The Freemasons have been notoriously secretive since the organization was formed hundreds of years ago. But this begs a number of questions. For instance, what is it that the members actually do? How do their gatherings work, and what rules do they have to follow? Well, luckily for you, dear reader, we have the answers. So from politics to religion and sobriety, we’ve compiled a list of the 40 most interesting instructions. And some of them may blow your mind.
40. Don’t sit east
Remember how certain cliques at high school would always claim the same seats in the cafeteria? Well, something similar apparently happens in the Freemason lodges. You see, the person who acts as “Master” sits in the eastern section of the room. No other member is allowed in that area – unless they’re invited of course. Yep, it’s like being asked to join the cool kids’ table.
39. You must believe in God
As some of you will already know, certain clubs and organizations have very specific guidelines when selecting new members. The Freemasons are no different in that respect. But one of their requirements really stands out. According to the Ranker website, you must believe in a “monotheistic god.” So if you’re an atheist, you won’t earn a spot in the lodge.
38. Don’t speak without permission
For some of us, holding our tongue isn’t an easy task. And this is especially so if we’re in a room with people we know. Yet in the Freemason lodges, members must stay quiet when “degrees” are discussed. As per the Masonic Lodge of Education website, only the Master can grant you permission to talk in those instances. Oh, and whispering is off the table, too.
37. There are specific greeting rituals
Of course, most of the Freemasons’ rules and rituals are shrouded in mystery. Yet one supposed quirk has been spoken about for years. Yes, we’re referring to the secret handshake. But it turns out that this rumor is somewhat inaccurate. Ranker reports that different lodges teach certain greetings to their members, so there is no all-encompassing handshake or password within the organization.
36. Don’t turn your back on the Master
As you can probably guess from his name, the Master is the de-facto leader in a Freemason lodge. So members have to be mindful of how they act around this individual. That’s especially true during meetings, as they must face the Master before speaking to the room. And don’t turn your back on them, either. It’s a big no-no.
35. Don’t talk politics
If you’re into conspiracy theories, you’ve no doubt heard the ones about political figures devising motions within the Freemasons organization. Could it be possible? Well, members are allowed to discuss politics, but never in the lodges themselves. The subject is totally off limits in those rooms. Sorry to shatter the illusion!
34. Leave outside disputes behind
Whether it’s at work or school, we don’t always get along with everyone that we meet. If two Freemasons happen to fall out, though, they can’t carry the conflict over to the lodge. According to Ranker, they must leave their ill-feelings at the door.
33. You must vote when necessary
Voting is an essential part of being a Freemason, as it helps to keep the lodges ticking over. But what happens if you don’t? As per the Masonic Lodge of Education, “A brother who does not vote is discourteous because he skews the ballot. He becomes the weak link in a strong chain.” Harsh words indeed.
32. Any kind of excess is off the table
Certain aspects of your life might need to change once you become a Freemason. For example, if you enjoy drinking a few beers during your spare time, that’s off the table when you’re a member. You see, the organization bars “any kind” of self-indulgence – whether it’s alcohol or drugs. Sexual relations come under that umbrella too, so you’ve been warned!
31. Don’t take advantage of the group
A Freemason called Michael made an interesting point during an interview with the BBC News website in 2018. He said, “We come from all walks of life and professions, but it becomes a network. [Though] the network is not to be used for your own personal benefit – that is something they stress.”
30. You shouldn’t turn down requests
In all walks of life, your manners will help shape other people’s perception of you. And we all know that politeness goes a long way. But it’s especially important in the Freemason lodges. If a member is asked to do something, it’d be in their best interests to carry it out. According to the Masonic Lodge of Education, it’s a sign of “trust,” so don’t turn them down.
29. Always salute the Master
When you think of salutes, you probably picture the gesture in a military setting, right? Well, the Freemasons have their own salute in the lodges. Upon their arrival, they’re expected to acknowledge the Master with a strong greeting, and members then do the same again once they depart. Just remember: half-hearted attempts aren’t appreciated.
28. Slander will get you in trouble
Slanderous comments can cause people a lot of problems – whether it’s in a newspaper or on an online message board. That also extends to the Freemason lodges as well. Ranker reports that Masons can be pulled up and punished for any kind of defamatory statement. So watch what you say.
27. Obey the gavel
We all know the power of the gavel, right? That simple tool has helped to pass important rulings throughout the centuries. It’s much the same in Freemason lodges, too. You see, the Master wields their own hammer when presiding over meetings. Once they bang it down, members must bring their talking points to a close.
26. Leave superstitions at the door
Would you consider yourself to be a superstitious person? If so, the Freemasons might not be the organization for you. They apparently denounce that kind of thinking at the lodges. And it’s not us saying this: the one and only Theodore Roosevelt confirmed it in the past.
25. Don’t leave during a ballot
Freemason lodges host their fair share of ballots, but members must abide by the same set of rules for each of them. If one starts, you can’t just get up and walk out. People outside aren’t allowed into the room once it begins, either. So, be mindful of that when setting your daily schedule.
24. Don’t break the rules outside a lodge
Once your day at work or school comes to an end, the rules there no longer apply. It’s a bit different with the Freemasons, though. When they leave their lodge, members must continue to live by Masonic Law. If they don’t, Ranker claims that civilians outside the organization could report them to their superiors.
23. Smoking in lodges is forbidden
If you’ve just become a Freemason and enjoy the odd cigarette, you should definitely take this point on board. As per the Masonic Lodge of Education, “In most lodge rooms, it is considered very disrespectful to smoke while the ceremonies are taking place.” So you’d be better off lighting up outside.
22. Don’t play practical jokes
As you can probably guess, Freemason lodges are very serious places. Due to that, it’s unwise for any members to anoint themselves as a jester. So practical jokes are off the table during the Masonic meetings. And we can only imagine how the Master would react to sitting on a whoopie cushion.
Yes, trials occur in the lodges when people face charges of violating Masonic Law. In those cases, everyone in the building is required to form a makeshift jury, but lawyers aren’t involved. Instead, the man on trial and his accuser play the roles of defendant and prosecutor respectively. Interesting process, right?
20. Turn off your phone
As many of you will no doubt attest, it’s not wise to keep your cell phone on all the time. Cinema-goers probably seethe at the mere thought of it! It’s the same in Freemason lodges as well. According to the Masonic Lodge of Education, members need to switch them off upon their arrival to swerve any dirty looks.
19. Curiosity isn’t enough to join
The criteria for becoming a Freemason is pretty simple to understand. But there are some other things to consider. The Dummies website reported that you need to display a “favorable opinion” towards the organization when applying. And on top of that, you can’t just be “curious” about them. That’s not enough to earn a spot in the lodge.
18. Stand up when you talk
Remember when your school teachers made you stand up in front of the class to read something? It was horrible, right? Well, Freemasons have to experience that all over again if they want to talk in the lodge. Members can’t just stay in their seats, as they’d be seen as disrespecting the Master.
17. Don’t share secrets
Certain aspects of the Freemason organization remain a secret to the general public. But members have been known to share some of those mysteries in the past. If they were caught, those individuals went on to face pretty severe punishments. Quite simply, the lodges’ classified information shouldn’t leak out – especially through gossip.
16. Don’t walk between the Master and the altar
It’s always good to be mindful of your surroundings – that way you can avoid embarrassing faux pas. The Freemasons have to be very careful in that respect when they walk around the lodge. You see, it’s a big no-no to cross the gap separating the altar and the Master. The Mason Lodge of Education notes, “[Members] should never be in shadow during the processes of an initiation or degree work.”
15. You must have sponsors to join
We know what you’re thinking. Shouldn’t an application form be enough to become a Freemason? Well, we can tell you straight up – it isn’t. As per Ranker, you need to gain the support of two members in the lodge if you want to stand a chance. And their sponsorship can go a long way.
14. You can’t discuss religion
Freemasons must believe in God to earn their place in the group, but they need to remember this as well. Surprisingly, religious conversations are banned inside the lodges. Ranker reports that the higher-ups refuse to “endorse” different monotheistic belief systems as superior or inferior to each other.
13. Avoid ‘off-color’ stories
Sometimes a good anecdote can help loosen the mood of a particularly stuffy room. But don’t try it in a Freemasons lodge, the Masonic Lodge of Education says. And this is especially so if the story is “off-color.” Trust us, it won’t be appreciated.
12. Outside status doesn’t matter
For some people, status is everything when it comes to their daily lives. But in the Freemasons, that social standing doesn’t matter. So if you’re a lowly worker, you’ll hold the same position as someone else who might be an executive. Yep, you’re all equal in the lodge.
11. Always use Masonic names
Remembering a person’s name isn’t that difficult, right? How about their job title? That one’s a little tougher. Yet Freemasons need to keep something similar at the forefront of their mind when talking to those at the lodge. According to the Masonic Lodge of Education, you’re expected to utilize the right “Masonic titles” during conversations.
10. Always wear your apron
Like other members-only clubs, Freemason lodges have their own dress code. The aprons are one of the most recognizable aspects of the organization, but Masons need to be cautious. You see, they can’t walk into the room as they’re adjusting their uniform. It’s apparently seen as discourteous. So make sure you’re ready beforehand.
9. Be open to charity
When reading about the Freemasons, you might’ve seen something regarding their charitable nature. Master Gareth Jones told WalesOnline in 2019, “It is an organization that gives a lot of help and support to charity.” Yep, that’s one way to change perceptions.
8. Never argue in the lodge
If you’re with a large group of people for a prolonged period, there’s a good chance that an argument could break out. It happens, right? But verbal sparring is strictly forbidden inside the Freemason lodges. According to Ranker, it’s sure to raise the ire of the other members who want to get on.
7. Maintain a good posture
Many of us are taught to maintain a good posture wherever we go from a young age. That also carries over into the Freemasons, as they’re expected to sit up straight inside the lodges. Apparently, bad posture is looked upon as a sign of disrespect, and it could lead to a stern talking to.
6. Be prepared to face punishment
When you become a Freemason, you need to be prepared to face punishments for any wrongdoing. Sounds reasonable enough, wouldn’t you say? But rumors have persisted as to the severity of that discipline. For instance, those who gave up secrets in the past supposedly risked losing their tongues or hearts, Ranker notes. Though it adds that members strongly deny that this ever happened.
5. Never use Masonic titles when sending post
Did you know that Freemason lodges have their own secretaries? Much like the other members, they have a set of rules to abide by, too. In a page from the Lodge Secretary’s Handbook at the Province of East Lancashire, it reads, “On no account should a Masonic rank be included with the name and address on an envelope being sent through the post.”
4. Don’t wear Masonic jewelry in public
Alongside the aprons, Freemasons can wear special pieces of jewelry when they enter the lodges as well. It helps to personalize their appearance, you see. Mind you, these eye-catching rings and pins can’t be used for other events outside. That’s a massive no-no, according to the Samuel Windsor website.
3. Roll up your pant leg during initiation
Provincial Grand Master Gareth Jones talked to WalesOnline about a rather bizarre tradition at the lodges. He said, “Why do we roll up our trouser leg when we are getting initiated? There’s a good reason. It is meant to demonstrate that you’re a free man, that you’re not wearing a shackle.”
2. Don’t correct mistakes
It’s no secret that we all make mistakes from time to time. On occasion, someone else might be there to correct you, but members can’t do that inside Freemason lodges. The Masonic Lodge of Education reported that only the Master can step in if an individual makes a verbal error. So try to hold your tongue!
1. Be prepared for a symbolic ‘death’
Apparently, you need to take part in a rather chilling tradition before becoming a Freemason. As per Ranker, all prospective members have to “die.” Now, don’t worry. It isn’t literal. During the ceremony, a noose is dropped over your throat after your eyes have been covered. Then, a blade is drawn to your chest. From there, you’re essentially reborn into the group.