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Algoma District Travelling Square


Masonic Visiting - April 05, 2011





When an operative Mason came into town to find work, his first task was to secure the freedom of the town or borough.  This could be acquired by applying for a permit or license.


Normally there were only three ways to join a Guild; two were Patrimony (following your father into the trade), and Purchasing your way in (which was frowned on unless you could produce letters patent from your home town Guild).  However, if no doubt was allowed when the need was great, such as after the great fire in London in the seventeenth century.  You could also serve an apprenticeship.  The Guild set the regulations for the apprentices, and controlled the degree of knowledge required for the journeyman, or Master, as they were known at that time.  A Mason with a Guild permit to work in those days was called a “Free Mason”.  London, England’s city Guild was known as the Fellowship of Masons until the early 16th century, when the name was changed to The Company of Free Masons.  The name was changed again in 1665 to the London Company of Masons, which is its name today.  The city of London suffered a great fire in the year 1666, as a result of which an immense number of masons and other building tradesmen were employed by the Guilds to rebuild the city.  This construction process lasted over forty years, with St. Paul’s Cathedral being the last to be completed in the year 1710.


Symbolism associated with the use of tools was put there by our ancient brethren for a particular purpose, and that symbolism bears a striking resemblance to today’s modern Craft tools.  Surely, it would not have been sensible for them to teach their brethren about the use of tools; after all the Operative Mason was a Master of his Craft.  However, to teach him symbolism, where the tools that he used every day represented morality, virtue, and honour, reminded him of his duty to God and to his fellow man, added a new dimension to his life, and laid out a design, which, if followed, assured him immortality.


Submitted by: W. Bro. M. Johnson, Dominion Lodge No. 598, Windsor


Wor. Master; R. W. the DDGM; R. W. Sirs; V. Wor. Sirs; Brethren all.


In keeping with the theme of the Travelling Square I will read a lecture by Bro. Pocock of Acacia Lodge, No. 580 London, Ontario and published in the 1985 Grand Lodge Newsletter. 




Probably at all Masonic functions, whether it be in open lodge or Ladies’ nights, installations or any gatherings of Masons, we hear of the attributes of visitation.  The practice of visiting is one of the oldest customs of the Craft, dating back to the earliest days of Operative Masonry.  Practically every version of our Old Charges, from 1583 onwards, contains a rule on the subject.  “Every affiliated Mason in good standing has the right to visit any lodge wherever it may be, as often as it may suit his pleasure or convenience.  It is one of the most important of all Masonic institution as one universal family. It has been so long and so universally admitted, that I would not hesitate to rank it among the landmarks of the Order!”


It is a matter of individual opinion whether visiting is a landmark, but it certainly has “time immemorial” status and has always been an important part of Masonic life.  The practice can be traced back to the Middle Ages, and of the Church and Cathedral builders.  Then, every Lodge attached to a building site or in a centre of a population was a potential home for masons and a place to which travellers in the trade naturally gravitated for shelter, or in search of work.  Most of the Old Charges gave instructions that such Masons were to be welcomed and assisted on their way, if work could be found for them locally.  Before the traveller could benefit, he had to prove that he was genuine, and from this would seemed to have developed the secrets of recognition.  In the course of time, lodges became less purely functional trade centres, and evolved a social side.  With this arose the custom of lodges being visited by Masons to meet their colleagues, and to enjoy their company.


The proper precautions regarding visitors to lodges must have been rather slack in the early days of Grand Lodge.  With the publication in 1730 of Pritchard’s famous exposure “Masonry Dissected”, Grand Lodge was compelled to take action.  The minutes of December 15th, 1730 was the first official step towards a proper control of visiting, and it was the first official regulation relating to the present–day signature book.


It must be realized that the right of visiting only applies to part of a meeting.  Visitors have no right to be present while a lodge deals with its private and domestic affairs.  Lodges in England usually do not worry about this, and visitors are admitted before the lodge opens and remain until it is finally closed.  In many parts of the world, however, the admission of visitors is a definite item on the agenda, and follows the lodge business.


This system has much to recommend it; it saves visitors from being bored by domestic details with which they are not concerned, and it may save them embarrassment if the brethren get involved in controversy.  It also has the advantage that unknown brethren can be examined, without causing a delay to the opening, and all visitors can be admitted and welcomed formally, with any honours to which they are entitled.


Visitors to lodges fall into definite categories.  First, there are the official visits of the Grand Master and his officers, or the D.D.G.M. and his officers.  Then it may be mentioned the organized visits by a Worshipful Master and his officers and brethren.  These present no problem, as the visitors will all be known as regular Masons.   There are also guests invited to such occasions as Installations, all will be well-vouched-for friends of the lodge.  Finally, we have what, without being in any derogatory, we may call “uninvited visitors”.  These are the Masons who are exercising their right to visit, referred to by Mackey.  Such visitors should be prepared to prove their regularity, and it is equally important that lodges should be aware of the proper procedure for receiving them.  One point, however, must never be forgotten.  Such brethren have the right to visit in accordance with Masonic custom, and they are obeying the implied wishes of the Grand Master in doing so.


Unless a brother can be vouched for, he must be prepared to submit to a short examination, to prove in fact that he is a Mason.  Examinations of this type have been in use for centuries.  One assumes that lodges have a regular drill for examining visitors, and providing they are simple and reasonable, usually prove effective.


Another acceptable method would be, if available, a Grand Lodge Officer, a past Master and a young Master Mason who could sit with the visitor while in the lodge.


There are apparently no set rules for the examination, except perhaps a sense of decorum and civility.  The prerequisite should of course be an up-to-date dues card.  Failing this, the visitor should be asked for acceptable proof of being initiated, passed and raised, such as a Grand Lodge certificate.  Knowledge of the penalties, the five points in the third degree, the particular passwords of each of the degrees, and of these could be asked of the visitor.


If a man truly is a Mason, he would, we assume, be aware of these requirements.  It is doubtful that he would visit a lodge without a paid-up dues card, and hope to gain entry by simply subscribing to the Tyler’s oath!


What we should remember is that if at any time any of us are privileged to be part of the Examining Board that the man we are examining most probably is a Mason.  The examination should be conducted in such a manner, as to afford this man the highest degree of respect he is entitled to, so that he will leave knowing he was treated a visitor, but more important, as a Mason.




The subject matter is fully explained in the Book of Constitution in Sections 335-357.  These sections provide certain rules as a guide to the W.M., but also have embedded in them the procedure for the actual ballot.


For simplicity the way to perform the ballot is given in point form:


1.     The W.M. directs the J.W. to advise all members of the lodge in the anteroom that a ballot is about to be taken.


2.     The W.M. orders the deacons to distribute the ballot.  The S.D. distributes the white and the J.D. the black balls to all the members present and to the Tyler.


3.     The W.M. inquires whether all members have been supplied with one white ball and one black ball.  On this being affirmative, the S.D. takes this white box to the J.W., S.W. and W.M. for examination.


4.     The W.M. informs all members of the particulars of the applicant.  If there is more than one applicant then the particulars of each are given, and by unanimous consent, a collective ballot may be taken on these applicants.


5.     The W.M. then orders the deacons to collect the ballot.


Presented by W. Bro. Dave Dasti