Ancient Toltec Rite
On April 11, 1904, Charles Bard Hamilton, Clement Smith, and others met and
organized the Grand Council, Ancient Toltec Rite, with Hamilton and Smith
respectively as Grand Commander and Grand Secretary. The next day, with several
aspirants present, the Grand Council instituted Topeka Council, No. 1 and
installed its officers. On April 14, 71 aspirants were initiated into the newly
formed Rite. Hamilton, who had traveled extensively in Mexico, had prepared the
original ritual for the Rite in 1902.
The Grand Council governs Topeka Council No. 1, the only subordinate council now in existence. The subordinate council confers three degrees:
the Cloister (First) Degree, "Sisters and Brothers of Charity";
the Chapter (Second) Degree "Companions of Justice and Mercy"; and
the Council (Third) Degree, "Knights and Ladies of the Holy Cross."
Membership is restricted to Knights Templar or 32° Scottish Rite Masons and women related to them.
The arrangement of the Lodge Room in the Cloister Degree represents the Palace at Uxmal. Part of this degree, referred to as the "Bride of the Sacred Well," focuses on Yum Chac, rain god of the Toltecs, and the appeal of the people to him for rain to water their dying crops. The First Degree is the only time that the Toltec people are specifically mentioned in the current edition of the ritual; in the original edition, the Toltecs are not mentioned at all. Justice and Mercy are the central themes of the Chapter Degree and are portrayed, in part, by an enactment of the so-called "trial scene" from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The Council Degree emphasizes the importance of Truth.
Early documents indicate that Hamilton had fully intended to extend the Rite into other cities and states, and councils were instituted in Omaha, Nebraska, and Ft. Scott, Kansas. There were inquires from other cities, but no other councils were formed. Eventually the councils closed in Omaha and Ft. Scott, leaving only Topeka No. 1.
Membership in the Ancient Toltec Rite has fluctuated throughout the years. A booklet published for its Diamond Anniversary in 1979 records 266 members in 1906, 537 in 1916, and 1,394 in 1927. Marie Twichell, Lady Secretary of Topeka Council, reports that in 2002 there were, again, 266 members.
Topeka Council No. 1 continues to gather for monthly business meetings and to
plan the annual reunions when new members are initiated. In 2004 the Grand
Council and Topeka Council No. 1 celebrated 100 years of existence. Many members
of the Rite live in the greater Topeka area, but others are now dispersed across
the United States and even into some foreign countries.
Ritual for the Installation of Officers