Masonic Miscellanies

Why do Freemasons use different ‘calendar’ to our regular calendar?

You will no doubt have seen or heard the following phrases mentioned in, or on, Masonic ritual and documents. Below are explanations of the calendar terms adopted by the various bodies of Masonry.

Extracted from An Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry and it’s Kindred Sciences – volumes one and two written by Albert G Mackey M.D.

Mackey compiled his Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry in 1873, reprinted in 1878. It was subsequently, enlarged and revised by other authors into several volumes after his death. It is his largest and most important contribution to Masonic literature.


Sometimes used as synonymous with Year of Light. In the eighteenth century, it was, in fact, the more frequent expression.


Creation of the Earth By Wenceslaus Hollar (1607 – 1677)
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)


Anno Lewis, in the Year of Light, is the epoch used in Masonic documents of the Symbolic Degrees.

This era is calculated from the creation of the world, and is obtained by adding four thousand to the current year, on the supposition that Christ was born four thousand years after the creation of the world.

But the chronology of Archbishop Ussher, which has been adopted as the Bible chronology in the authorized version, places the birth of Christ in the year 4004 after the creation.


Archbishop James Ussher (1581–1656)
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

According to this calculation, the Masonic date for the ‘year of light’ is four years short of the true date, and the year of the Lord 1874, which in Masonic documents is 5874, should correctly be 5878.

The Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Freemasons in the beginning of the nineteenth century used this Ussherian era, and the Supreme Council at Charleston dated its first circular, issued in 1802, as 5806.

[Frederick] Dalcho (Ahiman Rezon, second edition, page 37) says:

‘If Masons are determined to fix the origin of their Order at the time of the creation, they should agree among themselves at what time before Christ to place that epoch.’

At that agreement they have now arrived. Whatever differences may have once existed, there is now a general consent to adopt the theory that the world was created 4000 B.C.

The error is too unimportant, and the practice too universal, to expect that it will ever be corrected.


Frederick Dalcho (1770-1836)
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

H. P. Smith (Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible), we may here point out in a paragraph to support Doctor Mackey, says that our appreciation of the Bible does not depend upon the accuracy of its dates.

This authority considers that in general, the picture it provides of the sequence of events from the time of Judges down to the Fall of Jerusalem is correct.

More recently there has been welcome light on the dates of certain biblical events from the inscriptions in Assyria and Babylonia.

These Empires had made great advances in astronomy and consequently in the regulation of the calendar.

They had a reckoning of time which secured accuracy for their records of history.

Lists have come down to us in fragments, but by them scholars have corrected some of the dates in Hebrew history.

The reference already made to the work of Archbishop Ussher has been checked by these later studies and most of the figures, it is now accepted, are too high for the early period.

Probably some of the early writers were influenced by a theory which they had formed or which had come to them through tradition and those tendencies show certain repetitions in the records which are, in these modern days, not so convincing as formerly.


Noorthouck (Constitutions 1784, page 5), speaking of the necessity of adding the four years to make a correct date, says:

‘But this being a Degree of accuracy that Masons in general do not attend to, we must, after this intimation, still follow the vulgar mode of computation to be intelligible.’

As to the meaning of the expression, it is by no means to be supposed that Freemasons, now, intend by such a date to assume that their Order is as old as the creation.

It is simply used as expressive of reverence for that physical light which was created by the fiat of the Grand Architect, and which is adopted as the type of the intellectual light of Freemasonry.

The phrase is altogether symbolic.


 An era adopted by Royal and Select Masters, and refers to the time when certain important secrets were deposited in the first Temple.


An era adopted by Royal Arch Masons, and refers to the time when certain secrets were made known to the Craft at the building of the second Temple.


The date used in documents connected with Masonic Templarism. It refers to the establishment of the Order of Knights Templarin the year 1118.


This is the era adopted by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and is borrowed from the Jewish computation. The Jews formerly used the era of contracts, dated from the first conquests of Seleucus Nicator in Syria. But since the fifteenth century they have counted from the creation, which they suppose to have taken place in September, 3760, before Christ.


Latin, meaning In the Year of the Blessing; abbreviated A B This date has been used by the brethren of the Order of High Priesthood to signify the elapsed period calculated from the year of the blessing of Abraham by the High Priest Melchizedek. The date is determined by adding the year of blessing to any Christian or so-called Vulgar Era thus: 1913+1930 = 3843.


Latin, meaning the Year of Destruction; Abbreviated A C, referring to the year 1314 in Knights Templar history.


Latin, meaning in the year of the Deposit; abbreviated A Dep The date used by Royal and Select Masters, which is found by adding 1000 to the Vulgar Era; thus, 1930+1000 =2930.


Latin, meaning in the Egyptian year. The date used by the Hermetic Fraternity, and found by adding 5044 to the Vulgar Era prior to each July 20, being the number of years since the consolidation of the first Egyptian monarchy under Menes who, according to Herodotus, built Memphis, and is reported by Diodorus to have introduced the worship of the gods and the practice of sacrifices into Egypt.

(image: Cartouche of Menes on the Abydos King’s list)


Latin, meaning in the Hebrew year ; abbreviated A H  The same as Anno Mundi.


Latin, meaning in the year of the Discovery; abbreviated A I or A Inv The date used by Royal Arch Masons. Found by adding 530 to the Vulgar Era; thus, 1930 + 530 =2460.


Latin, meaning in the Year of Light; abbreviated A L The date used in ancient Craft Freemasonry; found by adding 4000 to the Vulgar Era; thus, 1930+ 4000 = 5930.


Latin, meaning in the Year of the World. The date used in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite; found by adding 3760 to the Vulgar Era until September. After September, add one year more; this is because the year used a the Hebrew one, which begins in September. Thus, July, 1930+3760 = 5690, and October, 1930+3760+1= 5691.


Latin, meaning in the Year of the Order; abbreviated A O The date used by Knights Templar; found by subtracting 1118 from the Vulgar Era; thus, 1930-1118 = 812.

Article by: Albert G. Mackey

Albert Gallatin Mackey (1807 – 1881) was an American medical doctor and author.

He is best known for his books and articles about freemasonry, particularly the Masonic Landmarks.

In 1849 he established The Southern and Western Masonic Miscellany, a weekly masonic magazine.

He served as Grand Lecturer and Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of South Carolina, as well as Secretary General of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States

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