Even though my sponsor George (who really was a great guy; crusty, Polish, conservative as a Cro-Magnon) had told me just a little about the “ceremony” I was not really prepared.
The memory work was a “snap” although I did make one or two minor mistakes. But it was the ritual initiation that made the evening so memorable.
The key in this whole sordid (three-part) anecdotal filler (Holy Week is too stressful upon me to produce anything new and, well, good J ) turned out to be where the local Lodge met to hold their secret Masonic meetings. It was in the third floor of a building right on main street (one of the five or six blocks of main street…small, small hamlet) This was an old (30’s or 40’s?) square stone and mortar building that had no working windows in the upper floors—also no air-conditioning. My initiation was in early May as I remember. It was already getting hot (remember that; and no, no “type” of Hades is intended)
I was waiting in the anteroom, a small square vestibule where there was a chair and a desk and some Mason armorial posters adorning the walls. Say what you want, but coats-of-arms and cool “Knight-like titles” appeals to the 11 year old in every man (sadly, I was 32).
I was met by the Door-Keeper/Sgt. of Arms; I think his official title was “Tiler.” He told me to strip to my skivvies (undershorts, t-shirt and socks) and put on the toga. Yes, it was a toga like Belushi made popular in ANIMAL HOUSE…well, okay, that’s kind of cool I thought. I also had to be girded with a cincture like thing (before I knew what a liturgical cincture was) around my waste. The Tiler (and he too was also a super-nice and friendly local guy) then blind-folded me and led me by the cincture into the large hall—after some knocking, pass-word giving, and other hokum. “Boy, I thought, this is right out of some Frat “pledge.””
The whole initiation lasted about 30 minutes and was a re-enactment of the Masonic goof-ball myths of Hiram Abiff the made-up Builder of King Solomon’s Temple (not the real Scriptural personages that we don’t know much about). I was being “symbolically” led from the “darkness” of non-Masonic mundanity, to the “light” of Masonic brotherhood, wisdom, fraternity, and…well, cheesy, soupy, syncretistic, one-world, universalism. It was the “Fatherhood of God” (however you choose to denominate Him; Allah, the Jewish god, Cochise, or a Methodist Surfer Jah-eee-zus) and the “brotherhood of man.” In reality, it was about a bunch of older, rural, gentlemen, who wanted to play mystic-order club house without their nagging wives. That would have been one thing. What bothered me and sent me to further research, was the ritual “dying and raising” that they did to me. I was standing there blind-folded listening to some hocus-pocus about compasses, squares, and seeing eyes of the “architect,” when the guy in front of me pushed me very hard on the shoulders. The push was no big thing but there was somebody bent over right behind my calves (you remember this gag from the 3rd grade school-yard) I fell backwards --- but, was caught as gentle as a cloud by a bed sheet that I later found out was held tightly by three men on each side. They slowly and delicately laid me down on the ground. I was now “symbolically dead” and entombed. After some more mystic Monty Pythonish drivel I was then “raised” to new life in the light of Masonry. Even then, in my back-slid, poor attending, un-Catechized Lutheranism, I thought it was blasphemous.
I was welcomed into the Lodge, given a membership card (okay, that too was pretty cool) and my own cloth apron. Just think of an Amice only tied around your waste---yeah, the whole Knights Templar mojo seems not as cool when they expect you to wear a carpenter’s apron. Also, NO BUFFALO or Beefeater hats, dang! The Exalted Leader was wearing a goofy looking bowler, like a gay Jeeves. And where was the beer and brats??? They served coffee and Bundt cake with cookies at the conclusion of each Lodge meeting. Wot???
[ End of Part Two; Final Part Tomorrow *]
* Boy, am I “milking this”