The Degrees and Rituals of Freemasonry in 17th Centuries

Common in most trades, medievel masonry recognised three grades of craftmans ship, Apprentice, the Journeyman and the Master.  An Apprentice, level one, needs to learn his craft to become a Journeyman, level two,  then is quailfied to do all manors of the masonry craft.  After many years of work in the craft of masonry, the journeyman to moves onto, the Master, level three, the Master is also the project manager and often the Architect as well. 


The Schaw Statues of 1598 shows how this had evloved in the lodge system of Scotish Masonry. An Apprentice, after serving this term of seven years in the craft, could elect to pay to join the lodge, belocoming a "Entered Apprentice".  The Joourneyman  were referred to as "Fellows" or Fellows of the Craft". The mebers of the Lodge were "Brithers" (Brothers), a Scotish legal term for those bound to each other by an Oath. The "Master" was simply the mason in charge of the lodge. 


While the swearing of some sort of oath goes back to the earliest recorded records of the organised masonry, the first recorded rituals is not until 1696, in the manuscript from the Edinburgh Register House.  With this entry and additional documentation of the same era, found at Trinity College in Dublin, in a manuscript dated 1711, it is safe to deduce that the art of the ritual in masonic lodges was formed at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th centuries.  The taking of an oath is a bit harder to pinpoint but it would be safe to assume it was at the the same era or soon there after.



The oath: on taking of the oath of the "Entered Apprentice", a mason was entrusted with the appropriate signs, the "Masons Word" and catechism. The "FellowCraft" mason was made to take a further oath, entrusted with two furher "Masonic words" and the "Five Points ofthe Fellowsip", which in this era, 1696. were; Foot to Foot, Knee to Knee, Heart to Heart, Hand to Hand and Ear to Ear.  The distinction between "FellowCraft" and "Master Mason" is unclear during this period, it was not until much later that the three "degrees" of Masonry become distinct. 


Degrees of Freemasonry 

First Degree

Entered Apprentice


When the candidate first admitted into the lodge his condition as Entered Apprentice is represented by the Rough Ashlar, the first of a set of three symbols which is the Craft calls the Three Immovable Jewels. An ashlar is a building stone, a rough ashlar is a stone which has not yet been shaped into the form required by its place in the structure.

Second Degree



In the natural progression the second degree, Fellowcraft, follows the natural prgression from the first degree.  The natural maturation which relates to the emergence of the self, the personal unconscious, the soul. Fellowcraft ones self has become more active, has matured to a state in which he is ready to examine the interior  aspects of his pysche.

Third Degree

Master Mason


In the order of the degrees Master Mason is the more symbolic, a mystical interpretation of legend.  A more personal reflection, a recognizing of the psychological being that he is and less of the physical being. Each third degree candidate has a very diffrent personal expereinces to the process. 

The three images, shown above, are of the first degrees of Freemasonry; were created for the Hall of Scottish Rite Regalia.  The  artistic and ultra-realistic still life of the various elements (apron, cap, cordon, baldric, jewel, ring, gloves, etc.) of each of the Scottish Rite Degrees, including the first three degrees Freemasonry of the Blue lodges, the first three dgrees are universal to all appendant Masonic organizations.


1992-1993, original oil paintings by Robert H. White

©The Supreme Council, 33°, A. & A.S.R. of Freemasonry, S.J., USA

© 2019 by

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J. Simpson Africa Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, Lodge 628, 

is part of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania