Vol. XLIII No. 3 — March 1965

Blazing Star

Conrad Hahn

One of the brightest symbols used in Freemasonry is the blazing star. Too often it receives very little attention. In the Symbolic degrees it is mentioned only in the lectures to the Entered Apprentice, and sometimes that section is omitted “to save time.”

The blazing star is one of the ornaments of a lodge. The Entered Apprentice is told that it represents Divine Providence; but the explanation ends there, except to locate the star in the center. In English lodges it has been referred to as “a glory in the center.” Freemasons in Europe usually regard the blazing star as the sacred name of God, no matter in what kind of figure it may be centered. A Master Mason obviously can see in the five-pointed star a reference to the points of fellowship.

The blazing star is practically always a five-pointed star. It is usually drawn with rays extending from it in the form of a halo. Thus the effect of brightness, “a glory,” is achieved. Mackey asserts that its earliest representations were drawn with wavy lines forming the points, instead of the straight lines to which we are accustomed nowadays.

In many jurisdictions of the United States the candidate is first told that the blazing star commemorates the star that appeared to guide the Wise Men of the East “to the place of our Savior’s nativity.” Some of the delegates to the Baltimore Convention in 1843 tried to delete this reference from the ritual, as being unacceptable to non-Christian Masons. Although that convention was unable to determine a “standard” ritual for Freemasonry in the United States, some of its proposals were later adopted by individual grand lodges. The deletion of the Star of Bethlehem was accomplished in a few.

In addition to the objection to using a sectarian Star of Bethlehem in Masonic ritual, there is also the possibility that what the Wise Men saw was not a star, but a conjunction of planets. Reprinted in Christianity Today (December 18, 1964) is an interesting essay, “What Was the Star of Bethlehem?” originally published by the Adler Planetarium and Astronomical Museum of Chicago.

The author furnishes historical and astronomical data to show that Jesus was born earlier than is usually supposed, possibly very close to the time of an unusual conjunction of the planets, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. The writer suggests that the Wise Men really saw several rare astronomical phenomena, during one of which the planets seem to reverse their directions. To ancient astronomers who were also astrologers, those rare groupings of the planets were a command to look for an important occurrence on earth that such marvels seemed to foretell.

The great antiquity of the blazing star as a symbol, its repeated use in Freemasonry, and its identification with the geometric figure, the pentalpha, suggest its importance for the "well-informed Mason.” It is a rich source of ideas for speculative labors — historical, mathematical, astronomical, astrological, and mystical, as well as the moral knowledge to which a symbolic Fellow of the Craft addresses his labors.

The five-pointed star has been found in relics from ancient Assyria, Egypt, and the Celtic Druids. It was one of the most important symbols of the Pythagoreans, for whom its mathematical properties were most significant as the pentalpha, but who also fashioned it into trinkets to be used as talisman to ward off evil spirits, ill health, or misfortune. This symbolism persisted throughout the centuries of European history; in Germany, for example, it became the Druttenfuss, a hex sign to prevent witches and goblins from entering barns and cottages.

In some Masonic rituals of the eighteenth century the blazing star was regarded as a symbol of prudence, the virtue that leads to all the other virtues. Some writers have seen in this interpretation a “persistence” of ideas from the dawn of recorded history to the present. The ancient Egyptians worshipped as one of their gods the Dog Star, whose heliacal emergence closely preceded the annual inundation of the Nile Valley. The prudent man, noting its appearance, took steps to protect himself and to warn his neighbors of approaching danger. The star was given credit for such salvation and thus became a symbol of prudence.

The blazing star is also found in some of the degrees of the Scottish Rite. In one it is symbolic of the true Freemason who perfects himself in the way of truth, by advancing in knowledge, and thereby “becomes a blazing star.” It is also referred to as a symbol of Divine Providence, pointing out the way of truth for the pilgrim on his journey through life.

The earliest Masonic monitors did not mention the blazing star, but after the appearance in 1723 of Anderson’s Constitutions; with its legendary history of the Craft, the introduction of many new symbols into the rituals of Freemasonry did not take long. The star was one of the first to appear.

At first it was described as a part of the furniture of a lodge. It represented beauty. When the form of the lodge was drawn on the floor, it became “the glory in the center.” Later the “lodge” was painted on a large piece of canvas that could be rolled and unrolled for repeated use. The star in the center was a prominent feature of these floor plans; when they became the tracing boards used for instructing candidates, the star was still a prominent feature. However, with the passing of such visual aids, and the careless practice of omitting parts of the lectures, the blazing star has lost its radiance in Masonic ritual.

William Preston described the star as one of the ornaments of a lodge and interpreted it as a reference to God’s effulgence on Mt. Sinai, which Moses found too brilliant to look upon when he ascended the mountain to receive the Tablets of the Law. Preston also regarded the blazing star as a symbol of the omnipresence of God who showers us with the blessings of life whoever and wherever we are. The star reminds us: “God is in the midst of us.”

Divine Providence, Star of Bethlehem, prudence, the true Freemason, Beauty — whatever interpretation has been given to the blazing star, they all suggest the source of light and truth. Mackey said it simply and positively: “The star is a symbol of God.”

To the Greeks, especially the Pythagoreans, the five-pointed star was a special manifestation of the idea that the Great Architect is always geometrizing. Even though the star and the geometric figure, which they named the pentalpha, maybe regarded as two different things, they are essentially the same.


Pentalpha means five alphas, or Αs, which are produced in five different positions when the figure is drawn. Alpha is one of the symbols of Deity, as in “Alpha and Omega.” Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet; it is regarded as that attribute of Deity that is the beginning, the source of all things.

The five points in the pentalpha all touch the circle (a symbol of the universe) in which it lies, when properly constructed. Since it can be delineated in any position, the five points may readily be considered five essential beginnings, or acts of creation, like the five primary races of man. The lines connecting them suggest the ideal relationships between the children of God, as expressed in the tenet of universal brotherhood. Since those relationships in the pentalpha are proportionate and harmonious, they reproduce the original figure from which they sprang, a regular pentagon, thus suggesting the idea of the perfectibility of human society through “an imitation of the divine plan.”

It is this idea that makes appropriate the use of the five-pointed star as the insignia of the United States Air Force. There in a circle of union it suggests the interdependence of the various sovereign groups that have used an ideal plan, the Constitution, to create a society of united states.

The Pythagoreans, however, were primarily interested in the mystical properties of numbers. They believed that numbers, when properly arranged or combined, could influence men’s lives and actions. “Five” had a particular value because it results from the addition of the first real odd and even numbers. Five had the power to control evil spirits; the pentalpha, therefore, became a magic amulet to protect the wearer against accident and disease.

The figure contains not only five Αs. It has five acute angles within its points and five obtuse angles outside. The lines intersect at five different points that reproduce on a smaller scale and in a reversed position the original pentagon in which it is enclosed. Here indeed is a geometric fact that suggests the Great Architect’s power of creation.

Another interesting Masonic interpretation has been found in the intimate connection of the three great triangles formed by the intersecting lines of the pentalpha, the triangles AB'C, BA'E, and DE'A. This figure was also known as “the triple triangle of Pythagoras,” which some Masonic ritualists have regarded as a symbolic representation of the three ancient grand masters who were associated in the building of the Temple of Solomon. These triangles could also symbolize the three principal tenets of Freemasonry.

For the speculative Mason, however, the pentalpha should be one of the most interesting objects for study in the area of geometry, the science most revered by Masons. It contains a rich storehouse of geometric figures and relationships and can be used as a springboard for related explorations into other sciences like astronomy.


The pentalpha, or blazing star, is formed by drawing the five diagonals of a regular pentagon inscribed within a circle. Although the pentagon need not be drawn in order to arrive at the pentalpha, the five points must be located on the circumference of a circle. Speculatively speaking, therefore, one must begin with the symbol of the universe, “without form and void.”

Then, to bring to light the blazing star of the pentalpha, one must move across the face of the universe, by drawing the horizontal diameter of the circle. This is how our ancient brethren began, using only the simple tools they possessed, like the line of the “rope stretchers” of ancient Egypt.

Using the vertical radius (from the center of the circle to A in the diagram), it is relatively simple to construct on the diameter (not shown) a line segment in mean and extreme proportions, the famous “golden section” ratio of the ancients. The segment will extend from one end of the diameter to a point approximately 0.618 of the distance from the center of the circle to the other end of the diameter. The distance between this point and the end of the vertical radius at A on the circle is the length of the chord that will mark off the points of a regular inscribed pentagon.

The geometrician who seeks arithmetical proof for the exactness of these measurements is doomed to disappointment. Our ancient brethren didn’t seem to trouble themselves about such proofs. They worked with ratios of line segments, instead of with cumbersome numerical fractions that usually produce inexact approximations. What really impressed them about the construction of the pentalpha was the marvelous harmony of ratios that its construction either depended on or created. For example, the criss-crossing of the lines of the pentalpha divides every line into three segments, every two adjacent parts of which are in mean and extreme proportion. The same is true of many of the sides of the triangles formed. As one writer expressed his astonishment, “You can find golden sections all over the place!”

To the truly speculative builder the most remarkable property of the pentalpha, or blazing star, is the fact that its construction provides for its regeneration. The construction of pentalpha A B C D E in the drawing above produces the smaller pentagon A'B'C'D'E', in which another star may be drawn. That figure in turn creates a smaller pentagon, abcde, in which another smaller pentalpha may be delineated. Obviously this process could be continued indefinitely, if man had the tools delicate enough to reproduce the figures continuously smaller — or in the opposite direction, proportionately larger.

Theoretically, the process should be possible to infinity. That, however, can be done only “in the mind’s eye,” speculatively. May not this thought, however, suggest to Speculative Masons that their efforts to build the Temple of Brotherhood are infinitely meaningful and infinitely necessary? If brotherly love, relief, and truth are the triple tenets that form the three great triangles of our speculative pentalpha, only a continuous recreation of the harmonious conditions resulting from their application can produce the brilliant brightness of our symbolic Blazing Star.

The Masonic Service Association of North America