Sunday, October 24, 2021

‘GLNY honors Scott Wolter’

Grand Master Bill Sardone presents Grand Lodge’s Medal for Distinguished Achievement to Bro. Scott Wolter. (Hiram’s Highlights photo)

Another singular occurrence amid Grand Lodge’s Annual Communication yesterday was an award presentation.

Travel Channel
Scott Wolter
Bro. Scott Wolter, who is known for hosting and appearing in several television productions focusing on geology and archaeology, received Grand Lodge’s Medal for Distinguished Achievement.

Wolter’s TV work includes the recent Secrets of the Viking Stone, but he probably is better known for America Unearthed, which ran for twenty-eight episodes across seven years on the History channel. He also authored a few books on his specialty field: the geology of the Lake Superior area. (He is based in Minnesota.)

There’s also Pirate Treasure of the Knights Templar. And his blog is here. Maybe you sat in during one of Grand Master Sardone’s Zoom conferences last year during the pandemic when Wolter was guest speaker.

Congratulations, Bro. Wolter!

Saturday, October 23, 2021

‘Sunday will never be the same’


(With apologies to Spanky and Our Gang.)

One item among all the proposed legislation today at Grand Lodge’s Annual Communication had the big idea to permit Masonic labors on Sundays.

It passed. Overwhelmingly, I’m told.

The previous Masonic law stated, as found in two sections, that (I paraphrase) no lodge shall meet on Sundays except to perform Masonic funeral rites. The new law deletes that language, so there now is the potential for lodges to meet on that first day of the week.

The amendment was submitted for consideration by the now new Senior Grand Warden, RW Robert Hogan. He explains there is a common sense purpose for this change because the religious diversity so obvious in today’s membership makes it necessary for lodges to decide for themselves what day of rest, if any, they require. The Grand Lodge mustn’t be the arbiter on that question.

I support it completely. Muslims observe on Fridays; Jews observe on Saturdays; and Christians observe on Sundays. There can be no one-size-fits-all, top-down thinking here. SMIB.

Congrats to all who voted in favor.

‘New New York leadership’

The 239th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of New York will conclude in minutes, with new elected leaders to install later today.

Richard Kessler
MW Bro. Richard Kessler is our new Grand Master. RW Bro. Steven A. Rubin is our Deputy Grand Master.

Kessler has been a member of the Masonic Society since 2016.

Grand Lodge has open and competitive elections, meaning an incumbent is not necessarily elevated to the East unchallenged. The new Grand Master had served as Deputy Grand Master since May 2018, and Rubin had been Grand Treasurer. The normally two-year terms of office were prolonged by a year and a half due to the COVID pandemic and resulting logistical problems in hosting an immense gathering like this.

In the Grand West will be RW Robert Hogan. In the Grand South will be RW Peter Stein. At the Grand Treasurer’s office now is RW Bro. Joseph Saglimbene. Joe was nominated and elected from the floor, surprising both declared candidates, lest anyone scoff at the reality of open, honest elections here.

Among the proposed legislation was one item that I’ll report when I hear the results. Other legislation concerned amendments to make Grand Lodge more adaptable to emergencies, such as the recent pandemic that disrupted the usual time, place, and manner of the Annual Communication. Today’s session in Utica actually was a conclusion of a meeting opened months ago at Masonic Hall in Manhattan. But more on that later.

Congratulations to all! 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

‘Tylers Toast Gin’


The cold weather is easing into the Northern Hemisphere, which can mean only one thing: It is time to transition from the clear spirits to the browns—but not yet!

Because…a limited production of gin has been distilled for the brethren’s refreshment. And it’s for charity too.

Tylers Toast is a Middle Chamber London Dry Gin. Only 120 bottles were produced, which was done for the Masons of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Wiltshire, of the United Grand Lodge of England. (Wiltshire, in the southwest, is home to Stonehenge, Salisbury Cathedral, et al.)

More than fifty bottles have been sold via the PGL, and area lodges are stocking it at their bars. I’m guessing it can’t be had outside England, but I’m a glass-is-mostly-empty kind of guy, especially when having a martini. For availability, contact Mark Newman here.


Saturday, October 16, 2021

‘Upcoming at The ALR’


It really isn’t enough to say The American Lodge of Research is back. We are—we’ll meet again on Thursday the 28th—but with a determined leadership team in place now, the city’s Masonic research lodge is “full service” again.

First, the meeting: The logistics you see in the graphic above. RSVP here. The agenda:

W. Bro. Michael, a Past Master of Hellenic Plato Lodge 1129, will present “Filiki Etaireia: A Secret Society Among Secret Societies.”
RW Bro. Piers Vaughan, a Past Master of St. John’s Lodge 1, will tell “The Story Behind the Most Famous Image of King Solomon’s Temple.”
Third, the Magpie Mason himself will explain “How to Research a Masonic Subject” and will distribute a list of places, both in person and online, to look for information needed in your research.

At the Secretary’s desk, there are three ballots for Active Membership, and there are sixteen for Corresponding Membership (including two from abroad).

There will be a lot more, to be announced by Worshipful Master Conor. Come see our new and unique altar Bible. Hear about various membership benefits and additional news about how we’re moving forward.

No collation, unfortunately, due to COVID concerns. All Master Masons are welcome to the meeting. (If you’re not a member of The ALR, it’ll be better to arrive at 7:30 because we’ll tackle our business at seven.) Bring your apron and be attired for a lodge meeting.

We look forward to greeting you then.

Friday, October 15, 2021

‘Viddy well, brothers, viddy well’


The Magpie Mason has alluded to A Clockwork Orange, both the novel and the film, several times over the years, so it gives me more than the usual pleasure to show you this.

Cameo is a video-sharing service that connects paying customers to a diverse pool of celebrities—and “celebrity” is very broadly understood here—who record custom messages for their fans.

At last, we have a Clockwork-Craft connection courtesy of Cameo. On behalf of the Grotto and its dentistry for the developmentally disabled philanthropy, Mr. Malcolm McDowell, who starred fifty years ago in the motion picture, appears on video in tribute to the Prophets of Samoor Grotto in Florida.

Click here. It runs less than a minute.

It’s an odd choice. McDowell has excelled in roles that are unsympathetic in the eyes of most viewers. I’m not complaining. Just an observation. I hope there’s a colorful story behind it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

‘Academy speakers announced’

Sorry for the late notice here. I checked the Academy’s website recently to see what’s planned for this month, but the closed-for-COVID advisory was still up. Anyway, yesterday the committee announced a program is scheduled, and it is one that I’ll say is very different from the Academy’s usual offerings.

On Saturday, October 23, Chic Cicero, Tabatha Cicero, and Piers Vaughan will be the speakers at the Fall Symposium of Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge.

It’s like the Rose Circle all over again!

That’s at Freemasons Cultural Center on the Elizabethtown campus. Register in advance here. Check in that morning at 8:30. The program will start at 9:30. The day typically ends by 3 p.m. Wear a jacket and tie. Lunch costs ten bucks.

Magpie file photo
Chic and Tabatha Cicero are Chief Adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. To my mind, that’s the real Golden Dawn, if you happen to be seeking an order, because the Ciceros continue the Israel Regardie stream. (I am not part of any GD order.)

Piers Vaughan is practically a ubiquity in Freemasonry, Martinism, and the “kindred sciences.” You know him.

Click here to read their bios on the Academy’s website.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

‘The great object of pursuit in Masonry’

The Craftsman’s Apron

The great object of pursuit in Masonry—the scope and tendency of all its investigations—is TRUTH. This is the goal to which all Masonic labor evidently tends. Sought for in every degree, and constantly approached, but never thoroughly and intimately embraced, at length, in the Royal Arch, the veils which concealed the object of search from our view are withdrawn, and the inestimable prize is revealed.

This truth which Masonry makes the great object of its investigations is not the mere truth of science, or the truth of history, but is the more important truth which is synonymous with the knowledge of the nature of God—that truth which is embraced in the sacred tetragrammaton or omnific name, including in its signification His eternal, present, past, and future existence, and to which He himself alluded when He declared to Moses: “I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them.”

This knowledge of divine truth is never thoroughly attained in life. The corruptions of mortality, which encumber and cloud the human intellect, hide it as with a thick veil from mortal eyes. It is only beyond the tomb and when released from the burthen of life that man is capable fully of receiving and appreciating the revelation. Hence, when we figuratively speak of its discovery in the Royal Arch Degree, we mean to intimate that the sublime portion of the Masonic system is a symbolic representation of the state after death. The vanities and follies of life are now supposed to be passed away. The first Temple, which we had erected with such consummate labor and apparent skill for the reception of the Deity, has proved an imperfect and transitory edifice. Decay and desolation have fallen upon it, and from its ruins, deep beneath its foundations, and in the profound abyss of the grave, we find that mighty truth, in the search for which life was spent in vain, and the mystic key to which death only could supply, when, having passed the portals of the grave, we shall begin to occupy that second temple—“that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

Albert G. Mackey
Book of the Chapter

I didn’t make it to that Royal Arch Degree last night after all. While reviewing Masonic rituals helps reinforce their meanings, the lessons are accessible and portable—and a good book can keep things sparking in your head.

My congratulations to the newly exalted Royal Arch companions of Alpha, Three Times Three, and Union chapters!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

‘Ancient Craft Masonry’s completion’


It is taught The Word may be imparted only when the three Grand Masters are present, and we had that yesterday—kind of.

It was the very long awaited Tri-State Cryptic Festival at Saugerties, in King Solomon’s Council 31 (at Ulster Lodge 193) specifically, that united the Grand Masters of the Grand Councils of Royal and Select Masters of New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts for a full day of important ritual work. MIGM John Gallant mentioned from the Grand East how this tradition is in, approximately, its ninetieth year. Since nine is a significant number in the Cryptic Rite, nine decades sounds good to me.

Gallant was installed only about six weeks ago. Joining him in governing all these Royal and Select Masters were Most Puissant James McNeely of Connecticut and the Most Illustrious Grand Master from Massachusetts. (I have forgotten his name. I’m sorry.)

From left: Massachusetts, General Grand, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Vermont.

Also present were M.I. David Schuler, of the Grand Council of Vermont; and R.I. Sean McNorton, Deputy Grand Master from New Jersey. Plus an officer from the General Grand Council joined us—but I’ve forgotten his name as well because I was too stubborn to take notes.

But any of those senior officers would be the first to tell you it’s the degrees that matter, and that advancing these dozens of Royal Arch companions to the completion of Ancient Craft Masonry is the reason for being there.

The three degrees of the Cryptic Rite were worked. The Connecticut companions conferred the Royal Master Degree. The Massachusetts Masons made the new Royal Masters into Select Masters. After a fortifying lunch, the New York team—with most but not all from Columbian 1–conferred the seldom seen Super Excellent Master Degree. (Special kudos to Companion Dave Barkstedt, who deflects praise but who coordinated this complicated worksite.)

The Cryptic Rite confounds the attentive Freemason who requires some clarity in the designs upon the trestleboard because there is confusion in the Temple. For starters, simply for a post-Sublime Degree coherent narrative, these three degrees rightly should be found before Royal Arch. And, as a pair, the Royal Master and the Select Master ought to be reversed.

And Super Excellent Master? Don’t ask. It has no continuity with the previous two degrees as it draws from the story of Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah, and Jeremiah. It has a lengthy drama which deserves ritualists with serious acting chops—something we don’t see often enough.

I suggested cutting the cake with a trowel but to no avail.

When I am installed Grand Master of the country I’m gonna straighten all that out. Until then, I hope every bright Master Mason will seek further Light in Masonry by continuing beyond the Craft lodge into the Royal Arch and Cryptic degrees. To paraphrase Bro. Winston Churchill, who was talking about a different sort of education: “I would let the clever Masons learn Royal Arch as an honor, and Cryptic as a treat.”

Speaking of Royal Arch, I believe I’ll take another long drive into the suburbs tomorrow night to see a group of Most Excellent Masters exalted in a chapter, something I haven’t done in a long time.

Friday, October 8, 2021

‘Join the Corporation’

A long time ago I failed to renew membership in Quatuor Coronati Correspondence Circle, but at last corrected that mistake a few days ago.

You should join too. Click here.

QCCC is the corporate arm of Quatuor Coronati Lodge 2076 in London. It sends members the annual book of transactions of Freemasonry’s first lodge of Masonic research. A square deal if I ever saw one. Plus there are other benefits of membership. You’ll stand a little taller, for starters.

If I understand correctly, the current edition of AQC won’t reach me until wintertime but, in a way, that just may be the best time.

‘New Grotto for Long Island’

I regret not having a credit for this one.

They say Long Island isn’t an island at all but is a peninsula. Nevertheless, a Grotto is an Enchanted Realm, and Rockville Centre will gain one this month.

On Saturday the 30th, at the Valley, Prophets from all over will gather to launch Lier Grotto of the Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm.

Formal attire. 6:30 p.m.

Hearty congratulations to all making this happen!

It’s a busy month for the Prophets.

Next Wednesday, Azim Grotto will host another cigar night, this time in partnership with Cornerstone Lodge 178. This will be at Pacificana in Brooklyn.

There’ll be a quick business meeting, but the eating, drinking, and smoking will proceed without delay. $50 per person. It’s a “brother bring a friend night.”

Six o’clock. 55th & 8th.

Meanwhile, right now actually, the Empire State Grotto Association is meeting in Buffalo. Our Grand Monarch is coming. Elections of new officers.

It’s too far for me. I’m headed a hundred miles north of the city as it is for the Cryptic Festival tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

‘Masonic Values art winners’

GL of Pennsylvania
‘First Pancake Breakfast,’ by Jon DeHart, 3-D media. 

The winners of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s 2021 Embodying Masonic Values Art Contest are announced.

Click here to see the honored works and additional submissions.

GL of Pennsylvania
GRAND MASTER’S PRIZE: ‘Legend of the Third Degree’ by Andrey Kovtun, drawing and print-making. Available for $4,000.

Some are still available for purchase. Alas, “First Pancake Breakfast” has been snatched up.

‘We part upon the Square’


We part upon the Square,
for the world must have its due,
There’s a world where all are equal;
we are hurrying to it fast,
We shall meet upon the Level there,
when the gates of death are past:
We shall stand before the Orient, and our Master will be there,
To try the blocks we offer by his own unerring Square.*

Bro. Bob was Senior Warden when I affiliated with Publicity Lodge in 2015, and we got to know each other better the following year when he served in the East. Bob died last month after a long brutal illness.

He was a gentle soul who embodied precisely what you would want to see in a Freemason.

I can’t salute him by name here because some of his relations were not to know of his Masonic membership. Sometimes you forget some of your brethren have to finesse that secret.

At our meeting last night, we draped the altar in black and said goodbye. Alas, my brother.

*From an ode among The Masonic Concordia, 1906.

Friday, October 1, 2021

‘Freemasonry is a meme’


Being a middle-aged crank, I am alternately revolted and dismayed by the emergence of a vocabulary that eludes me. From the jargon born of evolving technologies to the Scrabble cheating of sexual politics to the slang of subliterate youth, I repeatedly find myself googling foreign idioms that seem to have no etymologies. But I was wrong about this one.

“Meme,” from the first time I saw it, is something I took to be newly coined for the purpose of describing the early twenty-first century’s hieroglyphic communication on social media platforms. In reality, “meme” has roots in the 1970s—like most of our problems today. It seems if you splice “mime” and “gene,” you produce “meme.”

So, how is Freemasonry a meme? Well, the word’s primary definition, according to Oxford, is:

An idea that is passed from one member of society to another, not in the genes but often by people copying it.

(Secondarily comes the popular understanding of meme being the visual message, usually humorous, quickly disseminated online.)

When we, as Free and Accepted Masons, impart the tokens, tenets, teachings, etc. to all who have come in the same way and manner before, I think we have a meme. Quod erat demonstrandum.

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.

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.