Sunday, December 27, 2015

George Washington as an American Freemason


William Joseph Williams (1759-1823) George Washington, Mason, 1794

In July 1792, Washington had turned down a request for a sitting from American artist William Joseph Williams, telling Governor Henry Lee of Virginia: "I am so heartily tired of the attendance which, from one cause or another, I have bestowed on these kind of people, that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them; and have adhered to it; except in instances where it has been requested by public bodies, or for a particular purpose (not of the Painters) and could not, without offence, be refused. I have been led to make this resolution for another reason besides the irksomeness of sitting, and the time I loose by it, which is, that these productions have, in my estimation, been made use of as a sort of tax upon individuals, by being engraved, and that badly, and hawked, or advertised for Sale." Williams then offered to paint Washington's portrait for the Alexandria (Virginia) Masonic Lodge No. 22. Lodge officers wrote Washington in 1793 that it would be " a source of the most refined gratification the tracing out and contemplating the various ornaments of his character in the resemblance of his person." Williams's portrait shows Washington as a Virginia past master, with Masonic regalia and jewels. Williams's careful depiction includes a scar on Washington's left cheek, smallpox scars on his nose and cheeks, and a mole under his right ear.



George Washington joined the Masonic Lodge in Fredericksburg, Virginia at the age of 20 in 1752. During the War for Independence, General Washington attended Masonic celebration and religious observances in several states. He also supported Masonic Lodges that formed within army regiments.  At his first inauguration in 1791, President Washington took his oath of office on a Bible from St. John's Lodge in New York. During his two terms, he visited Masons in North and South Carolina and presided over the cornerstone ceremony for the U.S. Capitol in 1793.  In retirement, Washington became charter Master of the newly chartered Alexandria Lodge No. 22, sat for a portrait in his Masonic regalia, and in death, was buried with Masonic honors.



A Timeline of George Washington's Masonic Activities

November 4, 1752 - Initiated as Entered Apprentice at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

1753

March 3, 1753 - Passed to the Degree of Fellow Craft at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4
August 4, 1753 - Raised a Master Masaon at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4.

1778

December 28, 1778 - Marched in a Masonic procession in celebration of Saint John the Evangelist Day

1779

June 24, 1779 - Celebrated Saint John the Baptist Day with American Union Military Lodge at West Point, New York
December 27, 1779 - Celebrated Saint John the Evangelist Day with American Union Military Lodge at Morristown, New Jersey

1781

October - Reportedly visited Lodge No. 9 at Yorktown, VA with General Lafayette after defeat of British General Cornwallis

1782

Brothers Watson and Cassoul of Nantes, France present Washington with exquisite silk Masonic apron, acknowledged by letter dated August 10
June 24, 1782 - St. John the Baptist celebration - Marked with American Union Military Lodge at West Point, New York.
December 27, 1782 - St. John the Evangelist Day - Celebrated with Solomon's Lodge No. 1, Poughkeepsie, New York.

1784

June 24, 1784 - St. John the Baptist celebration - Marked with Alexandria Lodge, Alexandria, Virginia
June 24, 1784 - Made an honorary member of Alexandria Lodge No. 39 (Now Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22) Alexandria, Virginia
August 1784 - Presented a Masonic apron made by Madame de Lafayette to General and Bro. de Lafayette

1785

February 12, 1785 - Walked in Masonic funeral procession for Bro. William Ramsay at Alexandria, Virginia

1788

April 28, 1788 - Named Charter Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 when a new charter from the Grand Lodge of Virginia was issued. Unanimously re-elected Master December 20, 1788 for one year.

1789

Elected honorary member of Holland Lodge No. 8, New York, NY
April 30- Inaugurated President of the United States using Bible from St. John's Lodge No. 1, New York



The George Washington Bible, which belongs to St. Johns Lodge in New York City, was first used on April 30, 1789, by the Grand Master of the Masons in New York, to administer the oath of office to George Washington. Other presidents who took their oath of office with this Bible are Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush.

1791

April 15, 1791 - Welcomed by members of St. John's Lodge No. 2, New Bern, NC

May 1791 - Received the greetings of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina by General Mordecai Gist, Grand Master, Charleston, SC

1793

September 18 Acting Grand Master - Laid the cornerstone for the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C. 

1794

1794 William Williams painted Washington in Masonic regalia at the request of Alexandria Lodge 1797 March 28 Received a Masonic delegation from Alexandria Lodge.


Artist Hattie E. Burdette (1872-1955) depicts George Washington here donning full masonic regalia, including the apron, which bears a pyramid icon. His hat is adorned with a masonic compass, and he wears a sunburst around his neck. The apron also features the American flag crossed with another. A ''G'' hovers over his shoulder, rumored to symbolize God. The original was painted especially for the United States George Washington Bicentennial Commission.

1798

April 1, 1798 - Attended Alexandria Lodge No. 22 Proposed a toast at the banquet that followed

1799

December 18, 1799 - Buried at Mount Vernon with Masonic rites as well as those of the church, conducted by Alexandria Lodge


Friday, December 25, 2015

The Nativity by English artist Stanley Spencer 1891-1959


 Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) The Nativity 1912

Much of Stanley Spencer's work depicts Biblical scenes happening not in the Holy Land but in the small Thames-side village, where he was born & spent most of his life. He referred to Cookham as "a village in Heaven."  He presents the literature of the Bible as incidents of Cookham village life.  He uses images of his neighbors as stand-ins for their Gospel counterparts, lending Christian teachings an eerie immediacy. Spencer's The Nativity won first prize in the Slade Summer Composition Competition of 1912.

Spencer later explained the composition of this painting: The couple occupy the centre of the picture, Joseph who is to the extreme right doing something to the chestnut tree and Mary who stands by the manager; they appear in their relationship with the elements generally, so that Mary to the couple in contact with one another seems like some preonderating element of life, just another big fact of nature such as a tree or a waterfall or a field or a river. Joseph is only related to Mary in this picture by some sacramental ordinance... This relationship has always interested me and in those early works I contemplated a lot of those unbearable relationships between men and women. (Tate Gallery Archive, 733.2.85)


Stanley Spencer, (English painter, 1891-1959) The Coming of the Wise Men to the Nativity


A Sleeping 17C Baby


Bernardo Strozzi (Italian painter, 1581-1644) Sleeping Child


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Young Nantucket woman paints Winter 1797


Phebe Folger Coleman (1771-1857) Winter  A schoolgirl copy of the Winter print of the Four Seasons Mezzotints published by Sayers and Bennett in London in 1785.  They were hand-colored allegories of the seasons.

Phebe Folger Coleman (1771-1857) Un receuil :containing painting, penmanship, algebra and pieces selected from various authors in prose and verse, with a few pieces in French with their translation by Phebe  of Nantucket : manuscript, c 1797. MS Typ 245. Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Phebe Folger (1771-1857) was a Nantucket commonplacebook author, watercolorist, poet, needlework instructor, & creator of the well-known “Nantucket sampler” style. She was born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, on November 10, 1771 to Walter Folger (1735-1826) & his wife Elizabeth Starbuck (1738-1821).  She married Samuel Coleman (1771-1825) in Nantucket at the age of 27 on December 6, 1798.  They had 2 daughters who lived to adulthood, & 3 additional daughters who died as children.  Her husband, Samuel Coleman, worked at sea.  She wrote him this letter during the 10th year of their marriage. Nantucket 9th mo. 19th 1808.  Dear Husband,  "I have felt a little guilty that I have deferred so long to write: but I had nothing worth communicating, nothing but what thou might reasonably suppose, that is, that I am very lonesome. Why should so much of our time be spent apart, why do we refuse the happiness that is within our reach? Is the acquisition of wealth an adequate compensation for the tedious hours of absence? To me it is not. The enjoyment of riches alone could give no satisfaction to me. In company I am not happy, I feel as if a part of my self was gone. Thy absence grows more insupportable than it used to be. I want for nothing but thy company: but there is nothing but what I could do better without..."



They moved near the Hudson River in Hudson City, Columbia County, New York, where they operated a grist mill.  Phebe continued to run the mill after her husband's death in 1825. Sometime after 1850, Phebe moved to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, to live with her daughter Matilda (1812-1891) & her husband John Milton Howland (1810-1902).  Phebe died at the age of 87 in Fairhaven.



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

England's Queen Charlotte



 1761 Esther Denner (daughter of Balthasar Denner) Queen Charlotte, Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 1744 - 1818. Queen of George III About 1763



 1770 Nathaniel Dance Holland (Inglese artist, 1735-1811) Queen Charlotte, Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 1744 - 1818. Queen of George III About 1763



1773 Nathaniel Dance Holland (Inglese artist, 1735-1811) Queen Charlotte, Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 1744 - 1818. Queen of George III About 1763



Henry Robert Morland. (Inglese artist, 1719-1797) Queen Charlotte, Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 1744 - 1818. Queen of George III About 1763



Joshua Reynolds (Inglese artist, 1723-1792) Queen Charlotte, Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 1744 - 1818. Queen of George III About 1763




Studio of Allan Ramsey (English artist, 1713-1784) Queen Charlotte, Princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, 1744 - 1818. Queen of George III About 1763


Monday, December 7, 2015

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Winter Solstice - The Druids & Mistletoe




Druids formed the professional class in ancient Celtic society. They performed the functions of modern day priests, teachers, poets, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, philosophers, musicians, theologians, scientists, & judges. Druids led public rituals often held within fenced groves of sacred trees.  

The word "Druidae" is of Celtic origin. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, 23/24-79 A.D.) believed it to be a cognate with the Greek work "drus," meaning "an oak." "Dru-wid" combines the word roots "oak" & "knowledge" ("wid" means "to know" or "to see" - as in the Sanskrit "vid"). The oak (together with the rowan & hazel) was an important sacred tree to the Druids. In the Celtic social system, Druid was a title given to learned men & women possessing "oak knowledge" (or "oak wisdom").

Some scholars have argued that Druids originally belonged to a pre-Celtic ('non-Aryan') population in Britain & Ireland (from where they spread to Gaul), noting that there is no trace of Druidism among Celts elsewhere - in Cisalpine Italy, Spain, or Galatia (modern Turkey). Others, however, believe that Druids were an indigenous Celtic intelligentsia to be found among all Celtic peoples, but were known by other names.

The Winter Solstice is the time of the death of the old sun & the birth of the dark-half of the year.   The Winter Solstice was called "Alban Arthuan," Welch for "Light of Winter" by the Druids.  This was a time of dread for the ancient peoples, as they saw the days getting shorter & shorter. A great ritual was needed to revert the course of the sun. 



This time for the ritual may have been calculated by the great circles of stone & burial grounds which are aligned to the Winter Solstice, such as Stonehenge in England & Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland.   John Aubrey, writing in the 17C first thought it a "probability" that stone circles, such as Stonehenge, "were Temples of the Druids" titling his text on stone circles the "Templa Druidum."   This idea was picked up by William Stukeley, in the early 18C, who subtitled his 1st book, Stonehenge, published in 1740, "a Temple Restored to the British Druids, and his 2nd publication on Avebury, published in 1743, "a Temple of the British Druids."   Although later, in the 19C, Sir John Lubbock (1834-1913) dated Stonehenge to a period much earlier than the time of the Druids (that is, to about 3000 B.C., whereas the Druids don't appear in the historical record until 1800 years later), nonetheless the view was maintained by some, that Druids were pre-Celtic inhabitants of Britain & that the religious beliefs & practices for which Stonehenge was built are ancestral to those of the laterday Celtic Druids.  And the speculation continues.

Sure enough, the next day after the great Druid Winter Solstice celebration, the Sun began to move higher into the sky, showing that it had been reborn.  For the Druids, the Winter Solstice is the end of month of the Elder Tree & the start of the month of the Birch.  This is the time of the Serpent Days or transformation.  The Elder & Birch stand at the entrance to Annwn or Celtic underworld where all life was formed. As in several other Druid myths, they guard the entrance to the underworld.  At this time, the Sun God journeys through the underworld to learn the secrets of death & life and to bring out those souls to be reincarnated. 



Mistletoe has a compelling Druid history. According to ancient Druid tradition, Mistletoe was the most sacred of all plants. Mistletoe was used by Druid priests in a ceremony which was held 5 days after the New Moon following Winter Solstice. The Druid priests would cut Mistletoe from a holy Oak tree with a golden sickle. The branches had to be caught before they touched the ground.  The priest then divided the branches into sprigs & dispersed them to the people, who hung them over doorways as protection.  Druids believed Mistletoe had miraculous properties that could cure illnesses, antidote poisons, ensure fertility, & protect against evil witchcraft. It was also a sign of peace & goodwill. When warring tribes came across Mistletoe, a temporary truce would be observed until the next day. 



Tradition relates that on the Winter Solstice, Druids would gather by the oldest mistletoe-clad oak. The Chief Druid would make his way to the mistletoe to be cut whilst below, other Druids would hold open a sheet to catch it, making sure none of it touched the ground.  With his golden sickle the Chief Druid would remove the mistletoe to be caught below.  It is said that the early Christian church banned the use of mistletoe because of its association with Druids.


The Winter Solstice - 3200 BC Prehistoric Passage Tombs or Monuments



Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland

Newgrange is a prehistoric structure in County Meath, Ireland.  It was built during the Neolithic period around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge & the Egyptian pyramids.  According to carbon-14 dates, it is about 500 years older than the current form of Stonehenge, and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, as well as predating the Mycenaean culture of ancient Greece.  The site consists of a large circular mound with a stone passageway & interior chambers. The mound has a retaining wall at the front & is ringed by engraved kerbstones. 


Entrance to Newgrange in Ireland in  1905, when the mound had become largely overgrown.

Newgrange contains various examples of abstract Neolithic rock art carved onto it. These carvings fit into 10 categories, 5 of which are curvilinear (circles, spirals, arcs, serpentiniforms & dot-in-circles) and the other 5 of which are rectilinear (chevrons, lozenges, radials, parallel lines & offsets). There is no agreement among archaeologist & historians about what the site was used for, but it has been speculated that it had religious significance – it is aligned with the rising sun & its light floods the chamber on the winter solstice.


Entrance to Newgate in Ireland today

A passage grave or tomb or monument consists of a narrow passage made of large stones & one or multiple burial? chambers covered in earth or stone. The building of passage tombs usually dates from the Neolithic Age.  Those with more than one chamber may have multiple sub-chambers leading off from a main chamber.  One common layout, the cruciform passage grave, is cross-shaped.  Not all passage graves have been found to contain evidence of human remains. One such example is Maeshowe in Scotland.  Maeshowe is a Neolithic chambered passage monument or grave situated on Mainland, Orkney, Scotland.  It was probably built around 2800 BCE.  Megalithic art has been identified carved into the stones at some sites. The passage itself, in a number of notable instances, is aligned in such a way that the sun shines into the passage at a significant point in the year, for example at the winter solstice.


Maeshowe in Orkney, Scotland

Passage tombs or monuments are distributed extensively in lands along the Atlantic seaboard of Europe. They are found in Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia, northern Germany, & the Drenthe area of the Netherlands. They are also found in Iberia, some parts of the Mediterranean, & along the northern coast of Africa. In Ireland & Britain, passage tombs or monuments are often found in large clusters. Many later passage tombs were constructed at the tops of hills or mountains, perhaps because their builders intended them to be seen from a great distance.


Maeshowe Entrance today