Friday, November 27, 2009

A rose by any other name is still a column, dagger, mark, monolith, monument, needle, pillar, pylon, shaft or tower

Terre Cabade Cemetery

Despite the fact that the cemeteries enclosed within the city walls of Toulouse had long been regarded as unsanitary places and had been the targets of many complaints, it wasn't until the city was threatened with a cholera epidemic that a new large cemetery was approved outside the city--in 1832. Even then, it wasn't until 1840 that the new cemetery was officially opened.

The result was the Terre Cabade Cemetery, the city within a city that houses the final remains of Toulouse's notable families and citizens. The name comes from "cavade", that is the say the clay-like soil taken from the earth which also serves to make the famous Toulouse brick.

The entrance to this cemetery was directly inspired by Egyptian art. This was in line with the Egyptian revival which as Wikipedia says:

" generally dated to the enthusiasm for ancient Egypt generated by Napoleon's conquest of Egypt and, in Britain, to Admiral Nelson's defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of the Nile in 1798. Napoleon took a scientific expedition with him to Egypt. Publication of the expedition's work, the Description de l'Égypte, began in 1809 and came out in a series though 1826. However, works of art and, in the field of architecture, funerary monuments in the Egyptian style had appeared in scattered European settings from the time of the Renaissance."

Indeed, considering that Egyptian art is so closely associated with funerary art, it was a logical choice.

The first Egyptian feature of the entrance is the pair of brick obelisks at either side of the front gate. This, however, was not the original proposal. A design submitted in 1833 featured a large pyramid to house the cemetery's chapel. The design, perhaps a bit too over-the-top, was not accepted; the version we can see today dates from 1836.

In ancient Egypt, obelisks were placed in pairs before Egyptian temples. They were said to be petrified rays of the sun and thus honored Ra, who in some cases was said to reside in the obelisks. In books such as The Hiram Key and The Messianic Legacy, the authors have linked the iconography of two obelisks--via the pillars of Solomon's Temple (Jachin and Boaz)--to Freemasonry.

The Messianic Legacy
interprets the twin obelisks as representing the union of spiritual and temporal authority and ultimately the origin of the concept of twin messiahs. The Hiram Key posits that Freemasonry derives from Pharaonic initiation rituals and that Jesus, as heir to this tradition, was part of a sect that perpetuated the rites; thus making Jesus a kind of Mason! (Might as well claim Jesus was a kind of sentient pickle....)

Whatever dubious claims the books make is rather irrelevant. The theories presented in these books are not entirely new to them; they draw upon esoteric and heterodox currents present in Christianity from the very start, and the supposed Egyptian origins of Freemasonry is a theory that has been floated about since the 18th century. We here at LoS are not concerned with the truth of these claims insamuch as we are interested in the fact that these claims exist.

The second obvious Egyptian feature are the administrative offices behind the obelisks. The buildings are clearly modeled on Egyptian prototypes. As one can see from the following website, they are of the "open" type as opposed to the blatantly phallic "bud type." The closest capital found on these pages is identified as an "Open Papyrus." Whatever the exact identification, there's no doubt as to their provenance.

For more info on this interesting cemetery, we recommend the following website, for those who speak French.

The Obelisk of the Battle of Toulouse

The Battle of Toulouse (April 10, 1814) was one of the last battles of the Napoleonic Wars; indeed it came four days after Napoleon surrendered the Imperial Army to the Sixth Coalition. Indecisive and largely unnecessary, it nevertheless resulted in nearly 8,000 casualties. The French forces actually held out until the end and gave up the fight not because they were losing, but because they received news of the Empire's death. The French Forces escaped intact.

Today this largely-forgotten battle is commemorated by a large brick obelisk. The obelisk was the brainchild of Baron Louis Victorin Cassagne and was designed and built by the same Urbain Vitry who designed the Terre Cabade Cemetery. (Cassagne, incidentally, participated in several battles of Napoleon's Egyptian campaign, including the Battle of the Pyramids, previously discussed on LoS. Baron Cassagne is buried in Terre Cabade, his tomb in an Egyptian style).

The first brick of the obelisk was set in 1835 and it was inaugurated in 1839, according to the Mairie of Toulouse; thus it is almost exactly contemporary with Terre Cabade, which you may recall was opened in 1840.

As you can see from the picture, just under the pyramidion, the obelisk is punctuated by a hexagram of the "Star of David" variety. This hole actually traverses the column so that from two sides one can see the light of the sky.

This hexagram could have a variety of meanings, but we propose to examine it in relation to Freemasonry. If rolling eyes could make a sound, I'm sure at this point there would be a deafening roar, what with all the bullshit flung about so freely on the internets. One of the biggest shit flingers is a fundamentalist anti-Mason by the name of Texe Marrs. Still, he's done us one service. Someone found an essay by him quoting Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry on the hexagram and popped it on Wikipedia:

"The interlacing triangles or deltas symbolize the union of the two principles or forces, the active and passive, male and female, pervading the universe. The two triangles, white and black, interlacing, typify the mingling of the two apparent powers in nature, darkness and light, error and truth, ignorance and wisdom, evil and good, throughout human life." (p. 809)

Fortunately for us, we also possess a copy of the Encyclopedia. Marrs quotes correctly. We also looked for "hexagram" and found "hexagon." In addition to being a nickname for France, the hexagon is merely a hexagram seen through a squinted eye....

"Hexagon. A figure of six equal sides constitutes a part of the camp in the Scottish degree of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret. Stieglitz, in an essay on the symbols of Freemasonry, published in 1825, in the Altenberg Zeitschrift, says that the hexagon, formed by six triangles, whose apices converge to a point, making the following figure,

is a symbol of the universal creation, the six points crossing the central point; thus assimilating the hexagon to the older symbol of the point within a circle." (323-324)

So the hexagon is not entirely alien to the Masonic milieu. But more importantly, the most universal of Masonic symbols, the Square and Compasses, is universally arranged so as to resemble....a hexagram.

The Prestige

The "Prestige," like in the movie, refers to that part of a magic trick where the trick is actually pulled off; it's the cum-shot, if you will. In our story it's where we leave the realm of history and enter the realm of speculation.

Between the cemetery and the obelisk there is an isosceles triangle formed by three streets. The two long arms of the triangle are called Rue de l'Obelisque and Avenue de la Colonne. The obelisk, as we've mentioned, is called "la colonne" (the column) The two streets thus refer to the same monument; unity in duality, like Mackey's hexagram? One cannot help but think of the two pillars or obelisks we discussed earlier in this post. Is the layout of the streets made to reinforce the symbolism of the two obelisks at the entrance of the Terre Cabade? Is the triangle in fact a Masonic delta? The base of the triangle is the Allee des Acacias, which joins the cemetery to the obelisk. Momuments of death joined with a symbol of....

Mackey has a longish entry on the Acacia's symbolism. It is both a symbol of innocence and initiation, but primarily one of the immortality of the soul: "that important doctrine which is the great design of the Institution to teach." (p. 7) One might even say the Acacia is a symbol of the foundation of Masonic doctrine...the base of the triangle.

But was Vitry a Freemason? We haven't been able to determine this. His tomb, which he designed and which sits in the Terre Cabade, features a prominent square and compasses over the entrance. But then again, this proves nothing; the man was an architect and the symbols may simply refer to his metier.

Another inconclusive symbol, found in a round medallion at the center of the cross atop the tomb, is a human hand. By chance we stumbled across another entry in Mackey's Encyclopedia--Hand (p. 317)--illustrated by an engraving of the hand in a nearly identical gesture:

"In Freemasonry, the hand as a symbol holds a high place, because it is the principal seat of the sense of feeling so highly revered by Masons....Horapollo says that among the Egyptians the hand was the symbol of a builder, or one fond of building, because all labor proceeds from the hand." Mackey continues, explaining its use in Christian iconography in a gesture of benediction: "The form of this act of benediction, as adopted by the Roman Church, which seems to have been borrowed from the symbols of the Phrygian and Eleusinian priest or hierophants, who used it in their mystical processions, presents a singular analogy, which will be interesting to Mark Master Masons, who will recognize on it a symbol of their own ritual. In the benediction referred to, as given in the Latin Church, the thumb, index and middle fingers are extended, and the other two bent against the palm. The church explains this position of the extended thumb and two fingers as representing the Trinity; but the older symbol of the Pagan priests, which was precisely of the same form, must have had a different meaning. A writer in the British Magazine (vol.i., p.565) thinks that the hand, which was used in the Mithraic mysteries in this position, was symbolic of the Light emanating not from the sun, but from the Creator, directly as a special manifestation....Certainly, to the Mason, the hand is most important as the symbol of that mystical intelligence by which one Mason knows another "in the dark as well as in the light."

Given that the symbol is used as a sign of benediction, it may not be anything more than a sign of his Catholic faith. But maybe it's a Masonic reference. It's certainly an eye-popper. Given Vitry's passion for Egyptian architecture, by which his tomb was inspired, it may simply be a nod to the use described by Horapollo. It's worth recalling the notion that the Egyptian obelisk is also thought to symbolize a petrified ray of light, much akin to our anonymous British writer's theory that the hand symbol represents the light emanating from the Creator. Again, like the square and compasses, it lead to tantalizing speculation but nothing conclusive. Maybe the hand is simply a brazen variation on the Anahinthan cock's comb.

Finally, since we've quoted so liberally from our copy of Mackey's Encyclopedia, we'll warn against taking its entries as "proof" of anything. What many anti-Masons fail to recognize first is that no one Mason can speak on behalf of his own Grand Lodge, let alone the Fraternity as a whole. State to state, nation to nation, rite to rite, practices and doctrines vary, in some cases quite considerably. Secondly, guys like Mackey, Waite and the infamous Albert Pike are atypical representations of the craft with idiosyncratic takes on its lore, legends and history.

Still, we propose further investigation of Vitry and Cassagnes, hereby soliciting the straight dope, as it were. Was Vitry influenced by Freemasonic imagery? Were both Masons? Is there intentionality behind the triangular arrangement of streets betwenn the cemetery and the obelisk? Was the Acacia reference a Masonic wink and a nod?

Stay tuned....


  1. "The two long arms of the triangle are called Rue de **l'Obelisque** and Avenue de **la Colonne**."

    Masculine and feminine words for the same thing :) The duality that creates life naturally, including on a planetary level (Sun - Father / Earth - Mother). Without either one we wouldn't have been given Life.

    1. I hadn't noticed that, good eye! Makes me think, in this context, that many believe Freemasonry is a really at its heart a system of sex magic, or that the symbols, even the square and compasses, represent the union of opposites as you suggest. Interesting that the base of the triangle is a symbol of eternal life.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Hi Daurade. Thanks :) I also believe that to be the case with Freemasonry. These days sex isn't as sacred as it once was... yet the Creation of Life (by the union of opposites) still makes us like Gods. Maybe if it was better understood in those terms there would be fewer unwanted children these days? I'd like to know if Freemasonry was meant to keep knowledge alive or kill it & bury it in obscure symbols!
    Anyway, great post! Glad I found it (even though it's a few years old!) - I start an obelisk tour in the UK next month :)

  3. Th Union of Opposites is certainly part of Freemasonry, thus, yeah, sex is in the mix. I wouldn't know for sure, however. The idea of participating in sex magic rituals with a group of octogenarians isn't particularly appealing!

    Thanks again, and good luck on your obelisk tour. Have you seen our other obelisk posts? Don't hesitate to send us some picks and notes....we'll publish both if you'd like!


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