|Freemasons Initiation circa 1800|
What many members of these newer organisations didn't always appreciate was that they were also dabbling in a form of magic.
Freemasons were initiated by being led blindfolded, bare footed or with one foot slip-shod, with clothes rearranged to expose parts of the body, were challenged with a sword, had a noose round their neck and had to swear a loyalty before being 'reborn'.
This initiation went back to the Ancient Mystery Schools. Millers, Shoemakers, Coopers and many others tried to duplicate these ceremonies and often created pseudo-history for their lodges.
The 1830 Shoemakers Union, for example had 'a full set of secret order regalia, surplices, trimmed aprons etc., and a crown and robes for King Crispin' (the legendary patron of their craft).
The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes.
The main aim of the organisations seems to have been (and still is) mutual help. This was long before any National Health system and was a way of members getting aid, help and assistance when needed. Thus the secret handshakes and signs to distinguish who should be helped.
There was magic behind the scenes with some very strange ceremonies and rituals. For instance the Foresters had to 'fight' a dual by sword, Oddfellows were tossed into a pile of brushwood and Buffaloes had to have their hair cut or singed.
Though members may not have fully appreciated the significance of any initiations and rituals a Jungian psychologist would no doubt say that primal symbolism and archetypes would affect the psyche - even if only on a subconscious level.
Some of these old lodges and organisations are still around today, though sometimes in a different format. The Foresters, for example, are now a Friendly Society and have 'financial solutions with a human touch'. Their website states:
"The Ancient Order of Foresters was established in 1834, although our origins lie in a much older society called the Royal Foresters, formed around 1723.
Our first members came to recognise they had a duty to assist their fellow men who fell into need "as they walked through the forests of life". This 'need' arose principally when a breadwinner fell ill, could not work and received no wages. Illness and death left families financially distressed and often destitute.
Addressing this need has been the main purpose of Foresters Friendly Society throughout our long history. Members recognised that by paying a few pence a week into a common fund, they would be able to offer sick pay and funeral grants when needed."
"Administratively we are a three-tier organisation. Minor Lodge, Provincial Grand Lodge and Grand Lodge and there are four degrees or rank of membership. 1st (Brother), 2nd (Primo), 3rd (Knight of Merit) and 4th (Right Honourable)."
I've also mentioned the Oddfellows. They claim that they can trace their history back to 1066. In their own words:
"In 1810 the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows became officially recognised by the Government. However, Oddfellows social groups in England can be traced all the way back to 1066, making it one of the oldest friendly societies currently operating in the UK."
The Freemasons set a trail which many others have followed. Towards the end of the 18th century it is estimated there were over 4 million members of such organisations in Great Britain.
So forms of magic are deep in our roots whether we appreciate it or not. The likes of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormons, was influenced by Freemasonry and magic, but that's probably best kept for another day.
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