Of all the Freemason charitable organizations, the best known is the Shriners. The Shriners are famous for their vibrant parades and their work with physically challenged children. Indeed, there are currently 22 Shriners Charitable Children’s Hospitals in existence.
In order to become a Shriner, a member must first be a Freemason. All North American Shriners adhere to the basic principles of Freemasonry: relief, truth, and brotherly love. The Shriner mantra is: “Pleasure without intemperance, hospitality without rudeness and jollity without coarseness.”
The Famous Fez
Though the Shriners throw amazing parties, parades, and do wonderful work with sick children, they are probably best known for their hats: red fezes with black tassels. The hats are part of the Shriners rich tradition. They derive from the holy city of Fez, Morocco, and the hats were chosen as part of the Shrine’s Arabic theme, which is the foundation of the modern Shriners movement. Despite this theme, the Shriners are in no way connected to Islam. It is a largely secular group that is focused on the bonds of brotherhood. The only religious connection within the group is that all Shriners must be Masons, and those who join the Freemasonry must claim to believe in a Supreme Being. In order to further separate themselves from a religious ideology, Shriners now refer to their “Temples” as “Shrine Centers.”
Shriners belong to the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North American (AAONMS). An international fraternity, the Shriners boast 500,000 members throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada, and the Republic of Panama. In total, there are 191 Shrine Temples in these four geographical locations.
In 1872, the Shriners was founded in New York City by Master Masons. In New York City, the masons met at the Knickerbocker Cottage at a special table on the second floor. This group of masons was particularly popular because of their boisterous meetings, and willingness to have wild parties. There, the founders of the New York City branch of masons founded a new fraternity -- one focused on the bonds of brotherhood rather than rituals. The founders of this new branch of Freemasonry were Walter M. Fleming, M.D. and William J. Conlin, and actor who went by the stage name: William J. Florence. Fleming went on to be the official founder of AAONMS, which is an anagram for “A MASON.”
Freemasonry itself is an ancient organization. Originally, it consisted of stonemasons and craftsmen who gathered in shelters and lodges to meet. Over time, men of different occupations joined the freemasons, and the group became less about occupation and more about the bonds of brotherhood. There are different tiers of Freemasons, and the highest level is Master Mason.
Until 2000, a person had to either complete the Scottish Rite or York Rite degrees of Masonry before they gained membership to the Shrine. However, now any Master Mason can join.
Most people know Shriners from their festive parades where members drive in miniature vehicles, donning their famous Fez hats. However, the Shriners are also committed members of their community where they participate in public projects. They fund treatment of young polio victims, individuals with orthopedic injuries, diseases, and burns. Anyone can receive treatment at a Shriners hospital, regardless of income, religion, or race. However, patients must be under the age of 18. In 2005 alone, Shriners hospitals approved 37,755 new patients.
The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry or the Scottish Rite, as it is informally called, is one of numerous Rites of the fraternity known worldwide as Freemasonry. They are one of two branches that a Master Mason may join to continue his education, after completing the first three degrees. The other branch is known as the York Rite. The Scottish Rite is compiled of the 4th through the 32nd Degrees and includes an honorary 33rd Degree, which is given for superior service.
History of the Scottish Rite
The Scottish Rite is not from Scotland; it was established in France in the beginning of the eighteenth century. Lodges of Perfections were setup in the United States during that century. Henry Andrew Francken created the first one in Albany, NY. The first Supreme Council was established in 1801 in Charleston, South Carolina.
In 1813 the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was created. It is compiled of the fifteen states located north of the Ohio River and the Mason-Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi River. This also includes Delaware. The other thirty-five states are the Southern Jurisdiction. This group also includes the United States territories and possessions and the District of Columbia.
The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction
The Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction is the Scottish Rite Freemasonry governing body. It is located in Lexington, Massachusetts. There are fifty 33° Masons known as Active Members, which are the board of directors of the Supreme Council. Their purpose is detailed in their Declaration of Principles.
The Southern Masonic Jurisdiction
The location of the Supreme Council of the Southern Masonic Jurisdiction is in the District of Columbia. Their building is known as, “House of the Temple.” It was started in 1911 and completed in 1915. It was designed like the renowned Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Scottish Rite Degrees
They have the identical belief of all Masonic groups, which means they feel the Master Mason degree is the highest attainable degree. The Scottish Rite degrees are not any higher than those of the Symbolic lodges. The Scottish Rite was created to continue and improve the work of the Symbolic lodge. These degrees are not of rank, but of knowledge. These degrees are a lesson that is observed by candidates in the form of plays. They include recent events of historical matters as well as Biblical ones.
While the Master Mason is the pinnacle of achievement in the world of freemasonry, there are a number of appendant degrees that Master Masons can use to further their knowledge of the organization. One of the most unique of these is the York Rite, named for the city of York, England. Legend has it that the first meeting of the masons of England took place in the city of York, making the York rite an apt name for this popular appendant degree.
In most countries outside of the United States, the York Rite is not used as a single system, and each local Grand Lodge jurisdiction may have a distinct rite with some differences from the traditional York Rite system.
In the United States, the York Rite is in reality a grouping of separate rites, all grouped together to form the York Rite. The rites included in the United States version of the York Rite include the Capitular Rite, the Cryptic Rite and the Chivalric Orders.
The York Rite Sovereign College
The York Rite Sovereign College exists as an invitational Masonic body designed to further the knowledge and experience of the invited members. The York Rite Sovereign College is open to those members who are already members of all four York Rite bodies, and who have shown a marked proficiency within those bodies. The college confers one degree only, known as the Knight of York.
DeMolay is an appendant organization of Freemasonry that is open to young men from the ages of 12-21. Every chapter of DeMolay is sponsored by a local Masonic Lodge, and it is part of the Masonic family of youth groups that includes Job’s Daughters and Rainbow for Girls.
DeMolay was named after Jacques DeMolay who was a knight and crusader in the late 13th century and was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar. When the Knights were being persecuted by the King of France, Jacques was held and tortured for over seven years, but he would not betray his comrades. The founders of the organization chose him as the namesake for DeMolay for his bravery and his example of loyalty and fidelity.
The organization of DeMolay was started in 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri by Frank S. Land. During World War I, many boys had lost their fathers and Frank was concerned about these boys learning life skills. He was introduced to a boy named Louis Lower by a Masonic brother initially with a view to finding him a part-time job. Louis’ father was a Mason who had recently died, and Frank soon realized the need for an organization to provide mentorship for boys like Louis. The first chapter of DeMolay was started with Louis and eight of his friends who met in the local Lodge. By 1921, the Masons were interested in DeMolay and official recognition of this as an appendant organization began.
The structure of DeMolay is one of mentoring by Senior DeMolays to active DeMolays to develop civic awareness, leadership skills, and personal responsibility. Although each chapter is sponsored by a Lodge, each boy does not have to have an individual Masonic sponsor to join. Like the Freemasons, DeMolay candidates are initiated through ritual and allegorical programs.
Through the years, DeMolay has grown to include chapters worldwide. Although only 1 out of 1,000 young men in the United States join DeMolay, a large number of the nation’s leaders have been members. Some famous DeMolay members include Walt Disney, Walter Cronkite, football great Fran Tarkenton, as well as countless politicians.
What began with nine boys and one man with a vision has grown to encompass over 1,000 chapters all over the world. Through their mentorship programs and lessons in civic responsibility, DeMolay chapters have touched the lives of countless boys and helped them grow into productive young men.