In most areas of the world Masons gather together in Blue Lodges
to work the three degrees of Freemasonry
- 1° = Entered Apprentice
- 2° = Fellow Craft
- 3° = Master Mason
Lodges are bound together in national groups, usually called Grand Lodges. In the United States
, however, there is a Grand Lodge for each State. In Britain the Grand Lodge regulates blue lodges of the United Kingdom. Every Blue Lodge must hold a charter from some supreme body, like a Grand Lodge, or it is considered irregular or clandestine.
There are several sets of ancient landmarks that indicate that the lodge is regular. Among the most important:
- The modes of recognition are to be kept inviolate. They consist of covert gestures made with the hands, called signs, distinctive ways of shaking hands, called grips and tokens, and special identifying words, most often based on Hebrew words of the Old Testament. Variations have crept in over time and often the modes of recognition will mark a Mason as coming from a specific jurisdiction.
- Symbolic Freemasonry, as it is called in a blue lodge, is divided into the three degrees mentioned above. In Britain the degree of Royal Arch Mason has been added to facilitate the union with an "antient" grand lodge back in 1813. The original grand lodge, however, was formed much earlier in 1717.
- The legend of the 3rd degree, involving the building of King Solomon's Temple, is an integral part of Blue Lodge Masonry.
- The government of Blue Lodges in an area, usually geographic, is in the hands of a Grand Lodge, specifically the Grand Master, who rules autocratically, but is elected democratically and usually holds office for one year. He may attend any meeting anywhere at any time and may conduct the lodge at his pleasure.
- A lodge must be governed by a Master, variously styled Worshipful or Right Worshipful Master, and two other officers called the Senior and Junior Wardens.
- All lodges when "at work" must be tiled, that is the door is guarded so that no non-Mason may enter or overhear the proceedings.
There are other landmarks, but none are as important as these.