.

I’m going to cut it a bit short and leave it there for now. I am planning on returning to the general topic of Eastern Star at a later point, but if you have any questions let me know, and don’t forget to check us out on twitter @themasonslady!

Women of Freemasonry: Queen Esther

I decided that one of the reoccurring posts I would like to do is women in history and their influence on Freemasonry. Since Purim (more on this in a bit) was on Sunday, I decided – why not start with Queen Esther?

Queen Who?

She has an entire book in the Torah/Bible, but a quick survey of my co-workers told me that no one had any idea who Queen Esther was, which leads me to believe that most people do not. So, let’s start with that.

Way back in the day, sometime before 460 BC, King Xerxes I ruled in Persia (Xerxes the Great, known as King Ahasuerus to the Jews). He apparently had too much time on his hands, because he had been throwing a party for the last 180 days (yes, you read that right, 6 months of party time!) When he was done with his giant party, he decided to have a smaller, moderate, week-long party (you know, with just close friends). On the last day, he we drunk on wine, as I could imagine anyone would be. He told his wife, Queen Vashti, to dance for all the men at his party so that he could show off how hot she was to all his buddies. Vashti, who apparently had not been drinking near as much, refused. Xerxes had her executed because of this (some stories say divorced, but let’s be realistic here).

After Xerxes sobered up, he realized he was “lonely”, and wanted a wife. It was suggested to him that he hold a beauty contest, and that he wed the winner. That’s exactly what went down. A young Jewess named Esther was one of the contestants. Esther’s parents had passed when she was young, and she had been raised by her Uncle Mordechai, who, at the time, was also the leader of the Jews. The story goes that Xerxes immediately liked Esther, and they wed at once. Mordechai told Esther to keep her nationality hidden, even from her new husband.

There was a briefly mentioned incident where Uncle Mordechai learned of two men plotting to kill Xerxes. Mordechai altered the proper people, and the traitors were hanged. Shortly after this, one of King Xerxes ministers, Haman, was elected to Prime Minister. Haman was kind of jerk, and was well-known for not liking the Jews. One of his first decrees was that everyone in the streets must bow down to him. Our friend Mordechai refuses to bow down to Haman, and Haman takes it personally, holding a grudge against Mordechai. Knowing that Mordechai was a Jew, Haman decides to attempt to talk King Xerxes into letting him make a decree that all Jews should be killed. Xerxes, not knowing that his beloved Queen was a Jew, allowed Haman to do as he wished, and made a decree that the Jews would be exterminated on the 13th of Adar (Feburary-March).

Mordechai, being the leader of the Jews, found out about this decree. He informed Queen Esther, hoping that she would be able to do something about it. Esther invited Xerxes and Haman to dinner, with intent of telling them both she was a Jew. She lost her nerve, and tried again. The second night, she begged them both to spare her and her people, stating that Haman sought to kill her (because she was a Jew). Xerxes and Haman were both upset, understandably. Since Haman plotted to kill the queen, regardless of the fact that he did not know, he was hanged.Kingly decrees could not be undone, so Esther and Mordechai wrote a second decree for the king (with permission of course), that the Jews could preemptively strike out against those they felt might want them dead.

Halloween, Christmas, and New Years? Sign me up!

A big theme of Jewish holidays is: they tried to kill us, they failed, lets party. Purim is the name of the holiday that celebrates this story. Usually, on Purim, Jews will:

  • dress in costumes
  • give gifts to friends
  • have a “festive meal” (aka, get stupid drunk)
  • give charity
  • listen to the k’riat megillah, or the Book of Esther (pretty much the story above)

One of the more interesting notes about this, is that women are encouraged to listen to the reading of the Book of Esther, because women were heavily involved in the miracle. In extreme Orthodox communities, this is a rarity.

Sounds great and all, but what does this have to do with Freemasonry?

Directly with masonry, not a ton. With appendant  bodies, a lot. Esther is a star point in Eastern Star. She is the third star point. The story of Esther is taught, although in a shorter and more flowery version, during the initiation ceremony. A quote from Esther is her pass. Her star point symbolizes purity, joy, and light, although I do not think that these virtues have much to do with her story. What does though, is this, “In the excercise of authority we should be governed by justice and unselfish loyalty to the welfare of others. It was by the practice of these virtues that Esther was able to save her people from extermination.” I’m not sure that I can say it any better than that.