A light-hearted view of how our 18th century brethren coped with identifying each other in the early days of the Craft
“Are you one of us?”
I have always been fascinated by the manner in which Freemasons identify themselves when meeting for the first time. This fascination started several years ago after reading an article in a Sunday paper where the author suggested that the first question a true Freemason would ask was:
“Can you tie a bow?” The response, if the person was a Freemason, would be: “As good as you can!”
A BBC 2 television programme once claimed that when dining, a Freemason will refer to his cutlery as “working tools” and await any appropriate response. While a daily newspaper suggested that a Freemason will gently caress your knuckle with his thumb before slowly releasing his grip.
“Where are my working tools”
Surprisingly, as early as 1725, the general public were given an insight into this fascinating subject. In two articles that were published, readers were advised that this information was:
“found in the custody of a Freemason who died suddenly.”
“that the public may have something genuine concerning the grand mysteries of the Freemasons”
I suppose the former part of the introduction gave the revelations some credence, while the latter part produced intrigue.
Published by A. Moore, near St Paul’s and entitled, “The Grand Mystery of the Free Masons Discovered”, they were priced at one shilling and contained the following:
The Freemasons Signs
Examination upon entrance into the Lodge
The Freemasons Oath
A Freemasons Health.
So just for a few moments, come journey with me to a distant past and partake of instruction into the finer points of how to pass on a discreet signal or identify another Freemason.
You might, for example, indicate your membership by taking off your hat with two fingers and a thumb. Or, you may choose to strike, with the right hand, the inside of your little finger, three times as if hewing.
Of course, you could always stroke two of your fore-fingers over your eye-lids three times or turn a glass upside down after you have taken a drink.
However, those whose transport is of an equine nature may choose to prove their association by leaving the stirrup over the horses neck after alighting.
Other times you may even be inclined to throw down a piece of round slate and say, “Can you change this coin?”
“Sorry mate! I’m a member of the Ancient Order of Woodcutters!”
Now, imagine yourself in non-masonic company and you suspect the man opposite was a Freemason and you wanted to meet him outside. Firstly, you would need to cough three times and leave the room. Now assuming he followed you out and once alone, here is the procedure to follow:
1) You must place you right heel to his right instep.
2) Put your right arm over his left and your left under his right.
3) In that position, you then take your middle finger and starting from his left shoulder you draw a square from his shoulder to the middle of his back and down to his breeches.
If this gains no response, you could try this:
1) You must take the first step with your right foot and the second with your left and the third bringing your right heel into your brothers’ right instep.
2) You then lay your right hand to his left wrist.
3) You then draw the other hand from your right ear to left under your chin.
4) He will then put his right hand to his left side under his heart.
“I’m telling you! It said left Arm over right shoulder!”
Finally, if having gone through these trials you were still unsure and of course, hoping you had not been arrested for accosting strangers, we are advised to use this final testing question?
“What lodge were you made a Freemason at?”
@Freemasonsareus Freemasons Are Us