Sunday, January 30, 2022

‘Chagall and Hesse contests’

Please pardon my sloppy cross-outs.

Were this the work of any other District of Manhattan lodges, I would be shocked, but being as it comes from the Tenth Manhattan, I am approvingly delighted and want to report on it despite never having written here previously about any youth contest. But the Tenth Manhattan is a special grouping of lodges.

Well, we’re all special. The First Manhattan, for instance, has some of the oldest lodges in New York (and North America). The Fourth is home to lodges organized by profession. My lodge, Publicity 1000, for media people; St. Cecile 568 for show business entertainers; Kane 454 for intrepid Arctic explorers; et al. The Tenth Manhattan is comprised of foreign language and otherwise exotic and ethnic lodges: Garibaldi 542, l’Union Francaise 17, and eleven others of French, Greek, Italian, Sephardic, Spanish, et al. identities. “Cosmopolitan” is a word used, in certain contexts, to describe Freemasonry, and I’d employ it here.

So, we have a writing contest named for Hermann Hesse, and a drawing competition named after Marc Chagall!

Chagall (1887-1985) was a native of Russia who emigrated to France to pursue his destiny in the fine arts. He was made a Mason in Paris. Grand Orient, I think, but don’t quote me. (I like to imagine he, Juan Gris, and others were of the same lodge, but I have no idea.) Hesse (1877-1962), as far as I know, was not a Freemason. Of course, his interest was in Eastern thought, but the two are not mutually exclusive.

When I was Master of my earlier lodge in 2005, my final “From the East” message to the brethren was not something I wrote, but was a few excerpted sentences from The Journey to the East, Hesse’s post-World War I novella that every Freemason ought to know:

For our goal was not only the East, or rather the East was not only a country and something geographical, but it was the home and youth of the soul, it was everywhere and nowhere, it was the union of all times. Yet I was only aware of this for a moment, and therein lay the reason for my great happiness at that time. Later, when I had lost this happiness again, I clearly understood these connections without deriving the slightest benefit or comfort from them. When something precious and irretrievable is lost, we have the feeling of having awakened from a dream. In my case this feeling is strangely correct, for my happiness did indeed arise from the same secret as the happiness in dreams; it arose from the freedom to experience everything imaginable simultaneously, to exchange outward and inward easily, to move Time and Space about like scenes in a theatre. And as we League brothers travelled throughout the world without motorcars or ships, as we conquered the war-shattered world by our faith and transformed it into Paradise, we creatively brought the past, the future and the fictitious into the present moment.

It was from this story, which I first read at age fifteen, that I learned the master is a servant—wise counsel I’ve offered to many an advancing Senior Warden. I recall reading this book the first time I heard the Police’s “Wrapped Around Your Finger” on the radio. Serendipity, if you know the lyrics.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

‘A language of delightful sensations’

Ally Retberg

That part of the lecture describing the Liberal Arts, as we in New York have it, says music is “a language of delightful sensations far more eloquent than words.” In the wide diversity of rituals known throughout English lodges, there probably is similar phrasing in a Second Degree, but the recent news I’m telling you about this morning concerns live musical performance at Freemasons’ Hall.

The London headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England, erected on land where Freemasons have been meeting since 1775, features the Cafe and Bar. Simple foods and ample beverages, and, now, live entertainment. Ally Retberg, a singer and actress known for the musical Friendsical—yes, based on the television program—will perform jazz standards (Sinatra, Ella, Nat King Cole) next Thursday night in the debut of live music in the venue, which is open to the public.

I know I’ve been writing a lot about the English lately, and this is largely because of the energy unleashed by the UGLE’s leadership and professional team. From a distance, it seems the creative initiatives that engage Freemasons, the public, and the media alike are recasting the once elusive fraternity as a lively cultural player. I don’t see much of that sort of enterprise evident in the United States. Here in New York City, I can’t say there is demand for another bar with live music (whereas I can say the corrupt city and state governments make such business models nearly impossible), but other sizable Masonic venues elsewhere may recognize a chance to learn something from Great Queen Street.

(I’ve been meaning to tell you about the classical and pop music concerts—by candlelight!—at the Philadelphia Masonic Temple, and hopefully they are successful and will be continued.)

So congratulations to UGLE’s business departments, and good luck to Miss Retberg!

Friday, January 28, 2022

‘Garibaldi EA Degree’


If you still, somehow, have not witnessed Garibaldi Lodge’s famous Entered Apprentice Degree yet, your next opportunity will come this spring.

This is the very dramatic French Rite First Degree, delivered in Italian, inside the Grand Lodge Room of Masonic Hall in Manhattan. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself among a thousand or more brethren from around the world. (One time, the Fire Department ordered bus loads of Pennsylvanians out of the room because the attendees exceeded the room’s legal maximum capacity.)

So, arrive at six o’clock; bring photo ID to enter the building; have Masonic ID, apron, and knowledge to work your way into a tiled meeting; and be prepared to sit tight for a number of hours, because this is a real Masonic initiation, and not a performance in a theater.

But it is highly theatrical. This ritual is far different from what you probably know from your lodge. It is very dramatic and expressive, being how it is full of Alchemical and Rosicrucian symbolism. Seven petitioners are expected, so this will be a longer night than we’ve seen in many years.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

‘This mighty Secret’


The Masonic Book Club announced today how its second offering to subscribers will be Masonry Dissected, that early ritual exposure from 1730 that gives us the first evidence of a Master’s Degree.

To recap: The MBC is no longer organized for dues-paying members, but instead now publishes books in limited runs predicated on advance sales. Pre-paid orders, at $30 per copy, are being accepted now through February 28. We can expect to receive our books in the mail in June. Those who decline to purchase in advance are to be pitied, and therefore will have a slight chance of obtaining the book at $40 a copy. Don’t be one of those guys.

Samuel Prichard is unknown to history save for the publication of this book, the full title of which is:

Masonry Dissected; being a Universal and Genuine Description Of all its Branches from the Original to this Present Time. As it is deliver’d in the Constituted, Regular Lodges, Both in the City and Country, According to the Several Degrees of Admission; Giving an Impartial Account of their Regular Proceedings in Initiating their New Members in the whole Three Degrees of Masonry, viz. I. Entered ’Prentice; II. Fellow Craft; III. Master. To which is added, The Author’s Vindication of himself. By Samuel Prichard, late member of a Constituted Lodge. London; Printed for J. Wilford, at the Three Flower-de-Luces behind the Chapter-house near St. Paul’s. 1730 (price 6 d).

And that vindication?

If all the Impositions that have appear’d amongst Mankind, none are so ridiculous as the Mystery of Masonry, which has amus’d the World, and caused various Constructions and these Pretences of Secrecy, invalid, has (tho’ not perfectly) been revealed, and the grand Article, viz. the Obligation, has several Times been printed in the Publick Papers, but is entirely genuine in the Daily Journal of Saturday, Aug. 22, 1730, which agrees in its Veracity with that deliver’d in this Pamphlet; and consequently when the Obligation of Secrecy is abrogated, the aforesaid Secret becomes of no Effect, and must be quite extinct; for some Operative Masons (but according to the polite way of Expression, Accepted Masons) made a Visitation from the first and oldest constituted Lodge (according to the Lodge Book in London) to a noted Lodge in this City, and was denied Admittance, because their old Lodge was removed to another House, which, tho’ contradictory to this great Mystery, requires another Constitution, at no less Expense than two Guineas, with an elegant Entertainment, under the Denomination of being put to Charitable uses, which if justly applied, will give great Encomiums to so worthy an Undertaking, but it is very much doubted, and most remarkable to think it will be expended towards the forming another System of Masonry, the old Fabric being so ruinous, that unless repair’d by some occult Mystery, will soon be annihilated.

I was induced to publish this mighty Secret for the public Good at the Request of several Masons, and it will, I hope, give entire Satisfaction, and have its desired Effect in preventing so many credulous Persons being drawn into so pernicious a Society.

Cazart! That guy needed an editor. We today are lucky to have Brent Morris and Arturo de Hoyos, who are reprinting the MBC’s earlier imprint of Masonry Dissected, and augmenting Harry Carr’s commentary.

I’ve always wondered somewhat if the author truly intended to harm the Craft, because what actually happened was our ancient brethren were able to obtain a ritual book for use as a guide. Grand lodges wouldn’t publish such books officially for about another 200 years, so I figure it’s possible that Prichard deserves some credit for promulgating and proliferating the Third Degree. In addition to being reprinted twenty-one times up to 1787, Masonry Dissected also was translated into Dutch, French, and German in the 1730s, when Freemasonry took root across Europe. Unintended consequences? Coincidences? I wonder.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

‘Georgia grand lodges to sign treaty’

Masonic Messenger

I normally do not report all the successes made in establishing relations between coexisting grand lodges in the United States, but the news of Ralph McNeal’s passing (see post below) practically demands this: The MW Grand Lodge of Georgia and the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia will sign what is being called a “treaty” on April 9.

I don’t know what the terms of the agreement will say. UPDATE: no visitations, nor dual memberships.

And then there will be four—four states where fraternal accords perhaps are still being worked on.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

‘Ralph McNeal, Jr., R.I.P.’

Ralph McNeal, Jr.
Bro. Ralph McNeal, Jr., as forceful a voice as any for integrity in Freemasonry, died yesterday. He was 62.

When I “met” him twenty years ago in Masonic Light and other Yahoo! Groups, Ralph, exhibiting the patience of Job, assisted so many of us who were trying to grasp the myriad intricacies inherent in understanding Prince Hall Affiliation Masonry and the maddening slowness of the larger Masonic populace to meet our PHA brethren on the Level. All of us, particularly those who rose to ranks senior enough to make reforms, are indebted profoundly.

Ralph was a very proud veteran of the U.S. Air Force who was stationed for a time in Italy, and there he was made a Mason in San Vito Lodge 37, a military lodge in PHA Masonry, in 1986. Also proud of his Newark, New Jersey roots, Ralph returned home and continued his Masonic labors. Relocating to Arizona years later, he affiliated with Martin Luther King, Jr. Lodge 29, which got its start in the seventies as a lodge for Air Force servicemen, and was Master there. I don’t doubt Ralph was a treasured Mason in all those localities, but I think it was the Phylaxis Society that allowed him to radiate the Light that benefited brethren within the PHA world and without.

It is an encyclopedic subject that requires a near Talmudic degree of penetration to tell the story, but the bogus “black grand lodges” across the country (there are dozens here in New York City alone) bedevil Prince Hall Affiliation Masons simply by existing. Personally, I think some of these are innocent fraternities just living outside the PHAmily, but of course others are scams or even cults. Regardless, Ralph was head of the Phylaxis Commission on Bogus Masonic Practices when many of us met him in eMasonry all those years ago. He made it his business to abate so many misconceptions about PHA Masonry and all the phonies that I have to believe Ralph deserves much credit for sowing the seeds that blossom today. (In 2001, Phylaxis awarded him its Lewis Medal of Excellence.)

When he was made a Mason in 1986, zero “mainstream” grand lodges had fraternal recognition of their Prince Hall neighbors; now, all but five of those jurisdictions have varying forms of relations with our PHA brethren—and I believe progress will be realized in the final five states sooner than later. (UPDATE: 1/23/22–I’ve just been informed the Georgia grand lodges will sign an agreement on April 9.) It’s just heartbreaking that Ralph didn’t live to see it happen.

Please remember Ralph’s widow, Shermain, and their sons Ralph, Corey, and Gibran in your devotions.

“Alas, my Brother.”

‘The youngest Grand Master’


You know of the Youngest Entered Apprentice, but have you heard about the new Grand Master who’s 38 years old? MW Bro. Brad Billings was installed in the Grand East of the Grand Lodge of Texas this afternoon. I have to assume he currently is the youngest man to hold such an office in the United States.

This is not to say he is new to the fraternity. Billings was made a Mason in 2006 at Trinity Valley Lodge 1048 in Dallas. He became a Founding Member of the Masonic Society when we launched in 2008. A year later, he was named a Full Member of Texas Lodge of Research (and Master in 2015). He served as Master of his mother lodge in 2012, and became a brother in several of lodges in Texas, including Tranquility 2000.

He has served with commensurate successes in both the York and Scottish rites, and holds memberships in various invitational orders and Masonic education societies.

Of course there is life without the temple. Brad is a graduate of Texas Tech University. While a student, he met Brittany; they wed in 2012, and are parents of a young son. He is employed in the pharmaceuticals industry.

I do not know Bro. Billings, nor know of his plans, but he sounds like an outstanding Mason, and I send my congratulations to him and to the brethren of the Lone Star State.

‘40th Brotherhood Night’


New England Brotherhood Night is on for 2022!

On Saturday, March 19, Masons from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut will gather at a resort in the Green Mountain State for an evening of fellowship and food. Click here for accommodations, dining fee, and other details.

Anyone know if they still host the Hill Degree up there?

Friday, January 21, 2022

‘Archaeological architecture from Solomon’s time’


A study published this month in Jerusalem Journal of Archaeology calls ashlar stone masonry “an elite style of architecture” that reveals clues into the time of David and Solomon.

“Royal Architecture in the Iron Age Levant,” by Madeleine Mumcuoglu and Yosef Garfinkel, identifies “six prominent characteristics of the royal style.” The stone masonry is counted with:

  • volute capitals;
  • decorated bases;
  • rectangular roof beams;
  • recessed openings of doors and windows; and
  • window balustrades

The researchers, both from Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Institute of Archaeology, credit finds at Khirbet Qeiyafa, an ancient fortress twenty miles south of Jerusalem, for catalyzing this particular focus, but they discuss evidence from around the Levant.

“In the Kingdom of Israel, large and splendid architectural complexes associated with especially fine buildings with ashlar masonry were uncovered at Samaria, Megiddo, Dan, and Hazor, royal centers dating from the 9th-8th centuries BCE,” the study reports.

“The beginning of royal architecture took place very early in Judah, much earlier than any of the other political units known in the Levant,” it says in conclusion. “This early appearance in the Kingdom of Judah may surprise some scholars, but such royal architecture is mentioned in the biblical tradition in relation to David’s palace, Solomon’s palace, and Solomon’s temple.”

Read the paper here.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

‘A History of Calendars’


I have been remiss in helping publicize the activities of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library, but let me begin again. Next Thursday, one of the Assistant Grand Lecturers of the Tenth Manhattan District will present “A History of Calendars” in an online discussion.

VW Bro. Christophe Lobry-Boulanger will lead us through the chronology of…well, chronology. From calendars of the ancient world to medieval times and onward, with explanation of solar, lunar, and other systems, our lecturer will tell us why we mark the days as we do.

This will begin at seven o’clock and can be seen on YouTube. Make your reservation here.

Anne Frank Center
VW Bro. Christophe Lobry-Boulanger is a Past Master of La Loge France La Clemente Amitie Cosmopolite 410, one of our francophone lodges here in Manhattan. Without the temple, Bro. Christophe serves his fellow man by laboring in humanitarian relief around the world under the auspices of the United Nations. I leave it to you to internet search his name, but it seems to me he is a Mason we all can admire.

Suddenly I crave a chardonnay champagne.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

‘The Railroad Degree’


After a two-year hiatus, the Railroad Degree will ride again this spring.

It’s a tradition of Ionic Lodge 31, located in New Castle, Delaware, that the brethren commenced in 2016 as a means of making the Third Degree extra special for the new Master Mason, his lodge, and brethren from beyond alike.

The lodge hires the Wilmington & Western Railroad which, at 150 years, is the oldest operational locomotive in the state, for an adventurous afternoon.

This time, it will be Saturday, April 30. There will be a very early luncheon at 10:30 a.m. Then, it’s all aboard at 11:30 for the ride deep into the Brandywine Valley woods to a grassy point alongside Red Clay Creek, where the MM Degree is conferred.

Contact Ionic here for information and tickets ($40/person). Sold out as of January 29.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

‘Google Pixel & Illuminati Brotherhood’

J. Wright photos

We’re not supposed to brag about these things, but this is too incredible to keep quiet. So, you’ve been seeing new ads for Google’s Pixel 6 in recent months, but did you spot the Illuminati Brotherhood ring?

It’s super fast! It’s subliminal (of course!). He’s wearing it “points in” and on the finger denoting Supreme Hierophant rank of the 99th Degree, so this is heavy business, but it’s there for the initiated eye to see.


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

‘Dusting off the Pot of Incense’

Magpie file photo

For the second time in two weeks, the Master of my lodge called on me to lead an educational discussion for the brethren. This is a very singular occurrence! Publicity Lodge actually didn’t hold an in-person meeting last night, opting instead for a Zoom gathering as New York City adjusts to the latest virus variant. (Only a few of us seem to understand how these variants will vary in perpetuity, so we might as well resume normalcy, but that’s another story.) Because my talk on mindfulness exercise last month on St. John’s Day went over okay, I thought I should double down and dust off my old presentation on the Pot of Incense as a Masonic symbol.

Actually, this was an abbreviated version of the original, at about half the length, that I had to read because it had been so many years since I last presented it. Rather than summarize it for you here, I hoped to link to some previous edition of The Magpie Mason that spells it all out, but I guess I never wrote that blog post. All I got is this from ten years ago. But “The Emblem of a Pure Heart” gives a history of incense’s ritual usages, several verses from the Hebrew Bible, bits of arcane Masonic rituals, quotations from natural philosophers of centuries past, and some suggestions for how to incorporate the burning of incense in our lodge meetings today—and that’s when things got interesting.

The brethren love the idea of adding a gentle amount of frankincense aroma at the Inner Door, when the candidate enters the worshipful lodge, and again at the altar upon being obligated. I made the case for the sense of smelling, in addition to being explained in the lecture of the Second Degree, also is a catalyst for recollecting vivid memories. One of the brethren listening said there are scientific data linking olfactory stimuli to the eliciting of old memories. So I’m envisioning our use of incense will plant meaningful impressions in our initiates that will re-emerge every time that familiar scent appears, and that all the brethren will share the experience.

While I was speaking, the Brother Secretary went online and procured a gizmo that vaporizes frankincense oil, so we’ll be able to enjoy the aroma, but without generating any smoke. (One of our most venerable Past Masters explained that it is possible to have our smoke detectors switched off temporarily, but it’s a complicated arrangement requiring the building management’s attention. The vaporizer will more than suffice.) My personal preference would be to load my censer with smoldering charcoal and roasting resins to fill the space with glorious plumes of aromatic smoke—but I can’t because I don’t own the place.

While preparing for last night’s discussion, I hacked away at the text to make it somewhat brief, and I deleted information I ought to have kept, and I kept stuff I could have done without. I omitted Thomas Reid(!) on the sense of smell, but retained Rene Descartes, when I should have done the reverse. Small matter. What’s more important is Publicity Lodge will initiate four petitioners on February 7 with an enhanced ambiance that further emphasizes the crossing into a new community, a new consciousness.

Maybe one future night, after I’m long gone, one of these Apprentices (perhaps a Past Grand Master by then) will attend a degree at Publicity, and will be returned to that first Monday of February 2022 thanks to a familiar scent—coming from some AI app downloaded into his olfactory cortex.

My thanks to Worshipful Master Diego and to all the brethren. I feel like I finally accomplished something in Freemasonry.

Monday, January 10, 2022

‘Help Wanted: Ad Director’


If you recognize yourself in this job description, please reply to the email address shown. Or, if there’s someone you know, feel free to share the ad.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

‘Reading the minutes (from 1598)’


“But why do we have to read the minutes?”

“Because they’re the first draft of history, and we have to ensure their accuracy. And because not everything is about you.”

The dialogue above is excerpted from a ritual (sic) I’m writing for a certain Scottish Rite (sic) jurisdiction. In this scene, the newly initiated George Washington complains to Worshipful Master Teddy Roosevelt about the humdrum nature of their lodge’s meetings. Just as TR is about mete some Big Stick wisdom, none other than Jacques DeMolay saunters along, and imparts the rejoinder that young Washington groks immediately.

“And tomorrow,” DeMolay continues, “on Veterans Day itself, when we Sir Knights sign the Proclamation of Independence, history will be made too!”

This is still an early draft, but what is not susceptible to revision is the earliest known page of Masonic meeting minutes. Speaking of the Scottish, on this date* in 1598, the Masons of Lodge Aitchison’s Haven “maid” Entered Apprentice Robert Widderspone a “fellow of Craft.” (These are operative stone masons.)

What has been bequeathed to us is not evidence of a first Masonic meeting because, obviously, something must have preceded this. Nor is it indicative of a first Masonic lodge, because two others over there claim to antecede Aitchison’s Haven. This “merely” is our oldest known record of Masonic proceedings, and, at age 424, that’s pretty cool.

(Both images courtesy Grand Lodge of Scotland.)

*We today use a different calendar, so just play along.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

‘Lodge of St. Peter & Harmony 600’


This just in: Another special interest lodge in England devoted to the brethren’s enjoyment of real ale and craft beer will be launched Wednesday, March 2. But Lodge of St. Peter & Harmony 600 is not a new lodge by any means.

Inspired by how the Masonic Craft Beer Society revivified Horus Lodge 3155 in London, the brethren here are incorporating their Goose & Gridiron social club into their lodge. Harmony Lodge 600 dates to February 4, 1852. Lodge of St. Peter 6509 was warranted May 7, 1947. These lodges amalgamated December 11, 2002, continuing Masonic tradition in Bradford, Yorkshire.

The lodge will meet on the first Wednesdays of March, June, July, and October as a working lodge—making Masons, conducting usual business, and hosting festive boards. It simply will have this focus on the study and appreciation of real ales and craft beers. The lodge’s bar will be stocked accordingly, and the brethren will host speakers from area breweries for their enlightenment.

On one special upcoming day, they will charter a steam train to “socialize, enjoy local beers, and have a fish and chips supper, all whilst traveling up and down the line on a historic steam hauled train.”

Bravo! Vivat!

Friday, January 7, 2022

‘Fire destroys Ohio Masonic landmark’

Zanesville Times Recorder

Flames consumed the six-story Zanesville Masonic Temple in Ohio late last night, local media are reporting, leaving only the exterior walls, which will have to be demolished if they don’t fall on their own. No fatalities nor injuries have been reported.

One man, found hanging out a third floor window, was rescued, as were an unknown number of animals inside.

Zanesville is a city of approximately 25,000, and is situated 52 miles east of Columbus. This awful news comes one week after a suspicious fire damaged the headquarters of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in Dublin.

Comments on social media say officer jewels made by Paul Revere were among the artifacts lost to the flames.

Located on North Fourth Street, it was home to Lodge of Amity 5 and other Masonic groups, plus a number of small businesses and artist and performance spaces. The building, no longer owned by a Masonic entity, was constructed 1902-03, and was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Its exterior was Renaissance Revival; the interior was the Egyptian Revival style that was popular at the turn of the century. 

The spectacular blaze was so powerful that nearby buildings had to be evacuated, including the county jail, according to several local media reports. Streets surrounding the temple are closed in anticipation of the remnant’s demolition, meaning neighboring businesses and other entities are on hiatus.

The smallish municipality also is home to another Masonic temple, about five miles from the destroyed site, where La Fayette Lodge 79 and other bodies meet.

Donald Mason, mayor, is a Past Master of the lodge.

Issue 34 of JTMS.
If you don’t know the building, but think it looks familiar, it’s possible you may recognize it from the Fall 2016 issue of The Journal of the Masonic Society, which featured a painting of the temple on its cover, and included an article on Page 19. Artist Ron Cole, who had a gallery inside the building, made this temple the subject of a painting in 2016, rendering “the building as it appeared during its heyday c. 1926,” according to the article.

Lodge of Amity will reach its 210th anniversary a week from tomorrow. Among its famous roll is Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole.


Tuesday, January 4, 2022

‘Are you free for dinner?’


Masonic Week draws near—next month, in fact—and registration for our events is open. The anchor of the multifaceted affair is the Masonic Society dinner on Friday, February 11. It’ll be a big deal!

We will seat our new President, and the new Second Vice President, and two new members of the Board of Directors. Plus, more surprise announcements.

Our after dinner speaker will be Bro. Chris Ruli, Grand Historian and Librarian of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. Chris will give us just the facts concerning “Masonic Myths of Our Nation’s Capital.”

The dining fee is $55 per person, and attendance is open to all Freemasons, our ladies, and friends of Freemasonry. (And, for a hotel, the food is good.)

Oscar Alleyne
Our eighth President will be Bro. Oscar Alleyne. Oscar is a New York Mason, but he kind of is a citizen of the Masonic world—a member of QC2076, a frequent flyer on the lecture circuit, and a valued leader in numerous groups within the fraternity. Come, and let’s give Oscar a momentous inauguration!

Founded in 2008, the Masonic Society is an independent 501(c)(3) educational foundation that publishes the quarterly periodical The Journal of the Masonic Society. Membership, at $45 annually, is a source of pride, many brethren inform me. (The hand-stamped, wax-sealed parchment each of us receives itself prompts accolades.)

The Journal
is a beautifully designed and thoughtfully balanced mix of educational papers, speculative writings, news, opinion, photography and more. (We call it the Time magazine of Freemasonry, if you’re old enough to get that reference.)

Again, click here to join us for dinner and conversation on Friday, February 11 at Masonic Week in Arlington, Virginia. Vivat!

Monday, January 3, 2022

‘MRF. Detroit. April.’


It’s okay if I say it this time: The Masonic Restoration Foundation will host its eleventh symposium at the Detroit Masonic Temple April 1-3. Registration here will open Friday, January 14.


Sunday, January 2, 2022

‘Everybody smiles’


Keeping things lighthearted to start the year, you can’t get much more easygoing than making everybody smile, can you?

Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts has on exhibit one of those rare sets of silver jewels for lodge officers crafted by Paul Revere.

All photos courtesy Morning Star Lodge AF&AM.

Revere was born January 1, 1735. He was initiated in St. Andrew’s Lodge, a Scottish lodge in Boston, in 1760. He served five terms as Worshipful Master there (plus four in another lodge), and was a Grand Lodge officer for many years. These pieces were made in 1793, two years before he became Grand Master, for the newly instituted (their term) Morning Star Lodge in Worcester.

As you can see, both Deacons’ jewels are inscribed with “Omnibus Arridet,” Latin for “everybody smiles.”

I don’t know what the motto might mean for the lodge. Was it designated to the Deacons because they are the messengers, and a happy countenance is preferable when attending to alarms? Although…

Paul Revere is known to history as an American patriot and as both an artisan silversmith and an artist engraver—but as a young man he became a dentist! During lean economic times in 1760s Boston, the peacetime following the French and Indian War, Paul Revere was in troublesome debt. To get by (and keep his house), he needed what the kids today call a “side hustle,” and so he learned how and then advertised his services as one who could fashion false teeth, at least for the front, using animal bone and ivory. “Everybody smiles” would be a smart tag line for a dentist’s ad campaign.

Seriously though, there is a Latin saying wrongly attributed Marcus Aurelius:

Mors nobis omnibus arridet, homo omnis hoc risum lenem redeuntem facere potest.

Or (maybe):

Death smiles at us all, all man can do is just smile back.

It seems these are good times for Morning Star Lodge. One of the Past Masters was installed Deputy Grand Master last week, and one of their own is the new DDGM. I bet they’re all smiling.

The collection of jewels is on long term loan, as part of a broader exhibit of Revere’s silversmithing, so there’s no need to rush today (although admission is free on first Sundays). Find them in the American Decorative Arts Gallery on the third floor.

WAM is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m to 4 p.m. 55 Salisbury Street in Worcester.

The most important jewel,
even if they do spell it ‘Tyler.’

Click here to see King Hiram’s Lodge’s Revere jewels.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

‘Quiet enjoyment of this interesting hobby’


Happy New Year! And I insist on making the first edition of The Magpie Mason of 2022 a benign post to ballast the recent news of death and destruction that made last month a grim conclusion to a year that wasn’t all that great to begin with.

Nevertheless, it was that obituary of Tom Jackson the other day that prompts this post. I had mentioned how Brazil’s postal service issued a stamp several years ago honoring Tom, and that reminded me how, despite many posts on Masonic philately over the years, I never told you about The MPC Magazine.

Originally, in 1976, the Masonic Philatelic Club of Great Britain, and, later, the Masonic Philatelic Club, it today is the publisher of the quarterly magazine. Membership is open to all who seek the “furtherance of Masonic research via the media of postage stamps, the dissemination of knowledge gained, and the quiet enjoyment of this interesting hobby.”

And, really, who couldn’t benefit from quiet enjoyment of just about anything right now?

The January issue is available, and on the cover is none other than Bro. Harry Houdini, a historic Freemason from St. Cecile Lodge 568 in Manhattan. Bro. Howard Thurston (thanks, Brent!), a historic Freemason from Manitou Lodge 106 in Manhattan.

The annual subscription costs £15 for us Americans.