York Rite Freemasonry - What You Need To Know

York Rite Freemasonry - What You Need To Know

The Freemasons are well-known today for their use of Masonic symbols, insignia and ritual. Due to the secretive nature of the fraternal order, many consider Freemasonry to be among the most influential secret societies in the world. Freemasons themselves do not claim to be members of a secret society rather a 'society with secrets'. While there are many forms of Masonry in the world two primary bodies or 'rites' have come down to us today. The York Rite of Freemasonry is the oldest of the Masonic rites. It has similar characteristics to the more common Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite but with many distinct differences in its Masonic degrees, symbols and rituals. This article highlights some of the key features of the York Rite of Freemasonry.
York Rite Freemasonry: Some History
This rite dates back to medieval stonemason guilds in York, England, and originally had two degrees: 'Entered Apprentice' and 'Fellow Craft'. The third 'Master Mason' degree was added in the 18th century. Since the official establishment of Freemasonry in 1717 these have been the basic or standard degrees and make up the 'Blue Lodge'. Both York and Scottish Rites share these degrees, and they both allow for advancement to higher degrees where Masons will expand on what they have learned with deeper meaning and complexity. But they differ in the amount of degrees attainable. Where the Scottish Rite has a total of 33, the degrees of the York Rite are 10 in number. Records put the first Chapter of the York Rite in Fredericksburg Lodge, Virginia, USA, 1753 and its first Grand Chapter in 1797. By comparison, England did not have a Grand Chapter until 1813. The York Rite is so popular in the USA it is known by some as 'the American Rite'.
Division and Degrees in York Rite Freemasonry
The York Rite of Freemasonry has four independent bodies including the Lodge of Master Masons (or Blue Lodge) as mentioned above. The other bodies of the York Rite are independent jurisdictions known as: Chapters, Councils and Commanderies. Each conducts its own rituals and has its own respective chief officers. Members of Chapters often wear red blazer jackets while members of the Councils wear purple.
Once a Master Mason degree as been conferred, a Freemason of the York Rite may enter into a Chapter of the Royal Arch Masons where he can reach the 'Royal Arch' degrees. He then progresses to a Council of Cryptic Masons where he will learn the 'Select Master' degrees and, finally he will enter the Commandery of the Knights Templar where he will learn the 'Chivalric' degrees.
While the Freemasons generally hold that it is not a religious organisation, the Knights Templar require members swear an oath to defend Christianity. This Christian perspective uses the symbolism of the Lamb of God, the Cockrell and the Crucifix. This is perhaps one of the most obvious differences between the York and the Scottish Rite which just requires belief in a Creator. Many Masons will complete both the York and Scottish Rites in their lifetime.


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