Masonic Emblems and Meanings
In every culture throughout the world, symbols and emblems are used to convey essential concepts in a simple yet memorable manner. From religious meanings to social constructs, sometimes a symbol is an easier way to communicate. For the Freemasons, there are many masonic emblems and meanings throughout the tradition. These time-honored masonic emblems and meanings bear special significance for members. They help to impart the tenets of the fraternity as well as the value it brings to each mason's life. Here are a few of the most important things to know about masonic emblems and meanings.
The most recognizable image is the Masonic logo comprised of the G, square and compasses. The square and compasses are architects' tools. These symbols help guide masons in their conduct. The "G" is commonly known to stand for God or the "Great Architect" of the universe. This is meant to signify the journey of self-discovery members take when they join a lodge or the tradition in general. While all Freemasons recognize the official emblem as part of their tradition, there are many more emblems specific to appendant bodies. For example, the five-pointed Eastern Star emblem is for the Order of the Eastern Star. It has red, white, blue, green and yellow colors and symbols within each leg of the star. Shriners International, another appendant body, use a crescent and scimitar.
There are several subgroups within the Masonic ranks that have their own emblems and meanings. A few examples are Prince Hall, Scottish Rite, Knights Templar, York Rite and other appendant bodies of Freemasonry. It's important to note that there is a difference between symbols and emblems. For example, the square and compasses logo of masonry is a symbol because it represents abstract concepts of faith, moral boundaries and a mason's proper place in the world. In contrast, the images for the individualized groups are emblems because they stand for only one group or thing that is tangible. For example, the Scottish Rite 14th degree ring features the a triangle and yod, the Hebrew symbol for Jehovah. These emblems refer to specific concepts as opposed to general ideals.
Masons may also use ancient symbols from Egyptian hieroglyphics as part of their visual communications. Many masonic buildings feature pillars, triple taus, winged disks, and other designs. The shape of some masonic lodges also resemble the hieroglyph for the word "temple." This is a long-standing tradition within the organization. These images are typically considered more of symbols than emblems because they do not represent a particular group, but rather a more abstract idea or form of communication.
When sharing the experience and journey of the masonic tradition, emblems and symbols are essential to every member's understanding of the practice.