Curiosity takes me to a curiosity!
My great-grandfather was a Freemason. When I was going through my mom’s things, I found a scroll from the Grand Lodge of Ancient and Accepted Freemasons of Ireland dated December 23, 1919; the oldest thing in my possession other than a penny from 1908. Curious that my mom had never mentioned this; although I do remember her saying that her grandfather was quite a character.
I was going to say that I “hated” history in high school, but hate is such an overused word that should be strong but that has lost its meaning (“I hate my hair!). So I will say that history bored me to tears the way it was taught when I was in high school. Put a story to it, like James Michener, and I loved it. I wondered how my grandfather’s upbringing (and subsequently my mom’s) could have been influenced by Freemasonry, so decided to find out a bit more about it. Was there a story there??
Freemasonry has always had a bit of a secretive appeal to me; supported somewhat by the writing on the scroll: initiated in all the Degrees of our Mysteries… One of the oldest of the “secret societies”, it is rich in symbolism, rituals, oaths and objects. It is hard to tell how much is true in books and online as there are many conspiracy theories, a whole anti-Mason movement, as well as the Order of Former Freemasons. I have a hard time with the fact that women aren’t allowed in, but I can always buy a book: The Masonic Wife: What women need to know about Freemasonry. One of the questions answered: “Will he really have to ride a goat?”. (Sorry, had to put something funny in there).
The square and compass is probably the most well-known symbol – I even saw a sticker on the back of an SUV the other day! The square symbolizing morality and the compass the boundaries for desires and passions. The letter G in the centre stands for Geometry under the Great Architect of the Universe. Sounds like a bunch of very upstanding men wanting to do good.
Freemasonry is a way of life and members must believe in a supreme being and follow three principles:
- brotherly love – show tolerance and respect for others
- relief – to practice charity and care for others
- truth – high moral standards
Freemasons believe in making good men better and there have been many famous Canadian Freemasons: Tim Horton (of the “double double”) , Gordon Sinclair (journalist), Roy Thomson (newspaper magnate), Harold Ballard (owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs), Tommy Douglas (introduced universal medical care to Canada), as well as a number of Prime Ministers.
My great-grandfather was a Master Mason, the highest of three levels. If I believe what is written in The Secret Societies Bible by Joel Levy, he would have had to swear to secrecy “under no less a penalty than that of having my body severed in twain, my bowels taken from thence and burned to ashes, the ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven, so that no more trace or remembrance may be had of so vile and perjured a wretch as I…”. Yikes! I can understand a little bit about the secrecy as, when Freemasonry first started in the 1700’s, it was not always acceptable to practice it. They used hand signals and special greetings to announce themselves to other Freemasons (and these are still used today).
This all seems a bit antiquated to me, but to each their own. If men can find community or a sense of purpose in this society, why not? I haven’t yet found out any good stories about my great-grandfather, so I’m not sure if it impacted my family or not. In the meantime, when I write my fictional story, it will have some of the more “interesting” things about Freemasonry and, while based on a few facts, it will be embellished with my imagination. Can’t wait!