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
Captain of the Guard
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: 


1. About the Grotto. (n.d.). Retrieved from Omala Grotto: 

2. Appendant Bodies: Masonic. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grand Lodge of Texas: 

3. Become a Member. (n.d.). Retrieved from Daughters of Mokanna: 

4. Can anyone explain the Grotto to me? (2019, January 25). Retrieved from Reddit: 

5. Grotto. (2011). Retrieved from Freemason Information: 

6. History. (n.d.). Retrieved from Grottoes of North America: 

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: 

9. The Grotto. (n.d.). Retrieved from Masonic Dictionary: 

10. What is the Grotto M.O.V.P.E.R.? (n.d.). Retrieved from Museum of Fezology:

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.


1. Cobbold, D. (n.d.). Renaud de Vichiers. Retrieved from Project Beauceant:

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: 

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

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Wyoming College SRICF

Last week I was in southern California where it was around 70*F each day. This week I was playing catch-up in the office. This weekend, though, I spent in Wyoming attending the SRICF College meeting. This weekend marks the 4th Anniversary since I was initiated the Society. It's a long drive: nearly 10-hours with good road conditions over 591-miles (951.1-km for non-Americans). Several roads were closed (including portions of a federal freeway) and most were snow-covered and with blowing snow. It made an interesting drive, to say the least.

While I am Celebrant of Idaho College, I'm still a member of Wyoming College and I served as Celebrant for this meeting because the Wyoming Celebrant couldn't make it. I had the pleasure of conferring the I*, or Zelator, on two new Fratres, one of whom is my counterpart, R.I. Deputy Grand Master, in the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Wyoming. The rest of the meeting went smoothly and two Fratres each presented a paper.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Holy Mary Theotokos

Today is the Feast Day for Mary Theotokos, the Mother of God. Among various Christian churches Mary is venerated and a prominent figure of the faith, for both Gnostic and non-Gnostic Christian sects. Most Rev. Mar Timotheos, Bishop of New South Wales of the Apostolic Johannite Church, once said, "to be Johannite is to be a Marian."

Her importance cannot be overstated, but has often been undermined by some. The Virgin Mother was predicted by the Prophet Isaiah who saw a vision of the miraculous birth of the Messiah. Mary fulfilled this prophecy when she was visited by the Archangel Gabriel who informed her of her destiny and her duty. While her appearance in the Bible is scattered, she is present for many important events in Christ's life.

The title "Theotokos" has been in use since the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus of 431 AD. Prior to this council, some referred to her as Christotokos, or "Christ-Bearer", but the council settled Theotokos as Christotokos wasn't accurate and didn't incorporate the divine nature of the Nazarene. Theologically speaking though, this title doesn't imply that Mary was the source of the divine nature of Jesus, but only that she was the vessel through which the Logos became Incarnate. Other titles and descriptors of her include Virgin Mother, Second Eve, Mother of God, Ever Virgin, and the Immaculate.

The Theotokos has been immortalized in a number of paintings such as the "Virgin of the Rocks" which is one of my favorite paintings and was included in books concerning alternative theories of Christ such as Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Templar Revelations, and The DaVinci Code.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Templar Biography: Guillaume de Sonnac

The 18th Templar Grand Master was Guillaume (or William) de Sonnac. His tenure was considered a violent one, particularly since he died after losing both of his eyes in a fight with the Mameluks, but he also is remembered for creating the most in-depth, codified records for this knighthood. 

De Sonnac was born to a noble family in the Rouergue region of France. The Rouergue region exists today as the Department of Aveyron. Historically this region sat in between Auvergne, the Languedoc, the Gévaudan, and Quercy. 

It isn't exactly known when he was born which is very ironic as he is remembered for being a great chronicler of Templar records Nor is it known when he joined the Templars, but prior to serving as Grand Master, he served as Preceptor of Aquitaine in France. 

He arrived into the Holy Land in 1247 to find the Templar order in a diminished capacity after a series of failed battles. On October 17, 1244, the Battle of La Forbie started and which resulted in the death of more than 30,000 crusaders. It is debated as to whether the Grand Master, Armand de Périgord, died at the battle or was imprisoned where he later died. 

By the end of 1247, a chapter was assembled at Pilgrim's Castle and De Sonnac was elected the order's new leader. He not only came into this role with a weakened order, but also a weakened kingdom as the Muslims had retaken Tiberias, Mount Tabor, Belvoir and Ascalon. Not wanting to completely lose the Holy Land, King Louis IX of France launched the Seventh Crusade. 

In June 1249, the Crusaders and Templars captured Damietta (a town in Egypt along the Mediterranean coast). In November, the army started towards Cairo (south-southeast of Damietta), but had to go through Mansourah to defeat a large Egyptian force. The crusader army could not overcome the city as the Nile River was running high. In February 1250, a local showed the crusaders how to cross the river. Without the support of the main Crusader army, Robert, the Count of Artois and brother to King Louis IX, launched an attack on Mansourah. De Sonnac spoke against it, but ultimately joined the assault. 

The Mameluks used the narrow streets against the knights who couldn't maneuver and defend themselves. De Sonnac and one other Templar were the only ones who escaped Mansourah, though De Sonnac had lost an eye. As De Sonnac escaped, the rest of Crusader army arrived and was able to drive the Mameluks back into Mansourah. 

On April 6 (some sources say April 11), 1250, the Mameluks launched another assault on the besieging crusaders. The Templars fought the Mameluks, but De Sonnac had been overwhelmed, lost another eye, and then lost his life. This battle not only resulted in the defeat of the Crusaders, but marked the end of the Seventh Crusade and the capture of King Louis IX. De Sonnac was succeeded by Renaud de Vichiers.


1. Cobbold, D. (n.d.). Guillaume de Sonnac. Retrieved from Project Beauceant:

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

3. Rowe, D. M. (2013). A Chronological View of the Crusades. Retrieved from Knights Templar magazine: