Frequently asked questions

Many people think the Freemasons are a secret, somewhat mysterious organisation. Naturally, lodge meetings are open only to members, but in all other regards we’re open and honest about what we do. The headquarters of the United Grand Lodge of England (Freemasons’ Hall in London) is even open to the public.

Click below to find answers to many common questions about Freemasonry.

Craft

Is Freemasonry an international order?

Yes, but there is no international governing body for Freemasonry, and each Grand Lodge is completely independent. So while Grand Lodges may follow the same basic principles, each one may have a different way of passing these principles on.

What is Freemasonry’s relationship with religion?

All Freemasons must believe in a supreme being (from any religion) – but how that belief is expressed is entirely up to them. Put another way, Freemasonry deals in a man’s relationship with other people, not in a man’s relationship with his god.

However, it’s important to note that Freemasonry is not a religious organisation, and the discussion of religion is not allowed at our meetings.

Unfortunately, there are elements within certain churches who misunderstand or criticise Freemasonry, and confuse our non-religious rituals with religious worship. In actual fact, there are many Masons who are members of such churches, and who are dismayed by these criticisms of Freemasonry – which after all has always encouraged its members to be active in their own religion.

Why do you use the phrases ‘The Great Architect’ and ‘The Volume of Sacred Law’?

Freemasonry embraces all men who believe in a god – including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsees and others. So we use the neutral phrase ‘The Great Architect’ to mean any of their gods, because it allows men of different religions to pray together without offending any of them. Importantly, the use of the phrase ‘The Great Architect’ is not an attempt to combine all gods into one, or to define a god specific to Freemasonry.

For the same reason, we use ‘The Volume of Sacred Law’ (sometimes termed the VSL) to refer to holy texts relevant to a number of faiths, of which the Bible is obviously one.

What is Freemasonry’s relationship with politics?

Lodges governed by UGLE will never express a view on politics or state policy, and the discussion of politics at our meetings has always been prohibited.

What is the relationship between Freemasonry and groups like the Orange Order, Oddfellows and Buffaloes?

None. There are numerous fraternal orders and Friendly Societies whose rituals, regalia and organisation are similar in some respects to those of Freemasonry, but they are entirely unconnected.

Isn’t it true that Freemasons only look after each other?

No – from its earliest days, Freemasonry has been involved in charitable activities. Whilst some aspects of Masonic charity cater specifically (but not exclusively) for Masons or their dependants, we also make significant grants to a wide range of other charities. You can find out more about this on our Charities page.

Are Freemasons expected to give preference to fellow members in job applications?

Absolutely not – it is a misuse of membership to favour Masons over other candidates for job applications, promotions, contracts and similar.

On becoming a Freemason, each candidate states unequivocally that he expects to make no material gain from his membership. At various stages during the three ceremonies of his admission (and upon presentation of the final admission certificate), he is reminded that attempts to obtain preferential treatment or material gain for himself or others will not be tolerated. Penalties for abuse of membership are strictly enforced, and range from temporary suspension to expulsion.

Are there women Freemasons?

Yes. Women Freemasons have two separate Grand Lodges – The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF, now known as Freemasonry for Women) and The Order of Women Freemasons (OWF).

How many degrees are there in Freemasonry?

Basic Freemasonry consists of three ‘Craft’ degrees (Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason) and the ‘Royal Arch’ degree. There are no short-cuts to getting these degrees, and all members must demonstrate their knowledge at each level before proceeding to the next.

In addition, there are many additional Masonic degrees and Orders, which further illustrate the principles stated in the Craft and Royal Arch degrees, but are not in any way superior to them.

Do Freemasons take oaths?

New members make solemn promises concerning their conduct in Lodge and in society, but do not swear allegiances to each other or to Freemasonry. Freemasons also promise to support others in times of need, but only if that support does not conflict with their duties to their god, the law, their family or with their responsibilities as a citizen.

What role does ritual play at meetings of the Freemasons?

We use rituals to remind ourselves of our historical roots, reinforce key lessons, and help us forge strong bonds of friendship through shared experience.

Our rituals use storytelling, drama and symbolism to impress upon members the principles and teachings of Freemasonry. This is much more effective than conveying these messages in matter-of-fact everyday language. Sometimes these rituals might seem strange or even amusing when taken out of context (like the rolling-up of trouser legs during admission ceremonies), but like many other aspects of Freemasonry, they have symbolic meaning, and we take them seriously.

Why do you wear regalia?

Our regalia is both historical and symbolic, and an important feature of it is the apron. Originally used by medieval stonemasons to protect their clothing from dust and stone chippings, today the apron serves to indicate to members where they rank in the organisation. New members have a plain white apron, while senior Freemasons have aprons embellished with icons and emblems reflecting the experience that they have demonstrated.

What happens at a lodge meeting?

The first part of each meeting typically deals with administrative matters, such as proposing new members, voting on financial matters, and dealing with correspondence. Following this, there are ceremonies for admitting new Masons, and (once a year) the appointment of the Master and officers.

Where and when do lodge meetings take place?

Lodge meetings for South Wales Masons are held in ‘Masonic Centres’ located in towns and cities across the region. In addition, facilities such as the Masonic Hall in Cardiff, as well as being shared by several lodges, are used for community functions, weddings, concerts, and various other events.

Lodge meetings typically take place monthly, but some lodges have meetings less frequently, or arrange them only outside key holiday periods. Details of locations and dates of lodge meetings can be found here.

How much does it cost to be a Freemason?

Costs vary from lodge to lodge, but you can always find a lodge to suit your pocket. When you become a Mason, there is an initiation fee and an apron to buy, after which there is an annual subscription.

ln addition, it’s normal to have a meal after each meeting, and the cost of this can either be included in the annual subscription, or paid for at the time. Charitable donations are entirely up to you, and should always be without detriment to your other financial responsibilities. Similarly, you can join as many lodges as your time and finances can allow, should you wish.

What happens if I decide to join the Freemasons?

When you apply to be a member, we’ll suggest the best lodge for you to join based on what you tell us about your interests and experience. This may not necessarily be the nearest lodge to you geographically speaking. Each new member requires a ‘proposer’ and a ‘seconder’, and these may be people you already know. There is then a short meeting with existing members of the lodge, which is an opportunity for them to find out more about you, and for you to ask any questions you might have.

I’ve got a question that isn’t answered here. Where can I get more information?

If you’d like to find out more about any aspect of Freemasonry that isn’t covered on these pages, simply fill in our general enquiries form, and we’ll be in touch.