What Is Freemasonry all about?
Freemasonry is one of the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal, and charitable organisations. Its roots lie in the traditions and ceremonies of the medieval stonemasons who built our cathedrals and castles. Some rituals are still celebrated today.
Defining what Freemasonry is about is a topic that can be answered in a few words or thousands. The short answer is;
A beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.
Traditionally, Masons Lodges were set up to teach Operative masons about being good stonemasons and decent people. These days, most members are not actual stonemasons. We are known as Free and Accepted or Speculative Masons and so the tools and practices of a mason are applied to a man’s actions and morals.
You can scroll through all the questions one at a time or click the link to specific items of interest. You might also like to read our Introduction Booklet;
17 Questions About Freemasonry
If you still have questions, please do get in touch via our Contact page.
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a society that seeks to promote decency, honesty, respect, and understanding. It aims to “make good men better” and to raise money for charities and good causes.
Groups, known as Lodges, meet on a regular basis throughout the year and perform what are (somewhat archaically) known as rituals. These are very much like amateur dramatics plays, with different people playing different parts. Each person has a set of lines to speak and actions to perform.
A formal Lodge meeting may last 2 hours or more. During these meetings, younger Masons get to learn about the Craft and understand the importance of being a person of good character. Although the rituals were devised hundreds of years ago, they are still as true and pertinent today as they have always been.
Why Become A Freemason?
Freemasonry means different things to different people and everyone has their own reasons for joining. For most, it is one (or more) of the following reasons;
- To carry on an ancient tradition
- To join a new social circle or meet people in a new area
- Because you have an interest in history and allegory
- To carry on a family tradition
- It was recommended by a friend or work colleague
- To challenge yourself to learn new things
- To give some of your time to help local causes and charities
While people join for all sorts of reasons, they stay for one reason – the other people they meet. It’s the camaraderie, the Brotherly nature of Freemasonry, that is its biggest asset.
Whatever your reason for joining, you will find it a fun and rewarding thing to do.
Why Is It Hard To Find Information About Masonic Ceremonies?
By keeping much of what goes on in a Lodge meeting out of the public domain (as far as possible), members get the best enjoyment out of the various meetings and ceremonies that take place. Since they experience them for the first time, as it is happening, and do not know in advance what to expect.
Freemasonry is a journey. Just as you wouldn’t want to know how a book or a film ends before you start reading or watching, it’s better if members don’t know what is going to happen – some of the time.
It would also be rather overwhelming if everything were available at once. By revealing only a part of the story at a time it keeps people interested and keen to know more. Perhaps more importantly, it also gives newer Masons the time to think about and understand each stage as it comes along.
And it’s not just newer Masons that go into things without knowing what will happen. When someone is nominated to take on the role of Worshipful Master – the most senior position in a Lodge – they are unaware of the ceremony that they will go through until they are actually in it.
What’s With All The Strange Titles Like Worshipful Master?
As we’ve mentioned, the ceremonies are like plays. People take on the role of a particular character within that play, the titles are the names of the roles that we take on. There are numerous different parts within the Lodge, with Worshipful Master being at the top – but you’ll have to join us to find out more about the others!
Other titles are fairly common – each Lodge has a secretary and a treasurer for example. Lodges also have a Membership officer and a Mentor.
And Do You Dress Up In Strange Outfits?
We do dress up a bit.
Meetings are formal and attendees dress accordingly. This means business suits, morning suits, or dinner suits depending on the Lodge. There are certain ceremonial collars that are worn by members to denote the role they have, and all members wear white gloves.
Members also wear an apron as recognition of the traditional leather aprons worn by stonemasons. The design of the apron varies depending on rank and office. The aprons also vary between traditional Craft Lodges and the side orders of Freemasonry.
What Are The Side Orders Of Freemasonry?
Everyone starts off learning the basics of Freemasonry in a Craft Lodge. Here, there are three levels (known as degrees) that you progress through. Once you complete the third degree and become a Master Mason, other areas (known as side orders) may become available.
These include Mark Masonry, Royal Arch, Royal Ark Mariners, Knights Templar, Rose Croix and dozens of others. You can choose to join any of these or just stay with Craft Freemasonry – depending on what interests you and how much time you have.
Speaking of Side Orders, I Here There Is A Lot Of Eating Involved Too
After every formal Lodge meeting, the members (referred to as Brethren) retire to enjoy a meal together known as the Festive Board. This is less formal than the main meeting. It’s an excellent opportunity to get to know your fellow Freemasons socially over some nice food and a glass or two!
The meal is usually restricted to those that attended the Lodge meeting. From time to time a Lodge may decide to hold a ‘White Table’ event where partners and friends of the Brethren are also invited to dine and meet.
Can Women Be Freemasons?
Yes, they can, there are two separate organisations that promote and oversee women’s Freemasonry.
While UGLE presides over the male Lodges, The Order of Women Freemasons (OWF) and Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF) preside of lodges specifically for women. They follow a very similar structure and progression, and still refer to each other as Brothers.
Is Freemasonry Competitive?
Not really. You are only asked to do the best you can (if you have a role in the ceremony) so you are only really competing with yourself.
Time taken to progress through the ranks varies depending on how many members a lodge has. In a large Lodge it may take a little longer to move up than in a small lodge. So it’s possibly better to join a small friendly Lodge like Oak Tree!
How Do I Progress In Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is a journey – both actually and spiritually. When you are initiated you become an Entered Apprentice, this is the first degree of Freemasonry. After learning a little more about the Craft you may be passed to the second degree and be known as a Fellow Craft Freemason.
After a little more time and learning, you will (hopefully) be raised to the third degree and can call yourself a Master Mason.
As well as the three degrees of Freemasonry, there are various roles within the Lodge. You will be asked to take on one of these when the time is right and a position becomes available. These roles also have a hierarchy so you would most likely start with the most junior position and then move up in stages over time. This is known as Progression.
Each role has a part to play in the ceremonies so you will feel involved from the beginning. Following the Progression you will get to know each of the key roles in the Lodge and, ultimately, become the Worshipful Master.
Does Freemasonry Take A Lot Of Time?
Only if you let it – you only do as much as you want to.
As you progress, the more senior roles have a larger part to play in the ceremonies which means more to learn. Make sure you understand that before agreeing to take on a role.
Most Lodges meet 4 or 5 times a year. In the lead-up to the meetings, there are Lodges of Instruction (LoI’s) where members rehearse the parts they have been asked to play. This ensures that everything goes smoothly on the night. The number of LoI’s varies between Lodges.
At Oak Tree we meet formally four times a year; in September, December, January, and April. We hold twice-monthly LoI’s from September through to May. There are no meetings or LoI’s in June, July, or August. As a newer Mason, you may not need to attend all the LoI’s depending on what is being rehearsed.
The impact of Covid has seen lots of Masonic sessions set up on ‘Zoom’ meetings. Exactly what happens when we return to ‘normal’ remains to be seen. But I would expect many of these sessions to continue – either from a social or learning standpoint.
What About The Goat?
Surely you mean the sheep!
There’s a lot of rumour and nonsense surrounding the various ceremonies. Obviously, we can’t say too much here except that everyone who becomes a Freemason goes through the same ceremonies. No matter who you are – including lots of famous people and even Royalty (see our picture gallery) – everyone is treated the same.
As has already been mentioned, we are a society that is based on promoting moral and social virtue. We aim to inculcate Brotherly love, respect, and truth. So that should tell you a bit about what the ceremonies are likely to be and what they are unlikely to be.
Do I Need To Know Someone In A Lodge To Be Able To Join?
In the past, the traditional method of getting into a Lodge was to be invited by someone you knew. This stipulation has been relaxed in recent years. These days it is perfectly acceptable for prospective candidates to approach a Lodge or the Provincial team and express an interest in joining.
What remains important is that anyone who joins a Lodge is of good character, will contribute, and is looking to join for the right reasons.
What normally happens then, is that you will meet with a couple of the more senior members informally – perhaps at a coffee shop or a pub. They will talk with you about Freemasonry to make sure you understand what you’re getting involved in. From there, there may be a second meeting with a few more members of the Lodge before your application is considered.
Any application, whether through recommendation or enquiry, will then be put to all members of a Lodge as part of a Lodge meeting and members will vote, in confidence, on whether to accept or reject your application.
Do People Join To Get Favours From Other Masons?
One of the fundamental tenets of Masonry is that it is not a ‘clique’ where you ask for or expect, favours or preferential treatment from others.
Don’t join if you are only doing so for personal gain.
It All Sounds A Bit Religious To Me, Is It?
Not directly. Another of the golden rules of Freemasonry is to abstain from all topics of religious (and political) discussion. Different people have different beliefs and all views are equally respected.
We are not connected in any way with any religion. However to become a Mason we ask that you believe in a supreme being of some sort. That may be a God as part of traditional religion, or it may be your own personal (and private) belief.
Similarly, Freemasonry as a body, will never express a view on politics or state policy. The discussion of politics at Masonic meetings has always been prohibited.
What Are The Costs?
There is an annual membership fee – known as dues – which varies slightly from Lodge to Lodge but is around £130 per year. For this, you receive a quarterly magazine from UGLE and possibly something similar from your Province.
If you choose to dine at the Festive Board, again costs vary from Lodge to Lodge but expect to pay £30-£40 including drinks.
Charity plays a big part in Freemasonry and at all meetings and at the Festive Board there are opportunities to donate. At Oak Tree, we have a raffle at every Festive Board with a chance to win some nice prizes like bottles of wine, chocolates, or the ever-popular homemade cake.
I Want To Know More, What Do I Do Next?
The easiest thing to do is to send us a message through our Contact Page.
Someone from the Lodge will be in touch for a chat and to maybe arrange a face-to-face meeting with some of the members.
If you’ve got this far through the FAQs, you’ll have a reasonable understanding of what we’re about and you will know in your own mind why you want to join.
We look forward to hearing from you and having you join our friendly Lodge.