The degrees of Swedish Rite

I just want to very briefly go over the degrees of the Swedish Rite. without touching on the contens. This is the same list that can be found on the official website of the Danish Order of Freemasons, with a few changes and added notes. Go to my Swedish Rite page to find pictures of regalia. Each ‘tier’ is its own entity, so a VII degree brother will be a member of three different lodges; but the rite is progressive, and the degrees are connected like pearls on a string.

Lodge of St. John. This encompasses the first three degrees and is similar to Craft masonry, although the ritual differs. The Master of the Lodge must be of the IX degree, and the officers at least VII.

  • I – Diligent Apprentice of St. John
  • II – Zealous Companion of St. John
  • III – Worthy Master of St. John

Lodge of St. Andrew: Another three (‘Scottish’) degrees. The Master of the St. Andrew’s lodge must be of X degree. The VI degree, Master of St. Andrew, compares with the same degree in Rectified Scottish Rite, and it also makes possible intervisitiation with Rose Croix (Scottish Rite 18°) and Holy Royal Arch.

  • IV-V – Very Worthy Apprentice-Companion of St. Andrew
  • VI – Illustrious Master of St. Andrew

Chapter (or rather: Priory): Originally, the first two degrees of Chapter were called a Steward’s Lodge, but no more. VIII is similar to the Chevalier Bienfaisant de la Cité Sainte, and it also allows intervisitiation with Scottish Rite 32°.

  • VII – Very Illustrious Steward Brother
  • VIII – Most Illustrious Confidential Brother of Solomon
  • IX – Illuminated Confidential Brother of St. John’s Lodge
  • X – Very Illuminated Confidential Brother of St. Andrew’s Lodge, Knight of the Purple Sash

And in addition (the degree number is never used for these):

  • (XI or ‘R&K’) – Most Illuminated Knight and Commander of the Red Cross
  • (XII) – Most Wise, the Sovereign Grand Master of the Order

Notes
I use the word Companion rather than Fellowcraft, and you will find the same in works about the rite, as well as texts on Strict Observance.
I have chosen Illuminated rather than the proposed Enlightened.
For VII and VIII I have translated the Danish titles rather than use Knight of East and West.
The website says Knight Commander, which is a mistake – I have added the missing ‘and‘.
I have added the Grand Master to the list.

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Master class (and education in general)

The season came early as my temporary lodge, St. Clemens, held classes for last season’s new I, II and III degree candidates. For the Masters it was two evenings.

The classes were intended to get to the core of the degree. There is still plenty to figure out and delve into, but it did a good job of highlighting the main themes. On the first meeting of Masters we dug into an obligatory lecture that is given as part of the ritual; and on the second one we took turns manning the chairs, opening and closing the lodge, and travelling with a mock-candidate (I stood in as Junior Warden, great fun, and you really get a sense of the challenge, even with the ritual book open in front of you). I think we all came away with something.

In my motherlodge, Hafnia, what we do is have classes every month (last Monday) during the year. The good thing is that you can always count on it, and there is more time. The downside is that we always have to keep to the lowest degree present, which means that it rarely goes beyond Apprentice. Also, it becomes a lot more ad hoc (what ever questions are brought to the table), where as I like the more structured approach (but then, I was educated a teacher).

Different ways to do things, but I think all lodges have some form of education.

And I have to add that we are fortunate in the Danish Order of Freemasons: Because these classes are in addition to one long lecture each meeting, as well as one or two minor ones; official reading material that is given for each degree, and continually updated; a library database with thousands of titles that can be browsed and booked online; and online content on the Order’s intranet: a discussion forum (down at the moment, unfortunately), the Q&A books, part of the ritual, tracing boards – all organised and available according to one’s degree.

I think overall we’re in a good shape, when it comes to education.

Picture: ‘Vanitas’, by German artist, Br. Jens Rausch. Time to study!

Odin

The idea of Odin was concieved by myself and a couple of other younger brothers.

Odin is a partnership between two lodges, both meeting in Freemasons Hall in Copenhagen on Wednesdays: Hafnia and Zorobabel and Frederick to the Crowned Hope (Z&F). It was created to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the lodges, offer social activities outside of lodge, and encourage intervisitiation. It is primarily aimed at the newest members.

It should be explained that when one lodge has a first degree on, the other will have a third. This means that Apprentices and Companions (Fellowcrafts) of the latter lodge will be “out of work”, but they are welcome at the first lodge’s first degree meeting. Since we don’t have business meetings, there will always be something interesting going on, degrees and lectures. Once this system of mutual benefit was set up, the newly initiated brother of Hafnia knew that he could always visit Z&F, and vice-versa, and a member of Odin would be there to welcome him.

The long-term benefit is that the new brother is immediately in the habit of going to lodge once every week (once he makes Master, he may choose to stick with his motherlodge, as he is able to attend every meeting – this is partly why it is mainly aimed at newcomers). And more importantly: He now has a group that he can share his questions with. The first time can be confusing, and you have no rights in lodge (can’t speak or vote). Odin serves to ease the transition. This, I hope, will support retention, and hopefully more brothers will feel at ease with the rituals.

This is a success story, and we are proud to have made it happen. But, as always with things such as these, they are based on individual initiative, and the next important challenge is passing the torch.

I intend to put some time into our Odin newsletter, and when I return to Copenhagen, I will have some recruiting to do.

The new season

For the next few months I am staying in Århus, so I am not going to be going to my motherlodge, Hafnia, but rather the local one, St. Clemens, which is also a wonderful lodge, meeting in the Århus Provincial Lodge (ÅPL). This means that I won’t be looking into any offices at this time, unfortunately.

There are several anniversaries this year hosted by ÅPL. Part of that will be launching a public exhibition in the city museum, which happens to be organised by a friend (non-mason) of mine, so I am looking forward to reporting on that.

If time permits I’ll also take the opportunity to visit some lodges withing range of Århus, that I wouldn’t otherwise have seen. One big wish is to the consecration of a new lodge in November – should be something special.

I am still waiting for a date for my St. Andrew’s degrees (IV/V) – I know it won’t be in the autumn, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the spring. I am so ready.

Which is not to say that I won’t be entering new degrees. I have been looking into Sociatas Rosicruciana in Anglia for some time, and hopefully this will happen in October. The Rosicrucian angle is one that speaks strongly to me, and one that I feel will complement the Swedish Rite very effectively.

Before I left, I helped start ‘Odin’, an initiative to strengthen the bonds between my lodge, Hafnia, and another lodge (Z&F) meeting on the same day in the same building (Freemasons Hall in Copenhagen). But because of my travels, I haven’t been able to follow up on that. Time to put some effort into it. I plan on taking responsibility for doing a small, monthly PDF-publication. (Read more about Odin.)

Writing is what I do for a living, so I am also going to write some articles for Masonic magazines (in Danish). About the journey which I have also described here, but also more topical stuff and general musings. Just when I can find the time – I have a few brewing already.

Also, BOTA continues. As well as training for a Marathon.

I know I have been complaining about the long summer break, but I just found out that St. Clemens have a series of workshops for the St. John’s (craft) degrees in August, so I’m set to begin the new season on Thursday …

Rituals of the Order

Continuing the brief introdution to Danish freemasonry (see the list of rulers) …

The Danish Order of Freemasons historically has utilised three distinct rituals, all of which are overtly Christian (not counting the early days, 1743-1765, when freemasonry was decentralised, and the lodges likely used ritual from English influence):

Charter1765-1782: Strict Observance
The Strict Observance (or: Order of the Interior) was founded by Karl Gotthelf, Reichfreiherr von Hund und Altengrotkau (ca. 1750) in Germany where it spread rapidly, finding a strong footing in noble society. One of von Hund’s companions, Johann Christian Schubart, met with Count Danneskiold-Laurvig, the Grand Master of Denmark, who invited him to Copenhagen to convince the Danish brethren to join the SO. He succeeded, and von Hund became de facto the Grand Master of the Danish “province” of German chivalric freemasonry. The system collapsed upon von Hund’s death in 1776 and floundered until the convent of Wilhelmsbad in 1782.

Note: Even today the Danish Order still uses von Hund’s motto (“U.U.U.”), and Denmark has retained the degree of Noviciate, which doesn’t otherwise exist in the Swedish Rite.

1782-1858: Rectified Rite
Following the Convent of Wilhelmsbad Denmark introduced the Rectified Rite. Notice the lack of “Scottish” – it seems that only the first three degrees were imported, but I know of at least one “Scottish” lodge in Denmark, so I am not sure how that fits in. Finding information about this period has proven surprisingly difficult; the rite simply doesn’t appear to be held in very high regard among our Masonic historians. I shall endeavour to add to this section later – I hope to compare Danish rituals from this period with what is practised elsewhere, even today, as Rectified Scottish Rite/Rite Écossais Rectifié.

Karl1858-today: Swedish System
This ritual was created (in Sweden, yes) by Carl Fredrik Eckleff, even as von Hund was propagandating the Strict Observance; it was later picked up by Duke Karl of Sudermania (later King Karl XIII of Sweden), who made major revisions in 1780 and as late as 1800. It was, as SO, a form of chivalric freemasonry. It was introduced in 1852 through St. John’s Lodge Kosmos in Elsinore, north of Copenhagen, just a short trip across the sound from Sweden, as the local brethren were overwhelmed by the depth and beauty of the system. King Frederick VII of Denmark, Grand Master at the time, allowed them to use the system and was soon won over himself. In 1858 he founded the Grand Lodge of Denmark (not in the sense of a bureaucratic system, but as the highest templar degrees being worked in full).

Pictures: von Hund’s charter, written in ciphre, signed by the “Unknown Superiors”; it is kept in the archives in Freemasons Hall in Copenhagen. And Duke Karl.

Masters of Danish Freemasonry

F VIIIThe Danish Wikipedia entry on freemasonry has been updated with a list of all the supreme rulers of the Danish Order of Freemasons; the title has changed several times depending on the system being used, and whether Denmark was a province of German freemasonry at the time. But from 1858 the title was Wisest Vicarius of Solomon, and since 1975 the more neutral moniker Sovereign Grand Master has been used. You may notice four Danish monarchs, but whether that is half empty or half full, I’ll let you decide. Also note that freemasonry was active in Denmark since 1743, but only as local lodges.

  • Von Hund1749-1765 Christian Conrad Count Danneskiold-Laurvig
  • 1765-1776 Baron Carl Gotthelf von Hund
  • 1776-1792 Duke Ferdinand of Braunschweig
  • (1775-1792) Prince Carl of Hessen
  • 1792-1836 Prince Carl of Hessen
  • 1836-1848 Prince Christian Frederik, later King Christian VIII
  • 1848(49)-1863 King Frederick VII
  • 1864-1870 Cosmus Bræstrup
  • 1870-1871 J.P. Trap (ad interim)
  • 1871-1912 Crown Prince Frederik, later King Frederick VIII
  • 1912-1947 King Christian X
  • 1947-1949 Prince Harald
  • 1949-1973 Frode Rydgaard
  • OSM1973-1988 Erik Kay-Hansen
  • 1988-1997 Erik F. Qvist
  • 1997-2005 Børge Clausen
  • 2005-…. Hans Martin Jepsen

Images of Frederick VIII, von Hund and Hans Martin Jepsen.