The Mark is a ceremony or degree
[sometimes called the 'friendly' degree], conferrable today only to Master
Masons and forms part of a hierarchical organization. In Craft Masonry it was
quite a late innovation making its appearance during the mid-1700s. However we
do know that Operative Masons, without any kind of ceremony, were taking marks
150 years before the Mark came into use as part of that particular ceremony.
The Mason's mark featured in long
lost degrees or grades, with names such as, Mark Master, Mark Man, Mark Ark Link
and Chain, Fugitive Mark, Cain's Mark, Christian Mark and Travelling Mark. How
and when the Mark degree, as we acknowledge it, began, is still a matter of
The "Mark" referred to in the title
of the Degree takes its name from the mark or symbol which the stonemasons used
to identify their own work, so that he may be entitled
to receive his wages. These marks can still be found
in many Cathedrals [see below] and similar buildings of architectural
significance, some of which may be over 1000 years old.
The Mark degree instructs you how
that learning can be most usefully and judiciously employed for our own honour.
The themes of the Mark degree include regularity, diligence, discipline and a
justifiable, but humble, pride in work well done.
The Mark Degree
conveys moral and ethical lessons using a ritualised allegory revolving around
the building of King Solomon's Temple. The events of
the degree require the candidate to undertake the role of a Fellowcraft. The
degree thus may be seen as an extension of the Fellowcraft Degree and the
philosophical lessons conveyed are appropriate to that stage in a candidate's
The regalia of the Mark degree
includes a special Masonic apron.
This was designed and adopted by
the Bon Accord Mark Lodge [see later] which was responsible for the adoption of
this special Masonic apron, modified from the standard Masonic apron, with a
trimming of maroon [ dark red] and blue. Later, was added a breast jewel
showing the keystone.
Mark lodges have a special coin,
known as a Mark penny, for payment of wages. These are now collector items.
On occasion a lecture is given
using a tracing board [for examples, see end of article], which contains symbols
from which lessons can be drawn. The tracing board includes the method of
decoding the Masonic cipher.
Official reference to the Mason's Mark is the Schaw Statutes dated 28th December
1598. They were commissioned by King James VI of Scotland [soon to be James I
of England] & promulgated by William Schaw, Master of Work to the Crown of
Scotland and Warden General of the Mason craft. From this code of twenty-two
regulations, the thirteenth item is of relevance, & I quote, using modern
Item:... that no Master of Fellow of Craft be received nor admitted without the
number of six Masters and two Entered Apprentices, the Warden of that lodge
(i.e. the Master) being one of the said six, and that the day of the receiving
of the said Fellow or Craft or Master be orderly booked and his name and
Mark inserted in the said book with the names of his six
admitters.Providing always that no man be admitted without an essay (test) and
sufficient trial of his skill an worthiness in his vocation and craft.
required that F.C.'s and Masters were to have their names and Marks recorded on
the day of their admission to those grades, but the custom was extended to
apprentices, for at least the next fifty years. It seems that the Schaw
Statutes were intended to be used as guidelines rather than law, and the minutes
of that period reveal that there were innumerable breaches.
At the Lodge
Mary's Chapel of Edinburgh, the first recorded admission of a Fellowcraft was on
17th January 1600; done in the presence of an insufficient quorum of five
Masters, and although the candidate had "done his deutie".to the contentment of
the dekin warden & maistris (which was the customary formula), no mark was taken
by the candidate. This well known old Lodge never kept a 'Mark' book but
occasional pages were set aside in the Minute Book with appropriate
For example, the
names of entered prentysis and their markes 1648 followed by a list of ten E.
A.s who were made E.A. in 1647, 1648, and 1649, with their marks were appended.
There are also eight names of F.C.s. whose E. A. date is unknown. The list then
continues with E.A.s and F.C.s from 1652 onwards, with marks. There are
separate lists of this kind for various years between 1646 and 1690. Very
rarely do we find records of the "mark" being paid for. The usual fee was "one
Mark Scots money" approximately equivalent to one day's wages of a trained
mason. We know that the Lodges of Kilwinning and Peebles charged 13s 4d Scots
[equivalent then to 1s 1d Sterling] for each mark. Terminology used included the
words "given", "given out", "chosen", "taken", taken out", received", "booked"
and "paid for".
The minutes of
Lodge Mother Kilwinning also contain a large number of marks for both E.A.s and
F.C.s but records of payment for the marks are comparatively rare, e.g.:"20 Dec.
1674. The said day, John Smith. was admitted and entered prentise and has payed
to the box his bookeing money.and also has payed for his mark which is al
follows." Here, at Kilwinning the fee for registering the mark was "one
mark Scots money".
At the Lodge of
Aberdeen, a handsome Mark Book was kept from 1670 onwards and in it can be found
a list of the names and marks of all the Master Masons and apprentices of the
Lodge in 1670, in the order of their admission, followed by a continuous list of
later entrants, and a collection of regulations under the heading "Laws and
Statutes for masons gathered out of their old writings". Here again "one mark
piece" is specified as the fee for taking a mason's mark. It is important to
add that during the 1670's, the Lodge of Aberdeen already had a substantial
non-operative membership, including two noblemen (Earls), a minister of
religion, merchants and tradesmen.
It is necessary to
emphasise that throughout all the early minutes as well as those quoted above,
there, there is never the least hint of any kind of ceremony accompanying the
taking of a Mark. In those days when [even apprentice] brethren attending lodge
were expected to sign the Minutes, the Marks were generally used for that
purpose. Doubtless they were also used for marking stones, perhaps for
assessing wages for completed piecework, or as a check on spoiled stones, but a
large proportion of the brethren never troubled to take the Mark.
The earliest known minuted & documented reference to
the Mark Degree in England was in the record of a meeting of the Royal Arch
Chapter of Friendship No 3, held at the George Tavern in Portsmouth, on 1
September 1769. It records that Thomas Dunckerley (a natural, but illegitimate,
son of George II- then Prince of Wales) brought the Warrant or Charter for that
Chapter and "having lately rec'd the Mark" [and we do not know from where he
got the degree] he made six of the brethren "Mark Masons" and "Mark Masters".
At that same meeting he taught them how to use the Masonic cypher (in which this
minute is written) and authorised them to make F.C.s into Mark Masons, and M.Ms
into Mark Masons. These minutes were written in code or cipher, and state: -
"having lately rec'd the 'Mark' he made the bre'n 'Mark Masons' and 'Mark
Masters'. Thomas Dunckerley And each chuse their 'Mark', viz. ... Z (interlaced
triangles) ... He also told us of this mann'r of writing (code or cipher) which
is to be used in the degree."
Note the mention
of a double Mark: Dunkerley acknowledged them first as Mark Men [Masons] and
then advanced them as Mark Masters. Both degrees are combined in today's
modern ritual. One becomes a Mark Master when the 'secrets' have been
communicated. As a Mark Master, the second degree tracing board and aspects of
the third degree traditional history begin to make more sense as the operative
context is made clear. The ashlars and the lewis [pulley lift], often ignored
within a Craft Lodge, may be explained and, above all, the keystone of the Royal
Arch Chapter's mystic arch is of central importance.
I would like to point out that the subject of the Masonic
Cipher of squares, angles and triangles, forms a separate lecture. I do however
disagree with the import of the pulley [lewis]. In my opinion the word 'lewis'
is derived from the son of King George 2nd, namely, Frederick Lewis, 15th
Prince of Wales (1707-1751), heir to the throne. This Prince entered the Craft
in 1737 at a lodge in the Palace of Kew and became the first Royal Freemason.
He introduced all his sons into Freemasonry and from this action, that the term
Lewis is almost certainly derived. The word 'lewis' did not exist
in the Masonic lexicon prior to the above Masonic introductions.
mentioned on record from the UK are from the years 1770 onwards. In 1775 we
acknowledge the first known Mark Mason certificate which was issued in Ireland.
Thus, taking all the above into account, there appears an indication by its
widespread observance that this degree was being worked for some time prior to
Around 1965, a
copy of the 1723 Book of Constitutions was discovered that had belonged to an
unattached lodge at Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Stitched in the book were 28 pages
containing manuscript notes, bye -laws, etc. followed by some blank pages. On
the last inserted page, which is the loose end paper, is the following:
January the 19, 1756-Then Being meet Part of the Body of the Lodge they
taking it to their Serious Consideration. That no member of the Saide Lodge
Shall be Made a Mark Masone without paying the Sum of one (e) Mark Scots and
that for the propigation of the Pedestal, as Witnessed the aforesaid Date
by.Wardens: John Maxwell Master, Tos Provund, Robert McVicear.
The above is the
earliest known reference to the Mark as a ceremony. The final mason's Mark
recorded in the Kilwinning minutes was in 1766. In Edinburgh Mary's Chapel, the
final Mark was in 1713.
degree was not affected by the emergence of the "Mark Degrees". It would appear
that they were a late speculative innovation, loosely linked to the F.C. degree
simply because mason's marks were originally prescribed for Fellow-crafts.
Charity is one of
the central pillars of the whole Masonic structure and the Mark Degree fully
embraces this principle. The Mark is the only Order beyond the Craft in
Freemasonry that has its own Fund of Benevolence. This is organised by Grand
Mark Lodge and makes additional grants to petitioners and to non-Masonic
charities, with a focus on relief being given without delay.
A most fitting
statement is contained in the closing address in the Ceremony of Advancement
that urges: - "Do justice, love mercy, practise charity, maintain harmony and
endeavour to live in unity and brotherly love". These few words can best
describe the nature of those Brethren who are Mark Master Masons. Put simply -
Mark Well. We are very fortunate that we are able to share the pleasure of being
associated with a Masonic Order that encapsulates a happy and friendly spirit
and for which it is well recognised.
After the three
degrees of Craft Freemasonry, we are requested to "make a daily advancement in
Masonic knowledge" as instructed in the Charge after Initiation. Today the
United Grand Lodge actively encourages Master Masons to 'complete the third
degree' by seeking exaltation in a Royal Arch Chapter.
worldwide will be unaware that the English position of the Mark Degree is
somehow somewhat different to 'pure' Freemasonry and as such unique as practiced
under the UGLE and its districts overseas. Such is the end result of eighteenth
and nineteenth century Masonic in-fighting!
In England one may
proceed to Royal Arch without contemplating the Mark Degree; Under the Irish
Constitution, the Mark Degree is taken in a Royal Arch Chapter, while in
Scotland, the Mark can be received in two ways: either within a Royal Arch
Chapter, or separately, in a Craft Lodge. However no-one under Scottish or Irish
jurisdictions can be exalted as a Royal Arch Mason without previously having
been advanced as a Mark Master Mason.
Indeed the Mark
Degree is the most popular degree outside the Craft, there being over 45,000
brethren in over 1,680 Mark lodges in England alone.
In the United
States, the Mark is conferred in a Royal Arch Chapter within the eleven degree
York Rite as the first of three degrees - Mark, (Virtual) Past Master and Most
Excellent Master - which lead to the Chapter; once again, the Mark is an
essential preliminary to the Royal Arch.
Here in Israel one
has to advance via the Mark degree and Excellent Master before attaining the
rank of Companion.
Bearing in mind
the Masonic complexities of additional Degrees from the Scottish Rite I think
this is the correct way to go.
The history of the
Degree, as you can observe, is a fascinating subject for research in its own
right, with the present structure having been established following the adoption
of the 1813 articles of the United Grand Lodge of England, which excluded the
Degree from being worked by Craft Lodges.
THE GRAND LODGE
OF MARK MASTER MASONS
The Grand Lodge of
Mark Master Masons was formed on 23rd June 1856. In 1855
senior Freemasons who were involved in the Bon Accord Mark Lodge of London
suggested that the Mark degree should be considered part of ordinary
Freemasonry. This suggestion failed to win approval from the United Grand Lodge
of England at its meeting on 4 June 1856. The Premier
Grand Lodge, which had been formed in London in 1717, only recognised the three
Craft Degrees, and subsequently wanting nothing to do with any other form of
masonry, not even the Royal Arch.
Such resolutions had
led to the formation of a rival Grand Lodge in 1751 which styled itself "the
Antients" on the basis that the masonry they practiced predated that of the
Premier Grand Lodge, who they dubbed "the Moderns". Lodges under the Antients
were permitted to confer any degree under their Craft Warrant and the Royal Arch
and Mark were two such degrees, together with others. In other words we had a
polite but political Masonic 'civil war'! This was finally resolved with the aid
of Royalty, namely the Royal brothers
Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex
and Edward Augustus, the Duke of Kent
by the formation of
the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813, following extensive negotiations and
huge compromises between the two Grand Lodges. The Duke of Sussex then became
the overall Grand Master.
However regarding the
supplementary degrees the only one which succeeded in remaining under patronage
was the Royal Arch, which, until very recently, was described as the completion
of the third degree, although that has all changed now.
The Mark degree began
to flourish to the extent that the United Grand Lodge almost recognised it, even
passing a resolution to that effect in March 1856. Unfortunately this was
rescinded on a technicality at the following Quarterly Communication as
rejection of Mark Masonry by the United Grand Lodge of England, a meeting of
Mark Masons belonging to Craft Lodges and Royal Arch
Chapters decided to fight & continued conferring the Mark degree as they had
always done, or, alternatively they set up unauthorised Mark Lodges for the
purpose. Others sought warrants from North of the border where the Mark had
become a prerequisite for admission into the Royal Arch.
But never say die!
enthusiasts were, as we say, 'on a roll', & they decided to set
up their own separate Grand Mark Master Lodge for England,
Wales and the Colonies. Within three
weeks of the Grand Lodge's final rejection of recognition, this was achieved in
late June 1856 with Lord Leigh, the then Craft Provincial Grand Master of
Warwickshire as its Grand Master.
An aside - the Degree
of Royal Ark Mariner [& its Royal Ark Council] operates under the aegis of the
Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons since 1871, even though there is no definitive
connection between them. The Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England and
Wales and its Districts and Lodges Overseas, now has over 1,500 Mark and 900
Royal Ark Mariner Lodges situated in 45 different countries throughout the
world. There are 41 Provinces in England and Wales, 27 Districts overseas and
three groups of Lodges under Grand Inspectors.
Today the Mark
Degree is administered from its headquarters at Mark Masons Hall, St James's
Street, near to St James's Palace, London. The Grand Master is H.R.H Prince
Michael of Kent, who is supported by the Pro Grand Master, the Deputy Grand
Master and the Assistant Grand Master and with the full backing of his brother,
HRH the Duke of Kent, Grand Master of the United Grand
Lodge of England.
Today no brother
who takes the Mark will see his 'Masonic career' cut short, as did happen in the
I shall now
conclude with the following question.
Freemasons actively seek the Mark? An obvious and sensible reason is that Mark
Masonry is probably the only tangible link with our operative predecessors; that
of each Mason receiving and using a distinctive mark. Secondly the language and
symbolism of the Craft revolves around building in general and the construction
of King Solomon's Temple in particular.
Masons make a particular pledge to receive a brother's mark, under certain
conditions. And finally there is the message of a brotherhood existing within
the Temple bounds.
As a Mark Master
Mason he is actively involved in the actual and speculative construction of the
Temple, experiencing at the same time both the joys and sorrows of his own
Masonic journey, as well as the culpability of man and a need to be humble
before God .
We should all
Below are two Mark
Mason Tracing Boards. Above both arches is inscribed a sentence in Hebrew taken
from Psalm 118: "Even ma'asu haBonim hayeta lerosh pina", which translated
means "The stone the Builders rejected became the corner stone". Note the
working tools of the Degree and the 'key' to the Masonic cipher.
I must request
readers also to peruse the excellent Masonic article THE MASON MARK by Wor. Bro
. Ken Brindal from Australia to be found on Ps Review of Freemasonry at
All available Masonic sites on the
"History of The Lodge of Edinburgh,
(Mary's Chapel, No.1)" by David Murray Lyon; Gresham Pub, Co., 1900