From the East – May 2018

Dear Brothers,

Recently I was searching various masonic podcast on YouTube and ran across videos from The Academy of Masonic Knowledge of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, which led me to their website and eventually, Facebook.  Over the last several weeks they have had several posts which I found interesting and thought I would share with you.

1 .     Masons use the term “Cowan” to refer to someone who isn’t a Brother and who attempts to pass himself off as a member. Today, Brothers sometimes use Cowan to label anyone who isn’t a Mason.  Historically, the term originates in Scotland, and denominates someone who performs the work of a Mason without the credentials. Alternately, it could be used to denote someone who builds walls without mortar, only using the weight of the materials to hold the structure in place. (Source “Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry”)

  1. “Cable tow” is a phrase familiar to all Masons, but one that doesn’t appear much in daily life outside of the Craft. It is thought that the term originates with the ancient builders. In former times, a piece of yarn or spun fiber was called a “taw” or “tau.” If you took several pieces of these fibers and spun them into a thick, corded rope, you’d produce a “cable-taw.” Through the evolution of language, it is thought that the phrase morphed into “cable tow,” having become a well-known symbol for all Freemasons.
  2. Where did the term “Freemason” come from? Some think that it relates to the working status of the man, with “free” implying that he was not enslaved or indentured. But, the earliest references to the term imply a different angle. Usually found in Latin or French, we find terms such as “sculptores lapidum liberorum” (London 1212), “magister lathomus

liberarum petrarum” (Oxford 1391), and “mestre mason de franche peer” (Statute of Labourers 1351). These phrases imply a man worked in “freestone,” which is a grainless sandstone or limestone suitable for building construction. In contrast we find terms translated as “Rough Mason” or “Layer”, which implied a less skilled worker who had not yet mastered his craft.

  1. If you were to describe the layout of a typical Masonic Lodge room, what would you say? Most would call it a rectangle. However, the correct answer is “an oblong square.” In early geometry, a “square” was defined as any object composed of right angles. Thus, the two shapes we call a rectangle and a square were one in the same to operative masons. To differentiate the two, the craftsman began to refer to one as a “perfect square” and the other as an “oblong square.”


My point in sharing this information above is that there is a vast amount of masonic knowledge available to you in various forms.  We live in an age when a vast library is at your finger tip just by opening a website.  Therefore, our masonic

education shouldn’t end when the Worshipful Master closes the lodge but should continue as we strive to make ourselves better men.



Daniel E. O’Brien

Worshipful Master

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