Foresters of America
Initiation Ritual


Opening of the Court
C.R., *:
The Brothers will come to order. The Officers will assume their stations.
Brother Junior Woodward, you will ascertain if the Beadles are at their posts, and if the entrance to the Court Room is properly guarded. Brother Senior Woodward, you will satisfy yourself that all present are entitled to sit in a Court of Foresters of America.
Each Woodward as addressed will arise in his place and remain standing until the Chief Ranger has finished speaking. The Junior Woodward will then go to the outer door, see that it is closed, and that the Junior Beadle is at his post. He will then close the inner door, see that the Senior Beadle is at his post, return to his station, and remain standing; or to may assist the Senior Woodward in taking up the password. The Senior Woodward in the meantime will advance to the Chief Ranger, give him the password, and take up the same from each person present.
He will then return to his station and remain standing.
Worthy Chief Ranger, the Beadles are their posts and the Court Room is securely guarded.
Worthy Chief Ranger, I am satisfied that all present are Foresters of America.
C.R., * *:
Brother Sub Chief Ranger, what are your duties?
To assist the Chief Ranger in all his work and in his absence to preside over the Court.
Brother Financial Secretary, what are your duties?
To receive from the members all moneys due the Court, paying the same only to the Treasurer, and perform such other duties as our Laws require.
C.R.: Brother Treasurer, what are your duties?
Treas.: To receive from the Financial Secretary all Court funds in his possession, and to pay the same only on a duly executed warrant.
C.R.: Brothers, it is my duty to preside over the Court, enforce the Laws, and preserve peace and harmony in our deliberations. In this work I ask your earnest cooperation. You will remember that we are met together as Foresters of America; that while we recognize all sects in religion and codes in politics, we permit none to influence our actions here ; and that as members of one fraternity, created by the same Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same country, we are to aid, support, and protect each other. * * *. We will now sing our opening ode.
Brothers, what are the watchwords of our Order?
Liberty, Unity, Benevolence, and Concord.
With these principles as our guide I declare Court No. , in the Grand Jurisdiction of ... opened in due form. Observe the Chair.
Chief Ranger and Brothers will give the salutation sign.

Explanation: The idea is that of a recruit seeking admission into the Foresters of America as a patriotic and fraternal society. The Junior Beadle is friendly to his application, and, to insure his safety, the Junior Beadle gives the applicant a token of the Order.
The Circle or Ring is placed among our emblems as a type of the endless bond of brotherhood, and to teach us that, as there is no end to a circle, so ought our efforts to aid and assist our distressed Brothers be unending, and thereby convince the world that our profession of benevolence is no idle boast.
The Conflict in the form as submitted is between Indians and Guard in open Court. If this be found inexpedient, it is contemplated that an imaginary conflict take place in the ante-room, one Indian is wounded and brought in by Guard, after speech of Senior Woodward is concluded.
Paraphernalia consist of American flag, one sword and belt, four muskets, one headsman axe, cord to bind hands, drinking glass, gray robe, four Indian head-dresses, four stuffed clubs, gloves (about two dozen), two fatigue belts for Woodwards.
The initiation ceremony has been prepared for use with one Candidate.
Brother Senior Beadle, ascertain from the Junior Beadle whether any Candidates are in waiting.
The Senior Beadle will give * *, if answered by Junior Beadle * *, he will say:
Worthy Chief Ranger, no Candidates are in waiting.
If answered by Junior Beadle * * *, he will open the wicket and the Junior Beadle will give him the full name of all Candidates in waiting.
The Senior Beadle will then say:
Worthy Chief Ranger, giving name of Candidate is without and desires initiation into the mysteries of Forestry.
Brother Financial Secretary, has Candidate been duly and legally elected a member of this Court?
He has.
You will retire to the ante-room and ascertain if the person in waiting is the person who has been proposed and balloted for by this Court.
The Financial Secretary with the proposition and the necessary question blanks in book form salutes and retires. On entering ante-room the Financial Secretary propounds, and Candidate answers in writing, the following questions. No answer should be written by Financial Secretary or other person except Candidate. The questions shall be printed in book form, and answers written in space under " answers."
1. Your name is
2. Your address is
3. Is this your signature?
4. Do you believe in the existence of a Supreme Being?
5. Have you ever been a member of this Order?
6. Have you ever made a previous application for membership in this Order?
7. Have you sought to enter this Order from any improper or unworthy motive?
S. Are you willing to take upon yourself an obligation, provided it does not conflict with your duty to your God, your country, or yourself?
During the time the Financial Secretary is in the ante-room, the Junior Beadle is at his post at outer door, standing at attention, no person should be permitted to enter ante-room. If alarm is sounded, the Junior Beadle answers * *. No person, save the Financial Secretary and Candidate, should speak. Upon signing of question blank, and collection of the balance of initiation fee, the Financial Secretary returns to Court and reports:
Worthy Chief Ranger, I am satisfied that the person in waiting is , the party named in this application, and balloted for in this Court. He has paid the initiation fee in full, and satisfactorily answered the questions propounded.
The Financial Secretary resumes his station.
Brothers, Mr. , having been duly proposed and accepted by ballot as our Law requires, now presents himself for initiation into the mysteries of our Order. Does any Brother know of any reason which would render his admission into this Court detrimental to its peace, prosperity, or good order? If so, speak.
In case there is any objection, the application shall again be referred to a Committee of Three, none of whom were on the original committee, to investigate said objection. The Candidate shall not be initiated until the committee has had at least one week to investigate, and has reported favorably. If the report be unfavorable then the Chief Ranger shall declare the former ballot null and void, and order a new ballot.
There being no objection:
Brothers, prepare for the ceremony of initiation.
The Officers shall wear white gloves. The members of the Guard shall carry muskets and wear white gloves. The Guard shall consist of four or more members, to be selected by and under command of the Captain of the Guard. The Captain of the Guard shall be appointed at installation by the Chief Ranger for a term of six months.
The altar shall be draped with a flag.
The Junior Beadle prepares Candidate by placing a package of papers in inside pocket of his coat, and hangs about his neck a string to which is attached one-half of a wooden ring (such as is used to hang lambrequins), and concealed in clothes; the other half being in possession of Chief Ranger.
If more than one Candidate, all but one shall be conducted to and seated in the Court Room at the left of the Junior Past Chief Ranger, there to remain until hereinafter further directed. With the remaining Candidate the ceremony will proceed.
When all is ready:
Brother Senior Beadle, announce to the Junior Beadle that the Court is ready to receive the Candidate.
Senior Beadle gives double alarm. Answered similarly by Junior Beadle. Senior Beadle opens door. Junior Beadle instructs Candidate to walk forward into the room. Senior Beadle follows behind Candidate to guide him if necessary. When Candidate is near middle of room Woodwards rush forward and seize him.
Who are you, sir? What is your business here in this Forest? Have you no answer to make?
Brother Junior Woodward, bind his hands! Now search him.
Junior Woodward searches him, and finds papers and hands them to Senior Woodward, who looks them over and then says:
Ha! I believe he is a spy! Let us take him to our Chief.
Candidate is taken to Chief Ranger, the Woodwards at either side of Candidate.
Worthy Chief Ranger, as the Junior Woodward and myself lay concealed in a dense part of the Forest, we saw this prisoner stealthily making his way through the underbrush. Deeming his actions suspicious, we suddenly sprang upon him and made him a prisoner. He was unable to explain his presence to our satisfaction, and, on searching him, we found these papers, which appear to be a plan of this Court. Believing him to be a spy, we have brought him before for further examination.
Senior Woodward hands papers to Chief Ranger, who examines them.
Sir, such papers as these should be in the hands of none but a most trusted officer of this Court. We are here in this Forest, surrounded on all sides by implacable enemies. For our own safety we are compelled to punish the slightest act of treachery by immediate death. The fact of these documents being in your possession demands prompt action. I therefore order that you be taken to the margin of the Forest, and there executed as a spy.
If no Guard is used, Senior Woodward in front of and Junior Woodward behind Candidate proceed to block at execution.
If Guard is used:
Captain, call out the Guard to attend the execution.
Captain salutes.
Guard, attention, fall in!
Guard fall in by twos, facing towards Chief Ranger.
Forward, march!
When front rank reaches Junior Woodward they open order and go on either side of Woodwards and Candidate, and close order as soon as they pass Senior Woodward. Then halt. Rear rank halt when they reach Junior Woodward. Then Woodwards and Candidate left face.
Forward, march!
Proceed to execution near Sub Chief Ranger.
All halt and face Candidate.
S.W. to Candidate:
Kneel on both knees. Bow your head.
Senior Woodward loosens collar to receive blow of axe held ready to strike by Junior Woodward.
While doing so Senior Woodward finds half of ring, and holding it up to view says:
Hold, what is this?
It is a part of the most valued token of our Order. This should be reported to our Chief.
I will do so. Remain here, and guard the prisoner.
Senior Woodward returns to Chief Ranger.
Worthy Chief Ranger, upon the person of the prisoner condemned to death I found this token of our Order. Deeming it of importance, we stayed the execution till the fact could be reported to you.
Presents half of ring. Chief Ranger takes same.
This is indeed important, and you did well to report it. I fear we have condemned him too hastily.
Present the prisoner before me for further examination.
Senior Woodward returns to prisoner and addresses Captain or Woodward according as Guard is used or not.
The Chief Ranger orders the prisoner returned to him.
If no Guard, Woodwards with Candidate march around room to position in front of Chief Ranger. The Woodwards then take position on either side, and slightly to rear of Candidate.
If Guard, the Captain salutes Senior Woodward and orders:
Guard, attention !
All then face and march to position in front of Chief Ranger.
All halt and right face. Guards fall back two paces.
Worthy Chief Ranger, I again present the prisoner.
Sir, was this token which was found on your person placed there by the Officer at the margin of the Forest?
Candidate, prompted by Senior Woodward:
It was.
Chief Ranger takes other half of ring from his pocket, and, joining the two halves, holds completed ring up to view.
Brothers, this is the symbolic emblem of our Forestic Circle. Some time since the Junior Beadle gave me this half, saying that he had entrusted the other half to one whose zeal for liberty and fidelity to Forestry had moved him to seek membership of our Court. This man is not a spy, but one who, revering his country and loving his fellow-man, seeks companionship in the Foresters of America.
To Candidate:
Sir, this emblem found upon your person has saved your life. Let the experience through which you have just passed be a lesson to you never to judge hastily of a brother's action, or be guided by external appearances alone. What is it you now most desire?
Candidate, prompted by Senior Woodward:
Let him be restored to liberty.
Senior Woodward removes bonds from Candidate.
Brother Senior Woodward, conduct him to a position in front of the altar.
If no Guard, the Woodwards, with Candidate, proceed to position at altar. As Candidate passes, the Junior Woodward, pauses and the waiting Candidates fall in the rear of Candidate, the Woodwards on either side of and one step to rear of Candidate.
If Guard, Senior Woodward turns to Captain.
Captain, escort us to the altar.
Guards step forward two paces to bring them to original position.
Left face! Forward, march!
Proceed and take position about altar.
Initiation ode first verse.
Chief Ranger steps down to a position half-way between his station and the altar.
Sir, you are approaching the privilege of membership in the Foresters of America, an Order founded upon and consecrated to the broad principles of Liberty, Unity, Benevolence, and Concord. We are not the first to proclaim these principles. In the dark hours of the Revolution, when Liberty had been driven from every American home, Brother greeted Brother in the silent Forest and with clasped hands pledged their lives that Liberty should not perish from the land, and that America should be free. In 1780 Marion, dauntless even in defeat, called his men together in the secret shades of the Forest, and thus addressed them: "I consider my life but a moment, but to fill that moment with duty is my all. To-day I am a lover, and Liberty is my sweetheart. To guard my country is my greatest duty. I am resolved that while I live my country shall never be enslaved."
Sir, Liberty has as serious a meaning to-day as it had among our fellow Foresters of old. Only those who follow Liberty's star can enter here. Then stand by the flag, by the red, white, and blue!
Each color has its history, each stripe its significance, and each star its story.
The red, ardent desire: an ardent desire to see our country prosper and liberty proclaimed to every people.
The white, purity and humility: pure is our love of brotherhood and country.
The blue, faithfulness and fidelity: be ye faithful to the flag and to the fraternity.
Brother Senior Woodward, place the Candidate in proper position to assume the obligation.
Senior Woodward places candidate.
While this is being done, Chief Ranger returns to his station.
Sir, you are now in proper position to take the solemn obligation of a Forester of America, which I assure you will in no wise conflict with any duty you owe your God, your country, your neighbor, or yourself. With this assurance, are you willing to proceed?
I am.
Chief Ranger calls up Court and takes position at the altar opposite to and facing Candidate.
C.R. to Candidate:
You will repeat your name in full and say after me:
I, , of my own free will and accord, in the presence of the Brethren here assembled, do solemnly and sincerely promise, declare, and affirm that I will faithfully keep and fully conform to all the laws, rules, regulations, and edicts of the Order, when legally enacted or commanded by the Supreme, Grand, or Subordinate Court, or any Officer thereof. I will never communicate, either by word, sign, or writing, any of the secret affairs of the Supreme Court, or any Grand of Subordinate Court; I will not print or write, or permit to be printed or written, any of the unwritten work of the Order, save as permitted by the laws of the Order.
I will never wrong a Brother, nor permit him to be wronged, if in my power to prevent it.
I will, to the extent of my means, aid a Brother in distress, and assist the widows and orphans of deceased Brothers.
I will, so far as possible, attend all meetings of the Court, promote its welfare, and assist in the up-building of its membership and finances.
In event of my connection with the Order ceasing, I will consider this obligation as binding upon me out of the Order as in it.
I make this pledge on the honor of a man who respects the sublime value of truth and the sacredness of a promise. May He who rules the Universe keep me steadfast and true in this, my solemn obligation!
Initiation ode- second verse.
When ode is completed, Chief Ranger returns to his station and gives *; Senior Woodward raises Candidate to his feet; members become seated; Guard, Woodwards, and Candidate remain as they are.
Brother Senior Woodward, you will present our newly made Brother to the Sub Chief Ranger.
If Guard is used, Senior Woodward turns to Captain.
Captain, dismiss the guard.
Captain, remaining in his position:
Guard front. Guard faces Chief Ranger. Forward, march!
When Guard are seated, or if no Guard is used, Senior and Junior Woodwards step to either side of Candidate, still facing Chief Ranger. All three right face, and, in single file, Senior Woodward leads in half circle to front of Sub Chief Ranger, and then left face.
Worthy Sub Chief Ranger, by direction of the Chief Ranger I present our newly made Brother.
My Brother, the obligation you have just taken will not make of you a Forester unless you live and act as a Forester. The true Forester looks beyond the outward appearance of its forms and ceremonies to the eternal spirit of brotherhood which links, in the golden chain of our expanding sympathy, heart with heart and hand with hand.
You will now be conducted to the ante-room, and upon your return you will be further instructed in the principles of our Order.
Senior Woodward, Candidate, and Junior Woodward right face, and Senior Woodward leads Candidate to ante-room, Junior Woodward taking his seat as he reaches his station.
The lights will be turned low, so as to make objects but faintly visible.
The Guard will be in their seats near to Chief Ranger. A band dressed as Indians will assemble in ante-room, taking care they are not seen by the Candidate. Everything being ready, the Senior Beadle will open the door, and, without ceremony, admit the Senior Woodward and Candidate, who will enter and slowly make their way around the room, and, as they move along, Senior Woodward will say:
It is thus you will make your journey through life. You will find that it is not all sunshine, but that it has its dark days and its times of discouragement and trouble, when you will need the guiding hand and help of others. As adversity conies to you, so will it come to your Brother, and you should never forget that in such straits he has a claim upon your sympathy.
You are now nearing the end of your journey, for the headquarters of our Forestic Court are close at hand; but do not cease your vigilance, for dangers are often nearest when the least expected.
At this moment Senior Beadle opens door, and Indians, with war-whoop and yell, rush from ante-room towards Chief Ranger. The Guard jump up and meet them. A sharp conflict occurs, during which Indians are gradually driven into ante-room. Guard following. As Indians retreat, one of their number is left lying on the floor, his head toward side of the room, groaning as if badly injured. As soon as Indians and Guard pass into ante-room, Sub Chief Ranger immediately goes to wounded Indian, and stands on side nearest Chief Ranger, looking at Indian. At this moment the Guard come rushing in from ante-room, shouting:
Kill him! Kill him!
Before they can touch wounded Indian, the Sub Chief Ranger, lifting his hand, says:
Peace! Let no mad revel of ever stain a Forester's victory over a fallen foe. In the hour of his proudest triumph let him never refuse to dip his colors to the sceptre of Benevolence. And in his daily battles let him never forget that the standard of human life is not raised by the pressure of brute forces, but by the attraction of those graces of Benevolence with which the world's Samaritans have crowned the top.
The throne of Benevolence is not pillared on bayonets of steel, and her grandest victories sound no heralding trumpets; yet where are the people that do not pay her tribute, or the nation that knows not her power?
She binds her votaries in bonds of sympathy, and the cords of their union throb with a common impulse the world over and all the time.
She lifts the clouds from the horizon of our lives, shows the world in brighter colors, and makes it a better place in which to live. She sends her followers to dry the tear and put a smile in its stead ; and, squaring their lives by the Golden Rule of human conduct, she helps them to rear a noble structure not made with hands, strong enough to last through all the ages, and large enough to shelter all mankind.
Here a member, representing a priestly character, clad in a long gray robe, will silently slip through to the wounded Indian, and, raising his head, will press a glass of water to his lips, and instantly the Sub Chief Ranger, pointing to the spectacle, will continue:
Sometimes, like a ministering angel, she comes to press the cooling cup to the lips of the wounded, caring not what his name or station, or what the cause for which he fell. Then, honor to the principles that make us one!
The Guard all kneel about Indian as if anxious to assist him, and the Sub Chief Ranger, taking glass, raises it above his head, and says:
Brothers, here's to Friendship in marble and Enmity in dust; and may Liberty, Unity, Benevolence, and Concord ever hold sway in Courts of Foresters !
When Sub Chief Ranger has finished, Senior Woodward turns Candidate around and conducts him to Chief Ranger, during which the Guards lift Indian to his feet and assist him from the room. Lights are turned up.
During verbal instructions by Chief Ranger and Junior Past Chief Ranger, the Woodwards will exemplify the, sign, etc., before Candidate.
My Brother, the scene you have just witnessed is intended to teach a lesson in Unity, Benevolence, and Concord. You beheld how by united action your companions repelled the attack of the enemy. Also with what Concord they extended the hand of Benevolence to the fallen foe. Bear this lesson ever in your mind, and remember that Benevolence is the crowning principle of our Order.
I will now make you acquainted with the sign, countersign, grip, and word of a Forester.
The sign of a Forester is given thus: .
The countersign thus: .
The sign and countersign are emblematic of our Forestic Circle. With the individual Brother the Circle is incomplete; yet by the countersign we are taught that when even two are met together, then the Circle is unbroken and its obligation just as binding as when many are assembled.
The grip of a Forester is given thus: .
It is emblematic of that friendship which we should extend to every member of the Order. By it we are taught to recognize the duty of walking hand in hand through the Forests of this life, and of helping each other to surmount its struggles and bear up under its disappointments.
The word of a Forester is: .
Liberty is the first principle of our Order, and should be strenuously preserved by you.
The password for the current term is .
The test word is .
This word may be changed at any time, at the discretion of the Supreme Chief Ranger.
I will now invest you with this badge of membership of our beloved Order, illustrating its motives, and present you with a copy of the Supreme, Grand, and Subordinate Court Laws, which you will carefully study.
My Brother, you will hereafter be recognized as a member of Court No. Foresters of America, subject to its laws and entitled to all its privileges and benefits.
Worthy Senior Woodward, you will now conduct our Brother to the Worthy Junior Past Chief Ranger for further instructions and examination.
By direction of the Chief Ranger I herewith present to you our newly initiated Brother for further instructions and examination.
My Brother, the lessons of this evening teach the value of Liberty and Benevolence. They constitute the foundation upon which our Fraternity is built, but no foundation is safe without the binding cement of Unity. In all nations and climes the conquering force of Unity has been recognized. Our American precept, "United we stand, divided we fall," is the very keystone of the Nation's prosperity. Let us be true to each other, true to our Fraternity, and true to our Country.
The great duty of our Order, through which and by which we aim to improve its members, is Benevolence. It teaches us to regard the great family of mankind as our brethren, to relieve the distressed and attend the sick, to bury the dead and give comfort and consolation to the widow and orphan.
To reach the full measure of your responsibilities of membership, you must be of pure heart and clean hands, constant in attendance upon every Court meeting, and diligent in the discharge of every duty. Accept such preferment as your Brothers may confer upon you. Be animated by the true principles of Forestry, that your life and conduct may be no reproach to the Brothers whose confidence has made you one of us.
Then let us, as an Order, direct every energy to the preservation of peace in our midst, and, relying upon the truth of our principles, carry out, in all its fullness and glory, our God-like motto, "Liberty, Unity, Benevolence, and Concord."
I will now examine you in the sign, countersign, grip, word, password, and test word.
This having been done, the Past Chief Ranger proceeds:
In addition to these, we have signs of challenge and recognition, and signals of distress, with which I will now acquaint you.
Should you be in any public assembly or thoroughfare, and desire to ascertain if there is a Forester of America present or near you, you will use this sign: .
If your challenge should be observed by a Forester of America, he will answer you thus .
Each will then advance to the other, and you will say ; he will reply .
He will then extend his hand, which you will accept, and permit him to give the grip of Forestry, which, if correct, you will return.
The sign of distress, to be used in the event of your needing assistance or relief, is made . The answer is . Should you be so situated as to be heard, but not seen, for example, in the night season, you will give the signal of distress by the use of these words: .
When this signal is heard by a Brother, he will answer you with the words , and immediately go to your aid and render such relief and assistance as may be within his power.
Should you observe the recognition sign, or the sign of distress, or hear the distress words, you will respond in the manner in which you have been instructed, and by your conduct manifest that you possess the true principles of our Fraternity.
I will now instruct you how to gain admission into your own or any other Court of Foresters of America.
On approaching the outer door you will give any ordinary alarm. This will attract the attention of the Junior Beadle, who will open the wicket, and to whom you will give the test word, which now is give this in a whisper. You will then be admitted to the ante-room, where you will clothe yourself in regalia appropriate to your rank and standing in the Order. You will then approach the inner door and give ; this will be answered by the Senior Beadle raising the wicket, to whom you will give your name, and the name and number of the Court to which you belong, in this wise: "Bro. , of Court , No. ;" or, if it be your own Court, you will say: "Bro. , of this Court." In either case you will also give the password in a whisper. The Senior Beadle will then announce you to the Chief Ranger (or Sub Chief Ranger), who will authorize the Senior Beadle to admit you, if correct.
Upon being admitted, you will advance to the altar and attract the Chief Ranger's attention by saying, "Worthy Chief Ranger." Observing that he has recognized you, you will salute him with the salutation sign. He will answer your salutation with the countersign.
The voting sign is given thus .
On retiring from the Court Room during a session, or desiring to caution a Brother engaged in improper speech concerning the Order or its affairs, you will give this sign, , signifying, my mouth shall ever be encompassed in secrecy. If you are retiring, the Chief Ranger will respond .
I will also explain to you the use of the gavel, the symbol of authority. One signal calls the Court to attention or seats it when standing. Two signals are for the officers to assume a standing position. Three signals will summon the whole Court to arise.
With the various tests now in your possession, you will experience no difficulty in proving yourself a member of the Foresters of America, or in gaining admission into any Court of our Order.
The Woodwards will now conduct you to the Financial Secretary, that you may sign the Constitution and Laws of the Court.
Which being done, the Woodwards with Candidate will take position at altar, the Woodwards on either side of Candidate.
Worthy Chief Ranger, our Brother has signed the Constitution and Laws.
Chief Ranger calls up Court and welcome Ode is sung.
Brethren, Brother , having been duly initiated according to the rites and ceremonies of our Order, is now a Forester of America, entitled to all the privileges and subject to all the duties and responsibilities of our Fraternity. We will have a recess of minutes, during which the Senior Woodward and if there be more than one Candidate, such officers or members as the Chief Ranger may direct will introduce our new Brother to the members of this Court and all visitors.
Closing of Court
C.R., * * *:
Brother Sub Chief Ranger, what are the objects of our Order?
To unite fraternally all white males in good health and of proper age; to assist each other in sickness and in distress.
To watch over and protect the widows and orphans of our deceased Brothers.
As we go forth into the outer world, my Brothers, let us all be mindful of these worthy objects; let brotherly love prevail, and may every moral and social virtue abide with us!
We will now sing our closing ode.
I now declare this meeting of Court , No. duly closed.