Swedish Rite

What is ‘Swedish Rite’?

Templar crossFreemasonry is generally considered Universal and open to all faiths. But the Swedish Rite is a particular system, open only to those of Christian faith, although it is a-dogmatic. Another point of interest is that it is a true high degree system, and the degree of master mason is not seen as ultimate or “sublime”. Please note that this is not the Swedenborg Rite; it is in fact unlikely that Emanuel Swedenborg had any direct influence on its creation. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘Scandinavian Rite’. Finally, it exists in Germany as ‘Zinnendorf Rite’, which is actually a variation based on early drafts of the ritual.

I have in this blog posted a number of entries about the rite, and you can access them by choosing the background-category from the sidebar (or follow the link).

There are not many sources available in English to describe the rite, and of course I cannot divulge anything myself. But this page collects the few references I have found on the Internet. Except for the Grand Lodge links, they are all inaccurate – which is fine because that way the mystery remains.

Swedish Order of Freemasons
Danish Order of Freemasons
Norwegian Order of Freemasons
Icelandic Order of Freemasons
Most of the text on these three Grand Lodge websites seems to stem from the Swedish site, so go there for the longer version.

Grosse Landesloges (German Order of Freemasons)
Home of the German grand lodge using Swedish Rite (‘Zinnendorf’s Rite’); it is one of several united grand lodges in Germany. Text only in German.

The Dead Rites of Masonry (The Master Mason, 1925)
Not sure what Swedish Rite is doing in this article, but it has a brief and off-base description of the degrees.

Swedish Rite of Freemasonry (The Master Mason, 1926) [dead]
Found on the website of River Forest-Austin Lodge, IL. Quite colourful “historical” piece.

The Builder, September 1924 (Phoenix Masonry)
This edition of the magazine ran two articles on the subject, one focusing on the history, the other on the degrees. Notice that the two articles actually contradict each other.

Swedish Rite FAQ (Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon)
This great site has some information, but also quite a bit of trivia I don’t recognise. Make of it what you will.

Freemasonry (Åke Eldberg’s home page)
Åke Eldberg is a Swedish minister and freemason, and as such should be a credible source, but it is only one man’s point of view.

The Swedish Constitution (Pietre-Stones)
A report from a visit to the Freemasons Hall in Stockholm, and some notes on the system. Quite good, but it also has elements that I do not recognise myself.

Swedish Rite (in Wikipedia)
Not much there yet, and it mainly repeats the text from Grand Lodge websites, but it may build over time.

Masonry in Sweden (Masonry Universal … issue 5)
… has a few paragraphs by a Swedish Rite mason.

Swedish Rite (Lodge St. Bryde)
This article goes into specifics of the degrees (supposedly). Even if it is inaccurate, and I wouldn’t know, it would probably be spoilerish for anyone planning to go through the degrees, so beware.

Swedish Rite in Germany (The Magpie Mason)
A blog entry from a New Jersey lodge; this describes a lecture on Swedish Rite freemasonry in Germany (‘Zinnendorf Rite’) and has a few snippets of information, although it seems careful to maintain the discrete nature of the rite.

The Charles D. Visscher Museum of Masonic Culture
Facebook group with pictures of Norwegian aprons. (These are very similar to the ones used in Denmark.)

Finally, Ars Quator Coronatorum vol. LXXII (1959) has an article called ‘Scandinavian Freemasonry’ by Bertram Jacobs. You may obtain the book from Quator Coronati or second hand.

Below follows the regalia of the rite, first in a contemporary version from the site of the Danish Order of Freemasons, and then in an older version that I came across on the site of Regular Grand Lodge of England (heavy files).


The pictures below are from an exhibition catalogue. Gloves are worn in all degrees, and hat is worn by all from III degree and up. The tradition of wearing tails is only used in Denmark and Iceland; Norway and Sweden also allows black suit and tie.

  • I-III is the St. John’s lodge (Craft). The flap is worn up for the Apprentice.
  • IV-VI is the St. Andrew’s lodge (Scots degrees).
  • VII-XI is Chapter. In addition to these, the Sovereign Grand Master (XII) has his own apron and sash. There is also a seperate sash (white and gold) for members of the Supreme Council (who are all XI).

9 thoughts on “Swedish Rite

  1. Dear Brother,

    I have enjoyed exploring your site.

    I read your comments regarding the concern of some Freemasons for the exclusively Christian nature of the Swedish Rite.

    Having shared that concern at one time, I can only say that Freemasons at their best are traditionalists and at their worst are provincial.

    Because of the emphasis that Freemasonry places on tradition, it is very easy for the untraveled or unread Freemason to believe that every Lodge is just like his own.

    In fact, it is often a shock for a Brother when he finally realizes that Freemasonry is as diverse as are Freemasons themselves.

    Though universality is an essential element of Freemasonry under most Grand Lodges, it is understandable why the Swedish Rite has developed as it has.

    Though I enjoy studying the various forms of Freemasonry–variety being the spice of life after all–I must confess that I enjoy most a familiar dish.

    Chad Simpson, PM
    York Lodge No. 563
    Under the Grand Lodge of Ohio, F&AM

  2. Thanks Bro Thomas for allowing me to visit your web Blog!

    It is indeed a very nice and comprehensive review of the Swedish Rite!

    Thanks for sharing your views on your Freemasonry!

    Yes it is different, however, it is still the same.

    See you in my travels on the Web!

    WB Mike Smitson

  3. I am finally evaluating my 20 years as a mason in California, and whether it conflicts with my Christian faith.
    Any information you could guide me toward to better understand this concern would be appreciated.

    Thank you so much, God bless.

    Chris Sienes

  4. I am a mason in Ma.

    As you can tell, I am Swedish and my Father came from Sweden. He also was a mason for 40 years.

    I just found out about the Swedish Rite and I want to thank you for all of the information you have in you blog.
    It is very interesting.
    I live in Worcester, Ma. This is the 3rd biggest population of Swedish people in the United States.
    I am trying to find out if there are any Swedish Rite Lodges
    in Mass.
    Do you happen to know if there are any or could you send me any information where I could find out.

    Thank you again for this information.
    Harold Hansson


    • You won’t find Swedish Rite outside of Scandinavia and Germany, unfortunately. It is a very strictly maintained system, and its organisational and ritual structure is intigrated from the first degree to the last (there are ten). In other words, it doesn’t travel very well.

      I hope you will one day be able to come here (or Sweden) and experience it for yourself!

      Thank you for your interest and comments.

  5. Hello, I looked up this web site because IN 2004 I moved into an old house out in the country,it was littered with trash and had junk all over.in the old barn and in the fields. My father and I (well my father acually) were cleaning out the barn/garage and he said to me “Look at this old book,It must be really important because inside it say’s Not to be sold and must be returned to the owner of the book” I said REally? and he said “look” so he handed me the book and on the front it said “Swedish Rite” so I opened the page and it had a pic.of a very old man all dressed up. I was to scared to read what was inside (for some reason)but put it away anyway. acouple of weeks later I met this women and became a friend of hers.I would frequent her house and one day (noticeing all the old books she had) I asked her if she knew of it. Her faced turned white and she said she had been looking for that book.

  6. Interesting blog. Recently did a trip to Karlstad and witnessed a 1st degree- totally different and amazingly the same. Your blog is interesting referencing your journey starting in the SRIA, having been shown/introduced to the Swedish degrees up to a point ( a point beyond which I was not allowed to delve) I found myself somewhat envious, they seem so rich and enlightening with much encompassed in the journey. I certainly picked out many similarities with my own masonic experience and at the same time raised a number of questions. We also attended a fraternal meeting unlike anything we have in either in the English or Scottish constitutions , both of which I am a member. Likewise your header photo looks very familiar or all Swedish rite lodges designed this way? disadvantage was that being sat at the side of the pedestal and behind a pillar I had to crane to view the proceedings . Major advantage was realising that the harmony/festive board apparently can’t go ahead without copious quantities of aquavit ! If you ever are in London perhaps we could have a discussion ?

    • Re. your question: Generally speaking, Swedish Rites lodges are appointed to a very similar standard, and no ritual deviation is allowed (but the different Scandinavian countries have their own slightly different rituals). There are architectural differences between buildings, of course.

  7. Several years ago I moved to a small town into an old run down house out in the country. In the old barn that had trash and debris as well as other old, dusty items that had been there a long time, my father found an old book. He called me over to look at it. He said ” It must be a special book.” Inside there was an old picture of a man and it said “To be returned upon the death or withdral of the recipient.” It said The Swedish Rite”on front.

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