Branwell Bronte was a visionary, his visions brought on by what is thought to have been epileptic episodes and, later in life, drugs like Opium, & alcohol. In some cultures visionaries are raised to the level of shamans and wise men, their perceptions respected for the insights they bring but few people recognised Branwell’s talents. The loudest voices are heard first and the most persistent voices often get to write history. These voices have, maybe unwittingly for the most part, perpetuated the more negative aspects of Branwel’ls persona.
As the son of the local vicar, Branwell held a privileged position in Haworth village and was educated at home by his father Patrick. He was well read in politics and world events not to mention gaining an almost gnostic understanding of the biblical texts.It was partially through Patrick Bronte’s connections (and partly his own creative and unusual personality) that Branwell Bronte was introduced to the local branch of the Freemasons, Lodge 408 of the 3 Graces. It was to be one of the few places that his visionary nature was to be recognised and nurtured – but also used to ultimately destroy him. In 1836 a letter written by John Brown, WM. and Joseph Redman, Secretary to The Provincial Lodge of Freemasons, “We beg leave to inform you that a young Gentleman, the Rev.P.Bronte’s son, has made application to us, wishing to be admitted into Masonry, but he is only about 20 years of age, in consequence of which, we (in conformity with the constitutions) do hereby apply to you for a dispensation for that purpose. The Rev.P.Bronte is the Minister of the Chapelry of Haworth, and always appears to be very favourable to Masonry. Therefore we hope you will furnish us, by return of post, with proper authority to admit the young Gentleman into our Order”.
Beyond the home he received a different style of education from the housekeeper, Tabitha Ackroyd. Respected wise women around the village who was known for her knowledge of the old ways, of folk tales, fortune telling and healing. Tabitha had been employed following the death of Branwell’s mother and soon became an invaluable substitute. It could be said that the opportunity provided by Tabitha gave the children a much wider and more varied experience of life than would have been possible from their mother. It gave them an understanding of 2 class systems and 2 belief systems. Tabitha would often take Branwell and his sisters on walks across the local moors and spent much time at Penistone hill which was to become the microcosmic and paracosmic location of their stories of Angria and Gondol and was later used to describe places in both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Tabitha introduced them to time tested wisdom, to magic and paganism and to special megalithic sites. Through her they learned of herbalism, astrology, the green man, the geography of fairy land and where to find fresh spring water or see the shadows align on the equinox. ferndeanmanor
Photographe: Old lodge in Lodge st, Haworth (Newell hill)