Abstract

This article explores the significance behind ritual celebrations depicted in the published drinking songs and toasts that emanated from a freemasonic lodge active in the early 1780s in Vienna. Bacchanalian overindulgence within the exclusive association aimed to create a fraternity that would act together to bring progress to Habsburg lands. Publication of their celebrations aimed to bring the same benefits to the rest of the western world. By excluding women, by acting like apes, by singing and chanting formulaic verses while ritually eating and drinking, men became part of a community and found a new identity. Drunken homosocial celebration provided the antidote to the constructed problem of a contemporary society still dominated by aristocratic women or religious institutions. Masons believed their lodge provided them freedom from societal constraints and a social transparency necessary to uncovering a more natural self. The tension inherent in the form of masculinity in the Viennese lodge's songs and toasts, whereby what may be termed the "high" and the "low" mixed, was the basis of freemasonry's appeal and effectiveness. Belly laughter and base behavior were by no means oppositional to a rational program of societal reform. Through these drinking songs and ritual practices, the association emphasized self-improvement and moral development. Publication of their celebrations aimed to bring the same benefits to the rest of the western world. In a time of transformation in social practices and hierarchies, freemasonry taught brothers how to behave as men amongst fellow men and with women. The idealistic intellectual and bacchanalian sociable masculinities combined to allow members to articulate new measures of social worth.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1897
Print ISSN
0022-4529
Pages
pp. 48-65
Launched on MUSE
2012-09-13
Open Access
No
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