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Legends and symbols of Freemasonry

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  1. Introduction
  2. Freemason legends
  3. Freemason symbols
    1. The lodge
    2. The deity
    3. The two columns of the temple
    4. Skull and crossbones
  4. Freemason artifacts
    1. Floor cloths and tracing boards
    2. Regalia
    3. Costume and uniforms
    4. Jewels and medals
    5. Swords
    6. Furniture
  5. Bibliography

Freemasonry has played a significant role in the histories of England and the US. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other American notable were Freemasons. Members of the British royal family, aristocracy, and scientific elite have been, and continue to be, Freemasons, while some Freemason organizations in the US have become more charitable organizations, running hospitals and helping children.
For centuries the bases of Freemasonry were kept secret, with members taking vows of silence about the stories and rites of the order. Secrecy is hard to maintain over a long period of time, though, and the secrets leaked out. This paper presents an overview of Freemason legends, symbols, and artifacts to provide readers with an insight into the organization that has attracted so many influential people over the centuries and continues to thrive today.Though the secrecy surrounding Freemasonry has led to fear of the Masons and accusations against them, Freemasonry is fundamentally about an individuals search for spiritual attainment, symbolized by the attainment of degrees in the order. The purpose of the order has been to maintain purity and integrity, and in modern times, to help others. Members achieve this by calling on the traditions of the past. All of that is reflected in the legends and symbols of the order.

[...] Floor Cloths and Tracing Boards When a candidate is initiated into a degree of Freemasonry a chart or picture containing symbols relevant to the degree is used in the ritual. These ready-made charts did not exist the earliest days of Freemasonry. At that time the Tyler, a Lodge officer responsible for guarding the door, would draw the necessary chart on the floor of the Lodge before the ceremony. Eventually Lodges began to have the charts professionally painted on canvas so that they could be rolled up and stored when not needed. [...]

[...] Adam was a Mason, and the Masons built the Tower of Babel. In the biblical story, this was hubris and punished by God. He made people speak different languages so they could not understand each other and conspire to build a tower to reach him. In the Freemason version God favored the masons, even thought they were trying to reach heaven. Since the people spoke in different languages, God told the masons to communicate with each other in the form of secret signs. [...]

[...] It is much more likely that the use of lambskin in early Freemasonry traces back to the practice of Knights Templar to wear a white lambskin girdle symbolizing purity. Modern Freemason aprons are usually manufactured and indicate the Freemason's degree. In years past aprons were often embroidered by the women in the Freemason families with a variety of Freemason symbols or painted by hand. Many were quite elaborate and skillfully done. Aprons are sometimes decorated in black for funeral services. [...]

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