Sunday, March 30, 2008

Feminine Freemasons form new lodges in Cuba

I'm happy to see we've all used our "time out" in the Masonic Corral™ wisely, meditating on what it means to subdue our passions. Surprisingly, no major barfights or gunfights broke out. The closest you came to fighting was a gentlemanly discussion of the pros and cons of whether you should use live href links or just print the URL when linking to other sites.

The Masonic Corral Brawl™ inspired a logo'd T-shirt, which I hope you've all purchased at the gift shop as a souvenir that you've "been here, done that, got the T-shirt," as well as a nifty Masonic apron you can wear with pride to fish frys and barbeques. I've no doubt that someone somewhere is working on a Masonic Corral Brawl™ musical for the stage and screen. I'm hoping Johnny Depp will play The Widow's Son, and Alan Alda and Ben Kingsley will co-act the role of Grouchogandhi.

Since Bro. Dunn claims I'm no "journalist" (even though my first investigative, "go out in the field and interview people" news story was published with a byline in a major metropolitan daily newspaper when I was 18), and Bro. King thinks I'm a lonely, complaining, snake-oil-selling egotist, I'll refrain from writing an original article today and instead mosey back into publishing Taper articles with a piece by someone else. Perhaps it will inspire thoughtful discussion by you, the reader. Meanwhile I will retreat inside my isolation chamber (actually a big cardboard box) and spit-shine my rough ashlar until it meets the approval of my detractors.

Below is a translated article, an English version of a story that appeared Saturday on RPP Noticias, a Spanish-language news site. My thanks go out to Sister Kelly for sending me the article.

This article brings to mind several good discussion topics, including feminine Masonry and more generally, our brothers and sisters in the still-Communist post-Fidel Cuba, as well as how new lodges and grand lodges come into being.
Cuban Women Create Their First Masonic Lodges
Saturday, March 29, 2008

A group of 36 Cuban women has created the first two Masonic lodges for women, whose activities will begin next week in a country with a long tradition in this practice, which began in 1859 and included important historical figures.

"Venus" and "Victoria," the names chosen for these Cuban lodges, will open next week, a time of completion, with the support of the Feminine Grand Lodge of Chile, of the process of initiation in which twelve Cuban candidates have been immersed.

Masonry was founded in Cuba in 1859, making it one of the oldest in Latin America, and this society had as members famous historical figures such as the heroes of independence Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Antonio Maceo, José Martí, Ignacio Agramonte and Máximo Gómez.

Over the past 50 years, Freemasonry has had moments of "complexity" in its relationship with the Communist government, according to its practitioners in the island, although they never ceased to be active, and it now has around 30,000 members grouped in 341 lodges around the country.

They will be joined by two new lodges, in Havana and the western city of Pinar del Río, formed entirely by women, once the ceremony of initiation is completed next April 2.

"Our intention is that within a short time, you also will be able to have a relationship with the Grand Lodge of Cuba, to the extent that they can work with the constancy that this requires," said the Grand Master of the Feminine Grand Lodge of Masons of Chile, Oriana Valdés Sanhuesa. She is leading a delegation of 42 members of this institution that traveled to Havana for the express purpose of initiating the Cuban women.

For two years, a preparation committee headed by the Cuban Digna Gicela Medina has been preparing for this moment under the tutelage of Chilean Masons, with a cumulative experience of more than 25 years, and who were the godmothers of similar processes in Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay.

"We are still in diapers, so because of this we call ourselves a 'preparation committee' [in Spanish, there's a pun on 'birthing committee'], according to Efe Medina, who explains that there are women from 18 to 60 years old — although mostly young — among whom are housewives, florists, artists, civil servants and professionals of various types.

To be a virtuous woman, to have a good character in society, employment and family, to show an interest in studying and growing as a human, are the basic requirements for acceptance in the committee and the groups being born in other provinces of the country, according to the future Cuban Master Mason, who is a doctor by profession.

She recalled that since mid-2007 they have hoped for this time, delayed by the preparations for the trip of the Masons from Chile and that now coincides with the recent inauguration, a little more than a month ago, of President Raúl Castro.

The Grand Master of Chile told Efe that in total, they are making preparations for 24 Cuban women with the degree of Master, "So they can continue to function with the basic elements in these lodges and give instruction from a distance," until they have achieved a third lodge, an indispensable prerequisite to constitute a Grand Lodge, which according to their calculations will be in 2010.

As in other countries, in the island of Cuba Masonry has been governed by the old rules and traditions that included, among other things, that its practitioners had to be men. But the future women Masons of Cuba are optimistic and show great enthusiasm for this project, including Lissete Arias, an employee and mother of two children, who asserts that "This will be something important for women, because we are taking a quantum leap."

"Women today are working, studying, why can't we also be Freemasons and work for the good of society, good standards and good behavior," she added. Her sister in lodge, Laura Rodríguez, a composer and singer who is 32 years old, after two years in the planning group says that Cuban women "are very creative, active because of the way they live from day to day, having to survive everything that daily life presents, and the idea of creating a Masonic movement is exciting." [Translated by Clay]
Image: Cuban women forming a new Masonic lodge

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  1. Venus & Victoria? Wasn't that the name of a Julie Andrews movie about drag queens?

  2. What mght you be suggesting lies under their aprons, sir?
    Two Balls and a Cane?

  3. Women choose to join us on our journey following the middle path and all you guys can do is come up with wiener jokes?

    Seems pretty shallow to me....

    Hopefully they are able to grasp some of the deeper concepts and resist their urges to make plaground humour.

    Congratulations to the women of Cuba and safe journey as you go to work in the quarries with us.

  4. I hope they enjoy their labors in their quarries.

  5. The two "V" names sort of struck me as unusual too, actually.

    I'm wondering if there's a message there. You know how we Masons are with symbolism--I can't help digging.

    First, if you put the two names together, it's Venus Victoria -- which makes me think "Venus Victorious" -- ie a victory for that gender which is ruled by Venus.

    Also, the V is ancient symbol of woman -- just as an inverted V is as symbol for man.

    And this one is reaaaally unlikely, but VV together are an M if you turn them upside down.

    But hey, the Da Vinci Code makes a bigger stretch than that with it's M's...

    Anyway, felicidades a mis hermanas Cubanos!

  6. Intersected VV's, one upside down, would be a rough approximation of both the Star of David and the Square and Compasses.

    Victoria is the Romanized version of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory), and is sometimes given as being one of the attributes of Athena. It should come as no surprise that Victoria/Athena should be paired with Venus.

    — W.S.

  7. "Intersected VV's, one upside down, would be a rough approximation of both the Star of David and the Square and Compasses."

    Ah, very nice, WS!

    But surely you're not implying that the Square and Compasses are a conjunction of the ancient symbols for male and female?

    By the Mistress of St. Ann’s Lodge.

    COME Ladies fair,
    Within due Square
    Let each renew her vow,
    No timid maid
    Need be afraid,
    Her Sacred Knee to bow.
    Since Sheba’s queen
    The first was seen,
    To gain this wondrous art;
    She made the vow
    We all do now,
    And gain’d the wise king’s heart.
    Let none disclose
    To secret foes,
    Our tokens, words,or sign.
    May Beauty grace
    Each lovely face,
    And WISDOM guide our minds.

    May we have Strength
    To.join at length,
    The heavenly Lodge above,
    Brothers there meet
    Though none here greet,
    There join in mutual love.

    That sacred plan,
    Held here by man,
    As far above our reach,
    Shall to each fair
    Within due Square
    Their love and duty teach.

    In sacred love
    We’ll join above
    The widow’s son and mother,
    With one accord
    We'll join the world,
    To hail each sacred brother.


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