The First Degree Ceremony of Initiation for the First Degree is performed at the Masonic lodge. The Entered Apprentice is the first level of Masonry. The lodge is set up with 3 alters along the sides of the room and 1 in the middle. The Worshipful Master sits on the East end of the room along with the Chaplain and Senior Deacon. Across the room, on the West end, the Senior Warden sits flanked by the Marshal on his left and Junior Deacon on his right. On the South end of the room the Junior Warden, sits between the Senior and Junior Stewards. The altar in the middle holds a Bible and is surrounded by 3 candles. The image to the right details the set up of the room as well as the location of key members.
The initiation begins with the Tyler (or Tiler depending on the Lodge) giving three distinct knocks signaling that the initiate is ready. A conversation between the Inner Guard, Junior Warden and Worshipful Master takes place where they say that a candidate wishes to seek admission. In their conversation, they find that the candidate is asking to obtain the privileges of freemasonry “by the help of God, being free and of good report.” These three items are all requirements to becoming a mason. During this conversation, they are given the “Entered Apprentice” sign. The Entered Apprentice sign is made by standing tall with your right hand flat palm down and the resting at the top of your chest. The right elbow is straight out 90 degrees from your side. The Entered Apprentice sign is used throughout the ritual. Once the Worshipful Master (WM) grants permission to bring the candidate in, the Inner Guard (IG) greets the candidate at the door. The candidate is blindfolded to represent that he is living in darkness and wears a loosely tied noose around his neck. Also, the candidate’s left breast is exposed to prove that he’s a man and that his left pant leg be rolled up to prove that he’s able bodied. It is at this point that the inner guard holds a ceremonial dagger to the exposed chest of the candidate. The candidate is prompted with “Do you feel anything?” Once the candidate reply’s, the IG holds the dagger above his head to show the rest of the masons that he had held the dagger.
The Three Great Emblematic Lights in Freemasonry
The Junior Deacon takes the candidate to kneel in front of the WM. After verifying that the candidate is of age, the Mason say a prayer asking God to grant the candidate to Freemasonry so he may “better be enabled to unfold the beauties of true godliness.” The Candidate is led around the room to show the present Masons that he is able bodied to fulfill his duties as a Mason. The candidate is led to the middle of the room and instructed to stand with his heels together forming a square (the tool) left foot facing East and right foot facing South. The candidate verifies that he would like to proceed and is then instructed to proceed and is instructed to kneel in front of the altar to the east while maintaining his feet in a square. The candidate places his right hand on a Bible and holds a compass in his left hand pressing one point into his still exposed left breast. The candidate swears at this point not to reveal any secrets of Freemasonry while the entire lodge stands with the Entered Apprentice sign. The WM asks the candidate that having been in a state of darkness, what is the predominant wish of the candidate’s heart to which the candidate replies “light.” In a coordinated fashion, the WM gives one pound of the gavel, all Masons in attendance clap one time, and the Junior Deacon removes the hood from the candidate. At this point, the WM reveals the three emblematic lights of Freemasonry, which are the Volume of Sacred Law to govern freemasonry faith, the Square regulate actions of Freemasons, and the Compasses to keep Freemasons due in bounds with all mankind, specifically fellow Masons. The Candidate at that time is officially a brother among the Freemasons.
Learning as a Freemason
At this point, the new Freemason is instructed to discover the three lesser lights of Freemasonry situated at the East, South, and West ends of the room. The three lesser lights represent the Sun, Moon and the Master of the Lodge. The Sun rules the day; the moon governs the night; and the Master of the lodge rules and directs his lodge. The WM also informs the new Mason that he has already survived two of three great dangers that he would face tonight. The first of which was the dagger at the beginning of the ceremony. Had the new Mason not shown patience and rushed into Freemasonry, he would have impaled himself on the dagger. The second was the noose tied around his neck which would have made any attempt to run from the ceremony fatal. The dagger and noose are put away after revealing them to the new Mason. The WM explains that the third great danger is that at any point until the Freemasons death, exposing any Freemason secrets will result in his throat being cut. The WM then goes over the Sign, Grip, and Word for the First Degree of Freemasonry. The Entered Apprentice Grip is done by applying downward pressure on the top of the first knuckle. The word is BOAZ – meaning Strength and stability for God. Boaz is derived from King Solomon’s Temple and the Great Grandfather of David, Prince of Israel. The new Mason is also given his badge. The Junior Deacon takes the new Mason to the NE corner of the lodge. Traditionally, the first stone in a structure is placed at the NE corner. The WM tells that a Freemason’s heart must contain Charity. Because of this, candidates are stripped of all valuable possessions before entering the Lodge.
The WM presents the tools of Entered Apprentice Freemasonry, a 24 inch gauge to measure work, a gavel to knock off imperfections, and a chisel to smoothen stones for more expert workmen. The new Mason is led out of the room squaring his feet at all corners along the way. He is then instructed to Salute the WM with the Entered Apprentice Sign. The Entered Apprentice Mason leaves the room to get dressed and returns wearing his badge. The ceremony ends with the Charge after Initiation. The Charge says that Freemasons should understand the importance of God and faith, understand the importance of good and loyal citizens of the world, and obey societal laws. The Charge also prohibits masons from revealing secrets of the brotherhood, abstaining from political or religious discussions in the Lodge, and adherence to request by the Master and Officers of the lodge as the requests relate to their duties.