[Square & Compasses]    

Letter of the month: August 2006

Date: Sun, 30 Jul 2006 23:29:15 -0500
From: The Whites <thewhites@ozarkmountains.com>
Reply-To: The Whites <thewhites@ozarkmountains.com>
Subject: Masonry Question
To: masonry-ask@mit.edu


I have found your site most informational. My husband is considering joining the Masons, or rather petitioning to join, and I am in the process of gathering information about them.

I do have a question though that I hope you can help with. It is about a symbol. From what I have read the Compass and Square (or is that the other way around) with a "G" in it is the traditional American symbol. I think that some European have no "G" in the middle. There is on that has a sun in the middle that is either a WM or PM. I think I have even seen one with a moon in the middle which I believe was another officer of the lodge. The one I am having a hard time finding info on is one with a star in the middle. I have seen a few examples, but not that seem to tie it to the station or purpose. So I guess my question would be that, if it is not something you can not tell me, is will you tell me what that symbol is called and it's purpose?

Also I hope you can help me with a question I have about the OES. The OES symbol in NY has a point at the 12 o'clock position, while most others have one at the 6 o'clock position. The only site I could find (that was up) that mentioned the difference was a NY OES site and they said it was the "correct" position. Why would that be? What is the difference?

The reason I ask (I have asked on a OES site with no response to date) was that if my husband joined, I know I would have the opportunity to join the OES myself. I have reservations however because and inverted pentagram... well it has negative symbology associated with it that I would have a hard time with wanting to associate my self with it.

Anyhow it is late and I have taken up enough of your time. If you could help me I would appreciate it. If you can not due to oaths or otherwise if you would at least let me know that that was the case then I would stop asking people questions they can't answer. Thank you for your time.


J. White

Message-ID: <20060731012151.f34h9c0lkhy8kwcc@webmail.mit.edu>
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 2006 01:21:51 -0400
To: The Whites <thewhites@ozarkmountains.com>
Subject: Re: Masonry Question

Dear Mrs. White,

Briefly: the "G" (for "Geometry") in the center of the Square and Compasses emblem seems to be an American innovation that began here, I believe in the 1800s, and has been spreading overseas for awhile now. You do see it in Europe and England, but only rarely. The emblem has the same meaning either way, but it is more "universal" without it -- after all, in some other countries/languages, the word for Geometry isn't spelled with a G.

The Past Master's emblem replaces the square (or adds over it in some locales) a piece of a circular arc of 60 degrees. There is also a sunburst (in some places instead a sunflower) in the center. That is the emblem of a Mason who has served a term as presiding officer (Master) of his lodge.

The various officers in the lodge (at least in most of the USA) carry rods and sometimes wear neck-collars that put various other icons in the center of the square and compasses: a sun, a crescent moon, a cornucopia, etc.

I don't know anything about using a five-point star in the center of the square and compasses emblem. I have seen it rarely, but without any helpful context.

Regarding any "negative" associations of a five-point star displayed with the point downward, there are no such intended "negative symbology" associated with it in the Order of the Eastern Star. I'm not in OES myself, but many of my Masonic friends are, and as I understand, the "Eastern Star" is supposed to be the Christmas star, pointing down from Heaven towards Bethlehem. You can read more on the subject of symbols in general, and of the OES star in particular, at the Scottish Rite (Southern Jurisdiction) website, in a nice little article There Is No Sin in Symbols.

I don't think people haven't answered you due to "oaths" but more likely because they just aren't good spokesmen for the organization they have joined. A woman might join OES and see no evil, and absolutely nothing about "Satan" or "Devil", so when she's asked "what about that star? isn't that a symbol of Satan?" she might just be knocked back in surprise at your question, and not know what to say.

I just got some pictures that a friend of mine took of 3,500 year-old temples in India that were decorated with swastikas. Do you suppose that the 3500-year-old Indian priests were actually Nazis? After all, they used the same emblem, so it must be! Of course you understand that isn't so.

But, I suppose that enough people do have holes in their logic like that so that the New York OES got tired of answering them and just tilted their star. I don't know, but that would be my guess. No one else has done that, as far as I know.

Does that help any? There's enough real things in life to worry about -- you don't want to be inventing more things to fret about unnecessarily.

-- Gary L. Dryfoos
A Page About Freemasonry
now at http://MasonryPage.org/

Further information: I received the following note from Bro. Dirk Hughes:

Subject: Masonry Question
Date: Tue, 5 Dec 2006 17:44:28 -0500
From: "Dirk Hughes at 036" <DHughes@itt-tech.edu>
To: <masonry-ask@mit.edu>

Brother Dryfoos:

I believe the five-pointed star in the middle of the Square and Compasses referred to in your August 2006 Letters Page entry is most likely the symbol used for American Co-masonry. That is the only organization I've seen that uses it.

Just an FYI.


Dirk W. Hughes
Grand Rapids, MI

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