by Roy Hilton, Pilgrim Fathers Lodge 588
Star of the East 880 is the only UGLE lodge in Greece, and its history is better documented than, I expect, many of the lodges in the UK. The origin of Freemasonry in the Ionian Islands of Greece has been dated between 1774 and 1780. The first regular lodge on the Ionian Island of Corfu dated 1781. On the island of Zakynthos in 1815 there were two lodges, Charity and Degli Amici. SOTE hold many of the records for the Charity lodge in its archives.
Step forward a few years, after mention of a Petition of Charter to Grand Lodge of New York and a three years spell under the Charter of the Grand Orient of France, the consecration of SOTE took place on March 4th 1862 and it was called Star of the East 1182, a year later UGLE numbered it 880.
Travel forward in time, only slightly, to June 3rd this year, and I found myself attending the final SOTE meeting before the summer break. I had been furnished with a summons prior to my arrival and it had been translated and laid out similar that of my mother lodge, Pilgrim Fathers 8795. On arrival at the lodge, some forty-five minutes before the 9pm start, I was shown around the impressive lodge building by the lodge Secretary, W. Bro Stylianos Pettas. (Excuse this part but interesting fact, names are often written with surname followed by Christian name in Greece, so I was referred to as Brother Roy!) My tour began in the secretary’s office with countless photographs from the decades and centuries gone by, I can not stress how overwhelmed I was by the thoughts of minutes of meetings 150 years gone by at my fingertips, if only I read Greek!
We ventured into the impressive dining room which frequently hosts over fifty of its members, from a membership of 100. (We have to remember that many of the members live on the mainland and on different islands so cannot always attend, especially during tourist season) Finally into the air-conditioned Temple. It had been 35 degrees earlier in the day, and I was pleased of the change in temperature. At this point the WM, WB. Bro Theodororos Kardaris introduced himself and explained in English that tonight there was not a ceremony but an explanation of the differences in a first-degree ceremony from Emulation, Greek ritual and that of the adapted Bristol Ritual that SOTE uses.
Approaching 9pm I was introduced to Brother Dionysis Tsagaropoulos an EA, with a masters degree from Glasgow University, who was my very own translator for the evening, since the ceremony was to be conducted in Greek. I took my seat within the lodge and then a near procession of brethren came over to me, greeted me and thanked me for coming.
The Lodge opened in the manner I was accustomed to. However, what I was not prepared for was that the opening ode was the same, but sung in Greek! Through the rest of evening everything proceeded in a recognizable way until the demonstration of the Bristol Ritual for an initiation, which was eye opening at the eye opening! Throughout the explanation “Brother Translator” did a most fantastic job. I did, however, manage to pick up references to Brother Roy recognizing similarity in the ceremony. The evening then followed its normal path, closing of the lodge and the closing ode, in Greek.
At this point of the evening, I presented the WM & Bro. Secretary with gifts of Lincolnshire Provincial ties and was surprised to receive gifts of two different books charting the history of SOTE, I just have to learn Greek now as I have read the seven pages written in English.
There was no festive board, since this was the last meeting of the year before the Lodge resumes it calendar, of 14 meetings, starting in October. The hour was approaching 11.15pm, and on the insistence of the WM, we repaired into Zante Town where an outside table had been reserved for suitable sustenance and refreshments. (At this time of year and evening central Zante Town can only be described as heaving with tourists and locals) I enjoyed a relaxing time with those present, was immediately made a member of a “closed” Facebook group for friends of SOTE and was informed I must visit again and told “next time bring more visitors with you”. I retired well into the early hours of Saturday morning being well and truly rehydrated, and having had a most enjoyable evening.
I cannot speak highly enough of the welcome and hospitality I received as an overseas visitor and the way in which they accommodated the language barrier. I for one would recommend overseas visits and I am looking forward to once again attending Conception 8346 on Grenada, where I am now an overseas member, in January 2023.