"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Tuesday, February 08, 2022

Grand College of Rites Offers Bonus Book: 'Burlesque Degrees'

by Christopher Hodapp
The Grand College of Rites of the United States of America is a regular Masonic body that is dedicated to preserving the history and rituals of defunct and inactive Masonic orders. Formally organized in 1932, the Grand College of Rites publishes an annual volume known as Collectanea which contains reprinted rituals of various officially extinct organizations deposited within its archives. The College and its members agree that these rituals are published and copyrighted strictly for the purpose of research and preservation, and are not to be worked or performed. Over the last couple of years, for example, Collectanea has been featuring the degrees of the Cerneau Rite system, which caused more than its share of excitement in the 1800s when it began to spread throughout the northeastern states. (Still to this day, the Tyler's Oath administered to visitors in Pennsylvania specifically requires sojourning Masons to swear they are not members of a Cerneau lodge and have not had the degrees of the Cerneau Rite conferred on them! Talk about holding a grudge.)

But the book that came this week is actually something quite special, and not the usual sort of obscure esoteric rituals the College has traditionally published in the past. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic precautions in the DC area last year, the 2021 Masonic Week was canceled. In light of this, Most Illustrious Duane L. Vaught, KGC, the current Grand Chancellor of the College, was struck by the notion of offering a special bonus book to the members that features some lighter-hearted levity than the usual offering of serious degrees.

And so, this volume of "Burlesque Degrees" is being provided as a Bonus Book to all 2020 and 2021 dues-paying members as a way of saying thank you for their continuing support of the mission of the College throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During the Golden Age of Fraternalism, quite literally hundreds of fraternal groups proliferated. Most tried to be solemn in nature, with degrees to impart wise and serious truths. But others were created as unofficial 'side degrees' to provide an entertaining night for members, or as one pamphlet put it, "a comic ceremony designed to cure the blues and fill the treasury." 

The fraternal groups included in this collection are truly obscure and deliberately comic: The Haymakers, the Munchers of Hard Tack, the Sublime Order of Arabian Knights, Uncle Sam's Eagles, the Up-To-Date Order of Goosie Girls, the Grand and Noble Order of Button Busters, and more.

These types of side degrees sometimes became quite elaborate and required special props as part of the gags involved. DeMoulin Brothers in Greenville, Illinois published an enormous catalog of goofy (and occasionally dangerous) props for side degrees, and became known as "the goat factory" because of the wide variety of various mechanical bucking goats they manufactured. The C.E. Ward Company in New London, Ohio also published a catalog strictly for "burlesque goods," and several pages of their offerings are included at the end of this volume.

Annual dues in the GCR is a paltry $20. If you are a current dues-paying member who was NOT paid up in 2020 or 2021 - you can contact the Grand Registrar at grand.registrar@grandcollegeofrites.org for purchase information for this bonus book.

Meanwhile, the regular 2021 edition of Collectanea will conclude the series of the Cerneau Rite (30° - 32°) is at the printers now and will ship very soon.

Any Master Mason holding membership and in good standing in a regular symbolic lodge recognized by a majority of grand lodges of Freemasonry in the United States may petition for membership as a Fellow in the Grand College of Rites. (click here for a petition)


  1. Gently, here in the GL of Pennsylvania, the question of Cerneau Rite membership is raised in the Oath of Examination, rather than a Tyler's Oath (the Tyler isn't required for the examination), and the examinee is asked to swear that he is also not a member of any other clandestine body. That said, though, the GCR does some very interesting work and they have a large library, so if you join and find that they have already published something of interest, you can get a back issue.

  2. Why do I have problems with Masonic Bodies telling people what they can study and or practice ? I have spent alot of time working with what is called the "BITE" Model for authoritarian Control. been quite reluctant to actually apply the BITE Model to Freemasonry, but honestly lately, with all the "Freemasonic " kurfuffle from authoritarianism, overly big headed "Officers and Grand Officers, pitching crap at their weaker members, and past Officers. American Freemasonry, I believe , is shooting itself in its feet where membership retention . I have so many questions . but other than " The Big Giant Head" workers of the past, seeking to control what is Prohibited, without any remotely Actually Reasoned answers, just the hopefully the boot on the Intellectual and Personal Spiritual Practice neck of those who refuse to wear blinders and to be told what to put in ones mind, and what to act upon or incorporate into their spiritual Attainments. Can someone please show me where other than derogatory epithets from way too long ago , Taking part in some other "Orders" rituals , dirties and sullies a person who is focused on Their Quest for Greater Light and Knowledge , which cannot be achieved by blinders, Being Stiffnecked and refusing to Look Research and even as Paul would say, "Prove All Things- hold Fast That which is Good" . I just know this is not going to turn out good, so if you wanna chuck this Chris I get it.

    1. James: You may as well ask why you should not reprint anything with an active copyright, whether it is Masonic or not. One answer is: You will probably end up, first, getting a phone call from them, asking you to cease and desist; and if you continue to violate their copyright, you will get a call from their lawyer. Either you comply, or it is all downhill from there.

  3. James, you make some good points. Personally, whenever I find myself in a position of Masonic office I find two things that help me to stay humble and grateful:

    1. Is the belief that "man proposes and G_d disposes".

    2. The story of the Apprentice Pillar at Rosslyn Chapel.


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