The Hermetic Wild West
The Louisiana Priory
The Louisiana Priory
The Hospitaller Knights of St. John, also called the Knights of Malta, were involved in the early colonization of the Americas. The Knights’ presence in the Caribbean grew out of their close relationship with French nobility. Many of their members were assigned as French administrators in the Americas. The key figure in the Hospitaller’s colonization was Phillippe de Longvilliers de Poincy, who was both a Knight of Malta and governor of the French colonies in the Caribbean. In 1650, Poincy used his influence to convince the Hospitallers to purchase four Caribbean islands: Saint Christopher, Saint Martin, Saint Barthélemy, and Saint Croix.
With the French Hospitallers came magi from the Provençal Tribunal, particularly their Flambeau supporters in the Milites society. Under the patronage of Castra Solis, an allied group of Flambeau and Mercer settled with the Hospitallers on Saint Martin and built a covenant house on Pic du Paradis (Paradise Peak). These knights, magus and mundane alike, must have considered the temperate land a true heaven on earth. They quickly took the Caribbean governor into their confidence and subtly supported his rule.
For fifteen years, the Order of Hospitallers acted as proprietor of these four Caribbean islands while the King of France continued to hold nominal sovereignty. However, as a Hermetic pawn, Poincy ruled largely independent of them both until his death in 1660. Poincy’s successor, Charles de Sales, attempted to maintain independence but was not so adept. Within five years, the negotiated peace with the local Carib people broke down. Under financial pressure (and political pressure from King Louis XIV) the Hospitallers sold their rights in the islands to the new French West India Company, bringing their colonial project to an end.
Under the rule of the French West India Company (and successive managers following the company’s bankruptcy a decade later), the previous governors’ fortifications were expanded, the islands’ harbors reinforced, and warehouses and habitats were constructed to bolster the ever-increasing flow of trade with the American Colonies. Although the tobacco and sugar plantations on the islands were significant assets to the French crown, more important were the ports that served as stopovers for the ships importing African slaves. The volume of the French slave trade in that period exceeded that of all the other colonizing nations combined.
After losing hold of French administration of the islands, the magi of Pic du Paradis on Saint Martin retreated into their holdings, keeping out of sight and out of local politics. But as their influence on Caribbean affairs declined, they spread their reach into North America, seeding progeny chapters across southern Louis-iana.
New apprentices for these chapters continued to be recruited through Pic du Paradis itself and initially trained on Saint Martin. Over a century’s growth, the Hermetic makeup of the chapter covenants remained largely Flambeau, with a strong Mercere presence and a smattering of Ex Miscellanea wizards converted from African traditions. But the ethnic makeup became quite diverse, including more and more magi recruited from African and Caribbean descent. With this shift, Pic du Paradis’ traditional Christianity gradually took on a syncretic form, mixing Caribbean and Yoruban rituals and cultural practices while maintaining its outward appearance of traditional Catholicism.
As Pic du Paradis entered its winter status, its chapters reorganized under the new banner of the Louisiana Priory, headquartered in North America, in eastern Arkansas. Although the remade covenant included a fair number of Gifted magi of African descent, the Louisiana Priory continued accumulating significant wealth by trading in Gifted African slaves. They clandestinely trained laboratory workers for purchase, Gifted Africans to serve not as apprentices but as slaves to magi in the South. These slaves particularly were kept out of sight of any Northern Bonisagus, while Southern Bonisagus turned a blind eye.
Despite having only attenuated ties to their historical roots in knighthood, the magi of the Louisiana Priory carefully fostered their identity as Hospitallers and Milites, co-opting ancient rites and reimagining their purpose to include perpetuating slavery. In support of this knightly role, the Louisiana Priory, using its cache of ancient relics, took up the Hospitaller’s charge to protect pilgrims and minister to the sick. From this idea, they grew a network of “Hospitaller” Redcap custodians to guide Catholic missionaries and protect missions in the Southwest. Such was their network of Redcaps that the Louisiana Priory became the central home for Redcaps south of the blue line when the Dixieland Tribunal seceded.
The Louisiana Priory’s involvement in Hermetic slavery was their impetus to support the South during the Civil War. Their only hope of legalizing their activities, to formalize their right to prevent Bonisagus magi taking their Gifted slaves, lay in the formation of the new Dixieland Tribunal. A new tribunal could divorce itself of relevant precedents and sanction the covenant’s chief source of financing. But their hopes were dashed with the victory of the North and the reconsolidation of the Atlantic Coast Tribunal.
Following the war, magi of the Louisiana Priory were prominent on the list of marched wizards. The chapter houses were forcibly disbanded and their resources seized. Many of their members are still at large and wanted by the Quaesitori. Only the original covenant house in Pic du Paradis survived, such as it was, being geographically beyond the reach of the Atlantic Coast Tribunal.