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
- To draw the Master Masons of different Lodges into close and more friendly relations.
- To create and maintain a spirit of fraternity among us.
- To discount jealousy, enmity and ill feeling.
- 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.
- 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.
- To teach that a Mason is not judged by his actual appearance or worldly wealth.
- 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.
- That Masonry must not be used as a means of advancing the material interest of any man.
- To get out of the rut into which we too often fall.
- To forget our cares, for there is good in all of us.
- 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:
Master of Ceremonies
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: 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/