For years, jokes have made the rounds about new initiates riding a Masonic goat. Masons who inflict such talk on prospective members are misguided at best, but that’s a topic for another post.
Much to my surprise, it appears there’s a different kind of livestock connected with Freemasonry—the humble cow.
The story is told in part of a recent Washington Post article on Masonic charity (which actually deals mostly with Scottish Rite and Shrine charity). You can go here to read the full article, but I’ll repost the tale (or is it ‘tail’?) Brent Morris gives about the cow because I find it interesting:
A woman doing her dissertation on Freemasonry in federalist Connecticut came across an odd item in the Masons’ list of holdings: a cow.
“Why would a Masonic lodge have a cow? That was odd. So she researched, and it turns out that a member of the lodge died and left a widow and two children,” Mr. Morris explains.
In those days, Calvinists dominated Connecticut, and one of the tenets of Calvinist theology was that material success reflected on a person's state of grace. Someone who relied on charity had fallen out of God’s favor.
“So the lodge bought a cow. And they didn’t give the cow to the woman”—that would be charity, after all—“they kept the cow. But they said, ‘Would you take care of the cow for us? Now, you’ll have to milk the cow every day, and every spring you’ll have a calf. If you don’t mind the hassle of the calf and the milk every day, then we’d appreciate if you’d look after our cow for us.’”
Perhaps the most surprising part of this article is this special Masonic cow annually procreates on its own. But, then again, there’s not supposed to be any bull in Lodge.