[This address instructing masons
on the proper way to deliver the rituals, after approval by the M.W.Grand
Master in 1991, was delivered by V.W.Bro. Peter Verrall. The address was
published in the February 1995 Transactions of Western
Australia Lodge of Research and was later posted in the website of Southern
California Research Lodge ( F & A.M) While acknowledging with grateful
thanks to Southern California Research Lodge for permitting us to post this
article in our website, we convey our thanks to
V.W.Bro. Peter Verrall, the author and the Western Australia Lodge of
Research, which first published the article. Ritual is the life blood of Masonry.
Slovenly recited ritual mars the atmosphere and creates a poor impression on
the candidate and is not conducive for the learning and understanding of the Masonic
teachings. Properly rendered ritual of any degree is a treat and it stimulates
the candidate to understand and then contemplate the teachings in the ritual and
further makes a lasting impression on his mind as well as those of the brethren
present. The author gives useful and appropriate instructions for proper
delivery of the rituals and we are posting the article with the firm belief
that it will benefit the readers and help them to be good ritualists...Webmaster]
THE DELIVERY OF THE RITUAL
We are told in the Charge after
Passing that ' The study of the liberal arts, which tends so effectively
to polish and adorn the mind, is earnestly recommended to your consideration' The Liberal Arts comprise
Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric and, on this occasion, I would like to talk
specifically about 'Rhetoric',
which is described by Mackay in his 'Encyclopedia of Masonry' as 'the art of embellishing language with
the ornaments of construction so as to
enable the speaker to persuade or affect his hearers'.
'Affect our hearers'--This is what we should try to do, Brethren,
when we deliver the Ritual. 'Affect those who listen’:-The men who
gave Speculative Freemasonry its present formal dress were very wise. They gave
us orderly ceremonies with a discipline that meets the needs of the brethren.
It is an effective way of impressing upon us the Tenets of Freemasonry, but the
teachings are not straightforward, like school lessons, for we are told that
Freemasonry is ' a peculiar system of
morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols'. Allegories are parables and as Speculative Freemasons,
we are expected to 'speculate' on these
parables, not according to today's meaning of forming opinions about
something without having definite knowledge or evidence, but more to
contemplate and consider, the meanings and essentials of Freemasonry.
The delivery of the Ritual is, in - my opinion, one of the most, if not the
most important part of the ceremony, for it is the catalyst of our knowledge of
Freemasonry, yet we receive little or no tuition in it except perhaps for
injunctions to adhere to the words themselves. Our Ritual is a fine work of
art, worthy of the Craft. It was not written overnight but is based on
development over a period of more than 600 years. It is written for speaking
and not reading. For many years it was passed from brother to brother by
word of mouth. It is the responsibility of those who speak it to understand and
to endeavour to interpret it. So often it is delivered without any
understanding or meaning and all the hours that the Brother has taken in
learning it are wasted. A Brother wrote 'one
of the proofs of the stature of the ritual is that it can still live even after a brother has done his
best to murder it'.
There is a great similarity between our Craft and the Theatre. 'Speculative'
Freemasonry ceremonies are based on the early stonemasons 'Operative' Lodges.
Likewise in the Theatre the 'stage
presentation' is generally based on 'real life' situations and draws attention
to one particular aspect of it - very often 'moral'. Freemasonry uses the
artisan mason's work as a parable and derives a lesson in the fundamentals of
Our ceremonies are equivalent to stage productions. Both have rehearsals,
a most essential ingredient; a script which in our case is the
ritual; a producer, our Director of Ceremonies; stage hands, our
Deacons; props the objects required on stage, our Symbols and Ornaments,
actors, our participating masons and an audience, our Brethren.
In any production, whether it be on
stage or in the Lodge Room, the essential ingredient is to get the message over
to those present. In our ceremonies, first and foremost, it is the candidate
who is the most important member of the audience. He should be hanging on every
word spoken and must be made to feel at all times secure in the warmth and
individual concern of the speaker.
The speaker must anticipate the
candidate's nervousness and help to allay it. So often a brother is more
concerned with memorizing and getting through his charge as soon as possible
that he forgets the effect he is having on both the candidate and the brethren.
To the brethren present, the charges should be a continuing and lively reminder
of the ritual and they should be given the impression of never having heard it
before or at least given a meaning, they had not previously realised.
How often, Brethren, have we sat up and listened when a charge has been
delivered in a different way with feeling and obvious understanding. The same
words, yes, but having a new meaning. We are not all budding Richard Burtons or
Laurence Olivers, but we have a duty as
masons to perform to our best ability.
There are two great dangers in delivering ritual. Firstly a
tendency to regard the ritual as an irksome routine, to be rattled through
parrot fashion with only one thought - to get it over. Or secondly, to
regard it as an opportunity for a full reign of histrionics. The first makes a farce of our
ritual and the second a melodrama.
Sincerity is the answer. A sincere performance is always more
effective. Remember that. each of us has
some point of strength, whether it be a deep or impressive voice, a quiet
persuasive manner, a modesty or a transparent honesty. Search for your own
strength and build on it. Try and project your own unique personality.
Like a good Scout 'be prepared'. Preparation is of prime importance.
Firstly read through your charge or duty many times and make sure that you
understand it. If you do not understand a word, look it up in the dictionary or
ask an experienced mason. Learn the charge carefully and exactly, referring
constantly back to the book. If you learn it incorrectly you will find it
almost impossible after a time to correct yourself. Learn it by sound rather
than sight. If possible get another Brother to hear you and mark your mistakes lightly in pencil in your copy so that you are
always aware of them. Some find learning easier than others but set your mind
to it. It is a good personal discipline.
There are different ways of memorizing. A tape recorder can be invaluable
where the ritual involves other Officers such as between the Master and
Wardens. Put the opposing words on the recorder, naturally leaving out any
secretive ones; a 'beetroot, beetroot' can suffice. Hold the pause button,
speak your part, then hear the reply before speaking again. This will allow you
to learn the responses by sound rather than sight.
If the Charge is long, learn it in sections. R.W. Bro Lionel Mears calls it
the Part/Whole method. Divide it into parts; learn part 1 to perfection, then
part 2 the same way before combining them as a whole. Follow with parts 3 and 4
in the same manner before joining them with parts I and 2. Treat the whole
charge in this form finally combining all parts together in the finished
Try and get peace and quiet for your learning. The car can be a marvellous
place for rehearsing because one can speak out aloud although passing drivers
may think you strange. Give yourself plenty of time; you cannot learn a charge
the night before giving it. Analyse the charge; find the climax and the
important message it is conveying. Charges tend to fall into different
a) Instructional which includes the Secrets, the Warrant and Bylaws
Charge and the Charge after Passing.
b) Educational such as The Lesser Lights, Working Tools and the 1st
c) Narrative like the Traditional History and the 2nd Tracing Board and
d) Inspirational charges such
as the NE Comer, Reasons for Preparation and the Charges after Initiation and
Attend every rehearsal you can and, if possible, go down to the Lodge Room
on your own or with a brother and run through the charge in the actual position
that you will be delivering it. Having learnt your charge you are now ready to
The main title of my address is 'the Delivery of the Ritual', but I would
like to subtitle it with the old maxim 'Stand up, Speak up and Shut up'.
The first necessity is of course to STAND UP
Seat yourself, if possible, close to your delivery position to avoid having
to move unnecessarily across the Lodge Room thus breaking the continuity of the
ceremony. Immediately prior to your time to deliver, take a few deep breaths
and try to relax.
Projection or how you should appear. Stand relaxed and comfortable. Do not slouch or stand stiff as a ramrod. Keep your feet a few inches apart with one foot fractionally ahead of the
other. Be well balanced with your body slightly forward so that if you were
shot you would fall forward rather than back. Do not rock or roll.
There is always a tendency to be very conscious of one's hands. The easiest
way is to let them hang loosely and relaxed at your side. Do not clench your
fists for this expresses tension which can be transmitted to the candidate.
Please do not place them in front of your apron or in your pockets, as I have seen
on several occasions. If you have them behind you, do not twiddle your thumbs.
It is most disconcerting for those sitting behind you. Do not fiddle with
objects, keys or money, the latter especially when the candidate has been
divested of all valuables. Look the
candidate straight in the eye, not at his feet or over his shoulder and
finally, if you are required to change your position during the charge, please
do not speak when moving.
2) Gestures must appear to be spontaneous
and must not look planned even though very careful planning is essential and a
lot of practice is required. They must relate to the words spoken at the time.
If you are going to gesture, it must be for a reason either towards or with
something. Do not talk with your hands. Gestures should only add
emphasis to your words and should not detract from the charge itself. All
gestures should be full and always finish where they started. If you are going
to gesture with objects like the Working Tools do not fiddle with them as this
can be very distracting. Finally please try and leave all your bad mannerisms
behind on your seat.
3) Facial Expression This is important as it visually conveys
your feelings directly to the candidate. There is always a tendency to be too
restrained, too rigid or too controlled. Feel free to show expression in your
face and at suitable times a faint smile can really give assurance.
The second maxim is to SPEAK UP, the most important of all three,
because if you cannot be heard all your efforts are in vain. There are 7
headings under this Section, Vocal Projection, Verbal Projection, Thought
Control, Pauses, Vocal Force, Voice Colour and Timing. It all sounds rather
overwhelming, but. I can assure that you will find in all cases, you already
actually practice them without necessarily being aware, that you do.
1) Vocal Projection means audibility, the ability to be heard.
Every Brother in the room has the right to hear you but not to be bellowed at.
Try and speak out rather than up. Greater volume is not necessarily easier to
hear. Good resonance is important with the voice cast upwards and outwards
rather than being mumbled into the figurative, or as in many cases these days
the actual, beard. There is no excuse for inaudibility and yet it is probably
one of the major faults in delivering ritual. It breeds boredom and frustration
in the Lodge Room and I am sure, accounts for a lot of the absences from our
2) Verbal Projection is not the same as vocal projection but
is the art of speaking clearly. A charge should flow with the minimum of
apparent effort as a succession of words with meaning. If you have an accent; do not worry. It may be
necessary to speak slower at the start of your charge to allow the Brethren to
become attuned to your voice.
Try and follow the rhythmic pattern of the ritual. In some cases there are a
series of short lines as in the reading of Ecclesiastes 'also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fear shall be in the way, and the almond tree
shall flourish and the grasshopper
shall be a burden and desire shall fail”.
Our ritual also has groups of two or three words with the same meaning also
providing a pattern. This is especially noticeable in the Obligations worthy. worshipful and warranted Lodge of Antient,
Free and Accepted Masons, lawfully constituted
and regularly assembled of my own free
will and accord, do hereby
and hereon sincerely and
solemnly promise and swear that I will always hele, conceal and never reveal any part
or. parts, point or points of the secrets
and mysteries of or belonging to Antient, Free and Accepted masons in
Pronounce every word but do not over enunciate. If you have difficulty
pronouncing a word, break it down into syllables but make sure that you put the
emphasis on the right parts.
3) Thought Control No;
not 'brainwashing', but 'interpretation'.
Speak by phrases and meaning and do not necessarily be controlled by
sentences or punctuation although these are good guide lines. Think of what you
are saying and what your feelings should be at the moment of utterance.
Take this example when the candidate is announced at the door by the
Whom have you there?—(with warmth & concern)
Mr. A.B., a poor candidate in a
state of darkness (with sympathy)
who has been well and worthily
recommended (with enthusiasm)
regularly proposed and approved in open Lodge (with
and now comes of his own free will and accord (with
properly prepared ( with seriousness)
humbly soliciting to be admitted (with
to the mysteries and privileges of
Antient Freemasonry (with pride)
4) Pauses These are most important and are a chance to lend
emphasis where required. Your first pause should be when you commence to speak.
Later you may like to place emphasis on certain important words such as in the
Charge in the NE Comer.
Indeed I shall immediately proceed to put your principles in some measure
to the test by calling upon you to exercise that virtue which may justly
be denominated the distinguishing character of a freemasons heart...... I mean..... Charity.
When answers are required, make sure that you pause sufficiently to allow
the Brother to respond.
Pause clearly without 'ums' or 'ahs' and do not pause before unimportant
There are two different types of pauses. One is when you have to take a
natural breath and the other is a dramatic or suspensory pause where
you do not necessarily take a breath.
Pauses can be of great help. They
i) give the candidate a chance to
absorb what he has been told.
ii) give you a chance to concentrate on your next few
iii) lend emphasis and meaning and
iv) give you time to catch your
You should take a breath regularly and few speakers actually take enough.
Keep your lungs full as it --
i) helps with your confidence,
ii) improves the quality and
resonance of your voice and
iii) allows you to hold your chest up
and improve your appearance.
Remember that pauses are not necessarily
5) Vocal Force or volume; the art of using loudness to
obtain effect of giving stress or emphasis to individual words or phrases. In
reverse softness can indicate restraint or quietness.
Vary the volume of your voice. You may need to start off with a higher
volume, not shouting, to combat background noises such as fans and, dare I
mention it, brethren's chatter and movement.
Drop your jaw and tongue, open your lips and let the sound pour out.
6) Voice Colour or voice modulation; a variation in resonance;
It is this which gives music to our speech. It is used naturally and
unconsciously in our normal everyday conversation but for some reason is
lacking in many ritual deliveries where monotone seems to become the normal
Raise your voice inflection for things that are high, cheerful and bright.
Let it fall for lowness, sadness and drabness.
Always keep the candidate in a state of anticipation by varying the rhythm
of your voice.
7) Timing Generally
follow your normal rate of speech.
Speak quickly enough to be interesting and slowly enough to be understood.
Change the pace according to the subject; slower for thoughtfulness,
deliberation and sadness and faster for joy, excitement and vigour.
Finally our third maxim to SHUT UP.
We always remember those awful moments when we had to shut up whilst
delivering the ritual because of a mind block or because we stumbled over
words. It happens to the best of ritualists and even the best actors in
the world are not free of it.
Be assured that all the brethren present want to see you doing well. They
should at all times assist you, but should do so mentally and certainly not
audibly. One brother only should prompt and preferably directly from the Ritual
Book unless the prompter is well versed.
The person prompting should be present at all rehearsals so that he is fully
aware how the charge is being presented by that Brother; where prompting may be
needed, what length of prompt is required and where stops may occur for
deliberate pauses. Nothing is more frustrating than when you wish to provide a
dramatic pause, you find that it is ruined by an inexperienced prompter coming
in at the wrong moment.
Prompt only if necessary, as in many cases a slight pause can be sufficient
for the speaker to remember the words or in some cases where brethren are able
to 'ad lib' before getting back on track. Sense of meaning and a dramatic flow
are more important than complete word accuracy.
Prompt with the minimum of words but with correct ones that have meaning.
If you require a prompt, stand and wait for it without turning. If your
prompter is on the ball it will hardly be noticed that you have taken a prompt
and can appear very easily as though it was a pause. On no account say 'thank
you.' It is the nominated Brother's duty to help you.
The next and most important time of shutting up is when the brethren
themselves should be quiet. This should occur at all times when other brethren
are speaking especially during the actual ceremony itself.
W.M. and Brethren; to sum up, please remember to practice by sound and not
sight. Good speaking looks so easy and natural to some people, but be assured, it is not achieved by accident.
It can only be made perfect by much practice, effort and expenditure of
nervous energy. Strange as it may sound one gives a better performance if
nervous and most outstanding actors experience first night nerves.
I would like to add that the Worshipful Master plays a very important part
in our ceremonies. He is really the leading actor and can establish or destroy
the mood of the evening.
He must try and appear relaxed whilst at the same time maintaining a feeling
of discipline. During any recesses he should ensure, with the aid of his
Director of Ceremonies, that they are kept to a minimum of time and that no
unnecessary movement or excessive conversation breaks that mood of the evening.
I hope, Brethren, that this Address will be of some help to you.
Always accept the opportunity to give charges or to take part in the
ceremonies. It is one of the great privileges that we have as masons. Enjoy
delivering our lovely ritual or at least please sound as though you are
1. The Technique of the Ritualist by FW Page 2. Jaycee
Notes on effective Speaking 3.Speaking the Ritual of the Third Degree by
JN Thomson. 4. Play Production by