… you will preserve the ancient usages and customs of the Fraternity…
The Usages of Freemasonry are those (usually) unwritten portions of custom and tradition which are observed in Lodge (or with a Brother outside of lodge). Some usages can be considered as an unwritten adjunct to or component of Masonic law.
The dictionary (dictionary.com) defines usages as:
1. a customary way of doing something; a custom or practice
2. the customary manner in which a language or a form of a language is spoken or written
5. habitual or customary use; long-continued practice
Synonyms: tradition, habit, convention
The definition of usage doesn’t appear to have changed much since the word first came into use in approximately the year 1300, when it meant “established practice, custom.”
The Washington Masonic Code defines them thusly:
Sec. 1.05 Const.
Divisions of Masonic Law.
4. Usages and customs of Masonry:
A. Usages which are those practices and modes of behavior of Brethren,
individually and collectively, in Grand Lodge and in Lodges and toward each other, long observed in this Jurisdiction by voluntary assent; and
B. Customs that are usages of such universality and antiquity as to have acquired the force and effect of law.
Straightforward examples of Masonic usages include many aspects of lodge procedure and decorum such as our prohibition on the discussion of politics and religion in lodge, the details of what is or isn’t proper to share with non-masons, the path we don’t cross in our movement about the lodge, or points in vs points out when wearing a ring (put down your swords, that one is a joke [kind of]), etc. These are the details one picks up over time in their Masonic experience from Brothers, not necessarily written down. We only pick them up to carry on the traditions through our active, long-term involvement in the craft and in conversation with our Brothers. And we are indeed charged to PRESERVE them, which requires picking them up in the first place.
If you’re interested in other specific (sometimes technical) examples of Masonic usages, check out any of the many books on Masonic law or Masonic jurisprudence.
If you have any thoughts on good examples of our usages, feel please leave a comment. Likewise if you’ve got any additional resources on the subject.