15 Common Freemason Symbols You've Never Noticed Before

Everywhere you look, you’re surrounded by their symbols: the all-seeing eye, a compass and a ruler, but what do they mean? Common Freemason symbols can be found in almost every building constructed prior to the '90s, but is it because of a vast global conspiracy? Or do masons just like to add a bit of flair to their work? The hidden symbols of Freemasons may seem like they have an ulterior motive when they’re being plastered around judiciary buildings and old castles, but that’s only because you don’t know what they mean. The Freemasons aren’t some cloak-and-dagger cult that meets up once a fortnight in order to decide the fate of the world; they’re actually men who live by the traditions of their forefathers who were obsessed with mathematics and Christianity – which is admittedly still a bit weird.

You may know that the eagle with two heads and the big fat letter "G" play important roles in the world of Freemasonry, but there are Freemason symbols you never knew existed, like the etchings that you won’t be able to stop seeing once you read about their meanings. Hopefully, once you have a better understanding of the meanings behind some of the Freemasonry’s most widely used symbols, you’ll be able to decode the mysterious world of stonecutting that swirls all around you like an unseen dust. And these Freemason facts might even give you a leg up if you want to join a secret society any time soon. 

  • The Hourglass

    The Hourglass
    Photo: dno1967b / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Everyone knows what an hourglass means, but they don't get it in the same way that Freemasons do. The foremost meaning behind this symbol is the eternal passage of time, "the sand slipping away until there is no more, and therefore a continual reminder that life is finite, and that therefore we should make the most of it while we can."

    But it also acts as an analogy of the upper and the lower, and the need to turn the hourglass from top to bottom at times to continue the process symbolizes the continuous cycle between life and death and heaven and earth.

  • The Acacia Tree

    A sprig of acacia, considered by Freemasons to be a holy plant because Moses supposedly built his ark, the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, the table for the showbread, and the rest of his sacred furniture out of the wood of the acacia. To Masons, a sprig of acacia stands for the immortality of the soul, and it reminds them of such because of the acacia tree's consistent evergreen nature.

    And perhaps another twist on the immortality meaning is the possibility that it also stands for "life rises out of the grave," a lesson that everyone can glean from plant life everywhere. 

  • The Two-Headed Eagle

    The two-headed eagle has taken on many meanings and different forms throughout history, which is to be expected when the ol' double eagle dates back to around 3,000 BCE. But for Freemasons, the double-headed eagle not only symbolizes the dual nature of man and the Masons as a whole, but it also stands for the spiritual regeneration of oneself through the unification of opposites. 

  • Masonic Blazing Star

    Masonic Blazing Star
    Photo: mnd.ctrl / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The blazing star, which isn't just any star, holds multiple meanings within a lodge. The meaning given to the star in the 28th Degree of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite is that the star symbolizes the concept of Freemasonry at its highest peak. A man uses knowledge to become like a blazing star, shining with brilliance in the midst of darkness. Throughout the various rites, the star is said to be a beacon of truth. 

  • The Gavel

    The Gavel
    Photo: Pixoeil / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The baseline meaning for the gavel is an emblem of authority used by the Master of the lodge to show his executive power over the assemblage by punctuating its actions. Remember, this gavel isn't like a judge's gavel, it's an actual mason's gavel that was used to break the rough edges off of a stone.

    Once you begin to parse through the concepts of Freemasonry you learn that the gavel not only stands for a Master's authority but the need or Masons to clear their hearts and consciousness of all the vices and superfluities of life in order to ready themselves as if they were living stones, open to be shaped into a spiritual being that is pleasing to their Creator.

  • The Letter 'G'

    The Letter 'G'
    Photo: son.delorian / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Many Freemason scholars hem and haw about the meaning of the sacred G, but most people believe that it stands for "Gnosis," or the knowledge of spiritual mysteries. At the end of the day, Freemasons aren't just a bunch of guys who get together to talk shop or plan local politics (or global politics, depending on what town they're meeting in). Freemasons are a group of spiritual men who are constantly searching for something beyond the tangible world.