A supposedly secret ceremony written by Rudyard Kipling in 1922 to indoctrinate engineers into the profession. Originally held in Toronto, the ritual has spread worldwide. The ceremony is not actually a secret, but spreading the details of the ceremony is discouraged.

The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer is a ritual that all Canadian engineers are expected to participate in before they work in their profession. The ritual is optional, but it's hard to see why it would be refused.

The ritual is managed by The Corporation of the Seven Wardens, a volunteer group that exists only to oversee the ceremony. The ceremony itself exists to remind engineers of their obligations towards public safety before profit. The details of the ceremony were somewhat secret. Up until a few years ago the only people allowed to be in the room during the ritual were engineers taking the obligation and engineers running the ceremony. Recently, however, it was opened up to the families of the new engineers.

The first suggestion of a ceremony for professional engineers was made in 1925 by Professor H. E. T. Haultin at the 36th annual professional meeting of the Engineering Institute of Canada in Montreal. He foresaw something akin to the Hippocratic Oath for doctors, except pertaining to the engineer's duty in maintaining public safety. Prof. Haultin wrote to British author Rudyard Kipling, asking him to develop a ceremony. Rudyard Kipling had previously been to Canada and marvelled at the Canadian Pacific Railway that span the country, and at the rapid development of the oil and gas industry. In three weeks he created The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and described it in a letter. Prof. Haultin and seven previous presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada took the ritual, and they set up the Corporation of the Seven Wardens to administer the ritual to other practicing engineers.

During the ceremony, an engineer is given an Iron Ring. The iron ring is a simple, rough cut circle with a total value of around ten dollars. At first, the Seven Wardens wanted to make the ring finer and more impressive, but Kipling showed its simple appearance could be part of its meaning. He wrote:

It is rough as the mind of the young. It is not smoothed at the edges, any more than the character of the young. It is hand-hammered all around and the young have their hammerings coming to them. It has neither beginning nor end, any more than the work of an Engineer, or as we know Space itself. It will cut into a gold ring if worn next to it: thus showing that one had better keep one's money-getting quite seperate.

The ring is given by an engineer who has already taken the obligation, and is to be worn on the pinky finger of the dominant hand (i.e. the one you write with).

There is much more to the ceremony than just the ring, but I will say no more than that it involves engineering landmarks local to the area that the ceremony is performed in, in particular reminders of great engineering works and great engineering failures. As well, a biblical passage is quoted: 2 Esdras, Chapter 4, Verses 5-10. Also, one of Kipling's poems, either Hymn of Breaking Strain or Martha's Sons, is recited.

There is some criticism that the ceremony is sexist or overtly Christian. In defence, the ceremony sounds religious and sexist due to the old, c. 1920's, English used. The bible passage is actually part of the Apocrypha and not accepted by the Roman Catholic Church. It serves only to remind us of the the limits of human knowledge, and is not intended for worship. Though sexism and Christianity appear in the ceremony, the ritual was not designed to have either, and it is worth ignoring this lack of political correctness in order to partake in the obligation of the engineer.

Historical Overview of The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer; brochure, Camp 18, Calgary.

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