Freemasonry as we know it today is said to have begun in the middle ages when stone masons came together to test and develop their skills while setting up rules by which to abide by. Initiation ceremonies were held to admit new members where they would swear to live by these codes.
As Freemasonry evolved allegories based on the building of King Solomon's Temple were incorporated into these ceremonies as a way of passing on life lessons. Tools used by stone masons also featured in the storytelling process which were seen as symbols they could identify with. It also meant that they could reflect on the moral of the story when at work.
Speculative masonry or Freemasonry is the type of Masonry that is prevalent today. It replaced the operative masons’ guilds but retained the fraternal and moral philosophical aspects. During the late 1600s and 1700s Speculative Freemasonry spread throughout England, Ireland and Scotland. It reached Europe and North America in the 1730s and is documented to have come to Australia in the early 1800s.
North Australia Lodge (No 1098 English Constitution) is the first known Lodge to have formed in Queensland in 1859. Gregory Lodge was the first Masonic Lodge to be opened in Cairns in April 1886 and was sponsored by North Australian Lodge.
Rituals and symbols
Rituals and symbols feature heavily throughout the teachings of Freemasonry.
In the first instance they are used to school new entrants in the Craft. The initiation process itself consists of three ceremonies referred to as degrees where new entrants complete a series of lessons. In these lessons or degree ceremonies stonemasons' tools and implements are used as metaphors in addition to the allegorical backdrop of the building of King Solomon's Temple.
Members of the public will very rarely see a Masonic ritual being carried out as almost all are conducted in private such as Lodge meetings etc. The laying of the Foundation Stone at a Masonic facility is one such occasion when members of the public are allowed to witness a centuries-old masonic ritual being carried out.
The single-most recognisable symbol associated with Freemasonry is undoubtedly the square and compasses. Often seen on the front of Masonic Centres or halls and Masonic regalia, the square and compasses are said to symbolise morality (square) and the confines of proper conduct (compasses). In some cases, the letter ‘G’ is visible in between the square and compasses.
The apron worn by a Freemason varies depending on his rank. It symbolises the stonemasons’ apron and has many historical references which a Freemason come to understand throughout his Masonic life.
Displayed in both their rough and smooth forms, these blocks of stone symbolise how a freemason through development becomes a model member of society.