SYMBOLS

The Forget-me-not

The “forget-me-not,” Myosotis arvensis – from the Greek, meaning “Mouse’s Ear,” after the shape of its five petals. These little blue flowers are perennials, springing up again year after year. They grow widely in Europe, Asia, America, even as far as New Zealand.

The name “forget-me-not, comes from the ”German Vergissmeinnicht, and was first used in English in 1398. Historically, it holds a place in the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Henry Thoreau, medieval German legends, Christian writings, and English political history.

Even before there were lodges in Germany, Germans were becoming Freemasons in English lodges. One of the earliest was Albrecht Wolfgang Graf zu Schaumburg-Lippe. In 1729 The Count was appointed Envoy Extraordinary of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Prov: Grand Master of Lower Saxony by the Premier Grand Lodge of England with the aim of establishing lodges in Germany. No activity for this Provincial Grand Master is known. In 1733 'eleven German Gentlemen' in London were admitted to Freemasonry and received permission to found a lodge in Hamburg.

Freemasonry in Germany really started in several places during the second quarter of the Eighteenth century. During the 1920s Freemasons were harassed alongside Jews by those who had been taken in by the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and blamed for the German surrender of 1918.

In the years between the two World Wars, the blue Forget Me Not Emblem (Das Vergissmeinnicht) was a standard symbol used by most charitable organizations in Germany, with a very clear meaning: ‘Do not forget the poor and the destitute.’ In 1926, the Grand Lodge of Germany held its annual meeting in Bremen in northern Germany. It adopted a blue forget-me-not badge as its emblem, which was produced by a local factory. 

This was a terrible time in Germany, economically speaking, further aggravated in 1929 following that year’s Great Depression.

That economic situation, contributed to Hitler’s accession to power. Many people depended on charity, some of which was Masonic. Distributing the forget-me-not at the Grand Lodge Meetings was meant to remind German Brethren of the charitable activities of the Grand Lodge. 

In early 1934, it became evident that Freemasonry was in danger.  In that same year, the Grand Lodge of the Sun in Bayreuth, realising the grave dangers involved, adopted the little blue Forget Me Not flower as a substitute for the traditional square and compasses.

It was felt the flower would provide brethren with an outward means of identification while lessening the risk of possible recognition in public by the Nazis, who were engaged in wholesale confiscation of all Masonic Lodge properties. Freemasonry went undercover, and this delicate flower assumed its role as a symbol of Masonry surviving throughout the reign of darkness.

The situation for Masons worsened, culminated with the suppression of Freemasonry by the Nazis in 1935. Many Masons in Germany and occupied countries being executed or sent to concentration camps where they were forced to wear an inverted red triangle on their striped concentration camp clothing, indicating that they were political prisoners.

By coincidence, the same factory that had made the 1926 Masonic pin was called upon to produce a blue forget-me-not lapel pin in 1936 by the National Socialist People’s Welfare Organization, to commemorate its Winterhilfswerk, or winter charitable contribution drive. The pin was a gift to donors. Thus, the blue forget-me-not, ostensibly a symbol of Nazi social policy, became a symbol of Freemasonry – a clandestine badge of membership.

During the ensuing decade of Nazi power a little blue Forget Me Not flower worn in a Brother’s lapel served as one method whereby brethren could identify each other in public, and in cities and concentration camps throughout Europe. The Forget Me Not distinguished the lapels of countless brethren who staunchly refused to allow the symbolic Light of Masonry to be completely extinguished.

Freemasonry returned to Germany after World War Two. A single central body now represents five "regular" Grand Lodges., Liberal, women's, and mixed lodges also exist. When the Grand Lodge of the Sun was reopened in Bayreuth in 1947, by Past GM Beyer, a little pin in the shape of a Forget Me Not was officially adopted as the emblem of that first annual meeting of the brethren who had survived the bitter years of semi-darkness to rekindle the Masonic Light.

In 1948 At the first Annual Conclave of the new United Grand Lodges Of Germany AF&AM (VGLvD), W.Bro. Theodor Vogel, Master of the Lodge “Zum weißen Gold am Kornberg”, in Selb, Bavaria, remembered the 1926 and 1934 pin, had a few hundred made and started handing them out as a Masonic symbol wherever he went. He was later elected GM of the Grand Lodge AFuAM of Germany.

 The Forget-me-not, is not just a Masonic Symbol,  it has always been a symbol of remembrance. In Canada, it is worn every July 1st to remember those who died in World War 1, symbolizing love of Country and steadfastness.

Its perennial cycle has also been used to symbolize a long awaited return; Henry lV; used the forget-me-not as his symbol during his exile in 1398, and retained it after his return to the throne.

For Freemasons, the humble forget-me-not is a symbol that reminds us of resilience, resistance, and of love for the Fraternity and its principles, even under distress and persecution!

Text of a talk given by WBro John Williams

at Lodge Teide No 34 on 15th February 2017.