I’ve always associated the Shriners with Laurel and Hardy in the movie where they have to go to a convention and they’re both wearing a fez. But Shriners are a fascinating sub-set of the Freemasons.
That might have been a Shriner convention because that’s the required headwear for this society within the Freemason order. With nearly half a million members in the United States, they are little known outside the US and, correct if I’m wrong, claim a kind of bond/link/influence from the Knights Templar.
Founded in the 1870s by two Freemasons who were watching some kind of theatrical Arabesque in New York after a masonic gathering at the Knickerbocker Cottage (a favourite Masonic haunt of the time) and decided to form an exotic sounding organisation called the Ancient Arabian Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (AAONMS – not the catchiest acronym ever).
Members are allocated to Shrine Centers – or Temples – and engage in a distinct set of rituals which includes using the Arabic greeting for ‘hello’ to each other.
As an accepted society within the Masons, you have to be a fully fledged Freemason – and a Master Mason at that – to be able to join. It’s not possible to be a Shriner and not a Mason. This is like a subset within the Masons – not a venn diagram overlap. Officers within the Shriners are called a ‘Divan’ and the top dog is called a ‘Potentate’ assisted by a ‘Chief Rabban’.
As I say, they’re completely invisible on the European side of the Atlantic but in north America, expect to see them on parades in dinky cars and replete with the fez when they meet for their Imperial Council Session.
The Shriners Hospitals for Children have a budget of over three quarters of a billion dollars and were originally set up during the polio epidemics of the early twentieth century. They now cater for a range of childhood disorders.
There is no real link to the Knights Templar of old but through the Masons, a link to the existing Knights Templar of the Masonic variety.