Masonic Glossary of Terms
We in Freemasonry, like many organisations, have our own specific terminology. These terms give special meaning to some common words and in some cases, phrases you won’t hear anywhere but in a Masonic lodge. The following list is a glossary of some of the common Masonic phrases we use:
All Seeing Eye
Today, as in the past, the Eye of Providence, is generally associated with Freemasonry. The all-seeing eye first appeared as part of the standard iconography of the Freemasons in 1797, with the publication of Thomas Smith Webb’s Freemasons Monitor. It symbolises the all-seeing eye of God and is a reminder that humanity’s thoughts and deeds are always observed by God (who Masons refer to as the Great Architect of the Universe). Typically, the Masonic Eye of Providence has a semi-circular glory below it. Sometimes this Masonic Eye is enclosed by a triangle.
The Perfect Ashlar is a hewn, or squared, stone. It symbolizes the state of perfection at which a Mason hopes to arrive. The Rough Ashlar is a symbol of a Masons’ rude and imperfect state by nature.
Masonically affiliated groups that Masons or their relatives may join.
The insignia of an order, decoration, or medal suspended from a ribbon, sash, collar, or bar. The badges of orders are also superimposed over breast stars. Synonymous terms are badge appendant and pendant.
The box in which the ballots or little balls or cubes used in voting for a candidate are deposited. It should be divided into two compartments, one of which is to contain both black and white balls, from which each member selects one, and the other, which is shielded by a partition provided with an aperture, to receive the ball that is to be deposited. Various methods have been devised by which secrecy may be secured, so that a voter may select and deposit the ball he desires without the possibility of its being seen whether it is black or white. This is where the term, “Black balled” comes from, denoting a person is barred from joining.
What is the peculiar characteristic of the colour Blue? The three degrees of symbolic or craft Masonry are clothed in or ornamented with blue, it being the symbolic colour of truth or fidelity. It is a remarkable fact that the brethren have ever remained true to the blue degrees, while the authenticity of the other degrees have often been disputed, and in many places altogether denied. This durable and beautiful colour was adopted and worn by our ancient brethren as the peculiar characteristic of an institution which has stood the test of centuries and which is as much distinguished by the durability of its materials or principals, as by the beauty of its superstructure. It is an emblem of universal friendship and benevolence; and instructs brethern that, in the mind of a Mason, those virtues should be as expansive as the blue arch of Heaven itself.
By the exercise of brotherly love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family, the high, the low, the rich, the poor who, as created by the Almighty, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other. On this principle, Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance. In the Masonic Fraternity, the candidate for the mysteries of Freemasonry is impressed with the fact that the great principles of the Order are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth in the initiatory Rites, and throughout his advancement. The mode and manner for the practice of these principles are detailed in words and illustrated in symbols, so there can be no cause for error in understanding or failure in practice. Emphatic throughout the ritual of the Masonic Fraternity are the teachings of the greater Light of Masonry that Brotherly Love is to be more than an abstract principle; it is to be in deed and in truth.
The cable tow is a rope that a candidate wears during his initiation into the three degrees. In the Entered Apprentice degree, the cable tow, is worn around the candidate‘s neck. It symbolizes his tie to the profane world. In the Fellowcraft and Master Mason degrees it symbolises the Masons’ tie to the Lodge. A Cable Tow is also a rope or line for drawing or leading. Gaedicke, says that, “according to the ancient laws of Freemasonry, every brother must attend his Lodge if he is within the length of his cable tow.” The old writers define the length of a cable tow, which they sometimes called, “a cable’s length,” to be three miles for an Entered Apprentice. But the expression is really symbolic and really means the scope of a man’s reasonable ability to attend a Lodge meeting or duty. In our case this ranges from brethren living within 5 minutes drive, to some who travel close 1.5 hours such is the special bond the Lodge has with them.
Undoubtedly this term, whether qualified with the words “celestial” or “cloudy,” refers to the expanse of the heavens. The term symbolises the universal sphere of Freemasonry; it has its seat in every clime under the heavens. It also teaches how widely extensive is the sphere.
Celestial Lodge Above
Masonry’s name for heaven.
So called from the “Old Charges,” because, like them, it contains an epitome of duty. It is the admonition which is given by the presiding officer, at the close of the ceremony of initiation, to the candidate, and which the latter receives standing, as a token of respect. There is a charge for each degree, which is to be found in all of the monitors and manuals from Preston onwards.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” 1 Corth. 13:1,2. Such was the language of an eminent apostle of the Christian church, and such is the sentiment that constitutes the cementing bond of Freemasonry. The apostle, in comparing it with faith and hope, calls it the greatest of the three, and hence in Masonry it is made the topmost rung of its mystic ladder. Its Masonic, as well as Christian application is more noble and more extensive. The word used by the apostle is, in the original, love, a word denoting that kindly state of mind which renders a person full of good-will and affectionately disposed toward others.
The “Common Gavel” is an instrument made use of by operative Masons to break off the corners of rough stones, the better to fit them for the builder’s use. However, we as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of divesting our hearts and consciences of the vices and superfluities of life, thereby fitting our minds as living stones for that spiritual building. That house not made with hands but residing eternal in the heavens.
The meeting of a Lodge is so called. There is a peculiar significance in this term. “To communicate,” which, in the Old English form, was “to common,” originally meant to share in common with others. The great sacrament of the Christian church, which denotes a participation in the mysteries of the religion and a fellowship in the church, is called a “communion,” which is fundamentally the same as a “communication,” for he who partakes of the communion is said “to communicate.” Hence, the meetings of Masonic Lodges are called communications, to signify that it is not simply the ordinary meeting of a society for the transaction of business, but that such meeting concerns the fellowship of men engaged in a common pursuit, and governed by a common principle. There is therein a communication or participation of those feelings and elements that constitute a true brotherhood. The communications of Lodges are regular or stated and special or emergent. Regular communications are held under the provision of the by-laws, but special communications are called by order of the Worshipful Master.
As in Operative Freemasonry, the compasses are used for the measurements of the architect’s plans, and to enable him to give those just proportions which will ensure beauty as well as stability to his work. The compasses most prominent emblem is virtue, the true and only measure of a Freemason’s life and conduct. As the Bible gives us Light on our duties, so the compasses give that additional light which is to instruct us in the duty we owe to ourselves, the great, imperative duty of circumscribing our passions, and keeping our desires within due bounds. In the earliest rituals of the eighteenth century, the compasses are described as a part of the furniture of the Lodge, and are said to belong to the Worshipful Master.
The corner stone is the stone that lies at the corner of two walls and forms part of the foundation of an edifice. In Masonic buildings, it is now always placed in the northeast; but this rule was not always formally observed. The symbolism of the corner stone when duly laid with Masonic rites is full of significance, which refers to its form, to its situation, to its permanence, and to its consecration. As to form, it must be perfectly square on its surfaces, and its solid contents a cube. The square is a symbol of morality, and the cube of truth. The situation at the corner of the north and east, the north representing darkness and the east representing light, presents the symbol of Masonic progress from darkness to light, and from ignorance to knowledge. The corner stone is supposed to be of a more permanent and durable quality than any other part of the building, lasting beyond the decay and ruin of the building, and therefore, reminding the Mason that when his earthly Tabernacle of his life shall have passed away, he has within him, a sure foundation of eternal life. In Masonic symbolism, it signifies a true Mason, and therefore it is the first character which the Apprentice is made to represent after his initiation has been completed.
Cornucopia or Horn of Plenty
The old Pagan myth tells us that Zeus was nourished during his infancy in Crete by the daughters of Melissus, with the milk of the goat Amalthea. Zeus, when he came to the empire of the world, in gratitude, placed Amalthea in the Heavens as a constellation, and gave one of her horns to his nurses, with the assurance that it should furnish them with a never-failing supply of whatever they might desire. Hence it is a symbol of plenty, and as such has been adopted as the jewel of the Stewards of the Lodge, to remind them that it is their duty to see that the tables are properly furnished at refreshment, and that every Brother is suitably served. In the Masonic system, it is the symbol of joy, peace and plenty.
A Masonic term which means intruder or one who accidentally enters where he is not wanted. This is not to be confused with the word eavesdropper or one who deliberately tries to overhear and see what is not meant for his eyes and ears. A cowan, or a person who sought to listen in on secrets to which he was not entitled, because of an early form of punishment. A detected cowan was forced to stand beneath the eaves of a house during a downpour of rain until he was soaked almost to the drowning point. It is a Scottish term of contempt.
The term is applied free or speculative masonry and signifies the whole masonic fraternity wherever dispersed.
Darkness to Light
In Freemasonry, even as in the system of Jewish and Christian religion, darkness is a symbol of ignorance; while light is a symbol of enlightenment and knowledge. It is a principle of Freemasonry that the natural eye cannot perceive of the mysteries of the Order until the heart has embraced the deep spiritual and mystic meanings of those sublime mysteries. Hence all applicants for the degrees of Freemasonry are required to enter the Lodge in total darkness, this darkness is preparatory and preliminary to his receiving the light he desires and searches.
In every Lodge, there are two officers one called Senior and the other the Junior Deacon. Their duties concern escorting and prompting a candidate during a ceremony, contributing during the opening and closing of the Lodge and passing written communications between the lodge Secretary and Worshipful Master.
Definition of Masonry
Freemasonry has been defined by United Grand Lodge of England as, “A peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” Freemasonry is not, however, a substitution for religion; it is the handmaiden to religion, enforcing its daily practice.
One of three progressive stages of advancement in the lodge, conferred using a ritual ceremony; additional degrees are conferred by appendant bodies. In Craft freemasonry there are three degrees.
The duty of a Mason as an honest man is plain and easy. It requires of him honesty in contracts, sincerity in affirming, simplicity in bargaining and faithfulness in performing. To sleep little, and to study much; to say little and to think and hear much; to learn, that he may be able to do; and then to do earnestly and vigorously whatever is good for his family, friends and brothers, his country and mankind.
In all ancient mysteries, the East was regarded as peculiarly sacred. As the cardinal point of the sun-rising it was considered symbolic of light, not only by sun-worshipers but by those of more enlightened religious intelligence. Hence the East is the seat of the highest officer of a Masonic Lodge, the Worshipful Master. Lodge halls or rooms are oblong from East to West; candidates travel from the West to the East in search of Light.
The Entered Apprentice is the first degree and the single entry point to Freemasonry following initiation.
The ceremony of second degree of Freemasonry passes the candidate to level of a Fellow Craft. In the French it is called Compagno; in Spanish, Compañero; in Italian, Compagno; and in German, Gesell. In all, the meaning of the word is a fellow workman, thus showing the origin of the title from an operative institution. For, as the First Degree was typical of youth, the Second is supposed to represent the stage of manhood, and hence the acquisition of science is made its prominent characteristic. While the former is directed in all its symbols and allegorical ceremonies to the purification of the heart, the latter is intended by its lessons to train the reasoning faculties and improve the intellectual powers of the brother.
A festive board is an occasion for freemasons to get together around a table or banquet for the purpose of socializing, sharing in fellowship, and masonic education. The Festive Board is also a “formal” affair, with its structure and rules of deportment, although giving plenty of time for Brethren to chat amongst each other and enjoy each others’ company. The announcement “To order, Brethren, to receive your Worshipful Master.” prompts the Brethren to applaud, in an enthusiastic and spontaneous manner. Traditions and practices of individual Lodges vary and are one of the aspects that make Freemasonry so interesting. The festive board normally takes place following a formal Lodge meeting and includes speeches congratulating the candidate on his progression thanking the principle guest and visitors for their support. Most of the early Lodges in England as well as across the waters, held their meetings in taverns, probably for the convenience of centrality and also securing refreshments.
The word was originally used to designate those associations formed in the Roman Catholic Church for the pursuit of special religious and ecclesiastical purposes, such as nursing of the sick, the support of the poor, and the practice of the particular devotions. They do not date earlier than the thirteenth century. The name was subsequently applied to secular associations, such as the Freemasons. The word is only a Latin form of the Anglo-Saxon Brotherhood.
One who has been initiated into the ancient mysteries of the fraternity of Freemasonry.
Furniture of the Lodge
Every well-regulated Lodge is furnished with the Holy Bible, the Square, and the Compasses. These constitute the furniture of the Lodge, being the three Great Lights of Freemasonry. The first is designed to be the guide of our faith; the second to regulate our actions; and the third to keep us within proper bounds with all mankind.
G - The Letter
This letter is one of the most sacred of the Masonic symbols. Where it is used, however, is as a symbol of deity. It should be remembered, that it is the Saxon representative of the Hebrew Yod and the Greek Tau, the initial letter of the Eternal in those languages. This symbol proves that Freemasonry always prosecuted its labours with reference to the grand ideas of Infinity and Eternity. By the letter “G”, which conveyed to the minds of the brethren, at the same time, the idea of God and that of Geometry. Like Jacob’s ladder, it bound heaven to earth, the divine to the human, and the infinite to the finite. Masons are taught to regard the Universe as the grandest of all symbols. In the Lodge room, it is always visible in the East, either painted on the wall or sculptured in wood or metal, and suspended over the Master’s chair.
The Common Gavel is one of the working tools of the Entered Apprentice Mason. It is made use of by the Operative Mason to break off the corners of the rough ashlar, and thus fit it the better for the builder’s use. It is therefore, adopted as a symbol in the Craft, to admonish us of the duty of divesting our hearts and consciences of the vices and superfluities of life. Thereby, fitting our minds as living stones for that spiritual building, that house made not with hands, but, eternal in the heavens. The true form of the gavel is that of the stonemason’s hammer. It is to be made with a cutting edge, that it may be used to break off the corners of rough stones, an operation which could never be effected by the common hammer or mallet. The gavel thus shaped will give, when looked at in front, the exact representation of the gavel or gable end of a house, whence, the name is derived. The gavel of the Master is also called a Hiram, because, like the architect, it governs the Craft and keeps order in the Lodge, as he did in the Temple.
Among mathematical sciences, Geometry is the one which has the most especial reference to architecture, and we can, therefore, under the name of Geometry, understand the whole art of Freemasonry. In Anderson’s book of constitutions, Freemasonry is frequently called Geometry, and of the latter he said of the whole being of the Order is comprehended in it. Freemasons therefore ought to make themselves intimately acquainted with Geometry.
This sublime and unique rule of conduct in man’s relation to and treatment of his fellowmen, spoken by the Saviour and holds a high place in Masonic teachings.
Grand Architect of the Universe
The Grand Architect of the Universe (also Great Architect of the Universe or Supreme Architect of the Universe) is a conception of God discussed by many Christian theologians and apologists. As a designation it is used within Freemasonry to neutrally represent whatever Supreme Being to which each member individually holds in adherence.
The governing organization with authority over the individual lodges in its jurisdiction. In our case, this is the United Grand Lodge of England and is located in Great Queens street, London.
Grip or Token
A special identifying handshake used by Masons to identify each other, different for each degree.
This is the blindfold worn by candidates during portions of degree ceremonies. It is a symbol of secrecy, darkness, and silence. It symbolises the mystical darkness in which the mysteries of our art should be preserved from the unhallowed gaze of the profane.
The ritual of Freemasonry teaches that all members should maintain freedom from pride and arrogance. The first step toward acquisition of truth is humility of mind.
The completion by a candidate of the 1st Masonic degree.
The act by which an Lodge officer is installed to a position of authority he is to fill. In Freemasonry it is, therefore, applied to the induction of one who has been elected into his office. The officers of a Lodge, before they can proceed to discharge their functions, must be installed. The ceremony is an old one, and does not pertain exclusively to Freemasonry. The ancient Romans installed their priests, their kings, and their magistrates; but the ceremony was called inauguration, because performed generally by the augers. The word installation is of comparatively modern origin, being medieval Latin, and is compounded of in and stallum, meaning a seat.
The presentation of an apron to a candidate in the ceremony of initiation.
The introduction of Jacob’s ladder into the symbolism of Speculative Masonry is to be traced to the vision of Jacob, which can be found in the 28th chapter of the book of Genesis. In freemasonry, it symbolises progress. Its three principal rounds representing Faith, Hope and Charity, present us with the means of advancing from earth to heaven, from death to life and from mortal to immortality. Hence its foot is placed on the ground-floor of the Lodge, which is typical of the world, and its top rests on the covering of the Lodge, which is symbolic of heaven.
The Freemason’s ornaments are three jewels, being the square associated with the Worshipful Master, the level of the Senior Warden, and the plumb-rule of the Junior Warden. Those who are entrusted with them must possess great talents and worthy of the offices they hold. When the Lodge is at labour, the jewels of their office are worn on a collar about the neck. A Past Master of a Lodge is entitled to wear a pocket jewel denoting his former station and rank.
Jewels of a Lodge
Every Lodge is furnished with six jewels, three of which are moveable and three immovable. The movable are the rough ashlar, the perfect ashlar, and the trestle board. The immovable are the square, the level, and the plumb. The square in the East, the level in the West, and the plumb in the South.The presentation of an apron to a candidate in the ceremony of initiation.
Labour is one of the most beautiful features of the Masonic Institution, it teaches not only the necessity, but the nobility of labour. From the time of opening to that of closing, a Lodge is said to be at labour. This is but one of the numerous instances in which the terms of Operative Masonry are symbolically applied to Speculative. As in the case where Operative Masons were engaged in the building of material edifices, so Free and Accepted Masons are supposed to be employed in the erection of a superstructure of virtue and morality based upon the foundation of the Masonic principles which they were taught at their admission into the Craft. When the Lodge is engaged in reading petitions, hearing reports, debating financial matters, etc., it is said to be occupied in business; but when it is engaged in the form and ceremony of initiation into any of the Degrees, it is said to be at work. Initiation is Masonic labour. As Freemasons, we labour in our Lodge and aspire to make ourselves a perfect building without blemish.
Light (Masonic knowledge)
Light is in fact the first of all the symbols presented to the initiate and continues to be presented to him in various forms throughout his Masonic career. It is the ultimate desire of every Mason to be well informed on Masonry, and may every Mason strive constantly for light, and especially for light eternal! He who introduces light into the lodge, must be a worthy man, and experienced in the Craft. Freemasons are emphatically called the “sons of light” because they are, or should be, in possession of the true meaning of the symbol. The greater Light of Freemasonry is the Word of God.
It is a symbol of that fraternal equality which, recognizing the fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of man. In Freemasonry, the Level is a symbol of equality; not of that social equality which would destroy all distinctions of rank and position, and beget confusion, insubordination, and anarchy; but of that fraternal equality, In this view, the Level teaches us that all men are equal, subject to the same infirmities, hastening to the same goal, redeemed by the same Saviour, subject to the same death and judgment. The level is one of the jewels of the Lodge; in the English system a moveable, but in the American is an immoveable, one. This leads to it being adopted as the proper official ensign of the Senior Warden, because the Craft when at labour, during which time, he presides over them, are on a common level of subordination.
A group of Freemasons assembling under the authority of a charter issued by a Grand Lodge; also a building or a room where Masons meet.
Lodge of Instruction
These are assemblies of Brethren congregated without a Warrant of Constitution, under the direction of a lecturer or skilful Brother (usually led by the Lodge’s Director of Ceremonies), for the purpose of improvement in Freemasonry, which is accomplished by the frequent rehearsal and explanation of the work and lectures associated with each Degree.
The Mystic Tie is the sacred and inviolable bond which unites men into one band of brothers, which gives but one language to men of all nations and one altar to men of all religions, is properly, from the mysterious influence it exerts, denominated the mystic tie. Freemasons, because they alone are under this influence, or enjoy its benefits, are called “Brethren of the mystic tie.”
Masonic legend and ritual recognise the northeast corner as the proper place for laying the corner-stone in an edifice. Symbolically, this corner represents the beginning of the laying of the corner-stone of the spiritual superstructure which every true Mason must build. Here, in the Northeast Corner, ceremonies and instructions, the initiate commences the moral and intellectual task of erecting a spiritual temple in his heart. The corner-stone is emblematic of a “well-tried, true, and trusty” Masonic character which he begins now to build. The squareness of its surface, emblematic of morality; its cubical form, emblematic of firmness and stability of character; the peculiar finish and fineness of the material, emblematic of virtue and holiness. In consecrated language of symbolism the newly admitted Apprentice is instructed in a life of integrity and stability of conduct, of truthfulness and uprightness of character, and of purity and holiness in all human relations.
Before any candidate seeking the benefits, mysteries, symbols, tenets, and secrets of Freemasonry can be admitted in to a Lodge, he is required to make a solemn oath, by which he pledges secrecy and assumes the obligation of faithfully conforming his life to the teachings of the Craft.
The solemn promise made by a Freemason on his admission into any Degree is technically called his obligation. In a legal sense, obligation is synonymous with duty. Its derivation shows its true meaning, for the Latin word obligatio literally signifies a tying or binding. The obligation is that which binds a man to do some act, the doing of which thus becomes his duty. By his obligation, a Freemason is bound or tied to his Order.
The period of Freemasonry when Masons actually worked with stone and constructed buildings.
The completion by a Mason of the ceremony of the 2nd degree. It alludes to his having passed through the porch to the middle chamber of the temple, the place in which Fellow-Crafts received their wages.
The perfect ashlar is a stone being a true square, which can only be tried by the square and compasses. This symbolically represents the mind of a man at the close of life, after a well-regulated career of piety and virtue, which can only be tried by the square of God’s Word, and the compasses of an approving conscience.
Quatuor Coronati Lodge, No 2076
This Lodge is on the roll of the Grand Lodge of England and was established in 1886, for the purpose of studying the History, Symbols, and Legends of Freemasonry. It is the premier research lodge in Masonry universal and is in fact a Masonic Literary and Archaeological Society, meeting as a tiled Lodge. Attached to the Lodge proper (which is limited to 40 full members) is a Correspondence Circle which was established in 1887, with members drawn from all parts of the world, and number around 6,000. The transactions of the Lodge are published annually as a hard back book under the title of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. The Lodge is named after the “Four Crowned Martyrs.” All Master Masons in good standing are eligible to membership in the Correspondence Circle.
The mode of opening and closing a Lodge, of conferring the Degrees, of installation, and other duties, constitute a system of ceremonies which are called the Ritual. Much of masonic Ritual is esoteric, and, not being permitted to be committed to writing and is therefore communicated only by oral instruction.
The completion by a Mason of the ceremony of the 3rd degree.
The agreement between Masonic Grand Lodges that each other’s rules and customs conform to a certain accepted standard.
While a Lodge is in activity, it must be either at labour or refreshment. When the Lodge is temporarily closed, or, called off, the intervening period is called a time of refreshment. This is normally conducted about half way through when a ceremony is being conducted. During this time, light refreshments are served to the brethren.
The mode of opening and closing a Lodge, of conferring the Degrees, of installation, and other duties, constitute a system of ceremonies which are called the Ritual. Much of masonic Ritual is esoteric, and, not being permitted to be committed to writing and is therefore communicated only by oral instruction.
A hand gesture used as a mode of identification between Masons. Each degree has a different sign and only those who have attained that degree are entitled to its sign.
Secrecy and Silence
These virtues constitute the very essence of all Masonic character; they are the safeguards of the Institution, giving to it all its security and perpetuity.
The Secretary must be a Master Mason, and, when necessary, the brethren must assist him as copyists. The Secretary, like the Treasurer, is only a business officer of the Lodge, having nothing to do in the ritualistic labours. The Secretary has three main duties. He is the Lodges recording, corresponding, and collecting agent. The emblem of his office is crossed quill pen.
The Senior Deacon is the especial attendant of the Worshipful Master. Seated at his right hand, he is ready at all times to carry messages and to convey orders from him to the Senior Warden, and elsewhere about the Lodge as he may direct. He conducts candidates during the degrees and brethren west of the altar under the direction of the Worshipful Master.
As the sun is in the west at the close of day, so is the Senior Warden in the west, to assist the Worshipful Master in opening and governing the Lodge, to pay the Craft their wages, if any be due, letting none go away dissatisfied. The duties of the Senior Warden are, in the absence of the Master, to preside, and govern the Lodge; in his presence, to assist him in the government of it.
Sitting in the East
The position in the lodge room where the Worshipful Master sits, also known as the Chair of King Solomon. Lodges are symbolically situated east and west.
Freemasonry as practiced today, using the symbolism of Operative Masons to build morally upright character in men.
A position of the feet used as a mode of recognition between Masons, different for each degree.
The Square is one of the most important and significant symbols in Freemasonry. The symbol of the Worshipful Master.
Square and Compasses
With or without the Letter “G” the Square and Compasses is the Universal Symbol of Freemasonry.
The positions occupied by the subordinate officers of a Lodge are called Places, as “the Junior Deacon’s place in the Lodge.” But the positions occupied by the Master and Wardens are called Stations, as “the Senior Warden’s station in the Lodge.” This is because these three officers, representing the sun in his three prominent points of rising, culminating, and setting, are supposed to be stationary, and therefore remain in the spot appropriated to them by the instructions, while the Deacons and other officers are required to move about from place to place in the Lodge.
The Stewards wear a collar with the cornucopia as a jewel. The duty of the Stewards was originally to arrange and direct the refreshments of the Lodge, and to provide accommodations for the brethren on such occasions. When the office was first established, refreshments constituted an important and necessary part of the proceedings of the Lodge.
The “Sun” as the source of material light reminds the Mason of that intellectual light of which he is in constant search. The Worshipful Master who rules and governs his Lodge is said to be the symbol of the rising sun in the East. The sun, therefore, is the symbol of sovereignty, the hieroglyphic of royalty; and signifies absolute authority. As the sun rules the day, so does the moon govern the night; as the sun regulates our years, so does the moon mark the passing months. These symbols in Masonry are known as the Lesser Lights.
One of the four cardinal virtues, the practice of which is inculcated in the First Degree.
Temple of the Body
To the Master Mason, the Temple of Solomon is truly the symbol of human life. Like life, it was also to have its end. Masonic teachings are not intended to convey a historical fact concerning the erection of a building, but ever to keep in sight, the beauty of that temple as a symbol of life in which he should live virtuously as a man and Mason.
Three Great Lights
The three Great Light in Masonry are the Holy Bible, Square and Compasses. The Holy Bible is dedicated to the service of God because it is the inestimable gift of God to man, and on it we obligate our Brethren. The “Square” to the Worshipful Master because it is the proper Masonic emblem of his office, and the “Compasses” to the Craft because by due attention to their use, we are taught to reign-in our desires and keep our passions within due bounds toward all mankind, especially a Brother Mason.
Three Great Pillars
The three symbolic supports of the Lodge, representing wisdom, strength, and beauty.
Symbols of the three principal stages of a man’s life: youth, manhood, and old age. The steps also represent the three Masonic degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason), as well as the three principal officers of the Lodge Junior Warden, Senior Warden, and Worshipful Master.
Three Tenets of Freemasonry
Three Tenets of Freemasonry: Of the three tenets of a Freemason’s profession, which are brotherly love, Relief and Truth, it may be said that Truth is the Column of Wisdom, whose rays penetrate and enlighten the inmost recesses of our Lodge; Brotherly Love, the Column of Strength, which binds us as one family in the indissoluble bond of fraternal affection; and Relief, the Column of Beauty, whose ornaments, more precious than the lilies and pomegranates that adorned the pillars of the porch, are the widow’s tear of joy and the orphan’s prayer of gratitude.
Tiler (or Tyler)
The Mason who guards the outer door of the lodge in order to determine that those who enter are regular Masons and to prevent all cowans from entering. The Tyler is usually a Master Mason and invariably and senior Past Master. The emblem of the Tyler is a single sword.
Signs, tokens, and words do not constitute Freemasonry, but are local marks whereby Freemasons know each other.
In the symbolic language of Freemasonry, a Freemason always travels from West to East in search of light, and that what was lost.
The “Trowel” is an instrument made use of by operative Masons to spread the cement which unites the building into one common mass. As Freemasons, we are taught to use it for the more noble and glorious purpose of spreading the cement of brotherly love and affection, it being the cement which unites us into one sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist. It is the emblem of the charity steward.
United Grand Lodge of England
The Grand Lodge of England assumed that title in the year 1813. It is the governing body for the majority of freemasons within England and Wales with lodges in other, predominantly ex-British Empire and Commonwealth countries outside the United Kingdom. It claims to be the oldest Grand Lodge in the world, by descent from the first Grand Lodge formed by four Lodges meeting in the Goose and Gridiron Tavern, London on St John’s Day, 24 June 1717. It was formed following the Union of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient, the “Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England according to the Old Institutions, “and the Grand Lodge of Moderns, the “Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons under the Constitution of England.
Union of 1813, The
At one time two conflicting Grand Lodge Bodies were in existence in England. One, known as the Grand Lodge of England, originally with four old Lodges assembling at London on June 24, 1717. This Lodge was known as the Grand Lodge of the Moderns, that being the name by which they were known during the famous controversy, in spite of the fact that they were in existence long before the other competitor. The other Lodge, while of more recent establishment, became known as the Grand Lodge of the Ancient because they claimed that their ceremonies had come down from the ancient or Operative Lodges without change.
This Grand Lodge of the Ancient was also known as of Atholl Masons, it having been headed by Lord Atholl. They elected their first Grand Master on December 5, 1753, their membership at that time consisting largely of Irish Freemasons then resident in London. This Ancient Grand Lodge became strong as time went on. The Grand Lodge of the Moderns was weakened by dissension within its own ranks between the Operative and Speculative Lodges, some of whom joined the opposing Grand Lodge of the Ancient. The famous Laurence Dermott was for many years the head of the Ancient. Dermott was selected Grand Secretary of the Ancient February 5, 1752. After much conflict between the Ancient and Moderns a Union was consummated, the Articles of Union being signed November 25, 1813, by the Dukes of Sussex and Kent, the Grand Masters of the two Lodges. Later, December 27, 1813, the Act of Union confirmed this agreement at a joint meeting of the two Lodges and the present United Grand Lodge of England came into existence.
Universality of Masonry
The boast of the Emperor Charles V., that the sun never set on his vast empire, may be applied with equal truth to the Order of Freemasonry. From east to west, and from north to south, over the whole habitable globe, are our Lodges dispersed.
In every speculative Lodge, there are three principal officers, namely, a Master, a Senior Warden, and a Junior Warden. This rule has existed ever since the revival, and for some time previous to that event, and is so universal that it has been considered as one of the landmarks. It exists in every country and in every Rite. The titles of the officers may be different in different languages, but their functions of presiding over the Lodge in a tripartite division of duties, are everywhere the same. The German Masons call the two Wardens erste and zweite Aufseher; the French, premier and second Surveillant; the Spanish, primer and segundo Vigilante; and the Italians, primo and secondo Sorvegliante.
In the various Rites, the positions of these officers vary. In the American Rite, the Senior Warden sits in the West and the Junior in the South. In the French and Scottish Rites, both Wardens are in the West, the Senior in the Northwest and the Junior in the Southwest; but in all, the triangular position of the three officers relatively to each other is preserved; for a triangle being formed within the square of the Lodge, the Master and Wardens will each occupy one of the three points.
Although the West, as one of the four Cardinal Points, holds an honorable position as the station of the Senior Warden, and of the pillar of Strength that supports the Lodge, yet, being the place of the sun’s setting and opposed to the East, the recognized place of light, it, in Masonic symbolism, represents the place of darkness and ignorance.
In each of the Degrees of Freemasonry, certain implements of the Operative Art are consecrated to the speculative science, and adopted to teach as symbols, The lessons of morality. With these working tools, the speculative Freemason is taught to erect his spiritual Temple, as did his Operative predecessors with the same implements to construct their physical Temples. Thus today, they are known as Working Tools of the Degree.
The Worshipful Master is the head of the Lodge and rules over it whilst he holds the office. The period of his office runs for one masonic year and involves a process of balloting where his appointment is by consensus of those he will rule over. He must be a master mason and should have undertaken all key offices in the Lodge. He must be well acquainted with the fraternity’s doctrine, its secrets, history, traditions and constitution, and must possess the power of communicating his own reflection upon all these subjects, in a clear, comprehensive form, to the brethren. The role is very demanding and requires considerable personal commitment.
Word or pass
A password used as a mode of recognition between Masons. Words are different for each degree.
Strictly speaking, there is no such Rite today. At one time this term was applied to the first three degrees of Masonry, the Entered Apprentice, Fellow-Craft, and the Master Mason. But at that time the Third Degree included what is now known as Royal Arch Masonry. The Ancient York Rite, though no longer an active title, is considered in Masonic history as the oldest and purest of all the Rites.