Monday, June 27, 2011
What is a Moon Lodge?
In earlier times Maryland had a number of Moon Lodges - today Charity Lodge No. 134 is the only one left maintaining that tradition.
A check of Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia informs us that in the past, Moon Lodges: Population was more rural and there were no electric lights even in the cities. In the 18th century, the almanac was a common household authority and Freemasons, like others, measured their time and to some extent regulated their activities by it. Lodge By-laws often fixed the stated meetings on, just before or just after the Full Moon, thus, making 13 stated meetings per year.
There was a very practical reason for fixing meetings around the night of a Full Moon for, in rural communities, which predominated n the 18th century, there would be no natural illumination to guide the members to and from lodge over several miles of rough road.' While many Grand Lodges have since legislated Moon Lodges out of existence, others have clung to the old custom, preferring the inconvenience caused by confusion as to just when the moon is full, to sacrificing what has had the force of an "ancient usage and custom." It is interesting to realize the first mention of Moon Lodges was in the Cooke Manuscript of 1410, one of the oldest documents belonging to the Masonic Craft. It is understood moon lodges were first mentioned in a ritual in "The Whole Institute of Masonry," published in 1724. By 1767 there were five numbered lodges governed by the moon operating under the Grand Lodge of England. By the year 1776, this amount had increased to nine of 499 lodges in England which included the Provincial Lodges located in the English Colonies abroad.
The Minutes of Aitcheson's Haven Lodge in Scotland, beginning in 1598 show frequent meetings at odd dates, and although some of them may well have been chosen because they were on or near the nights of the full moon, there are no surviving regulations to suggest that those nights were deliberately chosen for that purpose. The same applies to the Lodge of Edinburgh (Mary's Chapel) No. 1, whose minutes go back to 1599. Meetings of this lodge were also held frequently and at regular intervals. The only regular or fixed-meeting was on St. John's Day in winter to elect the Warden, which, at that time was then the Scottish title for the Master of the Lodge. During the Colonial days around 1717, Moon Lodges were noted to be operating in Philadelphia, Boston, and also in Tennessee. By 1825, of the 75 instituted Connecticut lodges, many were Moon Lodges of which a number were located near fishing and whaling harbors. In 1951 Grand Lodge of Missouri had 18 Moon Lodges within their Jurisdiction; Grand Lodge of Indiana listed nine; and, in 1972 Grand Lodge of Maryland boasted one Moon Lodge. Between the years 1946 and 1958 moon lodges dropped from 119 to 52 in Kentucky. By the turn of the century, there were over 3,000 moon lodges operating, but by 1972 the number had dwindled to less than 500 spread amongst 30 jurisdictions within the United States. During this period of time; in those old horse and buggy days, brethren were known to have walked eight to ten miles or more to attend meetings. Some traveled by horseback, horse and buggy, and even by boat. Some were unable to make the long trip home during the night were given shelter, allowing them to leave after breakfast to return home the next morning.
Occasions were experienced when the low time allowed brothers to walk to attend his lodge, and, after the meeting, because of high tide, had to await the next low tide. Bristol Lodge No. 25 celebrated its 200th Anniversary in 1980. It all began back in February 1780 with a letter signed by nine brethren and sent to the Right Worshipful Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania asking that a Warrant be issued to hold a lodge in the Town of Bristol [or five miles around], and on the 15th March the Warrant was issued. In those days Bristol was a full days trip north of Philadelphia on the road en-route to New York.
Quite often we hear a remark about 'the good old days'. When moon lodges began, there were no illuminated two or four lane blacktop highways and very few gravel roads. Most consisted of two dirt ruts leading through bush and fields and seldom in a straight line. While the main roads may have been gravel, the side roads and towns roads had dirt roads. There was no train or bus service, nor any cars for that matter. After dark a candle or coal oil lamp was used for illumination: no electricity. If fortunate, everyone bathed in a galvanized wash tub on Saturday nights.
In the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Iowa around 1870 every Masonic home had a Masonic moon calendar drawn by a brother from that state. The calendar was a 13-month one showing only the date and month of the full moon throughout the year. Occasionally the brothers realized there were times when there was no full moon in February: such as occurred in 1893, and this caused quite a bit of a storm. As lodges usually met on a specific day such as the last Saturday of the month, visitors in this particular month arrived to find no Lodge meeting taking place, and so, the various Grand Lodges began eliminating the Moon Lodges.
The present Secretary of Bristol Lodge stated: 'The continuance of this practice of meeting on Saturday evenings on or before the full moon, reminds us of our heritage and tradition, and does provide some distinction when conversing with other members of the fraternity.' One has to have a great deal of respect for our brothers who decided to get together and form a lodge under such conditions. No wonder they spent a few hours after the meeting enjoying a few beers and socializing with a sing-song. There were few occasions when they saw one another, except at Lodge meetings. As the Grand Lodges began to eliminate the moon lodges, it is interesting to realize the brothers would then began to open their lodges in the early afternoon, allowing their membership to arrive at their homes before darkness set in. It is also realized Moon Lodges were also held in various unnamed Canadian Jurisdictions.
This is an interesting article which is taken from the web page of Charity Lodge No. 134 in Maryland.
Bro Tofique Fatehi