Category Archives: General

Cherubim

Cherubim with extended wings appeared first in the 1764 edition of Ahiman Rezon, the constitutions of the “Antients”. They returned in the seal of the “Antients” and later also in that of the Grand Lodge of Ireland (shown above).

Cherubim also appear in some ‘high degrees’ (Voss mentions the “degree of Royal Master”), where the meaning would be: “under the protection of Divine Power”.

Grips

Every degree has a grip (and a step and a word). These ‘secret handshakes’ captivate outsiders. On old (and sometimes more recent) Masonic charts you can sometimes see two holding hands. When they are just two hands shaking, it is somewhat likely to be a reference to the Odd Fellows, but with some added detail, such hands can refer to a certain degree.

Pomegranates

In many lodges the two pillars have on top each a globe (sometimes a celestial and terrestrial globe) with network, hanging from which smaller globes which represent pomegranates. This element comes from the Bible from which more symbolism of King Solomon’s Temple comes. “And he made the pillars, and two rows round about upon the one network, to cover the chapiters that were upon the top, with pomegranates: and so did he for the other chapiter.” (1 Kings 7:13-22).

Astronomy

Astronomical (astrological?) signs on a tracing board from the Kloss / von “Löwen collection. The description says: “Apprentif et Compagnon du Soleil” (‘apprentise and fellow of the sun’). It can hardly be a “craft” tracing board with the coffin, the broken columns, etc.

Astronomical signs can often be found in the temples / working places on the European continent, especially in “craft” lodges. The symbolism is simple: as the sun goes up and down during the day (opening and closing of the lodges), it also makes a tour along the sky during the year.

Triangle and Compasses

The “Missouri Masonic Family” tree below shows the bewildering number of rites and degrees in America. As a branch to the York Rite there is an order simply called “Allied Masonic Degrees”.

The square is also sometimes replaced by a triangle in French and German Freemasonry. It also happens that there is both a square and compasses and a triangle.

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Phoenix

The Phoenix is not really a Masonic symbol, but it does appear in a Masonic context every now and then. The image above is the emblem of a lodge with the name, there is the famous Phoenixmasonry museum and library and last, but not least, the double headed eagle of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite is sometimes portrayed as rising from the fire. Sometimes it is even bluntly called “Phoenix”. As a symbol, the phoenix refers to renewal, perhaps even immortality or eternity.

Forgetmenot

The Myosotis is not really a Masonic symbol, but (as Jews) Freemasons put it on their cloths during WWII as a subtle token of their membership. It has been used as such ever since.

Hammers and Mallets

There is a great variety of hammers and mallets. Also within Masonic symbolism you see a variety, but -fortunately- not as big as above. Sometimes these different hammers and mallets have a symbolic significance, oftentimes not. In Mark symbology you often see a carver’s mallet with a chisel. A hammer on one tracing board can also be a pick hammer on another. Perhaps it could be fun to make a list is types of hammers and mallets and their specific symbolic meanings.

Fasces

A not too common symbol in a Masonic context, but this 1817 Dutch seal has one. Just as outside a Masonic context, the meaning is might or power.

Hebrew

There is a lot of crudely written Hebrew in Freemasonry. Not only words are garbled, but the copies from copies, often from handwritten copies, by people who don’t know Hebrew, makes that on many places you see letters that hardly resemble Hebrew. What also doesn’t help is that there are variations in ritual texts. The image above is from the “ineffable” degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. Some Hebrew are recognisable, others less so. From some texts that use this image, you can know what Hebrew letters are meant. The same emblem in another AASR system has Latin characters that do not correspond to the Hebrew above.

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Lewis

When you drill a hole in a stone, you can insert a lewis to lift it. The lewis expand somewhat and clamp itself on the inside.

What this has to do with sons is unclear, but a lewis is also the son of a Freemason. In some lodges the son can be ‘adopted’ by the lodge and join before the minimum age. In the latter case, the word “loufton” (‘wolf’ in French) is sometimes used.

Star of David

Just as with the pentagram the star of David (or Solomon’s seal) appears in Masonic symbolism in a variety of contexts and the meaning is dependent on that context. This particular example is a blazing star it appears on a German tracing board between the sun and the moon.

47th Problem of Euclid

The 47th Problem of Euclid is also called the 47th Proposition of Euclid or the Pythagorean Theorem. It appears to be a mainly English (origin) symbol in Freemasonry. It appears on the frontispiece of Anderson’s Constitutions of 1723 and can often be seen on tracing boards. The symbol constitutes basic geometry. Euclid is referred to in various Old Charges, Pythagoras less so, so that may be why “Euclid” is mentioned more often in Freemasonry. Even though nowadays this is mostly the symbol of a “Past Master” (somebody who has been Worshipful Master of a lodge), the usage in older times seems to indicate another meaning. Sometimes it can be seen on a Master’s board.

F H C

Faith, Hope and Charity are often depicted on symbol charts, sometimes as letters like here, sometimes with female figures.

Blazing star

Can be found in the lodge (often in the second and third degree), on tracing boards (often between the sun and the moon), but comes in a variety of forms and contexts / meanings. It does not have to be five pointed. The general meaning is ‘something higher’, whatever that is for the Freemason.

G

Found between the Square and Compasses, within a star, it is a common in Freemasonry. There are a lot of explanations what the letter stands for. Needless to say that this differs per lodge. In a very Christian lodge, the G may be explained as “God”, in a secular lodge “geometry” may be preferred. There are more (possible) explanations though.