The online version of the Oxford Dictionary defines ‘ritual’ as being:


  • Religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order
  • Prescribed order for performing a ritual ceremony, especially one characteristic of a particular religion or Church
  • Series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone


  • Relating to or done as a religious or solemn rite
  • (Of an action) arising from convention or habit

Now I have never made a secret of the fact that I am a Freemason, and as such I regularly take part in Masonic rituals. On Monday I am attending a meeting of the London Lodge of which I am a member, and have a minor part to play in the ritual of Installing a new Worshipful Master as head of that Lodge. I have ‘volunteered’ to deliver what is know as ‘The Address to the Brethren’, which is the very last piece of the ritual of Installation. The problem is that despite all my efforts, I cannot seem to be able to learn it!

I must explain that I am originally – and still remain – a Hertfordshire Mason. In Hertfordshire the ‘Address’ is always delivered by a senior Grand Officer (e.g. the Provincial Grand Master, his Assistant, or one of his Deputies) and as I do not occupy one of those important offices, I would not be expected to know it. In London things are done differently, and the ‘Address’ is usually delivered by someone who is a Past Master and relatively senior within a Lodge.

At present I know the opening part of the ritual … and I know the end. It is the bit in the middle that I seem to be having trouble with … and however much I try, I just cannot get the words to ‘stick’. The ritual was written in the early part of the nineteenth century, and contains some long sentences with several clauses. This makes it difficult to learn, but I know that if I could get the rhythm of the words right, the rest will follow.

I intend to spend as much of today (and probably tomorrow as well) trying to learn this piece of ritual. In theory I could just read it out … but I am now determined to learn it. It has become a mountain that I need to climb, if only for my own satisfaction!


16 Comments on “Ritual”

  1. Sometimes the mountains we choose are the most satisfying once climbed.

  2. Ross Mac,

    I know what you mean. There is a wonderful feeling of achievement when you conquer a problem. At the moment – however – I am at the hot, sweaty, 'Why am I bothering to even try this?' stage of the process.

    I will get there … but it might take me longer than I hoped that it would!

    All the best,


  3. Texas Jack says:

    Good luck Bob! Maybe you could ask for a little Divine Intervention to help your memorizing skills.Regardless,I´m sure all will be well on the day!

  4. Have you tried sing the words to a simple tune you may know. I sometimes did that with my students and it helped some.

  5. I always find recording it and playing it back repeatedly works better than just reading it.

  6. Texas Jack,

    I am praying for help … but not relying on it!

    I am sure that you are right, and that it will turn out all right on the day,

    All the best,


  7. Brigadier Dundas,

    It is an idea that I might well try … if I can think of a suitable tune.

    All the best,


  8. Legatus Hedlius,

    That is one of the ways I am currently trying to learn the words of the ritual … currently without a lot of success.

    I will, however, keep trying as it is gradually beginning to 'stick'.

    All the best,


  9. As an actor who has been in over 230 plays during my career I will offer a couple of hints.

    First, outline your part in the ritual . . . not the words; but the “thoughts” . . . what happens next sort of thing.

    I will semi-echo Brigadier Dundas' suggestion EXCEPT that I will not suggest singing it to a tune.

    Instead sort of freely sing it in a couple of different styles (ala opera is my favorite). Switch styles each time you do it (you do not want to “lock in” a style). Also do not worry about how it sounds.

    The purpose in this is to give your mind time to “remember” words while you are singing more slowly than speaking. And while it will seem silly to you (audiences are not advised), it does help.

    And remember that outline. Go over that several times. What section follows what . . . so what is next.

    Also remember that very few hearing it know it by heart either . . . and they won't know if you make a mistake unless your actions make that clear to them.

    If you should change a word, ignore the fact . . . FORGET IT . . . because if you think about it, you won't be concentrating on what comes next and will be more likely to make further errors. Just keep going (remember that outline).

    Practice the above as you prepare. Think about any errors AFTER you've gone through the piece; not during it.

    I hope that these thoughts help, Bob.

    — Jeff

  10. Bluebear Jeff (Jeff),

    Your advice is extremely helpful, and I will certainly try out the technique you suggest.

    What surprises me about this piece of ritual is that it is much shorter than other pieces I have had no trouble learning. I suspect that the reason is to do with the lack of rhythm to the language and the fact that the subject of one sentence does not seem to naturally flow into the next. If I could get the structure or skeleton of the text fixed in my mind, I know that the rest will follow.

    Thanks again for your advice.

    All the best,


  11. I still have my little blue book but haven't done any Masonic stuff for over ten years!

  12. Irishhighlander,

    This particular bit of ritual has left me feeling that I'd rather not have to learn any more in the near future. My wife read through it, and commented that it was one of the most appalling bits of text she had ever seen.

    Still I am finally getting to the stage where I almost know it … so the situation is a bit better than it was at this time yesterday.

    All the best,


  13. guy says:

    I definitely feel for you Bob. A couple of years ago I was the Acting Provincial JW here and on about 10 occasions I had to go along to various lodges and represent the PGM. So it was me doing that damn address to the brethren. It just does not flow and it is a complete tongue twister.

    On about 8 occasions I managed it (or more or less)but at one meeting in front of about 100 people I made a complete and utter Horlicks of it. Hugely embarrassing. The lodge were v forgiving and laughed it off but the memory of that night still makes me cringe.

    Usually when anyone does anything in my lodge either myself as secretary or the DC will prompt if required – no one else please!. Usually I find just one word helps set you off again. So my tip is just don't stop and if in doubt just carry on with your version and if any of the London lot complain just say its Hertfordshire ritual.


  14. Guy,

    As PProvJW you must be the highest ranking wargaming Mason I have yet to come across. Funnily enough I did a recent count up of all the Masonic wargamers that I know, and we would certainly have enough in the UK to be able to hold a Lodge if such a thing were possible.

    It was good to hear that I am not the only person who finds this particular piece of ritual difficult to get my head – and tongue – around!

    In the end I did it as well as I could. I wrote a few key 'prompt' words on a bit of card that I held in my palm … and that did the trick until I got to the very end and said my Mother Lodge number (which is 2732) instead of my London Lodge number (which is 3722). It gave everyone a good laugh and afterwards the Visiting Officer was very complimentary about the way I had delivered the address.

    This probably means that I will end up having to do it again in the future!



  15. guy says:

    V pleased to hear it went well. Yes you will almost certainly be asked to do it again!

    We're not robots and most of us just do masonry for a bit of fun. There are some fabulous ritualists but it's not the be all and end all and the vast majority of us struggle through the little blue book as best we can. A couple of years ago we had a chap go through the chair who had difficulty remembering even a couple of lines but with support he did it and in fact he made a wonderful WM. It was a real achievement for him and our lodge was better for it.


  16. Guy,

    I know exactly what you mean about the ritual. I have know one ritualist who was word-perfect … and who delivered the ritual with about as much meaning as a pre-recorded announcement. I have known others who really struggled to learn anything, but whose ritual encapsulated the intended meaning even if it did not use all the right words.

    As you say, we do it for fun and not as a way to punish ourselves. As long as the meaning is there and delivery is sincere, we cannot expect more.

    What I find interesting is the way in which people seem to grow in confidence as they move up through the offices. One member of my Mother Lodge was a very quiet and shy person when he joined … and now he has been through the Chair twice and has held active office in Royal Arch. His self-confidence has grown so much over the years that it is difficult to remember him as he was. If being a Mason has done nothing else for him, it has given him the gift of knowing that he can achieve anything if he wants to … and the rest of us have benefited as well by having such a great bloke as a 'brother'!

    All the best,


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