The habit of freemasons to travel and to visit other lodges, or even affiliate with
them, is one of the oldest and most widely practiced customs of the Craft. In
operative times, well before the emergence of the Speculative Craft as we now know
it, masons were itinerant workers who were forced to travel to renew their
employment as each building project was completed. This fluid nature of the
Operative Craft led to the formation of trade societies, known as lodges, to protect
the professional integrity of their occupation, and to enhance the moral and social
practices of their members. It is surmised, not without some evidence, that the modes
of recognition were originated in the operative period as a means of identifying the
genuinely skilled mason who came to visit a lodge in search of work.
It is therefore reasonable to deduce that the tendency of masons to visit other lodges
is very old custom indeed. Many of the oldest extant masonic manuscripts contain
charges associated with visiting, and the reception of visitors.
Visiting as a Right
As has just been outlined, the right to visit and sit in every regular lodge is one of the
oldest masonic customs. This custom hinged on the theory that all lodges are only
divisions of the 'Universal Brotherhood'. Indeed, in some areas of old, visitors could
even vote at lodge meetings.
However, the growth and spread of the Craft saw many variations in forms and
procedures develop, and the evolution of the Grand Lodge system as we know it
today. In turn, this necessitated that the concept of visiting as a right undergo
changes. The movement towards qualification of the right to visit appears to have
begun in the early eighteenth century. There are records of lodges in this period
setting out limitations to visiting, in terms of the number of visits a non-member
mason could make to a lodge in a twelve month period; and limiting the types of
meeting a visitor could attend. Certainly, by the end of the eighteenth century,
visiting had ceased to be a right, but rather a privilege.
Visiting as a Privilege
The situation today is that visiting is a privilege-indeed, it is one of the greatest
privileges of masonic membership. It must be immediately stated that a mason has no
absolute, prescriptive right to visit a lodge wherein he is not a member. However,
with that fact clearly stated, it must be observed that visiting as a privilege is most
definitely encouraged and welcomed in every regular jurisdiction. A regular
freemason in good standing will always encounter masonic hospitality and
brotherhood in his travels.
The Limitations on Visiting Today
There are four basic limitations on visiting in the masonic world today. The first two,
as listed below with explanations, are common to every regular jurisdiction; while the
last two are less prevalent.
1. The Recognition of' Regularity. This is a limitation on visiting whereby the only
people a lodge may receive are those who are members of another lodge whose
Grand Lodge is recognised by its own. This whole question is detailed at length in a
2. The Master's Prerogative. It is, by custom and often by Grand Lodge statute, the
prerogative of the Master of a lodge to refuse to admit any visitor if he is not
satisfied that he is a regular mason of good standing; or he feels that such a proposed
visitor will disturb the harmony of his lodge. The former power is only occasionally
used as a matter of necessity; the latter very rarely. Nevertheless, the prerogative
power of the Master of a lodge is wide.
3. Business Meetings. Under some forms of masonic practice, business meetings are
held separately to meetings held for degree conferment, and where this is the case,
visitors are often excluded from the former, but never the latter. Similarly, in some
jurisdictions where ordinary lodge business and degree conferment are held in the
space of a since meeting, visitors are sometimes not admitted until after the lodge has
completed the business part of its activities.
4. Visiting by Invitation. In some jurisdictions, notably England, it is largely usual for
visitors to receive an invitation from a lodge member. In other areas, while such a
restriction does not exist with respect to ordinary meetings, it does apply to
Installation Meetings. These practices are not adhered to without reasons, and they
will be examined when we come to discuss those jurisdictions concerned later in this
The Procedures of Visiting
There are ten steps, or procedures, involved in successful masonic visiting-most of
which are sequential. They move from obtaining the appropriate documentation, to
the actual sitting of a visitor in a strange lodge. These steps must be followed before
a visitor can be admitted into a lodge wherein he is not known, and their whole
purpose is to establish the bone fides of a true and lawful brother.
Step One: Advise your own Lodge Secretary
The first step is to inform your own lodge secretary of your desire to visit outside
your own jurisdiction, and to provide him with details of your travels. He will liaise
with your Grand Lodge office to procure all the necessary documents, and obtain
Step Two: The Procuration of Masonic Documentation
To establish himself as a true and lawful brother to the satisfaction of his hosts, the
visiting mason must first produce the appropriate documents which will attest to his
regularity as a freemason. The following documents should be carried by a mason
seeking admittance into any regular lodge wherein he is not personally known:
A Grand Lodge Certificate, or Diploma: Every Grand Lodge issues this, or similarly
named, documentation. It is a credential provided to the Master Mason to prove in
writing that he is a regular mason. It invariably contains the dates appropriate to his
admission into the Craft, the signature of his Grand Secretary, the Grand Lodge Seal,
and his signature.
A Receipt of Dues: It is not enough for a visiting mason to produce his Grand Lodge
Certificate when seeking admission to a strange lodge. While his Certificate provides
proof that the person named on it is a freemason, it does not prove that he is a
current financial member of a regular lodge. To be a mason in good standing is the
usual masonic terminology describing a financial member. Some jurisdictions provide
their financial members with a receipt of dues as a right, while others provide it only
The Dues Card: The Dues Card is a form of receipt of dues provided by lodges
under a number of jurisdictions, notably in North America. This is considered in
these jurisdictions as the most important masonic 'Passport'. Indeed, in the United
States, lodges have little interest in sighting a Grand Lodge Certificate, but no visitor
will enter their Temples without first producing a Dues Card or satisfactory
equivalent. In lieu of a Dues Card or other direct form of receipt of dues, a recent
lodge summons (notice of meeting), or letter of introduction may suffice.
In addition to the largely compulsory documents just detailed, it is recommended that
a visitor also carry, and if necessary present, the following additional documents:
A Letter of Introduction: Many Grand Lodges provide a letter of introduction to intending visitors through their Grand Lodge office. Such letters carry the Grand
Secretary's recommendation, and all the masonic details of its bearer. It can usually
be used as a substitute for a 'receipt of dues' if personally carried. Some Grand
Secretaries will forward a visitor's 'letter of introduction direct to Grand Lodge under
which he proposes to visit, thus giving its Grand Secretary pre-warning of the
visitor's imminent presence.
A Passport: All foreign travellers carry a passport, and while it is rarely called upon
for masonic purposes, it has the effect of attesting to its bearer's actual identity.
There are other masonic documents issued by some Grand Lodges. Many provide a
Past Master's Certificate to appropriately qualified masons. Past Masters are advised
to carry this document, or similar documentation, especially if they wish to witness
an Installation Ceremony in full, in those jurisdictions wherein only Installed Masters
may witness certain parts of it.
Visitors who are not yet Master Masons (ie: they are Entered Apprentices, or Fellow
Crafts) will not yet have received, nor be entitled to receive, their Grand Lodge
Certificate. However, they can usually obtain appropriate documentation from their
Grand Secretary's office prior to departure from their own jurisdiction.
It is as well to mention that masons in this category may not be able to visit in some
jurisdictions. English-speaking and Continental freemasonry, in particular, usually
restrict visiting between themselves to holders of the Master Mason Degree.
Jurisdictions working a Webb-form ritual have a similar restriction. Even in those
jurisdictions where such a mason may be permitted to visit, limitations often apply.
Such a mason is strongly advised to consult with his own Grand Lodge office prior
to departure. It may even be possible for him to receive the degrees that he is yet to
obtain by courtesy in another jurisdiction. The matter of courtesy degrees is dealt
with later in this section.
Step Three: Check for Regularity
It is essential that each mason check that regular freemasonry exists in the area he
proposes to visit. A chapter explaining regularity and its importance follows shortly.
At the rear of this guide is to be found a list of Grand Lodge recognition. Given the
parameters explained at that point, these lists may be used to determine whether or
not the jurisdiction that is proposed to be visited is recognised by your own Grand
Lodge. A mason's own Grand Lodge office will assist further in this regard.
Step Four: Visit its Grand Lodge Office First
The recommended form of making contact, and of advising a particular Grand Lodge
of your presence in its jurisdiction, is in person. Most Grand Lodges are based in the
capital city, or principal city, of a country or area. As such a city usually doubles as
the main point of entry into the area, a visit to the local Grand Lodge office is
generally quite practicable. On visiting a Grand Lodge office a visiting mason can
always be assured of full assistance. Indeed, should a visiting mason be in need of
advice or assistance of any nature, not necessarily masonic, he can always find it
amongst his brethren in the Craft, no matter in which country he may find himself.
Step Five: Direct Lodge Visiting
As a second preference, to be used if for some reason a visit to the appropriate
Grand Lodge office proves impossible, a visitor can use the information contained in
this guide to directly attend a lodge meeting. However, due to the restrictions of
space it has not been possible to list the details of lodges in every jurisdiction. In
addition, it is appreciated that several Grand Lodges have warranted lodges without
their geographical jurisdiction, so that a visit to the appropriate Grand Lodge office
is not possible. This particularly applies to lodges in Africa and Asia under the British
Grand Lodges. Meeting details for most of the lodges in these areas are included in
this Guide, as a consequence.
Step Six: A Letter to a Grand Lodge
As a last alternative to make contact, a mason proposing to travel masonically can
write a letter to the Grand Jurisdiction he is to visit, seeking advice. However, this
method should only be used as a last resort if the appropriate Grand Lodge office
cannot be personally visited, or if no details concerning constituent lodges are
available. If this approach is to be undertaken, such a letter Must be sent via your
own Grand Lodge office. Such a letter should be addressed to the Grand Secretary
of the Grand Lodge concerned; and should contain your name and address and full
masonic details, together with your places of residence in its jurisdiction and the
dates applicable to your itinerary.
Any such letter must be directed via your own Grand Lodge office for several
reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, correspondence directed through a mason's
own Grand Lodge office assures the Grand Lodge being asked for advice that the
enquiring brother is indeed a regular mason deserving of receiving the desired
assistance. Secondly, by directing a letter through your own Grand Lodge office,
your Grand Secretary can enclose an accompanying letter of support, which in turn
will ensure a useful and speedy reply. It needs to be added that if a mason sends a
letter direct to any foreign jurisdiction, he is unlikely to receive a response. Thirdly, it
must be appreciated that Grand Lodges get enough mail as it is, and letters from
hundreds of inquiring visitors will not alleviate this situation. Clearly then, this whole
matter is one of masonic protocol, and protocol must be followed. Any letter that is
to be sent must be arranged well before your planned departure, to ensure a reply is
received in time for your visit.
Step Seven. Know your own Ritual.
As will soon be appreciated, it is necessary for visitors to undergo a masonic
examination prior to entering a strange lodge. It is, therefore most desirable for
masonic travellers to be full conversant with their home ritual, and in particular, with
the examination procedures used by lodges under their home Grand Lodge.
This knowledge will be of great assistance to the visitor. While rituals and
examination procedures do vary around the world, the modes of recognition and
basic ritual content are not dissimilar. Therefore, a mason with adequate knowledge
of the practices in his own jurisdiction will experience no trouble elsewhere.
Step Eight: Arrive Early
Having completed all the above procedures as appropriate, you are now in a position
to visit. It is essential that you arrive at your chosen lodge meeting at least half an
hour prior to its commencement. This will enable you to complete the remaining
procedures as detailed below. A tardy, or late, arrival might well prevent you from
Step Nine: "Strict Trial and Due Examination".
Having arrived at the lodge you wish to visit, your first task is to advise its Tyler of
your presence- and present to him your masonic credentials as already detailed
However, in all regular masanic jurisdictions, it is necessary that in addition to
presenting these documents, an unknown mason seeking to visit a lodge undergo a
personal examination. A travelling mason must be prepared for this eventuality.
In masonic terminology, this process is called "Strict Trial and Due Examination".
Both amount to the same thing. Either means the ascertainment that a stranger is
freemason, or he is not. The nature of freemasonry does not allow documentary
evidence alone to be the final testament as to whether a man is a freemason. It is
possible, although unlikely, that a person seeking admission may be carrying false, or
stolen documents. There have been occurrences in the past of unqualified persons, or
impostors, seeking admission to lodge meetings.
An imposter may be a person who has never been a mason, one who is under
suspension or expulsion from a lodge or one whose Grand Lodge is not recognised
as regular. A mason who cannot prove that he is in good standing may also be
prevented from visiting.
The procedures of masonic examination and recognition vary throughout the world,
and these differences are based on ritual divergence. However, these procedures are
all designed to achieve the same ends, and provided a mason is well acquainted with
the practice of the Craft in his own jurisdiction, he will experience little difficulty
elsewhere. As we shall discover in a later chapter; while the forms of masonic rituals
around the world vary somewhat, the content is reasonably similar.
In most jurisdictions, masonic examination is carried out by an examining committee;
appointed by the Master of the lodge either formally or on an ad hoc basis as the
need arises. This committee can consist of the Master himself and his two Wardens,
two or three Past Masters, or a small number of senior lodge members. In some
areas, the examination is carried out by the lodge Tyler.
In most jurisdictions the examination, while thorough, is informally presented. It is
usual for the examiners to select features of masonic knowledge at random, even to
the point of requiring information out of sequence from each of the three degrees.
This practice tends to uncover the 'Parrot Mason', or fraud with a good memory.
Some committees even ask quite broad questions such as; 'tell us all you know about
how you were raised to the degree of a Master Mason', although this is rare. In some
jurisdictions, notably Ireland and those of the United States, visitors are required to
repeat the Tyler's Oath. The wording of this Oath is contained under the heading of
the United States. As a final comment, it can be readily said that provided the man
under examination is indeed a true and lawful brother, he will be discovered and
acknowledged as such. The reverse, of course, is also true.
Step Ten. Avouchment and Vouching
In masonic terminology, 'Avouchment' is the lawful information which a mason
provides to the lodge he seeks to visit, and the actual procedures which allow him to
sit therein. Vouching technica1ly means a mason being able to state that he has 'sat in
open Lodge' with another. Therefore, if a mason visits a lodge wherein he knows one
or more of its members and has sat in open lodge with them, they will vouch for him,
and he will not need to pass Strict Trial and Due Examination. Whereupon he is
unknown, after he has presented his credentials and has been examined the
Examining Committee or one of its members will vouch for him.
The avouchment procedures inside lodges vary widely between jurisdictions, but are
all designed to evince to the lodge membership that the visitor is masonically entitled
to be present. In some jurisdictions, the visitor will enter after the lodge is opened. In
others, he will be present from the beginning, and all visitors will be asked to rise to
be vouched for by a member present prior to the lodge opening. Unknown masons
will have already passed an examination. In Ireland and the United States
jurisdictions, this is accompanied by what is known as 'purging the lodge'. This
practice will be detailed in its proper place later in this book. All these procedures
pose no problems for the true and lawful brother, and they will certainly be of
interest to the mason who has not experienced them before.
In other jurisdictions, notably of direct English descent, visitors will be vouched for
inside the lodge while the visitor himself remains outside, to be admitted after he has
been cleared. Many lodges using this form of vouching often accompany it with a
card system, whereupon the visitor (having been properly examined) records his
name, lodge and masonic rank on a card, which is then passed inside the lodge and
read out. Upon the name of each visitor being read, the member vouching for the
named visitor will stand and signify his assent to the Master.
All these forms of avouchment will be more fully explained later in this guide, as they
apply to the jurisdictions wherein they are used.
Most regular Grand Lodges of the world, upon a written request from a recognised
sister Grand Lodge, will confer 'courtesy degrees' upon a mason from that sister
jurisdiction. Courtesy degrees is the term used to describe the conferment of degrees
upon a mason from another Jurisdiction in a lodge under a host jurisdiction. In many
cases, only the second and third degrees can be conferred, but some jurisdictions,
notably in the United States, will confer any or all of the three Craft degrees by
A mason travelling to another country or area, and who has not taken all the three
Craft degrees, may wish to have a degree, or degrees, conferred upon him in another
jurisdiction, This course of action may well suit a mason who has been transferred to
another locality in the course of his employment. For courtesy work to be carried
out, a mason will need to be in the host jurisdiction for at least several months. A
quick tourist visit rarely affords enough time for courtesy work to be effected.
A mason wishing to receive a degree by courtesy must follow a standard procedure.
The steps to be undertaken are as follows:
1. On a brother's behalf, his lodge secretary will write to his Grand Lodge office
informing his Grand Secretary of the brother's desire in the matter. The letter will set
out all the relevant details including the country to be visited by the brother, his
residence therein, his current masonic rank, and the dates of his residency.
2. Assuming that:
(i) a regular Grand Lodge exists in the country to be visited by the brother, and
(ii) this jurisdiction will normally conduct courtesy work, and
(iii) his Grand Secretary is satisfied that the brother's circumstances and reasons
warrant the conferment of a courtesy degree, and
(iv) the ritual forms used by the proposed host jurisdiction are somewhat comparable
with local practice:
then the brother's Grand Secretary will communicate with the Grand Secretary in the
jurisdiction concerned, requesting that he act on behalf of the brother.
3. Invariably, such a request will be met, and the host jurisdiction will prevail upon
one of its constituent lodges close to the place of temporary residence of the brother,
to confer upon him the appropriate degree, or degrees.
4 .The brother's Grand Secretary will then be informed of the arrangements made by
the hosting jurisdiction, and he will see that this information is passed back to the
brother. Generally, the brother will be contacted by the hosting jurisdiction, or
hosting lodge, and informed of the final arrangements. This will occur after he has
taken up residency within its area.
Courtesy degrees, when conferred, have the full force of the conferment of degrees
in the normal way. Upon receiving the Master Mason degree, a brother's home
Grand Lodge will issue him his Master Mason's Certificate.
The Limitations of Courtesy Conferment
Several limitations apply to the conferment of courtesy degrees. he American Grand
Lodges also publish a list of lodges, variously called a Roster, Directory, and a
variety of other names. However, some of the smaller US Grand Bodies simply
produce their lodge meeting details towards the rear of their annual Grand Lodge
A number of jurisdictions regularly publish a magazine/periodical for general
distribution to their memberships. Most are produced bi-monthly or quarterly.
They contain a wealth of information concerning the jurisdictions that publish them,
and they will be of interest to the travelling mason. Most are available on twelve
month subscriptions. Travellers desiring to purchase such a subscription can make
inquiries at their own Grand Lodge office, and arrangements will be made with the
jurisdiction concerned on the brother's behalf.
In addition, most Grand Lodge libraries around the world subscribe to a range of
foreign masonic periodicals, and these are readily available for consultation
by the intending visitor.