THE LEWIS OR LOUVETEAU
An iron clamp used to lift up a block of stone. Also the term in Masonry for the son of a Freemason who is often permitted to join the craft at an age younger than tradition requires.
- Source: MasonicDictionary.com
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THE LEWIS OR LOUVETEAU
The words Lewis and Louveteau, which, in their original meaning, import two very different things, have in Masonry an equivalent signification - the former being used in English, the latter in French, to designate the son of a Mason.
The English word Lewis" is a term belonging to operative Masonry, and signifies an iron cramp, which is inserted in a cavity prepared for the purpose in a large stone, so as to give attachment to a pulley and hook, whereby the stone may be conveniently raised to any height, and deposited in its proper position. In this country the lewis has not been adopted as a symbol in Freemasonry, but in the English ritual it is found among the emblems placed upon the tracing board of the Entered Apprentice, and is used in that degree as a symbol of strength, because, by its assistance, the operative Mason is enabled to lift the heaviest stones with a comparatively trifling exertion of physical power. Extending the symbolic allusion still further, the son of a Mason is in England called a Lewis," because it is his duty to support the sinking powers and aid the failing strength of his father, or, as Oliver has expressed it, "to bear the burden and heat of the day, that his parents may rest in their old age, thus rendering the evening of their lives peaceful and happy."
By the Constitutions of England, a lewis or son of a Mason may be initiated at the age of eighteen, while it is required of all other candidates that they shall have arrived at the maturer age of twenty-one. The Book of Constitutions had prescribed that no lodge should make "any man under the age of twentyone years, unless by a dispensation from the Grand Master or his Deputy." The Grand Lodge of England, in its modern regulations, has availed itself of the license allowed by this dispensing power, to confer the right of an earlier initiation on the sons of Masons.
The word "louveteau" signifies in French a young wolf. The application of the term to the son of a Mason is derived from a peculiarity in some of the initiations into the Ancient Mysteries. In the mysteries of Isis, which were practiced in Egypt, the candidate was made to wear the mask of a wolf's head. Hence, a wolf and a candidate in these mysteries were often used as synonymous terms. Macrobius, in his Saturnalia, says, in reference to this custom, that the ancients perceived a relationship between the sun, the great symbol in these mysteries, and a wolf, which the candidate represented at his initiation. For, he remarks, as the flocks of sheep and cattle fly and disperse at the sight of the wolf, so the flocks of stars disappear at the approach of the sun's light. The learned reader will also recollect that in the Greek language "lukos" signifies both the sun and a wolf.
Hence, as the candidate in the Isiac Mysteries was called a wolf, the son of a Freemason in the French lodges is called a young wolf, or a "louveteau."
The louveteau in France, like the lewis in England, is invested with peculiar privileges. He is also permitted to unite himself with the Order at the early age of eighteen years. The baptism of a louveteau is sometimes performed by the lodge of which his father is a member, with impressive ceremonies. The infant, soon after birth, is taken to the lodge room, where he receives a Masonic name, differing from that which he bears in the world; he is formally adopted by the lodge as one of its children; and should he become an orphan, requiring assistance, he is supported and educated by the Fraternity, and finally established in life.
In this country, these rights of a lewis or a louveteau are not recognized, and the very names were, until lately, scarcely known, except to a few Masonic scholars.
- Source: The Builder - November 1922
LEWIS AND LOUVETEAU
Old English Tracing Boards of the entered Apprentice degree show the
Lewis, a peculiar tool of operative masons.
The instrument is made of a pair of dovetail wedges, provided with a
hook or ring. Inserted in a hole in a large stone, pulling on the
hook or ring spreads and locks the wedges securely in the stone, so
that it may be raised by derrick or other lifting force, without
putting a rope or chain about it. The greater the pull, the heavier
the stone, the more securely is the Lewis locked in the hole.
From this the Lewis easily became a symbol of strength, and is so
denominated in certain old English rituals.
In the transactions of “Quatuor Coronoti Lodge,” the great research
organization of London, in Volume X (1897) appears the following:
“In a Charter of Ethelbert, dated 862, Lewisham is known a “Liofshema
mearc’,’ the mark of the inhabitants of ‘Liofsham,’ the home or
dwelling of some person whose name began with the element ‘Liof’ or
‘Leof,’ i.e., dear. This prefix appears to be corrupted from Keof-
su, which was from Leofsuna, literally, dear son. It still survives
in the family named Leveson, pronounced Lewson. The place name
appears to go through some digressions, for the seventeenth century
it was written Lews’am, and was spelt phonetically as Lusam, end
eventually it became, through change of etymology, Lewis. In Masonic
language, we have also another lewis to account for, namely the
combination of pieces of metal, which form a dovetail; now if the
urchin who assisted his father was called Lewis, it is possible that
the comparatively small piece of mechanism, in comparison to the
weight it is capable of sustaining, as a saving of labor, may have in
trade vocabulary been called a lewis - dear one.”
The Harris Masonic manuscript, No.1 (seventeenth century) defines the
word as follows:
“A Lewis is such an one as hath served an Apprenticeship to a Mason,
but it is not admitted afterwards according to the custom of making
Compare this with the curious statement in the Carmick manuscript, in
the possession of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania:
“You shall not make a Mould or Square for any that is cut a Kenis,
for a Kenis is one that hath not admitted afterwards according to the
Custom of Making Masons.”
Hughan, the great Masonic scholar, read “Cut a Kenis” to mean “But a
Lewis” - in other words, the prohibition to Masons is that no Mould
or Square may be made for any one who is “only” a Lewis, not actually
a member of the Craft.
The son of an English Mason is called a Lewis, for a reason which is
set forth in Browne’s “Master Key,” which purports to be a verbatim
account of a part of the original Prestonian lecture. It reads:
What do we call the son of a Freemason?
What does it denote?
How is a Lewis depicted in Mason’s Lodge?
As cramp (clamp) of metal, by which, when fixed into a stone, great
and ponderous weights are raised to a certain height, and fixed upon
their p[roper basis, without which Operative Masons could not so
What is the duty of a Lewis, the Son of a Mason, to his aged parents?
To bear the heavy burden in the heat of the day and help them in time
of need, which, by reason of their great age, they ought to be
exempted from, so as to render the close of their days happy and
His privilege for so doing?
To be made a Mason before any other person, however dignified by
birth, rank or riches, unless he, through complaisance, waives this
In France the son of a Freemason is called a Louveteau (daughter
Louvetine) which may have been derived from “louffton” a word
occasionally used in place of Lewis in the seventeenth century; the
French word for the operative instrument is “Louve.” Here a curious
verbal bypath invites the student; Louveteau also means a young wolf.
In the Egyptian Mysteries, the candidate, wearing a mask or covering
simulating a wolf’s head, was often called “wolf.” Apparently the
reason for the masking of a candidate as a wolf is found in the
tenuous connection between the sun, which scatters the flocks of
stars from the sky, and the wolf, which scatters the flocks of sheep
and cattle. The sun was the central symbol of many ancient mystery
religions. Similarly, the Greek “Lukos” is both the sun and a wolf.
Albert Pike said that a Louveteau might be received as such when
twelve years of age, or over. According to this authority, any
Symbolic Lodge might receive any Louteteau by a special ceremony,
which while it did not especially obligate the Lodge to support or
educate him, did promise that the Lodge would watch over him, protect
him, give him counsel and advice. In his book, “Offices of Masonic
Baptism, Reception of a Louveteau and adoption,” Pike states:
“It (the ceremony of reception) entitles the Louveteau to be received
an Apprentice at the age of twenty-one years, if he be found worthy
The qualifying phrase obviously takes away from the privilege the
first promises, since all men who are “worthy and intelligent” may be
“received an Apprentice at the age of twenty-one years.”
Pike lays down rules regarding the reception of a Louveteau; the
question may be considered at a regular meeting of the Lodge;
application must be made in writing by the father, if living;
otherwise, in writing by the mother, or other relative or friend; the
father must be a member of a Lodge, except that, by unanimous vote, a
Louveteau may be received even if the father is not a member - “the
son may be worthy, though the father may constitute the strongest
claim of the child on the Lodge;” action may be had without a
Committee, in the absence of objection; if a brother desires, a
Committee of three “will be appointed, to report at the next regular
meeting;” ordinarily, a two-thirds vote is sufficient to insure
reception; applications refused may be re-presented in six months;
“bad character of applicant or unworthiness of the father is good
cause for rejection,” otherwise, “to become a Louveteau is a matter
of right;” vote is in an Entered Apprentices’ Lodge and “the result
with the names of those voting yea and nay” is to be entered on the
Pike’s “reception of a Louveteau” covers sixty pages. A single
quotation will suffice:
“It is one of the duties of Brotherhood, arising out of that holy
relationship, to guide and guard, and rear and educate, if need be, a
Brother’s children. Let us recognize this duty, and add to its
obligation our solemn pledge to watch incessantly over this youth, to
avert from him pestilential influences, warn him against ill
examples, and rescue him from perils. Let us, according to our
ancient custom, and by the ancient and symbolic name, receive him as
our Ward in the hope that he will in due time become our Brother.”
Where Pike got the authority for the statements he makes or the
inspiration for his beautiful if lengthy ceremony, cannot be stated.
No American Grand Lodge authorizes such a ceremony. But Pike’s
statement that it is “one of the duties of Brotherhood to guide and
guard, to rear and educate” a brother’s children is followed in both
letter and spirit by many Grand Lodges; which maintain Homes, Schools
or Charity Foundations by which the children of Master Masons are
guide, guarded and educated when the father has passed beyond his
power to do a father’s duty. Spiritually, then, if not by Masonic
law, the children of a Master Mason are indeed treated as Pike would
have had Louveteaus and Louvetines treated.
Erroneous statements are often made that a Lewis may be initiated at
eighteen years of age. Washington, who received his Entered
Apprentice degree when he was twenty years and eight months of age;
is often mentioned to prove the point.
Whatever the practices in an older day, in England a Lewis cannot now
be initiated before he is of “lawful age,” without a dispensation.
There is no evidence whatever that Washington was ever considered a
Lewis. His initiation before being twenty-one can much more
logically by laid to the lax practices of an easy age when
Freemasonry in this country was very informal, far from original
authority, developing largely from its own motion in a time when
experiment in a new land, with a new government, in ideas, in hopes
was in the air.
In middle ages England it was an invariable custom for a son to
follow in his father’s footsteps; such names as Smithson, Wrightson,
etc., come from the days when the smith and the wheelwright had sons
who became also wheelwrights and smiths. Most fathers have a hope
that their sons will follow where they led, take up the same
profession, carry on the old firm; it is human expression of the
longing for that form of immortality, expressed in the desire that
what has been honorable and useful in the family will continue to be
Masons who have sons are usually intensely interested in seeing them
become members of the ancient Craft. A Petition and fee is often
made a coming-of-age gift to a young man on his twenty-first
birthday. From this natural hope of a Mason that his son will go
where he preceded him, in turn to receive Masonic light and the
happiness and education that may come from membership in a Lodge, has
arisen the feeling in most Lodges, the stronger that it is not
expressed in formal law, of interest in the boys of members. Lodges
are not consciously influenced in their judgment of petitions from
the sons of members by that fact, but Masons would be less than human
if they did opt look with some indulgence on the young men who ask to
follow in the path their fathers have walked.
In this sense, then, the Lewis has a privilege in all Lodges; he is
already known, by proxy at least, to the Lodge to which he applies,
and there is a natural predisposition favorably to consider his
application, and for the committee to judge him with mercy.
It is a sound tribute to the common sense of American Masonic law
that the Lewis has few if any legally stated privilege. The Grand
Lodge of North Dakota has in its by-laws (page 38, revision of 1928):
“Candidate: Age reduced in some Cases - Lewis.
Any Lodge in this Grand Jurisdiction may lawfully receive and ballot
upon a petition for the degrees of a son or nephew of an affiliated
Mason within the last six months of such petitioners twenty-first
year; however, if elected, he shall not be initiated an Entered
Apprentice until he has attained the age of twenty-one.”
The Constitution of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia prior
to 1924 stated:
“No Lodge shall initiate any candidate who is under 21 years of age,
Questions arising as to the age at which application might be
received, Grand Master Roberts ruled (1924) that no petition might be
legally received from a minor, basing his ruling on civil law which
makes minors unable to execute contracts. Later, the Constitution
was revised to read:
“No Lodge shall accept the petition of any candidate who is under 21
years of age at the time of the presentation of his petition to the
Generally speaking, Grand Lodges require petitioners to be of legal
age; all in this country require them to be either “twenty-one” or of
“lawful age” before initiation.
During the Great War, many Grand Jurisdictions waived not only
“suitable proficiency” between degrees, but often the matter of
“lawful age” for sons of Masons in the armed forces of the nation.
Lodges with a restricted membership often provided that the petitions
of sons or fathers of members may be received and ballot had,
regardless of whether the roster is full or not.
The Order of DeMolay for boys is for sons of Master Masons, and their
friends; which in effect means any boy who can be recommended by a
Master Mason. The Order continually insists that its membership is
not in any way to be considered as helpful in later receiving Masonic
Lewis and Louveteau, sons of Masons, in this country, then, are words
with no special Masonic standing; the words are scarcely known to a
majority of Masons. But in the spirit of our Lodges the old idea of
the son following in his father’s footsteps persists; hence it is not
infrequent to find Lodges arranging “father and son” nights, and it
is still an event in any Lodge when a father raises his son to the
Sublime Degree - more rare, and even more interesting, when it is the
son’s good fortune to raise his father.
Predicating the whole philosophy of Freemasonry upon a certain
Fatherhood, it would be odd indeed, however little official
recognition we give them, if Masons had no special tenderness of
feeling for their Lewises and Louveteas.