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3rd degree - 'Master Mason'

Major points How the 'temple' is ritually desecrated     
3rd degree Tracing Board

Major points involved in the 3rd degree.

  • The candidate is dressed in 'pauper's clothing'. with both leg bared, both arms bared, bare chest and heelless left and right slippers.
  • The second degree apron is worn over the pauper's clothing.
  • The blue blindfold, called a hoodwink, is placed over the candidate's eyes.
  • The blue 'cable tow rope' is wound 3 times around his body at the waist.
  • Compass points are pressed against left and right breast.
  • Two swords are pressed in a 'V' against the kidneys. [read testimony]
  • The candidate is shown the secret handshake - the 'lion's paw' grip, the 'Due Guard' and four further signs of Horror, Sympathy, Grief and Distress, and Joy and Exaltation. The passwords are 'Machoben' and 'Tubal Cain'
  • During the oath taking the candidate will have held the 'Volume of Sacred Law' (VSL) which for most UK/USA Blue Lodges would be the Bible.
  • Ceremony involves enacting out a drama whereby the candidate becomes 'Hiram Abiff' the (mythical) architect of King Solomon's temple.  The candidate as Hiram Abiiff is attacked by three Juwes (Joo-ees) who kill him by three violent blows to the body and head (or sometimes all three blows are to the head, right and left temples and forehead). The first blow is with a 24" gauge to the throat, the second with a square to the chest and the third (death blow) with a maul to the head. The candidate then falls onto an open stretcher and is shown a black coffin shaped cloth with skull and bones, and is then buried temporarily under the temple rubbish, then moved to burial under the Acacia tree.
  • In the drama the candidate is attempted to be raised back to life by the 1st degree secret grip but this fails. The second degree grip also fails, and it is then that the worshipful master, impersonating King Solomon, steps forward and applying the third degree 'lion's paw' grip succeeds in raising the candidate from death into new life in Freemasonry.

The lion's paw grip..

The Lion's Paw in the Pyramid Mysteries

The picture shows how the grip of the Lion's Paw was given in the Pyramid Mysteries. The priest wore over his head the mask of a lion. By this grip the spirit in man, long buried in the sepulchre of substance, is raised to life, and the candidate goes forth as a builder entitled to the wages of an initiate.

From the inside cover of 'The Lost Keys of Freemasonry' by Manly P. Hall 33rd degree

  • The candidate is then given the five points of fellowship. Foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, hand to mouth and mouth to ear.
  • At this point the Grand Masonic Word 'Mah-hah-bone' is revealed under penalty of death of revealed, as is the secret word 'Machaben'
  • The traditional penalties alluded to [see note below] for revealing Masonic secrets to the profane (outsiders) includes the words ". . . being severed in two, my bowels burned to ashes and those ashes scattered over the face of the earth and wafted by the four winds of heaven so that no trace or remembrance of so vile a wretch as me may be found among men."
    • The square and compass will be placed on top of an open Bible at Ecclesiastes chapter 12, and the candidate will kneel before the altar and kiss the 'Volume of Sacred Law' three times.
    • He will finally be asked to seal the ritual oath with the words 'So mote it be' (used only in Freemasonry and Witchcraft)


  • The candidate is given working tools (as in witchcraft) appropriate to  the degree   - gavel (maul), chisel, square, pencil, level, plum line. tracing board, ashlar, skirret, compasses and trowel.
  • The second degree apron is replaced with the third degree apron - which the Mason keeps.
  • Other regalia may include the Junior Warden's jewel, sashes, fur collars and cuffs.

Note: In 1986 The Grand Lodge of England removed the candidate's speaking out of the traditional physical penalties. However they are still within the wording, only more subtly.. The pledge now states 'Do you likewise pledge yourself that you conceal what I shall now impart to you with the same strict caution as the other secrets in masonry?' The worshipful master explains to the candidate ' the symbolic penalty at one time included in the Obligation in this degree (as below) had he improperly disclosed the secrets entrusted to him, which implied that, as a man of honour a Master mason would rather have been severed in two, the bowels burnt to ashes and the ashes scattered over the face of the earth and wafted by the four winds of heaven so that no trace or remembrance of so vile a wretch may longer be found among men, particularly Master Masons'

The full line by line wording for the Master Mason degree is available by clicking

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