What is the Ancient Egyptian Order of Sciots (A.E.O.S.)?

The Ancient Egyptian Order of Sciots is a little-known fraternity comprised entirely of Master Masons in good standing, similar to the Grotto and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. It has local units called “Pyramids” in California, New Jersey, and Illinois.

The Order was established first in 1905, when a number of Masons met in the Mission Masonic Temple, in the City of San Francisco, for the purpose of forming a social club, where Masons could get together on an equal footing, free from the restraint of the Lodge room, yet organized for the purpose of furthering Masonic teachings and applying, in a practical way, in everyday business affairs, the teachings of the Fraternity.

The idea was an instant success.  It was recognized that such an organization filled a long-felt want because it brought the Brethren into close contact in their daily lives;  fostering the true spirit of fraternity;  caused men to forget their worries, troubles, and cares of life;  made them look upon the brighter side of things;  and gave them new hope and joy.

In 1910, the group decided upon a name, adopting the Ancient Egyptian Order of Sciots, established a ritual, and designated their headgear to be the fez, similar to the Shrine and the Grotto.

The Order’s ritual is based upon events that supposedly occurred on the “Isle of Scio,” near present-day Syria in 1124BC. The brotherly love and support that the Sciots rendered to one another is said to have impressed the Pharaoh of Egypt so much that he invited the Sciots to his royal palace “for feasting and merry-making every third moon.”

To commemorate this, the order offers one degree designated as the “League of Neighbors.” Candidates for membership in the Order also promise to attend their Blue Lodge once a month.

The Order is comprised of a few local units, each ruled by a “Toparch.” The governing body is called the “Supreme Pyramid” headed by a “Pharaoh”  and meets semi-annually. The primary charity of the Order is to raise funds for disadvantaged children.

Member’s Fez

Most Sciots fezzes contain a number within the pyramid to designate the local body from which it hails. Generally, those numbers refer to chapters (Pyramids) in California, as that is where Sciots is the strongest. However, Sciotry does exist in other states, including Illinois and New Jersey. To designate this, fezzes add a state’s abbreviation under the Pyramid number.

This fez comes from New Jersey Pyramid No. 1, which is has been merged into New Jersey Pyramid No. 3. It is of the usual design, white on blue, with white tassel. This a fairly new fez, manufactured by D. Turin Company of Florida.

This fez comes from San Diego Pyramid No. 32. It is of the simple design seen for most Sciots fezzes, being white on blue, with a white tassel, and some rhinestone ornamentation. In Sciots, your fez is upgraded with rhinestones for having recommended two new members. This piece is fairly recent, probably dating from the 1960’s or after.

These two fezzes represent earlier versions of the members fez. They retain the white on blue motif, with white tassels. The shapes are slightly varied, with one being more squat and square with an embroidered logo, while the other is more conical (like modern fezzes), with a patch logo. Both fezzes come from San Jose Pyramid No. 9, in California, and are estimated to be pre-1950’s.

The Sciots are a bit unusual in that they have allowed so many variations to their fez over the years, especially for parade or performance units. This fez hails from Pyramid No. 3 (today of New Jersey, but likely pre-dating that body). It retains the normal color of a Sciots member fez – deep blue. But, instead of the standard white emblem and tassel, both are done in gold thread. Additionally, the fez features a hard or lyre, also done in gold colored thread. This likely denotes that the owner played as part of an official band for Pyramid No. 3. The fez is also slightly shorter than a standard fez, leading us to believe that it could be from the 1930’s or 1940’s.

The Libyan Guard

This fez is extremely rare, being only the second known in a museum. It comes from the elite parade / marching group of the Sciots, known as the Libyan Guard. The fez is extremely ornate and probably dates from prior to the 1930’s. The character in the middle, representing the Sciots emblem, is entirely three dimensional and covered in velvet, outlined in bullion thread. The number 9 appears along with the name San Jose, letting us know that it comes from San Jose Pyramid No. 9. The tassel is yellow and is about neck length. This piece is in incredible shape for its age and is an extremely interesting addition to the collection.

Past Toparchs

Early examples of Sciots fezzes are hard to come by, as the group was so small, and fezzes are fragile pieces to begin with. The fez bears the words “19 Toparch 22.” This indicates that it is a Past Toparchs fez, probably belonging to whomever held that office in 1922. For being over 90 years old, this fez is in fabulous condition and is a jewel amongst the collection. It comes from Sacramento Pyramid No. 3, which was formed on November 27, 1905. The Pyramid appears to have been very active in the community and supported such projects as maritime scouting for boys and a local camping facility, which they adopted in 1921. According to newspaper accounts from the day, Bro. William L. Day was the Toparch of Pyramid No. 3 in 1922. It is therefore presumed that this fez belonged to him.

Bridging the gap between the early 20’s Past Toparch’s fez and the more modern models, we have this fez from Pyramid No. 57. The type on the fez designates that the wearer served as Toparch in 1950. Comparing it the earlier design, it retains the short height and use of red plastic holders for the rhinestones (althought the plastic material itself appears to be slightly different.) The tassel remains shorter than on new fezzes and is of the traditional red color. Pyramid No. 57 met in Culver City, CA, but now appears to be extinct.

This fez would have been owned by someone who served as president of the local body, called a Pyramid. He was been titled “Toparch” while the national president of the Sciots is known as a “Pharaoh.” Normally, a Past Toparch’s tassel is red, however, the tassel is yellow on this fez, indicating the owner had been appointed to an office on a national level. The tassel holder is very unique, being specific to the group. As always, the history of the hat is important as well. A quick look at the Pyramid’s website finds that Barry A. Messer served as Toparch of the Pyramid in 2000, so it is presumed this fez, and the basic members fez, belonged to him.

Other Fezzes

This fez represents a rare find for the collection. Sciots fezzes are usually blue, with either white, red, or yellow tassels. As you can see, this fez is white with blue stitching, topped off with a white tassel. While the fez does have some condition issues – namely some staining on the back near the brim, along with a dingy tassel – it is in pretty good condition. Based upon the construction and size of the piece, we estimate it to be from the 20’s or 30’s.

As the piece shows, the owner was from Pyramid No. 40. There is very little available information on this Pyramid, as it is long since out of business. However, the piece did contain an extra clue. Attached to the side of the hat was a rare Past Toparch’s jewel. This item would have been given to a man who served as Toparch (or President) of the local group, leading us to believe that this may be an early Past Toparch’s fez. Being made of 14k gold, with an inset ruby, the jewel is in fine shape. On the jewel we find the words “Fullerton No. 40.” As Sciots was primarily based in California, this leads us to believe that Pyramid No. 40 was based in Fullerton, CA. Thanks go out to the parents of the Curator who purchased this item at auction for the collection.

Every now and then you come across a weird fez that you just have to own. For us, this fez fell into that category. It was purchased online at a virtual flea market. While it doesn’t specifically state that it comes from the Sciots organization, the logo, number, and indicated location lead us to believe that it is directly related. Later research shows that the Pooh-Baahs were a unit of the Sciots Pyramid in Fresno, California with a focus on merry making. The fez is very unusually colored for the Sciots, being purple. The amount of rhinestone embellishment is also rarely seen. But, most importantly (and hilariously) the lettering on the fez says “Poo-h-Bah.” Obviously, the Sciots of years past had a sense of humor.

While most people think the term Pooh Bah originates with Fred Flintstone, it is far older. The phrase first appeared in the 1885 Gilbert and Sullivan musical “The Mikado.” Keeping construction in mind, this fez most likely dates between the 1930’s and 1950’s. Based on newspaper accounts, the Poo-h-Bah’s were probably a merry-making unit within their Sciot Pyramid.

Similar in form and function to the aforementioned Poo-h-bahs, we have the Nobwahs! The Nobwahs were a unit within Sacramento Pyramid No. 3. Newspaper research shows the group winning competitions for “auditorium stunts.” Many account list the Nobwahs as the “fun making” group within the local body; this included a band, stunts, and likely a bit of light hazing for new members.

The fez is in great shape, with brilliant coloring and tassel. In reviewing the construction, and extent research records, the fez probably dates from the late 1930’s to early 1950’s.