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Explanation of the symbols of Masonry. From the square and compass and the dollar bill pyramid to the trowel, learn all about the many emblems of Freemasonry.

Freemasonry Symbols

Maybe you’ve heard rumors about the “Freemason pyramid” on the dollar bill, seen the square and compass logo on buildings around town, or wondered about the meaning of emblems like the Masonic trowel. What’s the history behind Masonic symbols, and how do they factor into what happens in a lodge?

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Portrait of a female Freemason. Women's Freemasonry, mixed Masonry, and coed Masonry have a long and distinguished history in California, the United States, and especially in Europe and Latin America. In addition, Masonic orders like the Order of the Eastern Star also serve women in Masonry.

Female Freemasons

Because Freemasonry was originally founded as an organization for men, there are naturally lots of questions about how women fit into it, including if and how a woman can become a Mason. In fact, female Freemasons appear in the fraternity’s history from its earliest, operative days—and even in its symbols. Today, many lodges around the world continue to accept both men and women, or women only.

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Explaining the ranks of Masonry, from entered apprentice to Master Mason to 33rd degree Mason.

Masonic Ranks

The craft lodges where Masons begin their journey through Freemasonry have three ranks, or degrees. Once they’ve completed those, they’re able to pursue further degrees through “appendant” Masonic bodies that offer even more ranks beyond that. What does it all add up to? Is there a system to putting Masonic ranks in order—and if so, what’s at the top?

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Frontispiece of James Anderson's 1723 Constitutions of Freemasonry. Learn more about other Masonic bodies and organizations, including the Scottish Rite, York Rite, Knights Templar, and the Shrine.

Other Masonic Bodies

Freemasonry has inspired a number of offshoot Masonic groups that can offer a unique extension of the member experience. From the playful personality of the Shriners to the expanded degree lessons of the Knights Templar and York Rite and Scottish Rite, here’s an introduction to Masonic appendant bodies and affiliated organizations.

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