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Within Freemasonry, there are several Masonic calendars used by appendant bodies and Craft Masons to celebrate some of the most significant historical events pertaining to Freemasonry the world over.
The dates outlined on the Masonic calendar are most significant to Masons and those that deal with them. They are widely outlined on important Masonic documents and are also discussed and held in high regard at Masonic lodges worldwide.
It’s important to note that Masonic calendars do not start at the beginning of time or even at the beginning of human civilization. As with everything in modern-day Freemasonry, the Masonic calendar is an essential symbolic artifact. The dates articulated in the calendar are historically significant dates that represent new beginnings or re-birth.
The importance of light within the Masonic calendar
Many of the Masonic calendars emphasize the creation of light within the universe, as light is an integral part of Masonic symbolism. To Freemasons, the creation of light within the universe should be understood in the same way as creating intellectual and spiritual light within Freemasonry.
For a Mason, the advent of both intellectual and spiritual light is fundamental to their fraternity membership. Joining Freemasonry is essentially ‘seeing the light’ for brothers, as their life before Freemasonry was shrouded in darkness.
Through Masonic practices and regular meetings with their brothers, Masons are said to see the light and perform better across all areas of their lives. This is why such significance is placed on the light in the Masonic calendar.
As a whole, Freemasonry is an institution that makes an unenlightened person become enlightened. While this is contested outside of Freemasonry, it is a critical part of the fraternity’s values and messages.
The wording of Masonic calendars
Typically, Masonic calendars begin with the word ‘Anno,’ which is a Latin word meaning ‘in the year.’ Interestingly, anno is also the Latin word from which the common English word ‘annual’ was derived.
From a lexical perspective, the use of anno is unsurprising and is merely a note to the evolution of language from Latin to modern-day English.
C.E. is also used on Masonic calendars, which means ‘Common Era’ or often ‘Christian Era’ as Christians know it. B.C.E. refers to ‘Before Common Era’ or ‘Before Christian Era.’
It’s important to note the wording of the Masonic calendar, so you can understand what is meant by specific dates that have been articulated within Freemasonry.
Timeline of Masonic Calendars in Chronological Order
Craft Masons – B.C.E. 4000
Scottish Rite – B.C.E. 3760
Royal and Select Masters – B.C.E 1000
Royal Arch – B.C.E. 530
Knights Templar – C.E. 1118
Present Day – C.E. 2010
Ancient Craft Masons
Anno Lucis (Abbreviated as A.L.) translates to the Year of the Light. As we have already identified, this is particularly significant within Freemasonry. For Masons, the year of the light signifies the date that the world was created.
If we look at the scriptures, the story of the creation of the world can be found in the Torah, and also from the King James Bible in the book of Genesis, from verses 1 to 4:
Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Genesis 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Genesis 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
Genesis 1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
The story of Genesis is an explanation of how God created light and is a critical story within the Masonic calendar.
Indeed, the words Anno Lucis were used by Ancient Craft Masons in both the French and York Rites. This was commonplace in Scotland, England, France, America, and Ireland.
Anno Lucis is calculated by adding 4000 years from the creation of the world to the current year. So, for example:
The creation of the world = 4000 B.C.E + the current year = 2020. This will give us 6020, meaning the year in question would be A.L. 6020 in the Masonic calendar.
The Masonic calendar used by the Ancient Craft Masons notes the creation of the world as is recorded in the book of Genesis and pins it at 6020 years ago.
Anno Mundi (abbreviated as A.M.) is a Latin word that means ‘in the year of the world.’ The phrase Anno Mundi is actually taken from the Hebrew calendar, and it also begins at the genesis of the world, as was outlined above.
One noticeable difference between the Hebrew calendar and the common calendar is that the Hebrew year begins in September rather than January. Moreover, another vital thing to know about the Hebrew calendar is that some months have different lengths, which should be understood when making calculations.
Anno Mundi is calculated by adding 3760 to the current year. For example:
3760 would be added to the current year of 2020, which gives us 5780 A.M.
Anno Ordinis (abbreviated as A.O.) stands for ‘in the year of the Order.’ You may often hear AO referred to only as Anno Order.
A.O. is calculated by subtracting 1118 from the current date. For example:
To get A.O, you subtract 1118 from 2020, giving us the year 902 A.O.
To Freemasons, this signifies that the Knights Templar has existed for 902 years. In Masonic teachings, this can be traced back to 1118 C.E. when nine French knights, who were also followers of the King of Jerusalem, took vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty in his presence to protect Christians.
The knights were tasked with protecting pilgrims on their journey to Jerusalem and were noted for their bravery and dedication to Christ. As the knights resided in a temple close to the temple of King Solomon, they were named templars, which is how the name took its meaning.
As you may guess from the name, Anno Hebraico (abbreviated A.H.) stands for ‘in the Hebrew Year.’ Tishri is the seventh month of our calendar and the first month of the Hebrew calendar. This starts with the new moon of September.
Anno Bonifacio (abbreviated as A.B.) is the Latin phrase for ‘in the year of the blessing.’ A.B. is calculated by adding 1913 years to the current year. So, for example:
We add 1913 to 2020, which gives us 3933 A.B.
Anno Bonefacio celebrates the time when Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek, who was the King of Salem.
Royal Arch Masons
Anno Inventionis is the Latin phrase for ‘in the year of discovery.’ To calculate the year of discovery, you add 530 years to the current date. So, for example:
We add 530 to 2020, which gives us 2550 A.I.
The year A.I. represents the building of the second temple in Jerusalem by Zerubbabel, located near King Solomon’s temple. At the time, Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah in the second year of the reign of Darius Hystapis.
Anno Depositionis (abbreviated as A.D.) is the Latin phrase for ‘in the year of the deposit.’ A.D. is calculated by adding 1000 years to the current calendar. So, for example:
We add 1000 to 2020, which gives us 3020 A.D.
A.D. is used to celebrate the year when King Solomon’s temple was completed and is a significant year in the Masonic calendar.
Conclusion: The Masonic calendar
While there are many other significant dates prevalent and essential in the Masonic calendar, this article just covers some of the most significant. It certainly gives you an idea of the prominence of Latin dates in the Masonic calendar.