A system of quasi-Masonic rites for women, Adoptive Masonry appeared in France in the middle of the eighteenth century; the first known Lodge of Adoption was founded in Paris in 1760 by the Comte de Bernouville. Another appeared at Nijmegen, the Netherlands, in 1774, and by 1777 the adoptive Rite had risen to such social heights that the lodge La Candeur in Paris had the Duchess of Bourbon as its Worshipful Mistress, assisted by the Duchess of Chartres and the Princess de Lamballe. Its basic pattern came partly from Freemasonry and partly from earlier non-Masonic secret societies in France that admitted men and women alike.

The degrees of Adoptive Masonry take their names from corresponding Masonic degrees, but use an entirely different symbolism and ritual. The first degree, Apprentice, involves the presentation of a white apron and gloves to the new initiate. The second, Companion, draws on the symbolism of the Garden of Eden, and the third, Mistress, on that of the Tower of Babel and the ladder of Jacob. The fourth degree, Perfect Mistress, refers to the liberation of the Jews from bondage in Egypt as an emblem of the liberation of the human soul from bondage to passion, and concludes with a formal banquet. The entire system focuses on moral lessons drawn from Christian scripture, a detail that has not prevented Christian critics from insisting that Adoptive Masonry is yet another front for Masonic devil worship.

Despite its ascent to stratospheric social heights, Adoptive Masonry faced an early challenge from the Order of Mopses, a non-Masonic order for men and women founded in Vienna in 1738 after the first papal condemnation of Freemasonry. The chaos of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars finished off the Mopses but left Adoptive Masonry tattered but alive, and it remains active in France at the present. Attempts to launch it in other countries had limited success, although the example of French Adoptive Masonry played a major role in launching the Order of the Eastern Star and similar rites for women in America.



The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006