I figured I should backtrack a bit, and cover some basic ground, so that everyone reading this has a general idea of what is going on. When you google mason’s lady, or women and masons, one of the first things to appear is some version of this: http://web.mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry/Essays/ml.pdf unfortunately, it looks like it was last made some time in the 80′s, doesn’t answer a lot of questions, and does not give a lot of resources, unless your mason happens to be a member of Blue Hill Lodge in Massachusetts. I would like for this to serve as an update to that handout, answering more questions, and giving more general resources.
What’s a mason, anyway?
Masons, or freemasons (to distingush from bricklayers), are really kind of everywhere. Those guys in the little cars in parades are masons. Shriner’s hospital is completely owned, operated, and (mostly) funded by masons. The Loyal Order of the Water Buffaloes, Fred Flinstone’s fraternity, was based on masonry. A mason refers to a member of Freemasonry, a fraternal organization. They base their work in philanthropy, specifically to better their members, which also involves bettering their community. This is masonry at its core. Their motto is “to make good men better”.
Who can be a mason?
Only men can be masons (yes, I know, I will save this for another post). FtMs that are legally male, can be masons, but their acceptance varies from lodge to lodge. They have to be of appropriate age for the state or country 18 for most, 21 for some. The man must come with recommendations, this is usually done via interview, even if he already has friends within the lodge. One requirement of receiving the degrees is that he must belive in a “higher power”. This does not mean that he must be religious, or even that he must believe in G-d, only that he believes in something greater than himself.
But, what do they do?
On average, most lodges meet once to twice a month. Lodges with more degree work to perform (more on this in a bit), will meet more often (T’s meets every week), whereas smaller lodges, or lodges with less new members will meet less- at least once a month for business. Usually the meetings are not that exciting, to give you an idea, they usually go on in the general business format of: open lodge, old business (reading of the minutes from last meeting), new business (communications from other lodges and organizations, pay bills, announcements), special events (voting, special announcements), close lodge. It’s not really as exciting as most people think it may be. However, masons are more known for their special events. Depending on your lodge, there may be picnics, dances, formal dinners, fundraisers, pancake breakfasts, group visits to the zoo, etc, throughout the year. The men are always encouraged to bring their family to such events. There are often city-wide, and state-wide events as well.
What’s this about degrees?
The way that it works is as follows: a man chooses a lodge that he wants to join, either because of location, friends in that specific lodge, or whatever. He asks them for a petition, fills it out, and gives it back to a member. At the next business meeting, the petition is read, and shortly thereafter, a few members of the lodge set up an interview with the candidate. The interview is usually fairly relaxed, and serves as a way to get to know the candidate better, both in their personality and their intentions. The interviewers return to the lodge, and give the rest of the members a feel for the candidate. The candidate is then voted on, the decision must be unanimous in the lodge. He is then able to receive the degrees of masonry.
There are three degrees that a mason must receive before he is a full member of the lodge. Every lodge has different schedules, some may do it over three or more months, some in one month, and some in one day. It all depends on the canidate.The first degree is called the Entered Apprentice degree, or the EA degree. The second is the Fellowcraft degree, or FC degree. The third degree is the Master Mason, or MM degree. Upon receiving the MM degree, the man is now a full-fledged mason, and full member of the lodge.
I heard something about an Inspector Inquisitor Commander?
There are many branches of masonry. The lodge, or blue lodge, is the base, the core of masonry. This is where a mason will receive the first three degrees. There are thirty (yes 30!) more degrees available to receive beyond that, as well as other organizations to join. After the first three degrees, there are two branches to choose from, Scottish Rite, or York Rite. The progression for Scottish Rite is as follows: Scottish Rite->Chapter of the Rose Croix->Council of Kadosh->Consistory of Sublime Princes->Supreme Council. York Rite is: York Rite->Cryptic Rite->Knights Templar. In addition to this, masons can also join the Shriners, the Grotto, and a large number appendant bodies.
I keep hearing about masonic secrets…
Masons do have their secrets, its true; allow me to assure you that none of it is to take over the world, or control the government (you should watch them organize a dinner…) Most of the “secrets” you can find online, if you are really interested, but I would recommend that you do not. Some thing are better left with a shroud of mystery, and whether you are a mason’s SO or a potential candidate, masonry is one of them. If you have questions about masonry, ask your mason (if you have one), you may be surprised about what he is allowed and willing to share with you.
What can I do?
The first, and most important thing you can do, is support your mason. Encourage him to be active in his lodge. Our grandparents were onto something when they got into masonry. Time apart is good for any relationship, and so is time with the same gender. Communication is important as well. If you feel like masonry is becoming more important than family or work, talk with him about it. It is strongly encouraged in the teachings that family and work should always come before masonic work. Be active in the lodge yourself. While you cannot attend the business meetings, you can ask to see the inside of the lodge room, and ladies are often welcome before and after meetings. If your mason’s lodge has dinner before lodge, help out in the kitchen, offer to make a dish. Make a point to put masonic family activities on your calendar. Masonry is a family, and it can very easily involve the whole family.
I want to learn more! (Or, I want to join!)
During my research, I found that this http://ephcanada.info/MLC2012/Ladies/02-Welcome%20to%20a%20Mason%27s%20Lady.pdf was a fairly well put together resource, that does go more in-depth into topics that I did not cover.
A very valuable resource that I use on a daily basis is the freemasonry subreddit, found athttp://www.reddit.com/r/freemasonry You can use this to ask questions, read articles, and connect with people online.
There is no overall governing body for masonry. Each state or providence is run by a Grand Lodge. If you are interested in learning more about masonry in your area, I suggest that you go to the website of the Grand Lodge of your state, which will have a listing of all lodges in that state. You can then find one close to you, and contact them for more information. A comprehensive list can be found athttp://gwmemorial.org/links.php
You can, of course, feel free to contact me, either here, on reddit at /u/jynxbunni, or at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great day! Women and masonry is next week!