Brethren ~ the following article is from the Australia, New Zealand Masonic Research Council and advises about Masonic “Toasts” as performed in those areas…
“On Toasting From a Lodge newsletter
We have been looking at symbols and at the same time we have been working on a Table meeting that we may be able to use as a recruiting tool. We all have had something to say about Toasts and toasting and not always complimentary. I thought therefore to devote this newsletter to toasts and toasting and what we may not know of this tradition.
From a long time ago it has been the custom for members of the fraternity of Freemasons to retire, when the work of the Lodge is finished, to a separate room for refreshments, the tradition, since apparently lost was that in this room, the name of every article was changed to Masonic nomenclature, glasses became cannon, and to consume the contents of a “cannon” and to “fire” it, consequently, when a toast was drunk the cannons were “fired at the correct moment. I will explore this further but you will see from the Table Meeting Ritual that there is a partic-ular way to toast. You will note in the Ritual for the Table Meeting we are having in August words from this old Masonic song:-
“Are you charged in the West? Are you charged in the South?’ The Worshipful Master cries. We are charged in the West, we are charged in the South,’ Each Warden prompt replies.
Masonic Fire. At one time the fes-tive boards were called “Table Lodges”. The tables were arranged in a “horseshoe” shape with a warden at each end. When “Table Lodges” were opened everything changed its name The tables became “tracing boards” The plates became “tiles” The spoons became “trowels” The glasses became “cannon” and the wine became “powder”
To fill the glass was “to charge it” you all know that we do this bit and to drink the contents was to “fire it”.
After the toast the “cannon” (glass) which had been charged, was “fired” (emptied) and certain simultaneous movements of the hand (“clapping”) were made concluding with three times three.
The last portion of the ritual is all that was generally adopted in Eng-land for which firing glasses with heavy bases were necessary. After “firing” (draining of the glass) the brethren were called upon to copy the Worshipful Master – who made the following movements to show that the “cannon” had been well and truly “fired” and was empty.
Holding the “cannon” in the right hand he jerked his hand forward to the full length of the arm, then swung it to the left and then to the right. This he did three times and counted off “one”- “two” – “three” and at the word “three” banged the “cannon” on the “tracing board” (table). The toast was then further honoured by three times three claps on the hands.
The symbolic meaning of the Mason-ic fire is explained as:
The downward stroke – The laying of a brick
The movement to the left – So shall we spread the cement of human kindness
The movement to the right – So shall we build up the lodge with brotherly love
And just in case you are wondering where the English phrase “toast” comes from, it comes from the practice of floating a piece of burnt toast on top of the wine of the loving cup. The reason for this was that the toast took away some of the acidity of the wine. Back years ago, wine wasn’t as
good as it is today, so this floating piece of burnt toast worked well to tone down the sharpness of the wine. It was an ancient custom that was popular during the roman and Greek times dating as far back as the 6th Century B.C. After the bowl was passed around and shared by all the people, the host would be the last one to drink what was left and this included eating the wine saturated piece of toast. This was always done in honour of the guests.
There are lots of ways that toasts were done in ancient history, but the main point was that it was an offering from man to his Deity (God). Throughout history, man has always expressed his highest honours to the Deity in the form of a drink and the offering of toasts. Maybe the Christian Communication started this way!
In the British Navy, which has very old traditions, the officers’ noon mess typically began with the loyal toast, followed by a toast distinctive for the day of the week:
Monday: Our ships at sea.
Tuesday: Our men.
Wednesday: Ourselves. (“As no-one else is likely to concern themselves with our welfare,” is often the retort and not part of the toast)
Thursday: A bloody war or a sickly season (meaning the desire and likelihood of being promoted when many people die: during war or sickness.)
Friday: A willing foe and sea room. (meaning the payment of prize money after a successful engagement)
Saturday: Sweethearts and wives. (“may they never meet,” is often the retort and not part of the toast)
Sunday: Absent friends.
A toast might be spontaneous and free-form, a carefully planned original speech, or a recitation of traditional sentiments such as this Irish example:
May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon
your face. And rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.
Throughout history, toasting has been integrated into special occasions in almost every country in the world. Although the custom dates back to biblical times, the first toast on record was in England in 450 AD at a huge feast given by British King Vortigen to his Saxon allies. This first toast was to good health and fortune and over the years has evolved through many stages. During the 17th century, it was believed that the clinking of glasses’ bell-like noise would banish the dev-il, which is repelled by bells. It is also said that to ensure your drink was not poisoned bumping glasses together caused the drink to spill between glasses so hoping that any poison was shared.
It wasn’t until the late 17th century that the term “toasting” was used. The 18th century brought the posi-tion of the “toastmaster”, whose duties included proposing and announcing toasts, making sure all toasters were given a chance to make his/her contribution. Finally, by the 19th century, toasting had turned into the “proper” thing to do. Firing glass
An additional origin story ties the birth of the shot glass to the sound of a gunshot. Whilst I have not seen it here in Queensland Freemasons have a custom of drinking toasts from specially shaped glasses known as “cannons” . Another name for these glasses are “firing glasses”, which comes from the French call-ing the toast “feu” or “fire”. If the glass is slammed on the table, it makes a sound like a gunshot – a firing glass then becomes a “shot glass”. Not only is the firing glass much older than the shot glass, it also has a very specific shape (relatively thin sides, very thick protruding base) which is quite different from the shot glass.”
Now, my Brethren, I have some personal opinions on the origin of the wording used in ancient Masonic “Toasts” and it differs substantially with the outline given above… You might want to read the book “DUNGEON, FIRE & SWORD” by John Robinson – or his prior work: “BORN IN BLOOD – THE LOST SECRETS OF FREEMASONRY” where he explains about how Masons are related “by the dearest ties to ancient Knights Templar and Corsairs & Pirates…” My thinking on the wording & working of Masonic “Toasts” relates to that relationship between Masonry, the Knights Templar and the missing ships & treasure of the Templars and martial sounding toasts…
Michael D. Gillard, OPC:.KYCH:.
Senior Warden, D.L.Smith Lodge of Research U.D.