The Table Lodge guidelines that this history talks about have been modified by various lodges around the world over the years and while the premise is always the same the toasts and language are sometimes different. We hope this inspires all lodges to have a table lodge but please be sure and check with your governing body to ensure you are not violating any of the rules.
After the labors of the Lodge have been completed, Freemasons frequently meet at tables to enjoy a repast in common. In England and America, this repast is generally called a banquet, and the Lodge is said to be, during its continuance, at refreshment.
The Master, of course, presides, assisted by the Wardens, and it is considered most proper that no profanes should be present. But with these exceptions, there are no rules specially laid down for the government of Masonic banquets. It will be seen, by an inspection of the article Refreshment in this work, that during the eighteenth century, and even at the commencement of the nineteenth, refreshments in English Lodges were taken during the sessions of the Lodge and in the Lodge room, and then, of course, rigid rules were in existence for the government of the Fraternity, and for the regulation of the forms in which the refreshments should be partaken. But this system has long grown obsolete, and the Masonic banquets of the present day differ very little from those of other societies, except, perhaps, in a more Strict observance of the rules of order, and in the exclusion of all non-Masonic visitors.
But French Freemasons have prescribed a very formal system of rules for what they call a Loge de Table, or Table Lodge. The room in which the banquet takes place is as much protected by its isolation from observation as the Lodge-room itself. Table Lodges are always held in the Apprentice’s Degree, and none but Freemasons are permitted to be present. Even the attendants are taken from the class known as Serving Brethren, that is to say, waiters who have received the First Degree for the special purpose of entitling them to be present on such occasions.
The table is in the form of a horseshoe or elongated semicircle. The Master sits at the head, the Senior Warden at the northwest extremity, and the Junior Warden at the southwest. The Deacons or equivalent officers sit between the two Wardens. The Brethren are placed around the exterior margin of the table, facing each other; and the void space between the sides is occupied by the serving Brethren or attendants. It is probable that the form of the table was really adopted at first from motives of convenience. But M. Hermitte (Bulletin, Grand Orient, 1869, page 83) assigns for it a symbolism. He says that as the entire circle represents the year, or the complete revolution of the earth around the sun, the semicircle represents the half of that revolution, or a period of six months, and therefore refers to each the two solstitial points of summer and winter, or the two great festivals of the Order in June and December, when the most important Table Lodges are held.
The Table Lodge is formally opened with an invocation to the Grand Architect. During the banquet seven toasts are given. These are called Santes d’ Obligation, or obligatory toasts. They are drunk with certain ceremonies which are prescribed by the ritual, and from which no departure is permitted. These toasts are:
- The health of the Sovereign or Chief Magistrate of the State.
- Grand Master and the Supreme power of the Order, that is, the Grand Orient or the Grand Lodge.
- Master of the Lodge; this is offered by the Senior Warden.
- The two Wardens.
- Visiting Brethren.
- The other officers of the Lodge, and the new initiates or affiliates if there be any.
- All Freemasons wheresoever spread over the face of the globe.
Ragon (Tuileur General, page 17) refers these seven toasts of obligation to the seven libations made by the ancients in their banquets in honor of the seven planets, the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, and the seven days of the week which are named after them; and he assigns some striking reasons for the reference. But this symbolism, although very beautiful, is evidently very modern. The Table Lodge is then closed with the fraternal kiss, which is passed from the Master around the table, and with the usual forms.
One of the most curious things about these Table Lodges is the vocabulary used. The instant that the Lodge is opened, a change takes place in the names of things, and no person is permitted to call a plate a plate, or a knife a knife, or anything else by the appellation by which it is known in ordinary conversation. Such a custom formerly prevailed in England, if we may judge from a passage in Doctor Oliver’s Revelations of a Square (page 215), where an instance is given of its use in 1780, when the French vocabulary was employed. It would seem, from the same authority, that the custom was introduced into England from France by Captain George Smith, the author of the Use and Abuse of Freemasonry, who was initiated in a Continental Lodge.
Ceremony of the Seven Toasts
The format for each of the toasts will be the same. Although there are many other ways to do Toasts in various rituals, please follow the pattern given below for each toast this evening.
- The Master will stand and rap twice to call up the Wardens as each toast is announced. This applies to all toasts.
- The Wardens will then rise, the Senior Warden will rap twice, and then the Junior Warden will rap twice. The Master will then instruct the Wardens to see that all cannons are charged in the columns of the West and South.
- After their response, the Master will say: “Brothers, kindly be upstanding for the toast to.”………..” (When this statement is completed, all rise [except anyone being toasted].)
- The Master will then either propose the toast himself, or he will invite a brother to do so, after introducing the brother.
- The proposer will say: “Worshipful Master and brothers, “I give you ……..”
(If individuals are being toasted (the Master or visitors) they will take their seat when their toast is identified.)
All standing will raise their “Cannon” in front, shoulder high, with the arm extended comfortably. The glass is held in this position during the reading of the Toast and during the response by the Brethren.
- The proposer will then give the toast, ending with “Brethren, ….” followed by the response that is to be given.
- All present will then respond by repeating the last phrase as given by the proposer.
- The proposer will then say: “Brethren, The Good Fire, taking your time from me.”
- The procedure for “Good Fire” is:
- The proposer will recite the following at a smart pace, marking time with his Cannon (Firing Glass), in the air;
- All present follow the cadence set by the proposer, repeating, with the proposer, in unison:
On first command “Vivat”, move the glass to the left shoulder.
On second command “Vivat”, move the glass across the throat to the right shoulder.
On third command “Vivat”, move the glass back to the starting point, in front, completing a triangle.
Repeat this sequence with each set of three “Vivat’s” completing three triangles, ending with the glass in front and at arms length.
(“Vivat” is said while the glass is in motion)
- Proposer Only says: “Ready”
- On command “Ready”, bring the glass to your lips, ready to drink from it.
- Proposer Only says: “Derry-Doon”
- On the command “Derry-Doon”, the Brethren drink their wine,
then return their glass to arms length, eye level.
- When all have finished their drink and extended their arms, with the glass at eye level, the proposer will give the command“Fire!”
- On the command“Fire”, all, in unison, will strike their Cannons sharply on the Table.
In order to avoid breakage we recommend not getting TOO boisterous,
the glass is not a gavel!
- The proposer will then say “Together Brethren” for the battery of Three Times Three.
Clap! Clap! Clap!
Clap! Clap! Clap!
Clap! Clap! Clap!
- Still standing, the Brethren will sing the appropriate song for the Toast.
- The Master will seat the Brethren with one rap.
- If the Master wishes, he may ask some Brother to give a response to the toast. The Brother does this, speaking spontaneously about the subject of the toast. The response should be brief. The Brother DOES NOT PROPOSE ANOTHER TOAST!
- The next toast will then follow in sequence.
Vocabulary used during a Table Lodge