My Master Mason Degree Ceremony

May 26, 2007

Master Mason ApronI made it!  Six months after being Initiated as an Entered Apprentice I was raised to the sublime Degree of a Master Mason.

It was a very memorable experience and I enjoyed this Degree Ceremony the most of the three.  When I was initiated as an Entered Apprentice, everything was just too surreal and strange for me to really enjoy the experience.  I really had no idea of what I was getting myself into at that point.  My Fellowcraft Degree Ceremony was somewhat similar to my Initiation, and was memorable, but the Master Mason Degree was very interesting…

As I have said in earlier posts about my Masonic Degree Ceremonies, I am not about to reveal the juicy bits of the ceremony that would take away from the enjoyment of anyone who has not been through them.  Nor am I going to reveal any of the secrets of the Degree.  I’ll just relate my experience and impressions here.

I will have to admit that I have recently read several books and watched a few documentaries on Freemasonry.  I intentionally skipped sections that showed portions of the Degrees that I hadn’t gone through yet, but I still had accidentally gained some knowledge of some things that were going to happen in the Degree.  I’m glad to say that the limited amount of information that I knew beforehand didn’t really made a difference to my enjoyment of it. 

An analogy would be someone who says that they know what Olympic Athletes go through because they have watched the Olympics on T.V.  The real life experience is always much better, complete and rewarding.  Just like an Olympic Athlete, a new Freemason goes through much more than just the “Final” event.  There is all of the preparation, learning, practice, dedication as well as the friendships and social activities that happen along the way.

Here is my account of my Raising.

I arrived at the Lodge about 40 minutes early and I was surprised to see that there were a lot of cars there already.  There were a number of guests there from other Lodges as well as some faces that I hadn’t seen in a while.  I went downstairs with a Brother to go over my material that I would have to “prove-up on” one last time.  I was sure that I knew it all, and it would only be my nerves that might mess me up.

When the Lodge opened, I was sitting in my regular seat beside the Senior Deacon.  He mentioned to me that once I was a Master Mason, I could choose to sit anywhere in the Lodge.  I think that I’m going to try the opposite side at the next meeting.

After about ten minutes, I was called to approach the Altar to start my examination.  Just like in the Fellowcraft Degree, I had to stand in a very upright and straight-legged position.  The questions that I had to answer took only a few minutes, and they were not a problem for me.  Having gone through the Fellowcraft Degree already, and knowing what to expect, helped out quite a bit.

I am used to speaking in public infront of groups and I am good at appearing calm, but when you are standing straight-legged and not moving at all, there is no place for any nervous energy to go.  I couldn’t walk around any or even give hand gestures as I answered the questions.  Right in the middle of the first question, my legs started shaking.  I tried to reason with myself that there was nothing to be nervous about since I knew everyone in the room, but I knew I would just have to wait it out.  I tried bending my knees a little bit and this helped.  By the end of the questions, my nervousness had almost faded away.

When I finished the questions, the Worship-full Master asked if anyone else wanted to hear anything else.  I hoped that the “billion to one” chance would happen and nobody would ask to hear my Fellowcraft Obligation, but I wasn’t in luck.  I made it through my Obligation with only one little hiccup, where I paused for a second or two, but I still nailed it. 

I was then asked to retire from the Lodge Room and get into the spiffy pajama outfit that I had worn for the previous two Degrees.  After I changed, I still ended up waiting about ten minutes before the next part of the Degree would start. 

The Brethren who were outside of the Lodge Room with me, tried to “helpfully psyche me out”, before we went back in.  If I could summarize all of the warnings that they had for me, they would include the words: handcuffs, full frontal nudity, goats, lube, being sore for a week etc.  The more positive and excited I seemed about these possibilities, the more outrageous their warnings seemed to be.  I’m not going to reveal any secrets, but I will let the uninitiated know that some of those words weren’t in the Degree.

When I was led into the Lodge Room again, many things had been changed and I knew that this was going to be very different from the other Degrees.  Some of the elements of the ceremony were the same, but the overall ambiance was more similar to the initiation ceremony in the movie “The Skulls” than the other two degrees.

I was awkwardly moved around the room by two Brethren who held my arms and brought me to various places in the room throughout the ceremony.  The awkwardness was mostly my fault, as most of the time I guessed wrong in the direction that I thought we were going to move.  I was brought before the Junior and Senior Wardens to prove my knowledge of the passgrips, passwords, grips and tokens of the previous degree.  I was well prepared and everything went well.

My Master Mason obligation seemed to be very long.  There were some lines that were similar in all of the obligations like “I’m gunna do this here stuff that I’m promisin’ to do”…. or something similar to that, but it was much more indepth than the previous obligations.  The pieces of it were fed to me in small bits, but I did struggle at times to be able to understand what I was saying.  I was more concerned at hearing all of the words correctly, so that I could repeat them back.  Some of the words I mumbled back a little bit, because I wasn’t sure if I had heard the word incorrectly or whether I simply had never heard the word before and it wasn’t in my vocabulary.

There were the parts where I was taught the “secrets” of the degree, but I was very confused.  The signs and grips were all very strange to me.  The passwords were all very odd as well.  They were not any common words or even English sounding words and were only whispered in my ear.  I managed to whisper them back, but it was more like a whisper/mumble of hopefully similar sounding syllables… I’ll have to get more clarification later.

I was not prepared for the following events in the Degree.  There were similar lectures and accounts of legends and history as in the previous degrees, but there was much more “drama”.  I had heard that this was the favorite Degree for the Degree Team to put on, because there was much more for everyone to do, and I now see why.  While the other degrees were more similar to lectures, this was more similar to a production, and I was one of the actors – totally unprepared, but part of it anyway.

Once the “production” was over, I was allowed to retire from the Lodge Room again and change back into my regular clothing.  We then took a break and went downstairs for pizza and refreshments.  The energy of everyone was very high at this point and it truly had been fun for the brethren who were putting on the degree so far.

The second part of the Degree was more similar to the other Degrees.  Before I was led back in, I had to give the Master Mason password.  I was a little overwhelmed with knowledge at this point and really didn’t have a clue as to which one to use.  Thank God the Tyler gave me a hint.

Once inside, there was the Master Mason tracing board, where I was instructed on the various symbols of the degree.  I was also given a lecture on the Working Tools of the Degree and some other short lectures from various Brethren.

The most memorable part of the Degree was when my Fellowcraft Apron was removed and my Master Mason Apron was put on.  It seemed very heavy and thick and also seemed quite large compared to what I had been wearing before. 

After the ceremony, we went back downstairs for more refreshments and to celebrate.

My Lodge follows the Canadian Rite and some of our guests were from Lodges that follow the York Rite.  We discussed the similarities and differences between the two Rites and it seems to me that they are very similar in content.  The difference is in how much is done in the “theatrics and production” of the degrees while delivering the content to the candidate.

The Master Mason Degree was definitely a good and memorable experience for me and will forever be remembered as one of my life’s major milestones.

This is my 24th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.


Final Rehearsal of a Fellowcraft

May 23, 2007

mm-rehearsal.jpg The other night I went through my final practice before my 3rd Degree Ceremony.  The Degree Team was holding their regular practice that night at the Lodge, and I was allowed to rehearse my part with them.

It never really occurred to me about how much work everyone else has to do to prepare for a degree, and it humbled me a little bit.  Ten of my Brethren were there to rehearse their parts for my Degree Ceremony.  Since I am going through this degree by myself, they actually are doing all of this for me.  I have no intention of not being 100% prepared to prove my proficiency in the previous degree, and I’m sure that they have no intention of not being equally ready to present an exceptional Degree.

I was only there for about half an hour, but it was a good experience for me.  I was able to go through all of the things that I have been memorizing and practicing in the “real place with the real people”.  For the next few days as I practice on my own, I will be able to visualize exactly where I will be standing and who will be asking me questions etc.

The one thing that I have realized in the last 6 months as I have been learning and memorizing, is that doing this work “for real” is always much harder than doing it in-front of a bathroom mirror.  I was sure that I had the Fellowcraft Obligation down perfectly, and I know that I can do it in my sleep – because I have been doing it in my sleep lately…  but when everyone is focusing on you, its easy to become self-conscious and stumble on simple things. 

The idea of being the sole focus of the entire Master Mason Degree reminds me of a few times in elementary school when I received awards in-front of the entire school body.  One of the earlier students to receive an award had a peculiar way of walking.  He just seemed to bounce higher on each step than the average person.  After noticing that, each time that I walked in-front of a crowd, I became self conscious of how I was walking so that I wouldn’t appear to look like that other kid.  My point is, everything – including walking – can seem harder in-front of a crowd, and that you are never as prepared as you think you are!

I know that in the future, when I am presenting portions of Degrees, I will look back at this post and think that the candidates have it easy.  It is true that the amount of work to prove your proficiency in the former degree is very small compared to the amount of work that the Degree Team does, but this blog is all about my current experiences.

I look forward to my next post being written by a Master Mason!

This is my 23rd post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.


Gettin’ Some Masonic Bling-Bling!

May 12, 2007

Bling-Bling  I have two weeks left before I will go through my Third-Degree ceremony and become a Master Mason.  I thought that I would commemorate that with a little Bling-Bling.

I’ve been taking a good look at the Brethren in my Lodge the last little while to see what sort of Bling-Bling I could spot.

Most had Masonic Rings, although nobody had the exact same ring.  I also noticed some Masonic cuff-links, a tie clip, a tie pin and even a few Masonic ties.

I was told that it wasn’t appropriate to wear a Masonic ring until I was a Master Mason.  From what I have read, this rule changes from district to district.  In fact, I found on the Internet “Entered Apprentice Rings” and “Fellowcraft Rings”. 

I am proud to be a Freemason and I am looking forward to showing my pride, but I want to be subtle.  I don’t want to get a 6 inch “square and compass” tattoo across my forehead, but I don’t want to get something that is so small and obscure that it would never be noticed.  I haven’t really decided at what level of noticability that I want to have.  I think I am leaning toward the “a fellow Mason would spot it, but not many others” level.

In my personal life, a few friends know that I am a Mason, but I have not shared this with any co-workers.  I am a fairly private person, and generally don’t mix my personal and professional life together.  I’m not saying that I’m not a friendly person, but I don’t feed the gossip with anything that I wouldn’t want every single person to know. 

You might think that I am a very outgoing person because of this particular blog, but in reality I am some-what anonymous on the Internet.  I realize that people can find out my location and the particular Lodge that I belong to by even reading through my posts, but I don’t put my actual name on anything that I do on the Internet.  (I’m a high school teacher, and I know that many students Google their teachers for a variety of reasons.)

To make a long story short, it was suggested to me that I go to a particular jewelry store where many Brothers had bought their own Masonic rings.  The first salesperson that I spoke to didn’t know too much about Masonic rings and could only show me where their small section of rings were.  None of them appealed to me.

As I waited for the Owner/Goldsmith to come out from the back to help me, I noticed that there was a poster at the till for the Shriner’s Circus.  Beside the till was a sign that explained why the store did not offer any discounts.  It basically stated that they refused to artificially inflate prices and then create a false “sale price”.  Their prices were honest and would be competitive with any other’s sale prices.  It also stated that you would never be required to pay more than a quote for custom work, and that if the final product was lighter that quoted, you would pay less.  These seemed like very Masonic principles.

When the Goldsmith came out, he was wearing a bright Shriner’s tie and wore a huge Masonic ring. He lived his Masonic principles “out-loud” in business and in his personal life.

I spent quite a while choosing a ring.  I was shown quite a few pictures of rings that could be ordered, but none of them seemed to be what I was looking for.  We ended up creating a custom ring that he would make for me.  I was shown quite a few wax castings of rings and possible gold “square and compasses” that could be attached, but I still wanted something a little more subtle. 

A basic signet ring with the Masonic symbol attached on top was a bit too much, yet a basic signet right with only an engraving would wear too quickly and was not enough.  So just like Goldilocks, we created one that was “just right.”  He would create a custom ring that would have a sunken symbol on the face of a signet ring. 

I asked how long it would take for the ring to be made and he told me that it would take at least three weeks.  He then asked me when “the big day” was and I told him that it was in two weeks.  He replied that becoming a Master Mason is a very big day and that my ring would be ready it time!  I can’t wait!

This is my 22nd post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.


Master Mason in the Making

April 21, 2007

WaitingMy Lodge has decided to have each of our Fellowcrafts go through the Master Mason degree individually.  My degree ceremony will be held in about 5 weeks time, and I will be the third of my group to go through. 

I am looking forward to the degree ceremony, even though I am a little more rushed than when I was preparing for the Fellowcraft degree.  There is also more pressure because there is nobody to back me up during my “proving-up” portion, but I’m looking forward to not having to share the degree with another candidate.  I’m sure that everyone prefers not to have to share their birthday party with anyone else as well…

At our last meeting, the first of our group went through his Master Mason Degree.  Myself and the other Fellowcrafts were able to stay in the Lodge while he went through his Fellowcraft Catechisms.  He was very nervous, but only paused slightly on two occasions during his entire examination.  I guess he has now set the bar at 100 percent for the rest of us.

After his proving-up, everyone below the level of a Master Mason had to retire and leave the Lodge room for the duration of the Master Mason degree.

I discovered that it turned out to be a very, very long degree.  We waited outside of the Lodge for about 2.5 hours in total while the degree took place.  Since I don’t know all of the details of the degree ceremony yet, I could only wonder what they were doing in there for so long.

Perhaps part of the ceremony was for everyone to leave out the back door of the lodge and go bowling for a few games in homage to the Flinstones’ Water Buffaloes Fraternity…

I guess I’ll know soon enough and I will be able to appreciate being the center of attention for so long.  With the amount of Work that the Degree Team must be presenting, I can only assume that the amount of preparation I need to do for the degree is very small in comparison.

The next meeting is another Master Mason degree, so I guess on the positive side of things, it will give the Fellowcrafts more time to practice our work for our own Master Mason degree ceremonies.  I think to satisfy my curiosity about the bowling, I’ll keep an eye on the parking lot of the Lodge though. 

This is my 21st post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.


Fellowcraft Requirements

April 16, 2007

PageI was recently given the material that I need to memorize before I can become a Master Mason.  I will need to show proficiency in my current degree of a Fellowcraft Mason before I can proceed to the third degree of Master Mason.  My Lodge follows the Canadian Rite, so my exact requirements will vary slightly from other Freemason Lodges around the world.

My first impression of the new material was that it would be an absolute breeze compared to the requirements that I had to learn as an Entered Apprentice.  The material required to learn was shorter, and much of it was very similar to what I had already memorized.  (My post on the Requirements of an Entered Apprentice is here.)

Similar to the Entered Apprentice degree, I need to be able to answer a series of questions.  These need to be memorized exactly as they are written.  This time there are only 9 questions instead of 14, and the answers to most of them are shorter.  I believe that these questions are very similar to most lodges around the world.

The second thing that I need to memorize is the Fellowcraft Obligation.  This Obligation is actually much shorter than the first one that I memorized.  It is just over 250 words, compared to 350 words in the first one.  It is also partially in code again, with letters and symbols representing words, and the “penalty section” is blank.

I had a very hard time learning the Entered Apprentice Obligation.  I estimate that it probably took me over 40 hours of studying to have it memorized well.  I used every trick in the book to memorize it.  I actually broke it down into about 45 pieces and tried to learn only one or two pieces per day.  If I tried to learn bigger chunks at a time, I would just confuse myself. 

All of that hard work is now paying off.  Large portions of the Obligation are exactly the same or only slightly different from the Entered Apprentice Obligation.  In fact, there is only a little less than 100 words that are new.

Memorizing the Fellowcraft Obligation is really just learning where to substitute a few words and memorizing a few new sentences.  I am having a little trouble keeping the two Obligations separate in my head in certain sections, but it has not been a chore to learn the new one.  I managed to be able to recite it in about 2 hours of study, so it only took me about 5-10% of the time to learn this one. 

A Brother told me that once you memorize a few things, the process takes much less effort once you retrain your brain to do it.  I am finding this to be true while I have been working on the questions and answers. For all of the Entered Apprentices who are struggling with learning their catechism, it does get easier.

The last section that I need to learn is the portion that deals with the signs, grips, tokens, passwords etc.  There is about 30% more work here than in the previous degree, and this is the portion that we will be working on when we meet to practice. 

My Master Mason ceremony is scheduled for May 25, so that leaves me with 6 weeks to prepare.  Our 3rd degree ceremonies are all going to be individual, so that adds a little more pressure, but I am looking forward to it!

This is my 20th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.


900 Years of Freemasonry

April 7, 2007

Born in Blood A few people recommended that I read “Born in Blood, The Lost Secrets of Freemasonry”.  I realize that this book has probably been talked about and debated by Masons in the last 18 years since it was first published, but it was new to me and it was a very interesting read.

One of the first Masons that I met, mentioned that Freemasonry had been around for 900 hundred years.  I was confused at the time because I had read that the first Grand Lodge was created in 1717.  “Born in Blood” by John J. Robinson gives a compelling argument for the notion that modern Freemasonry evolved out of the historical Knights Templar and not out of the medieval stone mason guilds.  The author is not actually a Freemason, but a historian and based his argument on historical evidence and research.  His theory isn’t a simple unsupported supposition, but is a multifaceted approach that looks at everything from Masonry’s rituals, language, symbols to religious and cultural factors. 

On Friday October 13, 1307 King Philip of France unleashed a secret plan to arrest every Knight of the Temple at dawn.  (This is possibly the origin to “Friday the thirteenth” as an unlucky day.) He was in serious financial debt to the Knights Templar for previous Crusades and saw this as a way of clearing all of his debts.   Immediately, every Knight was tortured and mutilated until a “confession of hersey” or other blasphemys could be extracted. 

The Pope also agreed and wrote several Papal Bulls condemning the Knights and a few years later officially disbanded their order.  Now with Church and State both searching for any remaining Knights Templar to complete the extermination, any surviving Templars would have to go underground or flee France.

The Knights Templar who were outside of France actually had months of notice of their impending doom.  In England, they had over 3 months warning at had plenty of time to organize and hide.  The blood oaths taken in Freemasonry, the secret modes of recognition and even the fact that the Tyler stands outside of the lodge room with a drawn sword, seems to make more sense for a persecuted and hunted group of men on the run than a Stonemason’s Guild.

Coincidentally, yesterday I caught a documentary on the National Geographic channel on the History of the Knights Templar called “Knights Templar, Warriors of God”.  In this documentary, it also discusses the belief of many that the Knights Templar evolved into modern Freemasonry.  I found it interesting to see how Rossyln Chapel has so much Templar and Masonic symbolism throughout, yet it was build hundreds of years after the Templars and hundreds of years before Masonry came out in 1717.

I have no idea as to the acceptance or rejection of this theory by the Masonic community as a whole, and as a Fellowcraft I only have skimmed the surface in my Masonic knowledge, so I am in no position to speak for this theory’s validity.  I do find it very interesting and cool to be associated with group that potentially has a 900 year history though.  If anything, reading this book has sparked more of a desire to look more into the history of Freemasonry myself.

This is my 19th post on Freemasonry and my experiences as a Freemason.  Here is the Table of Contents of my Masonic Journey.


Grenade Humour

March 30, 2007

Grenades  One can never forget to attempt to add humour into their everyday lives.  I have been looking for months for something that could be funny about “Horseshoes and Handgrenades”.  I found some good jokes about horseshoes, but I never imagined that I would find a great line about Handgrenades so here it is:

A grenade fell onto a kitchen floor in France, resulting in Linoleum Blownapart.