To be a Mason is to be a traveller.
We, at Square & Compass Promotions, in many ways consider ourselves to be professional travellers.
These travels have taken us to many amazing places throughout North America and, if you count virtual travel, throughout the world.
Over the coming weeks, we will be using this platform to discuss highlights of/from these travels.
Today we will be discussing something different.
Not where we travel.
But how we travel.
Masonic travel (or visitation) is a very important part of what it means to be a Mason. We would argue it is the most important part of what it means to be a Mason. It is certainly the most fun part of being a Mason.
It is also skill. Masonic travel is not like other travel. It contains unique rewards and challenges.
As we continue to share our Masonic travel highlights, we wanted to also share how we travel; to help anyone else considering the same.
It is important to note, however, that Masonic travel doesn’t mean travelling far.
Masonic travel often doesn’t even mean leaving your City.
Many cities and communities will have multiple lodges or multiple masonic buildings (or both) contained within the same municipal space.
Travelling from one part of your city to another, to visit a new Masonic Lodge, is a form of Masonic travel. It is just as valuable a form of travel as travelling from one part of the country to another or even one part of the world to another.
Even visiting a Masonic lodge that meets in your Masonic building (but is not your mother lodge-maybe it meets on a different night) is extremely valuable…
and it makes you a traveller!
The focus of this story, however, is travel which takes you out of your city or community.
The first question you need to ask when travelling to another Masonic jurisdiction: is the other Masonic jurisdiction recognised by your Grand Lodge?
Recognition is the process by which two Masonic jurisdictions recognise each other as being legitimate (as opposed to being “clandestine”).
In Ontario, the best way to answer this question is by checking the list (produced by Grand Lodge) of recognised Masonic jurisdictions that should be located in your Lodge’s registry.
Note: to any Brother Secretaries reading this, make sure this list is up-to-date!
If you can’t find the list, there is the Commission on Information for Recognition, which relies upon the Standards for Recognition and publishes yearly reports of which Masonic jurisdictions are recognised.
There are also several apps which provide both the physical locations of mutually recognised Masonic bodies (globally), but also provides contact information and meeting dates of/for these bodies.
We recommend the Amity App. “Amity…Travel Safely” is an app which allows Masons to travel safely. In order to sign-up for the app, one needs to be a Mason in good standing and be part of a mutually recognised Masonic jurisdiction.
We, at Square & Compass, use Amity as part of our travels. It has proven an invaluable tool both for Masonic visitation and keeping up-to-date on what is happening with Freemasonry around the world.
If all else fails, talk to your Lodge Secretary or Master: tell them where you are travelling and ask them if that location enjoys mutual recognition.
Being up-to-date on recognition is vitally important, both for traveller safety and Freemasonry’s health.
There exist multiple Masonic bodies, not all of which enjoy recognition. Some of these Masonic bodies are harmless and simply practice a unique form of Freemasonry not mutually recognised. In some cases, it may be a paperwork issue waiting to be resolved.
However, others may engage in improper or illegal acts (such as promising candidates material wealth or power upon joining) or may be unsafe to visit. Many groups use Masonic symbolism to “fool” prospective candidates or visitors into thinking they are Masonic in nature, while being little more than scams that takes dues in exchange for promised of wealth and influence.
Safety dictates that before any Mason visits a new jurisdiction, he confirms the status of Masonic recognition therein.
Note: Not having Masonic recognition does not stop any Mason from learning about any body or organisation-see Square & Compass’ Interview with the Order of Women Freemasons-or even conversing with the body. It does stop every Mason from visiting any Lodge or otherwise “official” meeting of that body or organisation and from welcoming members of that body into their Lodge(s)).
Are You A Mason…Prove It!
Now that you have confirmed that the location to which you are travelling enjoys recognition, and you have found a Masonic lodge or building to visit (using Amity or Google are great ways to find almost anything Masonic-just make sure you confirm recognition), the next question that needs to be asked: how will you prove that you are a Mason?
Any Lodge will, before welcoming you to a tiled meeting, want to test you to prove that you are a Mason. This is not being paranoid…this is the Lodge doing its job!
Produce your dues card!
A dues card is more than a piece of paper.
A dues card is the physical representation of a member’s good standing within his lodge. It is often the first piece of “sure” information requested when that member is travelling to a new Lodge.
Before you travel, make sure you have your dues card with you..and make sure it is up-to-date (pay your dues).
Having a dues card on you, at all times, is extremely important because, if you are visiting a location you have never been to before, it is very possible to stumble upon a Masonic lodge or building unexpectedly. Having a dues card on you will allow you to prove that you are a Mason, in good standing, and are allowed to visit the Masonic body or building.
Make sure your dues card is in good condition and easily accessible.
So long as you can ensure the copy is safe from compromise, making a digital copy of your dues card is a great way to ensure its information is protected should the physical card become lost.
Note: Expired dues cards make great Masonic mementos, & look great in a photo album!
A dues card is important…as is its care. A damaged (or lost) dues card demonstrates a lack of interest in Freemasonry; it also increases the chance that you will not be allowed entrance within a lodge to which you are a visitor.
However, having a dues card is not be enough.
You should be aware of general Masonic knowledge related to your level, (EA, FC, MM) and the relevant modes of recognition. The tiler’s oath is also a great tool (oath) to have memorised.
In most lodges, the Senior Warden will confirm your membership status, often times in front of several other Lodge members.
In some cases, you may be visiting a Masonic body in which the membership does not speak your language. In this case…how do you prove you are a Mason?
One thing this author did to prove was “set-up the Lodge…” meaning I placed the appropriate aprons and collars on the chairs of the W. Master, Senior Warden, and Junior Warden.
This is why being able to set-up a lodge is a vitally important skill for every Mason (and can be super-helpful for the lodge).
Another form of proof can be a letter from your Secretary, confirming that you are in good standing with your lodge or Masonic body and providing the lodge’s contact information. As with the dues card, so long as you can ensure the copy is safe from compromise, making a digital copy of this letter is a great way to ensure its information is protected should the physical letter become lost.
Update the letter yearly.
As a rule, make sure when introducing yourself to include your name and rank or degree, and also if you hold any office within your Lodge. In Ontario, lodges open in the first degree while in the United States, most lodges open in the third degree. For this reason, it is very important that when introducing yourself you include your degree.
The wearing of Masonic rings, clothing, or other items is common (both for travellers and residents). The placing of bumper stickers or other items on vehicles is also common.
These are often referred to as Masonic “lights.”
In our experience, wearing or showing Masonic lights is a great way to display your Masonic affiliation when travelling; but be careful! There are (a few) locations in which Freemasonry is illegal or the people therein may have a negative perception of Freemasonry. In such places, obviously, showing Masonic lights could be dangerous.
Also, by the same token, just because someone is showing Masonic lights doesn’t automatically make them a Mason! Masonic symbolism has become very popular amongst designers, and many people like to wear Masonic symbols or lights without being fully (or even partially) aware of the meaning.
Someone showing lights should not stop you from asking for dues cards or other sure information.
Social media provides a great tool to both document travel memories and share them with others.
We, at Square & Compass Promotions, regularly document and share content from our travels, on both are professional and personal social media accounts.
Many Masonic jurisdictions have rules related to the posting of social media content and/or social media accounts.
This is in addition to any governmental regulations and the “terms-of-service” of the social media accounts themselves.
Checking with anyone who may be in social media content to confirm that he is comfortable with being on social media, including with masonic leadership, is always good practice; as is checking with your Grand Lodge or masonic body as to any social media guidelines it may have.
Note: Check with legal counsel if you have any concerns regarding posting on social media. There is also insurance available which ensures against potential social media related damages.
Happy To Meet…
In our experience, there are two types of Masonic visit scenarios.
The first is planned visits. In this scenario, the brother knows he is visiting and contacts the Lodge to advise his attendance and provide all the necessary information. For example, the brother may have a work trip planned, and takes the time to Google any masonic lodges which he may be able to visit during the trip (a good practice).
The second is unplanned visits. In this scenario, the brother happens upon a Masonic building by chance and discovers a masonic event is happening while he is travelling.
In either scenario, it is important to ask the following questions.
- Dress Code. Different Masonic lodges have different dress codes. Different Masonic events have different dress codes. If you are travelling you may not have appropriate dress for your visit-but it never hurts to ask. In many cases, especially if the visit is unplanned, the masonic body may for the visitor waive the dress code.
- Public Tours and Events. Masonic buildings often offer public tours or hold special events. In some cases (such as the Philadelphia Masonic Temple), the building will offer discounted tour rates for Masons (you will need to show your dues card).
- Apron. If the visit is unplanned, you may not have your apron on you. Most Masonic buildings and lodges will have spare aprons available for visitors.
- Tour guide. We have found that local Masons are often more than happy to act as tour guides for visiting Masons, talking about their communities and (on more than one occasion) showing local attractions and hidden gems.
- Using Own Signs. Depending on the jurisdiction you are visiting, make sure to request permission from the Master to use your own signs. Also, if you are a Master welcoming visiting Brethren, an announcement allowing visiting brethren to “use their own signs” is good practice.
Masonic Travel is Still Travel.
Travelling as a Mason is still travel.
As we would consider ourselves “professional” travellers, we have some general travel advice based on things which, at least, we have found helpful.
Travel insurance is an important tool to protect a traveller from unexpected travel delays and cancellation, or loss of property/luggage (in fairness, with the state of travel, “unexpected” delays are becoming more and more expected).
Health insurance is an important tool to protect a traveller from emergency medical expenses. Getting this insurance when travelling is the responsible thing to do!
It is also worth considering taking special insurance on masonic items or regalia, depending on their value (get them appraised)! If you travel with these items, taking special insurance for them may be appropriate.
When travelling, it is easy to be “penny smart and pound foolish.”
In our experience, depending on the length of a layover (if flying), airport lounges can provide excellent value for the price, as they often have free food and non-alcoholic beverages as well as spaces for working and relaxing. Some of the larger lounges have shower facilities.
Some airlines or other services offer upgrades. See if you can take advantage!
Many airlines, rail/bus services, and hotels have loyalty programs which provide great benefits over time. Signing-up for these programs is often free-make sure to keep track of the counts, and have all the passwords and account numbers recorded somewhere secure.
If you are travelling for a specific Masonic function, such as Grand Lodge Annual Communications or large conference, hotels may be offering discounted rates for anyone (including Masons).
Both hotels and AirBNBs can provide excellent accommodation options. It’s a good idea to check both. In our experiences, it is often possible to find AirBNBs relatively close to Masonic buildings.
During the pandemic, several governments enacted restrictions and/or different regulations related to travel (such as vaccination requirements, the wearing of masks, etc). Many airlines, airports, hotels, etc. also enacted restrictions or regulations related to the same.
While the pandemic seems (we hope) over, it is important to remember that different governments and different agencies will have different rules and restrictions related to travel (including passport requirements, visa requirements, vaccine requirements, length of stay, etc.) Being aware of these rules and restrictions, and how they may change, is the duty of every traveller (and every Mason).
The most important rule of travel though: have fun and remember, you are travelling as a Mason. This means that how you act when travelling reflecting upon the craft.
We wanted to take a moment to note that, thanks to technology, travel doesn’t have to be in-person anymore.
During the pandemic, Freemasonry saw a great increase in virtual meetings. These meetings allowed Freemasons to meet safely, and welcome visitors with a click of the mouse-from around the world.
As the pandemic restrictions ended, many Masonic bodies continued to take advantage of Masonic technology and incorporated virtual components into masonic (non-tiled) events-such as streaming portions of their annual communication or Scottish Rite bodies holding cinematic reunions.
Virtual travel has its place, but also its dangers. Make sure you are using secure technology and password protection. Also, make sure you do not record the virtual meetings without permission from the participants, and comply with any relevant guidelines.
Travel is a skill.
Travel is hard work.
Travel is important.
All opinions are those of Square & Compass Promotions and the guest(s), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Windsor Masonic Temple and/or any Masonic group.
We are publishing this story on January 16th, 2024 which means, in one week, the Windsor Masonic Temple will be hosting two amazing days and amazing special events!
On January 19th, 2024 Windsor Lodge №403 will hold an installation and banquet. Tickets are still available!
On January 20th, 2024 the Windsor Masonic Temple will hold a public unveiling to celebrate the work done on the same. The Temple is expecting hundreds of people to be in attendance over the two days.
We, at Square & Compass Promotions, have enjoyed covering/promoting these events as we do every Masonic event-but we especially enjoy covering January 19th and January 20th because the Windsor Masonic Temple is our home base both professionally and Masonically.
If you want to learn more about these dates, and potentially attend, contact Square & Compass Promotions!