Etiwan Masonic Lodge No. 95  - 438 Whilden St., Mount Pleasant, SC. 29464

Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest Fraternity.  Its history and tradition date to antiquity.  Its singular purpose is to make good men better.

Q: Freemasonry: A Fraternity United?
A: Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th centuries probably in the stonemason guilds of Scotland. Freemasonry exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around three million (including approx. 480,000 in Great Britain and under two million in the United States). At its heart, Freemasonry is a self-improvement organization. Through three initiation rituals, lectures and other ceremonies, combined with social and charitable activities, Freemasons seek to improve themselves as they improve the communities in which they live. To join, one must believe in a Supreme Being, be upright, moral and honest in character, and be recommended by a Mason.

Freemasonry employs the tools and instruments of stonemasonry to teach a system of morality, friendship and brotherly love, hence, the standard emblem of Freemasonry is the square and compasses. In the United States, Freemasonry is organized locally into lodges and supervised by Grand Lodges. There are fifty-two Grand Lodges in the United States (one for each state plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) and more than 10,000 local lodges. There are numerous Appendant and affiliate Masonic organizations such as the Order of the Eastern Star, Scottish Rite, York Rite and the Shrine. Each of these organizations has its own leadership but all ultimately subordinate to the state Grand Lodges.

Freemasonry is kindness in the home; honesty in business; courtesy toward others; dependability in ones work; compassion for the unfortunate; resistance to evil; help for the weak; concern for good government; support for public education; and above all, a life-practicing reverence for God and love of fellow man. Through the influence of good men such as George Washington, Freemasonry and its ideals continue to thrive around the world.


Q: A.F & A.M; F. & A.M.; A.F.M.; and F.A.A.M.?
A: GRAND LODGES in the United States are predominately designated as "Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons" or "Free and Accepted Masons". In addition, the Grand Lodge of South Carolina is designated as "Ancient Free Masons" and the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia is designated "Free And Accepted Masons". There are then, four proper titles used by the Grand Lodges of the United States - A.F.& A.M.; F.& A.M.; A.F.M.; and F.A.A.M.. Of the 51 Grand Jurisdictions in the United States, 25 have the Ancient descent in their title and 26 have the Modern descent in their title.

AF & AM - Ancient Free and Accepted Masons

These 24 AF & AM states include: CO, CT, DE, ID, IL, IA, KS, ME, MD, MA, MN, MO, MT, NE, NM, NC, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, VA, WV, WY.

F & AM - Free and Accepted Masons

These 25 F & AM states include: AL, AK, AR, AZ, CA, FL, GA, HI, IN, KY, LA, MI, MS, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, UT, VT, WA, WI.

AFM - Ancient Free Masons

There is 1 AFM state: SC

FAAM - Free And Accepted Masons

The District of Columbia is F.A.A.M.

Q: Why Ancient Free Masons?
A: The Masonic Grand Lodge of South Carolina is styled “The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina” and is the only Grand Lodge styled “Ancient Free Masons” in the United States, and, so far as I have been able to find, the world. I’m often asked by new (and sometimes not-so-new) Masons who, having just discovered that no other Grand Lodges are AFM, why Masons in South Carolina are “Ancient Free Masons” (AFM) but Masons in other states are styled “Free and Accepted Masons” (F&AM) or “Ancient Free and Accepted Masons” (AF&AM) and whether this means AFM Masons are a separate kind of Masonry from the others, older, better, etc. I have a Masonic ring in my possession that I got from a South Carolina brother who bought it from a pawnshop. It had some wear when he bought it, and only after wearing it for several years did he notice it said “Free and Accepted Masons” on it rather than Ancient Free Masons. In South Carolina the Prince Hall branch of Masonry is styled Free and Accepted Masons. Prince Hall Masons are considered “clandestine Masons” by the Ancient Free Masons, and the AFM are considered clandestine by the Prince Hall Masons. My friend was horrified, and stopped wearing the F&AM ring. When I noticed its absence and asked him about it, he told me of the newly discovered wordage and that he couldn’t wear a “Prince Hall” ring. I told him my Mother Lodge was Free and Accepted Masons and I showed him my Tennessee dues card (The Grand Lodge of Tennessee is styled “Free and Accepted Masons”). He asked me if I would wear it, to which I responded: “Of course. Tell me what you paid for it and I’ll buy it from you.” The next time we met, he gave the ring to me and would accept no payment for it. I gave him a ring I had that had a Square and Compasses but no wordage.
The short answer to the question of South Carolina’s unique name is since there is no national Grand Lodge in the US, the Masonic Grand Lodges of every state as well as those of every other country are autonomous and pretty much do things their own way, but we are at heart all very much the same. If we weren’t we couldn’t visit in other juris dictions, and they couldn’t visit us. Recognition of one Grand Lodge by the others is very much driven by the different Grand Lodges all observing the same Landmarks of Masonry. An illustration of this principle is the case of the Grand Orient of France who, in 1877 for whatever reason, chose to no longer require a belief in a Supreme Being of its candidates and members, and also began recognizing women’s Masonry and Co-Masonry. The United Grand Lodge of England as well as an overwhelming majority of the Grand Lodges in the world consider a belief in a Supreme Being an indispensible landmark of Masonry and recognizing female Masons also to violate the ancient landmarks, so they immediately withdrew recognition from the Grand Orient of France, and so the status of the Grand Orient of France remains today. However, to really understand why South Carolina Masons are the only Ancient Free Masons requires a little more explanation and a delving into history.
In the dark ages all masons were operative masons, meaning they all built buildings of stone. I was in Europe a few years ago and saw some of the HUGE, amazing, magnificent buildings such as the Kolner Dom in Cologne and the Notre Dame de Paris that they built, which I doubt could be built today even with all our modern technology. Since they could not be serfs and be able to travel all over Europe to build these huge buildings, it is thought this was why they were called "free masons" and is the origin of the "freeborn" requirement in the landmarks. Since most people other than clergy were illiterate, there had to be a way other than certificates no one could read to know who had what qualifications, so a system of signs, unique handshakes and passwords evolved to identify who had progressed how far in the craft. The beginning of this system of craft guilds in the British Isles was actually put in place by MacBeth the King of Scots in the 11th century. Around the last of the 16th century in Scotland the Baron of Sauchie, William Schaw, was appointed as Principal Master of Works in charge of all Scottish masonry by James VI the King of Scots and tasked with promulgating a consistent way of doing things throughout all the lodges. This standardization is known as the Schaw Statutes and is considered by many as the beginning of the system of Masonry we know today. The Chapel Royal at Sterling Castle was built during this time, undoubtedly under the direction of William Schaw.
Around this time “gentlemen” who were not actually masons but either employed them, were patrons of the craft or were connected with them in some way began to be accepted into the brotherhood. One of these “gentlemen masons” was James VI of Scotland, himself (who upon the death of Elizabeth I became James I of England – the King James who commissioned the “King James Bible”). This accepting of “gentlemen” into Masonry was probably done originally to form a bond between the workers and the patrons to help insure better treatment of the workers, as well as an assurance to the patrons that the brothers of the craft would exert utmost care with their buildings - oaths taken back then were considered much more binding than now – a man’s personal honor and good name were his most prized possessions. “Gentlemen” who were initiated into the craft were called "accepted masons" because they didn't actually work in masonry but were accepted into the Masonic brotherhood by those that did. As more and more gentlemen became "accepted masons" it started becoming fashionable among the gentry, and the lodges began styling themselves lodges of "Free and Accepted Masons" to make it plainer that they were not solely made up of operative masons. Over the years as more and more construction moved away from stone and was done in wood and other less expensive materials, the lodges had less and less freemasons and more and more accepted masons. By the end of the 17th century and the time of the foundation of the first English Grand Lodge in 1717, the "Accepted Masons" outnumbered the "Freemasons" in most if not all Lodges. In over 30 years of being a Freemason in the late 20th century, I can only recall meeting one brother whose job actually was that of a mason, and even he was not a stonemason but rather a brick mason. It is interesting to note that in the UK today there is an appendant body of the Masons known as “The Operatives”.

Not long after the foundation of the English Grand Lodge in 1717, Masons in York, as well as some Masons of Irish and Scottish descent in the London area broke away to establish an "Ancient Grand Lodge" to affect a return to more ancient ritual and usages because they felt the Grand Lodge had moved too far away from the old way of doing things. The Masons in York (as well as Scotland and Ireland) had an older Masonic tradition (circa 900AD) than London and may have felt the London organization of a Grand Lodge usurped their "rightful" position in the Masonic hierarchy. It is a documented fact that Lodge Mother Kilwinning #0 in Ayreshire, Scotland has existed since circa 1140AD and was acting as a de facto “grand lodge” and issuing warrants and charters for centuries before the foundation of the current Grand Lodges of Scotland, England or Ireland were thought of. Whatever the reason, the break caused a split in English Masonry that was not healed until 1813 and the formation of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). This split extended to the American colonies as well. Benjamin Franklin's Lodge in Philadelphia became an "Ancient" Lodge while he was away in France on a diplomatic mission, and when he returned they did not recognize him as a brother because he was a "Modern". Thus when Franklin ultimately died, he did not have Masonic Rites at his funeral.

There is a common belief among Masons in this country who know of the “Ancients” and “Moderns” in England that Grand Lodges with “Ancient” in their titles are descended from “Ancient” lodges while the F&AM ones are descended from the “Moderns”. This would be a convenient explanation if it were true. In The History Of Mariner Lodge # 2 we find: ”… Marine Lodge #2 (was) first chartered by the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Carolina as Marine Lodge #7 on December 22, 1766. Marine's name first appears in the 1766 summons to the annual St. John's Day Celebration with Bernard Beekman as its Master. Its number would become ‘2’ as it participated in the creation of the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of South Carolina. Marine Lodge was a ‘Modern’ Lodge, but sometime between 1783 and 1787, its Master traveled north and attended an Ancient Lodge. When he returned, he convinced the members of his Lodge that they should affiliate themselves with the Ancients.” He must have been a very charismatic man. Having been master of the same Lodge 250 years later, I can well imagine the uproar it would have caused had I attempted something even slightly similar. Marine Lodge surrendered their charter and were granted a charter bearing the number ‘236’ by the Athol Grand Lodge of England – one of four Grand Lodges then in existence in England at the time. “Thus Marine Lodge was one of five Ancient Lodges who signed a resolution January 1, 1787 to form an Ancient Grand Lodge in South Carolina.” This Grand Lodge was styled “The Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of South Carolina”.
“Marine #2 would support the unification of the two grand lodges of South Carolina in 1808 to form the ‘Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of South Carolina’. It would again be labeled a ‘Modern’ lodge when St. John's Lodge of Charleston objected to the unification and the Grand Lodge of South Carolina Ancient York Masons was revived. Marine #2 and all of the other Charleston city lodges, except St. John's remained loyal to the Grand Lodge F & AM. The Ancient Grand Lodge then expelled all of the officers and members of the former Ancient Lodges who did not return to the Ancient Grand Lodge.”
The final unification of the South Carolina Grand Lodge as related in the preface to the South Carolina Ahiman Rhezon would take place in 1817 – four years after the final unification of the United Grand Lodge of England. To avoid further unrest the unified Grand Lodge of South Carolina did not keep the name of either parent Grand Lodge but styled itself “The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina”. And from that time on Masons in South Carolina have been “Ancient Free Masons” – semantics to foster harmony but otherwise no big difference. And in the words of William Shakespeare: “would not a rose by any other name still smell as sweet?” Of course there continue to be brothers in South Carolina today absolutely convinced that since South Carolina is the only AFM Grand Lodge in the Americas, this means the Masonry in the state is totally unique and somehow more “pure” than that practiced in the rest of the world. From the history of the name this attitude can be seen to be a near perfect example of the unfortunate human tendency to create a “holy” cause from semantic/idealistic irrelevancies. But some Masons like some other people will always prefer a romantic myth to a less romantic reality. Such people are the rightful prey of the charlatans and con men of the world.
Interestingly perhaps, in much the same way when five old but struggling Lodges in Charleston, SC came together in the year 2000 to form Mariner Lodge #2, even though the SC Code & Constitution directs that when lodges combine they will keep the name and number of the oldest Lodge, it was thought that keeping the name of the oldest or largest of the parent Lodges would cause disharmony, so it was decided to revive the charter of Marine Lodge #2 instead. And there are former members of the five that still consider the combining of the five into one lodge the vilest of heresies. The more you learn the more you begin to realize there are few if any simple answers in Masonry, even today.
Tom Lewis, Jr PM 32° KT KRC
PM Mariner Lodge #2 AFM, Charleston, SC
Life Member Jackson Lodge #45 F&AM, Jackson TN

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