The Rite Word
From the Venerable Master (December 2022)
Greetings and welcome to the last month of the year. Examining the etymology of the word December, we notice the Latin Decem which translates to the number ten (from the PIE root dekm a proto-indo-european-”ten”); or the tenth month of the old Roman calendar, which we discussed back in March. The ‘ber’ completing the second half of the word most likely comes from the Latin bris, an adjectival suffix. In this case the Germanic suffix is ber.
When we reflect on the month, children and adults alike hold Christmas near and dear to their hearts. But what is the holiday's origin story? We know from Christian tradition, it is celebrated as the day Jesus was born. Jesus of Nazareth became the spiritual foundation, whose teachings formed the building block and chief cornerstone upon which the Christian religion stands. It became a federal holiday in 1870, and has always been celebrated as a time where friends, family, and loved ones come together in peace and harmony.
Let us turn back the clock a bit further in history for a more ancient meaning and origin. Before the birth of the man known as Jesus, the celebration of darkness to light has been one venerated for all of time. The Winter solstice which falls on December 21st is the day when the time of light outweighs the darkness of the preceding days. We find that the Norse who hail from Scandinavia, observed the holiday known as Yule, which begins December 21st, lasting through January. This holiday was observed by fathers and sons collecting large logs, and setting them on fire in recognition of the transition from darkness to light. This burning of the logs would last for many days, with each lick of the flames representing the coming year’s birth of pigs and calves. This is a far more pleasant celebration for this season than that of Germans, with the fear of Odin, as he flies over towns determining who would be prosperous and who would perish. This superstition kept most people indoors during this period.
When we observe the Roman solstice celebration, we find Saturnalia. This combination of three holidays being the day of Saturn, the god of seeds and sewing, originally called Saturnalia on the 17th. This day was given over to Opalia, who was Saturn's sister and represented the goddess of abundance and the fruits of the earth. We note Saturn represented the heavenly aspect, while Opalia was the earthly presence. The third celebration that was combined was Bruma, or a feast day celebrating the shortest day of light by the Romans which coincided with the solstice on the 21st and 22nd. The combined celebration lasted from the 17th-22nd until Augustus, who ruled from 27 BC - 14 AD, shortened this festive time to a three day period, as the party period was interfering with the productivity of work at the time. After Augustus, Caligula who ruled from 37 - 41 AD extended this to a five day holiday, followed by Macrobius who further extended it to last two weeks in the early fifth century. These festivities were a welcome break during the darkest portion of the season.
What could we expect to see during this holiday? We would find feasts in homes and a large feast out in the open at the oldest Roman Temple of Saturn. These festive and often rowdy patrons of Rome could be found throughout the streets cheering, much in the same way we would with ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy New Year’, with the phrase ‘Io Saturnalia!’. In the Temple we could imagine a statue of Saturn, with his feet bound tightly in woolen straps year round except during this festive holiday. They were loosened up, representing a time to ‘loosen up’ to its adherents. There were all manners of celebration, from bobbing for corks in ice water, gambling in public, trivia games, and the loved competition of chariot racing. Aristocrats of the time normally wore very conservative clothes that could be found in bright colors of gold, purple, and red which was called ‘synthesis’ meaning put together. It was not just the clothes that were a drastic change to the way the were, but we would see masters serving slaves and children serving parents.
Gift giving was also a large part of the festivities, where candles (cerie) signifying the lengthening of light in the days to come and sigillariae which were small clay faced ornaments were exchanged. Those ornaments could be found hung from greenery while holly and berries were present to honor Saturn. Though we do not associate gambling, drinking, and the pagan god Saturn along with other hedonistic aspects of this Roman time, there are pagan traditions that stem from the past, forming what we know as Christmas. It is noted that church authorities complained that the Romans continued into the eighth century to celebrate these pagan customs along with their winter holidays.
Whether it is the Roman Saturnalia, the Norse ‘Cool Yule’, or Christmas, take the time to be thankful we can spend with those we love.
From the Wise Master (December 2022)
From the Acting Wise Master
As we enter the holiday season we have the opportunity to reflect on our many blessings. We have the opportunity to be thankful for what we have received and what we have been able to give others. We have the opportunity to celebrate not only a specific religious holiday but a tangible change of attitude (usually for the better) in society in general. And when we take a couple moments in our overly busy schedules to slow down, even just for a minute, we have the opportunity to reflect on our great Masonic community of friends and Brothers who we make our journeys with.
The fraternal part or our fraternity should be part of our focus through this holiday season. Let us remember not just the Brothers we see regularly but also our shut-ins and widows. Please take some time to reach out to those Brothers and widows you haven’t seen in a while and see how they are doing. If you need contact information for any Brother or widow, please reach out to the Master of your lodge or to the Secretary.
And if you need a reason to be sociable or otherwise want to hang out with some Brothers, every Monday evening following practice, stated meetings, or degrees, San Jose Lodge no.10 and Golden Rule Lodge no.479 meet in the member lounge downstairs at the San Jose Scottish Rite. Come out and enjoy the fellowship.
Note: Even though he passed, we are leaving Randy as the official Wise Master till the completion of his term. This was the last of the 4 bodies for him to have presided and it meant a lot to him.
From the Commander of Kadosh (October 2022)
21st degree - Noachite, or Prussian Knight:
23rd: Chief of the Tabernacle
In this degree, we are reminded that we owe our knowledge to our faith in a revealed God. Therefore, it is our duty to disseminate this knowledge to all mankind. A Mason who believes in God has a duty to acquire knowledge and disseminate this knowledge to other people so that others are also enlightened. A Mason who is generous with his knowledge knows that he will receive the blessing of God, not by sacrificing living beings, but by destroying superstitions and bringing happiness and prosperity to other people.
From the Master of Kadosh (December 2022)
The Fall Reunion is over. Unfortunately, I missed all but the 32nd degree. We were out of state and just flew in on October 15th. The size of the reunions has gotten smaller since I joined 30 years ago. In the spring class of 1992, I was No. 44, and not the last. We were called to and from the class room, lodge room, and dining room “By the Numbers.”
Over the years I participated in the 29th degree for most reunions through 2015 under both versions of the ritual. In the early years the degree team included a bugler, one or more drummers, and a bagpiper. When I started, the team wore kilts with white shirts, black bow ties, and black Argyle jackets. With the change to the new script, we changed to a more casual shirt with laces at the neck and no jacket. I haven’t seen the degree performed for several years, so I’m not sure what the costume is now.
From the Chief Knight (December 2022)
WHAT IS THE SCOTTISH RITE?
There are two branches in Masonry nowadays where people can proceed after completing the third, and final degree of the Blue Lodge Masonry. That the third degree is the highest rank one can attain.
The first one is Scottish Rite and the second branch is the York Rite.
Many people think that the Scottish Rite actually originates from Scotland, but that is not the case. The first reference of the rite is actually found in French records. In those records from the 17th century, the word “Ecossais” is found. The translation of the word means “Scottish”, hence the name Scottish Rite.
The Rite actually has its establishment in America, in South Carolina. The first official recognition of the Scottish Rite came in 1801 in South Carolina. The Northern jurisdiction of the rite covers 15 states east of Mississippi River.
The most important aspect is that members of the rite share the belief that there is no higher degree than the Master Mason, or the third degree by the Blue Lodge Masonry. The degrees in the Scottish Rite only “amplify and elaborate” the lessons of the Craft.
Worshipful Lucifer? Want to rule the World?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that people who attain the 33rd rule, are actually in the service of Lucifer, and they want to rule the world with their knowledge. While there is truth in the saying “knowledge is power”, there is nothing bad or wrong in wanting to learn more about the world.
To masons, the 33rd degree being evil or devil worshiping is one of the most hilarious indictments or charges against their fraternity. There is one Mason, or few in every lodge and every meeting that have attained the 33rd degree. The degree is considered honorary, but not in a way that the said person knows more and is higher in the rank.
The fun fact is that men who have attained the 33rd degree are usually ones that are more active and involved in the movement, sharing their knowledge with others. The idea or conspiracy theory that “they are dancing off naked in the moonlight”, or “whipping up spells to praise Lucifer” is just absurd.
Conspiracy theorists are constantly trying to expose to the world the claim that “Masons and other secret societies are trying to rule the world”. It has become a common way to persuade Anti-masons that there is some horrific conspiracy. The premise goes that only “five percent of Masons know what is happening”, and those five percent are part of the secret new world order and Lucifer conspiracy.
The only ranking in the masonry system is that you cannot attain the second degree without the first degree. However, individuals who have attained 15th degree, for example, in the Scottish rite, are not higher.
They just have more degrees. Of course, there will always be conspiracies that argue that those part of the Scottish rite that have attained the 33rd degree know everything, and those without the 33rd degree don’t know what’s going on. And that is what makes Masonry mysterious and interesting. Not much is revealed ,and when people don’t know something about a certain subject, they are bound to come out with their own conclusions.
The Grand Master of Masons in each jurisdiction is the supreme authority, and he will always be the supreme authority, no matter if someone attains more degrees or not.