ITC 30 In The Chair Masonic Podcast: The History of the Ritual
Today’s guest is once again Reuben Ayres, Provincial Grand Orator for the Province of Devonshire, and member of St George Lodge that meets in Exeter. Reuben was first on In The Chair on podcast 17 when we discussed the history of Freemasonry, and again on podcast 27 when we talked about the value of Freemasonry.
In this episode I pick Reuben’s brain once again, and this time we delve into the history of the Masonic Ritual.
Before 1717 there were operative Masonic Lodges and it’s thought that from these the Ritual slowly developed. In fact, back in 1717 there were only two Degree ceremonies!
One of the reasons we know so little about the ritual is because it wasn’t written down or officially recorded, but passed from Brother to Brother by word of mouth – hence why one form of the Ritual is called “Emulation”, because you had to emulate what others did. Naturally this means errors crept in and the ritual natural evolved differently in different regions.
There were however “exposures” published in the 1700’s that weren’t official, but do give us a glimpse into the evolution of the Ritual. Strangely though, we can’t confirm how the Degrees evolved into the Degrees we know now. And the inclusion of Hiram Abiff appears to be a relatively modern addition to Freemasonry ritual!
Of course, there is also Royal Arch and Mark Masonry which is also derived from the old ritual too. And there were more changes in 1813 with the unification of the Grand Lodges.
It’s fair to said that the United Grand Lodge of England has never said that there is a correct or definitive ritual – and that technically it could be argued that with so much evolution there is no correct version. (Though they do ‘approve’ of certain ritual workings).
With so much more research to be done it is fair to say the history of Freemasonry is yet to be written!
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