Monday, February 25, 2013

‘Masonic quilt on Antiques Roadshow’

Masonic quilt c. 1875 as seen on Antiques Roadshow on PBS.
The material culture of the Craft keeps popping up on reality television. Tonight on Antiques Roadshow, a mainstay of PBS programming to which all the pawn brokers, junkmen, and barterers on cable television are indebted, we got a look at a quilt covered in Craft symbols. (The episode in question is No. 8 of Season 17, which is the second of three hours shot in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.)

The quilt was identified as an “appliquéd Masonic quilt,” c. 1875; was appraised at between $6,000 and $8,000; and was described as being in excellent condition by Ms. Beth Szescila of Szescila Appraisal Service in Houston.

Not only do I own no modern digital recording devices to better reproduce these images, but my television is a 25-year-old Sylvania. I pointed a digital camera at the screen and tried to get the best possible shots of the quilt’s sudden appearance.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

‘Regalia and Obscura’

An exciting week coming at the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library. First and foremost, do not forget Bro. Patrick Craddock’s lecture tomorrow night. The famous maker of bespoke Masonic regalia will speak on “Admit Him If Properly Clothed: The Evolution of the Masonic Apron in America, 1740 to the Present.” 6 p.m. Click here for more information.

On your way to lodge Thursday, if you happen to see a group of wide-eyed strangers gathering, they would be members of the Obscura Society taking an organized (and sold out) tour of the Library. An interesting group worth having a look at.

The Livingston Library is located on the 14th floor of Masonic Hall, at 71 West 23rd Street in Manhattan.

Friday, February 22, 2013

‘Massachusetts Masonry in May’

On Saturday, May 18, Massachusetts Lodge of Research will meet for a multifaceted day with so much allure I have to believe brethren from around the Northeast will make a point of being there. I will try.

Overall, there will be the Masonic Leadership Summit, featuring David Harrison, Cliff Porter, and Andrew Hammer.

At 2:30 p.m., a Special Communication of Massachusetts Lodge of Research, with keynote speaker Harrison, will open.

At 4 p.m., a special training session with Harrison will open. Tickets are $35, or $25 if prepaid.

This will take place at Grand Lodge, located at 186 Tremont Street in Boston.

In the meantime, the lodge will meet Saturday, March 9 at Quinebaug Lodge in Southbridge.

Monday, February 18, 2013

‘National Brotherhood Week’

Yes, Magpie coverage of Masonic Week 2013 is still to come. I haven’t had five minutes to download the photos yet, as renovation of the bathroom at Magpie headquarters continues at a snail’s pace and other obligations nag. But here’s a little something in honor of another February week.

Once upon a time in a more innocent age, when it was only other countries that had communists as their heads of state and people thought it natural to pay their own bills, there was a movement to instill brotherly love and mutual respect among all citizens. This was not by government edict, but by bringing real people together to provide, as President Kennedy put it, “harmonious living among our different religious groups.”

The concept was made manifest – and remember we’re referring to a simple time of political assassinations, race riots, draft resistance, liberations of so-and-so’s, and mass shootings by the government – by an observance called National Brotherhood Week at the third week of February. Human nature is what it is, which is why you may not have heard of it before.

(I am indebted to my parents for having comedy albums in their record collection when I was a kid, allowing me to learn directly from and about Lenny Bruce and Tom Lehrer.)

Take it away Maestro!


Saturday, February 16, 2013

‘Repetitive tasks in dusty conditions’

Repetitive tasks in dusty conditions?! There was a time when that meant lodge night, but this concerns the unglamorous side of Masonic library and museum function. Oh sure, we look at Aimee and Jeff, and so many others, like Glenys, Tom, Bill, and more as near mythical beings who keep and preserve the archives of Masonry for posterity, and look damn good doing it too, but inevitably there are times when hands get dirty. To wit: The Scottish Rite Masonic Library & Museum at the Supreme Council campus in Lexington could use a few helping hands.

The Wallace M. Gage Masonic Collection at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library at Lexington. Ill. Gage was a big wheel in New Jersey Freemasonry who bequeathed his Masonic books to the Library. He died in 2004.

The announcement:

Volunteer at the Museum & Library for our Masonic Work Day

Do you like history? Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a curator or a librarian? Come join the staff of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library and find out!

Masonic Work Day
Saturday, June 22, 2013
9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library
Lexington, Massachusetts

We are looking for ten volunteers to spend the day helping us with collections-related projects. Projects may include: inventory of objects and library collections; housing and numbering objects and archival collections; computer data entry. No experience needed! Training and lunch will be provided.

Please note that most projects will require prolonged periods of standing and that exposure to dust and/or mold is possible. Most projects will consist of repetitive tasks.

We are accepting registrations on a first-come, first-served basis. Please e-mail Aimee E. Newell, Director of Collections, at anewell(at) with your name and contact information to sign up, or with questions.

If you can’t make it on June 22, but would like to learn more about volunteering on a regular basis, please let us know.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

‘California streamin’ ’

Bro. Adam Kendall should be cloned, and his clones deployed and employed at Masonic museums everywhere. Until then, he is sharing his great enthusiasm for the history, symbolism, and material culture of Freemasonry via the web, so those of us who cannot get to San Francisco may benefit yet from the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum’s vast collections and the amassed expertise of its caretakers.

From the publicity:

History Comes to You

The Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry has just announced the first in a series of online Masonic history webinars. On Tuesday, March 19, from 7 to 8 p.m. PST, the Library and Museum will present “Invoking the Muses: Understanding and Appreciating Masonic Material Culture.”

The webinar will provide a historical overview of the aesthetics of Masonic decorative arts, and their essential role within the research of Freemasonry and fraternalism. Attendees will learn how to create meaningful narratives for their lodges’ histories, as well as tips for displaying Masonic artifacts.

This free online course will be hosted by Adam Kendall, collections manager at the Library and Museum. To register, contact akendall(at) with your name and primary e-mail address.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

‘Masonic Week 2013’

Magpie coverage of Masonic Week 2013 to come shortly.

In the meantime, an inside joke:


‘Mercedes mea culpa, maybe’

Merkley and Partners, the Manhattan-headquartered ad agency that gave us the Mercedes-Benz Super Bowl commercial, has issued a perfunctory apology on its Facebook page.

We apologize to anyone offended by the use of the ring worn in our commercial, “Soul,” that ran during the Super Bowl. It was not our intention to make any association with the Freemasons or any organization. In fact, neither we nor our client, Mercedes-Benz USA, were aware that the ring could be associated with the Freemasons. To avoid any confusion going forward, we will modify the commercial prior to any future television airings.

The full-length cut of the commercial, with shots of the famous ring, remains posted on the agency’s blog however.


I leave town for two days, and some nut tries to burn down Cincinnati Lodge?

The lodge, chartered in 1803, is a special lodge in New Jersey Masonry; it is named for the Society of the Cincinnati. The brother who saved the building from devastating arson is well known about the apartments of the temple. I cannot even fathom what he went through and accomplished. The following is a story from the local paper:

Drew Jardine planned to snow-blow around the Morristown Masonic Center Friday night but said he wound up wrestling with a man who burst into the center carrying jugs of gasoline and hollering that he would burn the place down. Morristown Police Capt. Steve Sarinelli identified the suspect as John Mowbray, 50, of Morris Township.

“It’s unclear what his motive was,” Sarinelli said. There was vandalism to the Masonic Center a few days before Friday’s incident and police are exploring a possible connection between Mowbray’s alleged break-in and the earlier criminal mischief, Sarinelli said.

In an interview Saturday morning in the sitting room of the circa-1930, Colonial center on Maple Avenue, Jardine said he was waiting for the snow to wane so he could clear the sidewalks when he heard the front door being forced open around 10:20 p.m. “It’s a stroke of luck I was here. The building could have been burned down,” said Jardine, 57, a member of the center’s building committee. Jardine said he confronted the intruder, a stranger in his fifties, who was carrying four quarts of gasoline in milk containers. Jardine said he exchanged blows with the man, who was trying to get up stairs to the center’s second floor, and he was able to wrestle him to the floor. The jugs fell during the scuffle and one broke open so that the center’s sitting room and foyer still reeked of gasoline Saturday morning.

Jardine said he managed to hold the man on the ground while he called police on his cell phone. Police confirmed that the suspect was taken into custody, charged with attempted arson and burglary, and lodged in the Morris County jail on $100,000 bail. Jardine spent the night at the center, not fearful of more intruders but resigned to tackling the snow surrounding the center, which he planned to do Saturday. He said that detectives, firemen and sheriff’s office investigators were on the premises till nearly 1 a.m. “I’d never seen that man’s face before. There are a lot of strange things in the world,” he said.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

‘Ben at Mariners’


RW Bro. Ben Hoff, Past Master of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education No. 1786 and Highland Park Lodge No. 240, will appear at the podium of historic Mariners Lodge No. 67 in New York City next Wednesday, the thirteenth.

Mariners meets in Masonic Hall (71 W. 23rd Street in Manhattan), inside the Doric Room on the eighth floor.

Ben, a Past Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey, is well known about the apartments of the Temple here for his research into the origins and evolution of Craft lodge rituals. I don’t know what his topic for Mariners will be, but I highly recommend attending. It is important to hear a common sense approach containing factual information about Masonic rituals to help you discern reality and history from the fantasy and wishful thinking found in too many contemporary books and papers. Ben draws straight from the source materials – the ritual exposures, monitors, jurisprudence, and other texts – in his skillful investigations into how the degrees and ceremonies we employ today really came to be. Sometimes he travels with a few of these 18th and 19th century treasures from his library for the brethren to see.

From the publicity:

The lecture will be open to properly avouched Masons of every rank who hail from lodges in amity with the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. Lodge opens promptly at 7 p.m. in the Doric Room on the eighth floor of Masonic Hall. Dress is tuxedo or business formal.

The Communication should close at around nine o’clock, with our traditional Lodge Dinner commencing shortly thereafter. Mariners Lodge typically does not formally receive delegations or visiting officers of any kind below the level of a Grand Lodge officer. Master Masons are asked to be seated among the brethren for the Lodge Opening. Entered Apprentices and Fellowcrafts may wait in the anteroom until the lodge is lowered to the First Degree shortly after the lodge is opened.

If you plan to join us for the lecture and would like to get the “full Mariners Lodge experience,” I hope you will also consider attending Mariners Lodge’s own “Maritime Festive Board” Dinner which features our unique ritual and lodge traditions, as well as our well-known hospitality. The dinner will also offer an opportunity to chat with Bro. Hoff.

Seating is limited, however, so if you would like to attend please visit the Mariners Lodge website reservations page to reserve a seat. The cost is $35 per person. If you have any difficulties in reserving on the website, contact rsvpmariners67(at) for assistance. Please reserve as soon as possible. Seating is limited to around fifty. (We hosted seventy Masons at our last lecture, meaning twenty were not able to attend the dinner. )

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

‘The Bernie’


The flier above says it all. Click to enlarge. See you there.

(Thanks to Bro. Mohamad for the tip.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

‘Masonic Super Bowl pick’

Super Bowl XLVII will be one of those forgotten contests for its improbable match-up of the San Francisco 49ers versus the Baltimore Ravens. As The Magpie Mason, my heart tells me to bet on the Ravens, but everything else compels me to go with the 49ers. But we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are obliged by our tenures to look beyond temporal indicators, and to consider the symbolic, the allegorical, the unexpected.


The San Francisco 49ers’ name derives of course from California history. The Gold Rush populated the California territory and turned it into an economic powerhouse that helped shape the destiny of our country as a whole. Bank of America is, I suppose, the most obvious financial legacy to have survived to this day.

Gold. In alchemy, gold is that state of material perfection the ancient scientists tried to make from base metal, like lead. One of the most precious and beautiful metals, gold is linked to the element Fire and its planetary complement is the sun, unsurprisingly. Even when melted or liquefied by fire, gold retains its luster and spellbinding color. It is incorruptible, immune to tarnishing and corrosion, and has been the basis for wealth throughout recorded human history.

It's game time!
As the sun is the giver of life, so too gold has its connotations to immortality. It is believed the golden sarcophagi of ancient Egypt were meant to ensure the immortality of the souls departed from those deceased, encased earthly bodies. In Judaism, gold is, among other things, the emblem of the purity and goodness we want our own characters and behaviors to reflect. The Ark of the Covenant is laid with gold inside and out to remind us that our inner selves should be the basis of all our external characteristics. To be truly “good as gold,” and not just putting up appearances. In the New Testament, gold is one of only three gifts brought to the newborn Christ.

In spiritual alchemy, gold is emblematic of that same state of perfection, but this time the transmutation is that of mortal man to a being at one with god. (Many thousands of words could be written about this one aspect of symbolism, but it’s almost game time.) The alchemical symbol for gold is a design instantly recognizable to any Apprentice Mason.

And what is forty-nine? It equals 7x7. Seven is a holy, magic number reminding us of seven days, seven planets, seven rungs of perfection, the seven petals of the rose, seven archangels, seven steps of the Buddha, and many other signs to look for.

7 = 4 + 3. Four symbolizes earth, with its cardinal points of the compass. Three symbolizes heaven, with various trinities denoting many of humanity’s religious archetypes. A full moral life can be explained with the number seven, as the four Cardinal Virtues (Fortitude, Temperance, Prudence, and Justice) are matched to the three Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Likewise the seven Liberal Arts and Sciences consist of its quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy) and trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic), making for a wholly rounded education.

So, with seven squared, you’re really looking at something!

Now the Ravens.

In recent centuries, the raven has been a symbol of death and bad omens, but in the larger picture of human culture, this bird has an overall favorability. In Genesis, Noah deploys a raven to find land, making the bird a symbol of clear-sightedness. Likewise to the ancient Greeks, the raven was sacred in the Apollo cult, and served as a messenger of the gods in addition. In myths from Ireland to Scandinavia to Africa, the raven played its part as symbol of creativity and other positive meanings.

The Baltimore football team chose its name in honor of Edgar Allan Poe, the poet who lived and worked much of his life in Baltimore. And died there. In fact, the 168th anniversary of the publication of “The Raven” was only a few days ago.

Again thousands more words could be spilled on this subject, but kick-off is moments away. Enjoy the game.

‘Mercedes employs Faust to slur Masons’

During the Holocaust, Daimler-Benz was one of the German manufacturers that exploited slave labor, so it knew something about cutting deals with the devil. Therefore it doesn’t faze me in the least to see today its descendant company Mercedes-Benz will borrow from the Faust story to sell its low-end sedans.

During the Super Bowl tonight, a spectacle as famous for its multi-million dollar advertisements as for the football game itself, several ads from the German luxury car-maker will run. One, titled “Soul,” features Willem Dafoe as the devil and the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil” in the soundtrack; it shows a young man about to sign away his soul in exchange for the Merc he sees in the billboard being posted across the street. View it here.

Courtesy New York Daily News

Dafoe proffers a golden fountain pen to the impressionable guy. After a lengthy sequence of fantasy scenes, including an indelible image of Kate Upton, the Faust-like character accepts the pen, sets nib to parchment (which, incidentally, depicts something similar to the Chi Ro), only to spy the just posted price of this new Mercedes model on that billboard. Rating his soul at a value higher than the car’s sticker price, he declines the devil’s offer.

Devil Dafoe, attired in black, also sports two rings on his left hand, one of which bears a square and compasses-like sigil. It does not look to me precisely like the square and compasses. Its square is anything but square, and the compasses simply are not compasses, but clearly the design is meant to mimic the primary symbol of Freemasonry. There’s no mistaking it for any other symbol, emblem, logo, letter, word, or character.

“It is what it is,” as the kids today say.

So what can ya do?

The Magpie Mason and other blogs ask you to lend your name to a petition calling on the advertiser to change this ad. In all likelihood, this ad won’t be seen after the game, except maybe on the web for a while. I suppose there also is the chance that an abbreviated version of this commercial could run later this year when this model actually goes to market, but I’m sure shortening the spot would result in losing the shots of that ring. One can hope, anyway.

But the petition: makes it available. Freemasons by nature are not activists, but objecting to such slurs is good exercise. Click here for the petition.

(By the way, my money is on the Ravens, but only because I’m a Magpie.)

MAGPIE EDIT: This spot just aired a second ago (10:23 p.m.), and I did not even see Dafoe’s rings. Perhaps Mercedes learned a lesson after the Masons killed the electricity in their stadium.

Friday, February 1, 2013

‘George Washington Masonic Stamp Club’

The 2013 annual meeting of the George Washington Masonic Stamp Club, with the conferral of the Master of Philately ceremony to make new members, will take place Sunday, February 24 at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

The agenda for the day:

Noon – An optional ($5) tour of the upper floors and tower will begin.

1:30 – Review of Covers/social hour in North Lodge Room.

2:00 – The annual meeting, with Master of Philately.

4:45 – Regroup at Joe Theismann’s Restaurant at the bottom of the hill.

5:30 – The 56th Anniversary Dinner (“no host,” with ladies and guests welcome).

Dinner Speaker: To Be Announced.

Those desiring to receive the Master of Philately should reserve in advance by contacting Secretary John R. Allen at gwmsc1956(at)

Membership proposals are balloted upon at each meeting. Each requires a completed application, including payment of the $20 Life Membership fee, and evidence of current membership in a recognized Blue Lodge. For a Life Membership Application, see the Membership button on the club’s home page.