In the 300 years it has existed, few subjects can have attracted more myths, conspiracy theories, and misinformation as Freemasonry.
Here we answer the most commonly asked questions about Freemasonry and explain some of the less widely understood aspects of this fascinating
and worthwhile pastime
What is Freemasonry?
Freemasonry is the oldest and the largest of the secular (that is, non-religious) fraternal societies. It exists to allow men with a social conscience to put something back into society by providing aid, support and hope to those in need.
Freemasons support a wide range of charitable causes dealing with everything from major international emergencies such as earthquakes or flooding, to local community causes, and individual problems such as ageing, illness, or poverty.
Where and when did Freemasonry start?
No one actually knows. No documented evidence has been found to support the existence of Freemasonry as we know it, prior to October 1646 when the diary of Elias Ashmole (the founder of the Ashmolean Library in Oxford) records his admission into a Lodge of Freemasons in Warrington, Lancashire.
The United Grand Lodge of England was founded
in London in 1717.
Whatever its exact origin, Freemasonry has a long and rich historical tradition extending back
almost 400 years.
So what’s all this about signs and passwords then?
Medieval Stonemasons are supposed to have made themselves known and proved their skill level to prospective employers, by using a 3 stage authentication procedure.
Certificates were of little use as most people were illiterate, and when it comes to carving large chunks of stone, practical tests were, well… impractical.
So at each stage of their training they received a sign, a grip and a password which they were told to keep private to foil impostors.
Our degree ceremonies continue to reflect this custom; but these days the modes of recognition are purely symbolic.
How do you do a masonic handshake?
Sorry to disappoint you but there is no such thing as a
universally recognised masonic handshake.
It’s a myth borne out of a misunderstanding
of Masonic Ritual!
Within each of our degree ceremonies there is a grip exchanged at each level which is one of the traditional means of recognition (See above).
The grips have no function or meaning outside
of our ceremonies.
These days all Freemasons are encouraged to be open and enthusiastic about their membership, so if you want to know if someone’s a Freemason it’s very simple…. just ask!
Why do Freemasons wear aprons?
To this day, working Stonemasons wear an apron to protect their clothing from stone chips and dust. Traditionally these were made from Lambskin and covered the front of the body.
Modern Freemasons continue this practice but the apron has ceased to be a practical garment and has become a badge of rank within the organisation.
A newly admitted member, known as an Entered Apprentice, wears a plain white Lambskin apron which gets progressively more ornate as he moves up the organization.
Why do you roll your trousers up?
It is currently thought that it originated in the practice of Medieval Stonemasons who were required to show that they were healthy and fit for work, and that they were “Free” men.
The only time a Freemason is required to bare his knee is during his progression through each of the three Degree Ceremonies which introduce him to different aspects of Masonic philosophy.
Why can’t women become Freemasons?
Actually they can!
There are two women’s Freemasonry Grand Lodges in the UK that, are acknowledged to be “regular” in their practice of Freemasonry.
The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) maintains a friendly informal relationship with these two organisations, liaises on matters of mutual concern, and regularly refers queries regarding women’s Freemasonry to them.
In this day, single-sex organisations are very rare, but both Women and Men agree that their Freemasonry offers special and unique opportunities for socialising.
Is it expensive to be a Freemason?
There are some costs in the first year, such as joining fees, subscriptions, and the cost of regalia. Overall, this might total around £300 or so. You would also need a dark lounge suit. After that, the costs would be annual membership fees, which vary from Lodge to Lodge, the costs of dining, together with charity collections and so on. Overall the total might average out at between £5 and £10 per week.
Can anyone become a Freemason?
Freemasonry is an multi-faith, multi-cultural, multi-racial organisation. Membership of UGLE Lodges is open to all men who are over 21, law abiding, of good character, and who believe in a Supreme Being.
You do not need to be introduced, or to know someone
who is already a member
If I do join, what’s in it for me?
You will find it a worthwhile and fascinating way to invest some of your spare time. For most, it provides a sense of belonging to an organisation which provides a structured and formal part of life, which many feel is missing in today’s world.
In addition the Lodge’s social programme offers numerous opportunities for socialising; allowing you to form new friendships that will last a lifetime.
Do you have another question?
If you would like to ask any other question about Freemasonry