Scottish masonic usage and custom

Discussion in 'Masonic Education' started by iainmason, Aug 4, 2009.

  1. iainmason

    iainmason Registered User


    From a paper of the same title published by Quator Coranati, the Lodge of Research in 1967 and written by Bro. George Draffen of Newington, P.M., R.W.Substitute Grand Master (GLS)

    The extent to which tradition, custom and usage has influenced the Scottish Craft can probably best be illustrated by the fact that for one hundred years the Grand Lodge of Scotland got on perfectly well without any Book of Constitutions. That may seem to many of you to be extraordinary, but it is quite true. The Grand Lodge of Scotland was founded in 1736, it first published a Book of Constitutions and Laws in 1836. Even when it was published it was a slim volume dealing in the main with the constitution and government of Grand Lodge itself and paying little attention to the government and control of the Daughter Lodges. That a Grand Lodge with some 280 active Lodges on its Roll should be able to function without a Book of Laws and Constitution speaks volumes for the efficacy of tradition, usage and custom.

    The early minute books of some of our Lodges reveal that in many cases they possessed a copy of a "Book of Constitutions" . Sometimes these books were copies of the English Book of Constitutions. The fact that her Lodges were using a book of Constitutions published by another Grand Lodge did not seem to worry our Grand Lodge, at least there is no mention in the Grand Lodge Minutes of any prohibition on their use. When the first Scottish Book of Constitutions was published, in 1836, tradition, custom and usage were still strong and this was reflected in that book and has continued to be so reflected up to the present day.

    Perhaps the most striking example of the individuality of our Lodges is to be found in the regalia. Every Scottish Lodge is entitled to choose such colour or colours as it may think fit. Allowing each Lodge to have its own colour of regalia has the advantage of enhancing the individuality of each Lodge and demonstrating any connection a Lodge may have to another organization, etc. In this District we have several examples of this - Lodge Cormack uses the Newfoundland tartan, Lodge McLeod the McLeod tartan, and Lodge Newfoundland Kilwinning has combined the colour of its sponsors - Lodges Tasker, St. Andrew and Westmoorland.

    Another feature of Scottish regalia is the sash, in the Lodge colours, which may be worn by every Master Mason who is a member of the Lodge. In the old days all gentlemen of any standing wore a sword, usually suspended from a sash worn over the right shoulder. When our brethren went to the meetings of their Lodge they wore their swords. On entering the Lodge they would take the swords out of the frog in the sash, but they kept the sash on and went into the Lodge room. It was quite usual to have one's sword-sash in the colours of the Lodge. These sashes may still be worn by all Office-bearers in a Scottish Lodge and as well may be worn by all Master Masons if they so desire. Sometimes the name of the Lodge or the badge of the Lodge is embroidered on the sash but no other ornamentation is allowed. Our regalia is also made distinctive by our aprons having a semi-circular flap instead of a triangular one and our custom of always wearing the apron beneath the jacket, with the flap exposed.

    Within our constitution there is a great effort to enhance equality amongst our members. In that regard there is subtle distinction in our Lodges as between a Past Master of the Lodge and a Past Master in the Lodge. The levels on a Master's or Past Master's apron are, in our Lodges, badges of office not badges of rank. This means that a Past Master of one Lodge whojoins another Lodge may not wear levels on the apron of the Lodge he joins. He will wear an ordinary master mason's apron. He will, of course, receive all the courtesies due to a Past Master in the Craft but he is not accounted a Past Master of the Lodge and as such he cannot wear levels on his new Lodge's apron. This distinction extends even to District Grand Lodge and Grand Lodge. The only members of District Grand Lodge who wear levels on their aprons are the District Grand Master and Past District Grand Masters. In Grand Lodge only the Grand Master Mason and Past Grand Masters wear levels on their regalia. All the Office-bearers in Grand Lodge and District Grand Lodge wear the three rosettes of a Master Mason on their regalia. Usually the third rosette on the flap of the apron is replaced by the badge of office. The badge of office is not worn on the white lambskin as it is elsewhere. The basic thinking behind this system of regalia is that every member of the Scottish Craft is on the level with every other member and that as few distinctions in clothing as possible should be made. This basic thinking is carried further by the fact that every Scottish Mason is addressed as "Brother" - no matter what rank or office he may hold. There is no such person in the Scottish Craft as a "Worshipful Brother" or a "Very Worshipful, or Right Worshipful or Most Worshipful Brother". All are brothers and titles are attached to the office, not the man. Thus the Grand Master Mason is referred to as "Brother The Hon. The Lord Burton, Most Worshipful Grand Master Mason" and never as "Most Worshipful Brother The Hon. The Lord Burton". The Master of a Scottish lodge is addressed as "Right Worshipful" and the Wardens as "Worshipful" . On quitting office it is our custom to drop down one rank in respect of titles, i.e. a Past Grand Master is a "Right Worshipful Past Grand Master" and the Master of a Lodge becomes a "Worshipful Past Master" when he leaves the chair. This emphasis on equality is also demonstrated by the fact that our Lodges have no Officers - only Office-bearers. This usage serves to constantly remind those who hold office that they should not suffer from delusions of grandeur or self importance but instead always remember in holding office they are privileged to bear a burden of service to their Brethren.

    The fact that a Scottish Lodge elects all its Office-bearers, as opposed to appointing them, can probably be traced to the operative days and the subsequent influence of the operative Lodges when, by slow stages, they become non-operative and finally speculative. In those of the old Scottish Guilds and Trade Associations which still survive it is customary to elect all the Officers and this practice is followed in the Scottish Lodges. In some Lodges the by-laws permit the Master to appoint his Depute Master and his Substitute Master; in the District Grand Lodges the District Grand Master appoints his Depute, his Substitute, the Secretary and the Chaplain; in Grand Lodge the Grand Master Mason appoints his Depute and Substitute. There are two points about the government of a Scottish Lodge which are not found in England or Ireland. The first is that it is not essential to have served the office of Warden before becoming the Master of a Lodge. Any qualified member of the Lodge is eligible for election to the Master's Chair. The second point is that there is no statutory time limit in the holding of office. A Master of a Scottish Lodge can be re-elected as often as the Lodge cares to do so.

    In ceremonial matters our Lodges probably display a wider variety of ritual working than will be seen in English Lodges. This may be accounted for by the fact that there is no "semi-official" working such as "Emulation" ritual. The Grand Lodge of Scotland has never laid down any standard ceremonial working for the various degrees - with two exceptions. There is an Official Ceremonial for the Installation of the Master of a Lodge and, by implication, there is tacit recognition of an Official Ritual for the working of the Mark Degree. The reason behind the first is that the whole ceremonial of the Installed Master was imported into the Scottish Craft from England, with the sanction and approval of Grand Lodge. Some variations on the official ritual are used and Grand Lodge, in keeping with our tradition of tolerance, does not insist that the Official Ritual alone be used. The second ceremonial which I mentioned - that of the Mark Degree - is official by implication, for the Grand Lodge of Scotland does not publish an Official Ritual for this degree. When the Mark Degree was restored to the Scottish Craft working in 1863 it was agreed with the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland, which also works the Mark Degree, that the ceremonial used by both bodies would be the same. This is, in fact, the case but only the Supreme Grand Royal Arch chapter of Scotland publishes an Official Ritual for the ceremony. When we turn to examine the rubrics of the ceremonial work, as opposed to the spoken word, the visitor to a Scottish Lodge may well be struck with the amount of music which is to be found in the course of the ceremonies. Apart from the opening and closing hymns and the background music during the taking of the ballot or the perambulation of the Candidate it is quite common to find that hymns are sung at various points in the ceremonies.

    Finally I come to the greatest effect that tradition has made upon the Scottish Craft - the working of the Mark Degree as a recognized part of the making of a Scottish Mason.

    Law No. 1 in the current Constitution and Laws of Grand Lodge says:"1. The Grand Lodge of Antient Free and Accepted Masons of Scotland is the corporate body governing the three Degrees of Freemasonry within Lodges under its jurisdiction, namely those of Entered Apprentice, Fellow-of-Craft (including the Mark) and Master Mason. Grand Lodge authorizes no other Degrees but recognizes a Ceremonial of Installed Master." For many years before 1863 the Grand Lodge of Scotland had not recognized the Mark, but in the old Scottish tradition that had not prevented some Lodges from persisting in working it under "time immemorial tradition". The whole matter came to a head when the Provincial Grand Master of Glasgow suspended the Office-bearers of a Lodge for working the degree. The Lodge appealed to Grand Lodge and the appeal was upheld. Since then every Scottish Lodge has been entitled, under the terms of its Charter and by virtue of Law 1 to work the Mark Degree - and the great majority do so. One final observation. The composition of both Grand Lodge and a District Grand Lodge are somewhat different to the arrangements which rule in England. Our District Grand Lodges are composed of (1) the Master and Wardens of every Lodge in the District; (2) The Past Masters of every Lodge in the District; and (3) the Past Masters in every Lodge in the District. In so far as our Grand Lodge is concerned Past Masters are somewhat at a discount! They are not members of Grand Lodge. Every Lodge under the Grand Lodge of Scotland is represented in Grand Lodge by three members - the Master and the two Wardens or a Proxy Master and two Proxy Wardens. The basic thinking behind this arrangement is that no Lodge shall have any greater say in the affairs of Grand Lodge than any other Lodge. An old Lodge with many Past Masters has three representatives in Grand Lodge - and so has the youngest Lodge. Here again we see the emphasis on equality in the Scottish Craft. Since the Grand Lodge of Scotland has a very large number of Lodges overseas, 43%, it is clear that the overseas Lodges cannot be represented in Grand Lodge by their actual Masters and Wardens. All overseas Lodges are represented in Grand Lodge by a Proxy Master and two Proxy Wardens. Grand Secretary provides a Lodge with a Proxy Master and two Proxy Wardens. Of course, any Lodge is quite free to appoint any Brother as its Proxy Office-bearer and indeed Lodge Anik has appointed as their Proxy Master one of their own Past Masters who has gone to live in Scotland. A somewhat similar arrangement applies to the District Grand Masters except that the appointment of a Proxy District Grand Master is generally done by the Grand Master Mason. Law 82 of our current Constitution and Laws provides for proxy representation in District Grand Lodge by those Masters and Wardens who are unable to attend District Grand Lodge Communications and we are taking steps now to implement that arrangement for our District.

    These, my Brethren, are only some of the many traditions, usages and customs which are unique to the Scottish Craft which form part of our heritage. We would do well to remember them.

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