Report to the Grand Master, by R:.W:. Walter Schraeter,
Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Iceland Near the Grand Lodge of New York
Our Icelandic Airways plane landed at Keflavik Airport, Reykjavik at 6:00 A.M. Bro. Petur Esrasson, Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of N.Y. near the Grand Lodge of Iceland was there to greet us and accompanied us to our hotel some 30 miles into Reykjavik. The Loftlieder Hotel is owned by the airline of which he is Vice Pres. Cargo-Europe.
After several hours of rest Bro. Esrasson and his lovely wife Hildur tok us out to dinner at a local restaurant. He refused to let me pay our share of the bill politely saying that "Your money is no good in Iceland."
We were escorted by our host on a short tour of the city and surrounding countryside for about 2 hours. Upon leaving us I was informed that I was to be ready at 6:00 P.M. to attend a meeting in the Grand Lodge Building at Gimli Lodge that would be conferring a 1st Degree.
Masonic attire at all meetings consists of Black full dress (tails) suit, white tie, Top hat, White gloves, Apron and Sword worn on the left hip. My undress of black suit, white shirt and black bow tie was acceptable and I was given an apron and pair of white gloves for what was considered reasonable masonic attire for a foreign visitor.
The processional ceremony is very dramatic. The lodge room is dark. Within a canopy which is over the chair in the east is a bright light that shines down on the master's seat. The altar is in front of the master with the bible square and compasses displayed. The Sr. Master of Ceremonies raps 3 times on the outer door and announces the arrival of the Master. Some 150 brothers are lined up on both sides of the room facing the entry door. The Master enters led by the Master of Ceremonies to the accompaniment of the organ. Bro. Esrasson enters stops at the the 3 unlit candlesticks, bows to the east, and is announced by the Master of Ceremonies who ushers him to a seat to the right of the Master but below the dais. Walter Schraeter then enters under the same procedure and is ushered to a seat next to Esrasson.
After words of welcome the brothers cross hands (right over left) clasping the hand of the adjoining brother and a slow swaying in unison from right to left, through the Master, begins during which the Master recites some scriptural ritual to the accompaniment of organ music. A most ethereal feeling og sacred religious emotion pervades the atmosphere. I was absolutely captivated and overcome by this ritual. The reading is concluded by the Master giving grand honors followed by the words VIVA VIVA VIVA which is repeated by the audience; again, a super experience. What follows is a ritualistic candle-lighting ceremony which is very formal and conducted by the Master of Ceremonies assisted by two brothers at each of the three Candelabra. Very impressive.
After this the work of the conferral the degree proceeds. All work is conducted with a large open ritual book before each of the officers of the lodge at their respective stations. The closing of the lodge follows the same pattern of performance as the opening but in reverse order.
After the closing the brothers retire to the Dining Hall for the Table Lodge. At Table Lodge all brothers are stationed at their seats standing, awaiting the announcement and arrival of the Master and his guests all conducted by the Master of Ceremonies. The Master welcomes the assemblage and intones prayer whereupon food is served. Subsequently the Master rises makes introductory remarks which is followed by various and sundry toasts. Petur Esrasson is then introduced and toasted and he then introduces the speaker of the evening. Each toast is followed by Grand Honors and VIVA VIVA VIVA. The guest speaker then rises and first toasts the audience and then proceeds with his message. I begin with a message of greetings and welcome from our Grand Master Most Worshipful Edward R. Trosin welcoming every brother from Iceland to visit lodges in the N.Y. Grand Jurisdiction. My topic this evening was The Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God. plus my special message of The Three Great Causes of Masonry When Convened. The remarks were well received and much discussed at the conclusion of the Table Lodge. I had also described the differences in our ritual particularly regarding the use of an open book in the lodge whereupon I produced a copy of our blue ritual book and pointed out that every master had to know most of that book by heart. They were astounded. One of the brothers then asked me if I knew the work? I handed him the book, told him to open it a read the first sentence; I then continued the work for him for a paragraph or two whereupon he held up the palm of his hand and said "Enough, I'm convinced." A great lodge and a great time. My host also commented on how well-received were my remarks.
Tuesday 15 March 2005
Spent the day cruising the town and relaxed. Freezing weather.
Wednesday 16 March 2005
My host took me to Grand Lodge to meet the Grand Line who were all busy preparing for the Grand Lodge Communication the following day. An hour chat with the Grand Master (who is the uncle of my host). It was here that I learned the new masonic candidates had to be 25 years of age or older and had to be of the Lutheran faith. The cost of the regalia is around $1000 and the cost for membership about $500 with annual dues of about $150. Population of the country is 310,000 and there are 3,150 masons in active membership. Attendance at the Grand Lodge Communication is limited to Masons holding 30 degrees or higher. I was thus excluded because I have only taken degrees through Capitular Masonry.
Inasmuch as the Grand Master winters in Sarasota, Florida, I extended an invitation that he join the 6th Manhattan District for breakfast at the Airport Hilton Hotel in West Palm Beach, Florida 28 January 2006. He's coming.
At 6:00 P.M. that evening Petur took me to NJORDUR Lodge located about 12 miles out of Reykjavik. Members of this lodge were primarily fishermen of the village who built their lodge building with their own hands, a beautiful domed structure. The dome centers immediately over the lodge room which has a large balcony loft for organist and choir. The evening was a general business meeting and included a musical entertainment function. After the opening we were treated to a concert rendered by the lodge choir of 40 men accompanied by the organ and conducted by a brother who was a talented musician. They did about 6 numbers some of which were Masonic ritual music and some of a classical religious theme. A beautiful program and well presented. Altogether there were 85 brothers in attendance. At the conclusion of the concert the lodge was closed and all retired to the Dining Hall for Table Lodge.The usual welcome toasts and introductions and Grand Honors etc. and the guest of the evening was called upon to do his thing. I offered the greetings and salutations and welcome of our Grand Master and proceeded with my presentation of the "Origin of the Color Purple in Masonry." The assemblage bombarded me with questions regarding our differences in ritual and membership requirements all of which I explained in detail. It was a great evening of warmth and god fellowship. They were left with a pretty clear idea of how N.Y. masonry works, how our lodges operate, all about Utica and our medical research facilities. They were all welcomed to visit us.
Thursday 17 March 2005
Iceland's Grand Lodge was in session.
Friday, 18 March 2005
Dinner with our hosts in their home. Delightful. Presented our host with my blue ritual book which he treasures. Distributed 9 of our Grand Master's pins to the Grand Master of Iceland, my host Petur, Masters of lodges visited and their Masters of Ceremony, 2 Deputy Masters and 1 brother whom I met at the hotel (by chance) all of whom were delighted and proud to wear them.
It should be noted that Walter Schraeter is the 1st N.Y. Grand Rep. to visit Iceland officially much to everyone's surprise. I have been requested to take Scottish Rite Degrees to enable me to attend their Grand Lodge Communication. I told them that it shall be done.
Petur Esrasson requests that his name be placed on the mailing list of the Empire State Mason a copy of which I left with him and as Grand Rep of N.Y. he should be entitled to have and received the same. He is a great host with much Brotherly Love. I owe him much.
That is all: