My brother is a freemason, and is a member of the Orphic Lodge, which meets in the Freemason Hall in Parktown. His lodge had an open evening last night, so I went to find out more about masonry, and to see what they get up to.
Now, if you don’t know much about freemasonry, this was big. Women are not allowed into the Lodges normally. The open night was, well, open to anyone who was interested in finding out more. And if you’re wondering, yes, I did get permission to take photos in the lodge and to blog about it 🙂
Now the Freemason Hall in Parktown is the District Grand Lodge for South Africa. It’s a beautiful building, literally right next to Hillbrow. The main gates are permanently shut now, but even they are beautifully done with the masonic badge on it. Wish I could take photos in the daylight! Even at ISO 20000, the ambient light was awful.
One thing I learnt last night, was that there are plenty lodges that meet within the same building. I thought there was only one lodge in Parktown. That night there were 4 other lodges working upstairs while the Orphic Lodge had their meeting. I also found out that there are masonic lodges in most towns in South Africa.
We started the evening milling about, chatting, and looking at the amazing memorabilia in the hall. It’s a huge pity I couldn’t go up the staircase, I loved the look of the old ballastrades and chandeliers. It’s also a pity that the library was being renovated, because there are apparently the most incredible manuscripts in the room.
This is a little small… but it’s the family tree of the royal family identifying the grand master’s ancestors in the Craft.
Photos in the passage with some famous masons including Kitchener, King George II, Stan Laurel and Oscar Wilde! I knew about the English royalty, but not about the others.
We had to walk into the lodge room in pairs, so I grabbed Carl’s work colleague Izzy and we strolled in together. We were seated in a corner of the room, which made sense so that they didn’t have to shout. However, we soon understood that there was a method in this.
New apprentices have to sit in the North East corner of the hall. It’s a tradition based on how buildings are built! The foundation stone is always placed in the north east, and the building then grows around it. Part of the piece recited to new apprentices says something like “may you raise a super structure honourable to the master builder” (or something like that)
Then as you progress through the degrees, you get to move around the room. The rough stone on this stand depicts you as you start your journey, and the smooth stone suspended (further down in the post) depicts your destination as a mason
We learnt a LOT about the aprons. They start out being plain lambs cloth, and then get more adorned as you progress through the degrees.
The white gloves are worn to hide your hands. Hands give away your vocation, and as a mason everyone is equal. It doesn’t matter what you do as a day-job.
Carl is reciting a ritual in this photo, which was impressive… not sure I’d remember all those poems and sayings. But I did discover later on in the evening, that all the masonic books are now digital! This ancient brotherhood is digital 🙂 I did like that! The masons have a mobile app (with passwords of course) which contains all the books.
There are a number of Freemasonry constitutions in South Africa, and last night 3 were represented. The Orphic Lodge is part of the English constitution, and there were members from the Scottish constitution, and one guy from the only German speaking South African lodge too!
I think this is my favourite photo of the evening… holy books from every religion present in a Lodge meeting are always opened, and placed on a table in front of the hall, before proceedings begin. Carl was saying that in some lodges that he’s been to in Johannesburg, there are 4 or 5 holy books open on any one evening… from the Bible, to the Koran and the Torah. And yes, if you’re wondering from that sentence, this is not a white society anymore.
Even though the books are open on the table, one of the rules is that religion… and politics for that matter, cannot be discussed at Lodge.
I knew that the masons were known for their charity work. I learnt a few things though. Every lodge does their own charity work (they collect food, blankets, and other items for local charities), but once a year the Grand Lodge of South Africa makes a major donation. Charity work and donations are not only given to masonic charities. In the last 9 years, they’ve donated over R1 million a year to charities including CHOC and Headway amongst others.
I think I left with more questions than I started the evening with! But I have found the South African Grand Lodge website with information, and if you’re interested in joining a lodge, I found a page to do just that! If you’re keen to join my brother’s lodge, I can put you in touch with him.
A great website to review is from the United Grand Lodge of England, the worlds oldest constitution, which is the one my brother, Carl, belong to http://www.ugle.org.uk/.