Eric Husband, a member of the Chingford-based Freemasons, clarifies that they are not a secret society, but rather a society with secrets. The Chingford Masonic Hall, located near Chingford Station, hosts rituals and ceremonies that are closed to the public, although certain parts of the building can be rented for events.
The intricate rituals, guarded by two masons during their practice, are so numerous that even a 40-year member has not learned them all. The Chingford masonic lodge is known for its jovial atmosphere, earning it the nickname “Happy Hainault.”
Historically, Freemasonry began as a kind of trade union for medieval stonemasons, offering lodges for members to stay in while working on distant projects. The secret handshake allowed traveling members to identify themselves and gain access to lodges.
Modern masons maintain traditions that they believe originated with the builders of Solomon’s Temple in ancient Jerusalem. Symbols and artifacts adorn the hall, including “ashlars,” or blocks of stone, and a “Seal of Solomon,” which is not to be confused with the Star of David.
Masons are not allowed to discuss specific religions or politics within their meetings. They must believe in a supreme being but can choose which one they follow. Other requirements include having no criminal record and family support.
Charity and caring for others are important aspects of Freemasonry. Members often assist each other in times of need, creating strong bonds of friendship. While some may see the group as a networking opportunity, members emphasize that they don’t expect special favors from one another.
To counter conspiracy theories and increase membership, the Masons have become more open in recent years. Interested individuals can now apply to the United Grand Lodge of England, which will help them find a suitable lodge.
The rituals and ceremonies serve to instill life lessons and promote personal growth, but the details are not shared with non-members. Chingford Masonic Hall is unique in that it houses a ladies lodge for female masons, although they meet separately from their male counterparts.
As for transgender men joining the Masons, the members express openness, emphasizing their commitment to keeping politics out of their society.