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ORGANIZATION › Folklore or tradition ?

Nowadays, when materialism is king, when Master Anysetiers say they want to take time to study and carry out research into the qualities of star anise in all its aspects, they stand a good chance of being dismissed as members of a bacchic band of anise addicts. This notion can only be reinforced in the mind of someone who has happened to be present at one of our induction ceremonies where the Dignitaries wear their peculiar clothing and solemnly recite their ritual phrases... A well intentioned observer might describe it as folklore...

Folklore, i.e. the understanding of traditions, customs and popular art of a country, no matter how respectable a study, does not begin to touch on the deep significance of an induction ceremony. If it is solemn, it is because it is the outward manifestation of a choice made by the neophyte, and for him it takes the form of a serious moral decision for which a banal administrative formality of membership of an association could never be appropriate...

In the Middle Ages, chivalry was the only way the mores of a life, so brutish that we could scarcely imagine it today, could be softened. To do so, it developed the concept of honour, and introduced, with respect, bordering on worship, for women, what was called in the time of Philippe-Auguste, "courtly love" - or courtesy. The ceremony giving a coat of arms to a young man becoming a knight had was simultaneously moral and solemn in tone, because he would take an oath to respect the chivalric code.

It is this ceremony of dubbing a knight which is at the heart of the induction ceremony we use, and during which the prospective Anysetier takes an oath to respect the precepts of the Order. These precepts require him to be honest in every way, implying an honesty towards himself as much as towards others, to mutual help and solidarity - in a word, brotherhood.

These are not just empty words, but reality. Despite the reticence of those who utter them, we are often led to observe in our Commanderies, behaviour which illustrates this notion of brotherhood absolutely perfectly.

In addition to their ceremonies and clothing, each mediaeval guild possessed its own banner which it carried aloft during public festivals and processions. Our banners and coats of arms and our costumes all uphold the customs and habits of the Guild of Master Anysetiers. Far beyond folklore, it is a matter of reviving traditions. Is it not opportune nowadays to bring to life (even bring back to life) and develop these high ideals inherited from our ancestors?

One might ponder the following question: why do such brotherhoods still exist today? We can find all the answers in the work carried out by Martine SEGALEN (*), research assistant at the French Ethnology Centre of the C.N.R.S. She explains that brotherhoods, and amongst them the crafts guilds, were very much part and parcel of the spread of religious associations throughout Europe in the Middle Ages (Cf. Histoire n° 5 - 1978). Those which have survived up to the present day are woven into a social fabric still ready to absorb them and they embody ancient or modern values which still correspond to real needs today. Each member of a Brotherhood keeps their traditions alive through their ceremonial and clothes. These are powerful symbols of association, which make brotherhood sacred and abolishes class barriers.

Belonging to a Brotherhood carries some level of prestige, because it gives the feeling of belonging to a chosen environment, open only to trusted friends. .

(*) M. SEGALEN, les Confréries dans le Monde contemporain

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