What is ‘Swedish Rite’?
Freemasonry 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).