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C.3.6 The Legend of the Dionysiac Artificers

Sir David Brewster in his book “History of Freemasonry” published at the beginning of the twentieth century enounced the theory that the Masons sent to King Solomon from Tyre were members of the Dionysiac Fraternity. Between the years 1055 and 1044 BC, the inhabitants of Atticha thought that their country was too small and the soil of poor quality. They sailed to Asia Minor and drove out the inhabitants of a piece of land that they called Ionia where they built many towns, one of them being Teos. They took with them their knowledge of the Sciences and Arts and they introduced to Ionia the original Mysteries of Pallas and Dionysus (the Roman Bacchus). In the Dionysiac Mysteries, the legend of initiation, played during initiation of the candidate, tells or represents the death of the demi-god Dionysus, the search for and discovery of his body, and his restoration to life. These mysteries of Dionysus were connected to a society of architects (the Dionysian Architects) that has been linked with the organisation of Masonry at the Solomon Temple. The priests of Dionysus devoted themselves to the study and practise of architecture. They established themselves in Asia Minor as a society or fraternity of builders, erecting temples and other constructions. King Hiram of Tyre patronised these religious builders and employed them. Their laws, organisation, and customs were very similar to those of the present day Freemasons. They had lodges and an annual festival similar to the Masonic General Assembly or Grand Lodge. The Dionysiac used many of the implements of the operative Masons and, being a secret society, they also used signs and tokens to identify themselves to the other members. They too practised charity.

Hiram Abif, an expert Craftsman and an artist, is assumed to have been a Dionysiac sent by King Hiram of Tyre to King Solomon to help in the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem dedicated to Jehovah. Solomon made Hiram Abif responsible for the construction as well as head of the Tyrian and Jewish workers. He introduced part of the Dionysian ceremonial, usage, and discipline to the workmen at Jerusalem creating, in fact, a kind of local branch of the Dionysiac Artificers and this despite the problem of integrating Jews in this Gentile and Pagan secret society.

In the Dionysiac legend, it is Bacchus, or Dionysus, who died and then is resuscitated. In the Masonic Third Degree Hiram Abif, after his death, replaces Dionysus. The Masonic Order derived its religious character from the Jewish elements present at the building of the Temple and, from the Tyrian elements, it took its mystical character and its symbolism that came from the ancient Pagan mysteries. After the construction of the Temple the initiated workers were told all the secrets and were made Master Masons. They were then told to disperse in the world and to teach their art to the local population. In this way they also enlarged their knowledge and experience.