THE ORDER OF THE EASTERN STAR THE BEGINNINGS
To most people history is a dull subject, but history is made by you and me, what we do today becomes the history of tomorrow, the actions of the members of the Eastern Star today make the history for future members to read. In my many years as an active member of the order I have met many fine men and women, but above them all I met one man who influenced me to seek out all the information I could find on the beginnings of this grand order I spent many pleasant hours discussing with John B. Stevenson, the District Grand Secretary of the Central District Grand Chapter, the many different stories told of our origins and the following history, which I dedicate in the name of John B. Stevenson is the result of these discussions
Many of us are familiar with the history of our country, our native City or town, of these things that are an integral part of our lives, but how many of us can say that the history which we know is correct, how many of these things that have happened in the past have been recorded, and not just handed down from generation to generation with the subsequent deletion of or adding on to the actual happenings of the event, how much is legend and how much is fact. In attempting to ascertain the origin of the Eastern Star one finds that you can go back so far in time and secure written records, which we, for our purpose will accept as facts, and then in attempting to go further back in time we find that we are bedevilled by the lack of information, and that many clues as to our real origin end in obscurity. The nearest that I have been able to get to our origin therefore, is veiled in obscurity, and is based on assumption, until sometime from the early to the middle years of the 1700s. I assume that in the early years of the 1700s there was in existence in France, and perhaps in other of the more advanced European countries, an order, Masonically based, in which the relatives of Master Masons of the female sex participated. There is evidence that many orders of this type existed, but the one in which we are interested is the one that was named “Adoptive Masonry”. This order seemed to be very popular and gained so much strength that in 1770 the governing body of the Masonic order in France, “The Grand Orient of France”, was forced to recognise it, and in that year the name changed from “Adoptive Masonry”, to “The Rite of Adoption”, and each Masonic Lodge was encouraged to “Adopt” a branch of “The Rite of Adoption”. The French revolution terminated the practice of the “Rite of Adoption”, as it did all other orders of the same nature in France, and here again an assumption arises although this time some facts are to hand. During the time of the French revolution many French citizens, (Among whom would be many Masons), fled from France to America, and no doubt spoke of their activities in the “Rite of Adoption” organisation. From assumption to fact, and the first fact that we find is in a publication named the “Mosaic book of the American Adoptive Rite”, in which we find reference to our order. I quote from pages 16 and 17 of the above publication:
“In selecting some androgynous degree, extensively known, ancient in date, and ample in scope for the basis of this Rite, the choice falls without controversy upon the “Eastern Star”, for this is a degree familiar to thousands of the most enlightened York Masons and their female relatives, established in this country at least before 1778, and one which popularly bears the palm in point of doctrine and elegance over all others. Its scope, by the addition of a ceremonial and a few links in the chain of recognition, was broad enough to constitute a graceful and consistent system, worthy it is believed, of the best intellect of either sex.”
It will be seen from this quote, that “Adoptive Rites Degrees” of various kinds were practiced in America prior to 1778, and so the assumption that they were brought from France during and after the revolution in that country is a reasonable one. The “Rite of Adoption” organisation used as their emblem a large five-pointed star, and hence it is possible and probable that some would be called by the name “Eastern Star”. Throughout the remainder of the 18th century there were in existence in America Masonic based orders in which the female relatives of Masons participated, but it was not until the middle of the 19th century that we see changes taking place in these ancient rites, and an attempt being made to establish an order such as we know today. The changes to which I refer are the work of two men, two men who laboured together through many years, two men whose combined efforts have resulted in the establishment of the “Order of the Eastern Star” as we know it today. I will briefly give a short history of those two men, first, because he was born earlier,
He was born on the 14th of October 1815, and in 1848 was made a Master Mason in Lodge Lebanon No. 13, New York City. He was elected R.W.M. of this Lodge in 1850, and along with many other influential Masons was responsible for the union of the two Grand Lodges then in existence in America. He was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Free and accepted Masons of New York in 1856, and in 1866 he published “The Manual of the Order of the Eastern Star”. Second we have ROBERT MORRIS, who was born on the 31st of August 1818, and was made a Master Mason in Oxford Lodge No. 33 in Mississippi and was elected Grand Chaplain of The Grand Lodge of Mississippi in 1850.
In 1852 he published his first Masonic book,”The Lights and Shadows of Freemasonry”. From 1852 until 1868 Robert Macoy and Robert Morris laboured together to establish an order, Masonically based, into which the female relatives of Master Masons would be the leading Officers and assume the leading roles. Robert Morris had unsuccessfully promoted the “American Adoptive Rite”, and the “Constellation System of the Ancient and Honourable Order of the Eastern Star”, which had been in existence prior to 1793. Robert Macoy assisted Robert Morris in his endeavours, but in 1866 Robert Morris discontinued his efforts to establish an Order, and in 1868 he wholeheartedly threw all his efforts into Holy land investigations, visiting and researching there for some considerable time, and on his return from the Holy land devoted his time to writing journals and giving lectures on his Masonic discoveries. So much for the good works of Robert Morris. Let us now turn to Robert Macoy, and as I have already stated he published in 1866 the “Manual of the Order of the Eastern Star”. Robert Macoy and Robert Morris had received or had communicated to them, the degrees of practically every fraternal body associated with Symbolic Masonry, and in these was included the Symbolism of the degrees of “The Order of the Eastern Star”. Robert Macoy revised the lectures which he and Robert Morris had given over a number of years, and when Robert Morris ceased his activities in promoting the “American adoptive Rite”, which was founded on “The Ancient and Honourable Order of the Eastern Star”, he resigned to Robert Macoy the title of Grand Patron, which Robert Morris had assumed. In 1868 Robert Macoy arranged the ritual for “THE CHAPTER SYSTEM OF THE ORDER OF THE EASTERN STAR”, and had it published. He was responsible for the founding of the first Chapter in the world, ALPHA No. 1 New York City, and became the first Worthy Patron. In 1870 he founded the Grand Chapter of the Eastern Star of the State of New York, and through his deputy he founded the Order in Scotland in 1874, and granted charters to various Chapters. These Chapters, along with others existing in Scotland at that time, established “THE SUPREME GRAND CHAPTER OF SCOTLAND”, in 1904. I know that there are many things which in this short history have been omitted, some of which may have important bearings on the changes which took place throughout many, many years, but I think I have said enough up to this point, to enlighten you on the origin of our order, so I will now retrace my steps to those early years to see if we can trace our present ritual to those first attempts at Adoptive Masonry. As you will remember many systems and Orders were practiced long before the Eastern Star was born. The very scanty information available to us shows that “Adoptive Masonry” practiced in France was an extremely elaborate ceremony. The room, or hall, in which the degrees were conferred, was lavishly furnished, large mirrors and crimson curtains covered the walls, beautiful carpets were on the floor and the room was brilliantly lighted. The ladies were dressed in white robes and wore scarves of blue, they were crowned with flowers, and incense of very fine odour filled the air, while lovely music soothed the fears of the candidates, altogether a very brilliant scene. More than these few facts concerning “Adoptive Masonry” are difficult to obtain, and it is only when we study the early Masonic based organisations in America, that we once more have evidence concerning the rituals which eventually became the ritual which we know today.As I have already stated, the organisation that we are interested in was named “The American Adoptive Rite”. In those early days of our Order bodies of people met together to practice the degrees in what were called “CONSTELLATIONS”. These Constellations carried out their degrees in a manner very much as we do today, except that the five degrees were given separately, and the candidate was questioned on his or her knowledge of the previous degree, before receiving the next. Another method that was tried was what was known as the “Family System”, and here the candidates were admitted as visitors conducted to special seats in the room, and were given lectures from the manual, and when the ceremonial was completed. The evening concluded with a banquet. The titles of the office-bearers in those days was some-what different from today, for instance there was The PATRON and the PATRONESS, the CONDUCTOR and the CONDUCTORESS, the SECREYTARY was called the RECORDER and the SENTINEL was the WATCHMAN. If one were addressing the Patron or the Patroness, the manner of speech would be ENLIGHTENED Patron or Patroness, while other office-bearers were spoken to as RESPECTED, and the members as ESTEEMED. In 1868 the Constellations and the Families were brought together and merged into the CHAPTER SYSTEM, and the five degrees merged into one ceremony. At this time the degrees were each known by a distinctive name, thus, the FIRST DEGREE was the INITIATORY DEGREE, the second was the PASSING DEGREE, the THIRD was the RAISING DEGREE, the FOURTH was the EXALTING DEGREE, and the FIFTH was the PERFECTING DEGREE. At this time the name ADAH was not known and the FIRST POINT was simply known as JEPTHAH’S DAUGHTER. Another noticeable feature is the qualification for membership, DAUGHTERS, WIDOWS, WIVES, SISTERS, and WIFE’S SISTERS. You will note that the MOTHER qualification is absent, while Wife’s sisters were eligible I mentioned a little while ago that in the “Constellations” the degrees were given at different times, and so it was in the early days of the CHAPTER system. It was laid down that the first degree was ever to be conferred at a single meeting, and that time was to be allowed to the initiates to fix well in their minds the notable instructions appertaining to this degree. The other four degrees were given in what was termed “Intimate” connections of time, which might mean separately or two or more at one meeting. It is interesting to note that the colours of the various degrees were just as they are today, with the exception of the second degree, where the colour was ORANGE instead of YELLOW. There were also differences in what we use today as REGALIA and EMBLEMS, thus, the FIRST degrees colour was BLUE and the EMBLEM was the SWORD, the REGALIA was an APRON and the VIRTUE was OBEDIENCE. The SECOND degree had for its colour ORANGE, its EMBLEM was a SHEAF, its REGALIA was a GLOVE, and its VIRTUE was ATTACHMENT. The THIRD degrees colour was WHITE, its EMBLEM a GOLDEN CROWN, its REGALIA a BAND and for its VIRTUE this degree had PURITY. The FOURTH degree used GREEN as its colour and for its EMBLEM an OPEN SEPULCHER. Its REGALIA was a BROACH and its VIRTUE was FAITH. The FIFTH degree has RED for its colour, GRASPED HANDS as its EMBLEM, A COLLAR was its REGALIA, and TRUTH was its VIRTUE. The Obligation of the Order was very clearly defined. The preamble states that “Honour in bright loveliness is the sanctity and moral guarantee of all the obligations of the Eastern Star. Upon this foundation stand the following PILLARS, which are seven in number.
FIRST To be TRUE
That the burdened heart of a Sister may always find a recipient of its cares.
SECOND To be AIDING
That a Sisters distress may not cry out against abundance.
THIRD To be COUNSELLING
That the blind may not fall into the ditch.
FOURTH To be SUPPORTING
That the tender vine may not fall unpropped.
FIFTH To be LOVING
That the precepts of the redeemer may reach every heart.
SIXTH To be SECRET
That the light of the order may not be shed on unworthy objects.
SEVENTH To be THE SERVANT OF JESUS CHRIST
That the powers of darkness may be conquered, Christ’s dominion extended, and the world redeemed to his ennobling.
Some curious articles appear in the early constitution of Constellations, for instance we find that applicants for membership shall come recommended by “Five members of this body”. “At least one annual public procession of this body shall occur, that the light of the order may prove “A city on a hill—not to be hid” That “Regular meetings of this body shall occur quarterly”. That “The membership fee shall not exceed ten nor be less than two shillings sterling”. It is worthy of note that British money is quoted in this American organisation. I have already introduced you to the Mosaic Book of the American Adoptive Rite, and it is in this book, which was printed in 1855, that we find instructions pertaining to the Order, the Ritual, the Constitution and the Bye-laws. Here it is that we find the name “Constellation” is represented by five stars within a circle, here we find that there are five male officers called PILLARS, who fix the time and place of meetings, nominate their successors, and appoint five female officers called CORRESPONDENTS, who represent the five points of the star.
The names and tasks of the five PILLARS were
(1) HELION President
Who impersonated JEPTHAH in the drama, and his EMBLEM was the LION.
2) PHILOMATH Vice President
Who impersonates BOAZ and his EMBLEM was the COILED SNAKE.
(3) VERGER Treasurer
Who impersonates AHASUERIS and his EMBLEM is the RAVEN
Who impersonates “St. JOHN THE EVANGELIST”, and his EMBLEM is the EAGLE.
5) KEEPER of the Portals----Warder
His Emblem is the DOVE.
The five CORRESPONENTS were.
LUNA Who impersonated ADAH
FLORA Who impersonated RUTH
HEBE Who impersonated ESTHER
THETIS Who impersonated MARTHA and acted as CONDUCTESS
AREME Who impersonated ELECTA
The initiation ceremony was quite brief, consisting of a series of questions by the five Brothers, which were responded to by the five Sisters, the CORRESPONDENTS, or as we would say today, the Five Points of our Star. The dramas were performed by the Office-bearers whom I have just mentioned, and in the first degree we had ADAH and JEPTHA, in the second degree RUTH. NAOMI, BOAZ and an overseer. In the third were ESTHER, THE KING and two GUARDS. The fourth had ELECTA and St. JOHN
It will be noticed that the degree of Martha was NOT dramatised, as someone would have required to portray JESUS. It will be seen that this method of portraying the degrees , whilst very spectacular, necessitated a great deal of acting skills, and finding people with these skills was very difficult, and so we find that this form of ritual fell into disuse. It was at this time in our history that Brother Macoy took over from Brother Morris, and being familiar with all the attempts and failures of the past, and using a book called “The ROSARY of the EASTERN STAR”, comprising of lectures, odes and emblems pertaining to the Order, he revised these lectures and rituals and in 1866 published his “Manual of the Order of the Eastern Star”, and two years later in 1868 he published his “Ritual of the Chapter system of the Order of the Eastern Star”, the only system that has become permanent. Such then is the origin of our Order, Brother Morris is without any doubt in my mind the man who gave to us our beautiful Order, aided for many years by Brother Robert Macoy who, building upon the work already done by Brother Morris, gave to the world the Chapter system of the Order, and by so doing gave it a new concept, a more solid foundation, a new inspiration which has had its rewards in the ever growing influence of our Order throughout the world. In 1904 our own Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland was instituted, and at that time there were two different systems being practiced in Scotland. Working under the Macoy or Chapter system we had VICTORIA No.1, LILY OF THE VALLEY No. 2, STAR OF BETHLEHEM No.3, EDINA No.4, MARGARITE No. 6 and VIOLET No. 7. Working under the Morris system we had DUNDEE No.1, FIDELETY No.2. ALEXANDER No.3, POLLOCK No.4 and LAURA No.5. It will be seen that prior to the institution of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland in 1904 there were eleven Eastern Star Chapters working in Scotland. In 1904 Sister Laura B. Hart, Most Worthy Grand Matron of the General Grand Chapter of America presided over a meeting of all the Chapters of both systems, which was convened in the Mid-hall of the Masonic Chambers at 100 West Regent Street, Glasgow. The Chapters which were working under the Macoy system, and had formed themselves into a Supreme Grand Chapter, were fully represented and their M.W.G.M. was Sister Maggie J. Foulds. The other individual Chapters were also fully represented, and many momentous decisions were taken at this meeting, the most important being the formation of a United Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland. I will not go into detail regarding the election of the newly formed Supreme Grand Chapter Office bearers, it is enough for the purpose of this lecture to note that our first M.W.G.M. was Sister Maggie J. Foulds, and our first M.W.G.P. was Brother Alfred A. Murray. You will have noticed that there were two Chapters numbered as No. 1, Victoria Chapter No.1 which was working under the Supreme Grand Chapter and using the Macoy Ritual, and Dundee No.1 which was using the Morris Ritual. It was therefore necessary to re-number the eleven Chapters, and the manner in which this was done was according to the dates of the original Charters. Thus Victoria No. 1 (although it had only functioned for two years, from 1874 to 1876 and then was dormant for 23 years until 1902) whose charter was dated 1874 became Victoria No.1 in Scotland, Lily of the Valley whose charter was dated 1876 became No.2, Star of Bethlehem Dated 1876 became No.3, Edina dated 1879 became No.4, Alexandra (Aberdeen) Dated 1889 became No. 5, Dundee Dated 1901 became No.6, Fidelity became No.7, Alexander ( Glasgow) became No.8, Marguarite became No.9, Violet No. 10, Pollock No.11 and Laura No.12. It will be noticed that there are two Chapters named Alexandra and the reason for this is as follows. Two Chapters practiced in Aberdeen as Eastern Star Chapters , one Aberdeen No.1 and the other Bon Accord No. 2. These two Chapters joined together and formed Alexandra Chapter No.5. The original charters under which they worked were issued by a Brother Shields. The names of one or two of our Chapters are worthy of note, for instance, Laura Chapter was named in honour of Sister Laura B. Hart, who was the M.W.G.M. of the General Grand Chapter of America, and Beatrice Chapter No. 52 which was named in honour of Lady Beatrice Montgomery, who was our own M.W.G.M. It is not now permitted to name a Chapter in honour of any living person. There are within our history prominent dates on which certain turning points occurred. 1793 When we first find the name Eastern Star in print 1848 and 1856 Between those years Brother Robert Morris received almost every degree associated with symbolic masonry, and communicated to others who were elegable the degrees of “The Order of the Eastern Star”. 1866 When Brother Robert Macoy published “The Manual of the Order of the Eastern Star”. 1868 When Brother Macoy arranged the ritual for the Chapter system of “The Order of the Eastern Star”, and founded the first Chapter in the world, ALPHA CHAPTER No. 1. 1870 The founding of the first GRAND CHAPTER in the world, “The GRAND CHAPTER of the STATE of NEW YORK. 1874 The institution of the first Chapter in Scotland, VICTORIA NO 1. 1904 The institution of THE SUPREME GRAND CHAPTER of SCOTLAND. Perhaps of lesser importance, but nevertheless part of our history is the year 1878, when “THE ALARM”, as at present used, was first introduced, as also were “GRAND HONOURS”. In this year the OPENING and CLOSING PRAYERS were used for the first time, and the Worthy Patron’s address to the candidates along with his explanation of the FLORAL ENBLEMS were entirely re-cast. The lectures of the FIVE POINTS were lengthened and beautified, the installation and funeral services were completed, and the TEST OATH was inserted into our ritual. MARSHAL and CHAPLAIN were added to the list of Office-bearers, and JEWELS for the Office-bearers were decided on. So, as you can see quite a lot happened in 1878. DISTRICT GRAND CHAPTERS were instituted in 1919, with a view to relieving the strain of duties devolving on the Most Worthy Grand Matron and her Office-bearers. These District Grand Chapters had control over the Chapters within their Districts, and to give an interpretation of the laws, but it was not the function of a District Grand Chapter to give rulings on constitutional matters, as this remained the right of the Supreme Grand Chapter. In 1954 and 1964 our Supreme Grand Chapter had good reason to celebrate their 50th and 60th anniversaries. From the humble beginnings of West Regent Street with a mere eleven Chapters, they could now proudly say that more than 600 Chapters throughout the world, came under the jurisdiction of THE SUPREME GRAND CHAPTER of SCOTLAND. Such then is the history of this beautiful Order. I hope that our sojourn into the past has been interesting, and has shown that “THE ORDER of the EASTERN STAR”, is founded on a solid foundation, strengthened by the teachings of the SACRED VOLUME, and perpetuated in the hearts of its members.