What is this business about riding a goat?

The ‘riding of the goat’ is one of those curious myths about Freemasonry that seems to have persisted from time immemorial. Needless to say, nothing of the sort occurs in a Masonic lodge. To the antiquary of the early 18th Century and to all dabblers in medieval superstition, the goat’s head was a potent and often sinister symbol. Thus, while its original source is unknown, it is probable the myth of ‘riding the goat’ comes from Masonic detractors several centuries ago.

Yes, but what about the strange aprons they wear?

All Freemasons wear a Masonic apron in lodge. That is what is in their small black bags! Aprons hail from the times of operative Masonry, when stonemasons wore aprons to protect themselves, their clothing, and to hold their tools of trade—just as carpenters and butchers do to this day.

In modern lodges, the apron is worn to designate the Masonic rank of the wearer in meetings. They are worn symbolically as a badge of honour. The Entered Apprentice apron is made of white lambskin and is a symbol of innocence. There are different aprons for Entered Apprentices, Fellow Crafts, Master Masons, Masters and Past Masters, and Grand Lodge Officers.

Does it cost a lot of money to be a member?

Any social organisation or club has membership fees, and a Masonic lodge is no different. Each lodge needs to meet it share of the costs of the Masonic Hall it meets in, printing, postage of meeting notices, and so on. The fees for annual membership, which are far from excessive, vary from lodge to lodge. Any prospective member should make appropriate enquiries.

I heard masons join for what they can get out!

A man cannot join Masonry in the hope of material advantage. He is specifically told he cannot join if influenced by ‘mercenary or other unworthy motives’. Certainly, Masons will assist each other in times of trouble—that is one aspect of brotherhood—but no more than they will assist anyone in need, Mason or not. One cannot expect, nor will he receive, preferment in employment or in any other way because he has become a Mason. However, he will receive considerable advantage in joining a lodge; that advantage is its moral teachings.

Do masons take strange vows?

Each Mason, when he joins a lodge, takes a pledge of fidelity. Again, this is common in many organisations. Ministers of Religion and Members of Parliament take vows before assuming their roles. Prior to taking his obligation in a Masonic lodge, the following, or similar, preamble is put to him:

It is my duty to inform you that Masonry is free, and requires a perfect freedom of inclination in every candidate for its mysteries; it is founded on the purest principles of piety and virtue; it possesses many great and invaluable privileges; but, in order to secure those privileges to worthy men, and we trust to worthy men alone, vows of fidelity are required. Let me assure you, however, that in those vows there is nothing incompatible with your civil, moral or religious duties. Are you, therefore, willing to take a solemn obligation, founded on the principles I have stated . . . ?

Upon his affirmative reply, he then takes the Obligation of a Freemason.

What do masons do in the community?

If you look at any worthwhile element of any community, you will find many Masons serving, from Local Government to Rotary, Lions, volunteer fire brigades, in innumerable charity and community organisations. Of course, you can find many non-Masons equally involved. A primary teaching of Freemasonry is charity. As an organisation, Masonry involves itself directly in many charities, raising and donating large sums of money; and running such things as Freemason’s Homes for Elderly, and Masonic hospitals, which are open to all—one does not need to be a Mason or his family member to use these facilities.

I thought only important people can join the lodge?

It cannot be denied that many men of rank and importance have been Freemasons, including many Kings of England, many Presidents of the United States, great men of the arts such as Mozart, Haydn, Sebelius, Prime Ministers and potentates—to name a few amongst hundreds. The current Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England is HRH The Duke of Kent. That said, hundreds of thousands of ordinary men worldwide have become Masons. For a list of Famous Freemasons, see Section Two.

A Mason is not esteemed on account of his worldly profession. Masons have little interest in what a man does, only in what a man is:

THE MEASURE OF A MAN

Not ‘how did he die?’
But ‘how did he live?’
Not ‘what did he gain?’
But ‘what did he give?’
These are the units of a man, as a man,
To measure the worth, regardless of birth.
Not ‘what was his station?’
But ‘had he a heart?’
And ‘how did he play
His God-given part?’
Was he ever ready, with a word of good cheer
To bring back a smile, to banish a tear?
Not ‘what was his church?’
Nor ‘what was his creed?’
But ‘had he defended
Those really in need?’
Not ‘what did the sketch in the newspaper say?’
But ‘how many were sorry when he passed away?’

from Philosopher’s Scrapbook, compiled by Brother Monty Blandford (Hallcraft Publishing, 1950).