Reason for the Signs


Excerpt from the Illustrated History of Architecture, James Fergusson (1855): 1

“At a time when writing was unknown among the laity, and not one Mason in a thousand could either read or write, it was evidently essential that some expedient should be hit upon, by which a Mason travelling to his work might claim the assistance and hospitality of his brother Masons on the road, and by means of which he might take his rank at once, on reaching the lodge, without going through tedious examinations or giving practical proof of his skill. For this purpose a set of secret signs was invented, which enabled all Masons to recognise one another as such, and by which also each man could make known his grade to those of similar rank, without further trouble than a manual sign, or the utterance of some recognised password. Other trades had something of the same sort.”

Duncan’s Masoic Ritual and Monitor, by Malcom C. Duncan, [1866]: 2