Monday, December 31, 2012

‘The new AQC is here!’

Courtesy Aspen Film Society

Like practically everything in the world of Masonic research publishing, you never know exactly when to expect it, but evidently the new edition of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum is hitting mailboxes in the United States now.

AQC is the annual book of transactions of Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076 in London, the first Masonic lodge of research ever chartered, having received its warrant from the United Grand Lodge of England in 1884. What we have now is Volume 124, representing the lodge’s output for the year 2011. Receipt of this book each year is the principal benefit of membership in the Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle—the corporate side of the lodge’s endeavors—which unites Masons from all over the globe in the joy of advancing in Masonic knowledge.

To join QCCC, click here. (Membership in QC2076 itself is exclusive, but QCCC members who are regular/recognized Masons may attend the meetings of the lodge.)

Contents of this edition include:

  • “The Little Man,” a Masonic biography of Bro. T.N. Cranstoun-Day, with a look at early Freemasonry in South Africa – the inaugural paper by the Worshipful Master, Bro. Thomas V. Webb.
  • “Early 17th Century Ritual: Ben Jonson and His Circle” by Bro. John Acaster. (I turned to this one first, having met John a few times over the years.)
  • “Thomas Dunckerley: A True Son of Adam” by Susan Mitchell Sommers. I assume it is part of, or at least sidebar to, her eye-opening new book titled Thomas Dunckerley and English Freemasonry, a most welcome fresh look at the highly influential figure in early Masonry. Look for my book review in The Journal of the Masonic Society soon.
  • “Opposition to Freemasonry in 18th Century France and the Lettre et Consultation of 1748” by Michael Taylor.

And there is a lot more. Check it out. Support your local research lodge. Bring informed lecturers to your lodges. Show your brethren that there is more to Freemasonry than feting the VIPs and showing the Stewards when to ground their rods. There is culture. There is history. There are things tangible and intangible that are worth handing down to future generations.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

‘Symbol in the window’

Apropos of nothing, and caught only by happenstance, I share a quick look at a storefront display window on Bleecker near Sixth Avenue.

Native Leather has been selling quality leather goods for forty years. Jackets, luggage and other bags, hats, belts – lots of belts – guitar straps, wallets, and all kinds of other goods of quality hides and skilled craftsmanship are available here. About twenty years ago, I once almost ventured to buy a jacket here, but luckily realized I wasn’t cool enough to wear it. Anyway, you know how Masonic symbols leap out and grab your eye when you least expect it? I’m walking past in the dark of night while the shop is closed and gated shut, and my head is turned to face a Masonic Knights Templar sword in the window.

The display window actually is decorated with a number of swords to create some kind of theme. I don’t know what that might be, but there were other swords standing and leaning here and there. The kind of swords you see hawked on television at three in the morning. “440 stainless!” Faux medieval, samurai, et al. But anyway, front and center, there is the KT Sir Knight sword.

I approached this window to see what else it had going for it, and I see a collection of pocket knives.

That blue one in the center has the Square and Compasses on it. I couldn’t get a clear photo because it was too dark.

If you have a minute, click here and read about some other Masonic paraphernalia I spotted in a shop window around the corner on another day.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

‘BOTA study group’

Among the many avenues for the study of Western Esoteric Traditions there is one named Builders of the Adytum that marries a peculiar form of Kabbalah study to the symbols found on a particular deck of tarot cards. I’ve had a nagging interest in BOTA since the days of the Knights of the North, but never have gotten around to it. A New York City study group has been doing its thing at Masonic Hall, one Saturday morning a month, for a long time, but again, it’s not easy for me to be in Manhattan on Saturday mornings. And I do have my reservations about it.

BOTA calls Kabbalah the “Holy Qabalah,” which to me raises a question, and they call their tarot deck the “Sacred Tarot.” This simply may be a device to justify BOTA’s incorporation as a non-profit, tax-exempt, etc. religious organization, or it may be something contextual that would prohibit me from taking it seriously. I’m not suspicious of anything, y’understand, but this is the kind of thing I notice. Anyway, I thought it was time to mention them on The Magpie. Maybe this will motivate me to attend.

The group will meet this Saturday, the 22nd, at 10 a.m. in the Chapter Room on the 12th floor of Masonic Hall at 71 West 23rd Street. I don’t know if they timed this for the solstice, but the card to be examined that morning is The Sun.

That particular deck of tarot cards of BOTA’s was first published by Paul Foster Case, a Freemason who founded this group early in the last century. He is the one credited with matching the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet to the 22 major trump cards of tarot. I do not recommend venturing into Manhattan on the last Saturday before Christmas, but maybe I’ll see you there.

From BOTA’s website:

Builders of the Adytum is a religious organization dedicated to spiritual attunement through study, practice and worship in the Tradition of the Western Mysteries. Spiritual aspirants participate through the B.O.T.A. lesson instructions. Wherever they may be geographically, they actively participate in mystical-esoteric meditations that unify them into a powerful metaphysical body of enlightened worship. There is no charge for any instructions or other benefits B.O.T.A. offers its dues paying members. The Order’s material needs are met by membership dues and donations.

Adytum is the Greek word for ‘Inner Shrine’ or Holy of Holies. Like Jesus, who many believe was trained in Qabalah, members of the Order aspire to build the Inner Temple, to construct the Holy of Holies within. Form and awareness evolve simultaneously. Consequently, as evolution unfolds, all men and women will ultimately be possessed of higher levels of consciousness. Almost incomprehensible periods of time elapse before such changes occur. Yet acceleration is possible. Humanity is endowed with mental and physical faculties which can be trained to speed up the evolutionary process. This cultural forcing process has been the work of the Mystery Schools for many centuries. Higher Consciousness, Illumination, can be attained by learning theory and testing it in the rigors of daily life.

These instructions and practical secrets constitute what is known as Ageless Wisdom. It is called ‘Ageless’ because it is not susceptible to the mutations of time. Ageless Wisdom is not primarily a product of man’s thinking. It is “written by God upon the face of nature,” and is always there for men and women of all epochs to read. Builders of the Adytum is an authentic Mystery School in the Western Tradition. Its teachings are based on the Holy Qabalah and the Sacred Tarot, and have been handed down from one group of initiates to another since ancient times. However, B.O.T.A. does not claim value on the grounds of being old, but because its instructions have met the tests of centuries of practical application. People of all faiths are welcome to study the teachings of this Order. B.O.T.A. recognizes Qabalah as the root of Judaism and Christianity. The Order’s ultimate purpose is to hasten the true Brotherhood of mankind and to make manifest the truth that love is the only real power in the universe.

Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) is a religious non-profit, tax-exempt, California Corporation.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

‘The Council degrees at NYC’


Click on the image to view it completely.

I haven’t heard Piers speak on the degrees of the Council Princes of Jerusalem, so it’s about time I did. You too. Make your reservations with Secretary John.

(Thanks to Bro. Michael for the heads up.)

‘Personal best’

Alas, Magpie tobacco is no more.
Undoubtedly the hot topic of conversation in New Jersey Masonic circles this month is this newfangled pipe club that all the kids are talking about. The Craftsmen’s Calumet Club hasn’t even met for the first time yet, and already there’s so much buzz everyone thinks their cell phones are on the fritz.

Saturday was the occasion of the 2012 Northeast Regional Pipe Smoking Contest at Peekskill, New York. There was a lot more to the day than the contest, which actually didn’t begin until after a hearty repast and hours of mingling, buying, selling, trading – oh yeah, and smoking. This took place inside the factory where Kaywoodie pipes are manufactured. I suppose Kaywoodie is to pipes what Ford is to automobiles: They’re not necessarily the most exotic or expensive on the market, but they have stood the test of time by setting the standards other manufacturers emulate, while maintaining quality and affordability for the consumer. Among my own modest pipe collection, there is one Kaywoodie I bought about a decade ago; it has been a favorite since day one, and has been smoked more often than some of the others ever will be.

The Craftsmen’s Calumet Club was entered in the contest with a third of our membership present to take part. I am that third. If you’re not familiar with pipe smoking contests, the goal is not to smoke as many pipes as possible, but to smoke a single pipe under various restrictions for the longest duration. In American contests you typically see winners clocking in at an hour and change. Saturday’s winner, named Bill Mason, kept his tobacco burning for 65 minutes and some odd seconds. (In European contests, there are guys who keep their pipes lit for more than three hours. This is due to intense concentration and technique on the part of the serious competitors, which frankly you don’t see in the United States because Americans are too drawn to chatting and having fun, which makes more sense to me.)

Not only was this my first attempt in a pipe smoking contests, but it also was my very first attempt at smoking for longevity. Smoking is purely for pleasure, so struggling to stay lit on a single match simply is not a factor when I set gentle flame to fragrant leaf. In a rigidly timed format, the contestants are given identical briar pipes, identical samples of a tobacco, identical tampers, and two identical wooden matches. The competitors are given five minutes to prepare their tobacco for smoking, and to pack their bowls. Then two minutes are allotted for lighting up; with the two matches, each smoker first lights for charring, and then uses the second match to actually light his pipe for smoking. Once lit, you have to keep it lit.

The pipe was a Kaywoodie straight panel with sandblast finish. The tobacco was exactly one bowl of Chief Catoonah Tobacconists’ Princes Street Mixture, which happens to be the winner of the 2012 John Cotton Throwdown in Chicago. The tampers were four-inch sections of half-inch dowel – seriously no frills, and pointedly no tools. And the matches were just two regular wooden matches.

I had no idea how I’d perform, but I figured a best possible showing would last between five and eight minutes. Turns out I smoked for 33 minutes and 20 seconds, making for a tenth place finish among 54 contestants. I’m pretty happy with this personal best, which I probably never will equal or surpass. It was a lot of fun. I met some very nice people, which is pretty much the only kind of people one finds in pipe clubs and pipe events. Pipe smoking mellows you. There were prizes for all contestants, and since I ranked tenth I was able to choose one of the better offerings, which was a tin of McClelland Black Sea Sokhoum from 2008. I have been a fan of their Grand Orientals line for a number of years, and I look forward to trying this one.

Anyway, this is just a longwinded announcement to publicize the Craftsmen’s Calumet Club. All Freemasons are welcome to join, no matter how much experience one may have in pipe smoking. Check out our Faceypage. We’ll organize a first meet-up pretty soon.

Monday, December 10, 2012

‘Deveney at the Valley’

I had intended to forward this announcement to you last month, but my usual lack of organization always sabotages me, but then the event was postponed a week anyway. This lecture will take place Tuesday night. I’m committed to my own Valley’s business meeting, so I cannot be there, but you should get there...and bring a brother!

The Valley of New York City
Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry

Presents a Brother Bring a Brother Evening
With a Lecture by RW John Patrick Deveney, Author

Introduction by RW Thomas Savini, Executive Director
Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library

Tuesday, December 11 at 8 p.m.

Masonic Hall
71 W. 23rd Street, New York City
Lodge Room To Be Announced

Saturday, November 24, 2012

‘Civil War Lodge of Research’

The following is an announcement from the lodge released this afternoon:

One week until our Stated Communication in Leesburg, Virginia, and here is information from W.M. Laing about events and activities:

Senior Warden Mike has informed me that he will not be able to proceed to the East [but] is interested in continuing in the officer line. As a result, I will be nominated for another term as Worshipful Master of our lodge. There are a few offices still vacant for 2013. We need some good, dedicated Brothers to step forward. Contact me.

I chose Leesburg because of its proximity to Sharpsburg, Maryland. The annual Memorial Illumination will be held on the night of December 1, when 23,000 candles—one for each casualty of the single day Battle of Antietam—are placed on the battlefield. I encourage you to see this impressive and inspiring display. Gates open at 6 p.m., but I recommend being in the vehicle line no later than five. The line forms on the westbound shoulder of Maryland Route 34. From there, we will have dinner at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, beautifully decorated for the holidays.

We will have our election and Installation of Officers at the December Communication. Brothers Paul Barrass and Mike Haynes from Great Britain will present a fully costumed presentation titled “Waterloo: The Masonic Battle.” Open to members and guests. I can’t wait to see it!

Here is the itinerary for the weekend:

Friday, November 30

6:30 p.m. - Dinner at Vintage 50 Restaurant, 50 Catoctin Street NE #100, Leesburg, Virginia.

Saturday, December 1

10 a.m. - Stated Communication at Olive Branch Lodge No. 114, at 108 Cornwell Street NE in Leesburg, Virginia.

Noon - Lunch.

1 p.m. - Installation and program.

6 p.m. - Driving tour of Memorial Illumination at Antietam.

7:30 p.m. - Dinner at Bavarian Inn, at 164 Shepherd Grade Road in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Civil War Lodge of Research uncovers and presents factual data pertaining where the histories of Freemasonry and the U.S. Civil War intersect. It meets several times a year in various locations of interest. Click here for membership information.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

‘Storage Wars: Heredom’

Courtesy A&E
Ms. Jenny Grumbles, star of A&E’s Storage Wars: Texas series.

Cooped up inside the house again because of another crazy storm, this one dumping some snow on us—and with Phil Lesh performing down the street to boot—I reluctantly turn on the television, and find a new episode of the Storage Wars: Texas series. One of the bidders, the pretty blonde named Jenny, acquires a storage locker containing a number of items of Masonic interest.

The locker catches her eye thanks to an inventory tag on the rear of a chest of drawers that reads MASONIC HOME. Not really knowing what that means, she quickly notices that this and the other pieces of furniture are of a quality that she believes she can sell at a profit. So she bids on, wins, and dubs it her Masonic locker. Going through the drawers looking for loot, she finds a 32° black cap which, of course, she immediately puts on. Then, out comes a Most Wise Master’s collar, with jewel, similar to those shown at right. Finally, and with some fanfare, she produces a jewel box, and opens it to reveal a gold ring with Masonic symbols all over it and a diamond too.

She visits Plano Lodge No. 768 and consults with two brethren who explain the significance of the regalia, and even offer approximate values. It is a funny segment with two older Masons rattling off Masonic jargon that only baffles the young lady even more. Asked about secrets, the two tell her the big secret in Masonry is that there are no secrets. (Don’t get me started.) The cap was put very optimistically at $50, if a buyer can be had. Then, using a copy of Jim Tresner’s Vested in Glory, they explain the purpose of distinct regalia for the Chapter of Rose Croix and its presiding officer. The Rose Croix regalia was valued at about $100, which isn’t too far from what is asked for such pieces on eBay. The ring, a Master Mason’s ring, with diamond, was said to be worth $1,100.

What these Storage Wars series never explain is how these lockers become available. I bet plenty of them are abandoned by individuals who do not pay their rents, but for sure others are auctioned off after the tenants die. I cannot help but wonder about the brother who rented this locker. I remember years ago reading about the Texas Masonic Home and School being closed after going bankrupt, which might be the source of the furniture. As I recall, the institution lost its money as an investor in Enron.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

‘Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund’

As we say in Rose Croix, faith is, in part, “a modest and unassuming confidence that, if we are resolute, we shall overcome all difficulties in everyday life.” And of hope, that it is “the desire for a better life” that we await with patience as “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.” And charity? It “means more—much more—than the giving of alms.”

And that is true, but this is the time for material contributions to help, aid, and assist brother Masons and their families.

MW Bro. James E. Sullivan, Grand Master of Masons of the Grand Lodge of New York, has issued a statement including the following urgent information:

If you are able to provide any amount of financial assistance for our Masonic members and families in need, please make your check or money order payable to the Masonic Brotherhood Fund and earmark your check for the Special Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.

Your much appreciated donation to the Masonic Brotherhood Fund is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law. All checks should be mailed (or delivered) to:

Grand Lodge of New York
71 W. 23rd St.
New York, NY 10010-4149
Attn: Special Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund

As you may or may not know, lower Manhattan is experiencing a rash of electrical power failures as well as the disruption of many fundamental services, such as mail delivery and public transportation. Bearing this thought in mind, we ask that you delay making requests and/or donations until the middle of next week to avoid being caught up in the confusion.

In addition and apart from this effort, Mariners Lodge No. 67 is collecting funds in a way that allows you to give immediately. Click here, and you’ll see how easy it is.

I have not seen a Grand Lodge of New Jersey initiative announced yet, but I’m sure it is being devised, or maybe I missed it, and I’ll add it here when I have it.

UPDATE: November 5 - Bro. Nick at the Millennial Freemason Blog announces an effort underway in Minnesota to bring much needed supplies to New Jersey.

‘Craftsmen’s Calumet Club’

You are hereby invited to take part in a new venture for Freemasons in northern New Jersey and New York City: I’d like to see if I can get a pipe club going. The Faceypage here.

Just about the entirety of my own collection. Nothing exotic.

A purely fun, social, convivial group to meet and smoke, with an educational component as well, since we’ll learn from each other about the countless variations in pipes’ manufacture, design, shape, land of origin, etc.; and the truly inestimable varieties of tobaccos made for our enjoyment.

“To the Plains Indians,” states The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Signs and Symbols, the “calumet,” or pipe, and the act of pipe smoking were “part of a unifying ritual.”

“The tobacco used in the pipe is also a powerful magical substance originally intended for ritual use only,” the Encyclopedia continues. “The smoke rising from the pipe signifies a prayer traveling toward the gods, and symbolizes the sacred breath, source of all life. The fire that lights the pipe symbolizes the sun and the male element. The pipe itself is equivalent to the prayer that is offered up from it…. In addition, the bowl is described as an altar, and the stem, the passage of the breath extending from the human body.”

I don’t think this actually is a meer,
but you get the ‘idear.’
You can’t argue with that, so bring your Barlings, let’s see your Savinellis, carry your Kaywoodies, pack your Petersons, and don’t forget your Dunhills. No matter if you prefer briar billiards, calabashes, or clays, come one, come all! Someday we’ll all have fancy meerschaums with Masonic symbols carved into ’em.

Thus far, it’s only Bro. Martin from New Jersey’s St. John’s No. 1 and myself, but you have to start somewhere. I think I can get Bro. Cory to come along. If we grow a little and function somewhat regularly, we might even want to affiliate with the United Pipe Clubs of America, which could help us land guest speakers from the companies that manufacture and sell pipes and tobaccos which, believe me, is a lot of fun. Also, UPCA membership would put us in fraternity with other pipe clubs.

My own pipe passion—distinct from my love of cigars—began in 1996, when I started the first of two part-time stints in the employ of the great Lew Rothman in his flagship store. (Fond memories because Lew has no love for either pipes or pipe smokers, resulting in ample colorful commentary.) Between then and 2008, when I concluded my second tenure there, I accumulated a modest collection of simple briars, with a couple of clays, shown in the photo above. Basically, I’d blow my Christmas bonus on pipes every year.

The health benefits of pipe smoking are well documented and too numerous to list here. I’ll only attest to the simple enjoyment of it all: experimenting with unfamiliar blends of tobacco; making your own mixtures; settling on the one or more that are perfect for you; caring for pipes; aging tobaccos; complementing tobaccos with the best beverages; pursuing your own “holy grail” of pipes among either the new or estate pipe markets; and on and on.

To get involved, pull me aside next time you see me, or send an e-mail, or leave a note (not for publication) in the comments section below, and we shall take it from there.

Below are some photos I shot not too long ago at the New York Pipe Club Show, which is hosted in Newark at least once a year. Used to be every March and September, then they moved it around. As far as I know, the club has not yet scheduled an upcoming show, but I am sure it will.

Pipe shows are wonderful events. Here is just part of one table
of Ardor pipes, a respected maker in Italy.

As above: Pelican, the official tobacco of Rose Croix Masonry!
So below: Hermit’s Mystic blend, the tobacco of tarot.
(Not sure if it is available anymore.)

Click to enlarge. Not easily found, perhaps intentionally, is Esoterica Tobacciana.
Ask. Seek. Knock. It is worth finding.

Quintessence. What can be said?

I think he’s on The Step!

There are even pipes for Hermeticists!

‘Chambre sans frontières’

In Freemasonry, particularly its French traditions, there is what’s called the Chamber of Reflection, which is a small room outfitted with a number of symbols that recall mortality, regeneration, and the essence of being. The aspirant awaiting his possible initiation into the Craft is conducted inside, and is given time to contemplate existential matters free of any conceivable distraction, save for whatever may emanate from his own heart and mind. His task is to quell even that.

About twelve hours ago, electricity and heat were restored to my home, only six days after Sandy’s visit. Whether she indeed was a hurricane or not seems to be disputed, but I leave that to meteorologists and insurance companies. In the calmness that followed the devastation, thousands of people were left in a world without necessities (shelter, food, potable water, etc.), and millions of lucky ones like myself were robbed of our creature comforts. I’m not even well equipped in that department. My television, which I rarely use, is a 25-year-old Sylvania. My computer is a four-year-old Mac. I have no smart phone, tablet, laptop, or any other modern portable communications device aside from my old LG cell phone that cannot open any of the attachments Lindez or Davenport send me.

So during a dark, cold, and mostly immobile existence of 115 hours of decreasing daylight without lights, heat, and passable streets, I enjoyed the luxury of not checking e-mail, perusing status updates, or surfing either web or channels. Light was provided only by a couple of flashlights and the beeswax votives I purchase in bulk for “ezzo-deric” personal work. Mass media flowed in one direction only, via a battery powered Bush clock radio (with an analog face!) I bought in London in 1990.

There was darkness, but it was darkness visible; my home was cold, but still was my home; I sat in solitude, but in league with millions; the week was interminable, and turned out to have been too brief.

Of time, the Freemason and poet Khalil Gibran writes: “But if in your thought you must measure time into seasons, let each season encircle all the other seasons, and let today embrace the past with remembrance and the future with longing.”

The luxurious gift of a chamber of reflection without walls or sands of time was not lost on me, and I will not forget how it was delivered or the prices paid by so many others for it.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

‘Postponed: ALR’


Due to the vicissitudes and inclemencies of the season, the meeting of The American Lodge of Research scheduled for tomorrow night has been canceled. Hopefully there will be a rescheduled date to announce soon.

‘Justice Robert H. Jackson Lodge of Research’

Justice Robert H. Jackson Lodge of Research will meet Thursday at Mount Moriah Lodge near Jamestown, New York for its fall meeting, including the election of officers. Lodge opens at 6 p.m.

Jamestown is much closer to Cleveland, Ohio than it is to Manhattan, so the Magpie Mason will have to miss this meeting. Mount Moriah Lodge is located on the Baker Street Extension just outside of Jamestown. The brethren meet three times per year, in spring, fall, and winter, in various locations about the district, says Worshipful Master John Siggins. The lodge publishes its papers also.

On Thursday, Bro. Tom Jordan, of Sylvan Lodge and a Professor of Geology at Duquesne University and the University of Buffalo, will present a program of Masonic interest. To make your reservations, contact W. Siggins at hondo(at) Dinner will be served, and the brethren are encouraged to bring other Masons with them.

‘Second Circle plans’

The Masonic Society’s New Jersey Second Circle will not host a Feast of Saint Andrew next month, as we have done the past two years on November 30, to allow some slack in the cabletow so our brethren might attend the Grand Lodge of New Jersey’s Feast of Saint John the following night instead. Our Second Circle will sit tight through the end of the year, allowing the hectic holidays and Installations to pass, and will get together in early 2013. Plans TBA.

But about this Feast of Saint John: The guest speaker will be Bro. Robert L.D. Cooper, curator of the Grand Lodge of Scotland’s museum, and a knowledgeable debunker of Templar myths and legends. I have no idea what he will say from the podium on the evening of Saturday, December 1, but I’ll be there to hear. I have not attended one of these dinners since Hodapp was the speaker, and that was about five years ago, so I am very happy about this. I am trying to assemble a couple of tables worth of Masonic Society brethren. Tables can be booked for either eight or ten seats, so let me know if you’re interested, even if you’re not a member of The Masonic Society yet. Leave a note in the comments section below—not for publication—with your e-mail address, and I’ll get back to you.

And about Saint Andrew’s Day itself, I just heard Bro. Cliff Porter will be guest speaker at Atlas-Pythagoras Lodge No. 10 on Friday, November 30. Apprentices and Fellows are welcome. See you there too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

‘EA au français’

Here is another 2013 date to add to your calendars. (This falls during the window of the coming ninety days, so I don’t feel too shaken for advertising it already.)

The Empire State Building no doubt will be illuminated in the blue, white, and red of France’s Tricolour when L’Union Française No. 17 – this is J.J.J. Gourgas’ lodge – will confer the Entered Apprentice Degree, in ritual similar to that of Scottish Rite, and in French.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 6 p.m.
Masonic Hall
French Doric Room, tenth floor

The degree will begin at 6:45, after which no one will be admitted inside.

The Tenth Manhattan District is home to the lodges permitted to work Scottish Rite Craft degrees in French, Italian, and Spanish (and maybe other tongues). See you there.

Monday, October 22, 2012

‘A physical representation’


I feel like I’m the last one to have seen it, but just in case, let me bring to your attention the Grand Lodge of California’s excellent short film that was posted to YouTube two months ago. Titled Emblems of Innocence and Honor: The Masonic Apron, it runs just about ten minutes and does an excellent, credible job of explaining the evolution of the Masonic apron, thanks to interviews with Dr. Aimee Newell of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library in Lexington, Massachusetts; Bro. Adam Kendall, of the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry in San Francisco; and Bro. Patrick Craddock, proprietor of The Craftsman’s Apron.

The title of this edition of The Magpie Mason quotes Craddock. In the final minute of the video, he explains his role as a craftsman of bespoke Masonic regalia. “I want to create aprons that a brother says ‘This is me. This is a physical representation of my commitment to the Craft.’ ”

I guess there’s no sense reading about it when you can watch it–and I’ll spare you my obligatory rant about New Jersey Masonry, where no lodge or brother has the freedom to commission aprons that speak to individuality. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

‘A grand evening’


Wednesday night was the occasion of the public apron re-presentation for both RW J. Scott Nagel, District Deputy Grand Master of the First Manhattan District, and RW Jason Sheridan, Grand Director of Ceremonies, at Masonic Hall. St. John’s Lodge No. 1 specifically. Scores of guests, dozens of dignitaries, more than several speeches, and the main event itself made for a dizzyingly eventful evening.

Opening the historic George Washington Inaugural Bible before the start
of the public ceremony.

Posting the colors.

Jason, left, accepts his Commission from Deputy Grand Master Bill Thomas.

Scott, flanked by his wife and Grand Master James Sullivan,
accepts his Commission.

VW Piers Vaughan, Worshipful Master of St. John's,
presented Jason his jewel of office.

The Solomonic Chair of St. John's No. 1, AYM.

The gavel.

Friday, October 19, 2012

‘The KJV at A-P’

This just in:

Bro. Oscar Alleyne will speak at Atlas-Pythagoras Lodge tonight! Topic: the frontispiece of the first edition of the King James Bible from a Masonic perspective.

If you are not familiar with this famously symbolic page of early publishing, here it is:

But seriously, this should be an excellent presentation. If you want to prime your appetite a bit in anticipation, click here for some Magpie coverage of the KJV’s quadricentennial celebration.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

‘Keep the ClockWorks ticking’

The Cosmic Bicycle Theatre and The ClockWorks Puppetry Studios is the acclaimed venue of wondrous and spectacular sights and sounds that has enchanted audiences from Boston to Brooklyn for nearly a quarter of a century. It entertains children, enlightens adults, and even has a production titled The Alchemical Work! Our Masonic Brother Jonathan Cross, a.k.a. Jonny ClockWorks, is the creator and, uh, I shall say, master of it all.

And, yes, this is the same theater that partnered with Norah Jones a few months ago, setting experimental puppetry to the inspired songs of her latest album Little Broken Hearts. The collaboration, titled Theatre of Little Broken Hearts, was so successful as an integral attraction in the launch of the record, that a four-week run (of six shows per week) was produced back in Brooklyn over the summer.

The following is an appeal from Jonny Clockworks:

Dear Friends of The ClockWorks,

Thanks to the fantastic turn-out at the “Save The ClockWorks” edition of our Das WunderKammer - Puppet Kabarett, as well as generous donations from many of you, we have raised two-thirds of the funding needed, but we are still woefully short of our goal.

We still need a minimum of $4,000 to remain open past the end of this month. We have only until Monday, October 22 to raise these necessary funds. The sooner we make this goal, the sooner we can layout the plans of the rest of our season. Instead, we are hedging our bets, and figuring out how we could quickly save the art and equipment from our current home.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! Please consider making a donation TODAY. We have set up a PayPal account to receive your generous donations.

I promise to continue the fight, but I cannot do it alone. We are praying that we can resolve this quickly with your assistance in time to celebrate another Halloween at The ClockWorks. Thank you for your belief and support.

Sincerely Yours,

Jonathan Edward Cross
a.k.a. Jonny ClockWorks

Thursday, October 11, 2012

‘From East to West...someday’

I cannot promise I’ll ever be able to visit, but Western New York Lodge of Research No. 9007 is at labor in the Buffalo area, and in fact will celebrate its 30th anniversary on Saturday.

The brethren will salute the lodge’s founders and Past Masters at the Cheektowaga Masonic Center at 10 a.m. This tiled meeting will be followed by lunch at a local restaurant. All Master Masons are welcome.

Cheektowaga Masonic Center is located at 97 Lucid Drive in Buffalo.

For more information about the lodge, please contact Bro. Mark Robson at markrobson(at)

‘At home and on the road’

The American Lodge of Research will meet on Monday the 29th at Masonic Hall. Not our usual French Ionic Room, but the Colonial Room this time. The usual 8 p.m. Opening, but please join the brethren at six for a “no host” meal at Sagaponack, on 24th near Fifth Avenue. The paper to be presented this evening will be Bro. Conor Moran’s “Freemasonry and the Holocaust.”

And next month, on Saturday the 10th, the lodge will take it on the road to Liverpool, New York. That’s Lee Miller country. Way up north. Beatles’ hometown, etc., etc. This Special Communication will be convened at Masonic Hall, located at 608 Oswego Street for an Upstate Festive Board of Research! The paper to be presented will be the Worshipful Master’s “A Brief History of Freemasonry in India.” The cost per person will be $15.

(The Magpie Mason will be absent from this one. The 10th is a big Scottish Rite day in New Jersey, and I will be engaged there.)

Monday, October 8, 2012

‘Back to the Bowery’

Bust of Tompkins
at the church
Freemasonry is headed back to the Bowery this weekend.

Beginning the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s celebration of its bicentenary, the New York Council of Deliberation will re-dedicate the gravesite of Daniel D. Tompkins, the first Sovereign Grand Commander of the NMJ, on Saturday morning.

Click here for information about the site and a previous celebration of Tompkins.

The gravesite is located at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery, at 131 East 10th Street, at Second Avenue. The brethren will gather there at 11 a.m.

Any questions should be directed to Event Chairman Moises Gomez at gomez1rego(at)


If you define a vacation as the act of taking off several days (at least) from work, traveling a notable distance – and one outside your usual orbit – and settling in at one location (at least) for recreation and nothing but, then last week I took my first vacation since the summer of 1994. (Yeah. I know that’s 18 years.)

Provincetown, Massachusetts was my family’s vacation spot every August in the 1970s when I was a child, and it was there I returned for 72 hours of sightseeing, seafood dining, beer tasting, and cigar smoking. The sightseeing included visiting several places of Masonic interest right in the middle of town.

The first stop was obvious: Masonic Place, the address of King Hiram’s Lodge, chartered in 1795 by none other than Paul Revere, Grand Master.

In Provincetown, street signs can be found wherever.

Had I arrived a day earlier, I could have visited the lodge.

Every square foot on Commercial Street is valuable... and occupied. Retail shops, art galleries, inns, restaurants, and other entities are crammed into every possible lot, separated by a network of alleys, driveways, byways, snickelways, and paths. As you can see, King Hiram Lodge has retail space in its frontage, and there is a club in the rear. This Buddhist monk appeared by pure happenstance.

Constructed in the first decade of the 20th century, the Pilgrim Memorial Monument towers over Provincetown from its hilltop perch. Its construction began with a Masonic cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1907, and ended with a Masonic consecration in 1910.

The Monument stands 252 feet. On the way up, you will see dozens of markers placed by sponsoring societies, municipalities, and others who made construction of the landmark possible. Here is that of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

Also on the grounds of the Monument is the Provincetown Museum. Among the artifacts on display are ephemera concerning Masonry’s role in bringing the Monument to fruition. Here is the printed program for the cornerstone-laying ceremony of August 20, 1907.

A time capsule was enclosed in the Monument construction. Among its contents is a book of Grand Lodge proceedings from 1907.

An outdoor marker on the grounds of the Monument.

As above, so below.

While surveying the scenery from the top of the Monument, I spotted a cemetery. Visiting Provincetown Cemetery, I did not find any grave markers from the 17th or 18th centuries, as I had hoped, but I certainly did come across a number of Masonic headstones, and some of these were notable.

Bro. McIntosh had the Keystone of Mark Masonry
engraved into his headstone.

Bro. Francis P. Smith has a monument illustrated with the Beehive, the Square and Compasses, and the three-link chain of Odd Fellowship. The Odd Fellows of Marine Lodge No. 96 were an important force in the social and philanthropic lives of Provincetown.

Close-up of the emblems.

Bro. Joshua P. Atkins has the S&C inside the Mark Master Keystone.

I do not know if Capt. Ira B. Atkins was a relation
or only a Masonic brother.

This one could not escape notice.

Bro. Reuben Ryder also has the links of Odd Fellowship with his S&C.

I photographed other stones, and there were others still that I did not stop to shoot, but you get the idea.

I left town on Friday morning, taking the scenic route for a while, and when passing through Sandwich, I happened across Dewitt Clinton Lodge, instituted in 1885.

The lodge building was a church constructed in 1847.

The brethren will host an open house on October 20.
The lodge is located at 175 Main Street.

I cannot help but wonder how a street earns the name
Good Templar Place, but there it is in Provincetown.