What Is the Freemason Secret Handshake?

The secret handshakes of the Freemasons include the Boaz, the Shibboleth, the Jachin, the Tubalcain and the Ma-Ha-Bone. Each one is associated with a certain degree, or level of attainment, in Freemasonry. The handshakes are primarily used in Temple meetings but most are subtle enough that Masons in other venues can recognize other members by the position of the fingers and/or thumbs.

The Boaz is the handshake of an entered apprentice. When gripped, the thumbs are pressed against the top of the first knuckle in both participants. The handshake is taught to the apprentice once he has gone through the entrance ritual.

The next level of achievement is the Fellow Craft Degree, or Second Degree in some lodges. After attainment, the member is taught the Shibboleth, the pass grip. The handshake looks ordinary except that the thumbs are placed between the first and second knuckle joints of both parties. The Jachin handshake, known as a real grip, is also taught. This one is also subtle, with the thumbs pressed firmly on top of the second knuckles of both members.

The next level is the Master Mason Degree, or Third Degree in some lodges. Those who reach this level are taught the Tubalcain and the Ma-Ha-Bone. The Tubalcain is the pass grip. It looks like an ordinary handshake except the thumbs are placed, under pressure, across the space between the second and third knuckles of the member's hands.

The Ma-Ha-Bone, a real grip, is the most unusual and is sometimes referred to as the Lion's Paw. The thumbs are intertwined and the fingers are pressed against the underside of the wrist.