This is a shot glass:
This is a Masonic toasting cannon:
They are made for different purposes as I found out Friday.
I’ve been meaning to write this post all weekend. I’ve been busy with other things.
Anyway. Masonic Lodges occasionally hold festive events called “Table Lodges.” Table Lodges are formal ceremonies where a Lodge of Entered Apprentices is opened, food is served, and toasts are given. It is a social and educational event open to all Masons. There is another festival in the Wisconsin book of ceremonies that is labeled “Ladies at the Table” which is basically the same ceremony but without opening a Lodge. It is intended to honor the women who support the Lodge but can be adapted to any purpose – it’s essentially a formal, strictly regulated, public dinner.
At both festivals, a ritual is performed called the “Ceremony of the Seven Toasts.” The toasts in an actual Tiled Table Lodge are as follows (the officer giving the toast is in parentheses):
- To Country (Worshipful Master)
- To the Holy Saints John (Treasurer)
- To the Memory of our Departed Brethren (Chaplain)
- To the Grand Master (Secretary)
- To our Lodge (Junior Warden)
- To our Visiting Brethren (Senior Warden)
- To All Freemasons Wheresoever Dispersed (Tiler)
The toasts given at the Ladies at the Table dinner are different and those given at other public dinners following the same format must be written by the Lodge giving the dinner.
The toasts are given in a prescribed manner, thusly:
- The Worshipful Master raps once to call the Stewards.
- He instructs them to charge the cannons. (The Public dinner version is “cause the wine to meet the line” and the Ladies’ version is “trim the lamps.”)
- The Stewards fill each toasting cannon with wine (or juice – water is NOT permitted – it’s disrespectful to toast with water).
- When the Stewards have finished, they return to their places and report to the Master.
- The Worshipful Master raps thrice to call up everyone present.
- All rise.
- The officer (or person) giving the toast announces the toast and gives it orally.
- The toast concludes with “With me, Brethren” and a repetition of the purpose of the toast (ex: for the first toast in a Table Lodge, the line would be “With me, Brethren. To Country!”)
- The toast giver or designated Master of Ceremonies calls out the movements in order:
- “Touch” (Everyone touches the rim of their cannons.)
- “Grasp” (Everyone wraps their hands around their cannons.)
- “Rise to toast” (Everyone raises their cannons with arms straight to about shoulder level.)
- “To cause” (Everyone brings their cannons to their lips.)
- “Taste” (Everyone takes a small sip of wine.)
- “Sip” (Everyone takes a larger sip of wine.)
- “Toast” (Everyone drinks the remaining wine in one gulp.)
- “Rotate” (Everyone returns their now-empty cannons to shoulder level with arms straight out.)
- “Left” (Everyone points their arms across their bodies to the left.)
- “Center” (Everyone returns their arms to the center.)
- “Right” (Everyone points their arms across their bodies to the right.)
- “Center” (Everyone returns their arms to the center.)
- “With Honor!” (Everyone slams their cannons down on the table in unison, creating a sharp noise that is reminiscent of cannon fire, which in olden times was used to punctuate toasts.)
- The Worshipful Master raps once to seat the Lodge.
I wrote all the above to say this: A toasting cannon is designed to be slammed hard against a table repeatedly. It has very thick walls and a very solid base made of shatter-resistant glass. A shot glass is not so designed. I purchased a vessel from the George Washington Stein club some months back. They advertised it as a toasting cannon. It looked like a regular shot glass to me but who am I to say it isn’t a toasting cannon. Oh, wait, I’M THE DUDE WITH FUCKING SHARDS OF GLASS IN MY HAND!
On Friday, West Allis Lodge #291 held their Combined Table Lodge with Independence Lodge and Wauwatosa Lodge. It was held at the West Allis Masonic Temple on 75th and National. Dinner was Italian-themed and the Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin was the guest speaker. Their Treasurer was unavailable and I had experience giving toasts at Table Lodges so they asked me to sit in as Treasurer and give the toast to the Memory of the Holy Saints John. The Treasurer, according to the proper seating arrangement, sits next to the Guest of Honor at a Table Lodge. So I was seated next to Most Worshipful Brother Craig S. Campbell, Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin.
Everything was going well until it came time to fire the cannons. I shouted “With Honor!” and slammed the glass as hard as I normally do. Only I had never slammed this glass before. Evidently, it wasn’t designed for such harsh treatment and shattered into several pieces, many of which became embedded into the palm of my hand.
I examined my hand to find no immediate sign of injury. I started to poke at it with my finger to check for cuts and, sure enough, I managed to find a gash on my palm that, while tiny, soon began to drip blood onto my bread plate.
The next few minutes were a blur but the Most Worshipful Grand Master informs me that I ran to the kitchen muttering “Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!” which was really funny to him for some reason. I do remember getting to the kitchen and having the caterer yell at me not to bleed on the salad cart. I stepped aside and allowed them to clear the kitchen of salad before I reentered (meanwhile, the small pool of blood is beginning to run off of the serving counter and onto the floor). One of the DeMolay mothers was there (the DeMolay boys were serving the dinner) washing dishes and cleaned out my cut hands with soap and water and gave me some gauze and told me to clench the fist to apply pressure and stop the bleeding. After 10 minutes, the bleeding had seemingly stopped. Seemingly. The nice lady poked at the cut a bit and it started right up again. After another 10 minutes, it was stopped for good. She gave me a huge-ass bandage and I went back to the table.
They had already served the salad (my toast comes before the second course but I was in no position to make waves about the timing of the thing) but the Master called everyone up anyway. I noticed that I not only had a new plate, but also a brand new West Allis Lodge 100th Anniversary toasting cannon in front of me. WBro. William Krohn, Master of West Allis Lodge, told me that it was a gift for providing so much entertainment to the Brethren. I gave my toast and even managed to fire my cannon with everyone else.