The Degree of Royal Ark Mariner
As a Brand Master, you can become a member of a Royal Ark Mariner lodge. This step into Freemasonry is definitely recommended. The degree of Royal Ark Mariner is also called "the charming little degree. Certainly, it is an enjoyable degree, with a ritual of modest proportions, but with very rich content, which can offer you a surprising new insight into traditional aspects of Freemasonry. In earlier centuries, this Masonic wealth was accessible to any Freemason, but a twist of fate has meant that admission to this fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners is today reserved only for Brand Masters.

Attached to most lodges of Merkmeesters is a Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners, which in the registers of the Grand Lodge in London usually bears the same name and always the same number as that of the lodge of Merkmeesters. Most Lodges of Royal Ark Mariners meet two to three times a year. The brevity and depth of its message form an elegant combination rarely equaled elsewhere in Freemasonry. The Degree has an impressive Ritual which, although brief, contains a wealth of profound meaning and offers a new insight into Freemasonry.

The history of this degree, as well as a number of other continuation paths, is obscure. As a result, the exact origin of the Royal Ark Mariner degree is unknown. The rite is derived from the Old Testament story of the Ark, in which Noah, his family and other living creatures are saved from destruction by the Flood, after which the covenant between the Creator and His creation is renewed. The rainbow, which is the sign of this restored covenant is reflected in the colors of the lapel with which Royal Ark Mariners are clothed. The layout of the lodge, the symbols used and the ritual itself are simple and appealing in design. The rite offers a moral message, which includes fidelity, sincerity, truthfulness, hope and charity. On closer inspection, however, the degree also harbors elements that come directly from Freemasonry in the early 18th century and also from the period before that. In fact, one can speak of an old traditional form of Freemasonry based on the Old Testament period, prior to the building of Solomon's Temple.

Like Mark Master Mason's Degree, which is based on an established fact (i.e., the building of the Temple in Jerusalem), the Royal Ark Mariner's Degree is also based on an actual event, namely, the Great Flood or Deluge, as recorded in the Bible and as confirmed in 1929 by archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley, who not only found clear evidence of the flood, but also determined that it had occurred some 6,000 years earlier. The legend of Noah, his sons, the ark, and the flood were performed in the mystery plays of the seventeenth century and continued as catechisms in many of the early Masonic rituals. By the 1750s there was a degree of Noahites or Prussian Knights. However, the first authentic record of the degree appears in the minutes of a meeting held in Bath in 1790. There are numerous records throughout the country of the ceremony of Exaltation being performed since that date. The claims that a Grand Lodge of Ark Mariners was established in 1772 and presided over by the Duke of Clarence is not supported by the known facts and thus later claims that this Grand Lodge had fallen into disuse, only to be revived in 1871. None of this can be verified.

Although the degree seems to have been practiced in a variety of ways and in a large number of different lodges, there was almost certainly no Grand Lodge that
degree presided over. Since the early 19th century, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons has automatically also been Grand Master of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners. The degree of Royal Ark Mariner may only be conferred on Mark Master Masons.

More recently the so-called tracing board has been reintroduced, having been out of favour for over a hundred years. That it could be reactivated was partly due to Gladsmuir Lodge No. 367 in Hertfordshire who had kept a copy of their tracing board and with the help of the then senior members of the county convinced the Grand Lodge that it would add value to the lodges and their ceremonial.
Royal Ark Mariner Lodges also began to revive the use of a Tableau, a special rug, which gives ceremonies a lot of sparkle.

Prince Michael of Kent Grandmaster Royal Ark Mariners

Prince Michael of Kent, Grand Master Royal Ark Mariners

Statutorily, the Degree is open only to holders of the Brand Degree. The degree of Royal Ark Mariner is not a 'continuation' of the degree of Master Mariner. That only Master Mariners are admitted to the Royal Ark Mariner degree is simply the result of the developments within Freemasonry since 1717. In the 19th century, the newly created 'Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons' decided to administratively adopt the degree of Royal Ark Mariner in order to save it from total demise. Royal Ark Mariner Freemasonry is governed by the 'Grand Master's Royal Ark Council' of the 'Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of England and Wales and its District and Lodges Overseas'. In the Netherlands, the lodges of Royal Ark Marines are housed in the 'District Grand Lodge of Mark Masters for the Netherlands'.

Exaltation to the Royal Ark Mariner Degree commemorates the providence and mercy in every human being and relates to the legend of the Flood. The subject taken directly from the Bible is, of course, both beautiful and instructive. As the candidate enters the Lodge, his attention is focused on three pillars and at one point the ark is symbolized in terms similar to the ark of salvation. The candidate is eventually instructed to proceed in the spirit of the cardinal virtues. The Ritual contains several symbols which appear in other Degrees of Freemasonry, and which can also be found on the rich and colorful Tableau of the Degree.
A thorough study of its various elements provides a deeper insight into the traditions of Freemasonry than one can imagine while passing through the blue Degrees.

The lessons in the degree emphasize the importance of family strengths and the need for each member of society to play their part for the good of all. It teaches that humanity can survive from chaos and catastrophe and that together we must face adversity and help those less fortunate than ourselves.

All products for the Royal Ark Mariners in our store can be found here:

Thierry Stravers is co-owner of Masonic Store.
He likes to combine his passion for style and elegance with his Masonic activities.
Thierry is the owner of Trenicaa marketing agency and is a board member of Loge Enlightenment No.313 O: Hoofddorp.

He is a certified Enneagram Coach and studied philosophy (Uva) and sociology (University of Edinburgh).

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