Thursday, July 23, 2020

Grand lodge mandates use of tracing boards for Masonic education and ritual

On Friday, the Grand Lodge of Texas's Masonic Services & Education Committee announced that, commencing immediately, all Lodges in the jurisdiction are to use tracing boards as visual aids for Masonic education and ritual. 

Very Worshipful Brother Joe Snow, a spokesperson for the Masonic Services & Education Committee, explained,  "We've been taking a hard look at the state of Freemasonry and Masonic education today. It's apparent from the lack of proper Masonic discourse, as evidenced across social media to include groups like The Whining Stairs or our very own Fexas Treemasons, that most brethren today lack the intellectual acuity to internalize our Masonic teachings as conveyed through the ritual alone. It has become clear to the committee that we need to bring Masonry back to a simpler time, when we conveyed teachings through pictures drawn on some dusty tavern floor. We're hoping that the introduction of visual aids might help our less astute brethren better understand their responsibilities and obligations as Masons."

At this time it is unclear if the Grand Lodge will provide direction or standards guides for the symbols to be drawn in the degrees, and brethren at local Lodge levels have already taken to social media to express their differences of opinion over which symbols should and should not be included. In the Whining Stairs facebook group, Brother Bubba Sawyer took a break from shitposting Confederate flag and All Lives Matter memes to express his confusion about the Grand Lodge's direction: "I dunno about them pictures they're drawing in the Lodge room. Why do we even need em? The only ones I need to recognize as a proud American Mason are the flag of this great nation and the AR-15, the badge of our free and accepted 2nd amendment rights. #MyRitualMyRights" 

The Past Bastard reached out to Bro. Joe Snow to ask if, perhaps, the issue isn't with the ritual, but instead the character of the men within the organization. "No," he said unequivocally, "we're great at guarding the west gate. Besides, we can't just kick people out once they're in. That would wreak havoc on our membership numbers."

For now, this reporter for The Past Bastard is left wondering: "Am I out of touch?" No, it's the ritual that is wrong.

Above: A Texas Lodge room being prepared for an upcoming Master Mason degree.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

UGLE announces CoVid degree conferral guidelines

Westminster, UK --Because of the inherent difficulties in conferring the craft degrees, the UGLE has issued guidelines to all lodges in order to comply with government regulations, and to ensure a safe experience for the candidate and the lodge officers and members.

Most of the guidelines are now quite commonplace in the general public: wearing of face masks, carrying small containers of hand sanitizer, avoiding touching of odd surfaces, keeping hands away from nose and eyes, etc. However, it is important to note the guidelines for the degree ceremonies in order to, as much as possible, prevent the contamination and spread of CoVid-19, or any similar infectious pathogens in the future.  Here, then, are some of the highlights.

Candidate Preparation

Initiation garb is no longer allowed. Candidates are to be fully clothed in their own regular clothing. Shoes will be worn on both feet, however, depending upon the degree conferred, in place of removing a shoe, several grains of uncooked rice or small pebbles will be placed in the appropriate shoe.

Hoodwinks, blindfolds, or head coverings will no longer be allowed. Candidates will be issued their own pair of Ray-Bans with the lenses blacked out.

Pants legs will no longer be rolled up; however, garters around the appropriate calf may act as a symbolic reminder.


No members should be present in the lodge room, except for the several officers needed to perform the ceremony itself. 

Candidates will no longer wear cable tows. Instead, they will be guided by buckled traces or collars with leashes (available at most pet supply or exotic adult shoppes). Stewards or deacons will remain at least one to two metres distance, and shall be careful to gently coax the candidate along by use of light tugging.

With the aid of the Stewards, the candidate will circumnavigate the space, ending on the north side of the room for instruction. Stewards will aid by using pushbrooms to place their feet in the proper position.

Guiding the candidate to the altar, the candidate will be restored to light, not by the JD being directed, but with some such formula as “Normally the JD would remove the hoodwink with which you would, up to this point in the ceremony, have been blindfolded. On this occasion, however, you will yourself remove the dark glasses you are wearing, on the count of three. [“One, two, three” to synchronise with movements of gavel.] You will place the glasses in the bag which is in front of you to your right.”

The candidate will be given the obligations, and upon removing his dark glasses, he should be presented with as large a video screen as can be accommodated, showing the WM who will safely be giving the lectures from a nearby room.

The WM will, via the video, give further instructions to the Candidate. Stewards and Deacons will alternately direct the Candidate's attention to the various working tools which have been set up in distant stations around the lodge.

At the end of the ceremonies, the Candidate will proceed to the main hall, where he and his new brethren can share tea and sandwiches from Sainsbury's,  Pret a Manger or some other local cafe.

Please keep in mind that these guidelines are for the safety of the candidate and officers, and that they should continue to be performed with the same dignity as previously. 



Friday, July 3, 2020

Masonic Temples look to hire security and protection

"They're a bunch of thugs and lowlifes." -- Juan Nieves
"I don't trust any of them. They're trouble anywhere they go." -- John Snow
"Every time I see these guys, they're loud, drunk, or stoned on something." --Chon Yuki
"Yes, I get that they are trying to accomplish something, but they invariably go about it exactly the wrong way." -- Jonpreet Himapaat

These and similar comments were all over The Windy Steps and other Facebook groups following the news that The Widows Sons, a national motorcycle club for Freemasons, will begin offering "protection services" for hire at Masonic temples around the US and Canada. 

"I was stuck at home, like a lot of other folks, just watching some streaming service, when they started showing 'Gimme Shelter,' a documentary about a Rolling Stones tour that used the Hell's Angels as concert security. Well, when I saw on Fox New that those rioting kids pulled down a statue of John Pike at the George Washington Center, I started thinking that it would have been great if, you know, the statue had been guarded by his brothers," said Carl Chesterfield, head of the Hiram's Hogs chapter in Virginia. "So I called Jeff Lee, he's the Senior Warden over at the Stone Temple Pilot's chapter in Alexandria, and told him what I was thinking. He said it sounded like a great idea, so we made some calls, and the next thing you know, we have almost two dozen Widows Sons chapters that have been hired to protect lodges, temples, statues, and other historic Masonic buildings all around the DC area, and spreading up the northeast coast."
Members of The Three Pillars chapter of
The Widows Sons prepare to defend a local
donut shop from rioters in the next town.  

However, not everyone is convinced that this is a good idea. The Past Bastard talked to Geoff "Twisted" Syster, Imperial Potentate for the Shriners in Virginia. 

"First off, these guys are outlaws who pretend to be Freemasons. All they do is drink, cause trouble, and get into arguments with the Grand Lodge of whatever state they happen to be in. There's only room for one masonic motorcycle club who does all that, and it belongs to the Shrine. Take that to the bank, sonny."

More on this topic as events warrant. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Knights Templar considering bold bid for name recognition

WASHINGTON DC -- Faced with dwindling membership numbers, and little opportunity with which to draw more in, the Grand Encampment of the Knights Templar is contemplating a bold move in a bid for publicity. 

"I hate to admit, but it's true. The Knights, and by extension, the entire York Rite just doesn't get the same kind of name brand recognition that the Scottish Rite gets," said Sir Knight Bill Reingold, committee chair on membership development. "And because we don't get the name recognition, we simply don't get the kind of membership numbers that the Scottish Rite gets. It's a vicious circle; we don't get the members because we don't have the name recognition, and we can't get the name recognition until we have more members."

Picture of a group of Knights Templar
in full dress uniform.

SK Reingold explained to The Past Bastard that another issue was that the York Rite is somewhat fractured. "We have the chapters, we have the councils, and we have a few of those side degree things, but nobody wants to recognize that the Knights Templar should be the head of all of them, and so we can never get anything accomplished the way that the Scottish Rite does. I mean, they get their logo on a race car. Imagine what we could do with that kind of publicity." 

To that end, SK Reingold told The Past Bastard that the Knights have come up with a major publicity initiative to gain name recognition, and hopefully the membership to go with it.

"We noticed that some domestic terrorists have been pulling statues down. I mean, like every day, Fox had some news item about this or that guy's statue being pulled over. But the kicker was that the Scottish Rite idol Albert Pike had his statue pulled down, and now it's all everybody seems to be talking about. So, our plan is to find a well known Knight, and make a big deal about how his statue shouldn't come down, and let reverse psychology do the rest."

Unfortunately, the plan has hit a roadblock because the Knights simply can't find anyone famous from within their past ranks. 

"Look, it's a good plan, nevertheless," SK Reingold told us. "If it comes down to it, DC is full of damn statues. We can just pick one, and nobody else would even  know."

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Springfield, MA -- Massachusetts has always been on the forefront of innovation in Freemasonry, so it was no surprise when the Grand Lodge announced that they are ready to release a modernized second section, or "staircase" lecture for 2020.

"See, everybody knows that Masonic historian and lecturer Ezra Pound added the staircase lectures to the Fellowcraft degree as a way to add some educational material so the new merchant class members could have some idea of what the more educated brothers were talking about," said Grand Lecturer RW Jeff Kroger. "So he added some basics, like Architecture, Grammar, Astrology, things like that. Those might have been important in the old days, but now that everyone pretty much has the same liberal arts education, we've decided that it's time to make the educational staircase lecture more relevant. More high tech, you know?"

RW Kroger went on to explain that the entire lecture was not being changed. "No, see, it's just the really outdated stuff that we're changing," he told The Past Bastard. "For example, nobody needs any of that astrology stuff, since you could just look it up on Google sky view or whatever. So, we're going to take that out and replace it with this cool esoteric piece about computers. I mean, learning about computers is a lot more useful than learning about the stars and planets and stuff, isn't it?"

The Past Bastard asked how much of the old lecturers were going to remain.

"Oh, a lot of it's still there," RW Kroger told us. "I mean, like that grammar stuff is still there, 'cos it's pretty important to be able to speak right. Oh, and music is still there, although we snuck in a little bit about Elvis, mainly because the Custodians of the Work are fans. Let's see, we're keeping the Geography stuff in there, 'cos we Masons are totally about geography, right? But we decided to replace rhetoric with something about home economics, since we decided that it's more important to know how to grocery shop, cook, pay bills, things like that. "

"Oh, and we're not changing the classical architectural columns stuff," he told us. "But we're thinking about adding something about Bauhaus, since postmodernism is still a thing, and nobody uses Composite columns anymore. They're far too ornate for refined contemporary tastes."

Friday, November 8, 2019

Grand Lodge of PA to offer DIY insurance for lodge improvements

Altoona, PA - The proliferation of YouTube videos and other online tutorials have encouraged a growing number of Freemasons to take on basic and even some advanced building improvement in and around their lodges. However, noting the increasing numbers of mishaps in the last several years, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania has worked with a well known commercial insurance group to offer lodges coverage on what many are calling "Bro-bono Contractors."

Dressing up a room with some new woodwork is usually one
of the first things that brothers will try on their own.
"Just because YouTube says that you could," said WB Al Borland, of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania Financial Services Committee, "it doesn't mean that you should. No offense to many of my well meaning brothers, but some of these lodges get together for a work party, armed with a few cases of beer, some old tools, and an internet connection. It doesn't always end well."

"We've had stories about some of the lodge improvement projects that should have been easy, like painting or fixing a broken window, and turn into month-long projects as brothers with make-shift tools end up making things worse. Last week we  had some guys blending together some old paint that they had found in their basements. Naturally they ended up mixing oil based paint with latex, and the walls actually had to be town down and new sheetrock put up."

Many lodges give their kitchens an update with
some inexpensive cabinets from the home stores.
The Past Bastard asked if the Grand Lodge shouldn't try to discourage some of these brothers, instead of offering insurance. Doesn't that just encourage them?

"Well, nothing will discourage some of those guys. Their dues have been $65 a year since Jimmy Carter was president, and if they had to actually pay for an electrician or plumber, it would take a three month long argument, several dimits, and an attempt to have a car wash or bake sale to cover the cost. The more independent minded would just offer to do it themselves, and that's who we're looking out for."

WB Borland told The Past Bastard that for a small fee, the insurance policy will pay for a licensed, non-Mason contractor to finish or repair a job that the brothers start. "We're mainly concerned with things like electrical work, plumbing, and light remodeling," he told us, "But we also have a higher class of policy for those doing more physically dangerous things like replacing a roof."

Most members feel empowered if they can
modernize a light switch or outlet.
The Past Bastard asked why the policy coverage pays for non-Masons to do the work. "Oh, Masons are notoriously cheap when it comes to looking out for their own," WB Borland said. "If a lodge had a brother Mason coming by to do some contracting work, they would guilt him into doing pretty much the entire job at cost. And then they'll take six months to even pay the guy because some past mater will complain about some little detail, and then there will be some kind of feud. You know how they get."

Freemasons around the US should look for their own Grand Lodges to offer similar policies in the coming years.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

GL Connecticut becomes first mainstream GL to lose PHA recognition

Hartford, CT - Thirty years ago, the Grand Lodge of Connecticut became the first of many US Grand Lodges to extend mutual recognition to their state Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge counterparts, ending a two hundred year divide and paving the way for mutual recognition in most other US states. This year, in an ironic twist, the Connecticut Prince Hall Grand Lodge dropped their recognition of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, in what looks to be the first of  more such actions around the country.

"Oh, yes, I remember how proud we all were back then," said MWB Louis Minefield, Past Grand Master of PHA in Connecticut, recalling the early days of recognition. "I was just a Junior Warden in my lodge at the time, but all of us were thrilled with the prospect of becoming the first of what we hoped would be a domino effect of mutual recognitions. Unfortunately, none of us foresaw what the state of Freemasonry would become."

The Past Bastard contacted representatives from the PHA in Connecticut, and learned that for the last several years, PHA Freemasons around the US have become concerned with the application process of the mainstream Grand Lodges; specifically at how easily they accept new members.

Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge in Hartford, Connecticut.
The first PHA Grand Lodge to be mutually recognized by the GL of State
counterpart has now become the first to suspend that recognition.
"When I was interested, do you know how long it took me to become a Mason? Almost two years," said RW Curtis Bullock. "Before they even allowed me to submit the application, I had to go to dinners, meet the brothers, and have them come to my house. They asked for my employment history, where I went to church, where my mom went to church, you name it. Almost two years! But this guy I work with, he joined the state lodge in his town, right? It didn't take even two months from getting that blue paper to his initiation. I honestly thought he was joking with me when I heard that. Two months? How do you even know what kind of guy you got joining your lodge?"

RWB Bullock isn't alone in his concerns. Many PHA Freemasons in the northeast US have expressed similar concerns, causing them to doubt the legitimacy and integrity of what they call the "Grand Lodge of State" Freemasons.

"And another thing, never mind that it's only a few months between the petition and the initiation," said WB Will Wooten. "Those guys pay so little for dues that they can't possibly care about their lodge. I mean, my neighbor belongs to a lodge across town, and he pays like, ninety five dollars a year. He said it was seventy five, and when they went up last year, half the members threatened to demit. Ninety five dollars? My lodge is six hundred dollars a year, plus I gotta volunteer time to the upkeep and cleaning and stuff. We've all got pride in our lodge. How do those state masons have any pride when they threaten to quit over twenty dollars?"

"My lodge meets in a state lodge building," said WB Calvin Thompson. "I've stopped in at a few of their monthly meetings, and I've seen guys dressed in jeans, tee shirts, sneakers. One night a brother showed up in hospital scrubs. I mean, seriously? Like, you can't throw some clothes in the back seat  of your car before work, and change when you get to lodge?"

MWB Minefield told The Past Bastard that, based on the concerns raised by so many members of their organization, Grand Lodges of State have lowered their requirements so much that Freemasonry is only a ghost of what it had been as little as a century ago. "The brothers of Prince Hall simply felt that we could not continue, in good conscience, our relationship with a jurisdiction that doesn't take Freemasonry seriously. So we voted to suspend our recognition of them until such time when they get their act together, and start acting like proper Freemasons."

The Past Bastard asked MWB Minefield about the Prince Hall Grand Lodges in other states.

"I'm not really at liberty to speak for anyone else," he told us. "But I can tell you that our neighbor directly north is already discussing it. Did you know that the Massachusetts state grand lodge has billboards and TV ads? Actual ads on television, to attract more members! Man, if our founders had known this was the direction Freemasonry was headed, they would have demitted and turned in their charter."