Thursday, April 2, 2020

The Kirkwall Scroll

Hanging within the halls of Lodge Kirkwall Kilwinning No. 38 (2) is a relic known as the Kirkwall Scrolls. Lodge Kirkwall Kilwinning No. 38 (2) is located on the Orkney islands (24-miles northeast of Scotland) and is one of the oldest Lodges in Scotland. From extant records, this Lodge traces its history back to 1736, but its charter is dated 1740. The Lewis Masonic publishing company describes them in the following way:
Some believe that the Kirkwall Scroll is the oldest Freemasonic relic in the world, painted by mysterious masters in the middle ages to preserve ancient pagan wisdom, and to integrate Norse myths, Wicca and Kabbalah.
Others assert that the Scroll shows the origins of many Masonic degrees and that it maps out the Apprentice's journey through the Ancient and Accepted Rite from neophyte to Prince & Master of the Royal Secret, and finally to the 33rd. degree of Inspector General.
The scrolls are decorated sailcloth that include a number of Masonic symbols and maps. The scroll is composed of three separate sections (left, center, and right) sewn together and is 18.5-ft long and 5.5-ft wide. It is kept on the west wall of the Lodge room which gets the least amount of light (this helps with preservation).
The left section shows the Jews wandering before they go to Egypt.
The right section shows the Jews wandering in the Wilderness after their flight from Egypt. Some wonder if these two side sections were once joined together at one time. 
The center section displays seven scenes. Starting at the bottom is an altar with two pillars on each side of it with common Masonic emblems surrounding it. 
The second scene is another altar surrounded by symbols to include the Mosaic Pavement, two upside-down Square & Compasses, and a Cross of Lorraine
The third shows among the Masonic symbols an altar, two pillars, an arch, the breastplate of a High Priest, and cherubim. It should be noted that there are cherubim present on the arms of the Antient Grand Lodge of England, the Grand Lodge of Ireland and the United Grand Lodge of England. 
The fourth scene shows the Tabernacle of the Ark of the Covenant and symbols that remind me of the Royal Ark Mariner degree. 
The fifth is said to show the Last Judgment.
The sixth scene seems to have an Allied Masonic Degree theme as it shows a cross on top of a pyramid with a rainbow arching over it, all of which is surrounded by Masonic and alchemical symbols.
The seventh shows a naked woman, thought to be Eve, sitting under a tree surrounded by animals. In the backdrop, is a body of water and mountains.
There is a debate as to the age and origin of this scroll. Some like Andrew Sinclair declare it to be a medieval treasure while others like Bob Cooper state that it dates only from the late 18th century. Personally, I think the latter is correct and that the other claims are sensational and historically inaccurate. 

Dr. Andrew Sinclair, a Scottish historian from Churchill College, believes that the scroll proves that Freemasonry is descended from the fabled Knights Templar. Going further with this, Robert Lomas, a Masonic author, sees depictions of the Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite in the seven scenes previously described.
"The symbols up the centre strip seem to show the means of progression of the initiate from the degree of entered apprentice through to the rank of Sovereign Grand Inspector General." - Robert Lomas
With all due respect to Bro. Lomas, but this seems suspect as the 33-degree system of the Scottish Rite didn't come about until 1801. Prior to that, the Rite of Perfection that came to the Americas in the 1760s only consisted of 25-degrees. The Supreme Council of the Ancient & Accepted Rite wasn't established in the UK until 1845.

On the other side of the fence, the minutes of this Kirkwall Lodge state that around the end of July 1786, Bro. Williame Graeme, a journeyman painter by trade and who had recently affiliated to this Lodge from an Antient Lodge, presented a floor cloth to the Lodge and it is assumed that this scroll is that floor cloth. There are no other documentation or historical references to the scrolls before this date. When Bro. Graeme died, he left to the Kirkwall Lodge his Book of the Ancient Constitution of Free and Accepted Masons. One theory is that this scroll was created by Bro. Graeme, a Mason from an Antient Lodge, scrolls adorned with Antient symbolism, and which the earliest references to this scroll occurred after his affiliation with the Kirkwall Lodge.

Bob Cooper and others come to this conclusion by analyzing the symbolism adorning the Kirkwall Scroll. Bro. William R. Day, an Australian Freemason, did some extensive research on these scrolls that were published in Volume 38 of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum and who thought the scrolls were a modern production. Bro. Day was known for his expertise in Masonic symbolism. He notes that the on the altar is found the coat of arms for the Antient Grand Lodge. The Antients were not founded until 1751 and these arms were first displayed in 1764 so he states "it is reasonable to assume that the Scroll is of later date than that, especially as there are other traces of Antient influence." The name Blesington also appears on the scroll who served as Grand Master from 1756 to 1760. He also noted that verses from Exodus and Song of Solomon were on the scroll and were verbatim from the King James Version (KJV), but the KJV wasn't translated until 1611.

According to Brian Smith, an archivist for Shetland Islands Council, the carbon-dating results from Oxford University’s Accelerator Laboratory were 85BP+/-35 which translates into a range of 1680-1740 for the low end and 1800-1960 on the high end. Such results do not support claims of medieval creation and would coincide with Bro. Graeme's presentation to the Orkney Lodge. Bro. Cooper reminds us in his analysis that "radiocarbon dating is essentially for calculating the age of things in thousands of years, not hundreds. The results translate into a very wide range.” 

Bro. Stephen Dafoe said it right in The Compasses and the Cross when he said, and I am paraphrasing, that we Masons are a peculiar breed not being content with our history that some have to invent sensational legends in an attempt to bolster our pedigree. On its own, this scroll and the symbolism adorning it is worthy of research and preservation without fabricating a legend about it.

References

1. Kirkwall Scroll. (n.d.). Retrieved from Freemasonry Watch: http://freemasonrywatch.org/kirkwall_scroll.html  

2. Kirkwall Scroll. (n.d.). Retrieved from Lewis Masonic: https://www.lewismasonic.co.uk/kirkwall-scroll.htm 

3. Masonic manuscripts: Kirkwall Scroll. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masonic_manuscripts#Kirkwall_Scroll 

4. Sinclair, A. (n.d.). The Kirkwall Scroll. Retrieved from Skirret: http://www.skirret.com/archive/misc/misc-k/kirkwood_scroll.html 

5. Smith, B. (n.d.). The Not-So-Secret-Scroll - Priceless Relic or Floorcloth? Retrieved from ORKNEYJAR: http://www.orkneyjar.com/history/historicalfigures/henrysinclair/kirkwallscroll2.htm 

6. The Kirkwall Scroll. (n.d.). Retrieved from Robert Lomas' website: http://www.robertlomas.com/Orkney/scroll.html

Monday, March 30, 2020

RIP James A. Davidson

It is with a heavy heart that I report that Most Worshipful Brother James A. Davidson has dropped his working tools and passed onto that Celestial Lodge Above. Born on August 17th, 1925 in Scotland and died March 30th, 2020 in Idaho.

Jim served Freemasonry as the Grand Master of Masons in Idaho in 1993-1994, Past Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons of Idaho in 1973-1974, and Most Illustrious Grand Master of Cryptic Masons of Idaho 1978-1979. He was a Past Prior to Idaho Priory No.13 of the Knights of the York Cross of Honor and recipient of the Knight of the York Grand Cross of Honor (3 Quadrants). He was a Past Sovereign and an Emeritus Member of St. Michael's Conclave of the Red Cross of Constantine. He was a Past Preceptor of Redemption Tabernacle No.XL of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests. Jim was also a Shriner, a Scottish Rite Mason, Order of High Priesthood, Order of the Silver Trowel,  a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, and a member of the Royal Order of Scotland.

This is just a preview of what he did for Freemasonry in Idaho. I met Jim early in my Masonic career and he was always a pleasant and happy person. He was in his 80s, but he had a grip like a vice wrench; when he shook your hand, you never forgot it. He was also a great ritualist and one of my most memorable periods of time with him was when he conferred the Order of the Silver Trowel upon me; he played the part of King David and did that part for over 40-years.

Jim was a proud Scotsman and until recent years he always did the Ode to Haggis at Robby Burn's Night or when a Royal Order of Scotland meeting was held.

The last time I saw Jim was when I visited the Payette York Rite when I was Grand High Priest.

Our current Most Worshipful Grand Master held Lodge one month ago so Jim and others who were too elderly could attend. Here is one of the last pictures I have of Jim (on the right).


RIP Brother!

Monday, March 23, 2020

Concerning Religion and Freemasonry

A common misconception that I see held by non-Masons, and often cultivated by anti-Masons, is that Freemasonry is a religion and, some go so far as to say that it is incompatible with Christianity, and they also state that Christians who choose to be Freemasons are not real Christians or are being deceived. Overlooking the fact that no man has the right to dictate to another in matters of belief or faith, they often don't use any logic or reason for their arguments. Simply put, Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. The Masonic Service Association of North America has a great page concerning Freemasonry and religion.

Those calling Freemasonry a religion often quote Albert Pike who remains the favorite "whipping boy" of the anti-Masonic movement who often exaggerates his importance and misquote Morals & Dogma to further their own narrative. These are two cherry-picked quote that they often cite:
"Every Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion; and its teachings are instruction in religion" (Master Mason, Morals & Dogma)
"Masonry, like all the Religions, all the Mysteries, Hermeticism and Alchemy, conceals its secrets from all except the Adepts and Sages, or the Elect, and uses false explanations and misinterpretations of its symbols to mislead those who deserve only to be misled; to conceal the Truth, which it calls Light, from them, and to draw them away from it." (Master Mason, Morals & Dogma)
I have found that most quoting Pike have never actually read Morals & Dogma, but just copy and paste from some anti-Mason website. They also do not understand the context of the book or the context of that quote. They assume that this book carries the weight of law within Freemasonry when it doesn't. In the Preface, Pike even states that "Everyone is entirely free to reject and dissent from whatsoever herein may seem to him to be untrue or unsound." They also overlook this quote that comes later:
"Masonry is not a religion. He who makes of it a religious belief falsifies and denaturalizes it." (Elu of the Fifteen, Morals & Dogma)
Anti-Masons will also claim that the officer titles we use make us a religion. Some will argue that because the Lodge's presiding officer is known as the "Worshipful Master" that Freemasonry is a religion. The word "Worshipful" is an Old English term meaning "one deserving of respect". Freemasons do not worship the Worshipful Master, he is simply the Chief Executive Officer of a Lodge. It is interesting to note that in non-English speaking jurisdictions, Lodges refer to the Master as Venerable instead of Worshipful.

One absurd argument I've heard is that simply having rituals makes us a religion. Never mind that rituals are inherent to mankind. There are a number of categories of rituals such as social rituals, military rituals, celebratory rituals, worship rituals, funerary rituals, bardic rituals, and initiatic rituals. Freemasonry is filled with a variety of rituals, but the most notable is the initiatic or initiation rituals. Rituals remind us of what is important as well as providing a sense of stability and continuity in our lives; it educates us in the values of an organization, allows for knowledge to be passed from generation to generation unchanged, and binds the members together. Rituals alone do not make something a religion.

When one analyzes Freemasonry, it does not meet the characteristics to be a religion:
  • Religions advocate sectarian faith. Freemasonry does not.
  • Religions have dogmas, theology, cosmology, and eschatology. Freemasonry does not.
  • Religions enforce an orthodoxy. Freemasonry does not.
  • Religions seek coverts. Freemasonry does not.
  • Religions have clergy or priesthoods. Freemasonry does not.
  • Religions offer some kind of sacrament. Freemasonry does not.
  • Religions have a plan for salvation and atonement. Freemasonry does not.
  • Religions have ascetic practices. Freemasonry does not.
  • Religions have sacred locations. Freemasonry does not.
Freemasonry allows men of various faiths to come together, but that doesn't mean anyone is required to accept the beliefs of another as his own. Just like with partisan politics, sectarian religious topics are not discussed in Lodge so as to avoid petty quarrels that may disrupt the harmony of the Lodge. In this day and age when our country is so divided, it is refreshing to see that Freemasonry is a beacon of unity.

References

1. Duncan, J. H. (n.d.). Masonry & Religion. Retrieved from Supreme Council, Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction: https://scottishrite.org/about/media-publications/journal/article/masonry-religion/ 

2. Freemasonry and religion. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of BC & Yukon: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/textfiles/religion.html 

3. Is Freemasonry a religion? (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of BC & Yukon: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/anti-masonry08.html#religion 

4. Pike, A. (n.d.). Morals & Dogma. 

5. Statement on Freemasonry and Religion. (n.d.). Retrieved from Masonic Service Association of North America: https://www.msana.com/religion.asp

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Of Panic and Promise

Well, with the response to the Coronavirus, Freemasonry has been impacted just like the rest of our world. Originally, the Societas Rosicruciana in Civitatibus Foederatis (SRICF), Allied Masonic Degrees (AMD), and St. Thomas of Acon were supposed to meet in southern Idaho, but whether advised or commanded not to meet, the only group that met was the SRICF and that was due to our candidate traveling over 600-miles.

The Fratres, as always, did excellent work and continued to uphold the standards of the Society. We've added another Frater to our College and advanced another the III°. Idaho College continues to grow, but still has plenty of work ahead.

Now Fratres and Brothers all, stay safe and stay healthy.


Friday, March 6, 2020

Words & Phrases: Magister Templi

The next article in the Words & Phrases series is on the word "Magister Templi." This is a title used in the Knights Templar and Rosicrucians as well as other occult organizations. Magister Templi is Latin for "Master of the Temple".

It was also used by certain officers of the medieval Knights Templar such as the Grand Masters. Bro. Albert Mackey states that the Master of the Temple was "originally the official title of the Grand Master of the Templars" which is true enough, but it wasn't a title solely used by the Grand Master as Templar officers in charge of various provinces and lands would often sign official documents using "Magister Templi." Such confusion with this title has caused disputes to arise over the names of those who presided over the Knights Templar. It is debated whether or not that Richard de Bures served as Grand Master or if he was just in charge of a Province. As a remembrance of the Knights Templar who created Temple Church in London, the head of this church carries the title of "Master of the Temple."

Within the Societas Rosicruciana, the Eighth Grade is known as Magister and is the first of the Ruling Grades of the Society. While today the word "Templi" is dropped, some older documents of the Society show "Magister Templi." There are theories as to the relationship between Rosicrucianism and the Knights Templar. Obviously, the common use of a red cross and similar philosophies drives much of these theories; there are just as many theories between the Knights Templar and Freemasonry. However, when looking at this title, in the Templars, "Temple" was a reference to King Solomon's Temple while in the Rosicrucians the Temple would be the Vault of Christian Rosenkreutz. This suggests that a Magister Templi should be a Master of the history, rituals, and Mysteries of Rosicrucianism. It also symbolizes that a Magister should master not just his physical body, but also the Self, remembering that ancient Hermetic maxim "as above, so below; as within, so without."



References

1. Addison, C. G. (1997). The History of the Knights Templars, the Temple Church, and the Temple Book. Adventures Unlimited Press.

2. Appendix II: Grand Masters of the Temple. (n.d.). Retrieved from Erenow: https://erenow.net/postclassical/knights-templar-history-myths-legendary-military-order/10.php 


3. Case, P. (1927). The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order. Claremont: Frances Bacon Library. 


4. Description. (n.d.). Retrieved from High Council, SRICF: http://www.sricf.org/info.html 


5. Magister Templi. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%E2%88%B4A%E2%88%B4#Magister_Templi 


6. Master of the Temple. (1873). In A. G. Mackey, An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences.


Sunday, March 1, 2020

Templar Biography: Thomas Bérard

The 20th Grand Master of the Poor Knights of Christ and the Temple of Solomon was Thomas Bérard serving from 1256 AD to 1273 (during the 8th and 9th Crusades) and is noted for initiating cooperation between two other military orders: Knights Hospitallers and Teutonic Knights.

Little is known about his life prior to being Grand Master, but what is known is that after the end of the reign of Renaud de Vichiers, Thomas Bérard was elected. What is known is that when he took over the Templars, the Holy Land and the Templar order were in dire straits. Templar and Christian properties were reduced to a mere few cities and fortresses. 

The War of St. Sabas was a conflict between the rival Italian maritime republics of Genoa and Venice over control of Acre. This was started at the beginning of Bérard's reign, and the Templars were not spared from this war as they sided with the Venetians and the Hospitallers had sided Genoese. This war would last until 1270 when the Peace of Cremona and hostilities were officially ended between the two sides.

While the Christian civil war was still going on, sometime around the end of 1263 or the beginning of 1264, cooperation was initiated by Bérard with Hugo de Revel, Grand Master of the Hospitallers, and Anno von Sangershausen, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights. If dealing with this Christian in-fighting wasn't enough, the Mameluk Baïbars murdered the Sultan of Cairo in 1260 and consolidated his power. In 1263, he attempted to lay siege on Acre, but retreated after a few days of fighting.

In 1264, the Templars and Hospitallers captured Lizon, a stronghold between Caïffa and Jenin. They then destroyed a Mameluk unit composed of 300 men.

In the next year, Baïbars started a campaign of brutality that devastated the Christian kingdom. In March 1265, he utterly destroyed Caïffa and Cesarea. He attempted to seize control of Chateau-Pelerin, but the Templars were able to repel the Mameluks. Baïbars turned his attention on Arsûf, but the Hospitallers were able to resist. After a month, the city surrendered after Baïbars promised to let everyone go free. As soon as the gates were opened, the knights were imprisoned.

In 1266, Baîbars attacked the fortress of Safed that was held by the Templars. Baîbars suffered huge losses and executed several of his generals in response to their suggestion to abandon the siege. After a month of fighting, the Mameluks were able to capture the fortress. Baîbars, again, made a false promise of leniency to the knights, but this time, instead of imprisonment, the Templars were all beheaded. Next fell Beaufort and Antioch, a devastating blow to Christendom. Gaston then fell and word came of Mameluks heading to La Roche Guillaume. He attempted to send a message to surrender, but this had already occurred.

Both the Templar and Hospitaller Grand Masters pleaded to the Pope for more support. Another crusade was preached, but only the Kings of France and Aragon responded, but a large contingent of Christian host sank during a terrible storm.

In February 1271, the Templars surrendered Chastel Blanc and retreated to Tortosa. In June, Montfort, the last inland fortification in the Holy Land was lost. By the end of 1271, the castle of Krak des Chevaliers would fall to the Mameluks which would lead to a 10-year truce signed between the Christians and the Mameluks.

Thomas Beraud died on March 25, 1273, and was succeeded by Guillaume de Beaujeu.

References

1. Cobbold, D. (n.d.). Thomas Beraud. Retrieved from Project Beauceant: http://www.templiers.org/thomas-beraud-eng.php 

2. Grand Masters. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ordre Souverain et Militaire du Temple de Jérusalem: https://www.theknightstemplar.org/1942-2/ 

3. Napier, G. (2014). Pocket A-Z of the Knights Templar: A Guide to Their History and Legacy. The History Press.

4. Thomas Bérard. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bérard

Monday, February 24, 2020

Anti-Mason Disinformation: Jimmy Savile

Continuing from an earlier post con Anti-Mason Disinformation, here is another common lie

thrown against Freemasonry:
Freemasons attended the funeral of Jimmy Savile (See Fig 1)
Fig 1
Simply put, no, Freemasons did not attend the funeral of Jimmy Savile nor was he a Freemason.

For those unfamiliar with Jimmy Savile (See Fig 2), he was an TV and radio personality in England who was known for raising millions for various charities. He was born and raised in a Catholic family, and received a number of honors and awards to include the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) and Knight Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great (KCSG) which is one of the five orders of knighthood of the Holy See which is bestowed upon Catholic men and women in recognition of their personal service to the Roman Catholic Church; I believe that he was posthumously stripped of his honors.

Fig 2
After he died on October 29, 2011, allegations came to the surface that he was a sexual predator and pedophile, and which was confirmed after an investigation. As you can see in the photo, at his funeral there were a number of men wearing white collared regalia. To anti-Masons, particularly Catholic ones, such regalia is proof that Freemasons were present. The facts do not support such a claim though as English Lodges use blue collars and would also be wearing aprons (see Fig 3). Now doing some research into Catholic groups that operate in England shows that these men at the funeral were from the Knights of St. Columba which is a Catholic fraternal service founded in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1919. Here is a picture I found for the Knights of St. Columba (See Fig 4) which matches the regalia seen in the funeral pictures.

Fig 3
Fig 4

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Order of the Eastern Star

Original Signet of the Order
The Order of the Eastern Star is one of the largest fraternal organizations under the Masonic umbrella in which both women with proper Masonic heritage and Master Masons may join. This group should not be confused with Co-Masonry, a form of fringe Freemasonry that don't hold recognition or regularity with mainstream Grand Lodges. The initiatic ritual of this organization centers on the lives of the five Biblical heroines: Adah (Jephthah's daughter, from the Book of Judges), Ruth (the widow of Mahlon), Esther (the wife of the Persian King Ahasuerus or Xerxes I), Martha (sister of Lazarus from the Gospel of John), and Electa (the "elected lady" mentioned in II John). Membership is open to all Master Masons in good standing. Women can join if they share a familial relationship with a Master Mason as defined in the Constitution of the General Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. Female members are referred to as "Sister" and Masons keep the moniker "Brother" within the order.

The basic organizational unit is the Chapter which is presided over by a Worthy Matron and Worthy Patron. They are supported by the following officers: 
Associate Matron
Associate Patron
Secretary
Treasurer
Conductress
Associate Conductress
Chaplain
Marshal
Organist
Adah
Ruth
Esther
Martha
Electa
Warder
Sentinel
Only women can serve as the Matrons and men as the Patrons. Only women can serve as Conductress, Associate Conductress, or one of the five star points, but either can serve in the rest of the Chapter officers. With some exceptions, Chapters fall under a Grand Chapter which is presided over by a Worthy Grand Matron and Worthy Grand Patron along with officers that correspond with the Chapter. Grand Chapters fall under the General Grand Chapter which is presided over by the Most Worthy Grand Matron and Most Worthy Grand Patron. One difference from these governing bodies to the local Chapter is that each Grand Officer, or General Grand Officer, is that each officer has a Page and Assistant to help them during their year and during the meetings. The General Grand Chapter is currently headquartered at the Perry-Belmont House in Washington DC. There are Grand Chapters in New York, New Jersey, Australia, and Scotland that are not a part of the General Grand Chapter.

OES Emblem
The emblem of this order is a five pointed star which is said to represent the Star of Bethlehem. Each point is a different color representing one of the five heroines: blue (Adah), yellow, (Ruth), White (Esther), green (Martha), and red (Electa). The star points downward with the white ray as to demonstrate that the star pointed the way of the Magi to the Savior in His Manger; in the Chapter room, the white ray points towards the West. Each point of the star represents one of the heroines mentioned above and is also emblematically represented by a specific symbol: Adah is represented by the blue point of the star and symbolizes the virtue of Fidelity. She is represented by the sword and veil. The yellow point of the star is the seat of Ruth who is symbolized by a sheaf of barley and represents the virtue Constancy and devotion to that which is righteous. The virtue of Loyalty is exemplified in the story of Esther who stands upon the white point of the star and is symbolized by the crown and scepter. The broken column symbolizes the mortality of man and the perseverance in trials as told in the story of Martha at the green point of the star. The elected lady or commonly known as Electa is placed upon the red point of the star which color is commonly used to represent martyrs as she stood by her faith in the face of persecution and is symbolized by the chalice. This emblem has drawn criticism from religious fanatics and conspiracy theorists alike comparing it to the inverted pentagram co-opted by Satanists, but ignoring the lessons and the fact that this emblem represents Biblical women from the Old and New Testaments.

Rob Morris
The Order of the Eastern Star was founded by Dr. Rob Morris, a Master Mason teachings in Mississippi. In 1850, he became sick and while recuperating at home, he began writing the principles and lessons of the order with the help of his wife, Charlotte. It is said that Dr. Morris wanted to create an order that allowed for the inclusion of women with Freemasonry without violating the Ancient Landmarks that define the fraternity. By 1855, he had organized a "Supreme Constellation" that had chapters throughout the US and was headquartered in New York. In 1867, Robert Macoy organized the order to help it better flourish and established the ritual, and, in the same year, the first Grand Chapter was established in Michigan. The General Grand Chapter was established in 1876.

The current headquarters of the General Grand Chapter is known as the Perry-Belmont House, just northeast of Dupont Circle in Washington DC. The house was originally built as a winter home for Perry Belmont, Congressman of New York, in 1909. The location had formally been a park and cost roughly $500,000 to build (over $14,000,000 today). After the stock market crashed in 1929, he sold the house and the Order of the Eastern Star purchased it in 1935. The Right Worthy Grand Secretary of the General Grand Chapter actually lives and works in this residence during their time in office. There are also rooms available for the Most Worthy Grand Matron, Most Worthy Grand Patron, and the trustees. The General Grand Chapter has started a preservation foundation to help maintain the residence and all are invited to donate to this worthy cause: http://www.perrybelmonthouse.org/preservation

Among the various charities supported by the Eastern Star, one notable venture is the ESTARL program which was established by the General Grand Chapter in October 1952. ESTARL stands for Eastern Star Training Awards for Religious Leadership. It is a scholar fund awarded to those who are going to school for the purpose of religious training. Each Grand Chapter has its own program that they administer.

References

Carter, E. (n.d.). International Temple of the Order of the Eastern Star. Retrieved from Atlas Obscura: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/international-temple-order-of-the-eastern-star 

Eastern Star Training Awards for Religious Leadership (ESTARL). (2019, July 2). Retrieved from Grand Chapter of Iowa, OES: http://www.iowaeasternstar.org/ESTARL.html 

OES Info. (n.d.). Retrieved from General Grand Chapter, OES: http://www.easternstar.org/ 

Order of the Eastern Star. (n.d.). Retrieved from Masonic Dictionary: http://www.masonicdictionary.com/oes.html 

Order of the Eastern Star. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_the_Eastern_Star 

Preserve our Eastern Star Masterpieces. (n.d.). Retrieved from Perry Belmont House Foundation: http://www.perrybelmonthouse.org/preservation

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Masonic Week

Well, another Masonic Week has come and gone. This year was unique as I took my mother with me. She had never been to DC and this was one of the things she wanted to do with my father before he passed. We flew in a few days before Masonic Week kicked off and visited as much as we could in three days.

On Tuesday we visited the Perry-Belmont House which is now used as the headquarters for the Order of the Eastern Star. This place is absolutely beautiful. We then visited the House of the Temple before going to the National Cathedral. After a quick lunch, we went down to the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Afterward, we toured Old Town Alexandria with the help of a local Brother.

Wednesday began early and we were out at the National Mall by sunrise. We toured the Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and WWII Memorial. We then got to tour the White House. Midday we toured the Supreme Court after which we got a private tour of the US Capitol. Even though I had walked through that building hundreds of times during my internship with the US Senate, I still love visiting this magnificent edifice. I then took my mother on a tour of the Library of Congress. After this very long day, we met with some Masons who had arrived for Masonic Week.

Thursday was spent visiting Arlington National Cemetery, the National Archives, the National Gallery of Art, and the Museum of Natural History. By visiting all of these sites, we walked roughly 25-miles.

Friday morning was the first day of Masonic Week for me. It opened with the Grand Council of Knight Masons, USA. I was happy to receive, on behalf of the Sir Knights, the official charter of Knights of Tara Council No.122, Knight Masons. After lunch, I was made a member of the Holy Royal Arch Knight Templar Priests by the Grand Preceptor as a courtesy to Redemption Tabernacle no.XL. I had the pleasure of seeing a good friend and mentor, Jim Herndon, be elected and installed as Most Eminent Grand Preceptor of the Grand College of America. Following a small break, I attended the Grand College of Rites, USA, where Bro. Bob Malwitz was elected and installed as Grand Chancellor. The Masonic Society put on a great meal and presentation by Bro. Mark Tabbert and Bro. Jake Hochberg was elected President of the Masonic Society. The last meeting of the night was the Masonic Order of the Bath. We brought in several new members and I am now the Very Honorable Deputy Commander-General.

I started Saturday morning with the Annual Convention of the Grand Chapter of the Sovereign Order of Knights Preceptor. After lunch was the 128th Annual Convocation of the Grand Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees of the USA. Following the All Masonic Banquet, I received the degrees of Worshipful Commander Noah and Installed Supreme Ruler

It was great to see so many Brothers, but all good things must come to an end. After 6-hours of flight, we made it back home and I have to get ready for a work trip tomorrow. The traveling never stops!

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Grotto

Officially known as "The Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm" (M.O.V.P.E.R.), the Grotto is a social organization opened to all Master Masons in good standing; At the time that the Grotto formed, the Shrine required one to be a 32° Scottish Rite Mason or a Knights Templar in the York Rite to join. Its slogan is "Good Fellowship" and encourages fun and frivolity. According to the Supreme Council website, its purpose is:
To bring a quality of SYMPATHY and GOOD FELLOWSHIP into life, not only to member Prophets, but to everybody. An atmosphere of good, clean fun and frolic prevails at all times.
The Twelve Commandments of the Grotto
  1. To draw the Master Masons of different Lodges into close and more friendly relations. 
  2. To create and maintain a spirit of fraternity among us. 
  3. To discount jealousy, enmity and ill feeling. 
  4. To teach us that we are not only members of one Blue Lodge, but belong to the fraternity at large. That there are good Masons outside of our Blue Lodge and they are worthy friends and companions. 
  5. To build up and strengthen the character and individuality of the Mason and to teach, recognize and develop the principles of Masonry outside the Lodge room. 
  6. To teach that a Mason is not judged by his actual appearance or worldly wealth. 
  7. The Grotto meets all Masons on the level, not figuratively but literally, and teaches that Masons are brothers on the street as well as in the Lodge room. 
  8. That Masonry must not be used as a means of advancing the material interest of any man. 
  9. To get out of the rut into which we too often fall. 
  10. To forget our cares, for there is good in all of us. 
  11. The GROTTO is a social organization for Master Masons.
There are Grottoes spread throughout the United States and Canada. Membership in the Grotto has included four US Presidents: Harding, FDR, Truman, and Ford.

One description I saw of the Grotto is that it was a "reaction to dry, pseudo-scholastic freemasonry." Someone on Reddit described it as "less uptight than the shrine, more shenanigans, totally goofy, totally fun."

This organization is governed by a body known as the Supreme Council which is presided over by the Grand Monarch along with a number of other officers, elected and appointed.

The basic organizational unit is known as a Grotto. Originally all Grotto names were to be of Persian character derivation. The Grotto is presided over by a Monarch. The other officers of the Grotto are:
Chief Justice
Master of Ceremonies
Venerable Prophet
Marshall
Captain of the Guard
Sentinel
Chaplain
Secretary
Treasurer
Grottoes can come together and form Associations that serve as a state or regional assembly which is presided over by a President.

The Grotto traces its history back to the late 19th century in Hamilton, NY (230-miles northwest of NYC), where Masons were a group of Masons wanted to keep the brotherhood alive, even outside of just conferring degrees. One Brother, Leroy Fairchild, became a ringleader of pranksters which soon became known as the Fairchild Deviltry Committee. This group, growing in numbers and popularity, decided to formalize. They met on September 10, 1889, and elected Bro. Fairchild as their official leader. By May 1890, it became obvious that they needed to form a larger governing body to spread this order.

On June 13, 1890, the members came together and formed the Supreme Council of the Mystical Order of the Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm. At this meeting, they adopted the Constitution and Statues of the Supreme Council and elected the necessary officers. The following were elected as officers of the Supreme Council:
Grand Monarch: Thomas L. James 
Deputy Grand Monarch: LeRoy Fairchild
Grand Chief Justice: George H. Raymond
Grand Master of Ceremonies: J. C. Terry
Grand Treasurer: William M. West
Grand Secretary: Sidney D. Smith
Grand Keeper of the Archives: Oren Root
Grand Orator: James B. Murray
Venerable Grand Prophet: Unknown 
Trustees: U. C. Van Vleck, Adon N. Smith, and D. B. West
The Grand Monarch then appointed the following officers:
Grand Captain of the Guard: Thomas H. Beal
Grand Alchemist: J. F. Gregory
Standard Bearer: Samuel J. Todd
Grand Marshal: John Cunningham
Grand Steward: J. W. Clark
Deputy Grand Chief Justice: B. J. Stimson
Deputy Grand Master of Ceremonies: George Beal
All of the officers were installed by the George H. Raymond, the Grand Chief Justice. One of the first items of business that they performed was granting a dispensation to the first official Grotto in Hamilton, NY. They then approved the Obligation, established committees, and the badge of the order.

The Supreme Council would meet again on June 11, 1891, where they would issue a dispensation for a second Grotto; they would issue two later in the same year. On June 27, 1893, the Supreme Council again met and issued dispensations for five Grottoes. At this meeting, the Grand Monarch, Thomas James, retired and relinquished the leadership. Adon Smith would be elected as the next Grand Monarch which he would serve in this capacity until 1899. In 1902, the Supreme Council would move to elect new officers on an annual basis.

George Beal, the first Deputy Grand Master of Ceremonies, is considered the author of the original ritual of the order, but did have assistance. The current ritual is said to take a large cast of characters and is said to be based upon an ancient Persian manuscript found in Tehran. As the Blue Lodge legend centers on King Solomon, King Hiram of Tyre, and the Grand Master Hiram Abiff, the Grotto surrounds the legend of Al Mokanna, the "Veiled Prophet". According to myth, Al Mokanna lived sometime between the seventh and eighth centuries. Supposedly, he gave prophecies from behind a veil, thus the name "Veiled Prophet."

As the red fez identifies Shriners and the pillbox caps identifies members of the Scottish Rite, a member of the Grotto can be easily identified by their headgear. For the Grotto, members wear a black fez with red tassel and a depiction of the head of Al Mokanna in the center with the name of the Grotto above it (see pic).

The Grotto started supporting a charitable in June 1949 when they decided to give aid to children with cerebral palsy. In 1969, the charity expanded by adopting Dental Care for Children with Special Needs program in conjunction with the Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. According to the Grotto:
Dental care for the handicapped children is the answer to a long standing medical need. By virtue of their handicaps many children cannot receive traditional dental service because they are unable to sit for long periods of time.
Like the Daughters of the Nile with the Shrine, the Grotto has some female auxiliary bodies associated with it. Sometime prior to 1917, the Mysterious Order Witches of Salem was founded as a female auxiliary to the Grotto. The basic organizational units were known as Caldrons while the national governing body was known as the Supreme Caldron which was presided over by a Supreme Enchantress. This group would lead to the Daughters of Mokanna which came about somewhere between 1920 and 1922 after a schism occurred. The Daughters met in Caldrons as well and their governing body kept the name Supreme Caldron, but this group is led by a "Supreme Mighty Chosen One." They assist Grottoes as well as the Grotto's charity. To join, one must be the wife, widow, or female relative of a member of a Veiled Prophet.

Freemasonry Squared has a video on YouTube: 


References

1. About the Grotto. (n.d.). Retrieved from Omala Grotto: http://grotto.albertpikedemolay.org/about.html 

2. Appendant Bodies: Masonic. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of Texas: https://grandlodgeoftexas.org/appendant-body-category/masonic/ 

3. Become a Member. (n.d.). Retrieved from Daughters of Mokanna: https://daughtersofmokanna.com/ 

4. Can anyone explain the Grotto to me? (2019, January 25). Retrieved from Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/freemasonry/comments/ajuepb/can_anyone_explain_the_grotto_to_me/ 

5. Grotto. (2011). Retrieved from Freemason Information: http://freemasoninformation.com/what-is-freemasonry/family-of-freemasonry/grotto/ 

6. History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grottoes of North America: https://scgrotto.org/about/history 

7. Masonic "Fun" and Youth Groups. (2006). In S. Morris, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Freemasonry. New York: Penguin Group Inc. 

8. Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mystic_Order_of_Veiled_Prophets_of_the_Enchanted_Realm 

9. The Grotto. (n.d.). Retrieved from Masonic Dictionary: http://www.masonicdictionary.com/grotto.html 

10. What is the Grotto M.O.V.P.E.R.? (n.d.). Retrieved from Museum of Fezology: http://fezmuseum.com/grotto-and-related/

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Templar Biography: Renaud de Vichiers

Serving from 1250 AD to 1256 AD (the latter part of the 7th Crusade), Renaud de Vichiers was the 19th Grand Master of the Knights Templar. There is a lot of confusion about his tenure as Grand Master and very little extant record to clear it up. What is known is that he was born around 1198 in Champagne region of France.

He served as Preceptor of Saint-Jean-d'Acre, Master of France, and Marshal before he was Grand Master. After the death of the Grand Master, Guillaume de Sonnac, he was elected to preside over the Templar order in 1250 AD, with the help of the King Louis IX of France. He had become friends with King Louis IX when he was Master of France and as Marshal helped secure the funds for the king's release from Mamluk captivity.

The King and the Templars did have a falling out when Renaud ordered his Marshal, Hughes de Jouy, to work out a truce with the Sultan of Damascus without the king's permission or authority. He had the Marshal banned from the Holy Land and had the truce destroyed.

Some tales state that he escorted King Louis IX, after his release from Saracen captivity, to Acre and then used the Templars to fight back against Mamluk raids until his death. Other tales say that Renaud only served as Grand Master until 1252 AD and then resigned from the Templars to live in a monastery until his death on January 20, 1256. It is believed that with this story-line that Renaud had put his friendship with the King ahead of the order and that the Templars pushed for his resignation.

References

1. Cobbold, D. (n.d.). Renaud de Vichiers. Retrieved from Project Beauceant: http://www.templiers.org/renaud-vichiers-eng.php

2. Napier, G. (2014). Pocket A-Z of the Knights Templar: A Guide to Their History and Legacy. The History Press.

3. Newman, S. (2007). The Real History Behind the Templars. New York: Berkley Books. 

4. Renaud de Vichiers. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaud_de_Vichiers 

5. Robinson, J. J. (1991). Dungeon, Fire and Sword: The Knights Templar in the Crusades. New York: M. Evans.