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Behind the ‘Veils’ at Tees Royal Arch Chapter

On Thursday 14th March 2024 the Grand Superintendent John Thompson together with a full team attended the second event in the Royal Arch Festival Month at Stockton Masonic Hall where Tees Royal Arch Chapter hosted a presentation of ‘The Ceremony of the Veils’. The Companions present were intrigued and enthralled by the presentation of this ancient ceremony by The Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham and the Companions of Tees Chapter.

Following a review by Supreme Grand Chapter back in 1834, this ancient ceremony was stopped and is seldom seen in English Chapters. Therefore consequently, it is no longer regularly practiced outside the Province of Bristol. The Ceremony of the Veils used to be a preliminary to the Exaltation and an integral part of the Royal Arch ceremony but can now only be practiced annually by a Province.

The ceremony performed on the evening is very much part of the Royal Arch system in Ireland, the United States of America and in Scotland where it is known as the Excellent Master Degree. Early descriptions state that the ceremony took place in a room adjacent to the Chapter Room to seek admission.

At the time that the passing the Veils ceremony was in use in England, the qualification for admission to the Royal Arch was that of being an Installed Master in the Craft.

At the beginning of the ceremony the 4 veils are closed. The candidate is lead through the veils by the Chapter Scribe Nehemiah, and before each veil, in turn, is opened, the candidate is challenged by a sojourner for a sign and password. If successful, the candidate passes through and a portion of scripture is read, after which he is given the sign and password leading through the next.

At the final white veil, which is closed to hide the main chapter room, the candidate is announced by the Scribe Nehemiah to the three principals, who then ask him to prove himself by giving the passwords which had been conferred on him. At this point the demonstration was concluded and what would follow would be the exaltation ceremony.

After the demonstration the companions retired to the festive board for the meal.

In the response to his toast the Grand Superintendent thanked all those who took part in the demonstration, and reminded those present about the events going on in The Provincial Grand Chapter of Durham Royal Arch Festival Month and more details can be found in the latest issue of ‘Insight’.

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