A Facebook friend tonight who is a Christian was questioned about their Masonic involvement. “I thought you were a Christian,” they said. “Why are you at a Mason thing? Everyone knows they use a pentagram.”
This nonsense comes up a lot on the internet. The pentagram, or five-pointed star, is actually a common symbol. It appears fifty times on the American flag, though somehow conspiracy theorists have apparently overlooked that particular occult symbol apparently placed on our flag by that pagan witch Betsy Ross and her Dark Overlord George Washington during one of their black masses or Satanic sewing bees.
The pentagram first appeared more than 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamian writings and drawings. The Babylonians used it as an astrological diagram to represent the five known planets—Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, with Venus, the Queen of Heaven, at the top point of the star. The Pythagorean Greeks used an inverted pentagram’s five points to represent the Classical elements of fire, water, air, earth and idea (or “divine thing”).
Early Christians used the pentagram to describe a very wide range of concepts, from the five senses, to the five wounds of Christ on the cross. Catholics have used it to symbolize the five “virtues of Mary” (Annunciation, Nativity, Resurrection, Ascension and the Assumption). In the 14th-century Arthurian tale of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it appears on Gawain’s shield to delineate the five virtues of knighthood: fellowship, purity, frankness, courtesy and compassion.
|Illustration from James Ferguson’s 1799 book |
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The pentagram has only occasionally appeared in the symbolism of American Craft Freemasonry (the garden variety Masonic rituals you find in the lodge down the street) over the last 270 years or so. But it appears most prominently as the primary symbol of the Order of the Eastern Star, part of the Masonic family of related groups known as the appendant bodies. The organization was created in the 1850s by Freemason Rob Morris and his wife as a group that allowed both men and women to mix in a lodge-like setting. Men who are Masons may join, as well as women who are married or otherwise related to Masons.
Morris, an inveterate lover of Masonic rituals, created a ceremony that was initiatory as in Freemasonry, but was dissimilar enough so he couldn’t be accused by Grand Lodges of making women into Masons. And in a hat tip to the Victorian sensibilities of the period, the group's meetings required at least one male Freemason to belong to an OES Chapter just to act as sort of a propriety lifeguard. You couldn't have unescorted women roaming about after dark without a man to protect them throughout the nineteenth century. Masons were deemed to be unquestionably trustworthy, and members to this day swear to protect the welfare and chastity of a fellow Mason's wife, widow or daughter.
Morris based his OES ritual on Biblical sources. The degree ceremonies of the Order of the Eastern Star tell stories about five heroines of the Bible: Adah, Jephthah’s daughter from the Book of Judges who symbolizes fidelity; Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi, symbolizing constancy; Esther, the brave Hebrew wife of Xerxes, as a symbol of loyalty; Martha, Lazarus’ sister, from the Gospel of John, symbolic of faith; and Electa, the “elect lady” mentioned in II John, symbolic of love. The pentagram as used in the Order of the Eastern Star depicts these five star “points,” and also represents the Star of Bethlehem. It's 'upside down' to modern sensibilities because the bottom white point (the brightest and purest color) symbolically points viewers to the place on Earth of Christ's nativity. OES Chapter rooms are traditionally laid out with a large floor cloth or carpet representing the pentagram and its star points. At the center of the symbol stands an altar with an open Bible upon it.
Apart from its use in the Order of the Eastern Star, the pentagram – right-side-up or inverted – does not officially appear in Preston-Webb based Masonic ritual or symbolism in the US and much of Europe (although I am told it is a part of degree symbolism in Scottish Rite Craft rituals in some jurisdictions). Some “tracing boards,” painted symbolism charts used to teach Masonic lessons, in the early 1800s contained five-pointed stars with a “G” in the center as a symbol of both God and geometry.
A “Blazing Star” is often referred to in the description of the lodge floor as part of “mosaic pavement,” and first seems to have appeared in John Browne’s cipher The Master Key in 1802, as a reminder of “the Omniprescence of the Almighty, overshadowing us with his divine love...” Today, some U.S. jurisdictions contain wording that its use in the pavement is actually meant to refer to the Star of Bethlehem. But in neither case is it described as being five-pointed.
In some early Masonic symbolism, such as on this apron that once belonged to George Washington, you see a five-pointed (upright) star in the lower right. It does not, in this case, stand in for the Grand Architect of the Universe or God. Here it is very different, as its diminutive size and location implies. In this case it was a memory device to remind the Mason of the “Five Points of Fellowship” that are taught in the Master Mason degree. But again, the star was not a common symbol used in this way either, and has not survived in widespread use.
Freemasons, in point of fact, do not venerate or worship ANY symbols. Symbolism is primarily used in Freemasonry as a memory device or an allegory to teach various moral lessons. The inverted pentagram has never appeared as a part of regular, recognized Masonic ritual or symbolism.
But what about the evil Masonic pentagram in the streets of Washington?!
The inverted pentacle certainly wasn’t an inherently “evil” symbol when Pierre L’Enfant coincidentally drew it into the map of Washington D.C. The first mention of pentagrams being “good” or “evil” appeared more than 60 years after L’Enfant designed the street plan for the city. In French non-Mason Eliphas Levi’s book, Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie (Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic), published in 1855. Levi, a French student of the occult and magic, became fascinated with the subject in the mid-1800s, like much of the Western world. His book was the first known mention in print of a “good” or “bad” pentagram. He explained them as a ying-yang balance of good and evil in the universe.
Non-Masonic pentagram symbols: Microcosmic man (l) and Baphomet or Goat of Menzies (r)
A commonly reprinted drawing (above), wrongly claimed to be by Eliphas Lévi, shows the pentacle as a symbol of man with the head at the top and the hands and feet stretched out as the other four points. Called the Microcosmic Man, the head represents the spirit, while the hands and feet represent air, earth, water and fire. The opposite, inverted pentagram in the illustration is supposed to represent the head of Baphomet in the form of a goat’s face. The beard is the bottom point, the ears the next two points, and the horns at the top. Variously described as a demon or pagan idol of uncertain origin, Baphomet was allegedly worshipped by the medieval Knights Templar, according to Inquisition torturers and prosecutors seeking to destroy the knightly order in the early 14th century. However, the symbol of Baphomet as a goat head pentacle is actually no more than five decades old. According to author Stephen Dafoe, its first known appearance is actually from Maurice Bessy’s A Pictorial History of Magic and the Supernatural, published in France in 1961.
The specifically 'Satanic' connection with the pentagram did not appear until 1966, when Anton LeVey founded the Church of Satan in San Francisco. To its adherents, the inverted pentagram’s upside-down three points are a parody of the Holy Trinity. From there, it burbled into ABC Movie of the Week dramas and Hammer horror movies about devil worship and witchcraft, and it's gone down that road ever since.
Suffice it to say, the symbol means nothing of the kind in Freemasonry, and never has. There's a whole raft of literature - good, bad, puerile, or loony - about pentagrams, pentacles and Wicca, old Celtic myths, and loads more. All of that is beyond the scope of this article. But 'the Masons" have zero to do with any of it.