The Beaver Degree
by Midnight Freemason Guest Contributor
Bro. Ryan "T-Rex" Buman
Before I get into the deep subject matter of this article let me clear up a couple of things. The following information takes place in the symbolic pre-1840’s fur trade era, in a buck skinner encampment. All the participants at these events, also known as rendezvous, are known as “skinners”. All items, shelters, clothing, cooking, etc. are to be as period correct as possible. Modern items are kept hidden away unless absolutely necessary and even then they are tried as best as possible to be kept hidden.
The main camp activities have settled down for the day and campfires can be seen all around many cooking the night’s dinner or heating water to do the dishes, before settling in for the night to enjoy the completion of the day’s labors. You can see camps lit up with the candle lanterns where the kids may be playing games of some sort while the adults sit and talk, catch up on events since last meeting, or sing, play music, and all around have fun.
Somewhere in camp tonight you know that there is a lodge held in a canvas tent of some sort, with Brother Master Masons preparing for the activities of the night. You await their arrival with patience but at the same time with some trepidation. What will this night entail for you? What will happen tonight at this “Beaver Degree”?
A short while later two Brothers approach you, the initiate, out of the dark from somewhere in camp. They ask if you are ready. Before leaving camp, they take a look at your clothing to make sure that you are still dressed in proper period attire. After meeting with their satisfaction, you walk with them along the path to their camp. On the way you say hello to other members of the camp, maybe stop and ask about their day. To them the three of you are just taking an evening stroll as friends.
Upon your arrival at the encampment, where the degree is to be performed, you meet with the other Brothers who have also came to join in the degree work. You the initiate, will be asked to wait with patience until the Boushway can be informed of your request to be inducted and his answer returned.
One by one the new initiates are taken into the tent, flaps shut, and then the degree, conferred upon them. For those standing outside there is probably some wonder as to what is going on. But as any member of our great Fraternity knows, waiting with patience always has its rewards. While my obligation prevents me from going into detail about the degree itself, I can tell you this, if you are a buck skinner and a Master Mason this group is well worth it.
The first National Order of the Beaver degree was conferred during the Third Annual Northeast Rendezvous held in Exeter, Rhode Island in in the year of 1990, which was where the first conferral of the "Buck Skinners' Degree” was conferred. The new tradition that would later be known to many later as the Beaver Degree. Each member initiated into the NAOOTB is given a number that can be inscribed onto the back of their own Silver Beaver when it is given to them after their degree.
The Beaver Degree, may be given to any Masonic “buck skinner” properly dressed in pre 1840’s attire, in a lodge of a primitive setting with a minimum of two members of the N.A.O.O.T.B. in attendance to confer this degree on any Master Mason with a current and valid dues card and paying the required fee set by the charter of the Beaver Degree members numbered 1 through 20.
What you will find interesting is that there are many Brothers within this organization that are members that you may have never known about before your initiation. I myself while visiting a well-known rendezvous in South Western Wisconsin, walked through camp and met many Brothers who were also Brother Beavers that I hadn’t realized were members. It was funny to see how so many of them had a different ways of showing that they were a Brother Mason from a simple Square and Compasses on a flag, to a metal cut out, stuck into the ground in front of their tent, a large pewter tankard with a beautiful handmade silver Square and Compasses on it, or the most memorable of all was a Brother who has a hand painted flag of a beaver, holding the “well-known cane and two balls”, wearing his Masonic Apron. This was right at the front of his lodge for all to see, but unless you are a Brother you have no further knowledge of what this means.
I was brought into the Beavers by a good friend of mine by the name of Big Horn, two years ago at a rendezvous in Steam Boat Rock Iowa. Now if you know Horn you know what kind of man he is. To say the least it was interesting night. But I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. Masonry was brought West by the buck skinners or mountain men of days long past and it is only right that they should still live on today through this wonderful degree. Every year there is a rendezvous where the “Beaver Camp” is held. It could be anywhere in the United States or Canada. If you are a Brother Beaver please give me a shout and say hello. If you aren’t a Beaver yet but are a buck skinner and would like to become one, let me know and I will see what I can do to help you out.
I end this article with a positive note to all of you Brothers. Always keep looking for Further Light in Masonry. I know that this degree opened my eyes to a whole other world that has created more interest in bettering myself as a Mason. Goodnight Brothers.
Bro. Ryan Buman is a Brother Master Mason with Southgate Lodge #657 Des Moines, Iowa and also Pioneer Lodge #22 Des Moines, Iowa. He is a Noble of the Za Ga Zig Shrine where he is a firefighter Clown. Ryan has worked as both a EMT and Firefighter in his career, married, and has two wonderful daughters who keep him on his toes