Royal Arch Widow
History of the Degree
Several years ago, companions of Tyrean Chapter No. 34, of Cut Bank, Montana, conceived the idea of entertaining their wives in lieu of a convocation of their chapter. A humorous "initiation" ceremony was prepared, and it was so successful, that it has been repeated from year to year. Requests poured in from all over the country for information as to its ritual and the method of conferring it.
Companions in Wisconsin acquired the "ritual", added to its humor, and supplied copies to neighboring jurisdictions. The Grand Chapter of Missouri appointed a committee to prepare, print, and distribute the ritual which is here set forth. The Grand Chapter of Missouri has relinquished its copyright to the Educational Bureau of the General Grand Chapter
Copies of the "ritual" may be obtained by any secretary of a regular chapter at approximate cost of printing and mailing. Membership cards for the ladies will also be supplied in the same way.
The conferring of the degree, using this ritual, or portions thereof, by other than a regular chapter of Royal Arch Masons, will be regarded as an infringement of the copyright. This is the only stipulation required.
Suggestions for Conferring the Degree
While the degree is full of humor, nothing should be done by any of the participants to embarass any candidate or to reflect upon the dignity of Royal Arch Masonry. The concluding section of the degree contains a dignified explanation of Royal Arch Masonry, its objectives and its teachings. At this juncture, there should be no levity.
It is not advisable to confer this degree more than once a year, otherwise it will become too common and unappreciated. A special night should be set apart for the event. The chapter should not be opened. If other entertainment is to be offered, it should follow the initiation.
DO IT WELL—OR NOT AT ALL!
Like any degree work, if this is not WELL DONE it will be a FLOP. If your chapter does good degree work, it will also do well with this. If your degree work is poor, then forget about adding anything additional such as this would be. It must be properly PLANNED, PRACTICED AND EXECUTED.
MEMORIZE THE PARTS
Sloppy ritual work will ruin the degree. The parts must be MEMORIZED. There are only two major speaking parts—King Solomon and the Grand Master of the Household.
At least two practices should be held by the cast. The first one to orient them, plan the degree, do floor work, and talk it over. The second should be a "dress" rehearsal.
USE MAKE-UP AND COSTUMES
Don’t be lazy. Use robes, grease paint, wigs and beards.
SELECT YOUR CAST
Make this degree your showcase. For some ladies, this will be their first time in a Masonic Hall or with a group of Masons. Don’t use the same old clique in your cast that confers our other degrees. Here’s a chance to put new blood into your chapter, PICK THE OUTSTANDING MEN OF YOUR COMMUNITY to do the work. Use men who are well known and respected. They will be glad to do it even though they never carried a part before.
DON’T CROWD THE HALL
If this is properly publicized in advance, you will have a CROWD. One chapter of 300 members staged it on two successive nights, with the first half of the alphabet on the first night and the second half on the following night. 114 ladies took the degree, and 150 men attended. If it had been held on one night only, everyone would have been crowded and miserable, for the hall would not have accommodated them.
DON’T USE MORE THAN SIX CANDIDATES
Seat all the candidates and use no more than six of the ladies for the perambulations. This will speed up the degree, eliminate confusion—and besides, who can control more than six women at once?
INVITATIONS AND PUBLICITY
Send each wife an invitation. Some chapters have printed a regular "Summons." See that publicity is in your local newspaper.
DON’T DRAG THE WORK
The degree should not take more than an hour. There should be no lengthy pauses. The two royal attendants, or executioners, although non-speaking parts, can ruin the degree by "hamming" too much as well as too little. To fill out the evening, how about refreshments after the degree? Remember, this is not actually a degree, but an evening of entertainment for the ladies, which makes them feel they are actually a part of the evening.
CHANGNG THE RITUAL
This ritual is offered as a guide. Perhaps your chapter would like to make some changes in it. This you are welcome to do—and if you get some good ones, let us know what they are so we may pass them on to others.
Cast of Characters
King Solomon (in the East)
Grand Master of Ceremonies (in Senior Deacon’s atation)
Grand Master of the Household (in Marshal’s station)
Grand Master of Congenial Relations (in the North)
Grand Master of Uncongenial Relations (in the South)
Grand Herald (in the West)
Two Royal Executioners (wherever needed)
Messenger (part can be doubled)
Orator (seated near the East)
An oversize Mother Hubbard
A cardboard box (for shoes)
6 old shoes
Bathing suit and towel
Druggists bottle, or substitoir
A rolling pin
Sufficient number of membership cards (11 x 14) for the ladies
Ritual Royal Arch Widow
All being in readiness, the lights are dimmed, and the ritualistic work may then begin.
KING SOLOMON: It is our Royal Decree that all ladies who are not Royal Arch Widows will retire to the anteroom under the direction of the Royal Executioners!
At this juncture, the officers conferring the degree will assume their several stations.
At the door, a Royal Executioner gives a large number of loud and irregular knocks.
GRAND HERALD goes to door and answers with similar number of knocks: Why this unseemly distrubance at the door of His Majesty’s Palace at this hour?
ROYAL EXECUTIONER: A goodly number of ladies, who, being wives of Royal Arch Masons, and who, on Royal Arch Chapter nights are compelled to attend to the duties of keeping the home fires burning, while sitting in solitary vigil, now DEMAND the right to participate in the rites and mysteries, and to acquire a knowledge of the Working Tools, the Signs, and the Passes of a Royal Arch Mason, which they believe are being unlawfully withheld from them!
GRAND HERALD: Let them wait with patience, IF POSSIBLE, until His Royal Highness, the Most Mighty, Powerful, Supreme and Puissant Ruler, King Solomon, may be notified of this unusual demand.
The door is left open and the Grand Herald reports in a loud voice that all may hear as he addresses Solomon: Most Mighty, Powerful, Supreme and Puissant Ruler, a goodly number of ladies, who claim they are wives of Royal Arch Masons, and who further maintain that on Royal Arch Chapter nights, they are compelled to attend to the duties of keeping the home fires burning, while sitting in solitary vigil, now DEMAND the right to participate in the rites and mysteries, and to acquire a knowledge of the Working Tools, the Signs, and the asses of a Royal Arch Mason, which they believe are being unlawfully withheld from them.
KING SOLOMON: Is my Royal Queen among this number?
GRAND HERALD: Yea, verily, Mighty King Solomon, but we, who are Royal Arch Masons, have been taught that all women are created equal—and from this teaching we believe all our wives should have equal rights in this Most Sublime Order, as we desire to enjoy Peace and Harmony in our respective homes:
KING SOLOMON: Your abmonition is both timely and well taken. Let these candidates divest their minds of petty slander, gossip and jealously, so that they may enter this sanctuary of Royal Arch Craftsmen with CLEAN minds!
GRAND HERALD: Rest your worries on that score, Mighty Monarch, ALL women are CLEAN-MINDED, else why should they change them so often
Ladies are admitted in column of twos, led by the Royal Exccutioners. All but six are seated, and these are taken to the East before King Solomon.
At this point, the Royal Executioners leave the room and return quickly, one carrying a step ladder and the other a large washtub, which are set up seven feet front each other. They again leave the hall, returning immediately with pails of water, which they ceremoniously pour into the tub. One then mounts the step ladder (on which may be hung a bathing suit and towel) and very exactingly line up the ladder and the tub by motioning to the other executioner where to move the tub. He may even use a square and plumbline on the ladder. This seemingly serious integral part of the ceremony should last three or four minutes and as soon as the pantomine is completed the Executioners take their place with the six ladies before Solomon. Of course, no further reference is made to the ladder and tub during the rest of the degree.
KING SOLOMON: Before proceeding with the conferring of this degree, let me explain the first requirement—that each lady remove her left shoe and present it as evidence of her sincerity and trust in the Order. In conformity with an ancient custom, the Royal Executioner will now proceed to make the collection of the shoes.
Executioners carry a large cardboard box down the line, collecting one shoe from each lady.
GRAND MASTER CF CEREMONIES: Most Mighty Sovereign, the ladies have complied with the first requirement of the Order!
KING SOLOMON: Ladies, on behalf of the entire Order, I thank you for this splendid contribution. The mere GIVING is a small matter, but it will demonstrate your sympathy for the poor, and prove to the world the charitableness of your heart. For these shoes are to be sent to your suffering sisters in Africa; and while the shoes which they receive may not match, nevertheless, the joy to be seen upon the faces of those poor, benign natives, who never knew what a shoe was before, will amply repay you for so small a sacrfice.
Because of certain international sanitary regulations governing the shipment of used clothing abroad, it is required that these shoes be sterilized!
Royal Executioners! You will proceed to sterilize the shoes!
The Royal Executioners place the shoes in the cardboard box which has TWO compartments—one with six old shoes previously deposited—and the other for the candidate’s shoe. They then dump the OLD shoes into a large pail and proceed to pour about three gallons of water, powered soap and "decontaminating fluid" from a druggist’s bottle over them, stirring well with a stick. The shoes are now forgotten until later in the program.
KING SOLOMON: The second rule of the Order requires that these petitioners receive certain historical and moral instructions. You will therefore give attention to the Grand Master of the Household, who will divulge the secret history of the Order and some of its earliest traditions.
G.M. of Household steps in front of the class.
GRAND MASTER OF THE HOUSEHOLD: Ladies, you are welcome into our holy sanctuary. I shall now read to you from the sacred scroll, the secret traditions and history of our Order. In the perusal of the ancient writings of the prophets, and harkening the wisdom of the ages past, we are reminded that in all generations women have openly rebelled against their husbands, often leaving them solitary meditation during the hours of darkness. For example, this ancient scroll tells us that:
Read from scroll: Enoch, the Seventh Son of Cain, in building the Temple which bears his name, was confronted with the self-same problems which beset us today in building the magnificent Temple of King Solomon.
We learn that even in those ancient days, women, knowing the many temptations, which constantly stalk men’s pathway, and well realizing the stupidity of their husbands, as well as being liberally endowed with a jealous and suspicious nature, caused confusion among the workmen and seriously impaired the advancement of the work on the Temple.
Realizing that Peace and Harmony are helpful influences in producing good and true work, King Solomon ordered that the wives of all Royal Arch Masons be assembled on a certain day and hour to unite in one common purpose so that the Temple might be completed with the utmost dispatch and freedom from internal strife. To insure unto all future ages, Peace, Harmony and complete matrimonial understanding, King Solomon ordered them joined into an organization to be then, and hereafter known as the Order of The Royal Arch Widows.
And from that moment forward, we are told from this ancient scroll, Peace and Harmony DID prevail throughout the land, yea, even in the Royal Harem of the Palace.
You will be conducted to the Grand Master of Congenial Relations who will invest you with further secrets.
Candidates conducted once around the hall to strains of "Mule Train." or other suitable music.
GRAND MASTER OF CEREMONIES: Grand Master of Congenial Relations, I present you these ladies with the hope that you will impart to them words of wisdom gleaned, no doubt, from your years of matrimonial warfare!
GRAND MASTER OF CONGENIAL RELATIONS: I have been ordered by our Mighty Ruler to impart to you a few pearls of wisdom. We have been told repeatedly that MARRIED MEN live longer than SINGLE MEN. This is a most apparent inaccuracy—for I can assure you ladies that it only SEEMS longer.
In reading from the Book of Genesis, we find the earliest instance of woman’s complete disobedience to the wishes and orders of the male. There, we read that Adam was admonished because he hearkened to the voice of his wife, Eva, and had eaten of the tree. He was therefore cursed with sorrow all the days of his life. Let this be a constant reminder to you that should your husband even unthinkingly ask your advice on matters pertaining to congenial relations, you will recall the lesson of the Apple, the Tree, and Eva, as contained in the Book of Genesis.
Before proceeding to the station of the Grand Master of Uncongenial Relations, I will invest you with my sign. It is in imitation of Adam eating an apple. His eyes are closed and his head is turned toward the LEFT—as he know; not what is RIGHT!
Gives the sign.
You will conduct these Ladies to the Grand Master of Uncongenial Relations.
GRAND MASTER OF CEREMONIES, who continues to lead the candidates: Most Excellent Grand Master of Uncongenial Relations, His Royal Majesty has directed that you impart further words of wisdom to these candidates.
GRAND MASTER OF UNCONGENIAL RELATIONS: We also read in the Book of Genesis that when Lot was escaping from the wicked city of Sodom, with his wife Lottie, he ordered her not to look back—but she, exerting the usual feminine disobedience, cast her eyes behind, and turned to salt. Thus again do we find that when women heed not men’s wisdom, trouble is bound to result. Though the Bible states that Lottie turned to SALT, many of the highest Biblical authorities tell us that she turned to "RUBBER." My sign is in imitation of Lottie turning her head to the right and looking behind.
Gives the sign.
You will now conduct these ladies to the Mighty, Powerful and Puissant King Solomon for final instruction.
GRAND MASTER OF CEREMONIES: Most Powerful and Mighty King Solomon, I now present these ladies for further instruction and advice.
KING SOLOMON: Have these Ladies received the words of wisdom from our Grand Masters, and have they heard and heeded the ancient traditions of the Order?
GRAND MASTER OF CEREMONIES: They have, Mighty Sir!
KING SOLOMON: Ladies, it is well. Having received these instructions, it is hoped these words of wisdom have struck a receptive chord, and that you are now prepared to take upon yourselves a most UNSOLEMN and UNBINDING obligation, which you. will never have to fulfill.
First, you will signify your intention of continuing by placing both hands over the ears, thus, remove them, and place them over the eyes, thus, remove them again, and place them over the mouth, right over the left—then dropping them to the sides thus.
These are known among us as the Signs of Evil:
HEAR no evil
SEE no evil
SPEAK no evil.
The Royal Executioner will prepare the altar!
Altar is moved to front and in center of candidate line. A cook book, keystone and rolling pin is placed on it.
KING SOLOMON: Ladies, you will cross the index and second fingers of your left band and raise them aloft done. You will say "I" they do, speak your MAIDEN NAME IN FULL they fumble and remain silent until I bid you speak …
Do solemnly promise that I will in no manner by word, or deed, hinder, deter, or attempt, in any manner whatsoever, to prevent my husband from attending the regular meetings of his Royal Arch Chapter, or any other gatherings of his cronies, but I will cheerfully acquiesce in all his requests to be granted a night out by saying "Have a good time my dear," and upon his return, will greet him with a loving smile.
I also promise that on the occasion of his next birthday, I will not scold, nag, criticize, or in any manner hamper his liberties for that one day.
And I promise that I will not compel him to accompany me on any shopping tour, nor will I ever assist him in the selection of his clothes, his necktie, his shoes, his shirts, his shorts, socks, or other lingerie. I will not pick out his clothes, confining myself to picking his pockets—and only then when he is asleep.
Nor will I speak evil or belittle my husband in public, but will practice the virtue of seeing no evil, hearing no evil, and speaking no evil about him.
You will now repeat in unison:
To all this I promise and swear NEVER to conform to any of the foregoing pledges, and should I basely violate any or all of them, I will forever walk with my head held down in shame.
You will drop your hands and follow me n giving the secret signs of the Order: Hands to ears, eyes, mouth . . . and adds: This sign will be given on entering or retiring from a meeting of Royal Arch Widows.
There will now be revealed to you the secrets of a Royal Arch Widow.
You will observe that a Keystone rests on the altar; it contains certain mysterious characters, which women in all ages past, have been desirous of deciphering. These words I am about to reveal to you. You will never divulge them to anyone not entitled to receive them. We trust that they will forever remind you of this degree. The words, to which the letters on the Keystone form the initials are: Points to letters.
HOT TEMPERED WOMEN SHOULD STRIVE TO KEEP STILL.
Some wishful thinkers among our membership give it a more facetious interpretation again pointing: KING SOLOMON HAD TWENTY WIVES; SOME SAY THIRTY.
Certainly the wisest King in all the world was not THAT foolish!
The officers and members of the Order will now communicate to you the GRAND HAILING SIGN:
All present give the "come-on" whistle in unison. Members on the sidelines should be coached in this before the ladies enter the hail.
As members, duly obligated, you are now entitled to the Working Tools of the Order, which are: The Rolling Pin, The Thimble, and the Saucer. The Grand Master of the Household will now instruct you in their use.
The ROLLING PIN is one of the most indispensible bits of household utensils; its use is both culinary and disciplinary. We recommend the culinary purpose only. Symbolically, we use it to smooth out the little irregularities found in every home, so their peace and harmony may always prevail. Use it always as a kitchen utensil, and NEVER AS A WEAPON OF ATTACK!
The THIMBLE is the smallest of household implements, yet it protects the tender fingers from the sharp points of sewing needles; symbolically, it reminds us of that restraint which should be placed upon the sharp tongue, to protect the character of your husbands from a critical world.
And finally, there is the SAUCER, whose original purpose was to receive the hot drinks poured into it from the cup, thus enabling the liquid to cool before being consumed. Time, good manners, and Emily Post have changed this valuable and ancient custom, and today we symbolize the Saucer as a reminder to us, as Royal Arch Widows, to allow our words and thoughts to cool before expressing them—always remembering to think TWICE before speaking ONCE.
This gives rise to the SIGN OF RECOGNITION among Royal Arch Widows. Should you wish to be recognized as a Royal Arch Widow, hold up two fingers of the left hand thus. Anyone noting this sign, should respond by holding up one finger of the right hand thus. In other words—think TWICE before speaking ONCE!
And lastly, we take pleasure in presenting you with what every Freemason holds most dear— the Apron! The Apron of a Royal Arch Widow is much larger and more elaborate than the simple apron of a Freemason, for it must have FEMININE appeal. But to use these large dimensions will symbolize the great self-sacrifice and devotion made by each of you in permitting your husband to attend our meetings, while its elaborateness should keep your mind occupied in admiration rather than in contemplating your husband’s shortcomings—should he have any! The apron should be the largest size Mother Hubbard available.
KING SOLOMON: And now we have finished the conferring of this degree. You have received all of the traditions and history of the Order, its symbols, and its signs. By these you will be enabled to make yourself known to sister members wherever you may meet them. So that you may have something with which to convince the outside world of your standing, we have prepared a beautiful membership card, which I shall now ask the Royal Executioners to distribute among you.
They do while Solomon continues: It is very symbolic, as you may notice he holds one of the 11x14 cards up for the class to see. On the right is a woman seated in an arm chair; at her side is a candle which has burned itself out; on the shelf above the dwindling fire, is a clock which marks a late hour.
The woman in the chair, undoubtedly, is some Royal Arch Widow, whose name to us is unknown. The burned our candle reveals the length of her solitary vigil; the clock on the mantle indicates that the Man of the Household is long past due. Hidden from view, but there, neverless, is a rolling pin. If he has been at his Royal Arch Chapter—well and good; if he has not been there—not so good!
This membership card has been prepared so as to be convenient. It is adaptable to any ladies’ pocketbook of modern style, just as your husband’s card fits his own billfold. When you meet with one whom you suspect to be a member, open your pocketbook, remove this card, display it at arm’s length, and say proudly: "I AM A ROYAL ARCH WIDOW."
Whereupon the other will reply: "THE DEVIL YOU ARE."
A messenger rushes in.
MESSENGER: Most Excellent King Solomon! A telegram from South Africa—C.O.D.!
KING SOLOMON reads telegram: "To: King Solomon, do Royal Arch Widows,
C.O.D. Your most generous offer of shoes is appreciated. However, we have just received a shipment from the Ladies Aid Society of the Navajo Indian Nation. Frankly, this group seems to be a little more civilized and advanced than your own, for these shoes are most comfortable, having soft deerskin soles in contrast to your own high heels. However, that you may realize our gratitude, I am today sending you a bushel of nose rings to enhance the beauty of your own ladies!
Allah Mocca Bocco, Chief of Ubangi Mumbo Gumbo."
KING SOLOMON continues: Ladies! As it has been said, "all’s well that ends well," and I am now happy to order the Royal Executioners to return your shoes. You will not be charged for the decontamination service!
Royal Executioners return the shoes.
The Royal Executioners will now conduct you to your seats, but before retiring, you will join me in the Sign:
Hear No Evil hands to ears.
See No Evil hands to eyes.
Speak No Evil hands to mouth.
Solomon, candidates and executioners are seated.
There should be no evidence of levity from this point on. The "orator," who should not be in costume, approaches the East and gives the following lecture which is intended to present the serious side of Royal Arch Masonry.
ORATOR: And now, a serious word to the new members. This degree has no connection with any Masonic degree, real or imaginary. Its sole purpose was FUN, and to provide an evening of entertainment for you, our wives. Freemasonry was established for the purpose of making men better. You ladies leave nothing along this line to strive for, and the conferring of Masonic degrees would be superfluous.
There is one of us who does not realize the sacrifices you make in order that your husband may attend Masonic meetings. We assure you there is nothing done at such meetings which should make him a worse husband, but on the contrary, he should be a BETTER one.
Freemasonry teaches Brotherly Love, Relief, Truth, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice. Its greatest lessons are taken from the Holy Bible. Freemasonry is not a religion. Freemasons believe in God, and at our meetings our thoughts are turned to spiritual things. We adore God under the name of The Great Architect of the Universe, to whom we look for all inspiration and guidance.
Down through the centuries, thousands of men have labored in the vineyards of Freemasonry without hope of fee or reward; they seek only Light and Truth, and this they have handed down to us unimpaired.
It is our mission to perpetuate this Light for those who still dwell in the darkness of ignorance and superstition. And you, as wives of such men, are needed in this great crusade.
This ends the degree and the orator turns the meeting over to the High Priest of the chapter.
History of the Degree