The practices of African traditional religion manifested as a number of diverse spiritual cultures throughout the Caribbean. As Africans were taken as slaves from their homeland the indigenous healing and spiritual traditions of African religion stepped into the soil of the island of Hispaniola. The surviving spiritual practices of Africa could become seen in Haiti and the Dominican Republic in various forms. In Haiti the religion formed what we know as ‘Vodou’, a term from the Fon people of the region of Dahomey in West Africa that means ‘spirit’. The religion of Vodou focuses on interaction with spirits known as ‘Loa’ that rule over nature and humanity. Worship involves various magico-religious rituals, the creation of sacred shrines and interaction with spirits.
As one looks at the religion of Haitian based Vodou they may see some familiar Masonic aesthetics. The square and compass, the use of the letter ‘G’ and various Masonic tools can be spotted among a number of the rituals and shrines of Vodu. As we look deeper into the culture, we can also see a number of practices and symbols found in Freemasonry.
French rule of the island of Hispaniola established the colony of Saint Domingue from 1659 to 1804 in the area of what we now know as Haiti. Freemasonry was officially established in the colony as two lodges were established in 1749. In 1778 a Provincial Grand Lodge was also established under the direction of the Grand Orient of France.
Slaves were initially prohibited from lodges as they were required to be ‘free born’ however some free people of color were admitted into lodges where many obtained Masonic wisdom. Some traveled to France and became members of lodges. Freed slaves from Saint Domingue were recorded as members of the lodge in Bordeaux France. Upon their return to the island some members would establish lodges based on their familiarity and membership with the Craft.
Historian Sally McKee noted that “Scottish-Rite Freemasonry linked the colony of Saint Domingue and Bordeaux. The masonic lodges established in the French Caribbean were part of a transatlantic network, whose…