In ancient times, members of craft guilds were forbidden to travel and practice their craft beyond the borders of the manor in which they lived. They were, for practical puposes, indentured under the Lord, Duke or Baron who was their overlord.
Masons, however, were exempt from this restriction because the numbers of skilled craftsmen necessary to build a great cathedral or temple, far exceeded those who lived in any one manor. Masons were free to travel and work anywhere of their own choosing. Thus, they were referred to as “free masons”, or “freemasons”.
This freedom to travel to foreign lands made a system of recognition necessary, so that impostors could not pass themselves off as a “master” to obtain higher wages than deserved. This recognition system gave rise to the secrecy commonly associated with Masons.