Masonic Service Association – Short Talk Bulletin – February 1947
Freemasonry uses many common English words in a sense other than that of their usual definition -profane, heal, carpet, accepted, landmark, etc.
For the benefit of the new Mason – and perhaps for some who are older but less attentive to Masonic instruction than they might be – herewith are one hundred words commonly used in Freemasonry with a short definition of their Masonic significance.
ACACIA. An Eastern plant, sometimes a tree. Several hundred varieties are known. Masonically, an emblem of immortality.
ACCEPTED. Today, all Masons are “free and accepted.” In ancient times members other than working Masons were “accepted.”
AHIMAN REZON. Title given by Lawrence Dermott to the Book of Constitutions. Used today by South Carolina and Pennsylvania. Words have been variously translated but “intimate brother Secretary” is most commonly agreed upon as the meaning.
AMPLE FORM. Opening or closing of any Lodge or Grand Lodge by the Grand Master; opposed to “due form” or “full form” which is according to the prescribed ceremonies. Even when the full form is used in opening or closing a Grand Master’s ceremonies are said to be conducted in “ample form.” When Grand Lodges and Lodges are opened or closed by qualified officers other than Grand Masters or Masters, they are sometimes said to be opened or closed “in form.”
ANCIENT. The original Grand Lodge in England, formed in 1717, was followed by another, formed in 1751, which called itself “ancient” and the older “modern.” A union between the two was effected In 1813.
BATTERY. Blows of the gavel, or of the hands, in Lodge in various ceremonies.
BOOK OF CONSTITUTIONS. Volumes printed by Grand Lodges containing the laws, by-laws, constitution, edicts, decisions, ceremonies, etc., authorized by Grand Lodge.
CABLE TOW. Part of dress of candidate. Symbolically, a distance variously estimated from three miles to “the scope of a brother’s ability.”
CARDINAL. Principal, as cardinal virtues, cardinal points.
CARPET. (Sometimes Master’s Carpet, sometimes Chart). Cloth chart on which are illustrated the symbols of Masonry for instruction of candidates.
CHAPITER. Top part of a column or pillar; the ornamental head on a support. Not to be confused with
CHAPTER, which designates a body of Royal Arch Masonry; a body in the Scottish Rite, as Lodges designates bodies of Symbolic or Ancient Craft Masonry.
CHARGE. Charges; A Charge summarizing his duties is given a candidate following each degree. “Old Charges”; the ancient manuscript constitutions of Freemasonry; the rules and practices therein set forth.
CHARTER. (Sometimes Warrant of Constitution). The document given by Grand Lodge under authority of which a Lodge works. Lodge cannot be opened or do business without its physical presence.
CIRCUMAMBULATION. A journey around; a part of the ceremonies of initiation, passing, raising. Symbolically refers to passage of sun through heavens, from east to west by way of south. By walking in this direction around their altar, early fire worshippers imitated the Sun, their god.
CLANDESTINE. Irregular, unauthorized; illegally made Mason or Masonic body.
CLOTHED. A Mason is “properly clothed” when dressed in apron. gloves, emblem of his office, if any, and other decorations authorized by Grand Lodge (in some cases, cuffs, collars and hat).
COMMUNICATION. Masonic name for meeting; Communications are regular, stated, called, special, emergent. Regular and stated meetings are set forth in the by-laws. Called or special meetings are at the pleasure of the Master. Emergent meetings arc special meetings called by the Master or Grand Master.
COMPASSES. One of the three Great Lights. In six Grand Lodges the word compass is used. Usually associated with the emblem of the Master; square and compasses.
CORNUCOPIA. An emblem of abundance. Hence generally the jewel of the Stewards in a Lodge.
COWAN. An uninstructed Mason, a Mason of lesser degree than that on which a Lodge is open who gains or tries to gain admittance; an intruder; a suspended Mason who tries to enter a Lodge; in general one who has no business in a Lodge. All profanes who try to enter a Lodge are cowans, but not all cowans are profanes.
DALE. Masonic terra` for valley, or depression between high points.
DECLARATION. The statement made by Masters and Grand Masters during installation, giving assent to certain charges. Part of ceremony at opening and closing of Lodge. In some states, a part of Masonic petition.
DEDICATION. Setting aside for the use God, the Holy Saints John, the purposes Masonry.
DEMIT, DIMIT. To withdraw from a Lodge by its permission; the paper which attests the fact.
DIPLOMA. (Sometimes Master Mason’s Certificate). Document given by many Lodges to Masons when made, attesting the fact. Not to be confused with receipt for dues or good standing card which attest payment of yearly obligations to Lodge.
DISCALCEATION. Removing of foot covering as sign of respect or veneration for that which is holy. DISPENSATION. Grand Master can dispense with certain Masonic requirements; the dispensation is the paper carrying that permission. Also the temporary document given a new Lodge by the Grand Master prior to its receiving a charter or warrant from Grand Lodge.
DOTAGE. No set number of years, but enough to have dulled the senses and impaired the intelligence. Some men live to an advanced old age without going into dotage; others become senile early. Dotage is a bar to Masonic initiation.
DUE GUARD. Probably contraction of the French Dieu Garde-God guard. A mode of recognition. Salute at Altar.
EAVESDROPPER. One who listens for that which is private. Early operative lodge buildings had openings under the eaves for ventilation. Those who tried to listen through these openings received the droppings from the roofs; hence the name.
EDICT. Decree of Grand Master or Grand-Lodge. Obedience is obligatory on all Masons. Non compliance with a Masonic edict is contumacious.
ESOTERIC. That which is secret, not for the uninitiated, not printed. Compare with
EXOTERIC. That which is printed, known, non-secret, available to any one.
FLOOR-CLOTH. Same as Carpet. In ancient times emblems were drawn upon the lodge floor in chalk and erased after a meeting. To save trouble a cloth was later substituted for the floor.
FREE-BORN. Necessary condition for a Masonic initiate. Denotes one with no known slave ancestry.
FREE WILL. (Free will and accord) Voluntary. No man is solicited to be a Mason. He must come of his own will and state that he has done so, several times during initiation.
GOAT. Mythical animal supposed to be present in Lodges to “butt” the candidate. Association of the goat with Freemasonry came from its enemies in the eighteenth century, who declared Masonry raised Satan in magical incantations in Lodge ceremonies; as the goat was associated with the devil, it became associated with Masonry through its traducers of two hundred years ago.
GOLDEN FLEECE. Order of chivalry in Europe, established in 1429.
GORMOGONS. Anti-Masonic England, 1724.
GRAND HONORS. Two methods of salute known to Masons; Private Grand Honors, given only behind tiled doors, and Public Grand Honors, given at funerals and cornerstone layings. Grand Honors differ in form in different Grand Jurisdictions.
GRAND ORIENT. Governing body of the Scottish Rite in foreign countries.
GREGORIANS. Another anti-Masonic body organized in the 18th century to ridicule Freemasonry.
HAIL. To greet.
HALE. Perfect, healthy.
HEAL. Properly to initiate one improperly or illegally made a Mason.
HEEL. Part of the foot.
HELE. To cover or conceal.
HIGH TWELVE. Noon; twelve o’clock.
HIRAM. Name of a King; name of the Builder; sometimes the name of the Master’s gavel.
HIRAM ABIFF. Translated Hiram, my father, or Hiram, his father; “father” used as a term of respect.
INDENTED TESSEL. Ornamental border rounding the mosaic pavement of Solomon’s Temple, or in a Lodge.
JEWELS. (Movable). In this country, the rough ashlar, the perfect ashlar and the trestleboard. (Immovable). The square, the level and the plumb, so termed because of the immovable stations of the officers who wear them. Emblems worn by Lodge officers.
JUST AND REGULARLY CONSTITUTED. Said of a Lodge with the legal number of brethren to open and work, and brought into existence properly and by lawful authority.
LANDMARKS. The ancient usages, customs, rules and laws which cannot be changed without altering the character of Freemasonry. No final determination, satisfactory to all Masonic authorities, has ever been made as to an exclusive list of Landmarks.
LEWIS. The son of a Mason. In former times a Lewis might be made a Mason before he was of age; North Dakota accepts the petition of a Lewis before he is twenty-one, but will not initiate him until he is of age.
LIBERTINE. Today, a dissolute, son; formerly a dissenter, an unbeliever in religion.
LION’S PAW. Name of a form of recognition among Masons; is often associated with the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (The Messiah).
LOW TWELVE. Midnight.
MADE. A Fellowcraft is “made a Mason” in the third degree.
MAKE. “To make” is to confer the third degree.
MASON AT SIGHT. In most Grand Lodges the Grand Master may convene as emergent Lodge under dispensation, and cause it to confer the degrees on a candidate of his choice. One made a Mason “at sight” is an unaffiliated Mason; no Grand Master has the power of making such a Mason a member of a Lodge. Only the Lodge can do that.
MAUL. (Usually setting maul). Often confused with gavel; the setting maul is a heavy instrument used for tapping stones down in place. Has prominent part in Master’s degree.
MOCK MASONS. Apostate Masons in 1747 who paraded with profanes to the Grand Feast.
MONITOR, MONITORIAL. The book containing the exoteric work of the degrees; monitorial, instructions from the `book. In many Grand Jurisdictions called manual.
MYSTIC TIE. Expression used by Robert Burns in poem saying farewell to friends in a Scottish Lodge; now symbolically the bond uniting all Masons.
NORTH. Masonically and symbolically a place of darkness.
NORTH EAST. Place in which cornerstones are laid; place of first Masonic instruction. North East, half way between North, a place of darkness, and East, source of light, has always been a symbol of a commencement, a beginning; a new construction, new endeavor.
OATH. Incorrectly used as synonymous with obligation. The obligation is a promise; the oath is the calling upon God to witness. In court one takes an obligation to tell the truth; the oath is “So help me, God.” Tyler’s oath; taken by committee and visitor prior to examination to determine if visitor is a Mason.
OBLONG SQUARE. A rectangle; the shape of a Lodge.
OCCASIONAL LODGE. Same as Emergent Lodge.
OCCUPIED TERRITORY. State where a single Grand Lodge reigns or two or more share by mutual agreement, and in which no other Grand Lodge can come in without committing the Masonic offense of “invasion of jurisdiction.”
PASSED. Describes the advancement from Entered Apprentice to Fellowcraft.
PASSWORD. Word by which one identifies himself to another; mode of recognition.
PAST. Describes an officer not now in office, such as Past Master, Past Grand Master.
PAST MASTER’S DEGREE. Second degree in Royal Arch Masonry; also conferred on Masters in many jurisdictions before installation.
PASSING THE CHAIR. The ceremony of making an elected Master eligible to installation, in jurisdictions where this custom prevails.
PENALTY. Masonic penalties are expulsion, indefinite suspension, definite suspension and reprimand.
PLENTY. Symbolized by sheaf of wheat, or ear of corn suspended near a waterfall or waterford.
POMMEL. The globes topping the pillars in porch of King Solomon’s Temple.
PROFANE. A non-Mason. From meaning “without the Temple.”
RAISED. Word signifying the completion of the ceremony of the Master’s Degree.
REFRESHMENT. Lodges are called “from labor to refreshment” meaning to rest from work. Does not always mean something to eat and drink.
REGULAR. According to duly constituted authority. An “irregular” Lodge is one not properly and legally constituted by a recognized Grand Lodge.
ROMAN EAGLE. Symbol of the imperial power of the Roman empire.
ST. JOHN. St. John the Baptist, whose “day” is June 24, and St. John the Evangelist, whose “day” is December 27; both Masonic dates are usually observed.
SANCTUM SANCTORUM. The hidden inner place, the holy of holies, the secret room of the Temple of Solomon in which rested the Ark of the Covenant, and where once each year, alone, the High Priest pronounced the name of the Most High.
SCALD MISERABLES. Another society opposed to Masonry in the eighteenth century.
SPECULATIVE. Title formerly applied to a non-operative member of the builder’s craft; now applied to all Freemasons.
STAR AND GARTER. A famous English order, A.D. 1349.
SUBLIME. Applied to the third degree of Masonry, because of its lofty teachings.
SUMMONS. Order from Master or Grand Master to appear at a meeting. Failure to answer is a Masonic offense.
TESSELLATED. Small mosaic work; a board design, usually of squares.
TOKEN. Mode of recognition.
VALE. Same as dale; valley; a low depression between high points from which approach of visitors may easily be seen.
VOUCHING. Statement by one brother another person is a Mason.
WIDOW’S SON. Hiram Abiff, “a widow’s son, of the tribe of Naphtali.”
WORK. Masonically, the conferring of degrees.
WORSHIPFUL. Applied to a Master, a Lodge; Most Worshipful to a Grand Master or Grand Lodge. In Pennsylvania, the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge are “Right Worshipful”.
Freemasonry is an institution essentially philanthropic and progressive, which has for its basis the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. It has for its object the exercise of benevolence, the study of universal morality, and the practice of all the virtues. – CONSTITUTION GRAND ORIENT OF FRANCE.