District Table Lodge
Presented by Adonai Lodge #718
Please join us, Brethren and friends, for the second annual District Table Lodge to be held on May 16th, 2020 at Adonai Lodge #718,
48 Main Street, Highland NY.
Seating is limited.
Tickets are $40 and include food, drink, fellowship, and a lot of fun!!. Get your tickets at Adonai Lodge (2nd and 4th Mondays) or purchase online via the link below! If you have never attended a table lodge, you are in for quite a treat. See you there!
SEATING IS LIMITED
GET YOUR TICKET NOW
Essentially, a table Lodge is a Masonic banquet with toasts, and yet it is much more than that. It is a special Lodge ceremony in itself, very ancient, with a ritual, formalities, and a special terminology, which is of considerable interest. It was born from the idea of the feast, and the desire to promote a greater degree of fellowship and kinship in Masonry. Both the affection of friends and the love for the fraternity flourished within its walls. Its meetings were more like a reunion than a regular Lodge meeting, and it became a center of relaxation, celebration, and inspiration in Freemasonry.
The history of Table Lodges can be traced back over two hundred and fifty years in English and French Masonry, even long before the records of organized masonry. The oldest feasts of Masonic origin that are on record, were the feasts upon being entered and being passed to a fellow of the craft. In fact, the Premier Grand Lodge of the World, the Grand Lodge of England, was originally organized in the Goose and Gridiron Alehouse at London on St. John the Baptist’s Festival day on June 24, 1717 in order “to revive the quarterly communication and hold the Annual Feast.” This was a means for the members of the four London lodges to come together socially for the enjoyment of a “Grand Feast.” The first few Grand Festivals were held in taverns, but soon moved to the hall of one of the great livery companies until the first Freemasons’ Hall was completed in 1776.
The individual lodges, however, met in private rooms in taverns or coffeehouses, the community social and intellectual centers of activity in the 18th century. During the earlier operative period in the days of the trade guilds and the livery companies of the 15th century, ale-drinking, dinner and feasts were an important part of each operative Lodge meeting. With the decline of the operative era during the Reformation, slowly the Lodges evolved into social organizations, which began to admit nobility, gentry, and merchants. Gradually, the speculative era of Freemasonry emerged. The majority of Freemasons’ early meetings were held at eating-houses or wine merchants’ premises. The tavern preferred was one whose landlord and waiters were initiates of the Order. The landlord of the tavern supplied the mugs from which the Brethren drank their ale, while the Lodge supplied glasses for wine.
The base, or sole, of these drinking vessels had an extraordinary thickness (several inches of solid glass), which was essential to the vogue of “firing” while drinking a toast. The so- called “fire routine” was a time-immemorial practice of great merriment performed at Masonic festivals. It developed into a definite sequence of movements during toasting and drinking, performed jointly by the Brethren, with much pomp, delightful uniformity and perfect timing. It ended with a thunderous bang as the empty goblets were simultaneously banged down on the table.
Similar ceremonies quickly found their way into American Masonry, and Masonic history informs us that during the American Revolution Washington regularly attended these feasts during the time he was leading the Continental Army. In our colonial days, the Table Lodge was Freemasonry’s greatest asset. It buoyed up the spirit of the Brethren when the spirit of the colonists was low.
The practice was derived from a discharge of musketry during the celebration of an important toast. For example, at a public performance of Preston Guild, England, in 1582, as the mayor and his procession halted at the principle Bars (gates) and the Market Place, at each halt a barrel of strong, heady ale was broached, and a toast to the health of the King, the Queen, and the Nobility and Gentry was drunk, each toast being attended with a volley of a shot from the musketeers attending (hence, the term “obligatory health” for “obligatory toast”).
Our French Brethren, in the early 1700’s, also succumbed to this joyful and jubilant practice. In France it seems to have originated in the Army. Those Brethren in the Infantry used the term “musket” for a “glass,” and the Artillery used the term “cannon” for “glass.” French Freemasons prescribed a very formal system of rules for what they call a Loge de Table, or Table Lodge. The room in which the banquet took place was tyled just as a lodge room today would be tyled for a meeting. Table Lodges were always held in the Apprentice’s Degree (Latin craft terminology), and none but Freemasons were permitted to be present. Even the waiters for the banquet had to be members of the first degree. Particular care was taken to see that the observance was conducted in the proper spirit of the occasion, with enthusiasm and military precision, yet with dignity and decorum.The table was in the form of a horseshoe or elongated semicircle.
The master sat at the head of the table, the Senior Warden at the northwest extremity, and the Junior Warden at the southwest. Symbolically, the circle represented a full year, or the complete revolution of the earth around the sun, so the semicircle represented half that revolution, or a period of six months. Six months is the time interval between the two solstices of summer and winter, or the two great festival days of the Fraternity: St. John the Baptist’s Festival on June 24th and St. John the Evangelist’s Festival on December 27th. The summer and winter solstice feast days are, of course, older than Christianity, and still are the most important time of the year for Table Lodges, which were always held on those two days. These are the only true traditional holidays of Ancient Craft Masonry, the feast days of the Holy Saints John, the Saints to whom all Lodges are now dedicated.
Among Masonic lodges who have revived the tradition, Table Lodges are often held to commemorate the conferral of awards, end-of-year celebrations or other special purposes; hence, patriotic and fraternal decorations are encouraged and are entirely appropriate.
Other table arrangements are permissible and may be necessary to accommodate the facilities. Here, too, it is possible (and even desirable) to make some modifications to adapt this program to the lodge situation and the wishes of the individuals in charge of the program. There are many permissible variations of the Table Lodge.
The Table Lodge was formally opened with an invocation to the Grand Architect of the Universe and closed with a song. During the banquet, seven toasts were given, each followed by a response or a song. These toasts were called Santes d’obligation, or obligatory (compulsory) toasts. There were seven such toasts in the French ceremony, toasts similar to those made by the ancients in their banquets in honor of the seven known celestial spheres: The Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, and the seven days of the week which are named after them.
The Table Lodge is a heritage of our past. It has been stated that, “the Table Lodge is the summary of Masonic Doctrine.” It prescribed reverence for divinity and moral law. It strengthened the devotion that Masons held for Lodge and Country. It increased the unity and fellowship for the craft.
Tonight we will participate in the Table Lodge “Ceremony of the Seven Toasts.” We will renew our allegiance as Masons to the cause of freedom and love of Country, dedication and devotion to our Lodge, and respect and toleration for our fellow man. Join me, Brethren and friends, in a traditional ceremony that will add a much-needed element of grace, civility, and conviviality to the work, life, and mission of our beloved Gentle Craft, a ceremony that could help with the regeneration, renewal and survival of our fraternity. Let us return to the Festive Board that was so important to our Brethren of the past.
Even though the feast may have been limited during those times, say, to bread, cheese, and wine, the fervor was there.
The first known meeting place of a Pennsylvania lodge was at the Tun Tavern. The first lodge in Boston was constituted at an inn at the Sign of the Bunch of Grapes, on King Street. Table Lodges were presided over by a “Toast Master” and offered a combination of exuberance and good fellowship with high-minded discussions of the important topics of the day. The instruction enlightened the mind, touched the heart, and engaged the will of the men.
The Table Lodge was so common in the early 18th century that it may be presumed that most meetings were of that character. The Lodge Feast was close to the very heart of the Lodge. The Feast loomed so large in the life of the Lodge that, in many of them, the members were seated at the table when the Lodge opened and remained at the table throughout the entire communication, even when the degrees were conferred. The Lodge simply met for dinner and as they sat around the table, eating and drinking, the degree was conferred. The lectures were divided into sections, between each of which a formal toast would be drunk, often accompanied by a song. It is not surprising that lodge minutes frequently stated that, “the lodge was closed with feelings of true harmony and brotherhood.”
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 ordinary name. The vocabulary of the Table Lodge came from French Masonic banquets with the French military terminology translated into English.