Secret Societies of All Ages: Vol 2 - Charles Heckethorn

IV. The Lodge

393. Interior Arrangement of Lodge.—The arrangement of the lodge varies and will vary according to periods and degrees, but certain general rules are always followed in its construction. In an ancient French catechism the lodge is thus described: The lodge must have a vaulted ceiling, painted blue and covered with golden stars, to represent the heavens. The floor is called a mosaic floor; the term "mosaic" being derived from Moses, i.e. "drawn from the water," because by its variegated colours it represents the earth as covered with flowers again after the withdrawal of the waters of the Nile. There are three windows one east, one west, and a third south. There must also be two or three antechambers, so that the profane may catch no glimpse of what is going on in the lodge; and if some stranger should nevertheless intrude, the master exclaims, "It rains!" and the lodge is ipso facto dissolved. The lodge should be always hung with black; the brethren take their places according to their rank; the grand master in the east, the master in the south, and the novices at the north, because they cannot yet stand the heat of the sun, which only the initiated can.

When an apprentice is made, the lodge is brightly illuminated. The grand master, seated in his place, wears on his neck, appended to a large ribbon, a small square and compasses; before him stands a table, on which lie the Gospel of St. John and a small hammer. At his side are the two stewards, the first of whom wears a level and the second a plumb of gold or silver. The masters and fellow-crafts stand around with the apprentices, all wearing white aprons of lamb's skin, and each carrying a naked sword. On the floor are designed figures, representing the steps that led to Solomon's temple, and the two pillars Jachin and Boaz, but which in reality symbolise the summer and winter solstices, the pillars of Hercules, the two pillars of Seth. Above are seen the sun, moon, and a large star. In the midst of the floor is a coffin, in which lies a man apparently dead, with his face turned upward and covered with his white apron smeared with blood, one hand resting on his breast, and the other extended towards the knee. In the corners of the room are substances easily combustible, such as sulphur, to kindle a fire instantaneously. This apparatus is somewhat altered when a fellow-craft or a master is to be made.

394. Modern Lodge.—The modern lodge is a large square hall, always, if possible, situated due east and west. Upon a dai's ascended by three steps, opposite to the door of ingress, is seated the worshipful master; the altar is placed in the centre on four steps. A sky-blue canopy, dotted with stars, and having above it the shining triangle with the sacred name inscribed therein, covers the throne. To the left of the canopy is seen the sun, and to the right the moon. Another ornament is the blazing star, and the point within a circle, symbolising the sun or the universe. A chest or ark also forms part of the masonic furniture. It represents the ark that was carried in the processions of ancient Egypt, and contained seeds of various plants, a winnowing fan, and Osiridis pudendum.

To the west, at the sides of the door of ingress, stand two pillars of bronze, whose capitals represent pomegranates, and bearing on their fronts the initials J. and B. (Jachin and Boaz). The senior and junior wardens sit near the two columns, having before them a triangular table, covered with masonic emblems. Around the lodge there are ten other pillars connected by an architrave with the two pillars above mentioned. On the altar are placed a Bible, a square, a pair of compasses, and swords; three candelabra with long tapers are placed, one at the east at the foot of the steps, the second at the west, near the first warden, and the third at the south. The room is surrounded with benches for the members. In the lodges called Scotch, and in English and American lodges, the canopy that covers the master's throne is of crimson silk. In the United States, the worshipful master wears a cap adorned with black feathers and a large cockade of the same colour. The senior and junior wardens are seated in niches with fringed drapery, and wear, like heralds, staves of ebony sculptured like pillars.

395. Officers.—Besides the Master and the Wardens, who are figuratively called the three lights, the lodge has other officers—the Orator, Secretary, Treasurer, Master of the Ceremonies, Keeper of the Seals, Architect, Steward, Captain of the Host, Principal Sojourner, Inner and Outer Guard or Tyler, and others. Every official occupies a place assigned to him, and has his proper jewels and badges, like the Egyptian, Hebrew, and Greek priests. Thus beside the jewels already mentioned, the treasurer wears cross keys; the secretary, cross pens; the senior deacon, a square and compass, with a sun in the centre; the junior deacon, a square and compass, with a moon in the centre; the steward, a cornucopia; the tyler, cross swords, etc. The names of most of the officers sufficiently indicate their duties; those that do not will be explained as they occur.

396. Opening the Lodge.—The meetings are generally held at night. The worshipful master, striking the altar with his mallet, "opens the labours," and after having ascertained that the lodge is tyled, he turns to the junior warden and says: "Brother junior warden, your constant place in the lodge?" "In the south." "Why are you placed there?" "To mark the sun at its meridian, to call the brethren from labour to refreshment, and from refreshment to labour, that profit and pleasure may be the result." "Brother senior warden, your constant place in the lodge?" "In the west." "Why are you placed there?" "To mark the setting sun; to close the lodge by the command of the worshipful master, after seeing that every one has his just dues." "Why is the master placed in the east?" "As the sun rises in the east to open and enliven the day, so the worshipful master is placed in the east to open and enlighten his lodge, to employ and instruct the brethren." "At what hour are Masons accustomed to begin their labours?" "At mid-day." "What hour is it, brother junior warden?" "It is mid-day." "Since this is the hour, and all is proved right and just, I declare the lodge open." The purely astronomical bearing of all this is self-evident, but will be more fully discussed hereafter.