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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Ohio Legislature Commemorates 300 Years of Freemasonry


Last Wednesday, June 21st, the House and Senate of Ohio both adopted Special Resolutions celebrating the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Premiere Grand Lodge of England and modern day Freemasonry. Officers of both the Grand Lodge of Ohio F&AM and the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio F&AM were on hand at the Statehouse in Columbus for the occasion.


(Click images to enlarge)

A video is available on Facebook (with almost inaudible audio) HERE.

Brad Paisley Talks About Freemasonry


Country music signer-songwriter Brad Paisley is a member of Hiram Lodge 7 in Franklin, Tennessee. He's also a Scottish Rite Mason, a Shriner, and a Senior DeMolay. In this video, he speaks about Masonry and the importance of tolerance. This clip was actually posted online over a year ago, but I forgot to hit the send button on it back then. Someone over on Reddit reminded me about it today, so here it is.



He's also done promotional work for the Shrine and DeMolay.

Brother Paisley was duly constituted a 32° Scottish Rite Mason in the Southern Jurisdiction on October 28, 2006 at the House of the Temple in Washington D.C. According to an article in the Northern Light Magazine, he was in the Washington-Baltimore area as part of a concert tour. Both Brad and his keyboardist Kendall Marcy joined the Scottish Rite that day:
Joining Brad for this ceremony was his father Doug Paisley, 32°, who works with Brad on his tours as man- ager and bus driver. Sovereign Grand Commander Seale, with help from Inspectors General Hoyt Samples, 33°, of Tennessee, C.B. Hall, 33°, of West Virginia, and Hans Wilhelmsen, 33°, of Maryland, presided over the event. In addition to Paisley and Marcy joining the Scottish Rite, country music legend “Little Jimmie” Dickens was honored. He is known for his work on the TV show Hee Haw and on stage at the Grand Ole Opry.

Unfortunately for the proliferation of Internet errors, there are dozens of web links mis-numbering Paisley's Mother lodge as #4 and even #107. Hiram Lodge 7 is noteworthy on its own, even without the worldwide fame of Brother Brad. Originally built in 1823, it was the tallest building west of the Allegheny Mountains. Their building is the only known meeting site between a sitting President and representatives of a Native American Nation, when President Andrew Jackson met with a delegation from the Chickasaw Indians to sign a treaty in 1826. It's listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

If anyone knows just when Brad Paisley became a Master Mason there, I'll be happy to update this post. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Students Create Masonic Mural in Myrtle Beach


Do you have a newer, plain, utilitarian looking temple building that people drive past every day and never notice? There's a way to change that. Here is a perfect example of a lodge and community partnership benefitting each other.

The local students in Coastal Carolina University's Arts 499 'Special Topics in Art' class teamed up with Grand Strand Lodge 392 in North Myrtle Beach. Freemasonry and the lodge provided the inspiration and a very big canvas in the form of a large, blank wall, and the students executed a beautiful, traffic-stopping mural depicting Masonic symbolism, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. (Click the photos to enlarge.)

Janet Blackmon Morgan at the Sun News has posted 13 photos of the student artists at work on the lodge mural as the project nears completion at myrtlebeachonline.com



The mural was designed by the class' lecturer, Brother Brian "Cat" Taylor. He teaches the class each summer semester, and students learn the history and contemporary use of public art, especially in more urban settings. Each year, they also get the practical experience of working on an actual project like this one. 


Taylor teaches true 'street art,' not paint vandalism 101, and murals designed by him and his students dot the landscape around campus and the surrounding towns that make up South Carolina's Grand Strand beach communities. He seems to have a good working relationship with the nearby town of Conway (where the university is located) and others in the area, and his students have executed murals in the past that have been designed as part of supported community projects. Many cities and chambers of commerce are ecstatic to have serious artists decorate blank cinderblock walls (Naperville, Illinois is very supportive of these projects, for example). A call to your local college with an art program could very well yield a happy result. 

(Just be sure you don't run afoul of local zoning and signage laws before you start painting! If your town is restrictive, as an alternative, see if an art class might decorate your lodge room, instead.)


Grand Strand Lodge 392 is located at 919 6th Avenue in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

H/T Ed Potter





UPDATE 6/22/2017:

I was just sent a link to another project, this one from Greenwood Lodge 253 in Greenwood, Washington. Designed artists Jacob Dixon and James Nielson. (That's a window in the lower right.) According to Dixon's website, it was done in the summer of 2014 and took 50 days to execute.



Then there's this mural of 'Legends of Masons' on the side of Grapevine Lodge 288 in Grapevine, Texas. (I can't find the artist of this one.)


And this one of Prince all on the Prince Hall Public School in Boston, Massachusetts.


The multi-language Masonic wiki website, Friemauer-Wiki has a page dedicated to Masonic  murals and street art HERE.

H/T Christopher Sicurella

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Alberta, Canada's Legislature Declares June 24th as Masonic Day


After my post last week about Arizona's Governor Ducey declaring 'Freemasonry Day,' I got a note from Brother Ilya Raykhlin of Bow River Lodge 1 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It seems that Calgary's Mayor has declared June 24th annually as 'Freemasons Day' starting back in 2013. Then Edmonton's Mayor followed suit last year. Now, the whole Province of Alberta has jumped in on the idea.

From Brother Raykhlin's e-mail:
This is wonderful news to all of the brethren in the Canadian province of Alberta, and we share in Arizona's delight as our provincial government has also just declared June 24th as Masonic Day in Alberta (see above).
Personally, this recognition of our fraternity’s contributions to society at large and to our communities specifically, is how I plan to help turn the tide on the falling membership and participation levels that have plagued our North American lodges for decades.
I am the founder of Freemasons Day in Calgary, and the Chairman of the Freemasons Day Planning Committee. Back in 2013, I successful lobbied our municipal government to formally recognize June 24th as Freemasons Day, and our Mayor has continued to proclaim this every year since. He also attends and speaks at our annual Open House at Freemasons Hall, and he has become an outspoken supporter of the Craft.
As a result, the Mayor of Edmonton — our provincial capital — became inspired to show his city’s gratitude to our organization, and in 2016 also declared June 24th as the first Masonic Day in Edmonton.
Masons have a long history in Alberta. The first Premier of the Province of Alberta was a Mason. As were the first Mayors of Calgary and Edmonton. And of course, so was the first Prime Minister of Canada.
Consequently, just on time for this year’s celebrations in Calgary and Edmonton — and in recognition of this being the 300th anniversary of the founding for the Grand Lodge of England — our provincial legislature has also formally recognized June 24th as Masonic Day in Alberta (below).

It is my goal to see to it that Freemasonry returns to its former prominence, especially in a day an age where people have become so disconnected and hopeless. This sort of formal recognition of our past is such great publicity, that it serves to promote what we still do and stand for to an audience of young men who otherwise would be too distracted to notice. Here in Calgary, our annual Open House which has served to both celebrate Freemasons Day with our brethren, as well as to build new bridges with the citizens of our city — has led to increases in membership across all participating lodges.
If June 24th became recognized and celebrated in every jurisdiction as Freemasons Day, what would our numbers look like in a decade? Something to think about.
In the meantime, if you would like a quick overview of the history of Freemasonry in Calgary, please visit our website at www.freemasonsday.com, where you will also find our Mayor’s 2017 declaration letter.
 (Click the images above to enlarge them.)

L'Union Française Lodge 17 in New York and the 'Cosmopolitan 10th District'



My apologies for the short notice, but I just found out about this coming Tuesday's event over on Jay Hochberg's blog, the Magpie Mason. Way too many of you guys in the northeast part of the U.S. don't know how lucky you are to live within an easy train ride of the greatest variety of Masonic lodges in the country. Take the opportunity to travel, and do it often!

The oldest lodge of the world-famous 10th Manhattan District, L’Union Française No. 17, chartered in 1797,
 will initiate four candidates this Tuesday evening, June 20th. The ritual will be conferred in French, and appropriately in the French Doric Room on the 10th Floor of New York's Grand Lodge building at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan.


L’Union Française No. 17 will confer the Entered Apprentice Degree using the 'French Rite' ritual, which features rites of purification elements of Rosicrucian origin kept alive since 1797. UF17's degrees are similar to the ten famed, formerly French lodges in Louisiana that work what are often referred to as 'Scottish Rite Craft degrees' or as 'Red Lodges.' 

L’Union Française 17's Tuesday event details are:

Tuesday, June 20 at 6 p.m.Masonic Hall71 West 23rd Street, ManhattanFrench Doric Room, 10th floor
The degree will begin at 6:45, after which no one will be admitted. 

Arrive EARLY, because the room is NOT large, and these evenings tend to fill up very fast.

Photo ID is required to enter Masonic Hall, and your current membership card is required to work your way into the lodge room. Brethren will retire to a nearby restaurant afterward ($50 per person, cash only).

The French Rite or 'Modern Rite' was originally developed by the Grand Orient of France in the 1780s (back when everybody recognized them). They decided that the hauts grades were quickly swelling up and getting out of hand, so they essentially took the 'Scottish Rite' degree system and limited it to just seven degrees. Also in New York's 10th District, Garibaldi Lodge confers their degrees using similar ritual, derived from the French Rite, but worked in Italian. 

UF17 is the oldest lodge in the 10th Manhattan District. It was chartered back on Christmas Day in 1797, but its origin was an earlier 1773 lodge known simply as "The French Lodge, formed by French Huguenot refugees and French soldiers who came with Rochambeau and Marquis de Lafayette for the American Revolution. Just two years after receiving their charter (originally #14—it's a long story), they were invited to be the first lodge to walk in the procession for George Washington's Masonic funeral service at Mount Vernon on December 30th of 1799.

The lodge had many early members who immigrated to New York from Louisiana and Saint-Domingue (the French name for Hispaniola for about ten minutes until Toussaint Louverture and the slave rebellions threw them all out and created Haiti in 1804). Another early member was Pierre-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Old Boney himself.

It was also John James Joseph Gourgas' lodge. He was actually born in Switzerland in 1777, and went on to become the first Secretary General of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in 1826 and its third Sovereign Grand Commander from 1832 to 1851, during the misery of both the anti-Masonic period and the Cerneau mess. Which is a whole 'nuther story...

There are 16 lodges today in the 10th Manhattan District, and they grew out of the enormous immigrant populations that came to America and settled in the New York City area. The Tenth Manhattan is home to the lodges permitted to work Craft degrees in French, Italian, and Spanish, and more, which differ—often substantially—from the traditional Preston-Webb rituals you find in almost every other state in the U.S. (with the notable exception of Pennsylvania). 

It's not for nothing that this group of lodges refers to themselves as the 'Cosmopolitan Tenth,' which is how you'll find them on Facebook these days: 


    Abravanel, New York
    Alba, New York
    All Seeing Eye, New York
    Anatolia, New York
    Archimede-Roma, Baldwin
    Brazilian, New York
    Columbus-Davinci-Galilei, New York
    France L.C.A.C., New York
    Garibaldi, New York
    Hellenic – Plato, New York
    La Fraternidad, New York
    La Sincerite, New York
    La Universal, New York
    L’Union Francaise, New York
    Mazzini, New York
    Parthenon, Long Island City

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Arizona's Governor Proclaims June 24th, 2017 as 'Freemasonry Day'


Arizona's Governor Douglas Ducey has officially proclaimed June 24th, 2017 as 'Freemasonry Day' all across the Grand Canyon state to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the 1717 founding of the premiere Grand Lodge of England in London. 

Kingman Mayor Monica Gates and Kingman 22's Master Ken Chism

Not to be outdone, the Mayor of Kingman, Arizona, Monica Gates, has also declared June 24th as 'Free and Accepted Mason Day.' 

Kingman Lodge 22's Master Ken Chism was on hand for the occasion.

From a Friday story in the Daily Miner newspaper in Kingman, Arizona:

Freemasonry continued to expand over the years to encompass the nation, including the Arizona Territory about 150 years ago.
Kingman’s local Freemasonry lodge, No. 22, came into existence in 1915. The fraternity, including Lodge No. 22, has become well-known throughout the world for their philanthropy and charity work that Mayor Monica Gates has proclaimed June 24, 2017 as Free and Accepted Masons Day in the City of Kingman.
The proclamation of a specific day to honor the Freemasonry fraternity is a big step for an organization that has been in existence for centuries.
“We try to improve not only the individual, but also the community,” said Ken Chism, Kingman lodge’s Worshipable Master. “We make good men better. It’s not a political fraternity. It’s not a religious fraternity.”
June 24 will be the official 300th anniversary of Free and Accepted Masonry.
While the fraternity has been around for much longer than 300 years, the title and recognition of Free and Accepted Masons was not established until 1717.
 The Mayor’s official recognition of the fraternity, as well as the proclamation of “Free and Accepted Masons Day” on June 24 has excited many of the local lodge members.
“It means a strong growth for the fraternity,” said Chism.
Along with Kingman’s dedication of the 300th anniversary, Arizona’s Governor Douglas Ducey also proclaimed June 24 as Freemasons Day.
“On behalf of the Grand Lodge of Arizona, I have requested and received a Proclamation from Governor Douglas Ducey that this day will be proclaimed Freemasonry Day in the State of Arizona,” wrote Scott Thomas, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arizona in a post on the lodge’s website. “We should as Masons, all be proud of our Fraternity because we will have the benefit of this public recognition in our community to commemorate this anniversary.”
To celebrate this monumental anniversary, the local Kingman lodge will hold an open house event for the community.
Chism said that locals will be welcome to come by and tour the lodge.
The Lodge No. 22 membership will serve refreshments, and attendees will be able to learn a little bit more about the fraternity.
The open house will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 24 at the Kingman Masonic Lodge located at 212 N. Fourth St.
Kingman Lodge is unique, as it was originally built in 1939 as a public WPA project, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Help Needed! Washington D.C. Brother Seeks Kidney Donor

I very rarely ask for favors like this from brethren and other visitors to this site, but this is important, and I encourage everyone to circulate this appeal. Brother Christopher Stevenson became a Freemason at the age of 20 in Washington D.C. at George Washington University. He is a member of The Colonial Lodge #1821. But he is now in need, and this is NOT something that can be handled by writing a check or passing the hat. 

Christopher is now 26 and is an end-stage renal failure patient in need of a transplant. He is currently in dialysis, and is desperately seeking a potential kidney donor.

From a message sent out by his D.C. area brethren:
Along with his passion for politics, Chris spends most of his time active in volunteer work and working on social issues that impact his community. He is set to start graduate school this August back at the George Washington University to obtain his Masters of Public Administration and his Juris Doctorate.
Although Chris is an ambitious and active young man, he’s unfortunately plagued with kidney disease. Due to this, Chris is often unable to reach his full potential and has to commit himself to the painful and burdensome treatment of dialysis three days a week. As Freemasons, we have the chance to extend the hand of brotherly love and relief in this case.

Chris currently needs healthy candidates to get evaluated for a kidney transplant. Although many of you may believe this is a dangerous procedure, it isn’t. Millions of these surgeries are done every year and living with just one kidney instead of two doesn’t change a person’s quality of life as a single kidney compensates for the absence of the second. Brothers, if any of you are interested in helping Chris or in getting tested to see if you are a potential match please email him directly AT THIS LINK.
Additionally, I have Brother Christopher's cell phone number available if you wish to call him and/or text message him. Please email me at hodapp@aol.com and I will forward it to you privately.

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), more than 100,000 people in the U.S. are waiting for kidney transplants at the present time, and more living donors are desperately needed. At least 10 people die every day waiting for a new kidney to come available. And everyone who finds a living donor to help them frees up a kidney from a deceased donor for another suffering patient. It shortens the wait time for both patients.

While transplants involving relatives have proven to be the most successful over time because of the blood relationship between donor and patient, that is not an option in Christopher's case. Donors must be healthy and match the recipient's blood type and antigens, so it requires testing to determine compatibility.

Recipients of living donor kidney transplants enjoy proper kidney function for an average of 12-20 years, much longer than if they receive a deceased donor one. This greatly reduces their need for another future transplant. The overall success rates of living transplants are higher than those from deceased donors, as well.

There are scores of questions that a donor will have answered if they are a match for Christopher, so the first step is to be tested to find out if it is even a possibility before considering going further. Live donation is not a decision to be taken lightly, because it does involve surgery and a recovery period. It's one of the greatest and most selfless gifts anyone can offer to make. Some very general questions can be answered on the UNOS website


But please contact Brother Christopher if you are willing to consider helping this young man.

That Was Fast! New Francken Manuscript Edition Arriving Now


HOLY MACKEREL! 

Look what thudded onto my front doorstep this afternoon! This massive, brand, spankin' new facsimile reprint of the 1783 Francken Manuscript published in a glorious color edition by the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction is a magnificent specimen of the book binding and printer's art. 

If you are interested in the development of Masonic degrees, and especially of the French Écossais degrees that made up the 4° through 25° system that eventually became the Scottish Rite in both Supreme Councils and around the world before they were revised in the mid-1800s, you need to suck it up and invest in this volume. It is the first and only authorized publication of this vital work, and all other cheap reproduction editions are flawed and incomplete. It is transcribed and footnoted on facing pages, and includes important historical background information as part of the foreword, as well.

Please support QUALITY Masonic book publishing, because editions like this are extraordinarily expensive to create. Many thanks to everyone in Lexington who made this happen. The price is $95 with free domestic shipping. Order directly from the Supreme Council-NMJ HERE. 

Thanks to Samuel Gompers-Benjamin Franklin Lodge 45


Many thanks to everyone who came out on Tuesday night for the "Idiot and Dummy" program with Brent Morris and me at Samuel Gompers-Benjamin Franklin Lodge 45 at the Takoma Masonic Center in Washington D.C. We've both wanted to do a joint presentation like this for about a dozen years now, and no one has ever asked before. I hope letting us just answer questions and free associate for 90 minutes or so was as interesting and entertaining for everyone else as it was for us both.


My deepest gratitude to WM Michael Greenwald and all of the brethren and numerous visitors to SG-BF 45. Great food, great friendships, and a great evening all the way around.


This lodge room is absolutely beautiful, and it was magnificently redecorated not that many years ago by an extremely talented and dedicated artist. I had only seen photos of the ceiling when it was partially painted, but the total effect is stunning in person. It is truly amazing the effects accomplished by paint in the hands of a truly skilled master artist. 

Photos by Carlo Merhi

The lodge actually rents their space from Hiram-Takoma Lodge 10, and I am told that it is extremely unusual in that their lodge room and the building itself straddles the dividing line between the District of Columbia and Maryland, despite their D.C. charter.

Monday, June 12, 2017

State and Federal Grants Could Help Your Temple Building


This is for Indiana Masons and Lodges, but if you are in another state, check and see if yours offers similar grant programs. Most do, but you have to look for them. They are usually funded via a federal grant, but each state has their own variations.
Indiana lodges that own their own temple buildings should be aware of several state grant programs that might make money available for projects you are planning or undertaking (or dreading).

These are offered through the Office of Community & Rural Affairs, overseen by the Lt. Governor's Office. http://www.in.gov/ocra/index.htm

The Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs "works with local, state and national partners to provide resources and technical assistance to aid communities in shaping and achieving their vision for economic development."
No promises, because their application processes are usually very narrowly focussed and require precisely following their instructions.

These all have VERY specific deadlines, so don't dawdle or dither with committee meetings and waiting for stateds to talk it to death! But check out their programs and see if they might apply to you. Go to their home page, and check the left-hand column for the list of programs. These are the ones that jumped out at me:


1. Main Street Revitalization Program (MSRP) Read the material on this one, because it seems to be the one with the widest mission.
2. Blight Clearance Program (BCP) If you have an older building in need of demolishing that you can't afford to get done.
3. Public Facilities Program (PFP) Funds libraries, museums, community centers, performance spaces, and occasionally historic preservation.
4. Stormwater Improvements Program (SIP) If you have constant flooding problems or sewer backups, this might help. Worth checking into.
5. Historic Renovation Grant Program (HRGP) This has VERY SPECIFIC guidelines, so read the instructions carefully to be sure your building applies (must be 50+ years old, and in a designated community, AND be at least in the process or accepted on the list of Indiana Historic Site & Structures). Usually for downtown areas, but I haven't read the details. Deadline is June 30th this year, so get to work immediately on proposal letters of intent!
6. Downtown Enhancement Grant (DEG) This one is sort of a catch-all. I'll just quote from their description, and you make of it what you will: "The Downtown Enhancement Grant (DEG) program is designed to foster innovative approaches to activities, which support and promote community based planning, pre-development, and research initiatives. The goal of these projects is to improve the quality of life and opportunities for increasing private investment and employment in Indiana Main Street (IMS) communities."
Also, be sure to check out the page of programs for the Indiana Main Street initiative, which is actually part of a nationwide program through the National Trust for Historic Preservation to revitalize smaller communities. Keep an eye on their upcoming events and get on their mailing list. 

You never know when these grant opportunities will pop up. They usually aren't enormous, but you never know what they can lead to, or who they might lead you to. We all need to think more creatively about our historic spaces and how we can protect them from the wrecking ball, and still find a way to keep them in use—or find someone else who wants to. In many cases, there's a way to stay in them AND find a partner to help both parties involved.

Friday, June 09, 2017

History of Freemasonry in Indiana: A Favor

I have been tasked with writing a new history of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM, concentrating especially on our last 50 years. So, I continue to ask a great favor of Freemasons throughout the state of Indiana, but I am intentionally casting a wider net than just posting on the appropriate Facebook pages or a blurb in our magazine. 

The late, esteemed Masonic author, Dwight L. Smith, who served as our Grand Secretary for over four decades, wrote the definitive chronicle of the Grand Lodge, Goodly Heritage, for our 150th anniversary in 1968. While my book will certainly encompass that first century and a half, I have no intention or desire to reinvent the wheel of Dwight's making. He spent two decades exhaustively researching and 12 years writing it while he edited the then-monthly Indiana Freemason Magazine, and I would be fooling myself to believe I could similarly cover this even longer period in the kind of detail he did.

In addition, an earlier work, A History of Freemasonry in Indiana from 1806 to 1898, was written by Daniel McDonald, and it too provides great detail of earlier years. 

So, my principal task is to tell the story of the fraternity in Indiana between 1968 and today. And this is where my favor comes in. If your lodge has had a history compiled for a major anniversary or building dedication or other such event, I would very much appreciate a copy. If your lodge has been through what your members considered a time or event of great change or upheaval or improvement or innovation or catastrophe, especially in the last half century, I would like to have that information. Even if you are an individual Indiana Mason and you believed you experienced something that would be important enough to include in the book, feel free to pass that along, as well. 

All of that goes for appendant bodies in Indiana, as well. While the book will primarily be about Craft Freemasonry in our state, I would also like to include references to appendant groups that didn't make it into Dwight's book. The other bodies have influenced and affected Masonry in and out of the state, and they were mostly ignored in the two previous major works.

Likewise, if you or your lodge or appendant organization are NOT in Indiana, but took part in an event that happened in Indiana or that involved Indiana Masons specifically, and you believe it might be of interest to readers or future researchers, please send that to me, as well.

I've been waist deep in research for well over a year and a half already, but these types of histories and anecdotes are difficult to come by, outside of what I have personally collected myself, or what we have in the Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana. So, I would deeply appreciate any contribution anyone would care to provide. 

BUT MY TIME IS QUICKLY RUNNING OUT!

I have been making this request non-stop for a year now, and to date i have received just six messages in return.

I need to completely finish the entire project by the beginning of September in order to get it prepared for the printer to have it printed, bound, boxed, shipped, and ready for Founders' Day on January 13th, 2018. So, if you believe you have something for me, please forward it to me RIGHT NOW while you're thinking about it, or forever hold your peace. 

My email address is hodapp@aol.com and do me a favor by putting "HISTORY" in the email header so I can easily spot it.

Thanks in advance, Brethren.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Norwegian Man Attempts to Blackmail Danish Masons Over Ritual


According a story today on the Ekstra Badet website, a 67-year old Norwegian man has been arrested in Oslo pending extradition to Copenhagen, Denmark and is being held by authorities for attempting to blackmail Danish Freemasons. Details of the case have not been released, but the story reveals that the man secretly videotaped Masonic ritual ceremonies in Denmark and Norway in 2016. In April, he threatened to publish the videos, but attempted to blackmail the Danish fraternity for 33 million kroner (about US$5 million) in return for not making them public.

A closed-door court hearing was held today in Oslo to determine potential charges of extortion. It is not being revealed publicly whether the Masons actually paid the man, nor if he is a current or former member himself. It's unclear from the story whether this involved a single lodge, the Grand Lodge of Denmark, or even Norwegian Masons, as well.

My apologies for any errors in translation and interpretation. Anyone who is able to correct any details, please feel free to contact me.

See "Optog rituelle ceremonier i Frimurerlogen: Sigtet for afpresning for 33 millioner." 

H/T Andreas Önnerfors



UPDATE 6/7/2017:

Today, word has come out of Norway that the man in question was, in fact, a member and a 'trusted officer' of the Norwegian Order of Freemasons (Den Norske Frimurerorden) at the time of his 'alleged' activities. Upon his initial arrest and the allegations coming to light last month, he was immediately expelled. As this story unfolds, it bears a remarkable (and pathetic) resemblance to the plot of Dan Brown's novel, The Lost Symbol

Equivalences to Norway's own Vidkun Quisling have been pretty much irresistible all day long.

Unlike numerous Anglo-Saxon jurisdictions for the last three centuries, those working the Scandinavian Rite have not had their quite distinctive rituals continuously exposed and exploited, which has led to more than one of these incidents in recent history. I am told that there have been at least three high-visibility attempts to expose the ritual in Norway in the last two decades. While non-members continually obsess on this in their misguided misunderstanding of Masonic secrecy and its purpose in the first place, for an officer to do this is the worst sort of tragic betrayal of the most fundamental concept of trust and personal honor. Sadly, since everybody has a video recorder in their pockets these days, I suspect it will only continue to happen. 

There has been an ongoing furore in some U.S. jurisdictions for the last decade or so over whether it is acceptable for members to bring a gun into lodge. Many have recommended a gun safe in the Tyler's Room as a reasonable solution. Perhaps what we all really need going forward now is a phone safe.

Friday, June 02, 2017

"That which was lost..."


At one time, there was an eastern American grand lodge that was arguably one of the strictest Masonic jurisdictions in the country when it came to standing by its strong traditions. Their state has a very, very distinct ritual different from any other jurisdiction in America, based largely on Antients work from the 1700s. As a result, the typical ritual "exposures" that were published throughout the 1800s and later, based on Preston-Webb working—as much to benefit struggling members and officers with their memorization as they were to "reveal" any Masonic secrets—were always useless in their state. They were one of the last grand lodges to print any sort of ritual learning aids of any kind, and their ritual remained strictly transmitted from instructive tongue to attentive ear until the last decade. As any Past Master from there will tell you, the Master is run ragged by their ritual, since he almost never sits during meetings, and does the vast majority of the speaking roles throughout all of the degrees—including almost the entirety of the 2nd Section of the MM. The last time I visited, they also still required all officers to dress in tuxedos, and numerous other demands on their members that other jurisdictions either never did, or no longer do. 

Yet, despite their rigorous reputation as the tough tradition guys on the Masonic block, they have almost always been one of the largest Masonic jurisdictions in the country in terms of both membership statistics and number of lodges. So, their stringent standards, enforced for more than two centuries, certainly didn't scare off potential new members who got spooked by what was required to belong and be active.

Well, times have changed. Their grand lodge began publishing a fully spelled-out ritual several years ago (entirely skipping the single-letter cipher period that most other jurisdictions used for many years), and their long-cherished mentorship between men who spent weeks and even months working with each other to learn their enormous Master's parts, and others, has rapidly faded away as new members simply study on their own, alone, from a book now. Their stodgy, old grand lodge, once a longtime, noble holdout for tradition, sure came into the 21st century, all right.

So, someone sent me a link last night to their newest foray into the modern age as they attempt to dig up new petitioners: a merchandise incentive reward program.

You know, as in, "Sign up a new member, and earn some free STUFF!"

It has come to this. One wonders what their Antient forebears would have said.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

'Francken Manuscript' Facsimile Now Available


As they promised, the Scottish Rite-Northern Masonic Jurisdiction today is releasing an important historical work that Scottish Rite and other Masonic scholars and students of degree rituals will want in their libraries. 

The Francken Manuscript was compiled in 1783 by Henry Andrew Francken and is the earliest known English translation of the French hauts grades degree rituals of the Rite of Perfection (Order of the Royal Secret), from the 4° to the 25°. The work is thought to be the the earliest surviving and most complete English-language versions of the Scottish Rite degrees that appeared in North America. Francken was a key player in bringing these French degrees out of Jamaica into the northern part of America in the period before and during the Revolution. What makes this so important is they are the precursors to the Scottish Rite in their most original form before Carson, Gourgas, Yates, Pike, and others got their mitts on them and began rewriting.

This beautifully presented 720-page book contains a complete, full-color photo facsimile of the Manuscript, with footnoted transcriptions on facing pages. It also includes introductory essays by the Supreme Council and Museum & Library staff members, Alan E. Foulds, Aimee E. Newell, and Jeffrey Croteau.

The price is $95 with free domestic shipping. Order directly from the Supreme Council-NMJ HERE. (Please note that overseas delivery via the least expensive US Postal Service fees is almost as expensive as the book itself. But it CAN be done.)

Speaking at Ohio's Nova Caesarea Harmony Lodge #2 This Saturday


Since I'm in shameless self-promotion mode this morning already, I should note that I will be speaking on Saturday morning, June 3rd, at Nova Caesarea Harmony Lodge 2 in Miamitown, Ohio. Unfortunately, I failed to notice that the deadline for RSVPs has already passed (thankfully, I remembered to tell them early on that I would be there...). However, if you have a desire to attend and didn't know about this event ahead of time, try contacting WB Rodney Epperson at repperson@ohiomasonichome.org and throw yourself on his mercy. Feel perfectly free to blame me if you like.

There will be a welcome reception at 10:00AM, with brunch at 11:00AM. I will begin my yakking following the meal, in hopes of not affecting your digestion.

Please note that WB Epperson emphatically noted that RSVPs are a must, and they are making a list of registered attendees. So you really do need to contact him and see if he'll bend the rules at this point. The cost for the event is $20, and that is payable at the door only (cash or checks, no credit cards).

The lodge is located at 8021 Harrison Ave, Miamitown, OH (now in the former temple of Columbia Lodge 44 - there is a discrete S&C over the door). Miamitown is located between the Indiana state line and Cincinnati, off of I-275. 


Note that some smartphones and GPS units will be confused by the Miamitown address, so you may have to tell yours it's actually in Cleves, Ohio to get to the right place. Parking is available in the bank lot across the street.

Nova Caesarea Lodge is one of Ohio’s oldest, predating the Grand Lodge and even Ohio’s own admission into statehood. 

On September 8, 1791, the Grand Lodge of New Jersey granted a charter to a small group of pioneers living in Cincinnati, a newly settled town tucked in the southwest corner of the untamed Ohio Valley. The dangers of the frontier delayed the charter for more than three years, but in December of 1794, the first members of Nova Caesarea Lodge No. 10 met to elect their officers.

Subsequently, Cincinnati Lodge No. 13 was chartered in 1806 by the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, made up of members who had originally formed Nova Caesarea Lodge No. 10 under their New Jersey charter fifteen years before. They returned the charter to that grand lodge prior to requesting a new one from the closer Grand Lodge of Kentucky.

Even though Ohio had statehood approved by Thomas Jefferson in 1803, it would take until 1808 for Cincinnati Lodge to join with five others to form the new Grand Lodge of Ohio. The renumbered and renamed Nova Caesarea Harmony Lodge No. 2 has been officially known as such since 1813, but will celebrate the 226th anniversary of its original formation this year.

Idiot and Dummy in Washington DC 6/13/17



It should come as no shock to anyone that our nation's capitol is already planted thick with the permanent presence of pretty much nothing but idiots and dummies anyway, so two more being there for an event will scarcely cause a blip in the general demographics. 

Nevertheless, the Grand Lodge of Washington D.C. is circulating this event announcement concerning a certain Idiot and Dummy appearing in their vicinity on June 13th. I make no claims or judgements concerning the hyperbole of others.
Samuel Gompers-Benjamin Franklin Lodge #45 cordially invites you to a once in a lifetime event: THE IDIOT AND THE DUMMY! Two of the foremost Masonic scholars of our generation in our lodge room at the same time -- Worshipful Brother S. Brent Morris (author of “THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO FREEMASONRY,” among others) and Worshipful Brother Christopher Hodapp (author of many books including “FREEMASONS FOR DUMMIES”). For the first time ever, these two Masonic titans will be in the same room in an open forum. In an attempt to be as inclusive as possible for this significant event, the lodge will be open on the Entered Apprentice’s Degree, to allow all Masons to participate. Truly, this will be an evening you will not want to miss! Please make sure you RSVP, as space will be limited. Bring your book to get autographed or buy one at the event.
WHERE: Takoma Masonic Center, 115 Carroll Ave. NW, Washington, DCWHEN : June stated communication 6/13/17TIME : Dinner 6:30 pm, Lodge opens at 7:30 pm
Please RSVP for dinner no later than June 9 to awright@sgbf45.org so we can order the correct amount of food.

June Already?


The arrival of June once again compels me to remind everyone that this is Goat Trauma Awareness Month. The Childhood Goat Trauma Foundation says that each year, over 6000 people are traumatized by goats in the United States alone. So don't be a victim, and protect our precious children. 

Never, under any circumstances, turn your back on a goat. 

And stay away from petting zoos.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

'Inside the Freemasons' TV Series DVD Now Available Worldwide


Inside the Freemasons, the five-part video series produced by Britain's Sky TV network in full cooperation with the United Grand Lodge of England, aired starting in April as part of the run-up to the 300th anniversary of the London founding of the Premiere Grand Lodge. From all accounts, the program was well received throughout the country. What I was able to see was respectful, factual, and blessedly free of the typical madness and 'woo-woo factor' that usually characterizes TV shows about the fraternity. But while the episodes have been viewable online for those living inside of Sky's official broadcast region, the rest of the world has been shut out of legally being able to see it.


Now, UGLE's official shop, Letchworth's in Great Queen Street's Freemasons' Hall, is now offering the entire series as a DVD set for preorder sales online HERE. While a few of us die-hard British TV fans have actually blown for our own region-free DVD players so we can order obscure Carry On movies, Up Pompeii episodes and such from Amazon.co.uk, not everyone else is quite so deranged as Hodapphäus. 

The price is £12.49 (currently about US$16), plus shipping. Expected release date is June 15th, and the Royal Mail to the U.S. is generally pretty efficient.

Be good boys and girls and don't go hunting and circulating bit torrent files or cruising for pirated copies from Russian file sharing sites, most especially since it's for sale legally now.

UPDATE 6/21/2017: 
According to the description, this was supposed to play "in all formats," implying the discs were to be viewable no matter what part of the world you happen to be in or where your player is officially set up for. THAT IS DECEIVING! The disc set that arrived this week is NOT REGION FREE. IT IS A REGION 2 DISC ONLY, which means primarily Europe, Japan, and the Middle East! You MUST play this in either a region-free DVD player, or on a computer that permits you to switch regions. Most computer DVD drives allow you to do this, but ONLY a limited number of times. My iMac only lets me switch back and forth 4 times before it locks forever on the last one it is set it for. So, be aware of this limitation. It probably will NOT play at all in your older home DVD player hooked to your TV in the U.S. (The U.S. and Canada are Region 1, in case you wondered).

A TRUE Region-free DVD should be labeled for region 0.

If none of this means anything to you, check out the Wikipedia article on DVD Region Codes HERE.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day


On this Memorial Day, take a moment and watch the story of my Masonic Brother, Illus. Sammy Davis 33° and the events that led to his being awarded the Medal of Honor.

Undobtedly, what little is left of the local newspaper in your town today has a story of one or two area service members who survived a war, or didn't. They do it every year. And if you look a little deeper, you will find comments posted from family members who just want more than anything else for their loved one to simply be remembered, if only for one day of the year. 

Please remember all of those thousands upon thousands of men and women whose names never got in the paper, except perhaps for a brief obituary, who have given so much for all of us.

From Sammy's citation record:
Rank and organization: Sergeant, U.S. Army, Battery C, 2d Battalion, 4th Artillery, 9th Infantry Division. Place and date: West of Cai Lay, Republic of Vietnam, 18 November 1967. Entered service at: Indianapolis, Ind. Born: 1 November 1946, Dayton, Ohio.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life and beyond the call of duty. Sgt. Davis (then PFc.) distinguished himself during the early morning hours while serving as a cannoneer with Battery C, at a remote fire support base. At approximately 0200 hours, the fire support base was under heavy enemy mortar attack. Simultaneously, an estimated reinforced Viet Cong battalion launched a fierce ground assault upon the fire support base. The attacking enemy drove to within 25 meters of the friendly positions. Only a river separated the Viet Cong from the fire support base. Detecting a nearby enemy position, Sgt. Davis seized a machinegun and provided covering fire for his guncrew, as they attempted to bring direct artillery fire on the enemy. Despite his efforts, an enemy recoilless rifle round scored a direct hit upon the artillery piece. The resultant blast hurled the guncrew from their weapon and blew Sgt. Davis into a foxhole. He struggled to his feet and returned to the howitzer, which was burning furiously. Ignoring repeated warning to seek cover, Sgt. Davis rammed a shell into the gun. Disregarding a withering hail of enemy fire directed against his position, he aimed and fired the howitzer which rolled backward, knocking Sgt. Davis violently to the ground. Undaunted, he returned to the weapon to fire again when an enemy mortar round exploded within 20 meters of his position, injured him painfully. Nevertheless, Sgt. Davis loaded the artillery piece, aimed and fired. Again he was knocked down by the recoil. In complete disregard for his safety, Sgt. Davis loaded and fired 3 more shells into the enemy.
Disregarding his extensive injuries and his inability to swim, Sgt. Davis picked up an air mattress and struck out across the deep river to rescue 3 wounded comrades on the far side. Upon reaching the 3 wounded men, he stood upright and fired into the dense vegetation to prevent the Viet Cong from advancing. While the most seriously wounded soldier was helped across the river, Sgt. Davis protected the 2 remaining casualties until he could pull them across the river to the fire support base.
Though suffering from painful wounds, he refused medical attention, joining another howitzer crew which fired at the large Viet Cong force until it broke contact and fled. Sgt. Davis' extraordinary heroism, at the risk of his life, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the U.S. Army.
It bears noting that Sammy was just 21 years old. Sammy says, "I didn't do anything heroric. I just did my job." If you let the YouTube page continue to unspool the other stories of these men, it is a refrain you will hear over and over.




If by chance you ever come to Indianapolis, give yourself an hour or so to visit the Medal of Honor Memorial along the banks of the canal downtown. Sammy's story is there, along with all of the names and a few stories of the 3,514 of his fellow recipients since the Medal's creation in 1861.

But as amazing and heroic and tragic and heartbreaking as those histories are, soldiers, sailors, and airmen don't always receive big impressive medals before or after they don't make it home. Most of them don't, and their stories don't always get memorialized. For every one we hear about are hundreds we never do. They have families and histories that need to be remembered too, beyond just a name on a forgotten stone in a grassy field somewhere nobody visits very often. Even on a special holiday just for them.

Don't forget why you have today off.