The Ancient and Honourable Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners, more commonly known as RAM or Mariners, has been under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons since 1871 and governed by the Grand Masters Royal Ark Council. However in 1884 Mark Grand Lodge purchased from Morton Edwards, the brother who sold whatever rights he had to the Degree of Royal Ark Mariner for the sum of £25. The receipt for which is still in possession of Mark Grand Lodge.
Lodges are moored to Mark Lodges and assume the same name and number. To be a member the candidate must have been advanced as a Mark Master Mason. In chronological terms it precedes the Mark by hundreds of years because it relates to the building and voyage of Noah's Ark and the Great Flood and its characters are unique in Freemasonry. There are 27 Royal Ark Mariner Lodges in our Province and membership is steadily on the increase.
This beautiful and exclusive Degree is restricted to those Brethren who are already Mark Master Masons. To many Masons who do not know much about it, even to many Mark Master Masons who have not gone on to become Ark Mariners, the Royal Ark Mariner can seem to be just a quaint, short little degree about Noah's Flood whose members wear rainbow coloured aprons.
It may be attached to the Mark degree, but it is often dismissed as being of very little ritual significance. This could not be more wrong. Those who are 'elevated' as Royal Ark Mariners, and who take the slightest interest in Ark Masonry, soon realise that it is simple and beautiful, rather than superficial or trivial. The great point about the Royal Ark Mariner, as many have said, is that it further develops the idea that is the keynote of initiation: the making of a new beginning or the adoption of a new outlook on life.
The degree is based on one of the oldest stories in the Bible; that of God saving Noah and his family from the destruction metered out to all others. The ritual focuses on those attributes and virtues exemplified by Noah, and the symbolic uses of the working tools of the degree, are beautifully and informatively explained. The explanation of the steps taken to move from the West to the East is particularly important in this degree, as are the addresses by the three principal officers to the candidate after he has been entrusted with the traditional secrets.
The candidate is clearly and, particular in this Fraternity, kindly instructed in his obligations to others and to his God. Above all there is a different feel about this degree than many others. This is difficult to explain. The degree is not homily; the symbolism in Ark Masonry is anything but basic. But, there is a very real closeness between the members and the candidate; indeed the installation of the Worshipful Commander ritualistically stresses this very real bond and the Address to the new Worshipful Commander by the outgoing Immediate Past Commander is particularly apt in this regard. Indeed, since the ritual was revised in 1994, the Worshipful Commander speaks of Ark Masonry as a Fraternity of Royal Ark Mariners, rather than merely as a degree.