Ancient Order of Foresters – Initiation Ceremony
This ritual is from 1907.
When a Candidate is to be
initiated, who has been duly approved by the Medical Examiner, favorably reported
on by the Investigating Committee, and regularly accepted by ballot, he shall
attend a regular meeting of the Court. At the proper time, the J.B. shall report
to the S.B. and the S.B. to the C.R. that a Candidate, Mr ..., is outside the
portal seeking to obtain light upon the mysteries of Ancient Forestry.
The C.R. shall therefore give *,
which shall be similarly responded to by the S.C.R. The C.R. and S.C.R.
thereupon arise the C.R. saying: Officers and Brothers,
Mr. ..., a Candidate for initiation into the mysteries of Ancient Forestry, is
outside the portal of this Court. Worthy Sub-Chief Ranger, can you assure the
brethren that he is a sober and discreet person that he has no affiliation with
any illegitimate Society claiming to work under the name of the Ancient Order
of Foresters in any guise, and that he is, so far as your knowledge extends,
eligible to be initiated a member of this Court.
After having examined the
application, the S.C.R. says: Worthy Chief Ranger, the
Physician of this Court has carefully examined the Candidate as to his physical
condition, and has certified that he is eligible to membership. The brethren
have exercised their prerogative, and you have examined the result of their
ballot, and certified the same to be favorable. I therefore take pleasure in
assuring you that the Candidate is worthy of admission.
The C.R. gives *, seating the
C.R.: My Brothers: You have heard our worthy Sub- Chief Ranger certify that the
Candidate in attendance is worthy to associate with you on equal terms in this
Court. But I now ask as a final safe-guard against the introduction of
unhealthy or unworthy persons into the Order if any member knows of any
circumstance which would debar the candidate from becoming a worthy and
beneficial member of this Court and of the Order, that he forthwith proclaim the
same or forever hold his peace.
Should any objection be raised,
its merits must be discussed at once, and a vote taken upon its validity. A
majority vote shall determine whether the Candidate should be initiated.
Should no objection be raised,
the C.R. will proceed as follows: Officers and Brothers:
The Candidate will be brought into the room blindfolded, and I bespeak for him
your utmost courtesy and consideration. Remember that he is your guest, and in
order that he may be properly impressed with the mysteries on which he is about
to receive light, I particularly request that all private discourse cease, and
that you devote your whole attention to the ceremony of initiation. The
Secretary will retire and collect the balance of the initiation fee.
The Secretary salutes and retires,
collects the balance of the initiation fee, returns, salutes, and reports at the
After everything is in readiness,
the C.R. calls to order. *
C.R.: Worthy Sub-Chief Ranger, is the Court prepared to proceed with the
S.C.R: It is.
Worthy Sub-Chief Ranger, you will now retire with the Woodwards and introduce
The S.C.R. and the Woodwards,
with their battle axes drawn, advance to the altar, salute and retire. They
repair to the ante-room and divest the Candidate of his coat and vest, blindfold
him and tie his hands behind his back. The S.C.R. addresses the Candidate: Sir, I have been authorized by our Worthy Chief
Ranger to enquire of you your name.
The Candidate replies.
S.C.R.: And likewise your place of residence.
The Candidate replies.
S.C.R.: I have further to enquire whether you have previously been a member of
the Order, or proposed to become a member in any other Court?
If the Candidate should say he
has, his answer must be at once reported to the Court, and his initiation not
proceeded with until Rule 124 of General Laws has been complied with. If the
answer of the Candidate is in the negative, the Sub-Chief Ranger will address
him as follows: Sir, at your own request, you are about to be made
a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters. It will be required of you that you
solemnly affirm that you will divulge none of the secrets or mysteries you are
about to be intrusted with, and that you will implicitly follow the instructions
you will be given. For the Court which you are about to join, I can say, that no
pledge will be required of you which will conflict with any of the duties you
owe to yourself, your fellow man, your country, or your God. There is yet time
to retire if you so wish. Are you willing to enter and conform to the laws and
customs of Ancient Forestry?
If the answer is satisfactory,
the S.C.R. takes the Candidate’s left arm. The Woodwards fall in behind. The
S.C.R. gives *,
responded to by the S.B. throwing
a chain against the inside of the door four times and * * by the S.C.R. and C.R.
S.B.: There is an alarm at the portal, Worthy Chief.
C.R.: An alarm! Who seeks to penetrate the glades of Sherwood Forest at this
unseemly hour? Ascertain the case, good Will Scathelocke.
The S.B. opens the door and says: Our Chief Ranger, Robin Hood, bids me inquire the
cause of this unseemly commotion in the glades of Sherwood Forest! What seek ye,
and whom would ye find?
S.C.R : I am little John, and back of me are Will Scarlet and Midge, the
Miller’s son. While wandering in the forest we happened upon a stranger, who
could give no good account of himself, and we straightway seized and bound him,
and have brought him hither, that Robin Hood, our Worthy Chief, might see and
S.B.: Has he a name?
S.C.R.: He has, but he refuses to give it!
S.B.: Wait ye outside the threshold until I have informed Robin Hood of his
tale, and get his answer.
The S.B. leaves the door open and
addresses the C.R.
Worthy Chief Ranger, the commotion outside the portal is caused by Little John,
our Sub-Chief Ranger, and Will Scarlet and Midge, the Miller’s son, our
Woodwards, who, finding a stranger in the glades of Sherwood Forest, have
brought him hither to be interrogated.
C.R.: A stranger, and in Sherwood Forest! Bring him in that we may hear what
tale he has to tell!
S.B.: By command of our Chief Ranger, Robin Hood, you will advance over the
threshold three steps.
The S.C.R., the Candidate and the
Woodwards advance over the threshold three steps. The door is closed. The S.C.R.
and the Woodwards fall back one step. The J.P.C.R. steps up lightly, places
his left hand on the Candidate’s right shoulder and says: My friend, you are now just over the threshold of a Court of Ancient
Forestry. You have come here fettered and half clad, and are now about to act a
part in a drama which actually took place over seven hundred years ago, when
Ancient Forestry had its practical inception. The explanation will be furnished
to you in due season. So far as it lies in my power, I will befriend you, and
will answer such questions as may be put to you. Be of good courage!
The S.C.R. and the Woodwords
resume their positions beside the Candidate, the J.P.C.R. grasping his right
arm. They walk slowly around the room twice to a slow march by the organist, and
halt in front of the C.R.’s chair.
How now, Little John? Who is this stranger whom ye bring into the glades of
Sherwood Forest? He is hot one of our band, and for aught we know, may be a spy
sent by the Sheriff of Nottingham to pry into our affairs. Where found ye him,
and what does he seek?
S.C.R.: Worthy Chief Ranger, while wandering and seeking news of Will Stutley,
who, as you well know, went forth in search of adventure some two days ago, we
fell across this stranger. He refused to give his name, but said he was seeking
Robin Hood, and thinking he might be a spy, we bound him and brought him here
that you might question him.
C.R.: You did well, Little John, to bring him here! Addressing Candidate: You
seek Robin Hood, the out-law, you say? Know, then, that I am Robin Hood, and all
around me are the Merry Men who have thrown off the thraldom of servitude, and
the overweening oppression of feudal lords and purse proud prelates in civic
courts, that they might enjoy the free air of heaven in these true Courts of
Sherwood Forest. What do you seek with Robin Hood? Speak truly and fully, and if
your mission be for good, so harm shall befall you!
J.P.C.R., speaking for the
Candidate: As Little John has truly said, Will Stutley, one of
your Merry Men, set out in search of adventure two days ago. He donned the gown
of a curtial friar, and was sitting apparently in meditation at the door of
the “Blue Boar” Inn, when a band of the Sheriff of Nottingham’s retainers
stopped at the hostelry. By accident, they discovered his disguise, and
not-withstanding that he made a vigorous resistance, they made him prisoner, and
carried him off to Nottingham town. The Sheriff has sentenced him to be hanged
by the neck when the clock strikes eight tomorrow morning, and unless he is
rescued before that time, he surely will die on be gallows. It was to tell you
this that the stranger cane here, and now that his tale is told, he fain would
depart in peace.
C.R.: If this news he true, then indeed is poor Will Stutley in a serious
plight. What shall we do, my Merry Men? Shall we go to Nottingham and beard the
Sheriff in his den and take his prey away? Will Stutley, next to Little John, is
the best bowman we have, and even if his rescue were impossible, we can ill
afford to lose him. In unity there is strength, and with seven score good yeomen
such as you are, banded in ties of unity that draw us together, there can be no
such word as failure. What say you? Is Will Stutley to hang?
Members: No! No!
C.R.: Then get ye ready, and we shall go to Nottingham town at break of day,
and save poor Will Stutley from the gallows.
S.C.R.: Gently, good master, gently! There is no man that I love more than Will
Stutley, and I gladly would peril my own neck to save his; but what assurance
have we that this stranger tells the truth? It may be that this is a photon the
part of the Sheriff to beguile us from the recesses of Sherwood Forest, in order
that he may be better able to set his minions upon us and do us damage. The
stranger may be, and, indeed, looks honest enough, but, if he be speaking
truthfully, why did he refuse to give his name, and why did he attempt to escape
when Will Scarlet, Midge, the Miller’s son and I called upon him to halt?
Methinks he is but a retainer of the Sheriff who to curry favor with our
arch-enemy, has laid this plot that we might be taken unawares. If ye would take
my advice, good master, ye would hang him from the limb of yonder tree as a spy,
nnd here is the rope to do it.
Chorus of Members: Hang him! Hang him!
The S.C.R. and the Woodwards
grasp the Candidate, and throw over his head a rope, provided with a running
noose, and a knot at a proper distance to prevent it from being pulled too tight,
They pull it tout, so that the Candidate may feel the strain upon it, and
proceed to pull him off. The Officers must use cautious care and common sense at
this part of the ceremony, so as to avoid causing injury or offence to the
Candidate, and with practice and skill this scene can be acted in an entirely
effective but perfectly unobjectionable manner.
J.P.C.R.: Hold! Would you hang a man who is not only innocent, but at great
personal risk to himself has brought you word of the danger in which one of the
chiefs of your band is placed? This stranger’s name is of no moment, and his
running away when observed can be accounted for by his belief that you were the
King’s Rangers. When he saw who you were, he came with you peacefully enough,
did he not? Then why talk of hanging him? Time enough for that when you know he
is a spy. Would it not be better policy to keep him here until you return from
rescuing Will Stutley at Nottingham, and in the meantime, if he be willing,
enlist him as a member of the band?
C.R.: Well said, good brother! Never shall it he said that Robin Hood permitted
a defenceles man to be hanged as a spy without evidence that he is such. If he
be willing to pledge himself to us, then will he prove himself a true man. What
say you, straiger? Are you willing to take the obligation which hinds us here as
Candidate: I am.
C.R.: What say you, brothers? Are you satisfied that this stranger shall bind
himself to us and our cause by the vow that we all have taken?
Members: We are.
C.R.: Then will Little John and our Woodwards conduct the stranger to the
spreading oak, where allegiance to the band is taken, and place him in position
to assume the formal obligation.
C.R., S.C.R., Woodwards and
J.P.C.R. accompany the Candidate to the altar where he kneels on his left knee.
The S.C.R. removes the bonds binding the Candidate’s hands, and the
Candidate places his right hand on his heart, the index finger of his left hand
pointing upwards. The S.C. R. holds the rope so that the Candidate may still
feel the strain. The Candidate repeats after the C.R. as follows:
Candidate: I, do solemnly and sincerely promise and declare, in the presence of the
assembled brethren, that I will give a willing and implicit obedience to the
laws which govern this fraternity and this Court that I will at all times yield
a ready compliance with the orders issued by the Chief Ranger, so far as they
are consistent with the laws of Ancient Forestry and the will of the majority of
the members of this Court; that I will do all in my power to further the objects
for which we are united, and will never attempt to sow dissension or create
discord among the members, but, on the other hand, will do my utmost to preserve
the harmony and brotherly feeling which are the chief support of the institution;
that I will never reveal to any person not a member of the Order, any of the
signs, signals, grips, passwords, or test words, by which Ancient Foresters are
recognized, either by word, sign, or writing, and that I will use the utmost
caution in ascertaining the Forestric standing of any stranger, before imparting
to him any part of the written or unwritten work of the Order. To all of which,
I do most solemnly and sincerely pledge the honor of a man who respects the
value of truth and the sacredness of a promise.
The Candidate rises.
C.R.: Worthy Sub-Chief Ranger, if you are now satisfied that this stranger is
sincere in his promises, you will withdraw the cord which is still about his
S.C.R.: Worthy Chief, if it is your command that the cord be taken off, it shall
be done, but as the stranger is to accompany us to Nottingham at daybreak to
assist in the rescue of Will Stutley, will it not the better serve him as a
reminder of his oath, that he should wear it about his neck, and will it not
suit our purpose better, that, if he should prove a traitor, we can the more
readily hang hun on the spot.
C.R.: As you will Brethren, the eastern sky is rosy with the promise of sunrise.
See to your arms, that we may start for Nottingham.
Tune: “God Save the King”
Armed with a righteous cause,
Spurning oppressive laws,
Freemen are we.
When danger or distress,
Or tyrant’s hands oppress,
For wrongs we seek redress
At this point the members pass
about the room as if preparing for a start. The J.P.C.R takes hold of the rope
and the Candidate’s right arm, and walks him slowly around the room (see
diagram A) saying as they go:
J.P.C.R.: My brother, you have taken an obligation which satisfies me that you are
an honest man. It is not enough, however, that I should be satisfied, but each
brother in the Court must have his every doubt removed. We are now at the market
place in Nottingham, and it lacks but three minutes to eight o’clock. Robin
Hood and his band are prepared to effect the rescue of Will Stutley, and
I will leave you here, where the battle will rage
the thickest, in the hope that, your story being true and your promises sincere,
we shall meet again in the shades of Sherwood Forest, Farewell!
The Candidate is left standing
between the altar and the J.P.C’s. station, facing the altar. (See diagram A)
A bell strikes eight. The members constituting the Sheriff’s party begin to
march slowly round the room, beginning at the door an going round by way of the
Physician’s station, passing behind the Candidate, Will Stutley being in the
centre, between two members, his hands loosely bound behind his back. He
soliloquizes as follows:
Will Stutley: Alas and alack! I fear this is the end of poor Will Stutley. Yonder
shines the sun which I am now to look upon for the last time. There stands the
grim gibbet upon which I am to hang like a dog: I, who but a few short hours ago,
stood a Saxon freeman in the glades of Sherwood Forest, breathing the free air
of heaven, and owing allegiance to no one but God and my conscience. Struggling
with his bonds. Oh ! had I but the strength to break these bonds, to
throw off these cursed shackles, and stand for one short moment in the strength
of my manhood, I would show these caitiff knaves that Will Stutly is a worthy
disciple of Robin Hood. Ceases his
struggles. But, no, I cannot break them!
Procession stops opposite the Candidate, between
the altar and the Physician’s station.
Will Stutley: And now stand on the gallows alone! Yonder comes the hangman with his
black mask and sable cloak! A few short moments, and I shall be swung into
eternity. Farewell, sun! Farewell, green trees and verdant fields! Farewell, my
companions of sweet Sherwood Forest! Oh! If ye did but know to what straits poor
Wil Stutley is reduced, ye would be here and sweep these minions of an unjust
law before you like chaff before the wind. Ah! who is that standing yonder at
the foot of the gallows? A mist fills my eyes and I cannot see. Surely it is, it
is Little John.
The C.R. blows a horn.
Will Stutley struggles with his
bonds. There is commotion in the room as Robin Hood’s men engage the
Sheriff’s party. Cries, shouts, etc., arise, the Candidate being jostled about
in the centre. The battle surges over the room, the Candidate being carried with
it. The Sheriffs men seem to prevail, and they finally lay hands on the
the leader crying:
Sheriff: Here is the robber; here he is! See, he has the rope still about his neck!
Hang him, quick!
They pull him off round the room,
followed by Robin Hood’s men. After considerable jostling the Candidate is
rescued by Little John and his men.
Great caution must again be used,
so as not to injure or offend the Candidate. The C.R. must see that the
Candidate is not handled roughly. Any officer or member who handles a Candidate
roughly in any part of the initiation ceremony, may be dealt with according
to General Laws, for conduct unbecoming a member of the Order.
The commotion in the room ceases
and the Candidate is led to the front of the J.P.C.R.’s station. Little John
removes the bandage and says:
S.C.R: My brother, you have had a narrow escape from death at the hands of the
Sheriff’s retainers. It will please you to know that we rescued Will Stutley,
and that we no longer doubt your courage, or honesty of purpose. Your story was
true in every detail, and the doubts which we entertained of your sincerity were
unfounded. As I placed the noose around your neck, I as publicly remove it, and
welcome you as a worthy member of our band. Removes
the noose and shakes his hand. I will now conduct you to our Worthy
Chief Ranger who will instruct you in the principles of Unity.
Conducts the Candidate in front
the C.R., where the S.W. has already placed a chair.
C.R.: My brother, for such I may now call you; you have acted your part nobly
well, and have proved yourself worthy to associate with us, and receive still
further evidences of our confidence. You have taken part in a drama which, seven
hundred years ago, actually took place. Will Stutley, one of the lieutenants of
Robin Hood, was captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham and condemned to be hanged.
Robin and his rangers, to the number of seven score, repaired to Nottingham, and
put to flight ten tunes that number of the Sheriff’s retainers by the sheer
force of discipline and unity. The lesson to be drawn from the scene which has
just been enacted is, that “in Unity there is Strength.” Sometimes this
precept is illustrated by exhibiting a bundle of sticks, exhibits
where one may easily be snapped in twain, but where the strength of Hercules
would be insufficient to break the united bundle. The purpose of this object
lesson us to teach you that concerted action is the key-note to success. As a
Court, we can know no prosperity, can make no progress, unless our members
work in unity and harmony for its best interests, and bear with each other’s
faults and shortcomings which are the common inheritance of all mankind. In the
Order, as a whole, each Court must work in harmony with every other Court in
spreading the beneficent works of Forestry to the uttermost ends of the earth,
so that all mankind, irrespective of creed, color or nationality, may finally be
embraced in its membership, and call their fellows brothers. Worthy Sub-Chief
Ranger, you will now conduct the Candidate to the Past Chief Ranger, who will
instruct him in the principles of Benevolence.
Tune: “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the
Boys are Marching.”
To the members of our band, we extend a helping
Blending sympathy with truest common sense;
And we strive to do what’s right, working thus
with all our might,
Shunning charity, to show Benevolence.
Then learn well what the Order teaches:
Keep its lessons in your mind;
No false charity we preach, no excesses do we teach,
But a ready, helping hand you’re sure to find.
The S.C.R. conducts the Candidate
around the room while the ode is being sung, finally placing him in front of the
S.C.R.: By command of Robin Hood, I present Bro. ... to be instructed in the
principles of Benevolence.
P.C.R.: My brother, as you are doubtless aware, Robin Hood is regarded as the
founder of Forestry, and with good reason. The moral principles which he
practised in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were crude in their
conception, and somewhat harsh in their execution, but the cardinal doctrine of
his motives and methods was to help the poor, to cheer and protect the
unfortunate, to relieve and provide for the widow and the orphan, and to aid and
assist the members of his fraternity when they were in need of succor. In these
days of modern civilization, Robin Hood’s practice of taking from the rich to
give to the poor would be called robbery, but in the feudal times in which he
lived the emancipation of men from oppressive laws was still in its infancy and
justice was hardly to be obtained. Robin Hood was therefore the apostle of a new
philanthropy. Outlawed for his opposition to the tyrannical customs which
prevailed, he proclaimed by his actions, right in the teeth of those who had cut
him off from communion with his fellow men, the doctrine of the brotherhood of
man, which Robert Burns, the ploughman poet, has so finely expressed in the
Then let us pray. that come what may,
As come it will for a’ that
That sense and writh o’er a’ the earth.
May bear the gree and a’ that;
For a’ that and a’ that,
It’s coming yet, for a’ that,
That man to man the world o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that.
With the emancipation of mankind from the thraldom
of feudalism, with the development of Christian civilization and the march of
liberty and fraternity, have come the opportunities of self help. It has been
truthfully said that nothing is more uncertain than the proportion of sickness
and death which falls to the lot of the individual, but that nothing is more
certain than die percentage of sickness and death among a multitude of men. As a
multitude of men, seeking to help each other, and to bear one another’s
burdens, the Ancient Order of Foresters exists and has existed from time
immemorial. It assumes the individual’s inevitable liability for sickness
and death, and distribute it among a number of his fellow members, who willingly
bear their share, knowing that their own turn will come in time.
This, then, is Benevolence: the refined robbery of
Robin Hood, The word “Benevolence” is derived from two Latin words
signifying good will, and is synonymous with benignity, humanity, tenderness and
kindness. It does not mean charity: for charity, while a worthy virtue, and the
corner stone of many societies, has no place in the Forestric vocabulary. We do
not dispense charity. Whatsoever our members may receive, they obtain as a
matter of right, for which they have paid, and for which they are expected to
As a Forester, therefore, we expect you to display
this most excellent teaching of our profession: the exercise of Benevolence
toward your fellow members and their families.
P.C.R.: Worthy Sub-Chief Ranger and Woodwards, you will conduct the brother to
the preparation room, and clothe him suitably to receive further light in
The Candidate is prepared by
taking off his coat and vest. His left arm is bared to above the elbow. He is
not hoodwinked or bound. It is necessary that all the lights in the Court-room
be put out. At the altar will be placed two alcohol asbestos lamps, one at each
side, filled with a preparation, for which the recipe will be found on the
instructional pages of this ritual. The members must be grouped in horse-shoe
shape round the altar, facing the S.C.R.’s. station, and must remain perfectly
stilt while the Candidate is introduced and takes the obligation. The spirit
lamps must not be lighted until the door is about to be opened to admit the
Candidate. The C.R. stands ot the altar, within the horseshoe, facing the
So soon as the Woodwards have the
Candidate ready to enter, the S.C.R. says:
My brother, you are now about to be presented to Robin Hood, our Worthy Chief
Ranger, for the purpose of taking a further solemn and binding obligation. Are
you ready and willing to enter? The Candidate
The S.C.R gives * * * * * on the
inner door. When the members are ready at the altar, the S.B. will respond with
* * * * *. The S.C.R. will then respond with * * and the S.B. with * *,
whereupon the C.R. will silently swing open the door, and the S.C.R. holding the
Candidates left arm and followed by the Woodwards will march in file to the
altar, where they will stop (See diagram B).
C.R.: Bro. ...,if you are willing to take the obligation
you will kneel at the altar on both knees, Candidate
kneels place your right hand on your heart
and raise your naked left arm with the index finger pointing upward, all
so, as you see those around you do, and
repeat after me.
I, ..., of my own free will and accord in the
presence of the assembled brethren, do solemnly and sincerely promise and
declare, in addition to the obligation heretofore taken by me, that I will
conform to all the laws and obligations, now in force or hereafter to be enacted,
by which the Ancient Order of Foresters as regulated and controlled, or in
default thereof will submit to the penalties therein contained; that I will
further so far as in me lies the purposes for which the Order is constituted,
and that I will not make known its signs or passwords, either by word, sign or
writing, except to the Brotherhood or in Courts legally assembled. Furthermore,
I will to the best of my ability, so far as my means will permit and the
of the case will warrant, exhibit in a practical way the principle of
Benevolence towards distressed members of the Order, and will by all legitimate
means at my command see to it, that no undue advantage is taken of any member,
his wife, widow or orphans, in pecuniary matters, connected with the Order or
out of it. I make this pledge upon the honor of a man who respects the value of
truth and the sacredness of a promise, in the presence of the assembled brethren,
and under the all-seeing eye of the Supreme Chief Ranger of the Universe.
C.R.: My brother, having taken this obligation, you will arise and be taken
whence you came, and there further prepared to receive more light on the
mysteries of Forestry.
The S.C.R. takes the Candidates
left arm and conducts him from the room without saluting, followed by the
Woodwards, the Officers and members remaining around the altar until they have
retired. The J.P.C.R. thereupon follows him out.
The S.C.R. hoodwinks the
Candidate and ties his hands behind his back and removes his shoes. When the
Court-room has been lighted and is prepared for the Candidate’s reception the
S.C.R. hands him over to the J.P.C.R., who says:
My brother, you will remember that on a former occasion I befriended you, and
answered for you questions which you could not answer yourself. So far as the
usages of the Order will permit, I will perform a similar office for you again,
but it will largely depend upon your own conduct how far I may be permitted to
befriend you in your coming emergencies. I counsel you to submit yourself to
whatever may be done to you, and if you will bear in mind that we are your
friends and not your enemies, your reasoning powers will prompt you to
acquiesce willingly in whatever ordeals may be necessary to bring you to a full
fellowship with us. Are you ready to enter?
The Candidate replies.
The J.P.C.R. gives * * * * * on
inner door. When the Court is ready the S.B. replies with * * * * *. The J.P.C.R.
then gives * * and the S.B. * *. The door is swung open The J.P.C.R. and the
Candidate enter, the J.P.C.R. on the Candidate’s left. The S.B. closes the
door, and when the Candidate is three or four steps over the threshold, the S.B.
seizes him by the shoulders during the colloquy. (See Diagram C)
S.B: Hold! By what right do you seek to gain admission
to the secret swainmote?
J.P.C.R: Be still, and let us pass.
S.B. : Pass, you cannot, until you give me the word that gives you the
privilege. Have you the Word of a Forester?
J.P.C.R.: I have.
S.B.: Advance and pledge it.
The J.P.C.R. gives word in a
whisper with the grip.
S.B., releasing the Candidate: The Word is right! Pass on!
The J.P.C.R. and the Candidate
pass around the room by way of S.C.R.’s. station, where the latter is
standing. He grasps the Candidate by both shoulders, and shakes him, bringing
him to a sudden stop.
S.C.R.: Hold! Who seeks to travel the road that leads to the secret swainmote?
Have you the Word of a Forester?
J.P.C.R.: I am deputed to pass a stranger through the recesses of Sherwood Forest.
S.C.R., shaking the Candidate: Answer my question!
J.P.C.R.: I have the Word.
S.C.R.: Advance and pledge it.
The J.P.C.R. gives the word.
S.C.R.: The Word is right and you can pass on, but the stranger cannot pass until
he, too, has given the Word of a Forester.
J.P.C.R.: He has it not, but will be in possession of it on his way back, and you
must needs let him pass.
S.C.R.: Pass, he shall not, without the Word! Shakes
Give me the Word of a Forester!
J.P.C.R.: He has it not, but comes here by express command of Robin Hood himself.
S.C.R.: I care not for that! Shakes the
Candidate Give me the secret Word, or it
will be the worse for you!
J.P.C.R.: He cannot give it! He has it not!
S.C.R.: Then he must die! For the third and last time, with this instrument of
death at his throat, pressing the back of a knife to
his throat, I ask him for the Word of a Forester, without which none
can pass in either direction.
J.P.C.R.: Nay, him you shall not slay, for I am his friend, and have brought him
here! I shall defend him. Attempt to block our passage, and you shall be
successful only over my body! Unhand him, I say!
The S.C.R. and J.P.C.R. struggle
together. Finally the S.C.R. falls to the ground at the Candidate’s feet,
where he lies still.
J.P.C.R., taking the
Candidate’s left arm again: My Brother, before passing you through the portal
of the Court, I promised to befriend you to the extent of my ability. The proof
of my sincerity lies at your feet! His refusal to recognize a higher authority
has laid him low. We are now about to pass into the presence of one whose power
in the present emergency is supreme, and to whatever he may do, you and I must
bow in submission, if we value our obligations. We will now step over this body,
and we are now approaching the spreading oak which forms a canopy to shelter
from the bent of the sun and the inclemencies of the weather, the hind to which
you have hitherto sworn fealty. Robin Hood himself is in the centre, and
gathered around him are his followers. Listen!
The following ode may be sung by
all the members in the Court-room, but a more pleasing and impressive effect
would result if it were sung in the ante-room, by a complete quartette.
Blest be the tie hat binds
Our band of brothers here,
By acts of friendship true we work
In Unity sincere.
To cheer the widow’s heart,
We ask no recompense;
The orphan’s tears we wipe away
By true Benevolence.
No strife demeans our Court,
We work with one accord,
To cheer the sick and aid the weak,
While dwelling in Concord.
That Court is doubly blest,
Which keeps these precepts three,
And crowns its efforts for mankind
By truest Sympathy.
The Candidate and the J.P.C.R.
pass once round the room and halt in front of C.R’s station. (See diagram C).
As they walk the J.P.C.R. says.: A few steps farther, and
we will be in the immediate presence of Robin Hood! I counsel you to be of good
C.R : Who comes here?
J.P.C.R.: One who has a right to come, accompanied by a brother who has been duly
instructed in the principles of Unity and Benevolence, and who seeks light in
the principles of Concord.
C.R.: Are you in possession of the Word of a Forester?
J.P.C.R.: I am.
C.R.: Advance and pledge it. Word is given by J.P.C.R.
in a whisper with the grip. The Word is right! Has the stranger the
J.P.C.R.: He has it not.
C.R.: Then how did he gain admittance?
J.P.C.R.: Through the courtesy of the Senior Beadle at the outer portal and by
disabling the Sub-Chief Ranger at the inner portal when he sought to block his
C.R.: By what means did this stranger, bound and blinded as he is, succeed in
J.P.C.R.: Through the readiness of a friend to relieve him in his distress and by
that friend’s exemplification of the Word of a Forester.
C.R.: Do you claim the tight for him to sit in this secret swainmote?
J.P.C.R.: I do!
C.R.: By what token do you ask this right?
J.P.C.R.: By the tokens of Unity, Benevolence and Concord, and because be has taken
the solemn and binding obligations of the Order.
C.R.: Stranger, do you ask this privilege for yourself?
Candidate: I do!
J.P.C.R.: And I vouch for us worthiness!
C.R.: Then let the bandage be taken from his eyes that he may see what will
befall him, should he violate his obligations.
At this point the Secretaries and
Treasurer present their spears at his breast, the Woodwards at each side poise
their axes as if to strike, the C.R. and the S.C.R. draw their bows and point
the arrows at his heart, the C.R. from the front and the S.C.R. from the back,
and the Beadles raise their bludgeons in the act of bringing them down on his
The J.P.C.R. removes the hoodwink
from the Candidate’s eyes, and steps back so that the Candidate stands alone.
The Officers maintain their positions during the following colloquy.
C.R.: Behold the penalty of transgression! In view of the vows you have already
taken, do you promise to be faithful to all your obligations on your journey
with us through the forest of this life ?
Candidate: I do!
C.R.: It is well!
All the Officers withdraw their
weapons and remain standing around him.
C.R.: Worthy Junior Past Chief Ranger, you will release the Candidate from his
bonds, and reconduct him whence he came; that he may once more be properly
clothed; after which you will return him to this station for further instruction.
All other Candidates who were
merely obligated and have witnessed the conferring of this degree upon the
Condidate, will here be placed in line by the S.C.R.; then the J.P.C.R and
Candidates retire, without saluting, followed to the door by the other
Officers in double file, as follows: S.C.R., Treas., Sec., Sub.Sec., S.W. J.W. (See
When in readiness they will return to the room where the Candidates are
stationed in front of the C.R. The first verse of the Initiation Ode is sung:
Tune: “God Save the King”.
Brothers! attention keep,
Whilst our Host Worthy Chief
Gives you the charge.
Bords of society
Friendship and Sympathy;
Honor and Secrecy,
Let all Unite.
C.R.: I am now authorized to address you by the name of Brother, and to welcome
you, on behalf of this Court, into our honorable Order. You have bound yourself
to us by a solemn obligation which demands reverence and respect. It becomes you,
therefore, from the present hour, to honor our principles by an unblemished
course of conduct, whereby you will reflect credit upon your own character as a
man, and add to the dignity and stability of an Order with whose progress your
own interests are now associated.
I shall now proceed to make you acquainted with the
Grip, Word, and Signs o the Order.
The Grip of a Forester is given thus ....
Here the C.R. shall give the
It is intended as a memorial of the dependence upon
each other of our first parents, who, when expelled from the Garden of Eden,
through the sin of disobedience, became, in more than a figurative sense, the
first Foresters; the wilderness of the world before them, with all its dangers,
difficulties and temptations. We are taught by this to recognize the duty of
walking hand in hand through the forest of this life, and of helping each other
to surmount its struggles, and to bear up under its disappointments.
The Word of a Forester is symbolized in the letter
S * * * and points to it. The three colors,
Scarlet, Gold and Lincoln Green, typify the virtues inherent in Forestry, namely,
Unity, Benevolence, and Concord, and the letter stands for the word of a
Forester, which is the corner stone on which the whole structure is reared. The
Word is .... It expresses the active interest we take in the welfare of our
brethren, and our readiness to share their burdens and relieve their distresses.
It is the same the world over, and is never changed. *.
The Salutation Sign of a Forester is given thus,
The Woodwards will here takes one
step backward, and after the sign has been exemplified, they will resume their
position near the Candidate.
C.R.: It is emblematic of the act of our first parent, Eve, in plucking, eating
and offering to Adam the forbidden fruit, and is intended to remind us of the
duty of obedience and submission, and the penalties of transgression.
It shall be imperative upon the
C.R. to give the correct sign.
The Password for the current quarter, which is
always given in a whisper, accompanied by the Grip, thus, is ....
The C.R. will here give to the
Candidate the current quarterly Password.
C.R.: In addition to the Salutation Sign, and Grip, we have other Signs of
Recognition with which I will now acquaint you. Should you at any time when
among strangers, desire to ascertain if there is a brother Forester present or
near you, you are at liberty to make this sign, .... Should your challenge be
recognised by an Ancient Forester, he will answer you thus, .... You will then
advance toward each other, when you will say to him, ...? He will respond, ....
You will then ask him, ...? He will reply ..., and extend his hand, which you
will accept and permit him to give you the grip of a Forester, which, if
correct, you will return.
C.R.: I now present you with a copy of the General Laws, also the By-laws of
this Court, which I trust you will study carefully, so as to be conversant with
the Laws of the Order.
I will exemplify this work with the Sub-Chief
Ranger, for your benefit.
The C.R. leaves dais, and he and
S.C.R . stand in front of the Candidate and exemplify the work.
C.R.: You will notice that the sentences begin with U., B., C. and S., which
refer to the three virtues of the Order, and the symbolic letter S. Worthy
Sub-Chief Ranger, you will invest the Brother with the apron and teach him its
S.C.R., facing Candidate and
holding the apron before him: As the Grip in which you were
heretofore instructed is a symbol of the dependence upon each other of our first
parents, and the Salutation Sign reminds us of the penalties of transgressing
the commands of the Divine Creator, so is the apron, with which I am now about
to invest you, symbolical of the aprons of fig-leaves with which Adam and Eve
clothed themselves when the sin of transgression made them self-conscious of
their nakedness. The apron is in the shape of an inverted triangle, and is
formed of four lesser triangles. Those on the corners in Scarlet, Gold, and
Lincoln Green represent the virtues of Unity, Benevolence and Concord, while the
triangle in the centre contains the symbolic letter S in gold upon white or
silver field. This apron you will wear only in the Court-room. Its symbolism will
ever remind you of the obligations you have taken, and that, as a Forester, we
expect you so to conduct yourself that no reproach may be brought upon the
Order, and no contempt upon yourself.
Invests the Candidate with the
From this point the ceremony may
he concluded by some Past Chief Ranger or superior Officer who is present,
provided always, the Chief Ranger is disposed to depute such duty to
C.R.: Brother, you have been invested with the apron of Forestry and are now
admitted as a member of our Society, and entitled to the privileges of the
Order. On behalf of this Court I offer you, then, the right hand of fellowship.
Here repeat the Grip.
C.R.: From you we expect in return, a ready compliance with our customs, and
an honest obedience to our laws. We are united together, not only for the wise
purpose of making provision against those misfortunes which befall all men, and
of assisting those who require our aid, but for the moderate enjoyment of
friendly intercourse, and the temperate interchange of social feeling. We
look, therefore, to find exemplified in you a strict regard for all the
obligations of life: that you should be charitable in judgment, forbearing in
temper, and lenient in condemnation: knowing that, in return, these qualities
will draw forth our esteem and awaken our regard. We encourage no excess in our
meetings, and enforcing no creed in religion, or code in politics, we permit
neither wrangling nor dissension to mar our harmony, or interrupt our
In your outward acts and dealings as a Forester, we expect you to be sober,
upright and conscientious: willing to help, ready to relieve, obedient to the
laws of our country, and respected in the circles in which you move. In your
domestic relationship we look to find you: if a husband, affectionate and
trustful: if a father, regardful of the moral and material well being of your
children and dependents: as a son, dutiful and exemplary, and as a friend,
steadfast and true. These qualities will command the admiration of mankind, and
in you, as a member of our Society, they will dignify our Order, consolidate its
power, and extend its benign influence.
We welcome you among us, then, upon the principles
of Unity, Benevolence and Concord, and we trust that in your future course
through life you will be impressed with a due sense of the expectations we have
formed of you, and of those duties and obligations which it should be the aim of
every member of the Order to recognize and fulfill.
Worthy Sub-Chief Ranger, you will now conduct the
brother to the worthy Junior Past Chief Ranger for further instruction and
The S.C R. and Woodwards will
then proceed with the Candidate to they P.C.R., the S.C.R. saying: Worthy Junior Past Chief Ranger, by direction of our worthy Chief Ranger,
I herewith present to you
Brother ... for further instruction and examination.
J.P.C.R.: Brother, I will now examine you in the Salutation Sign, Recognition Sign,
Countersign, Grip, Word, and Password.
Thus having been done, the J.P.C.R.
proceeds: In addition to these, we have
Signs and Signals of Distress, in which I will now instruct you. Should you be
in danger or distress, and need the help of a Brother Forester, you may use the
Distress Sign, which is made by .... The answer to this sign is made by ....
Should you be unable to attract attention by the use of this sign, you may use
these words, .... Should this sign be observed, or these words be heard and
understood by a true Ancient Forester, he will answer you either by sign or in
these words, ..., and immediately go to your assistance. Should your attention
at any time be attracted by this sign or these words I charge you in the name of
friendship and Forestry, go quickly to the assistance of your brother in danger,
and render him such aid as may be within your power.
I will now instruct you how to enter or retire from
the Court while in session.
You will advance to the inner door and give * *
* * , and to the Senior Beadle give the Password for the current quarters
you will then enter the room and advance to the centre and salute the Chief
Ranger, giving the Salutation Sign, thus ..., using the words “Worthy Chief
Ranger” and if correct, he will answer it, and you will be at liberty to take
your seat. If you wish to retire before the Court is duly closed, you must
salute the Chief Ranger in the same manner as on entering.
The Voting Sign of a Forester is given thus, ....
I will also exemplify to you the use of the Gavel,
the symbol of authority’. One Rap (*)
calls the Court to attention, or seats it when standing. Two Raps are for the
Officers to assume a standing position (* * Officers
arise). Three Raps will summon the whole Court to arise (*
* *, Court arises and remains standing until the Candidate has left the room.)
With the various tests now in
your possession, you will experience no difficulty in proving yourself an
Ancient Forester, or in gaining admission into a Court of Ancient Forestry.
The Woodwards will accompany the
S.C.R. and the Candidate as far as the portal, and then return to their
The new brother having been
instructed by the S.C.R. in the ante-room, the caution being taken that no
strangers are present or within hearing, he will give the usual alarm, etc. for
admission. On being admitted, he will salute the C.R. and remain standing at the
altar in the centre of the room. The S.C.R. will be admitted at the same time
the Candidate is and follow a few paces in the rear, and slightly towards the
left of the latter, saluting the C.R. at the same time as the Candidate. The
S.C.R. will then proceed to the right side of the Candidate, and thus remain
until the circle is formed.
Tune: “God Save the King.”
Brothers I have nought to fear
True honor’s court is here,
Love, truth and joy!
Benev’lence here abounds,
Concord our evening crowns,
While every heart resounds,
God bless our cause.
S.C.R.: My brother! We are not associated here merely to glorify and do honor to
each other, but to cement still firmer our fraternal relations, and so unite our
influence, that while our social pleasures are increased, and our individual
security against adversity augmented, we may also exert a combined influence in
elevating the character and exalting the dignity of the human race.
In your intercourse with us, remember that
brotherly love is the pervading spirit of our institution. In discussion, let
your language be temperate; in demeanor, let your conduct be respectful. Let
your whole deportment be an example of moderation and good behaviour, without
which no institution can permanently prosper; and in the fraternal interchange of
deeds and sympathies, may we ever have cause to look upon you as a true Ancient
Forester, standing among us and walking before the world with all the excellence
of an upright man.
The J.P.C.R. and the C.R. will here enter the circle.
J.P.C.R.: This circle which surrounds us is a type of our
endless bond of brotherhood. Now let us add our new brother to our fraternal
the new brother in the circle line with the other members, directly opposite the
J.P.C.R.’s chair, with the hope that be will remain faithful to all
our obligations on his journey with us through the forest of life.
Response by the officers: Be faithful!
C.R.: This is our fraternal circle, and I cannot look
upon these goodly pillars, and doubt the stability of our noble Order. Brothers:
Let our emulation be: Who shall prove the most upright pillar, the staunchest
support and the brightest ornament in our Forestric band!
Response by all: So let us strive!
Tune: “Nettleton,” 8s and 7s.
Welcome, brothers, welcome ever,
To our Court in Friendship’s name;
Here we greet you kindly, brother,
Trusting you will do the same.
All our hopes are one in union
All our strength may we unite;
Then let us meet in sweet communion,
Ready ever to do right
Here we meet in joy and gladness
May we always happy be,
Free from sorrow, grief and sadness,
In the bonds of Unity.
May our Order always prosper;
Grow in strength and common sense
Help the sick, that none may suffer
While we have Benevolence
May our Courts prove always blessings,
To each brother thus afford
Peace instead of wanst distressing,
While we dwell in sweet Concord.
During the singing of the Ode, the Officers of the Court in the following
order, viz , J.P.C.R., C.R., S.C.R., Treasurer, Secretary, S.W., J.W., and S.B.,
followed by visiting Officials will march pass the new member, each one
extending his hand, giving the new member the Grip of a Forester and expressing
a welcome greeting to him. The Officers and visiting officials, after greeting
the candidate, will proceed to their respective stations in the foregoing order,
and remain standing until the singing of the Ode is finished; the circle of the
members of the Court meanwhile remaining intact. The ceremony having been
concluded, all the members and visitors will remain standing, while the C.R.
proceeds as follows:
Foresters’ Fire (nine only)
C.R: Brethren: The ceremony of Initiation having been
concluded, you will please become seated, and resume the business of the Court. *.