Wonder and storytelling are as much a part of the sky above us as science and understanding. Our world is mirrored in the sky, and over the centuries cultures have created symbolism of the sun and moon as opposites, often represented in human form, ruling day and night.
Freemasons also use imagery of the day and night sky. They appear on many older aprons and in symbolic prints. Sometimes the lodge room ceiling has stars painted on it to remind those freemasons beneath of their place within the cosmos. Time moves on for us all, just as the phases of the moon appear in the night sky.
Phases has been produced by Lumen at the invitation of the Museum of Freemasonry to respond to their collection. Including imagery from NASA, Phases juxtaposes a light-based installation with a selection of astronomy-inspired collection items not usually on public display. It brings contemporary art together with the craft of freemasonry to offer a new perspective on a subject with many facets.
Share your pictures of the moon on Instagram: #phasesexhibit
The moon changes shape,
Marking time from birth to death
We stare at our fate
The phases of the moon mark time from its apparent birth to death and rebirth. In the same way freemasons contemplate their finite lives as part of a bigger whole that continues through the generations.
Items: Pyramid clock, c.1900; Triangular pocket watch, c.1930; Tracing board by William Tringham, 1755; Honor and Generosity tracing board (Third Degree), 1819
Pyramid clock, c.1900
Tracing board by William Tringham, 1755
We see a meaning,
Images hold a puzzle,
Those who know can see
We live in a world of symbols and for freemasons each represents a moral lesson learned. The natural world and the sciences all feature in freemasonry’s ceremonies. Handkerchiefs allowed the symbols to be carried in the outside world.
Items: Snuff handkerchief, c.1870; Honor and Generosity tracing board (Second Degree), 1819
Detail from snuff handkerchief, c.1870
A world made simple,
Geometry makes meaning,
Two globes hold it all
In the past geometrical shapes represented five elements that people thought made the world around us. Freemasons use globes of the sky and earth to bring all elements of the universe into their lodge rooms and to show freemasonry is universal.
Items: Emulation columns, 1907; Preston’s Illustrations of Freemasonry, 1812; Platonic solids, c.1900
Celestial representation from Emulation columns, 1907
Preston’s Illustrations of Freemasonry, 1812
Platonic solids, c.1900
Above the lodge room,
Stars mark the infinite space,
The sun, moon and constellations are above us all and we are linked by viewing them. Freemasons think of them as the ceiling of the lodge room. The master sits in the East where the sun rises.
Items: Multi degree apron, c.1780; Honor and Generosity tracing board (First Degree), 1819; Moon pole brass, c.1850
Multi degree apron, c.1780
Honor and Generosity tracing board (First Degree), 1819
Phases installation, 2020. Photographic projection on reflective disc suspended above gallery. Dimensions variable.