The Freemasons are one of the most secretive and controversial religious groups in the world. Masons have existed for centuries – and if we are to believe their claims, they’ve existed covertly for even longer. Whatever their history, speculation has always been an enjoyable pastime – and this is especially true in the case of the Masons’ more scandalous secrets. Having passed down traditions and secrets from one generation of initiates to the next, they make it difficult to know what’s outdated and what’s still practiced. Consider these ten masonic activities as provisional facts – we don’t know for sure, but it’s always an interesting exercise to imagine what might be going on behind our backs
When did Freemasonry begin?
The first grand lodge, established to govern Freemasonry in England and Wales, was formed in 1717, during a meeting at a pub in the City of London called the Goose and Gridiron. At that time there were four lodges in the city. But in Scotland, a masonic lodge in Edinburgh has records to show that it has been in existence since at least 1599. During the early 18th century, Freemasonry spread quickly to Europe and the colonies.
Freemasonry’s guiding metaphor is the craft of stonemasonry: it models itself upon the fraternities of medieval stonemasons who would use secret words and symbols to recognise each others’ legitimacy, and so protect their work from outsiders. During some periods of history, Freemasons have been persecuted – by the Nazis, for example – and have needed to go underground to survive. But there are persistent suspicions that Freemasons also remain secretive in order to conceal the way in which they can assist each other in business and the workplace.