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.