Fraternal Orders in Sweden - An Overview

Updated 2001-12-01

After the middle-ages many of the orders of chivalry was turned into state orders, and the working form of orders was also taken up by societes who worked for idealistic, cultural, charitable, filosophical etc. purposes. The border towards guilds and early unions etc. became more fluent. These fraternal orders are devided into lodges which can be found throughout Sweden. They are often divided into degrees to give knowledge and insights gradually. The secrecy around the order’s legends, symbols and ceremonies are necessary an ‘aha’-experience when recieving the next degree; the order’s rules, roll of members etc. is often public. The insignia of these orders may only be worn within the order, as opposed to orders of chivalry.

The fraternal orders are generally orientated in a patriotic and religious direction and with mainly charitable purposes, but it is often not allowed to discuss politics. Thus, no conspiracies on world domination can spring from the orders themselves - contrary to what conspiracy theoretics think.

Usually some time pass between application and admittance, from a couple of months up to a year (exception : Order of Carpenters 8-9 years!) due to large number of applicants in combination with few lodges held in the initiation degree. We meet these orders daily in the Swedish obituaries, where the order’s symbol (a St George’s cross for the Swedish Order of Free Masons, a chain with three links for the Independnt Order of Odd Fellows) instead of the traditional cross shows that a brother/sister has passed away.

A dark suit with black tie is usually worn in the orders, also for women - dark means black. By wearing similar clothes, equality is obtained, high is equalled to low, which strenghten the feeling of union among the members of the fraternal order. On special occasions a tailcoat is worn, usually with black vest. Sometimes the order has ties with the symbol of the order to be worn with the suit in lodge; a pin can be worn on the jacket between lodges. If order rings exists within the order, they are usually awarded when half of the degrees has been passed and worn on the mid-finger of the right hand.

A lodge night in the bigger fraternal orders usually follow the same procedure: first a pub or something similar where the brothers and sisters can brush of the road dust and, socialize and regain focus. The lodge work itself follows, which follows the same procediour every time. Finally comes the meal, where you can discuss general topics and reflect on the lodge work.

The humourous orders are many and the larger part were started by students at universities. The professors of the universities used to be heavily decorated with orders and medals, which led the students to form ridicule orders of their own. When these meet sometimes white tie with orders are proscribed. This means (contrary to public occasions) that the students put on medals and orders of highly informal character: swimming medals, shooting medals, gymnastic medals etc etc...

During the 18th century religion was strictly regulated by law in Sweden - only evangelical-lutheran chritiandom was allowed - which reflects on the orders then created. For instance, where freemasonry in the rest of the world demands belief in a monoteistic God, Swedish freemasonry demands Christian faith. It also reflects on the numbers of fraternal orders created, as the Swedish protestant State church was far more allowing than the Holy See towards fraternal orders. The fact that the Swedish kings has been Grand Masters of the Swedish Order of Freemasons as well as protectors and/or members of other fraternal orders has given fraternal orders a completely different position than in catholic countries. The fraternal orders who came to Sweden in the 18th century were for the larger part reserved for the nobility.

With the industrialisation during the 19th century, the advent of a prosperous middle-class. They started to form orders both in harmony with the old fraternal orders, but some were started as a reaction on the fact that many orders were focused on heritage (nobility).

This is a summary of current fraternal orders in Sweden, arranged in chronological order from introduction in Sweden.

1735 Svenska Fri Murare Orden (SFMO)/ The Swedish Order of Free Masons

Freemasonry was brought to Sweden by Swedish noblemen who were admitted in France. The Swedish system which is used in the Nordic countries and parts of Germany was created around 1800 by HRH Carl, Duke of Södermanland (later King Carl XIII) and differs from other masonic system: a perquisite is Christian belief, and the higher degrees are fully integrated with the Craft. A token of this is that aprons of the higher degrees are worn in Craft lodges. Every Swedish king from Adolf Fredrik has been High Protector; between the kings Carl XIII och Gustav VI Adolf even Grand Masters of the order. To ensure the fidelity of the Swedish Order of Freemasons to the Crown, King Carl established an Order of Chivalry with 30 knights which is awarded to the office-hoplders of those few who have the highest degree (the Order of Carl XIII).

Being protestant, Sweden had no spiritual order of chivalry and therefore a Swedish freemason was as close as you could come a spiritual knighthood. Nobility was a perequisite in the beginning, but this was dropped, though nobles were quite frequent until 1920/1946 when the Swedish Order of St John (Johanniterorden i Sverige) was established with a strict informal nobility perequisite.

1760- Stora Amaranther Orden (SAO)/ The Grand Order of Amarante

Quees Christina appeared as the shepardess Amarante at a party held in the Castle of Stockholm 1653. The name was picked to honour the ambassador Pimentel, born in Amarante, Portugal. At the party a pairdance was conducted with 14 couples. These couples were first admitted to the court order established to the sweet memory of the party. When Christina abdicated the order was dissolved, but started anew in 1760 by wealthy youths and give ball every other year.

1763- Timmermans Orden (TO)/ The Order of Carpenters, Ordre des Charpentiers

A evangelic (protestantic) order who came to Sweden from France or the Netherlands. Started in 1552 in England by evangelic christians during the persqutions of the catholic Queen Mary. There is only has one lodge in Sweden, which is why you have to wait 8-9 years before being admitted.

1765- Coldinu Orden (CO)/ The Order of the Coldin

A Christian order connected to sailors and their traditions with a legendary background in Spain and Columbus. The moon is an important symbol.

1765- Innocence Orden (IO)/ The Order of Innocence

An Order who arranges a ball every other year.

1779- Par Bricole (PB) / Par Bricole

The name is a french snooker term, and means ”by coincidence”. Founded by C M Bellman and two friends as a ridicule of the more seroius fraternal orders. The order tries to preserve the Swedish cultural heritidge, especially song, music, theatre and speach.

1793- Svea Orden (SO)/ The Order of Svea

The Svea were the founders of Sweden during early middle ages when they conquered the Gotha. This christian and patriotic fraternal Order was first named ”Citizens of Gibraltar” because the order met in the Gibraltar room of the pub ”The English Cellar” in Stockholm. Because of the French revolution the order’s name lead people to believe that the order was pro-revolutionary, and thus the name was changed. Admits women since 1917. Benefits Swedish culture before 1500. The highest degree is shared with Götiska Förbundet/ Gotha Union (below).

1812- Neptuni Orden/ The Order of Neptunus

This Order wishes to create between sailors ashore and was originally a humourous order named Conjentus Orden.

1815- Götiska förbundet (GF)/ The Gotha Union

The Gotha lived in the south-west part of Sweden, and were conquered by the Svea during the early Middle-Ages. To this day, the Swedish King is styled ’King of Svea, Gotha and Vandi’. This patriotic fraternal order shares it’s highest degree with Svea Orden/ The Order of Svea.

1815- Aurora-orden/The Order of Aurore

This order was originally a sociable order, but in the 1920’ies the statutes were changed towards a christian fraternal order.

1843- S:t Petri Orden/ The Order of St Peter

The name comes Peter, the fisher who became a Disciple of Christ. At first the order’s main purposes was to arrange strengthening outdoor recreation (and some humourous pranks) but later this Christian order turned more serious and put the focus on Peter as a disciple.

1860- Mercuri Orden/ The Order of Mercury

This order is dedicated to the God Mercury, protector of trade and fools. Most members own companies, and the order is humourous.

1880- Jamtlands Gille/ The Guild of Jamtland

Jamtland is a region in the centre of Sweden with strong self-esteem. Some famous Jamts even has declared (for fun) the independant republic of Jamtland, and will have no truck with the kingdom of Sweden. This order seeks to preserve the traditions and customs of Jämtland.

1884- Oberoende Odd Fellow Orden (IOOF)/ The Independent Order of Odd Fellows

In Great Britain the professions were strictly organized in guilds. Those didn’t fit created the Odd Fellows to guard their own interests, like an early union. The direction changed during the 18th century towards a fraternal order based in the believe of a supreme being.

1886- Frihetsbröderna/ The Brothers of Freedom

The order was founded by a military who had taken a liking to the Offenbach opera.

1923- Auxilium-Orden/ The Order of Auxilium

The Order was founded by a person who felt that it was unjust that most fraternal orders were reserved for the nobility and/or the rich. He stipulated that his order was to "work for the improvement of the general conditions of the middle class".

To be continued...


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