The Masonic Jig

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

I stand in the back of the Lodge room, acting as Marshal in this Entered Apprentice initiation. The Worshipful Master turns and walks back into the arch formed by the Stewards' staffs. He stops and stands still. I wait for my signal. After about two seconds – TWO SECONDS – the signal doesn't come. And about five guys start doing the Masonic Jig.

The Masonic Jig goes something like this: the performer raises his hands in the air and then brings them down, almost violently, while flexing his knees downward. At the same time he whisper-shouts "Lights down! Lights down." The dancer performs the motion over and over until the room becomes dark. The astute reader will actually recognize this as a form of K-Pop. Who says Freemasons aren't hip?

The Master, as it turns out, was waiting for his signal to turn which he thought was the room going dark. I was waiting for my signal to darken the room which I knew to be the Master turning. A two second deadlock developed, which was other Brothers' signal to flail like monkeys on a hot griddle, at least momentarily damaging the dignity of the occasion.

I promise, in a couple more seconds I'd have figured it out and turned down the lights. Failing that, instead of the simian boogaloo I would much have preferred a single proctor saying, "lights down, please." Properly delivered the candidate might have thought that was part of the ceremony.

Ahhh… the Peanut Gallery. That ever-present bevy of Brothers ready to spring into action with corrections the instant a speaker says "your" instead of "thy" or "blessings and mercies" instead of "mercies and blessings." This affliction is a corollary to the Masonic Jig known as Masonic Tourette Syndrome.

These disorders are so prevalent in Missouri we must read a statement before each Master Mason degree prompting the Brothers to cool it. Paraphrasing here, the document reminds Brothers the Third Degree is a solemn and meaningful experience, not an opportunity to audition to become a Shrine clown.

When I was Master (Translation: "Back in my day, sonny"), I sometimes appointed a proctor and requested the other Brothers let him prompt for corrections in a more controlled and orderly fashion. This was somewhat effective although I have to admit I always appointed the most offending and disruptive Brother to that position knowing he wouldn't play second fiddle to anyone else, and would jump in anyway. It was cheating but the end justifies the means, right?

So, let's say it's a First Degree and the Chaplain offers this prayer, "Vouchsafe thine aid, Great Architect of the Universe, to this our present convention…" OMG! If that doesn't call for a nuclear Tourette blast I don't know what does. But here's the thing… neither the candidate receiving the degree nor any non-Mason reading this has a clue as to why. Let it ride, people! The words may have been changed but the meaning wasn't. The candidate will walk away thinking, "that was a beautiful prayer," instead of, "I wonder if God was able to hear the prayer over all that shouting from the sidelines."

Y'know, a letter-perfect ritual is great, but if I go to a meeting in Kansas, just 20 miles west of my house, I don't even recognize half the ritual. Again, the meaning is far more important than getting the exact words, in order, letter perfect. Heck, nobody can do that anyway.

I guess each one of us just needs to make sure we're not disruptive and maybe gently remind the Peanut Gallery to dial it down in the ceremonies. A little decorum does not go a long way. These ceremonies require large doses of it, especially when candidates are involved. I think the next time I'm Master (yeah, that's likely) I'll just hang a banner in the east that says, "Masonic ceremonies are not study clubs."


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

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