An explanation of some Masonic symbols that appear on Banners
The Mosaic Pavement (The Square Pavement)
The masonic tradition is that the floor of the Temple of Solomon was decorated with a mosaic pavement of black and white stones. This idea was perhaps first suggested by a passage in the Bible, where a "judgment-seat" was situated in a place that in Hebrew was called Gabbatha. The word is that used by Pliny to denote a mosaic pavement.
There was, therefore, a part of the Temple which was decorated with a mosaic pavement. The Talmud (the body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law and legend) informs us that there was such a pavement in the conclave where the Grand Sanhedrin held its sessions. Freemasons have therefore asserted that the ground floor of the Temple was a mosaic pavement, and hence as the lodge is a representation of the Temple, that the floor of the lodge should also be of the same pattern. The mosaic pavement is therefore an old symbol of the order. Its stones of black and white have also been interpreted as symbols of the evil and good found in all aspects of human life.
The Rough and Perfect Ashlars
The two blocks of stone often depicted on banners are the rough and perfect ashlars which symbolize man's moral and spiritual life.
The Rough Ashlar - represents a rough, unprepared or undressed stone. In speculative freemasonry, a rough ashlar is an allegory to the uninitiated freemason prior to his discovering the path to live a better life.
The Perfect Ashlar - represents the dressed stone (after it has been made uniform and smoothed) by use of the working tools, the common gavel, (mallet) and chisel. Only after the stone has been dressed by an experienced stonemason, can it be suitable to be placed into the architectural structure or building. Speculatively, a perfect ashlar is an allegory to a freemason who, through masonic education, works to achieve an upstanding life and diligently strives to obtain an improved understanding of the meaning of life and assisting his fellow man.
The Square and Compasses
The Square and Compasses is the single most identifiable symbol of Freemasonry. Both the square and compasses are architect's tools and are used in Masonic ritual as emblems allegorically to teach symbolic lessons.
It is interesting to note that either the square (as here) or the "square pavement" have been instrumental in making allusion to truth and honesty with such English expressions as in "Are you on the square"?
The Two Pillars
These two pillars are the representations of the two pillars that stood at the "porchway entrance of King Solomon's Temple". The Lodge, as the meeting place for freemasons is a representation of the Temple of King Solomon so these pillars, one with a globe of the earthly world and the other celestial, are situated on the Wardens pedestals to represent the temple pillars.
Allegorically within freemasonry they represent strength on the one hand and stability on the other as well as representing day and night.
The Three Pillars
The 3 pillars in Freemasonry often become confused in the eyes of non-masons with the "two Pillars" see above. The above pillars represent the external pillars used to guard the entrance to the Holy Place - King Solomon's Temple, whilst the 3 pillars are representative of "Wisdom, Strength and Beauty" and are to be found in a Masonic lodge with lights at the top of each to provide illumination to the Master's, Senior Warden's and Junior Warden's Chairs. They are representative of the three orders of masonry as related to columns, viz:
The Working Tools
The Doric order (Middle pillar in above illustration) originated on the mainland of western Greece. It is the simplest of the orders, characterized by short, faceted, heavy columns with plain, round capitals (tops) and no base.
The Ionic (left pillar in above illustration) order came from eastern Greece, where its origins are entwined with the similar but little known Aeolic order. It is distinguished by slender, fluted pillars with a large base and two opposed volutes (also called scrolls) in the echinus or ovolo (a convex moulding) of the capital.
The Corinthian (right pillar in above illustration) order is the most ornate of the Greek orders, characterized by a slender fluted column having an ornate capital decorated with two rows of acanthus leaves and four scrolls. It is commonly regarded as the most elegant of the three orders.
Source: Wikipedia. Click on above underlined links for further information. (Web Page will open in new window)
The "Working Tools" - see left and right - are a representation of the Operational tools that stonemasons used when cutting and preparing stone for the erection of large buildings. They consist of such items as hammers, chisels, gauges, levels, squares, marking instruments (pencils and measuring devices) and compasses.
Whilst all of these tools are or were until very recently used in operative masonry; within "speculative freemasonry" of today, these tools allude to moral principles by which the Freemason is expected to live his life.
The Masonic "All-seeing" Eye
The Masonic Eye is symbolic of the Eye of the Deity (God) or as freemasonry states "The Great Architect of the Universe", as Freemasons invite Christians - both Catholic and Protestant - Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and men of many other faiths all of whom have been welcomed into our fraternity. One point of commonality is the belief in the one God. Masons believe there is one God and one God only..It is the symbol of his divine watchfulness and his ever present care of the universe. The All Seeing Eye, like many other Masonic symbols, has been borrowed from the past from the nations of antiquity as both the Hebrews and Egyptians appear to have derived the use of the Masonic Eye from the natural inclination of figurative minds to select it as the symbol of its closest matching function.
Interlocking Triangles - Hexagram or Hexalpha
The interlacing triangles or deltas symbolize the union of the two principles or forces, the active and passive, male and female, pervading the universe. The two triangles, sometimes one white and the other black, interlacing, typify the mingling of apparent opposites in nature, darkness and light, error and truth, ignorance and wisdom, evil and good, throughout human life." – Source: Albert G. Mackey: Encyclopedia of Freemasonry.
The hexagram is one of the world's most ancient symbols, and is featured within and on the outside of many masonic temples as a decoration. It is likely that it was included within the structures of King Solomon's temple, from which freemasons are inspired in their philosophies and studies. Like many other symbols in Freemasonry, the deciphering of the hexagram is non-dogmatic and left to the interpretation of the individual.
The Freemasons Apron
Stone masons wear aprons to keep their clothes clean as well as for holding essential tools when going about their daily tasks. The freemason of today wears an apron to symbolically represent the origins of freemasonry within the operative masons.
The basic apron within freemasonry is of white lambskin, and remains as such even after any other embelishments are added to show rank or office.
Other symbols on the apron are indicative of the status that the mason has obtained within freemasonry. The three rosettes indicate that the wearer is a Master Mason not having, as yet occupied the master's chair.
When the rosettes are replaced by levels this would indicate that this is an apron belonging to one who has also been in charge of the lodge as its Worshipful Master. The light blue colour is indicative of the fact that the owner of the apron has not, been awarded Provincial Rank for his services to Freemasonry
Once the Mason has been recognised by his Province or District as a worthy Mason he is awarded Provincial, or in the case of the Metropolitan area of London, "London Grand Rank". The background colour of the apron remains white but the light blue portions change to dark blue and the apron may be edged with a gold coloured fringe (full dress) or without the fringe (undress). Matching collars are also worn with a badge of the appropriate rank affixed thereto. The badge in the centre of the apron relates to the rank within the province or district that the owner holds.
There is a very detailed article on the origin of the Freemasons apron which originally appeared as an Ars Quatuor Coronati research paper by Bro FR Worts, MA, PAGDC written in 1961.- click here to read.
The three principal officers of the lodge display on their badge of office the three symbols of the square, the level and the plumb rule. The Worshipful Master wears the square on his collar, the Senior Warden the level, and the Junior Warden the plumb rule. After his year of office the Worshipful Master becomes a past master and is entitled to wear the badge displayed to the right, which is a square, underneath which is suspended a diagram of the 47th proposition of Euclid. This was much used by stonemasons and is symbolically used today in freemasonry.
The compound character known as the triple tau is one of the Royal Arch’s emblems. A triple tau is literally “three Tau’s,” the tau being the nineteenth letter in the Greek Alphabet. The triple tau of Royal Arch Masonry consists of three "T's" linked in the centre and joined at their base. This emblem, placed in the center of a Triangle and Circle constitutes the jewel of the Royal Arch as practiced in England, where it is used as the grand emblem of Royal Arch Masonry. This mystical character can be signified in a few different ways. First, the names Hiram of Tyre and Hiram Abif appear in the Phoenican language with the same letters “H” and “T” as they do in English.
Therefore, the Triple Tau takes on the interpretation of the initial letters in Hiram Abif’s name. Secondly, it signifies also T. H. or Templum Hierosolym, the Temple of Jerusalem, and when used as the Royal Arch symbol, some jurisdictions teach that the wearer acknowledges himself a servant of God. Thirdly, Christians in Greek or Roman influence in past times used a tau cross.
The basis of a triple-tau in early church history would mean the trinity of father, son, and holy spirit. A belief in the triune nature of godhead is common to many faiths and religions. A triangle is a simple shape in geometry that has taken on great spiritual significance and symbolism. The equilateral triangle was revered by ancient nations as containing the greatest and most abstruse mysteries, and as a symbol of God, denoting a triad of intelligence, a triad of deity, a triune God. The equilateral triangle shows equality with its three angles of the same degrees. In one way, it best represents deity by its equality or perfection in design and proportion.The triangle is a symbol of divine union, and an emblem of the mysterious triune, equally representing the attributes of deity, and his triune essence: omnipotence (all powerful), omnipresence (eternal) and omniscience (all knowing).