And the winner of the DDGM Grail Quest Geocache Challenge is...
Brother Jeff Shellenberger of Schoharie Valley Lodge #491 with a total of 21 coins! Congratulations Brother Jeff!!
According to psychologist Carl Jung, an archetypal journey known as “The grail quest” is the search for human perfection. It is what Masonry is all about; the search for our own perfection through the application of our ritual and symbolism in our personal lives! Since many of the allegories of this pertain specifically to the third degree I will not expound on it any further here, as this journey is open to all Brothers. Suffice it to say that this challenge may help you to “perfect” your knowledge of our ritual a little better.
Geocaching is a real-world, indoor/outdoor treasure hunting game using maps & compass or GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. This challenge replaces maps & compasses with the mystique of Masonic symbolism and knowledge.
I will be placing 8 geocache containers in the active lodges of our district between now and my last official visit at Cobleskill on November 15th. Since 3 of our lodges status is questionable at the time of my creating this event I have decided to exclude them to simplify the set up. The container is a small box with a 3 digit combination padlock. It looks like this:
How to Play
The challenge coins included in these packages have a unique serial number which you will use to get your clues. Once I have finished my official visits I will activate the game and you can go to our District Website at https://osdmasons.org and look for the article titled “DDGM Grail Quest Geocache Challenge” which is an electronic version of these instructions. Here you will find a link to a web page for the game. Click on it and enter your contact information and coin number in the appropriate spaces. You will be taken to a page that has a unique clue to the location of one of the caches, and three riddles based on our EA degree that will give you the combination to unlock it.
This information, however, is in code. To decipher the code you will need to use the words on the back of the challenge coin (side with the Grail on it) to discover the key to the cypher.
The cypher itself is a standard masonic one that has been in use for a very long time. Here is the basic form of the Freemason’s Cypher:
From this basic form we add a key to make it more secure. If, for example, the key was “MASON”, you would put an M where the A is, and A where the B is, an S where the C is, an O where the D is, and an N where the E is. Once the key is filled in you put in the rest of the unused letters of the alphabet into the cypher, remembering to leave out the ones used in the key (no duplicates allowed!) So since there is an A in MASON you would start by putting a B in the next spot (where the F is), then a C in the G location, a D in the H spot, and so on until all 26 locations are filled. The resulting keyed cypher would look like this:
Using the keyed cypher, the word CODEX would look like mgoqv instead of edgiv as it would using this basic cypher, and would decode into GDHIX without the key. A Key can also be a complex word or phrase and may have duplicate letters. In this case, each letter is only used once, and any repeats are ignored. An example of this could be CONSTITUTION. Examine the image of the cypher keyed with this word to understand how it works.
I suggest getting a little notebook and make your own “Grail Diary”. This suggests that it might be beneficial to find the treasure boxes while you are alone, so as to not disclose its hiding place to others, because you may find that you did not figure out the clue correctly and have the wrong combination! Knowledge of our ritual and symbolism will help you figure out where to find the cache and how to open the box to get the prize within.
The coins inside the caches will be in a plastic envelope. I suggest that you replace this with a couple of quarters taped together or one of the golden dollar coins so that the box will appear to still have a prize in it! The challenge coin can then be taken by the first Brother who finds it, and he can use it to enter again for a new cache location. So if you find an empty (or replacement filled) cache it means you were beaten to that treasure and the only way to continue playing is to get another coin at another of my official visits! No cache location will point to itself. Your entry on the district website will email me your contact info and coin number. This is so that I have your current contact information and also so that I will know when all the caches have been found and can end the game. In the end, the Brother with the most challenge coins wins the prize. Note that for every one of my official visits you attend, you can get another coin so you don’t necessarily have to find the caches to win, but it could definitely help and be fun too! In the event of a tie, I will have an additional challenge ready and the first one to figure it out wins. What’s the prize, you say? I will pay the winners home lodge dues for the year – plus, he will receive a deluxe edition of Dan Brown’s classic “The Da Vinci Code.”
For an added bonus, take selfies of yourself on your quest. I will be submitting an article about this challenge to Empire State Mason and I will include as many pictures as they allow, so make it a good one!
So why am I doing this? To try to get the Brothers to visit all the active lodges in our district, familiarize them with our District website, to collect their current contact information, to get them to explore our ritual, and to provide an exciting challenge worthy of a Brothers time and effort. I hope that you will participate in this adventure and go on my Grail Quest. Good Luck and happy hunting!
R.·.W.·. Bro. Theodore C. Volkert
District Deputy Grand Master,
Otsego-Schoharie Masonic District