WB Jason Chaplin

“I love ritual so much. It’s why I go, it’s like my temple, that’s why I want to go to Lodge meetings.”

About two years ago, I saw something at a Masonic Lodge that I have never seen before: a Brother with Masonic symbols openly tattooed on his body. He was sitting at the bar before the meeting as I slid into the open seat nearby. As we shook hands, I noticed the familiar square and compass with the letter G tattooed on his ring finger. I quickly spotted the trowel on his index finger, then the Point Within a Circle on his thumb. I looked up. “Dude, you have to tell me why you have the Point Within a Circle on your thumb?” A long smile slowly formed on his face. “You are the first person to ask that,” he commented.

For the next hour, WB Jason Chaplin, PM of Mount Zion Lodge #311 in Troy, NY, shared the other Masonic symbols that were his permanent memorial to the Craft. That was the moment that our friendship began, two seekers of Light exchanging our knowledge and passion for Freemasonry.

Jason Chaplin

WB Jason Chaplin

Bro. Chaplin was raised in 2012. Like most newly raised Masons, the third degree was a profound experience. “From the second I was raised, I literally went through a powerful spiritual transformation that day, like when watching my daughter was born. I felt like I was raised from the dead and became a different person that night. I knew this was going to be me for life,” Bro. Chaplin stated. Only a few meetings passed that year before he got his first Masonic tattoo. “The Point Within a Circle is one of my favorite symbols in Masonry. To me, one of the things that I can look at that instantly puts me in check That’s why I got the second one on my thumb. I’m right-handed and I see that on my hand more than 50 times a day.”

A few years later, he added the Square and Compass on his right ring finger, the Trowel on his right index finger, along with the letters F. & A. M. over the 47th Problem of Euclid. While his hands and forearm are decorated with some of the most recognizable symbols of Freemasonry, for WB Chaplin, the Craft is a very personal part of his life. “I love ritual so much. It’s why I go, it’s like my temple and that’s why I want to go to Lodge meetings. I don’t think a lot of brothers realize what ritual means literally and symbolically.”

Why a tattoo instead of a ring?

Most newly raised Brothers look forward to the moment they shop or wear a Master Mason ring after their 3rd Degree. For a growing number of younger Freemasons, like WB Chaplin, a tattoo is what they seek instead of jewelry. “I got my first Masonic ring earlier this year. It was from a family member. I have worn it a few times to Lodge out of respect for the Brother who passed away 60 years ago. I’m not a huge jewelry guy, that’s what led me to the tattoo. And that was my thought process to selecting my artwork so that only other Masons would recognize it. I still try to stick to symbols that most mainstream people wouldn’t recognize, they are so wrapped into everyday life, they don’t notice it.”

Working Tools Set

Ironically, only a few Masons comment on WB Chaplin’s tattoos. A majority of his inquires come from children who visit his office. WB Chaplin works for St. Paul’s Center, a community-based, not for profit corporation that provides emergency shelter to mothers and their children without a place to call home in Rensselaer County. He has a version of the Working Tools kit on his desk. While he consults the women on their housing situation, the kids will play with the toy set. “They love to pick that stuff up because of the mini tools, they play with them. I have had a ton of those kids ask why I have those tattoos on my hands.”

What’s next?

Over the years, WB Chaplin has added a Point Within a Circle tattoo to complete other artwork on his right bicep. He added the Memento Mori coin to his left calf after seeing the image on several esoteric websites. “I’m about to be 40,” WB Chaplin shared. “I’m working on a Hiram Abiff piece from the three paintings in the Livingston Memorial Library. I saw them when I visited Grand Lodge last summer and I took the inspiration from that art. That was one of the coolest depictions of Hiram Abiff I have ever seen!” Inspiration comes from all places, WB Chaplin frequently reads the work of great Masonic thinkers like Albert Pike and Manly P. Hall. “I just filled out my petition to join the Scottish Rite. Who knows, once I dive into that degree work I could end up with those symbols — I have space to fill!”