The Freemasons participate in a wide variety of rituals and traditions. The fraternal brotherhood known as Freemasonry enjoys a rich and colorful history. While written history only records Freemason activity after the formation of the Grand Lodge in 1717 C.E., there is great deal of fascinating lore and mythology associated with Freemasonry well before that time.
Origin of Masonic Aprons
Perhaps one of the more mysterious accoutrements of Freemasonry is the ritual apron. The origins of the apron are simple. As the first Operative Freemasons were actual stone masons, an apron was appropriate to their craft and trade. Stone and mortar masonry is messy business, so masons wear a sturdy canvas or leather apron for protection while working. A separate, ritual apron is worn for Masonic gatherings. The original Masonic aprons were floor-length. Today, the aprons fall to just above the knees. The tradition of presenting a white apron to initiates is not unique to Freemasonry. The white apron figures predominantly in ancient Hermetic Egyptian ceremonies. In the Levitican economy, powerful priests often wore a white apron. The white apron is also referred to in the Persian mysteries.
Entered Apprentice Apron
The first apron that a Mason is entitled to is white. While aprons made of fine white linen or other woven fabric are often employed, traditional aprons for an Entered Apprentice (EA) are made of white lambskin. The white lambskin is said to be an emblem of innocence and purity. At the initiation ceremony, the new EA is told something akin to, “May the pure and spotless surface of this apron be an ever-present reminder of that purity of heart and uprightness of conduct so essentially necessary, thus keeping pure your thoughts and inspiring nobler deeds and greater achievements.” There is no embellishment on an Entered Apprentice’s apron. Rosettes are added to the apron as the AE moves to higher levels within the fraternity.
Fellow Craft Apron
There is little difference between the apron of the Entered Apprentice and that of the Fellow Craft (FC) degree. It is still pristine white lambskin which is, of course, the emblem of innocence and purity of heart. Two small blue rosettes are added near the bottom of the front of the apron. The exact origin of the rosettes is not known, but they have been worn as a badge of office or symbol of victory since the 1700s. In the case of the Masonic Lodge, these rosettes allow fraternal brothers to identify one another by rank and degree without speaking a word.
Master Mason Apron
When an initiate becomes a Third Degree, or Master Mason (MM), a third blue rosette is added to his apron. Most often, it is placed between and above the other rosettes, forming a triangle. The triangle figures predominantly in Freemason tradition. It symbolizes, among other things, the true and triune nature of God. Often, a blue silk lining and blue silk ribbons are added as subtle embellishments to the white apron of the Master Mason. The apron serves as a reminder of the Mason’s dedication and service to his God, his family, his country and his neighbor.
Some Master Masons, now and in the past, wear elaborately decorated aprons. While much of the regalia worn and used in ceremonies and at meetings belong to the Lodge, the Master Mason’s apron is more often than not his personal property. There are statues of President George Washington wearing a Masonic apron, which he wore to the laying of the cornerstone of the Capitol building. Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were also proud wearers of the Masonic apron.