The adoption by the Lodge of the child of a Freemason is practiced with peculiar ceremonies in some of the French and German Lodges, and has been introduced, but not with the general approval of the Craft, into one or two Lodges of this country.
Clavel, in his Histoire Pittoresque de la Franc-Maçonnerie, meaning in French The Picturesque History of Freemasonry (page 40, third edition), gives the following account of the ceremonies of Adoption :
"It is a custom, in many Lodges, when the wife of a Freemason is near the period of her confinement, for the Hospitaller, if he is a physician, and if not, for some other Brother who is, to visit her, inquire after her health, in the name of the Lodge, and to offer her his professional services, and even pecuniary aid if he thinks she needs it.
Nine days after the birth of her child, the Master and Wardens call upon her to congratulate her on the happy event. If the infant is a boy, a special communication of the Lodge is convened for the purpose of proceeding to its adoption.
The hall is decorated with flowers and foliage, and censers are prepared for burning incense. Before the commencement of labor, the child and its nurse are introduced into an anteroom. The Lodge is then opened, and the Wardens, who are to act as godfathers, repair to the infant at the head of a deputation of five Brethren. The chief of the deputation, then addressing the nurse, exhorts her not only to watch over the health of the child that has been intrusted to her care, but also to cultivate his youthful intellect, and to instruct him with truthful and sensible conversation. The child is then taken from the nurse, placed by its father upon a cushion, and carried by the deputation into the Lodge room. The procession advances beneath an arch of foliage to the pedestal of the east, where it halts while the Master and Senior Warden rehearse this dialogue: "'Whom bring you here, my Brethren? says the Master to the godfathers.
"'The son of one of our Brethren whom the Lodge is desirous of adopting, is the reply of the Senior Warden.
"'What are his names, and what Masonic name will you give him?'
"The Warden replies, adding to the baptismal and surname of the child a characteristic name, such as Truth, Devotion, Benevolence, or some other of a similar nature.
"The Master then descends from his seat, approaches the Louveteau or Lewis, for such is the appellation given to the son of a Freemason, and extending his hands over its head, offers up a prayer that the child may render itself worthy of the love and care which the Lodge intends to bestow upon it.
He then casts incense into the censers, and pronounces the Apprentice's obligation, which the godfathers repeat after him in the name of the Louveteau.
Afterwards he puts a white apron on the infant, proclaiming it to be the adopted child of the Lodge, and causes this proclamation to be received with honors.
"As soon as this ceremony has been performed, the Master returns to his seat, and having caused the Wardens with the child to be placed in front of the north column, he recounts to the former the duties which they have assumed as godfathers. After the Wardens have made a suitable response, the deputation which had brought the child into the Lodge room is again formed, carries it out, and restores it to its nurse in the anteroom.
"The adoption of a Louveteau binds all the members of the Lodge to watch over his education, and subsequently to aid him, if it be necessary, in establishing himself in life. A circumstantial account of the ceremony is drawn up, which having been signed by all the members is delivered to the father of the child.
This document serves as a Dispensation, which relieves him from the necessity of passing through the ordinary preliminary examinations when, at the proper age, he is desirous of participating in the labors of Freemasonry. He is then only required to renew his obligations." Louveteau in French with Lewis in English, mean the same. Two meanings may be applied to each of the words in both countries. Among members of the trade as distinct from Brethren of the Craft, a Louveteau or Lewis means a wedge of iron or steel to support a stone when raising it, a chain or rope being attached to the wedge which grips a place cut for it in the stone.
The words Louveteau and Lewis are thus applied to sons of Freemasons as supports of their fathers.
In the United States, the ceremony has been practiced by a few Lodges, the earliest instance being that of Foyer Maçonnique Lodge of New Orleans, in 1859.
The Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, has published the ritual of Masonic Adoption for the use of the members of that Rite. This ritual under the title of offices of Masonic Baptism, Reception of a Louveleau and Adoption, is a very beautiful one, and is the composition of Brother Albert Pike. It is scarcely necessary to say that the word Baptism there used has not the slightest reference to the Christian sacrament of the same name (see Lewis).
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