Monday, May 23, 2016

Urban Beekeeping, or, Honey Made of Clay

As our last two posts featured beehives, I thought I'd keep the ball rolling with a pair of photos I took years ago with the idea of doing a post on unusual or esoteric symbols found throughout Toulouse, but I never got around to using them.  

So, without further ado, this is a beehive found on a downtown facade about ten feet up and squarely between two first-floor windows.  I've never found out why it's there, or if it was made at the instigation of the neighborhood, an individual, or some sort of guild or fraternity.  All I know is that it's made of terra-cotta, a local specialty, and that it's located on the left side of the Rue. St. Rome when facing Place Capitole, about halfway between Places Capitole and Esquirol.  

Anyone know why this beehive is here?  

For some fine example of sculpture groups in terra-cotta, one can poke around the nearby Musée des Augustines.  In using terra-cotta, the artists of Toulouse were simply using a common and relatively cheap material at hand.  The local tradition stems from the liberal use of brick in local construction, a feature so dominant in Toulouse and neighboring towns such as (Montauban), that Toulouse has been nicknamed "la Ville Rose" ("the Pink City") because of the effect of the sun brightening the reddish bricks (aka "forains") of its buildings.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

"Out of something comes something else"

I was reading Christopher Dawes' book Rat Scabies and the Holy Grail th'other day and he mentioned a product called Lyle's Golden Syrup.  Specifically, the tin; this features an olde-fashioned logo (dating from 1885) featuring a dead lion, above which fly a swarm of bees.  According to Wikipedia:
This is a reference to the Biblical story in chapter 14 of the Book of Judges in which Samson was travelling to the land of the Philistines in search of a wife. During the journey he killed a lion, and when he passed the same spot on his return he noticed that a swarm of bees had formed a comb of honey in the carcass. Samson later turned this into a riddle at a wedding: "Out of the eater came forth meat and out of the strong came forth sweetness". While it is not known exactly why this image and slogan were chosen, Abram Lyle was a deeply religious man, and it has been suggested that they refer either to the strength of the Lyle company or the tins in which golden syrup is sold.
What really struck me about this was the motto on the tin, which reads:

"Out of the strong came forth sweetness"

Readers of LoS will recall that in our last post, we reproduced the coat of arms of Americana, a Brazilian town founded by Confederate emigres; it not only features a beehive and two bees, but the motto "Ex Labore Dulcedo" which I have seen translated as "The Sweetness of Labor" or "Pleasure arises from Labor" but which I think could be translated as 

"Out of Labor comes forth Sweetness"

The Confederados who founded Americana were farmers, specializing in, unsurprisingly, cotton, but also in watermelon.  They probably had their fair share of beekeepers as well.  But the hive here was probably chosen because the Confederados were overwhelmingly Freemasons, and the Freemasons used the beehive as a symbol both of industry and of a well-ordered society.  Both the Mormons and the Jacobins borrowed the symbol from the Masons.  Indeed, Utah is called the "Beehive State".  The Jacobins were drawing on French tradition as well.  

In 1653 the Merovingian King Childeric's tomb was found, containing hundreds of small golden bees, and Napoleon later adopted this symbol for himself as opposed to the Bourbon fleur-de-lys; as a symbol of the first royal dynasty of France, perhaps the bee was far more appropriate to mark the foundation of a new France than the symbol of a recently vanquished dynasty.  To this day, metropolitan France is referred to as the "hexagon" for it's rough approximation of the form.  And of course, honeycomb is a series of hexagons.....

No indication that Abram was a Freemason, by the way, and I'm not suggesting a link between the Mormons, the Confederados of Lyle's Golden Syrup.  Just the common symbolic currency of the era....

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ain't just whistlin' Dixie

One would think that Civil War reenactors would be limited to the American states where the war was actually fought. Then again there probably aren't too many members of the SCA from Westeros, and hell, even in my podunk French village there's a Western-style ranch where once or twice a summer they do a rodeo and men with beards show up in American pickups, flying American flags, duded up in shit-kickers and leather vests.  So if the French can play cowboy, why can't the Brazilians play the Song of the South?

To be fair, they actually have a reason: they are descendants of American Southerners who'd been enticed by the Brazilian government to settle the country before the Civil War even began.  Quite a few went, and today the cities of Americana and Santa Barbara d'Oeste are peopled with, um, people, bearing British surnames, including a name in my family tree: Carr (Amos Adkins married one Mary Carr ca. 1801).

I mentioned these Confederados in my post about the "Golden Circle" (Lone Star Republics, July 2013), a long-time dream of a group of slave-owners of creating a slave-holding empire centered on Havana, with a radius reaching up to the Mason-Dixon line and down to the northern tip of South America and everything in between.

After the Civil War, many of the defeated Confederates moved and set up operations in Cuba and Brazil, where slavery was still legal until the 1880's.  In Brazil they and their descendants are known as Confederados.  The dream of the Golden Circle didn't die with the Confederacy.

Brazil was perhaps not the ideal location, but it was sparsely populated, agricultural, and most of all, friendly to slavery.  It was the last holdout in the Americas against abolition.

I have a French friend who's lived in Brazil some years now and we were discussing this yesterday before he pressed on with his European visit and then lo and behold, the New York Times wrote an article about annual celebrations by the descendants of the Confederados.

Critics see the outfits and the romanticism, the Stars and Bars Confederate battle flags being flown, and point out that the whole issue of slavery is being sidestepped.  The celebrants counter that for them, the flag and celebration don't honor slavery or racism, it's all about heritage.  A familiar argument.  I'm sure this is often true.  But I recently saw a segment of Amy Shumer's Chelsea Handler's show about reenactors in the US, and the discourse of the participants was flat-out racist, not in a "hateful" way, but the extremely patronizing and romanticized version of history was pretty jaw-dropping.  Slaves were happy and well-cared for, certainly not ill-treated....why would you treat your property poorly? etc.  Well, even if this is a selective presentation of the participants' attitudes, it was authentic, and something tells me their attitude is less exception than rule.

I don't want to say that anyone proud of their heritage is a racist, but man, I'm from the South, and people who fly the Confederate flag are a dime a dozen and most of them would probably not be among those pushing for say, the recognition of MLK Day.  Knowhutimean, Vern?  A lot of people who fly the Confederate flag tend to casually refer to blacks with epithets.  I'm from Florida and there you hear it often enough that you can draw some conclusions.

The process of "de-Confederatization" was hammered out militarily and politically during Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Era, but the cultural legacy is today's news nearly daily.  It began with getting the Stars and Bars so-called Confederate flag off of state flags, but is now being fought out over the names of schools or buildings, and monuments to specific Confederate Generals.  I wrote about this earlier in the year (The Politics of Removal; Pulling an Oneida).  Whatever misgivings you may have about the destruction of the past in this form, you have to understand at least to some degree why a black guy walking down the street isn't going to feel so good about seeing a monument to Jefferson Davis.  States' Rights, heritage, whatever you want to call it, the Confederacy and the Civil War boil down to slavery.  The flag commonly referred to as the "Confederate flag" was never even the national flag of the CSA at all, and it was never a part of any state's flag until the 50's and 60's, added there in order to defy the Federal gub'ment as a symbol of white supremacy and in defiance of integration.

Interestingly, the coat of arms of Americana includes a shield with the Stars and Bars Confederate battle flag:

Notice also the center is adorned with a beehive, a symbol used by Freemasons and Mormons to symbolize hard work, industry, and a harmonious social order where everyone knows their place and does their job.  I don't know if the beehive is a Masonic reference, nor if the obelisk in the town cemetery was erected by Masons.  The obelisk has become the focal point, however, for Confederado celebrations, bearing an engraved Stars and Bars Confederate battle flag on the socle. I only muse about the possible Masonic connection because the Golden Circle scheme appears to have been the long-standing dream of a group of Freemasons in New Orleans who were involved in the establishment of the short-lived Republic of West Florida, the Republic of Texas, several failed invasions of Cuba, and other filibustering expeditions south of the border.  I know this sounds a little wing-nutty, but I think if you read my Lone Star Republics post and look at the references, you'll find that although it's not a well-known history and corresponds too neatly with the wildest of conspiracy theories, the fact remains that a shadowy group of Freemasons in New Orleans were using the cover of the Lodge to plot the overthrow of the Catholic Spaniards throughout the Americas using rhetoric pulled straight from the degrees of the Scottish Rite.

The descendants are organized into the Fraternidade Descendência Americana and their symbol doesn't do much to disprove the possibility of a Masonic connection.  Triangle logo?  Check.  Masonic symbol of Fraternity?  Check.

Of course, it begins to look as though these things are Masonic in origin after all, when you see that in the cemetery where these present-day Confederados gather every three months there is a monument to pioneering Confederate settler Col. William H. Norris, honored with a triangle/pyramid monument with unmistakable Masonic symbolism:
Norris was a veteran of the Mexican-American War, an Alabama state senator, and the leader of a group of 30 Confederate families who set off for Brazil after the end of the Civil War.  In 1861 he had been elected Grand Master of the Alabama Masonic Lodge.

Norris helped establish the Confederate presence in Americana and Santa Bárbara d'Oeste and began planting cotton.  He served as a Congressman for the State of São Paulo and was commissioned as a Colonel in the National Guard.  It is said that he purchased his land with a cache of gold buried on his farm that his wife had saved from being taken by Union soldiers after flashing some sort of Masonic hailing sign at their commanding officer.

Full disclosure:  I am descended from one Culvin F. Sanders, a lawyer who served in the Army of Tennessee as a cavalry Captain in the Buckner Guards under General P. R. Cleburne.  He participated in all the battles of the Army of Tennessee.  He was also a Freemason, as all his descendants have been.  I loathe what he fought for, and feel no real family fealty, yet I admit, perhaps to my discredit, some ambivalence about that heritage.  As I've said in other posts about Confederate monuments, I would not seek to honor it, but recognize it, and perhaps somehow understand what responsibilities I have regarding my past, and what I can do to ameliorate its legacy.

Info for the following part of this post comes from an article that can be read here.

Now, you might think I'm making too much of this Masonic connection, but dig this, one entrance to Americana is marked by a large Square and Compasses because it was "founded in 1865 by Confederate emigrants, most of them Freemasons...."

At least 154 families began the migration in 1865 and maybe as many as 4000 more joined them in the next ten years (although half eventually headed back).

Why Brazil?  Well, as I discussed in my post on the Golden Circle, Texas, Central America and South America, along with the Caribbean, had long been eyed as having the potential for a Southern slave-holding confederation much like Confederate States of America.  As we saw in that post, many of these efforts were led by Masons. 

As it turns out, the Confederados' emigration was facilitated by prominent Freemasons in Brazil and even the Emperor Dom Pedro I was a Mason.

The Masons founded George Washington Lodge in the village before it had even been named Americana.  They'd been encouraged by Freemason Charles Nathan, a member of a Brazilian immigration society that helped arrange passage to Brazil via New Orleans.  More encouragement came from Freemason Taveres Bastos, founder of the immigration society and friend of the Emperor, who as previously mentioned, was himself a Freemason, like his father before him.

Another Freemason and friend of Bastos was Joachim Maria Saldaña Mariño, co-editor of a liberal newspaper in Rio de Janeiro and Grand Master of the Grande Oriente do Brasil ao Vale dos Beneditinos, the Emperor’s branch of Freemasonry. He was also President of São Paulo, the province where Americana was founded.  Mariño was particularly active in the mid-1860s in the cause of separation of church and state.  Mariño signed one Alabama migrant's Masonic papers, a fellow named Dr. Russell McCord.  These documents not only testify to the Brazilian-Confederate amity; a second signer was José Maria da Silva Paraños, the Visconde do Rio Branco. He was also Grand Master of the Grande Oriente do Brasil, and he was the author of the first emancipation legislation that led to the abolition of slavery in Brazil.  Ironic, no?

As previously stated, half of the Confederates didn't stick it out, but those that stayed are the ancestors of a small but proud minority in Americana.  In the small museum that celebrates the Confederados, Masonry is not given short-shrift, and they hold their quarterly festivals in the cemetery of their ancestors, amid plenty of Confederate flags and people in historical dress, and headstones emblazoned with the Square and Compasses....


Erratum:  In this post I originally referred to the "Confederate battle flag" as the "Stars and Bars."  I was mistaken, as Mr. Dawson points out in a comment below.  The "Stars and Bars" was nickname of the first national flag of the CSA and doesn't resemble the more familiar battle flag with the 13 stars arranged in a saltire cross.  This flag in a square form was used as The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia and in rectangular form as The Second Confederate Navy Jack.  It appears in the canton of the 2nd and 3rd national flags and also in The Second Confederate Navy Ensign.  It also appears in the canton of other battle flags and there are some variations.  It is now certainly more well-known than the Stars and Bars and is used widely as a symbol of the South and the CSA.  It is also widely known as the "Confederate Flag", though strictly speaking, this is inaccurate.  I refer to it as the "Confederate flag" or the "Confederate battle flag" in place of "Stars and Bars"; this is indicated by a strikethrough in the text.  In any event, it is the flag chosen by the Confederados and seems ubiquitous in photos of their celebrations, whereas the national flags aren't pictured at all.  Thanks to Mr. Dawson to pointing out my error.  My apologies.

I also came across these articles looking to see what nomenclature other writers used in connection with Americana.

Vice weighs in with a piece on the Confederados' view of their heritage and writes a parallel narrative about modern slavery in Brazil:  The Brazilian Town Where the American Confederacy Lives On

The Fog of Policy refers to the Vice and NYT articles in The Confederacy Still Lives in the Deep Deep South

Wikipedia: Flags of the Confederate States of America