Over the years I have been aware of interest in Freemasonry among followers of various Afro-diasporic religious traditions. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Of course, readers of the Hedge Mason have been given glimpses of this before, from occasional posts touching on the connections between Haitian Vodou and Freemasonry, and the interchange between Afro-Cuban faiths and Freemasonry.
For a number of years now, I have had contact with some Freemasons who, albeit cautiously, acknowledged that they are practicing Umbandistas. Those admissions, while pleasing me, did not surprise me. Umbanda is a didactic and diverse tradition, open to truth where ever it may be found. I have no doubt that Umbandistas explored Freemasonry from the earliest days of the 20th Century when Umbanda first evolved from earlier Afro-Brazilian religions, most notably Macumba. Understanding the politics of religion within Freemasonry, it's claims to disinterest concerning the details of its members religious affiliations not withstanding, I also understand how some might wish to be private concerning their religious practice. There remain significant segments of the population in Brazil and elsewhere that hold culturally and racially motivated biases against African derived traditions, and I've no doubt that among them are some Freemasons with power within the traditional Obediences.
Umbanda, it should be noted for readers not familiar with this religion, is not really a single religion. Umbanda is the name of the religion generally, but it is in fact an Umbrella designation for a wide variety of distinct sects or denominations, many of which have quite distinct beliefs and practices, while sharing enough similarities to warrant the use of a general identification as Umbanda. This is much like the diverse denominations found generally among those who call themselves Christians. In fact, Umbandistas, while North American Christians may find it confusing, widely consider themselves Christian as well. This is common in all Afro-diasporic religions, with the exception of the segments which, motivated by cultural and political ideologies, seek to eliminate Christian symbolism in their practice. They are, objectively speaking and with no intent at disparaging their motives, the exception which proves the rule for the majority.
Umbanda, like other Afro-diasporic religions believe in a direct contact with the spirit realms and this includes possession of trained mediums or priests and priestesses by helping spirits. Fairly universally, the different forms of Umbanda have been influenced by Kardecist Spiritism, although to different degrees. Some more recent forms of Umbanda have been heavily influenced by various types of Western Esotericism, including Alexandre Saint Yves d'Alveydre's Archeometry, which had a profound influence on Papus, and hence many esoteric Freemasons.
While most Umbandistas who are Freemasons are reserved in associating their practice of religion with their practice of Freemasonry, at least some are more open about it. The following demonstrates this:
On Thursday, June 16, 2011, A notice was posted of the installation of Loja Maçônica Mista Triângulo da Fraternidade (The Mixed Masonic Lodge of the Triangle of Fraternity), as follows:
Dear Planetary Brothers,
It is with great joy that we announce the occurrence of the inaugural session of Loja Maçônica Mista Triângulo da Fraternidade.
We share the link with photos of the preparations:
A triple and fraternal embrace,
An eternal apprentice of the Royal Art
The Venerable Master of the new lodge provided the following by way of explanation:
TRUTH above all, based on JUSTICE and supported by LOVE.
Mixed Masonry is universal, whose members - men and women - cultivate the study of the spiritualization of the individual, philanthropy, social justice, humanity, unselfishness and the universal principles of freedom, democracy and equality, and fraternity intellectual training.
We recall that the bygone days of the first freemasons, the places where Masons met were originally in churches, regardless of which religion was the temple, preserving untouched the rights of each individual to practice the religion or belief of their choice, keeping equidistant from the different sects or creeds. The essence of Masonic philosophy teaches everyone to respect and tolerate the various religions of its members.
One of the pillars of Masonry is neutrality as to religion and politics. In Masonic temples around the world - in male obediences, female and mixed, we can find people from different religions, political ideologies, races - although there are controversies regarding sex in some quarters. How can they coexist so peacefully? Simple: it is forbidden to discuss these issues in lodge.
A Masonic Lodge can take place anywhere - as they did early on in English taverns - and this basic precept still applies today. I say this because the Loja Maçônica Mista Triângulo da Fraternidade works in facilities designed to assist the Umbanda Temple Choupana Caboclo Pery - but does not deviate one iota from this principle of neutrality. There will be a not a Mixed Masonic Lodge of Umbanda but a Masonic Lodge working jointly in an Umbanda temple.
All are welcome: Umbandistas, Catholics, Evangelicals, Protestants, Africanists, Taoists, Shintoists, shamans, etc. Inclusion, convergence and mutual identification unite us. We came to build.
For more information, firstname.lastname@example.org
A triple and fraternal embrace,
V:. M:. Masonic Joint Triangle Fraternity
I have not personally had any contact with this lodge, but share the information to help inform Freemasons in other parts of the world of the wonderful diversity within Freemasonry, especially in the Americas.