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The Rituals of Freemasonry: The Nigerian Ritual

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By David Harrison

Some lodges in England are fiercely defensive about their ritual; there may only be a few words that are said differently, or perambulation in lodge may be slightly different, but to that particular lodge, their ritual is done their own specific way and the immortal phrase ‘this is the way we do it’ reverberates with pride in many an English lodge room. The Nigerian Ritual is a well-used ritual in many lodges, and indeed, in some of these lodges, they do it differently. From its name, the Nigerian Ritual hints at its origins as a ritual written and published specifically for the Colonial district in Africa in the 1930s, and its name conjures up an image of how English Freemasonry was worked in its jurisdictions within the far flung reaches of the British Empire.

The title page of the Nigerian ritual book reads ‘Nigerian Ritual – as taught in Emulation Lodge of Improvement’. The preface written by George M. Gray, District Grand Master of Nigeria in 1939, explained why the District of Nigeria decided to print its own ritual book. On the page, it reads that ‘The Emulation Lodge of Improvement does not recognise any printed text of its ritual…’ which was true at the time, and Gray was concerned about the difficulties that arose in the learning and rehearsing of the ritual in his District of Nigeria. A tour of Nigerian lodges took place by W. Brother C.M. Browne and W. Brother Tasker in 1936, and the notes made from the demonstrations on the tour compiled by Browne, who was the Deputy Grand Master of the District and had special experience of Emulation working, eventually resulted in the publication of the Nigerian Ritual book for the use of the lodge members of the District.

The book was printed and was purchased by brethren in England also, used as a source for various lodges who adopted this Nigerian Ritual. The ritual, though effectively Emulation, does have subtle differences in its language and presentation; the punctuation is different in places, and some of the wordings are presented differently, and as some lodges adopted it, over time, perambulations became slightly different. The Emulation ritual was finally officially printed in 1969, but some lodges that had been using the Nigerian Ritual since the 1930s decided to stay with the workings that they had been conducting for the past thirty years or so. It thus became a ritual styling for various lodges, the book being reprinted for them specifically and some lodges printing them locally.

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