Thursday, January 22, 2015

Imitation Is The Highest Form Of Flattery

My dad is an antique collector and dealer, and whenever he finds something "Masonic" it usually winds up in my collection.  A few years ago he found several "Masonic" lapel pins and dropped them by the house.  I glance at them when he gave them to me, and thought they were kind of different, but they sat on my counter for a week before I really looked at them and realized they weren't Masonic at all.  They were anniversary pins for membership in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.  If you can't see the similarities between the Freemasons square and compass and the crest of the Carpenter's Union, you better get to the eye doctor.

As a matter of fact, I've had a little fun with these pins.  I've worn one on my lapel a couple dozen times to Masonic events.  You know, not one single Mason noticed it wasn't a Masonic pin, and believe me, they would have pointed it out in a heartbeat.  Not long after I became a Mason, I wore one of those antique lapel pins my dad had found--as it turns out it was a lady's pin.  I got noticed for sure.  Does your husband know you're here, Mrs. Creason.  Bwahahahahaha!  Sometimes brotherhood can be brutal.

As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Freemasonry gets flattered a lot.  Our square and compass logo is respected and well-known, and it gets borrowed frequently.  Our symbols are ancient and mysterious to the uninitiated, and I see "Masonic looking" apparel all the time--in fact, I just picked up this sweatshirt off the clearance rack at Kohl's last weekend.  A tattoo artist from Las Vegas contacted me a couple months ago.  He wanted to know if there was a reference book or something of Masonic symbols, artwork, and woodcuts I could direct him to.  He told me that in the last five years, his most popular designs are all based on Masonic and Knights Templar symbolism.

I wasn't able to help the tattoo artist, but I was honest with him, and told him why.  I don't like to see our symbols worn like this by people who don't have an appreciation for what they mean.  But I also understand it is because so many people are fascinated and intrigued by our Fraternity and its mysterious secret knowledge that these symbols are so often mimicked.  And we can't get too upset about our symbols being borrowed by others--many of the symbols used in Freemasonry are not original to our Fraternity.  We did some borrowing along the way as well.  Even the symbol most often associated with us isn't our own--the All Seeing Eye!  We adopted it, but it had been around for millenia and used by many cultures around the world before we began using it.

So don't get mad.  Enjoy the priviledge of membership in the "real genuine deal."  Be content knowing that you actually know what those symbols mean--that you've received light.  And do like I do--when you see a cool t-shirt, hat, or sweatshirt with a "Masonic looking" design buy it and enjoy it!  I must admit, some of my favorite Masonic apparel isn't Masonic at all.  It's those designs that the graphic artists at Aeropostle, Old Navy, and American Eagle are tinkering with that I enjoy wearing.  We have a few, but I wish we had a few more Brothers out there designing graphics like these for our younger Fraternity members--and a few older guys like me that just like anything and everything to do with the Craft.   

~Todd E. Creason


  1. My Masonic tattoo (also my only tattoo) was a labor of love; I spent many hours working with the artist to design it so that every detail had meaning. If she had pulled it from a book of pre-designed tattoos, I probably would have walked out the door and found someone else.

    1. I saw some of his work he sent me, and I'm not a great judge of tattoo art, but he looked like a pretty good designer. I think he was looking for more of a reference so he could expand on the symbols he incorporated into his designs. Of course he wasn't a Mason, nor were most of the customers he was designing for. As I said in the piece, I declined. I don't mind Masons wearing Masonic tattoos, but I'm not a big fan of non-Masons wearing Masonic-like art.


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