By Omisefun Fagbenro Amusan (Guest Writer)
The African origins of various areas of society are often overlooked and one noticeable area that is not thoroughly explored is the African origins of Freemasonry. This piece is inspired by the article below which raises many valid correlations between Masonic symbolism and Haitian Vodou. Whilst, the article is well written and informative, it implies that the remnants that are found are a legacy from French colonial rule.
Masonic symbolism in Haitian Vodou
Historically this has been an issue as Masonic authors that write about this topic always completely exclude the KNOWN origins of Veve sigils and the secret society handshakes that they attribute to Freemasonry which are the secret Nsibidi writing of the Ekpe (leopard) Society of Cross River Nigeria and Cameroon.
A Look At Nsibidi: The Long Lost Nigerian Writing
Veve comes from the Igbo language “i we iwe” meaning “to be angry”. So either they are ignorant of the West African origins or are omitting them and diminishing the well established African origins intentionally to maintain their theory that the French colonial Freemasonic influence is far greater than it is on Vodou, due to their Fraternal loyalty and bias.
It is necessary to challenge such narratives as it ultimately works towards the continued erasure of African influence on society. Even the title is written to suggest that the symbols in Vodou come from Masonry as opposed to masonry as we know it now is simply mimicry of an African Cosmology…
Unfortunately the African origins of Freemasonry are what make this omission of West African Nsibidi and Ekpe society so problematic because those who don’t know better will believe it and give credit inaccurately to Medu Neter.
In terms of finding information on the Nsibidi and the Ekpe society there is quite a bit online but these are a “secret” language and society so it’s still limited, and some of the Haitian info is primarily in French.
Anaforuana meaning “they took away our land” in Igbo of the Cuban Abakua Society (Abakua is a corruption of the Abakpa area southeast Nigeria, they are the same Fraternal society as Ekpe and meet up in Calabar Nigeria for masquerade) is also Nsibidi and there is a lot of info online about them including a book on the writing, but the majority is in Spanish.
The actual Igbo for the Cuban Anaforuana which is “a nafụrụ ana”, and the Abakua language used in Cuban music is creolized Cross Rivers Igbo, Efik, and Ibibio. Only Abakua society writing is known as Anaforuana. In popular Cuban music Anaforuana lyrics are still sung mixed with the Spanish and Anago (Yoruba) to send secret messages to members across the island. This was useful during slave revolts and the Cuban Revolution.
To clarify, secret society doesn’t mean unknown society. It means they keep secret information within their initiatory systems. There are loads of well known “secret” societies in Africa and the diaspora. We can rather easily distinguish who is who by their cultures, languages, and symbols, regalia, and practices etc. as demonstrated above. Scholars and thorough researchers absolutely know the Nsibidi and Ekpe origins of what these Freemasonic authors on these pieces are inaccurately claiming originate with their fraternity. The only reasons they could possibly be doing it is if they are ignorant about Nsibidi and Ekpe and what Veve and Anaforuana and Abakua etc. are and their Cross River origins, or they are purposely omitting said (widely available and well established as you can see) information.
To be fair the reason some lean to it being intentional is because in the information age you have to be a pretty inept researcher to not come across this information through source material and basic cross checking. How can you write about Veve and not look up what the word means which would automatically pull up the Igbo term and Nsibidi origins with loads of images of the identical writing which automatically debunks the Freemasonic claim by default? Confirmation bias and accidental omission could apply to earlier works and write ups on the topic but it’s impossible to unintentionally do that in the information age without being inept in the extreme.
The thing is he is not pointing out things that are “shared” in a benign way. That would get a side eye from me but would be much more tolerable. He instead is making up and substituting Freemasonic origins for certain things we know the actual specific West African origins of, which is disrespectful to our ancestors, Vodou, and the living cultures and peoples who still practice the same things. Freemasonic origins are Nilotic and treating the continent and her cultures like some random vague pick and mix in supposed scholarly works is disrespectful at best and dishonest at worst. The authors of these types of works need to get out of that habit because it spreads misinformation.
By Omisefun Fagbenro AmusanFurther readingSymbolically Speaking Vol 1 African LodgeBy Jeff Menzise, PH.D & P.M. Alton Roundtree