History of the Mystic Shrine

On this page:

What is a Shriner?
Shriners Creed
Badge of a Shriner
Why Shriners wear a Fez
How to become a Shriner

The Story of the "Editorial Without Words"

About Freemasonry


What is a Shriner?

Someone may answer: "Oh yeah, Shriners are those guys who always have those parades with the wild costumes, wearing funny hats like flowerpots and have those big conventions." Another may think of Shrine circuses and Shrine clowns.

"I don't know about that," a passerby may add. "But I do know my little girl was born with club feet and now they are straight, and she can walk like anyone else, thanks to Shriners Hospital for Children."

"She can walk?" questions still another. "I thought the Shriners ran those fantastic burn hospitals. I've read stories about them saving kids with burns on 90 percent of their bodies."

All those people are right. Each has experienced and aspect of the Shrinedom. What they cannot experience, unless they are Shriners, is the camaraderie, deep friendship, good fellowship and great times shared by all Shriners. What they may not know is that all Shriners share a Masonic heritage and adhere to the principles of Freemasonry - Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.

Thirteen Masons organized the first Shrine Temple in 1872. That first Temple was named Mecca and was in New York City. They knew they needed on appealing theme for their new order, so they chose the Arabic (Near East) theme. The most noticeable symbol of Shrinedom is the distinctive fez that all Shriners wear at official functions.

There are approximately over 575,000 Shriners now. There are 191 Temples and clubs, throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama. There are 22 Shriners Hospital for Children, 18 orthopedic hospitals, three burn hospitals and one hospital that provides orthopedic, burn and spinal cord injury care. These hospitals have cured or substantially helped more than 600,000 children at no cost to parent or child, since the first Shriners Hospital opened in 1922.

Shriners Creed

Shriners believe in God and that He created man to serve His purposes, among which is service to others in His name.

We believe that care for the less fortunate, especially children who suffer from burns and crippling diseases, is our institutional calling.

We are patriots, each willing to serve his country with fidelity and courage. We cherish independence under law and freedom with responsibility.

We honor family. We respect our parents, wives and children. We should instill in our children the tenets of this creed, and the heritage from which it emanates.

As individuals we pledge ourselves to integrity, virtue and nobility of character. Our intentions will be honorable, our relations will be trustworthy and our spirits forgiving of each other.

As brothers we offer each other fraternal affection and respect. Together we will support each other in adherence to this creed, so that we and our communities will be the better because of our fraternity and its principles.

As Shriners we look beyond ourselves to serve the needs of others, especially children who cannot help themselves. We believe Shriners Hospitals to be the world's greatest philanthropy, and we covenant with each other to support its "temples of mercy" with spirit, time, talent and means.

Badge of a Shriner

By the scimitar and crescent you wear upon your coat,
You proclaim that you're a Shriner. It's a sign for men to note.
It's a symbol that your fellows have abiding faith in you;
They believe that you are worthy and they trust in all you do.
But I wonder, fellow Noble, as I meet you here and there,
If you've really caught the meaning of the little badge you wear?

Are you mindful of its splendor? Are you watchful of its fame?
Are you careful as you travel not to bring it into shame?
You proclaim that you're a Shriner, every passer-by can see
That you've pledge to do the right thing wheresoever you may be,
But, world-wide, your brothers suffer loss and injury from you,
If you do the wrong act which a Shriner wouldn't do.

By the token you're wearing, you're expected to be fine;
We have taught the world it's something to be chosen by the Shrine;
And the man who wears its emblem has his fellow guarantee
That a gentleman of honor he is known and pledge to be;
And if he shall fail that standard by some thoughtless word or whim,
All Shriners, wide world over, shall be put to shame by him.

By the scimitar and crescent which you so proudly display,
You are bound to live and travel in a bigger, better way.
You must dignify the emblem, so none whom you may meet,
Be he friend or foe, may whisper that the Shrine is but a cheat.
You must play the man at all the times, you must keep your conduct fair,
And be worthy of the crescent and scimitar you wear.

Why Shriners wear a Fez

The red fez with a black tassel, the Shrine's most distinctive symbol, has been handed down through the ages. It derives its name from the place where it was first manufactured -- the holy city of Fez, Morocco. The fez was chosen as part of the Shrine's Arabic (Near-Eastern) theme, around which the color and pageantry of the Shrine are developed.

How to become a Shriner

If you hold the Master Mason degree in Freemasonry, you qualify and are invited to join the Shrine. A man receives the three degrees known as the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason Degrees in the Masonic Lodge, often known as the Symbolic Lodge, Blue Lodge or Craft Lodge. In Freemasonry, there is no higher degree than that of Master Mason (the Third Degree).

In many parts of North America, Masonry does not solicit members. In these areas, no one is asked to join, and a man must seek admission of his own free will he must ask. In some areas, Masons are permitted to solicit new members. In all cases, a man interested in becoming a Mason, if he has not been asked, should consult a friend whom he believes to be a Freemason to secure his good counsel and recommendation concerning this important undertaking.

For men who would like to receive additional instruction and explanation regarding the allegory and symbolism learned in the Masonic Lodge, the Scottish Rite or the York Rite bodies elaborate on the basic tenets of Freemasonry.

The Shrine of North America is a fraternity that grew out of Freemasonry over a century ago. Because of this, the Shrine is dedicated to Masonic principles. The Shrine Fraternity provides Masonic brothers a means to widen the fellowship first enjoyed in the Blue Lodge. It also offers men, their wives and their families an opportunity to meet new friends who have similar interests, tastes and feelings.

Imperial Shrine by-laws, Article 23 states
Membership Requirements as:

a.) Prerequisite. A temple may not accept a petition from a candidate unless he is in good standing as a Master Mason of a lodge recognized by or in amity with the Conference of Grand Masters of North America.

b.) Single prerequisite. A temple may not add to or take from the qualifications for membership in temples as fixed by these by-laws.

How To Apply:

If you are a Master Mason of a Lodge recognized and in amity with the Conference of Grand Masters of North America, you can petition to become a Noble of the Mystic Shrine.

Just obtain the petition for initiation and membership from your local Shrine Temple.

Or download a PDF version right here:

Petition for Initiation and Membership

Already a Shriner? Apply for Associate or Affiliate Membership:

Petition for Associate Membership

Petition for Affiliation Membership


The Story of the "Editorial Without Words"


The photo known as the "Editorial Without Words" is probably one of the best recognized symbols of Shriners Hospitals, yet it was taken almost by accident. Randy Dieter, the photographer, recalled that in 1970, he had been on assignment covering the local Shrine Temple's annual outing for handicapped children at the now-defunct Mesker Amusement Park in Evansville, Indiana.

"I was taking shots of the midway and was using my telephoto lens," Dieter said. "I saw a local Shriner walking by carrying a little girl in one hand and her crutches in the other. My camera wouldn't fire.

"Then they were too close for my lens. I ran past them, but the camera jammed. I had to take my last shot as they walked by. It was the end of the roll. If I had to think about it, I wouldn't have come up with something like that. Fate guides you."

Bobbi Jo Wright "It still seems unreal," said Bobbi Jo Wright, the little girl in the photo. "I have many wonderful memories of the years I was a patient at the St. Louis Shriners Hospital and remember all the fun activities. I was born with cerebral palsy, which resulted in many orthopedic problems that made walking difficult. I had many surgeries at the St. Louis Hospital. They greatly improved my ability to walk."

Bobbi Jo received her B.A. in English from Anderson University. She is active in her church and teaches Sunday School. "I use a cane when I go shopping," she said. "If I'm walking on grassy areas, I use crutches."

Today, the famous photo has been reproduced on stained-glass windows, mosaics, tie tacks, pins, and in statues. A larger-than-life replica of the "Editorial Without Words" stands outside the International Shrine Headquarters building in Tampa. Photographer Randy Dieter presently serves as graphics editor for the Kentucky Post.

The Shriner who was unexpectedly immortalized carrying Bobbi Jo was Al Hortman, formerly of Evansville and now living in Georgia. At left in the original photo is Hortman's daughter, Laura, who was herself a patient at the Shriners Hospital in St. Louis. After Laura began receiving treatment at Shriners, Hortman joined the Shrine.

Randy Dieter's original photograph the Editorial Without Words


What is Freemasonry and how can I join?

There have been a great number of definitions of Freemasonry. Perhaps the best, and certainly the simplest, is Freemasonry is the largest and oldest fraternity in the world. Anywhere in the free world, Masonic Lodges may be found. Freemasonry is a system based on morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.

The idea of teaching by allegories and symbols is not new. All great teachers have, more or less, followed this method.

The system of morality, referred to as Freemasonry, is that which every Freemason is bound to profess and practice. If it includes principles with which he was familiar before his entrance into Freemasonry, he will nevertheless find these presented in new ways and in forms different from those with which he was previously familiar. If he finds in Masonic teachings nothing startlingly new, he must remember that, in some respects at least, there is nothing new under the sun and that the essence of morality is to be found in the utter simplicity (though not the ease) of its requirements.

The elementary principles of Freemasonry are exemplified in the three degrees worked in every regular Masonic Lodge throughout the world.

Each Lodge has its own Officers, headed by a Master; its own Committees and, in many cases, its own building and property.

On the other hand, each Lodge is subject to the authority of the Grand Lodge under which it holds its Charter.

In becoming a member of a Lodge under a particular Constitution, one becomes subject not only to the general customs and usages of the Craft, but also to the Laws and Regulations of that Grand Lodge, as well as to the By-Laws and Regulations of that Lodge which one joins.

However, Freemasonry will never require anything which might conflict with ones duty to God, his Country, his neighbor or his family.

In the progress through Freemasonry, one is initiated as an Entered Apprentice; passed to a Fellowcraft and raised as a Master Mason. These are ritualistic ceremonies of a most serious character appropriate to each stage of advancement.

It may be noted that during the ceremonies, one will not be asked to promise anything which will conflict with ones religious, civil or other duties. 

What Freemasonry Is Not

So that one may not have a mistaken idea of what Freemasonry is, it may be well to point out some of the things which Freemasonry is not, and which it has never claimed to be.

1. Freemasonry is not a religion nor a substitute for religion. It requires a belief in a "Supreme Being" which it does not name as its members include men from all religions. It urges men to follow the teaching of and to regularly attend their choice of a church. It has a philosophy of its own which it believes to be compatible with the teachings of religious institutions. The teachings of Freemasonry transcend all denominational and sectarian divisions. In the field of human conduct, it is complementary to religion, but religious topics are not discussed in Lodge.

2. Contrary to the opinion held by many, Freemasonry is not a charitable institution, as such. It is true that one of the fundamental principles of Freemasonry is the practice of relief, and a Freemason will necessarily minister to the widows and fatherless in their affliction. But these and other similar modes of conduct, must proceed from that purity of life and conduct which is one of the great objectives of all Masonic teachings. It does, however, through the numerous organizations that require Masonic membership, such as Shriners, Tall Cedars, Scottish Rite, York Rite, etc. donates a tremendous amount of money each year.

3. Freemasonry does not insure its members against the vicissitudes of old age; provides no sick benefits as such; issues no insurance policies on the lives of its members and pays no death benefits of any kind. Not that Freemasonry disbelieves in these and other means by which modern civilization undertakes to reduce suffering and privation-quite the contrary. But it confines the matter of individual relief to those cases where such relief becomes necessary, in spite of all the efforts of a Brother or his family to maintain their economic independence. The Masons part in this work is far more likely to be that of a contributor than a beneficiary, except in the larger sense, in which every man benefits from the fact that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

4. Freemasonry does not lend itself to the promoting of selfish or mercenary interests. Any underlying purpose of such a nature in one's mind will eventually become apparent to the other Brethren resulting in the inevitable loss of one's respect.

5. Freemasonry is not connected in any way with a political creed. A Freemason's political views are his own and a Lodge may well have members belonging to many different political parties. For that reason, no discussion of political matters is permitted in a Lodge.

Who May Become A Freemason

Not every man can fulfill the requirements that Freemasonry asks of its aspirants.

The primary requirement is, of course, a sound moral character. One whose reputation in the Community is in any way questionable, cannot expect to become a Mason.

But there are other requirements which the petitioner must have, such as:
He must be a believer in God, The Supreme Being.
He must be a loyal citizen, willing to discharge his duties to God, to his neighbor and to himself.
He must be at least eighteen years of age in the Grand Jurisdiction of Maryland.
He must be in such financial circumstances that he can maintain himself as a Member of his Lodge, meeting the monetary obligations imposed by being a member, without detriment to his family or himself.

A potential Freemason, like Masons in all ages before, comes of his own free will and accord to knock at the door of the Craft. You must ask for a petition! Two Brethren are then requested to recommend; indeed they have to vouch for the prospects character and sincerity of motives. In a very real sense they are Masonic sponsors and have the responsibility of seeing that they and others who have accepted their assurances will not be disappointed.

Petition for Masonic Initiation and Membership