The first experience of Freemasonry that any member will have is that of Craft Masonry, which is often also referred to as ‘Blue’ Masonry because of the colour of the regalia. It is here that the candidate will be accepted into the fraternity and taken through a number of ceremonies that impart the three degrees of Craft Masonry.
The prospective candidate will be proposed by two members of the lodge they wish to join, and following an accepted ballot they will be initiated into what will from that point onwards be known as their ‘Mother Lodge’. A Freemason is able to join as many Craft lodges as they wish, and many do for various reasons, but they will only ever have one Mother Lodge even if that lodge were to close down.
Craft Masonry forms the bulk of what is normally known about Freemasonry by the general public. It is here where the three degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason are conducted. Following the candidate being raised to the degree of Master Mason, they are considered to be a brother of full qualifications and an equal to everybody else within the fraternity. The structure of Craft Masonry is as follows:
The candidate is initiated to the degree of Entered Apprentice. The degree is symbolic of birth.
They are then passed to the degree of Fellowcraft , symbolic of life.
Finally, they are raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, which symbolises death.
The content of the Craft ceremonies revolves around the building of the First Temple of Solomon. The candidate is taken through a series of allegorical events and conversations that are intended to impart various moral and spiritual teachings. They are also instructed through a number of short lectures – known as ‘charges’ – as to the symbolism of Freemasonry and the precepts that one is expected to conduct themselves with.
The three degrees of Craft Masonry can be very powerful experiences, and are in the truest sense of the term initiations. This is quite relevant in the modern world, where our participation in such ceremonial conduct is increasingly rare. Because of this, the ceremonies are often quite impacting on the candidate and become a very strong memory in their lives.
The business of Craft Masonry revolves predominately around these three initiation ceremonies. However, there is plenty of other business conducted which centers upon Masonic education lectures and charitable initiatives. Many Freemasons also get much benefit out of the social and fraternal nature of a lodge, with a large focus of a meeting being on the fraternal meal that is taken once lodge business has been conducted.
Within the workings of a Craft lodge there are a number of officer positions that brethren can choose to progress through, eventually ending with them becoming Worshipful Master of the lodge for the period of one or two years. These officer positions are referred to colloquially as ‘Chairs’ and are as follows:
Tyler : Guards the entrance to the lodge from the outside.
Stewards : These brethren are responsible for the smooth running of the meals that coincide with the lodge meeting.
Inner Guard : The brother that would traditionally guard the door to the lodge room from the inside. Today, their purpose is the ceremonial admittance of members, visitors, and candidates into the lodge.
Deacons : Two people responsible for the floor workings of the lodge. They are usually the only members of the lodge that are mobile during meetings, helping to conduct various duties and during initiation ceremonies assisting in guiding the candidate through the ritual.
Wardens : The Junior and Senior Wardens are two of the three principal officers in a Craft lodge and help conduct the proceedings of lodge business. They also play an important role in the ceremonies of Craft Masonry. It is intended that whilst serving these roles the Wardens are studying for the role of Worshipful Master, which can often require considerable amount of ritual memorisation.
Master : The Master of the lodge, refered to as Worshipful Master, sits at the East of the lodge and directs all business that is conducted. They also play a very central role in all ceremonial work that the lodge may conduct. This position is usually held for one year, although it is not uncommon for a Master to hold the position for two years. During this time, they are responsible for the direction that the lodge takes in their work and for looking after the welfare of the lodge in general.
I.P.M. : The I.P.M. (Immediate Past Master), sits next to the Master in the East and is a position held by the previous Master of the lodge. Their role is to be there to assist the current Master in fulfilling their duties, and also to provide them with any prompting that may be needed during ceremonial work. Following a year in this position, the I.P.M. becomes known as a Past Master of the lodge and joins the body of fellow brethren who are known as such.
Beyond these roles, there are also a number of other positions within a Craft lodge that are important to the smooth running of the lodge and its work. These include the Secretary, Treasurer, Almoner, Chaplain, Organist, and the Director of Ceremonies – who is the individual responsible for the smooth running of any ritual work and is therefore usually one of the most adept ritualists within the lodge.
Craft Masonry offers one an opportunity to learn about themselves and to explore their own spiritual and moral components without being given dogmatic instruction as to such. Although the ritual refers to a supreme being, there is no attempt to define it on an individual level and each candidate is free to interprete this in their own way.
The main point of the ritual and the work of a Craft lodge is to make each member a better and more productive element of society, whilst at the same time allowing them to progress upon their own individual path towards spiritual completion.
Once a candidate has received the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, they are eligible to explore their Masonic interest further through a number of appendant side orders. Further sections of these resource and information pages will explore these side orders and the options they grant to the Freemason interested in exploring different areas of Masonic lore and conduct.