ISSUE 34 THE MARK RITUAL.
It is unclear as to the origin of the Mark ritual, especially as we know it today, although it was probably standardised around the time the grand Lodge of Mark Masters was formed in 1856. Having said that the Mark Degree was known to have been worked in the Antient Craft Lodges in the mid 18th century. It then consisted of two parts, the first as a Mark Man, which was a progression of the Fellowcraft degree, and the second was Mark Master, which was a progression for a Master Mason. Those of you who attended the Masonic Hall at Kings Heath a couple of years ago would have witnessed the Sussex Demonstration team perform the Antients ceremony of a Mark Man. Interestingly, at that demonstration, the Brother in the chair was referred to as Zerubbabel.
In 1825 a gentleman by the name of Richard Carlile published a book entitled ‘The Manual of Freemasonry’. Nothing strange about that you may think but Richard Carlile was not a Freemason and the publication was meant as an exposure. However, this exposure has been considered more genuine in content than others and accepted as an accurate reflection of the practises of the day.
Robert Carlile published the following:
That the ceremony of opening the Lodge to the degree of Mark Man is the same as in the Fellow Crafts degree, there then follows a catechism between the Worshipful Master and the Senior Warden, the Masons call it a lecture, but a lecture, in fact, is a discourse read and not a catechism.
The ceremony states that a Mark Man is a Craftsman who cuts the mark on each block of stone to identify its place in order to identify its place in relation to the other blocks of stone in order to ensure a perfect fit. Also, there were 2000 Mark Men employed at the building of the Temple, 100 in each of the 20 Fellow Craft Lodges that existed at that time.
The original keystone, made by Hiram Abif, is lost and King Solomon offers a reward to anyone who can either find it or make a replacement. An Entered Apprentice manufactures a replacement and fixes it into the arch. Some Fellow Crafts, feeling that it is an insult to have such a stone made by a lowly Entered Apprentice, remove and throw the stone into the Brook Kedron which runs adjacent to the Temple. A reward is offered for the return of the stone and the Entered Apprentice succeeds in finding it. The Entered Apprentice is then entrusted with the secrets of the Degree.
There are odd words and phrases used, for example, the following is a extract from the closing of the Degree of a Mark Man.
- Brethren, be pleased to give me the sign. (The reports are then given)
- Why are those reports given?
- As a perpetual memorial of the labour of our ancient Brethren in the three
famous places where the materials of the Temple were prepared:- The
Quarries of Tyre, the Forests of Lebanon and the clay ground of Jordan
between Succoth and Zarthan.
- To what do these reports further allude?
- To the class of workmen that compose this Degree.
- Then Brethren, as the matter of that class, I declare this Lodge closed until
our Fellow Craft Brethren have furnished us with fresh material to be
MARKED and PASSED to the spot on which we intend to erect a building to
the service of the Grand Architect of Heaven and Earth.
The Mark Master Degree is described as relating to the final inspection of stones which have already been approved by the Mark Men and the additional marking of the stones with a triangle, as proof of this final inspection. In the Ceremony, the Candidate is conducted around the Lodge five times and instructed in the five senses. The Mark Masters Chant was sung, but there were five verses and it was sung to the tune of the National Anthem.
As I mentioned, Robert Carlile was not a Freemason, but he skilfully blended information
from various books and made extensive use of manuscripts provided by his supporters who
had been Freemasons.
Whatever anyone thinks of Robert Carlile and his intended exposure with his ‘Manual of
Freemasonry’, he represented a view of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the popularity of his
Work kept it in print continuously for years. It most certainly helped Mark Masons with
Their Lodge ritual well into the 20th and 21st century.