Square and Compasses

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Carved into a foundation stone in England

The Square and Compasses (or, more correctly, a square and a set of compasses joined together) 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 to teach symbolic lessons. Some Lodges and rituals explain these symbols as lessons in conduct: for example, Duncan's Masonic Monitor of 1866 explains them as: "The square, to square our actions; The compasses, to circumscribe and keep us within bounds with all mankind".[1] However, as Freemasonry is non-dogmatic, there is no general interpretation for these symbols (or any Masonic symbol) that is used by Freemasonry as a whole.[2]

With a "G"[edit]

Free Mason Stone.JPG

In English speaking jurisdictions the Square and Compasses are often depicted with the letter "G" in the center. The letter is interpreted to represent different words jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Among the most widely accepted interpretations are that: [G] stands for God, and is to remind Masons that God is at the center of Freemasonry. In this context it can also stand for Great Architect of the Universe (a reference to God). In a different context, the letter stands for Geometry, described as being the "noblest of sciences", and "the basis upon which the superstructure of Freemasonry is erected."[3]

Use of the symbol by other fraternal bodies[edit]

The square and compasses has used as a symbol by several organisations, sometimes with additional symbols:

  • The Order of Free Gardeners which adds an open pruning knife within the square and compasses[4]
  • The Junior Order of United American Mechanics which adds and arm and hammer within the square and compasses.[5]
  • The Independent United Order of Mechanics,[6] which retains the symbol unchanged.
  • The Royal Black Institution,[7] which uses the symbol unchanged.
  • Carpenters' Company of the City and County of Philadelphia uses the square and three sets of compasses in its arms.[8] The Philadelphia arms are similar to the City of London Livery Company, the Worshipful Company of Carpenters[9]
  • The Incorporation of Wrights and Masons - Edinburgh Trades,.[10] The Wrights' symbol is the square and compasses in a different configuration from the traditional Masonic one. Wright is the Scottish and Northern English term for a Carpenter.
  • The arms of the former Allan Glen's School, still used by the school club[11] and independent rugby club,[12] incorporate a square and compasses in a similar configuration to the Edinburgh Wrights. Allan Glen was a wright by trade.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Curl, James Stevens (1991). The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry: An Introductory Study. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press. ISBN 1-58567-160-6. OCLC 493971613.