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The Swedish Rite

The Swedish Rite is a Rite of Freemasonry that is common in Scandinavian countries and to a limited extent in Germany. It is different from other branches of Freemasonry in that, rather than having the three self-contained foundation degrees and seemingly-endless side degrees and appendant bodies, it has an integrated system with ten degrees. It is also different in that, rather than moving through the offices or 'chairs', progress in the Swedish Rite is based on moving through the ten degrees.

Swedish Masonry is specifically Christian, and requires a Christian trinitarian belief in all its members. Nonetheless, the main Swedish Rite constitutions are all recognized as regular by the United Grand Lodge of England, and stand in full amity.

The Swedish Rite is the default and customary Masonic rite in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland. In Finland there exists an agreement of shared jurisdiction between the native Grand Lodge of Finland, working standard Anglo-American tradition Masonry, and a Provincial Grand Lodge of the Swedish Rite Swedish Order of Freemasons. A variant form of the Swedish Rite is worked in Germany by the Grand Landlodge of the Freemasons of Germany, where it is one of five different Masonic systems that co-exist within the umbrella group the United Grand Lodges of Germany.

Although fully independent of each other, the Scandinavian Grand Lodges work closely together to ensure that their rituals are as similar as possible.

Swedish Rite-masonry has ten degrees divided into three groups. The first two groups are called lodges, while the third is called simply Chapter. I.-III.-degree masons meet in a St. John's lodge (equivalent to Blue Lodge or Craft Lodge). IV-V. and VI.-degree masons meet in a St. Andrew's lodge (in some areas equivalent to the Scottish Rite) while VII.-X.-degree masons meet in their respective Chapter.

As a relic from the previously practiced Rite of Strict Observance, The Grand Lodge of Denmark maintains a Novice-degree in between the VII. and VIII.-degree.

All grand lodge officers have to be Knights and Commanders of the Red Cross or simply "R&K", of which there are a limited number. Though not formally a degree, grand lodge officers, as a means of expressing the hierarchical nature of the order, are sometimes said to have obtained the XI.-degree. Since being a Knight and Commander of the Red Cross is linked with the duties of a grand lodge office, only a very few Swedish Rite-masons will become one.

St. John's Degrees

  • I Apprentice

  • II Fellow Craft

  • III Master Mason

St. Andrew's Degrees

  • IV/V Apprentice and Companion of St. Andrew (a double degree)

  • VI Master of St. Andrew

Chapter Degrees

  • VII Very Illustrious Brother, Knight of the East

  • Novice (in Danish Order of Freemasons only)

  • VIII Most Illustrious Brother, Knight of the West

  • IX Enlightened Brother of St. John's Lodge

  • X Very Enlightened Brother of St. Andrew's Lodge

Grand Lodge Degree

  • (XI) Most Enlightened Brother, Knight and Commander of the Red Cross

St. John's, St. Andrews and Chapter work are done in different rooms or buildings. While many towns have a St. John's (Craft) Lodge, fewer have a St. Andrews Lodge. There is only one Chapter per masonic district.

In Denmark, Norway and Germany a mason will retain his craft lodge-membership while advancing through the St. Andrew's and Chapter degrees, and pay dues to all. In Denmark, dues are collected by the Danish Order of Freemasons and distributed to the relevant St. John's, St. Andrews and Chapter-organisations.

In Sweden, Finland, and Iceland a mason will not retain his craft lodge-membership, when he advances to the IV–V.-degree, or his St. Andrew's Lodge-membership, when he advances to the VII.-degree. Also, dues are paid only to the lodge of which the mason is presently a member. Because of the sometimes large distance between one's home and the closest St. Andrew's Lodge, travel outlays can be excessive. To remedy this, Square-and-Compasses Clubs or Friendship Clubs were created in small towns so that St. Andrew's or Chapter Freemasons can socialize without travelling inordinate distances; in Denmark these are called Instruction Lodges. Friendship Clubs cannot confer degrees, except by dispensation from Grand Lodge.

Swedish Freemasons can in rare cases be awarded with the Order of Charles XIII. This is a Royal order of chivalry, equivalent to a knighthood and given only to Knights-Commander of the Red Cross at the King's pleasure; its members may not number more than thirty-three, and three of them must be ecclesiastics of the established Lutheran Church. Although it is jokingly termed the 'twelfth degree', the Order of Charles XIII is in no way a part of the official Swedish Rite, and is not classed as a masonic degree.

A Masonic ring is given in the eighth degree, and consists of the customary red St. Andrew's Cross and sometimes the Masonic motto, Veritas Persuadet. It is worn on the index finger of the right hand. A Knight of the West is also made to design his own coat of arms, taking the traditional European rules of heraldry into account. The resulting coat-of-arms hangs in his Provincial Grand Lodge.

The tenth degree is the highest ordinarily attainable; it can be received after roughly twenty-one years of regular attendance and good proficiency in the ritual, but the time between the degrees may be shorter if the member is active and accepts different offices in his lodges.

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