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In Masonry we have "cardinal points" and "cardinal virtues." The Greeks had kradan, meaning, "swing on," and the Romans had cardo, meaning "hinge." The roots mean that on which a thing swings, or hinges, on which a thing depends or hangs, therefore anything that is of fundamental or pivotal, importance. A member of the Sacred College of the Roman Church is a Cardinal because of the importance of his office, which ranks next in dignity to that of the Pope. The cardinal points of the compass are those from which are determined all other points, north, east, south, west; the cardinal virtues are those which are fundamental to all other virtues.

- Source: 100 Words in Masonry


The North, West, East and South are so called from the Latin cardo, meaning a hinge, because they are the principal points of the compass on which all the others hinge or hang.

Each of them has a symbolic signification in Freemasonry which will be found under their respective heads. Doctor Brinton, in an interesting Treatise on the Symbolism and Mythology of the Red Race of America, has a chapter on the sacred number four; the only one he says, that has any prominence in the religious of the red race, and which he traces to the four cardinal points. The reason, he declares, is to be "found in the adoration of the cardinal points," and he attributes to this cause the prevalence of the cross as a symbol among the aborigines of America, the existence of which so surprised the early missionaries that they "were in doubt whether to ascribe the fact to the pious labors of Saint Thomas or the sacrilegious subtlety of Satan."

The arms of the cross referred to the cardinal points, and represented the four winds, the bringers of rain. The theory is an interesting one, and the author supports it with many ingenious illustrations. In the symbolism of Freemasonry each of the cardinal points has a mystical meaning. The East represents Wisdom ; the west, Strength; the South, Beauty and the North, Darkness.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry


The pre-eminent or principal virtues on which all the others hinge or depend.

They are temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice.

They are referred to in the ritual of the Entered Apprentice Degree, and will be found in this work under their respective heads. Oliver says (Revelations of a Square, chapter 1) that in the eighteenth century the Freemasons delineated the symbols of the four cardinal virtues by an acute angle variously disposed.

Thus, suppose you face the east, the angle symbolizing temperance will point to the south. It was called a Guttural.

Fortitude was denoted by a saltire, or Saint Andrew's Cross, X. This was the Pectoral.

The symbol of prudence was an acute angle pointing toward the southeast, and was denominated a Manual; and justice had its angle toward the north, and was called a Pedestal or Pedal.

The possession of cardinal virtues is no special distinction of Freemasons, for other societies have had them.

They are in evidence in the Christian church.

The fifteen cardinal virtues, in mosaic, in the dome of Ascension of Saint Mark's at Venice is a famous example.

- Source: Mackey's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry

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