Masonic Cipher: Decoding The Secrets Of Freemasonry

The Masonic Cipher, also known as the Pigpen Cipher or Freemason’s Cipher, is a geometric simple substitution cipher used historically by Freemasons to encrypt their messages. It comprises a 26-character key, wherein each letter of the alphabet is replaced by a distinct symbol, creating an encoded message. This encryption method uses fragments of a grid, with each letter assigned to a specific grid pattern, ensuring secure communication among members.

This cipher has been in use since the 18th and 19th centuries, and its simplicity ensures that, without knowledge of the key or pattern, the content remains indecipherable. Although the Masonic Cipher is not as complex as modern-day encryption systems, its historical significance and wide usage within Freemasonry make it an intriguing subject for those interested in the world of cryptography.

Over the years, the Masonic Cipher has also been referred to by different names, such as the Rosicrucian Cipher, Napoleon Cipher, or tic-tac-toe cipher, highlighting its adoption by various groups and associations. Today, it serves as a fascinating piece of history in the realm of secret codes and ciphers, offering insight into the ways early organizations protected their information.

History of Masonic Cipher

The origins of the Masonic Cipher can be traced back to ancient times. It is believed to have been used by Hebrew rabbis and possibly even the Knights Templar during the Christian Crusades in the Middle Ages. The use of this cipher became more widespread among Freemasons in the 18th and 19th centuries. Let’s explore the developments of Masonic Cipher over time:

  • Ancient origins: Some evidence suggests that the Masonic Cipher has roots in the writings of Hebrew rabbis from antiquity. Another potential source lies in the Knights Templar, who might have used the cipher during their expeditions in the Christian Crusades.
  • 18th-century Freemasonry: Freemasons of the 18th century embraced the use of the Masonic Cipher as a means to communicate in a secret code language. The cipher allowed for a simple substitution of letters with geometric symbols, which were fragments of a grid.
  • 19th-century Masonic use: During the 19th century, the Pigpen Cipher continued to be a popular method for secret communication among Freemasons. As time progressed, various versions and adaptations of the Masonic Cipher were developed. One such version is the Pigpen Cipher, which is a simpler form of the original Masonic Cipher.

Despite the intricate web of historical connections, the Masonic Cipher remains an intriguing enigma within Freemasonry. Its history provides an interesting insight into the secretive nature of the organization and the methods its members employed for confidential communication.

Deciphering Masonic Cipher

Cipher Keys

Deciphering the Masonic Cipher, also known as the Pigpen Cipher or Freemason’s Cipher, requires understanding the geometric key used to encrypt the message. The key consists of a 26-character grid, where each letter in the alphabet is replaced with a unique symbol. It is essential to learn the symbols and their corresponding letters to decode the messages correctly.

Example of a Cipher Key:

A  |  B  |  C  |  D  |  E  |  F
 ■  |  □  |  ▲  |  ○  |  ●  |  ☆
  G  |  H  |  I  |  J  |  K
  △  |  ◇  |  ♡  |  ♢  |  ■
  L  |  M  |  N  |  O  |  P
  ■  |  ●  |  ○  |  ▲  |  △
  Q  |  R  |  S  |  T  |  U
  □  |  ☆  |  ♡  |  ◇  |  ♢
  V  |  W  |  X  |  Y  |  Z
  △  |  ▲  |  ○  |  ●  |  ■

Symbol Explanation

To decrypt a message encoded in the Masonic Cipher, examine each symbol in the encrypted text and match it to the corresponding letter in the Cipher Key. It may be helpful to write out the translated letters, allowing for easier reading of the deciphered message.

Here is an example of an encrypted message and its decrypted counterpart:

Encrypted Message:

●  ■  △  ♢  ☆  ●  ▲  ○  ▲  △
△  ▲  ●  ■  □  ▲  ○  ☆  ■  ▲

Decrypted Message:


By carefully examining the symbols and translating them using the Cipher Key, one can successfully decipher messages encrypted with the Masonic Cipher. Practice is crucial in becoming proficient at decrypting messages quickly and accurately.

Famous Masonic Cipher Instances

The Masonic Cipher has a long-standing history and has been used in various instances throughout time. Here are some notable examples of its use:

  • The Pigpen Cipher, also referred to as the Freemason’s Cipher, is one of the most well-known versions of the Masonic cipher. This simple geometric substitution cipher exchanges letters for symbols, which are fragments of a grid. The letters are assigned to the grid in a specific way, making it a popular and memorable cipher method among Freemasons.
  • In the 18th and 19th centuries, the use of a Masonic cipher to communicate in a secret code language was fairly widespread. A perfect illustration of this practice is found in a Master Mason’s paper submission, which discusses the use of Masonic ciphers during that period.
  • Masonic ritual ciphers have a unique significance in American Freemasonry. One of the first published American cipher rituals is the Reverend Daniel Parker’s Masonic Tablet (New York, ca. 1822), which served as a memory aid for Masonic rituals.
  • Gravestones have also been adorned with Masonic cipher inscriptions in the past. One of the most extravagant examples is the gravestone of Thomas Brierley (1785-1854/5), a Freemason from Mellor, Greater Manchester. It features the usage of the Pigpen Cipher to engrave secret messages into the headstone.

These instances highlight the various applications of Masonic ciphers throughout history, demonstrating their importance within Freemasonry and the intriguing nature of their secretive communication.

Usage in Modern Day

The Masonic Cipher, also known as the Pigpen Cipher, was widely used in the 18th and 19th centuries within Freemasonry to communicate in a secret code language. While it may not be as prevalent today, the cipher still holds significance in various aspects of modern society.

  • Freemason Rituals: Some lodges continue to incorporate the Masonic Cipher in their rituals, providing members with a unique experience and connection to their organization’s history. They may use it to encrypt messages, share teachings, or even create artwork inspired by the cipher.
  • Tattoo Designs: Due to its unique and mysterious appeal, the cipher has found its way into the world of tattoos. Enthusiasts often choose to ink the symbols from the Masonic Cipher on their bodies, showcasing their interests in secret codes, history, or Freemasonry.
  • Entertainment: The Masonic Cipher has been featured in various books, movies, and TV shows, sparking curiosity and interest in secret codes and cryptograms. These appearances introduce modern audiences to the historical roots of such ciphers and encourage further exploration into the world of cryptography.
  • Education and Hobbies: Cryptography enthusiasts and students often study the Masonic Cipher as a part of their learning about history and the evolution of codes and ciphers. The cipher serves as a geometric simple substitution cipher, making it an accessible starting point for those looking to learn the basics of cryptography.

By understanding its role in modern-day use, we can see that the Masonic Cipher has transitioned from a widespread secret communication tool to a symbol of history and intrigue that continues to capture the imagination of people across the globe.

Impact on Other Cipher Developments

Masonic ciphers have had a noteworthy impact on the development of other cryptographic systems over time. Their primary influence lies in the way they helped shape the concept of secrecy as a central aspect of cryptography.

One of the most well-known examples of a cipher influenced by Masonic encoding techniques is the Pigpen cipher. This geometric simple substitution cipher relies on fragments of a grid to exchange letters for symbols. It is also referred to as the Freemason’s cipher, Rosicrucian cipher, Napoleon cipher, and tic-tac-toe cipher.

Masonic ciphers’ impact can also be observed in:

  • The Folger Manuscript, which contains a complex cipher system using figures or hieroglyphs that are composed of several characters nested within groups.
  • Encrypted texts within Masonic ritual cipher books, serve as memory aids for the first three initiation ceremonies in Freemasonry.

Throughout history, various other cryptographic systems have built upon the foundation laid by Masonic ciphers, focusing on the following aspects:

  • Complexity: Some ciphers were inspired by the intricate encoding techniques of Masonic ciphers, adding layers of security to protect confidential information.
  • Symbolism: Masonic ciphers are rich in symbolic elements that enhance the sense of secrecy and create a culture of exclusivity. This approach has carried over into other cipher designs.
  • Means of communication: The use of Masonic ciphers in written communication between Freemasons has encouraged the development of other secure communication methods, particularly in fields where confidentiality is of the utmost importance.

In summary, Masonic ciphers have significantly influenced the development of cryptography with their focus on secrecy, complexity, and symbolism. These elements have played a key role in shaping the way we perceive and utilize secret codes today.

Common Misconceptions

Masonic ciphers have been a topic of interest and intrigue for centuries. However, there are several misconceptions surrounding this enigmatic system of communication. In this section, we will address some common misunderstandings.

Firstly, many people believe that Masonic ciphers are extremely complex and inaccessible to the average person. This is not entirely true. While there are indeed some intricate ciphers utilized by Freemasons, there are also simpler ones, such as the Pigpen cipher, which utilizes a grid to exchange letters for symbols. These simpler ciphers can be understood and utilized without significant difficulty.

Another misconception is that Masonic ciphers always hide secretive and mysterious messages. While it is true that these ciphers have been used to encode messages between members, many times, these messages were not of a secretive or mystical nature. For instance, ritual training manuals often used ciphers as a sort of shorthand or aide-memoire.

A popular rumor associates the Masonic cipher with hidden treasure. This myth has its roots in the story of pirate Olivier Levasseur, who allegedly threw a necklace containing a Pigpen cipher into the crowd at his execution. However, when the cipher was decrypted, the resulting message did not reveal any information about hidden treasure but instead was an unrelated jumbled message in French.

Some common misconceptions about Masonic ciphers include:

  • They are always complex and difficult to understand
  • They conceal secret and mysterious messages
  • They hold the key to hidden treasure

By dispelling these misconceptions, we can develop a better understanding of the various uses and functions of Masonic ciphers throughout history without unnecessary mysticism and confusion.

Exploration for Further Study

The fascinating world of Masonic ciphers deserves further examination. In this section, we will offer a brief overview of additional resources that can help readers deepen their understanding of this intriguing subject.

  • One invaluable resource is the PDF Masonic Ciphers – The Enigma Within Freemasonry. This document delves into the history and uses of Masonic ciphers, serving as an excellent starting point for further study.
  • Another key source of information is the Encyclopedia Masonica | A CIPHER CHART. The Encyclopedia Masonica is a treasure trove of Masonic knowledge, providing insights and background on various cipher charts and codes used by Freemasons throughout history.
  • Next, the curious reader may explore the Masonic Ritual Cipher: A Personal Object article. This piece shines a light on the significance of ritual ciphers as personal objects that serve memory aid functions for Freemasons.
  • Those looking for unique examples of Masonic cipher use, they should consider investigating The Pigpen Cipher – The Square Magazine. The article delves into the interesting use of the pigpen cipher on gravestones and other physical structures.

A variety of learning methods can be helpful in understanding Masonic ciphers:

  1. Historical research: acquainting oneself with the origins and historical uses of Masonic ciphers will provide valuable context.
  2. Practical application: practicing encoding and decoding messages using various Masonic ciphers can help solidify a comprehensive understanding.
  3. Engagement with other enthusiasts: joining online forums or local groups devoted to the study of Freemasonry and Masonic ciphers can offer further insights and a supportive community.

By utilizing these resources and approaches, avid learners can immerse themselves in the mysterious world of Masonic ciphers and unlock the secrets they have to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do I Decode a Masonic Cipher Message?

To decode a masonic cipher message, you need to first obtain the specific cipher key that corresponds to the message’s symbols. Masonic ciphers use geometric shapes to represent letters of the alphabet. Once you have the key, match the symbols in the message to their corresponding letters to reveal the original text.

What Is the Relationship Between the Pigpen Cipher and The Masonic Cipher?

The pigpen cipher and masonic cipher are often used interchangeably. Both refer to a geometric simple substitution cipher that exchanges letters for symbols forming part of a grid. In both cases, unique symbols are derived from the grid fragments and used to encode messages, making them difficult to decipher without the key.

Are There Different Variations of Masonic Ciphers?

Yes, there are multiple variations of masonic ciphers. Each variation uses a different arrangement of the symbols or encoding grid, altering the way letters are replaced with symbols. Some common variations include the Freemason’s cipher, Rosicrucian cipher, and Napoleon cipher.

How Do I Use a Pigpen Cipher Keyboard Tool?

A pigpen cipher keyboard tool allows you to encode and decode messages easily using the cipher symbols. To use the tool:

  1. Select the specific type of pigpen cipher you want to work with (e.g., masonic, Rosicrucian, etc.)
  2. Type your message into the appropriate input field (plaintext for encoding or ciphertext for decoding)
  3. The tool converts your message using the selected pigpen cipher, displaying the result in the corresponding output field.

Several online tools can facilitate conversion between the plaintext and the pigpen cipher.

What Is the Connection Between the Rosicrucian Cipher and the Masonic Cipher?

The Rosicrucian cipher is a variation of the masonic cipher, with a slightly different arrangement of the grid or symbols used to encode messages. The core concept of geometric simple substitution remains the same, but the specific symbols and their corresponding letters may differ between the two ciphers.

Where Can I Find a Masonic Cipher Font?

There are various online resources to find masonic cipher fonts. These fonts can be downloaded and installed on your computer, allowing you to type and display text using the masonic cipher symbols. A simple search for “masonic cipher font” or “pigpen cipher font” should yield relevant results and options to choose from.