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The history of Freemasonry begins

The history of Freemasonry begins with stonemasons during the Middle Ages. That's when the guilds established a series of handshakes, passwords, and other secret symbols to protect their trade secrets and prove their credentials. From there, many of these early Masons organized themselves into Masonic “lodges” to take care of one another and their families in case of injury or death.

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By the 17th century, these lodges had transformed from groups of literal stonemasons into what's called “Speculative”  Masons. Members of these lodges, called Freemasons, gathered to learn a series of moral teachings. 

In 1717, four of these lodges came together in London to form the first “grand lodge” in the world. Masons eventually formed grand lodges in Ireland and Scotland, then the rest of Europe. Before long, Masons had established lodges all around the world.

What Are Some of Masonry's Traditions?

Freemasonry’s history and traditions date back more than 300-1000 years or more. Many are known to the public—for instance, the laying of the cornerstone of a new civic building (as seen here, in 1957 in San Francisco's Portsmouth Square). Only members are allowed to know some of the others, such as the secret ritual used to admit and progress candidates.

Within each lodge, though, you’ll notice a few constants:

  • A lodge’s leaders, or officers, hold titles that have been passed down from the ancient stonemasons’ guilds, including the master (the highest-ranking officer), wardens, and a tiler. Masonic lodge officers are elected to one-year terms.

  • Masons wear a white apron during lodge meetings. Officers may also wear special aprons, collars, jewels, and gloves representing their station.

  • The lodge room, where official meetings and ceremonies take place, is filled with specific Masonic symbols, from the checkerboard flooring to the seating arrangement.

  • To know much more is to be a Mason.

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