Wednesday, September 29, 2021

‘TONIGHT: Michael Poll via Zoom’

Tonight! Michael Poll will be the guest speaker, via Zoom, of Ecclesia Lodge 1189. The particulars are below.

Ecclesia, in Webster—way up by Lake Ontario—is one of Grand Lodge’s designated Observant Masonry lodges, and received its charter three years ago.

Click to enlarge.

Bro. Poll, among many other stations and places, is editor in chief of The Journal of the Masonic Society.

It is asked that attendees wear jacket and tie.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

‘Philly Temple in the news again’

Courtesy Masonic Temple
In the archives, Mike Laskowski displays antique aprons.

The Masonic Temple in Philadelphia, headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, will be the subject of a TV feature story again.

A team from Action News on WPVI, the local ABC affiliate, has been visiting the historic treasure recently to shoot a package that will be broadcast next spring.

Courtesy Masonic Temple
Mike McKee is interviewed.

I’ll let you know when as soon as I hear.

Monday, September 27, 2021

‘Two talks from Maryland’

A pair of historical talks from Maryland are coming this week via Zoom.

On Wednesday, Maryland Masonic Lodge of Research 239 will present W. Bro. Chris Ruli, who will tell the story of a Past Grand Secretary who lobbied to relocate the Prime Meridian from Greenwich to Washington. His research in astronomy led to the creation of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

That’ll be 7 p.m. Seek out the lodge on Facebook for the credentials for attending the virtual meeting.

Ruli is the Grand Historian and the Librarian of the Grand Lodge of Washington, DC. His research mostly involves the early history of the fraternity in Washington.

On Saturday, Maryland Masonic Research Society will meet via Zoom at eleven in the morning. First Vice President Mike Taldo will discuss “Carl Christian Friederich Krause: An Unknown but Well Known German Mason.”

Krause’s story is remarkable. A doctor of philosophy at age twenty, he was made a Mason four years later in 1805. He brought his education to Freemasonry, writing a treatise titled “Spiritualization of the Genuine Symbols of Freemasonry” that would have made the Craft a nucleus of a worldwide human unity. That thinking not only got him expelled from Masonry, but also damaged his professional career in academia.

Today happens to be the anniversary of his death in 1832.

To attend, email the MMRS here ASAP.

Friday, September 24, 2021

‘Streaming a Rosicrucian salon’


The Metropolitan Study Group of Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia will host a “Salon of the Arts” next month—and it will be streamed online.

The group is settling into a new meeting space: Atlantis Bookshop in Bloomsbury. With its proximity to the British Museum, its many personal links to Metropolitan Rosicrucians, and, of course, the neighborhood’s centrality to literary history, I doubt I could name a more apt location if I tried.

This October 16 event will feature readings, dramatic performance, and music. That’s a 9:30 a.m. start in New York time.

The contact link to register for this free live stream is here.

SRIA is the eldest of Freemasonry’s Rosicrucian societies, and Atlantis is London’s oldest occult bookstore.

While membership in the college is limited to regular Master Masons, the Metropolitan Study Group welcomes seekers of diverse backgrounds.

‘Special offers at Lewis Masonic’


Where can you buy an edition of AQC for three bucks? A Freemasonry Today anthology for a quid? Canonbury Vol. 5 for pennies per paper?

At Lewis Masonic—while supplies last!

‘Planting the Masonic orchid’

American Orchid Room at New Rochelle.

On Monday night, the Grand Master will lead the ritual consecration of a lodge room at the Masonic Care New Rochelle campus.

Not something you see every day in the twenty-first century, but see it you may—and live on the web too—in an event open to the public.

Grand Lodge is circulating the Zoom access info for the ceremony, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the American Orchid Room.

I know I don’t have to tell you about the many layers of symbolism of orchids, the flower of 20,000 species and many colors.

A time capsule will be cracked open as well.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

‘The famous 1760 EA°’

Bro. Ben Hoff is a Past Master of the research lodge in New Jersey, and a Past RW Grand Historian too. And he is the forensic ritualist who, many years ago, cobbled together elements from key eighteenth century ritual exposures to fashion a reasonable likeness of what the Entered Apprentice Degree probably looked like at that time.

Imagine ye olden tavern, with a “lodge” as an illustration on the floor, a call-and-response lecture, and other marvelous practices that look foreign but sound very familiar.

Next month, Ben will lead a team of ritual re-enactors in exemplifying the “degree.” From the publicity:

Click to enlarge.

Tickets? I don’t know exactly, but contact Worshipful Master Rodriguez here.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

‘My Masonic research speech’

I had a great day last Saturday: attended the research lodge in the morning and AMD at night, with an intermission at a cigar store that happens to be popular with the brethren. At both Masonic meetings, which fortunately took place in the same room, I dusted off my stock speech on the direction Masonic research lodges should take, with an emphasis on places to find information, whether online or in a building somewhere.

I’ve written and talked about it here and there for many years. Thanks to Mark Tabbert, I gave it more focus at some point. He and I were in a hospitality suite at a Masonic Week long ago chatting about the plight of research lodges when he pointed out how their labors could be simplified by zeroing in on local subject matter. For example, New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 would explore history and biography of the fraternity in that state. It sounds simple and obvious, but somehow that’s not what typically happens in research lodges. Too often, the few who endeavor to write papers are drawn to subjects that either are too broad (e.g., the medieval Knights Templar), are irrelevant (Templars again), or otherwise are beyond the writers’ abilities.

So write about local Masonic history. It’s in your backyard. Grand lodge archives, lodge records, historical societies, libraries, church records, the occasional graveyard, museums, and other local resources exist for you.

To illustrate the point, I pitched numerous names of lodges and Masons from the embryonic period of New Jersey Freemasonry of the last four decades of the eighteenth century that would be ideal for storytelling. I figure a man who was a Freemason during this period most likely had to be “a somebody” in society—a real pezzonovante in government or commerce or religion, etc.

Take the Ogden family. The secretary of St. John’s Lodge in Newark during the 1760s was Lewis Ogden. The brother who made possible George Washington’s St. John’s Day festivities at Morristown in 1779 by getting the lodge’s paraphernalia from Newark to the military lodge there was Moses Ogden.

Ogden is a very prominent name in the state’s history, practically right up to the present day. The first New Jersey Ogdens, the Puritans who settled there in the 1600s, were stone masons. There’s a great story there!

The other speaker at the research lodge that morning was Bro. Erich, a candidate for a doctorate in history who also is our QCCC local secretary. He discussed similar aspects of Masonic learning; because he went first, I had to trim a lot of what I usually would have said.

Between the two meetings, Bro. Byron brought me to a favorite smoke shop. Mane Street Cigars in Woodbridge is a great place to socialize and smoke, and apparently it’s very popular with Masons. We could have opened a lodge! Even without so many of us being on the Square, it is an extremely friendly place. Everyone who enters receives greetings from all, and they themselves make a point of saying hello to everyone. Very cool.

Because man cannot live by pipes alone, I chose a La Gloria Serie R Maduro—my first cigar in a really long time—and it was heavenly. One of those smokes you savor all the way up to the head. This was a No. 5, about a Toro shape.

I’ll wrap up this unusually long edition of The Magpie Mason with a reminder that I will present this Masonic research talk again on October 28 at The American Lodge of Research in Manhattan. This time, I’ll have a list of suitable New York Masonic topics to suggest for research. Seven o’clock in the French Doric Room.

Friday, September 17, 2021

‘I demit from The Lost Symbol’

I think the wrong finger is up.

UPDATE: January 26, 2022–Peacock has canceled the show.

And, speaking of demits (see post below), I have left the new The Lost Symbol program also.

You’ve been following the pre-production process on the other blog for a few years—it’s okay; I’m not jealous—and NBC’s streaming Peacock premiered the first episode yesterday.

It just doesn’t cause me to knock on the door. I don’t require documentary realism in all my entertainment, but this story begins with the hero, Harvard Professor Robert Langdon, being interrupted mid lecture by a phone call from the villain.

Everybody knows Big Money university professors don’t teach their own classes.

And it plummets from there. It’s a thriller that neglects to thrill, and a mystery bereft of mystique. The professor’s mentor has been abducted by Mal’akh (subtle!) to extort hidden wisdom for nefarious goals. Masonic and other symbols are the clues both to piecing together the esoterica and to rescuing the kidnapped Peter Solomon.

Will the diversity checklist ensemble of detectives solve the crime before time runs out?! Yeah, sure. And don’t be surprised when some pregnant guy provides an urgent piece of the puzzle, sotto voce, while en route to Planned Parenthood for his Constitutionally protected late-term abortion.

In the meantime, you will gasp please at the kinetic chases, explosions, hand-to-hand combat, and other pitfalls for which professors and federal employees alike are known to endure to justify their lavish salaries and pensions.

I am writing a treatment for a show about finding the clod who keeps trying to hack Art de Hoyos’ Facebook account. Look for That Which Was Changed on Magpie TV in 2024!

Thursday, September 16, 2021

‘Knight Mason no more’

Regalia at Northern New Jersey Council 10 of the Order of Knight Masons. The Order originates in Ireland, where it is the significant path beyond the Craft lodge, conferring the Zerubbabel degrees. In the United States, however, it is a redundancy without purpose.

It’s been many years since I demitted from a Masonic collateral body but, as of last night’s meeting, I am a Knight Mason no more.

If you’re not familiar, the Order of Knight Masons of the USA is an invitational group appended to the York Rite, meaning its cousins (not brethren nor companions) are Royal Arch Masons who have to be tapped for membership.

While it wasn’t something I had coveted, it still was a big deal to receive that invitation twenty years ago. A mentor shepherded me into both the Knight Masons and the AMD when I was still a relatively new Freemason.

And I enjoyed it, making sure I attended every meeting, rubbing elbows with Masons from a circle wider than my usual orbit. This was little more than a dining club, but it was an enjoyable change from the rigors of lodge and Scottish Rite.

I wrote to the Cousin Scribe last month to request a demit from Northern New Jersey Council 10. I told no one else, but a thoughtful Knight Mason soon contacted me, subtly asking if I was protesting the scheduling of our September meeting on Yom Kippur.

So I’m writing this so anyone interested can hear it from me directly: I demit from the Order simply because I don’t value it any longer. I prolonged my membership this far only because a good friend was working his way East in the Grand Council officer line, and since he has served his term as Great Chief (a traditional Irish honorific) of the USA and exited office safely in February, I feel free to make room for another Mason at the dining room table. That’s all.

That said, I do think it’s obnoxious to call a meeting on Judaism’s holiest day, when the meeting schedule can be as flexible as needed. They put bacon-wrapped pork chops on the menu. Yeah. We get it.

The real shame of that is the only interesting moments during recent meetings occur when the same two cousins are called upon each time to offer intelligent commentary on the symbolism of the Order. One cousin is Muslim, and the other is Jewish.

I know there are Masons who hope for and can’t wait for an invitation to become a Knight Mason. Don’t worry about it. It’s just another meal. Just another apron to wear. Just another night of neglecting your families. I’m not alone in this, evidently. When I joined, and for many years thereafter, we easily drew 60-75 to a meeting, but today it’s hard to get 25 into the room.

That’s here in America. I want to make clear that Knight Masonry in its native Ireland provides essential instructive degrees beyond the Craft lodge. (See Book of Ezra.) In the United States, these degrees are available elsewhere.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021



The Masonic Library and Museum Association is on YouTube!

Click here and subscribe.

Video of the annual meeting from Saturday is up, but I think the real draw will prove to be virtual tours and other insights into the various Masonic libraries, museums, historic sites, and other places of interest to the brethren wherever dispersed about the face of the earth.

And I just learned the MLMA will continue advertising in The Journal of the Masonic SocietyThanks for that!

In other news, the 2022 annual meeting will be hosted by the Grand Lodge of Arizona in Phoenix.

New officers:
President Tyler Vanice
George Washington Masonic National Memorial
Vice President Glenn Visscher
Museum of Masonic Culture, New Jersey
Treasurer Eric Trosdahl
St. Paul 3, Minnesota
Secretary Mark Tabbert

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

‘Three Distinct Raps’


I hearby promise and swear, etc., etc., that the Grand College of Rites is not asking me to promote its latest edition of Collectanea. It’s just that this volume of Cerneau Scottish Rite rituals keeps coming to mind, so here is the third Magpie post in two weeks inspired by book.

This time, it is the action in the Twenty-Seventh Degree, “Sovereign Commander of the Temple,” I recollect thanks to current events.

Judaism’s holiest day begins tomorrow night. Yom Kippur is a day for fasting and atonement. (Please don’t wish your Jewish friends a “Happy Yom Kippur.” It’s not a celebratory holiday.) The atonement aspect, as I understand it, isn’t merely making apologies as needed to wipe clean a slate for the year only to repeat the same kinds of infractions during the coming twelve months, but instead the goal is to advance spiritually, morally, and psychologically so you wouldn’t replicate those same errors. Simple, right?

So what has this to do with a neo-templar degree of the Cerneau Scottish Rite from 1807? Well, there’s this:

In “Sovereign Commander of the Temple,” a Prince of Mercy from the preceding degree is received into a small, entirely blackened room. His conductor, an officer titled Draper, seats the Prince at a small black table that holds certain ritual elements. The Draper instructs the aspirant to use paper and pen to answer these questions:

Have you done any wrong or injury to anyone without atoning for it by repentance, and, if possible, by making amends?

If you have done wrong or injury to anyone, without making amends, and it has not now become impossible to do so, write to the party a letter, confessing the wrong, and promising to make amends, or doing so, if it can be done, by letter. If you have atonement to make to more than one, answer whether what you thus do in one case you will do at the earliest opportunity in all. Seal, if you choose, your letter, since we do not demand to know its contents, but answer briefly hereunder, what you do and promise.

Have you any enmity towards, or feud with, anyone, that you would not readily abandon if you found him sincerely willing to be reconciled to you?

If you have any quarrel with a Mason of any degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, write to him now a letter offering reconciliation and the right hand of fellowship. Seal your letter, and answer what you have done, and, if you have more than one such quarrel, whether you will do the same in every such case.

The action continues. When finished, the Prince shall signal with “three distinct raps upon the table.” The answers (but not the confidential letters, if any) are read aloud in the Chapter by the Chancellor. But, if there are no admitted wrongdoings; if there is no professed intentions to atone; and if making amends is not desired, then the Draper will release him to depart in peace, without advancing in the degree.

Monday, September 13, 2021

‘Bro. Chris Hansen, R.I.P.’

W. Bro. Chris Hansen

Obituary editions of The Magpie Mason never come easily even though I really should be mature about it at my age.

W. Bro. Chris Hansen died at home September 3. The Past Master and long-serving Secretary of Goliath Lodge 5595 in London had complained of difficulty breathing that morning and, according to Worshipful Master Marco Visconti, Chris died at about noon.

“Chris was a truly unique individual: kind, attentive, always present,” Visconti said on social media. “His decade as Secretary of the lodge I am still presiding—three years, due to the ongoing pandemic—was fundamental in building it on the solid ground we inherited.”

“All the brethren of Goliath Lodge 5595 owe him a great deal,” he added. “He lived respected, and died regretted.”

Elsewhere in Freemasonry, Chris held London Grand Rank. He also was a member of Philanthropic Lodge in his native Marblehead, Massachusetts. That’s how I kind of met him.

I had written about Philanthropic long ago, and Chris appended the first of what would become a significant number of comments to various Magpie posts.

From there, we found each other on Facebook, and then Twitter. (It seems English Masons prefer tweeting in brief, while we Americans like the exhibitionism that Facebook affords.)

Through his social media chats, I noted his fondness for St. Laika’s, a “post-denominational” Christian community online named for the Soviet space dog launched to her death orbiting Earth aboard Sputnik 2 in 1957.

Goodbye, Bro. Chris. Peace in your own travels from this material world.


Saturday, September 11, 2021

‘May their souls bloom in eternal spring’


Maurice Barry
Boiling Springs 152
New Jersey

Jeffrey Coombs
DeWitt Clinton

Gerald DeConto
DeWitt Clinton

Boyd Gatton
Cincinnati 3
New Jersey

Friday, September 10, 2021

‘Next Friday: Freemasonry & civics’

UPDATE 10/12/2021:
The MLS has produced a video of the event for its YouTube channel:

The Masonic Legacy Society and the Scottish Rite of Washington, DC will host Freemason and Hollywood legend Richard Dreyfuss for a most timely Zoom discussion of their shared ardor: “Freemasonry, Civics, and Civic Engagement.”

Friday, September 17 at 7 p.m. Eastern. (That’s Constitution Day.)

Register here.

SP Richard Dreyfuss
Dreyfuss remains a very busy actor, and he also is behind the Dreyfuss Civics Initiative, a non-profit advocate for returning civics to public education curricula to “teach our kids how to run our country.”

This edition of The Magpie Mason is superfluous, as the excitement on social media for this event is infectious. See you there.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

‘Masonic Con 2022’


What has twelve speakers but can’t hunt moose?

Masonic Con 2022!

That’ll be the first weekend in June in New Hampshire’s Manchester Masonic Temple—and, like I told you a million times, you can’t hunt moose up there until October.

Website is here, but not much info yet. Just save the date.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

‘New term for MLMA’


The Masonic Library and Museum Association will hold its annual conference Saturday to choose new officers and prepare for the ensuing two-year term. As I’ll be engaged at a research lodge meeting, I take this opportunity to congratulate everyone there on a successful and productive time, especially President Brian Rountree, who completes a total of four years in office—and I don’t know how many total years previously as Secretary and Vice President.

Nice to see a five percent growth in membership. I hope the advertising in the pages of The Journal of the Masonic Society played some part in that.

No doubt Vice President Tyler Vanice will ascend to the top job. Best wishes for a fruitful tenure in office!

Monday, September 6, 2021

‘The most acceptable prayer’


“…to work well in our appointed sphere is the most acceptable prayer that man can offer….”

Twenty-Second Degree
Cerneau Scottish Rite

It is Labor Day today here in the United States, a national holiday that has Masonic overtones. And, here on the East Coast, we are several hours from sundown, which will bring the start of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration.

This new edition of Collectanea from the Grand College of Rites, containing degrees 19-29 of the Cerneau Scottish Rite circa 1807, is speaking to me again.

The Twenty-Second Degree, titled “Knight of the Royal Axe, or Prince of Libanus,” sees the admission of a Noahchite, from the previous degree, into the College of these knights. The working tools here are the saw (patience and perseverance), the plane (“cuts down inequalities”), and, of course, the axe (“agent of civilization and improvement”).

In championing virtuous labor over decadent idleness, the Master of Ceremonies renders a historical lecture to the aspirant for the degree. (I won’t edit the spelling or other errors you’ll catch.)

The Tsidunians or Phoenicians were ever ready to aid the Israelites in their holy enterprises. The tie between them was the mysteries, into which the principle persons of both nations were initiated, Moses having necessarily received them while in Egypt, before he could marry the daughter of a priest of On. These mysteries, modified by Solomon, or perhaps at an earlier day by Joshua, or even Moses, to suit the genius and manners of the Jewish people, became Masonry, such as was practiced at the building of the Temple, and such as has in part come down to us. Khurum, King of Tsur in Phoenicia, and Khurum Abai, also a Phoenician and not a Jew, were likewise initiates; and hence the intimate connection between them and Solomon, as Masons. The people of Tsidun, a city of Phoenicia, were employed by Noah to cut cedars on Mount Libanus, of which to build the Ark, under the superintendence of Japhet. His descendants re-peopled Tsidun and Phoenicia, and procured and furnished the cedar from Lebanon to build the Ark of the Covenant; and at a later day his posterity, under Adon Khurum, cut in the same forests cedars for King Solomon; and, at a time still later, they felled timber on the same mountains to construct the Second Temple.

It continues, but that is the section that comes to mind today. Rosh Hashanah commemorates the Creation of the world. Labor Day was instituted to honor the human progress possible only through honest work.

A good and sweet New Year, to all who celebrate, and best wishes for a day of rest to those who still work.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

‘On this date in 1781’

On this date in 1781, the Atholl warrant that conceived the Grand Lodge of New York was declared.

The history of Freemasonry in New York perplexes the reader who ventures into its yesteryears. Little is remembered about what is surmised to have been the first lodge in the colony, except that it met in the Montgomerie Arms Tavern in Manhattan on first and third Wednesdays, according to notices placed in the pages of the New York Gazette by Secretary Charles Wood in 1739.

Probably a lodge of “Moderns” Grand Lodge of England guys, but who knows? The fortunes of the Moderns and the Ancients see-sawed in New York for about forty years, until the end of the American Revolution, when the prominent Moderns fled to England or Canada or the Caribbean. But shortly before that, the Ancient Grand Master, the Duke of Atholl, issued the warrant that established the Ancients’ Provincial Grand Lodge of New York. The Rev. William Walter, a British Army chaplain with a Masonic story worth reading, was made Provincial Grand Master. (In case you thought Sir John Johnson, a Modern, was the last PGM.)

That warrant for this new Provincial Grand Lodge of New York is the legal basis for the very same Grand Lodge of New York that today Freemasons the world over esteem and aspire to emulate.

Unfortunately, and most likely due to the war, this founding document dated September 5, 1781 did not reach New York for about another year. Then, on December 5, 1782, the Provincial Grand Lodge convened for the first time at a place named the Assembly Hall at Roubalets in Manhattan. Officers were elected and installed, and a real grand lodge otherwise began to organize.

For brevity and clarity, I will skip a variety of details and ensuing events to bring us to 1784.

It was on February 4 (this already is several months after Evacuation Day) when the Provincial Grand Lodge met to conclude its Masonic business and “dissolve the political bands,” as it were, with the free State of New York.

Chancellor of New York Robert R. Livingston was made Grand Master of the nascent Grand Lodge of New York.

Naturally, there’s a lot more history in this story. For example, Livingston and his team had to see about converting Modern lodges and Ancient lodges and Irish lodges and Scottish lodges into New York lodges. But, suffice to say, the conception of our Grand Lodge of New York can be commemorated today, thanks to our ancestors in 1781.