Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

20 July 2007

201st Post and a Meme

I was tagged by Bro. Tom Accuosti at The Tao of Masonry with the "Five Favorite Posts" meme. For the first time in months I looked at my list of blogposts and realized "My Wife the Drummer" was #200. The five posts which I feel most express my blog would be:

  1. Fear and Loathing in the Craft
    This post is my assessment of the hysteria associated with One Day Classes, particularly here in Maine where the issue has been so divisive and has divided our Grand Lodge into two secret political parties.
  2. PDC05: Day Two (The Blackout)
    Living in Maine made the experience of being in the midst of a national news story very exciting. I even received calls on my cell from family asking if everything was alright, woohoo!
  3. Freemasonry and the Catholic Church
    This is a frequently referenced posting. I really need to post a follow-up since events have rendered its content dated. The latest word from Rome is even more stern than before. Though I still have yet to find Freemasonry either a "naturalistic religion" or "plotting against the Church" I continue reading and my heart remains open, as suggested by Karl Rahner.
  4. On Hook
    Fishing with my youngest is among my favorite ways to spend a morning and of those, this was the finest.
  5. Feast of Tishri
    There are few times in my life where someone has actually asked for a copy of my work, be it a paper or a talk. I had many requests for this item.

Once again, I tag "Aude, Vide, Tace", "Tales from the Testosterone Zone", Bro. Hodapp from "Freemasons for Dummies", Bro. Stewart from "Masonic Traveler" and Mike Wilber from ";;;;;; --///.. ll./.---. ..ll ll;;--".

Labels: , ,

17 July 2007

My Wife the Drummer

I may not have mentioned this, but several weeks ago I broke down and bought a Wii. Tandy wanted to buy it for the girls for Christmas, but...I could not wait and wanted it for myself!! BWAHAHA! It did not take long to realize that buying games without playing them first is a bad idea. At fifty dollars a pop you stand to waste a lot of money. We have rented some real stinkers: Call of Duty 3, Shrek the Third, Rataouille, and so on. Today we rented our favorite game so far: Rayman Raving Rabbids!

It is a real blast to play, but the best part of all is my wife playing the rhythm game. The game depicts a dance floor with rabbits moving in on the outside, the object of the game is to strike down with the remotes just as a rabbit, or rabbits, is arriving under the lights. The game is virtually designed for drummers. The girls and I could not make heads or tails of this crazy game, but Tandy played like a champ. All of those years drumming in high school really payed off.

Labels: ,

The Bristol Working

One of my regular readers, Wor. Bro. Ed King, reminded me of that important English Ritual variant: The Bristol Working. Of late I have been buying books from eBay with an eye toward American ritual development. For instance, today I received a copy of the Virgina Text Book, which is very likely to have been the basis for the Maine Masonic Text Book. Since the class is going to be 50% European Freemasonry and 50% American Freemasonry, reading the Bristol Working is probably a good idea.

While at Amazon, I also noticed several other good books to order:
What Masonic books do you consider indispensable?

Labels: , , ,

16 July 2007

The History of Masonic Ritual in Two Parts

I received word from the Maine Masonic College that my petition for a new class plan has been approved. The class will be held at Benevolent Lodge in Carmel on Saturday, September 15th. The first section of the class will last from 9am to noon and cover the history of Masonic Ritual in Europe including the three key periods: obligation, catechism and lecturing. We will then break for an hour to have lunch and an open discussion, this was a segment of the class sorely missed last time. The class will reassemble at 1pm and spend two hours working through Masonic Ritual in the United States. This section of the class is most exciting to me as it will be an opportunity to share my own research material on the history of Masonic Ritual in Maine.

There are two more items which will make this class even more engaging. The first is my own research notes, which are already at 36 pages as extracted from the Proceedings of Grand Lodge and the records of several lodges. I anticipate this material will eventually cover the period 1820-1893, allowing us to go right up to the first written cipher. I am presently working on the year 1855, when the Grand Lodge finally formalized the Master Mason Degree here in Maine.

The second is even more exciting. I have, on loan from Triangle Lodge No. 1, a complete set of hand-written rituals from the early 1870s, previous to the first printed cipher. I am in the process of transcribing this material and printed copies of this early ritual will be distributed to those in attendance at the class. Just imagine the chance to see first hand the difference between the current ritual and that used by our brethren more than 130 years ago!
"...that cement which unites us into one common band of Friends and Brothers."
Not quite how we say it today, is it?

Labels: , , , ,

15 July 2007

A Bright Star in the Masonic Galaxy

As I continue to labor on my research project, Events in Maine Ritual History, I am entertained by wonderful anecdotes recorded in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Maine. The report of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence is never without its entertaining high points. This one is a clear winner:

Some progress has been made in the lodges of North Carolina in raising subscriptions for a masonic college, in accordance with a proposition made some years ago.
In their notice of the report of this Grand Lodge of 1850, they say:
"Our brethren in Maine are the men to accomplish what they undertake; and we feel assured they will do all that can be done to promote the harmony and interests of the craft. The Grand Lodge of Maine is a bright star in the masonic galaxy. May she shine forever."

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Maine, Vol 2, pg. 242

Labels: , ,

Mount Kineo Table Lodge

What a wonderful weekend! Mount Kineo Lodge No. 109 in Guilford was hosting a Table Lodge to honor R.W. Bro. Howard C. Weymouth. Bro. Weymouth is the Most Illustrious Grand Master of the Council of Royal and Select Masters for Maine and just an all around good guy. The moment we heard of this event four Brothers from Deering Lodge ordered tickets and made plans to take the two hour drive to Dexter. Bro. Chris DiSotto, the Senior Deacon of Deering Lodge, was raised at Mount Kineo and we have felt a debt to the lodge ever since for raising up such and excellent brother. Joining them for a Table Lodge seemed like a great thing to do.

We four, Chris DiSotto, Christian Brocard, Bob Wade II and I, left Portland at 2:30pm and made for Dexter where we dropped off our gear at Bro. DiSotto's camp. The camp itself was a beautiful design with a large living room, loft and two bedrooms. The most beautiful feature must be the huge screened in porch. I can easily see spending an entire day reading on that porch. In short order we headed over to Guilford to the Table Lodge.

Now a Table Lodge is no simple dinner. It is a seven course meal with toasts between each course. The toasts are well established: President, Grand Master, Master, Wardens, Members in the Armed Forces, Visting Members and Masons Wheresoever Dispersed Over the Face of the Earth. Rather than transcribe the ritual take a look at Phoenix Masonry's Table Lodge Ritual. Does anyone know what "vivat!" means? I gather it has something to do with "life" since the root "vivo" is "to live."

As it turned out I was called on to return the toast to the Masters, as I am the Worshipful Master of Triangle Lodge No. 1, and did so with an ineptitude to great to describe accurately. At least I was able to laugh at the performance! On the other hand, Wor. Bro. Bob Wade II was requested to return the toast to the Members in the Armed Forces. He brought all of Marine skill and excellent ritual to bear and as the Installation ritual says "...acquitted himself with honor and reputation...". It was clear to all why Wor. Bro. Wade is know by the nickname "Bro. Vivat!"

Following the dinner we made for camp and sat by a roaring bonfire listening to Johnny Cash and sipping Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish. What a great weekend and a fine night!

Labels: ,

14 July 2007

Freemasonry in Pennsylvania

A few weeks ago I packed up the wife and kids into the RAV4 and made for Pennsylvania to visit family. Despite being a Freemason for more than ten years, I had never manage to sit in lodge in my home state. Over the past two years, however, I have had to the pleasure of hosting Wor. Bro. Norbert Slezak, a Past Master from Victory Lodge No. 694 in Butler, at several lodges in Maine. This past winter I even seated him beside me in the East while I presided over a Master Mason Degree at Triangle Lodge No. 1 in Portland. Suffice it to say he has been very eager to return the favor, having been well treated by the Brethren of Maine. When he found out I would be coming down he sought out a degree for me to attend.

It was more than just a "degree." Bro. Slezak drove more than an hour from Butler to Connellsville to join me in witnessing a Master Mason Degree. The brethren of King Solomon's Lodge No. 340 were working their very last degree at their building on South Pittsburgh Street in Connellsville. The lodge had joined with three others to construct a new, single floor facility scheduled for dedication during the summer break. It transformed the degree into a significant historical event. It was easy to see why they were headed for a new location. Their building was quite old and had been wounded terribly by a lightning strike a few years ago. The bolt had cut a gash into the building and admitted a great deal of rain water, causing further harm to the building and leaving significant interior damage. Echoing two common issues facing lodges all over the country economic changes in the region had shifted the membership from the town center into the outlying areas while an aging membership, an upper-floor lodge and no elevator had gradually eroded attendance. the decision to create a new lodge hall sounds like a wise one.

As for the degree work itself, I cannot say for certain. The work was so completely unlike the Maine ritual, which is derived from the Webb Working of the mid-nineteenth century, that I was in no position to judge. This was not a surprise as my own research into the development of Masonic ritual made clear that Pennsylvania zealously guarded its working throughout its history. There were many phrases and words in common, but the differences were even greater including differences in our famously fixed elements like the sign and due guards. The only moment when I the two rituals merged was a brief section of the "working tools" lecture. In a general sense it had more in common with the English style of working, yet still substantially different in specifics from Emulation, which I have read, or Ritus Oxoniensis, which I have seen.

As I had been so long absent from Pennsylvania I had forgotten the odd Pennsylvanian sense of being "northern." In Maine, whether you are "northern" or "southern" depends on where you live. If you are from Calais, near Canada, then south of Bangor is "southern." If you live around Bangor then the line of demarcation only shifts to Brunswick. If you live in Portland then anything south of New Hampshire is "southern." Pennsylvanians, on the other hand, have this sense that they are the north pole of "northerliness" with every point outside of the state being "southern."

This issue arose in the context of my use of the due guard before speaking to the Master or answering his summons. One of the Past Masters was explaining to the brethren after the meeting that this was a "southern" style of ritual. Just hearing the statement flung me right back into the old sense of the entire world being south of Pennsylvania! I explained to the brethren that Maine could hardly be considered to be "southern" and that I had seen the practice in other States as well. However, neither Colorado nor Florida use the due guard in the fashion that Maine does. If the practice is common to Maine but not common to Florida, a person can hardly call it a "southern" practice.

The whole discussion made me miss my home state terribly, but no sooner had I returned to the Great State of Maine than the nostalgia was firmly expelled and I was glad to find myself back in my adoptive home state.

Labels: , ,

04 July 2007

World of Wii

Having left behind video games in 1995, when I last played a game called HeXen, my family seems like an unlikely target for conversion to Wii-dom.

Labels: , ,