An ongoing series on the social history of the Operative Masons – from ancient Egypt to the Modern Day (published in The Square magazine)
A four-part series written for The Square magazine exploring mixed, Co- and female Freemasonry, and how the Fraternity and its members helped progress the emancipation and rights of women.
Kipling’s critics are quick to include him as one of the ‘fathers’ who ‘lied’ – echoing his short poem ‘Common Form’ – ‘If any question why we died, Tell them, because our fathers lied’.From ‘Kiplings War’
Kipling has long been viewed as a propagandist and supporter of war but that was perhaps merely a product of his passion for his country and his immense capability to express almost every aspect of the human condition.
He wrote, not only as a journalistic commentator but as a father, a common man and as something that compounded his guilt over the waste of his son’s and millions of other son’s lives – a survivor…
Published in The Square Magazine – click on the link to read more
Published in The Square Magazine Click the link to read
Published in Freemasonry Today December 2017 – click on the link to read
Published in Freemasonry Today June 2017 – click on the link to read
One of the most intriguing engravings of the 18th century shows an elegant lady holding a sword and staff, wearing a cross of the military order of Saint-Louis and, more bizarrely, wearing a Masonic apron. The engraving is entitled ‘La Découverte ou la Femme Franc-Maçon’ – roughly translated as ‘The Discovery of the Female French Mason’. Rites of Adoption were not uncommon in France, with women being admitted to quasi-Masonic Orders but what was most unusual was that the woman in the picture was actually a man. A cross-dressing author, diplomat, soldier and spy, the Chevalier d’Éon, became a legend in his own lifetime.
Article featured in The Square magazine – click on the link to read.
‘It’s not safe in Egypt’.
That phrase is becoming a bit worn now, I hear it every time I book another trip. I’ve been going since 2001, a month after the Twin Towers were brought down and the idea of going to Egypt appalled everyone I knew. I survived that and subsequent visits, including one that turned out to be timed just right for a revolution.
‘It’s fine!’ I always reply wearily. And it is, because to be honest, where is ‘safe’ these days?’
My choice, as usual, is to stay on the West Bank of Luxor – ‘the dark side’, as it is locally known. This time, due to my now somewhat limited mobility, I decide to spend the majority of my days with friends than indulge in the usual frantic temple-hopping. I stay at Villa Kaslan owned by my Swiss/Egyptian friends; tucked away in a village halfway to the Valley of the Kings.
After a few days’ rest, I catch up with a Swedish artist friend, we sip warm Coke and smoke at a local coffee shop overlooking the Nile. She mentions in passing that there is an art gallery. ‘Really?’ I ask. ‘In Luxor?’ She laughs and gives me directions. I head off alone, she has to go; the builders have arrived to work on her studio.
Luxor Art Gallery is inconspicuous down a back street. I ineptly dodge barefoot kids playing football – ‘Salah!’ they shout at me gleefully. Everyone in Egypt loves Mo. Inside the unassuming entrance I am greeted warmly and shown into the gallery, the only visitor. But the art is sublime; contemporary pieces rivalling anything in the Tate – explosions of colour fusing ancient symbolism with modern perceptions. I’m transfixed by a piece by Alaa Abu Al-Ahmed – his art is described as ‘like déjà vu, [they] feel familiar, yet are rare to encounter and mystifying to experience’. Yes, reader, I bought one.
I had no idea of the sheer scope of the talent to be found in Upper Egypt. Perhaps in Cairo’s deliciously trendy – and expensive – suburb of Zamalek but in Luxor? Who knew that hiding in the backstreets would be a hidden gem; a testament to the ancients’ formidable artistry but with modern vigour and passion?
Since I’ve returned, the gallery has moved. Its new home is opposite the famous Colossi of Memnon, and it has a new board of trustees, all artists. Next door is Rabab Luxor, run by friend of a friend Shady Rabab, a self-taught musician who teaches young people to transform waste into musical instruments; his Garbage Music Project won UN acclaim. This is the stuff tourists miss out on; their air-con buses whisking them from temple to tomb. I love the temples and tombs, but this is progress; this is an art revolution! I can’t wait to go back in a few months, not only to add to my art collection but to see how sleepy Luxor is waking up.
Go to that dark place and embrace it.
I say, go to that dark place and rest your tortured head against the cold certainty that everything changes. All will be lost. No one escapes it.
You will be abandoned, betrayed, lose everything. Life will turn on a dime.
But nature is kind and will conjure a brighter place, a fire to step out of, a reverse immolation.
You will grow your fiery skin back, become smokeless fire like the djinn.
You will love and be loved again.
All will be well.
Words: Philippa Lee 2019
Going back through photos of my many trips to Egypt, I realise that I have a bit of obsession with feet! Don’t get me wrong, this foot fetish does not translate to modern times, I really do not have an obsession with 21st century human tootsies. But there is something deeply sensuous about the delicately carved, often strangely elongated, form of the ancient Egyptian foot; they just beg to be worshipped…
Wherever you go, there are feet sculpted from granite and granodiorite, black basalt and quartz – or the sinuous, almost ethereal anorthosite gneiss, of which the statue of ‘Khafre Enthroned’ was created from.
But it seems I am not the only one enamoured with the feet of Pharaohs; there is a superb paper by Art of Counting entitled ‘Analysis of Royal Sandals in Ancient Egypt’, which gives an in-depth analysis of the depiction of sandals worn by Ramses III at his mortuary temple of Medinet Habu.
Whatever your passion, there is no denying the tangible life-force that still emanates from the magnificent sculptures that the Egyptians are famous for. I defy anyone not to feel the urge to kneel before the feet of Pharaoh in timeless wonder and appreciation.