You are now a Fellowcraft Mason.
This means that you passed through its ceremonies, assumed its obligations, are registered as such in the books of the Lodge, and can sit in either a Lodge of Apprentices or of Fellowcraft, but not in a Lodge of Master Masons.
Doubtless you recognized in the Fellowcraft Degree a call for learning, an urge to study. Truly, here is a great Degree -- one to muse upon and to study; one to see many, many times and still not come to the end of its stirring teachings.
There are two great ideas embodied in the Fellowcraft Degree. They are not the only two ideas in it, to be sure; but if you understand these, they will lead you into an understanding of the others.
But before we turn to these two main ideas, exactly what is a Fellowcraft?
Fellowcraft is one of a large number of terms which have a technical meaning peculiar to Freemasonry and is seldom or never found elsewhere.
In the dictionary sense it is not difficult to define. A "craft" was an organization of the skilled workmen in some trade or calling, for example, masons, carpenters, painters, sculptors, barbers, etc.
A "fellow" meant one who held full membership in such a craft, was obligated to the same duties, and allowed the same privileges.
Since the skilled crafts are no longer organized as they once were, the term is no longer in use with its original sense.
It is more difficult to give it the larger meaning as it is found in Freemasonry, but we may be assisted to that end by noting that with us it possesses two quite separate and distinct meanings, on of which we may call the Operative meaning, the other the Speculative.
We can first consider the OPERATIVE meaning.
In its operative period, Freemasons were skilled workmen engaged in some branch of the building trade, or art of architecture; as such, like all other skilled workmen, they had an organized craft of their own.
The general form in which this craft was organized was called a "guild." A Lodge was a local, and usually temporary organization within the guild.
This guild had officers, laws, rules, regulations, and customs of its own, rigorously binding on all members equally.
It divided its membership into two grades, the lower of which was composed of apprentices. The Operative Freemasons recruited their membership from qualified lads of twelve to fifteen years of age.
When such a boy proved acceptable to the members, he was required to swear to be obedient, upon which he was bound over to some Master Mason; after a time, if he proved worthy, his name was formally entered in the books of the Lodge, thereby giving him his title of Apprentice.
For about seven years this boy lived with his master, gave his master implicit obedience in all things, and toiled much but received no pay except his board, lodging, and clothing.
In the Lodge life, he held a place equally subordinate because he could not attend a Lodge of Master Masons, had no voice or vote, and could not hold office.
All this means that during his long apprenticeship, he was really a bond servant with many duties, few rights, and very little freedom.
At the end of his apprenticeship, he was once more examined in Lodge. If his record was good, if he could prove his proficiency under test and the members voted in his favor, he was released from his bonds and made a full member of the Craft, with the same duties, rights, and privileges as all others.
In the sense that he had thus become a full member, he was called a "Fellow of the Craft." In the sense that he had mastered the art and no longer needed a teacher, he was called a "Master Mason."
So far as his grade was concerned, these two terms meant the same thing. Such was the Operative meaning of the Fellowcraft.
We come next to the meaning of the term Speculative Masonry.
Operative Freemasonry began to decline about the time of the Reformation when Lodges became few in number and small in membership.
After a time, a few of the Lodges began to admit into membership men with no intention of practicing the trade of Operative Masonry, but were attracted by the Craft's antiquity and for social reasons.
These were called SPECULATIVE Masons.
At the beginning of the 18th century, the Speculative had so increased their numbers that at last they gained control, and during the 1st quarter of that century, they completely transformed the Craft into the SPECULATIVE Fraternity as we know it today.
Although they adhered as closely as possible to the old customs, they were compelled to make some radical changes in order to fit the Society for its new purposes.
One of the most important of these changes was to abandon the old rule of dividing the members into two grades or degrees, and to adopt the new rule of dividing it into three grades or degrees.
It was necessary to find a name for the new degree. Therefore, the degrees of symbolic Masonry became known as the Apprentice, Fellowcraft and Master Mason.