Circumambulation - The Lodge Education Series

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
R.H. Johnson

This is the first in a series that will be posted, likely reprinted in The Lyceum, and that will or have been delivered to my Mother Lodge, Waukegan No. 78, in Waukegan, Illinois. If you missed the back story on these, check out the article titled, "Return to Basics - Masonic Education Begins Anew."

Prepared for Waukegan Masonic Lodge No. 78 - Education for April 17, 2023

For my first Lodge Education at my Mother Lodge since leaving a few years ago, I wanted to do something fun. I wanted to cover something I talked about the very first time I became an LEO way back when Worshipful Brother Michael Ruchti was the Master.

I spoke about the practice of circumambulating the altar, or rather, walking around it. So tonight, many years later, I’d like to read you a little something and then perhaps ask you all some questions.

Circumambulation, the practice of walking around an object or area in a prescribed pattern, is an ancient ritual used for a variety of purposes. It is a physical manifestation of a spiritual act that has been used for centuries in a variety of religious and cultural contexts. This short education piece will take a bird's-eye-view of the history and use of circumambulation as a ritual, and religion, as well as its significance in different contexts.

Circumambulation has been used for centuries as a ritualistic practice in religious and cultural contexts. In Hinduism, it is used as a form of worship to honor a deity, and in Buddhism, it is used to honor the relics of the Buddha. Similarly, circumambulation is used in Islamic tradition to honor the Kaaba, a cuboid-shaped structure located in the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. In these contexts, circumambulation is seen as a way of connecting to a higher power, and it is believed that the act of walking around an object is a way of honoring and paying homage to it.

In addition to its religious use, circumambulation has also been used as a ritualistic practice in secular contexts. For example, in some Native American cultures, circumambulation is used as a way of honoring the four directions, with each direction representing a different element, such as water, fire, earth, and air. This ritual is believed to bring the participants into harmony with their environment, and it is seen as a way of connecting to the spirit world.

In Freemasonry, circumambulation is often used as an initiation or consecration rite. This ritual involves walking around an altar or some other object of reverence in a clockwise direction. The circumambulation is typically conducted three times, with the number three standing for the Masonic triad of faith, hope, and charity. As the initiate circles the altar, they are encouraged to focus on the spiritual significance of the rite and to meditate on the divine.

By participating in circumambulation, Freemasons are able to connect with the divine on a deeper level and gain a greater understanding of the spiritual principles that Freemasonry stands for. 

I invite any commentary, and questions and encourage conversation about your memories of this activity in the Lodge. 


RWB Johnson is an Emeritus Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He is the current V:. Sovereign Grand Inspector for AMD in IL. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts his weekly Podcast, Whence Came You?, which focuses on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four and works full-time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry", “The Master’s Word: A Short Treatise on the Word, the Light, and the Self – Annotated Edition,” and author of "How to Charter a Lodge: A No-Nonsense, Unsanctioned Guide. More books are on the way.

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