The Daunting Task of Memorization

I’m not going to lie to you, I am really good at putting things off. Like many of you, I’m sure, if cleaning, homework, or even writing on this blog can wait until later, it will probably happen. This, unfortunately, leaves me in the position I am in currently. The deadline is swiftly approaching, and I have not even started on what needs to get done. In this case, I have been putting off some memorization work.

As some of you may know, I was invited to act as the star point Esther in my OES chapter. The normal opening work is only a paragraph, but for an initiation, its more like nine. We are having a “straw” (or practice) initiation tomorrow night at our meeting. How much of my part do I have memorized? Zlich, nada, nothing. This article is as much for me as it is for you.

Memory work is a large part of Freemasonry and its appendant bodies. When everyone has their parts memorized, it helps make the opening of the chapter, or the degree given to a candidate, seem seemless and smooth. When someone does not know their part, it shows, and it can be painful to watch, and even jarring to the candidate.Ideally, all ritual work should be memorized, most, if not all, Masonic groups do not allow an open ritual book in an open chapter meeting. There are exceptions to this of course, my OES chapter has a prompter who does have an open ritual in order to help those who stumble get through their parts (although I am sure she could do her job without it). Few, if any boys in my DeMolay chapter have their parts memorized, although T is offering cash money to those who do, in hopes of making the meetings run more smoothly.

How do I even begin?

Memorization can be a daunting task. It feels like you will probably never get there, and that everyone who has their parts memorized are some kind of super geniuses with some sort of memory lobe in their brains that you seem to be missing. The biggest thing to remember about memorization, is that it takes time. You can’t just sit down for 15 minutes and be able to repeat something word for word after the first time. Memorization takes a lot of repetition, not only reading the parts at home, but also attending meetings. There is a big difference between sitting on your couch repeating your part to your cat, and saying the same part in front of a room full of people, and remembering all of the coordinating floorwork, signs, and passes.

The first step to memorizing a part of ritual is to read it. Not just once either, but several times. Be sure to look up words that you do not know the meaning of, or do not know how to pronounce. Ritual work is almost written in its own language, and often includes words that are no longer common in today’s vocabularies. Try to understand the meaning of the part; you will remember what to say a lot better if you understand what the message is trying to convey, rather than simply repeating words. The next thing you want to do is look at the punctuation. Pauses occur often in ritual work, and often have a purpose. You may need to wait for the canidate to reach a certain part of the room, or for a sign to be given to you, before you continue on with your part.

How do I actually memorize it?

There are a ton of different methods out there as far as ways to memorize a part. Once you feel familiar with the part, the hard work begins. I know that the way that T memorizes, and the way that he teaches others to memorize, is to look at the first sentence, repeat it a few times, then close the book, and repeat it aloud; also known as rote memorization. He then moves onto the next sentence, and repeats both the first and the second sentence, returning to the beginning when he gets stuck. This is a very common method for memorization. There is only one flaw with it; people tend to start strong and end weak, because they know the ending better. A solution to this is to work backwards once you are able to repeat it forwards. If you decide to do this, you start with the last sentence, and then add the second to last sentence, working in the same manner as the way that you learned the part before. You may also find that breaking it into parts also makes it easier to memorize in this manner. Be sure to say the parts aloud, there is a big difference between reading the parts in your head, and actually speaking the words.

Another idea is to study your part before you go to bed, and then go back through it when you wake up, to see how much you remember from the night before. Using this method gives your brain to process what it is you’re learning. The reason for this is that your brain is more active in the morning right after you wake up, so anything that you study just before bed or as soon as you wake up is more likely to stick. This method also helps encourage long-term memorization, as you will have to recall the part from day-to-day.

You may also find that seeing the parts done helps you remember the parts themselves. If you have a number of other Lodges or Chapters in your area, visit as often as you can. You will find that you will begin to pick up and cues and words without even thinking about it. This is also very useful for new members, who have not been exposed to a lot of the ritual work.

Utilize technology that is available to you. There are a number of websites and apps out there to help you memorize parts. You may be able to find the part that you need available online, so that you do not also have to type up the part, which can often be lengthy. The majority of these websites and apps basically do the same thing. You read the part, and words are slowly covered up, eventually only showing a blank page. Some websites that do this are Memorize Now and Memorizer an app that works in a similar fashion is iMemorize (available for iOS and Android). Another app that you may find useful is called Memorize Anything. Basically a fancier version of the voice recorder, this app allows you to record yourself saying the part, and then play it back to you at any time.

Memory work can seem like a daunting task. However, the biggest part of memory work, is that it takes time. If you have a part to memorize, take a little time every day, just 15-20 minutes, to work on your piece. Within a week you will find it comes much easier to you, and a few weeks later, you should have no issue reciting your part from memorization. The biggest tip I can give is; learn from my mistake, don’t put off memory work until the last-minute!