Our word "Rite" comes directly from the Latin, and perhaps even goes back to the Sanskrit "riti", meaning a stream or a running way, or "ri" denoting to flow. Hence Masons use it in the context of "to follow a fixed trend or channel, a customary way of doing things." Webster's dictionary, among other definitions of 'rite", gives the following:
"The act of performing divine or solemn services as established by law, precept or example; a format act or series of acts of religion or other solemn duty; a solemn observance; as, the rites of Freemasonry."
The word "ritual" likewise comes from the same root. The ritual being the customary way in which history and tradition are portrayed and their lessons taught; which of course, goes back to the primary meaning of the word. It is equivalent in meaning to the word "ceremony".
The lessons of Freemasonry are taught in certain Rites in America: The Symbolic Rite, the Capitular Rite, the Cryptic Rite, and the Chivalric Rite. To this group of Degrees is applied the general term, York Rite. In addition, there is another series of Degrees termed the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. These descriptive terms applied to the word "rite", indicates the particular or peculiar manner or custom of ceremony.
The word "cryptic", of course, comes directly from the Latin "cryptic' which means a vault, and ultimately stems from the Greek word signifying "hidden" or "to hide", and relates to that which is hidden or secret. For instance, a cryptonym is a secret name, a name by which a person is known only to the initiated, and a cryptogram is a writing in either cipher or a secret arrangement of letters and words, both of which have a special appeal to Freemasons.
In the early days of the development of man's religious beliefs, caves or vaults were deemed to be sacred, and cave temples were among the original tabernacles, either natural or constructed to resemble caverns. The ceremonies of the ancient mysteries were performed underground, or, if above ground, in temples fashioned to resemble subterranean edifices.
- From the Cryptic Monitor, Grand Council of Indiana