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Travels in Estonia

By Alexander P. Herbert

It was an honor and a pleasure to represent the Grand Lodge of Ohio at the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of Estonia, held in the capital city of Tallinn. The Grand Lodge of Estonia is a young jurisdiction - only 23 years old - and it meant very much to them to have representatives not just from their neighbors in the Baltics and Scandinavia, but from as far away as the United States.

On Monday, May 2nd, I visited the Grand Lodge building (the Tallinn Freemasons House) for a Royal Arch Degree conferred by the Hackney Brook Chapter. The Hackney Brook Chapter is the only chapter that works in English, and is a direct transplant from its original home in England – hence why it is unnumbered among the other Estonian chapters. However, as the Grand Chapters of Royal Arch Masons of Estonia and Ohio do not yet recognize each other, my participation was limited to meeting the companions before the degree and catching up with them again later in the evening to congratulate them on work well done.

On Tuesday, May 3rd, I visited the Hackney Brook Lodge #14 and met up with my gracious host, Brother Patrick Kobly, Director of Ceremonies. I “met” Brother Kobly during the COVID lockdowns and have "sat" with him through the Castle Island Virtual Lodge. Two candidates received their Master Mason Degrees that evening - one a member of the lodge, the other a member of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) who has been living in Estonia for some time. That the UGLE had requested this courtesy work was seen as a tremendous honor and a sign of the esteem held in the work of the lodge. This is both the only English-speaking lodge in Estonia and the only one that works in Emulation Ritual. The Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Estonia, Most Worshipful Brother Kalle Küttis, was in attendance to observe this event.

The Grand Lodge of Estonia consists of 23 working craft lodges, one lodge of research, and one lodge of instruction, for a total of 25 lodges. They have approximately 900 members. Lodges are encouraged to remain small and active. When they reach approximately 50 members, they are typically split into two. The Grand Lodge of Estonia has seen consistent membership gains, though the rate of increase was significantly limited by the pandemic. Approximately 67% of new Masons continue to be active participants in their lodge, with appendant bodies seeing above 80% participation.

The Grand Lodge of Estonia was born of the Grand Lodge of Finland in 1999, which in turn was born of the Grand Lodge of New York in 1924. Of the 23 craft lodges, 22 work in Estonian (similar to Finnish) in a Webb ritual adapted through Finland from New York.

On Saturday, May 7th, I attended the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of Estonia. This was held at the House of the Blackheads (a medieval guild of unmarried merchants) in the heart of Tallinn's Old City district. Foreign delegates were recognized according to the age of their Grand Lodge. Thus, the Grand Lodge of Ohio (1808) enjoyed a high honor in following only the Grand East of the Netherlands and the Swedish Order of Freemasons (both founded in 1735).

The meeting itself lasted only a few hours. Most of the reporting and approvals of the Grand Lodge are conducted in business meetings for that purpose. The Grand Master of Estonia serves a two-year term and there was no balloting or installation this year.

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