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8 Most Common Masonic Symbols And What They Mean

by Lois R. Earles

Throughout history, there have been numerous guilds and associations that have an air of mystery about them. But few are as well-known and have as many conspiracies as the Freemasons.

The Freemasons are part of fraternal organizations that trace their roots back to the stonemasons of the 14th century who were part of fraternities that served as a regulating body for interactions between the authorities, the masons and their clients.

Symbolism has always been their preferred method of expression and communication. Most of these symbols are drawn from masonry tools. Although there are some exceptions. What all of those symbols do have in common is that they are thought to contain hidden meanings and moral lessons.

Here are some of the most common masonic symbols, and their meanings.

1. The All-Seeing Eye

All Seeing Eye

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Undoubtedly the most recognized symbol of the freemasons is the “All Seeing Eye”. Also known as the Masonic Eye of Providence, the eye is well known around the world as a symbol used by secret organizations such as the Freemasons or the Illuminati.

It is usually surrounded by a semicircular glow and more often than not, enclosed in a triangle. It traces its origin to Ancient Egypt and according to many historians, was derived from the Eye of Horus.

The Eye is a symbolic representation of one of the core beliefs of Masonry that God observes all of mankind’s thoughts and actions and will hold us responsible for it. The Eye of Providence is found on numerous American currencies, logos and insignias.

Conspiracy theorists believe that the eye on top of the unfinished pyramid in the Great Seal of the United States hints at the influence of Freemasonry in the founding of the United States.

2. The Square and the Compass

Square and Compass

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The Square and the Compass is also widely recognized as one of the most used symbols of Masonry. Although they are equally the tools of carpenters and architects, the square and the compass are believed to represent the ideology behind the fraternity that is the Freemasons.

The square represents the material aspects of the ideology while the compass encompasses spirituality. The Square and the Compass is the most frequently worn symbol by the members of Masonry.

It is also the emblem of the Master of the Lodge. A lodge is the lowest step in the hierarchy of Freemasonry. The term lodge is also used to denote the building where they convene. The Square and Compass sometimes also contains a ‘G’ in the middle, signifying God and Geometry.

3. An Acacia Sprig

Acacia Sprig

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An Acacia Sprig represented immortality of the soul in Greek history. Hebrews also left Acacia sprigs on gravestones as a reminder that although the human body is not immortal, the soul is. This representation is believed to have been borrowed by the Freemasons.

It is a significant symbol in Masonry and is also thought to represent innocence, as the Greek root for Acacia relates to innocence and purity of the soul. It is also said to represent the spiritual path of man, an emanation from God whom the Freemasons refer to as the grand architect of the universe.

It is a discrete symbol when compared to its counterparts; the Acacia sprig is often worn as a lapel pin by members of the fraternity.

4. The Blazing Star

Blazing Star

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The blazing star is another important symbol in Freemasonry. Knowledge and Spirituality are the two main pillars of Masonry and the Blazing Star represents both.

It is a metaphor used to illustrate the fact that knowledge, both spiritual and material, is the light that will lead a Freemason in his life, similar to how stars illuminate the night sky. It is also known as the symbol of omniscience, much like The Eye of Providence.

5. The Broken Column

Broken Column

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The Broken Column is regarded as the symbol of the unfinished Temple of Solomon as well as the death of a very important Freemason leader. It conveys the message that important leaders serve as pillars of society and that when they die, the support of that pillar is gone.

It is believed to have been inspired by the biblical passage Isaiah 19:10. “The pillars will be broken in pieces. All those who work for hire will be grieved in soul”.

6. The Anchor and The Ark

Anchor and Ark

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The anchor is a symbol often used in Christianity as a symbol of hope and safety. The Freemasons have adopted this symbol with a similar meaning and purpose.

As an anchor grounds a ship, the Anchor in Masonry depicts a safe haven without the fear of tempests. The Ark symbolizes religion that carries us over the sea that is the voyage of life. Together, they symbolize a well-spent life and a well-grounded hope.

7. Euclid’s 47th Problem

Euclid’s 47th Problem

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Euclid is an ancient Greek mathematician. Although there is no direct connection between Euclid and the Freemasons, Euclid and Pythagoras have been mythically connected to Masonry for a long time. Their mathematical contributions to the world are revered by the Freemasons, again validating the importance of knowledge in Masonry.

Euclid’s 47th problem is one of 465 mathematical ‘problems’ published by him. The 47th problem is one of the most important. It gave the primary tool that held value to architecture and surveying. In other words, ‘estimation of the work of the Almighty’ – connecting knowledge and spirituality, both pillars of Freemasonry.

8. The Winding Staircase

Winding Staircase

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The Winding Staircase is a metaphor that denotes ascent through the stairs of life. Although this metaphor came into usage before Masonic use, it has a special meaning to Masonry as it depicts the staircase in the temple of Solomon.

The masons who worked to construct the temple are said to have climbed those stairs to receive their wages.

One of the most striking examples of this metaphor before the time of Freemasons is Hamlet, one of the works of Shakespeare. In it, Hamlet is quoted as he is contemplating suicide referring to death as “when we have shuffled off this mortal coil”.

A Few Parting Words

There you have it! The Freemasons are a widely discussed group, and their cryptic nature only adds to the air of mystery around them. Now that you know the meaning of some of their most commonly used symbols for communication, do you feel like an insider? I do too!