Columnist Petula Dvorak on Secrets Of Masonic Wives Revealed

By Petula Dvorak
Friday, September 25, 2009

There is a crisis at the Masonic Lodge in Capitol Hill on this cool night, just a few days after the rituals and mysteries of their sacrosanct organization were transformed into a best-selling novel and published around the world.

An ancient secret has been revealed? A sacred seal has been broken? A limb severed?

No -- in the world of men, this was much graver.

"Ah, man, we're out of pizza?" one hungry Freemason in a tuxedo lamented to me, the only woman in the room and therefore the one the famished men turned to when they were flummoxed by a lack of food.

The Masons were prepared for the questions about their organization but not the pizza shortage.

This being the nation's capital -- Naval Lodge No. 4 on Pennsylvania Avenue is just four blocks from the Capitol dome -- they gathered last week for a session on talking points to deflect the impact that Dan Brown's latest thriller "The Lost Symbol," a sequel to his blockbuster "The Da Vinci Code," might have on the wider world's perception of Freemasonry.

After the pizza was wolfed and Diet Coke had been chugged from red plastic frat-party cups (What? No wine? No skulls?), they had a PowerPoint presentation.

The book, which sold 2 million copies in its first week of release, has Brown's signature character, a tweedy Harvard professor of symbology, racing against time across the streets of Washington to unlock the ancient mysteries of the Masonic order. The nation's capital -- with its portraits of Founding Fathers in their Masonic get-ups and giant Masonic temples -- is fertile ground to explore the organization that is so shrouded in mystery that it is debatable whether it's 300 or 700 years old.

The Masons are a tantalizing subject, claiming George Washington and Mozart among its members and refusing to reveal the secret rituals, oral recitations and traditions that only members know. For years, the group, which focuses on providing fellowship and opportunities for community service, has fended off accusations that it is a cult.

"I've been getting the questions at work already," one Mason said. "And my wife is hearing all about it at her job, too."

Ah yes, the long-suffering wife of a Mason.

How do they endure the constant meetings, the secrecy, their hats, pins, sashes and the apron? That fez?

CONTINUED     1           >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company