The Freemasons, or Masonic Brotherhood, is steeped in lore and mystery. It’s an organization that is built around ritual, so it comes as no surprise there are Masonic funeral services. But unlike other ceremonies, a Masonic funeral is actually a public affair few people have heard about.
What does a Masonic funeral entail exactly? And who receives a Masonic funeral? Keep reading to learn all about the funeral services for a Freemason.
What Are Freemasons?
First, a little background information on the Freemasons. A Freemason is someone who belongs to the Fraternal Order of Free and Accepted Masons. It’s a mens-only organization that began hundreds of years ago in the 13th Century, making it the oldest fraternal organization in existence.
The original Freemasons were stonemasons that formed a local guild. Today, the organization exists for different reasons. It’s a philanthropic and social organization that promotes the idea of members being industrious, active members of society that lead virtuous lives. It’s estimated that there are currently 2 million Freemasons around the world.
There are secret elements to membership, but the Freemasons aren’t a secret society. However, understanding all of the imagery and signs isn’t common knowledge. The symbols that are used relate to stonemasonry. The Square and Compass is one of the most important symbols that is directly connected to the work of stonemasons.
Many of the country’s founding fathers were Freemasons, including George Washington. He famously had a Masonic funeral in 1799. Other noteworthy Freemasons include Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, Henry Ford and Buzz Aldrin.
Are the Freemasons a Religious Group?
Funeral rites are often a part of religion, but that’s not necessarily the case for Freemasons. Many people mistakenly think that only Evangelicals or people of a Christian faith can be a part of the Freemasonry, but that isn’t the case. Religion is actually completely separate from being a Freemason. Members come from a wide variety of denominations. However, one thing that connects members is the belief in a “Grand Architect of the Universe”.
This belief and the secrecy of some rituals is why the Catholic Church banned its members from becoming Freemasons. In the 1800s the Catholic Church even called the Freemasons the “synagogue of Satan”. In 1983 the Vatican reinstated its opposition to the Freemason organization and noted Catholics who joined the group couldn’t receive Holy Communion.
Who Can Have a Masonic Funeral?
A Masonic funeral isn’t for just anyone who was a Freemason. Typically the funeral rites are reserved for Master Masons. A Master Mason is someone who has passed the Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft degrees. However, if someone dies within a year of entering the Entered Apprentice or Fellow Craft degree they too can have Masonic funeral rites.
The person would also have to be a member in good standing. The one exception is nonpayment of dues within a year prior to the death.
Who Performs a Masonic Funeral?
A Masonic funeral isn’t automatically arranged. In order to have a Masonic funeral the deceased or their family needs to request the service.
Although Masonic funerals are public, they are meant to be very personal. For that reason, the individual’s lodge will perform the Masonic funeral. The general sentiment is that the funeral services should be conducted by the other Freemasons that knew the deceased best and understand the brotherhood of the fraternity.
What Happens During a Masonic Funeral
You won’t get a glimpse of most Freemason activities, but you may see Masonic funeral service. A Masonic funeral is a very meaningful service that’s meant to honor the legacy of a Freemason and acknowledge his role in the organization. Emphasis is put on what the individual did to serve their community and how they inspired other Masons.
Each lodge has their own specific Masonic funeral services, but there are some more ritualistic elements that remain the same across the board. A Masonic funeral will commonly include:
- Introduction led by a Worshipful Master
- Sacred Roll will be read
- Reciting Freemasonry prayers and passages
- Singing Freemasonry hymns
- A eulogy
- Remembrances from friends and family
- Aaronic Benediction bible verse reading
If the deceased choose burial or for their cremains to be buried there are also special burial rituals for a Masonic funeral. In addition to the practices above, a burial can also include putting a square with a compass in it above the grave. It’s a symbol of the Freemasons that identifies the deceased as a member. Other burial rituals in Masonic funeral services are reciting special prayers over the grave and placing an apron on the marker. The apron is another symbol for Freemasons. The color indicates the member’s degree. White aprons are reserved for Master Masons while blue aprons represent an apprentice.
Typically, Masonic services are done in conjunction with other funeral services. It’s not uncommon for the Masonic funeral service to be performed at a gravesite after the other funeral rites are complete. It’s also possible to do a Masonic funeral service after a cremation as part of a memorial service or scattering ceremony.
Other than honoring the memory of the deceased, the primary purpose of a Masonic funeral is to support the grieving family. The Freemasons are a part of a brotherhood that looks out for each other even after death.
Arranging a Masonic Funeral Service
Masonic services aren’t going to be provided by a funeral home. You’ll have to contact the lodge that the deceased belonged to in order to arrange a Masonic funeral service. This is the time to ask what funeral rituals the local lodge performs. Anyone who isn’t familiar with Freemason verbiage and rituals may find the funeral services to be a bit hard to follow. Knowing what will happen in advance helps.
If you plan to bury the deceased you’ll need to reach out to the cemetery as well. You’ll need to verify the rituals will follow the cemetery regulations.
Are you planning to have a cremation before Masonic funeral services? Green Cremation Texas can help you coordinate with a local Freemason lodge as well as the cemetery if you plan to bury the cremains. Contact us by phone, text or email to get personal assistance.