Freemasonry is the world's largest and oldest fraternal organization of likeminded men who desire to become better men and better members of society.
Where did Freemasonry come from?
It's origins are shrouded in mystery but many historians trace it's roots to the early stone masons of Europe and the Knights Templar.
Is Freemasonry a secret society?
Not exactly. Lodge meetings, ceremonies, etc. are private and not to be discussed with non-Masons, but privacy doesn't mean secrecy.
What is a lodge?
A lodge is the local meeting place of a group of Masons. An official lodge of Free and Accepted Masons must be chartered by it's governing Grand Lodge.
What is a Grand Lodge?
A Grand Lodge is the governing body of all Free and Accepted Masonic lodges in it's jurisdiction. In the United States, each state has a Grand Lodge which governs the lodges in that state. Some counties like England, Scotland, and Ireland have one Grand Lodge that governs the entire country.
What are the Scottish Rite, York Rite, Order of the Eastern Star, etc.?
These organizations are appendant bodies of Masonry. Some organizations, like the Scottish and York Rites, require members to be initiated Master Masons, whereas others, like The Order of the Eastern Star, are open to family members of Masons. Although organizations like The Order of The Eastern Star are Masonically-related groups, they are not Freemasonry, and should not be confused. There are also unrecognized "Masonic groups" that have no Masonic legitimacy, and should be avoided. It is always good to check that a lodge is chartered by it's governing Grand Lodge before petitioning.
What are some common appendant bodies?
The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry
The York Rite
Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (commonly referred to as Shriners)
Royal Order of Scotland
Royal Order of Jesters
Order of the Eastern Star
International Order of the Rainbow for Girls
What are Prince Hall Masons?
Prince Hall, and fourteen other African American men, were made Master Masons in Irish Constitution Military Lodge No. 441 on March 6, 1775. The fifteen African American members were given permission to meet in the lodge, form Processions on the days of the Saints John, and conduct Masonic funerals, but were strictly forbidden to conduct any initiation degrees or any other form of Masonic work. Nevertheless, the men broke their word and formed African Lodge #459 and began Prince Hall Masonry in America. In Mississippi, Prince Hall Masonry is not recognized as a legitimate form of Free & Accepted Masonry by the Grand Lodge of Mississippi.
Do Masons really ride goats and worship the devil?
No, the idea of goats and goat riding are simply old ways members would joke with new candidates by telling them stories of goats waiting for them inside the lodge. These old pranks are very uncommon nowadays - Masonry strictly forbids hazing or harassment of any kind. Many collegiate fraternities have actually taken these old stories and still use them today to scare and mock pledges.
Accusations of devil worshipping were the fabrication of Léo Taxil. In the late 1800's Léo Taxil published numerous books and pamphlets with accusations of devil worship, sexual orgies, and other fictitious ideas towards the Freemasons. Taxil's intent was to fabricate these ideas about the Masons (because the Masons could not defend themselves due to their vows of secrecy) to make the Pope and the Catholic Church think highly of him. At the time the Catholic Church did not approve of Freemasonry, so Taxil planned to use this disapproval to his advantage. His plan worked perfectly, the Catholic Church believed everything he wrote and became huge fans of Taxil. On April 19, 1897, Taxil publicly announced his publications were a hoax and humiliated the Church. Although Taxil himself admitted it was a hoax, the devil worshipping ideas have stuck with Masonry to this day.
Léo Taxil's infamous publication featuring his fictitious, demonic deity Baphomet.
How do I become a Mason?
A man must ask a Mason to become a Mason. In Mississippi a man must be at least 18 years old to petition a lodge for membership. Masons also must have a belief in a divine creator, but the details of that faith are a Mason's private business and are not to be discussed in the lodge.
Do I know any Freemasons?
Masons come from all walks of life, religious beliefs, professions, races, etc. Some notable Masons are George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Davey Crockett, Lewis and Clark, "Buzz" Aldrin, John Wayne, John Elway, General Douglas MacArthur, George Marshall, Henry Ford, Sir Winston Churchill, J. Edgar Hoover, Wolfgang Mozart, and Mark Twain.