THE SATOR SQUARE
It is a pleasure to be writing these blog articles for the Heretic. I hope my offerings do not appear too random, but what I intend to offer here, rather than on my own blog, are those thoughts that drift and either make me ponder or just smile.
The first one concerns a possible Masonic interpretation of the famous Sator Square.
S A T O R
A R E P O
T E N E T
O P E R A
R O T A S
The Sator Square is a word square of five Latin words, each containing five letters, set out in a palindrome-like style, so that words can be read left to right, right to left, or even top to bottom and bottom to top.
The earliest record of this was found in the ruined Roman city of Pompeii under the ashes from Mount Vesuvius, which erupted in 79 AD. Now, I do not wish to suggest that Freemasonry dates back to this period, or that this device is Masonic. All I am saying (as a Mason) is that this design could be seen and used comfortably by Masons. The reason I suggest this is due to the general translation of each word:
Sator derives from the Latin serere, meaning ‘to sow’, and indicates someone who sows seeds, but also a founder, a progenitor (usually in the divine sense).
This reference to a divine ‘originator’ is a foundation stone of Freemasonry, as the entire structure is centred on a Divine Creator, a Grand Architect. The reference to a sower of seeds highlights this concept, as well as the sense in which Freemasons look at Sacred Texts as being the seeds of knowledge from the divine.
Arepo is an ‘unknown’ word, but it is often related to the Latin word arrepo, a derivative of ‘ad repo’, which means ‘I creep towards’.
Again, it is cautiously possible to see a Masonic reference here, as the Craft rituals of Freemasonry are intended to represent the passage of life from birth to death. Hence, this reference to ‘creeping along’ could reflect the notion of life and the Masonic instruction to be cautious of our actions due to death. In addition, the physical aspect of ‘creeping’, although almost sinister in our modern terms, still implies the common notion for being ‘stealthy / secretive’, words which have been used to describe Freemasonry in culture.
Tenet comes from the Latin word tenere, which means ‘to hold’, but also ‘to keep’, ‘to comprehend’, ‘to master’ and ‘to preserve’.
So many of these words could seem common in a Mason’s rhetoric. We are taught that we must understand and, literally, ‘comprehend’ the meaning of our rituals and the secret mysteries of nature and science. We strive to be Masters of this and to hold, keep and preserve these understandings and structures. Hence, the word ‘tenet’ appears a perfect Masonic word.
Opera is a Latin noun and relates to work, care, aid and service.
Just as ‘tenet’ describes the nature of a Freemason’s study, ‘Opera’ could be seen as reflecting the expected character of a Freemason: to be compassionate, to be of service to their fellow man, and charitable.
Which leads us to the final word, rotas, the Latin noun for ‘wheels’.
This word surely must first be seen as a linguistic pun, inasmuch as it could be seen as a reflection of the design itself, as the words, like a wheel that can roll forwards and backwards, can also be read forwards and backwards. Yet, the ‘wheel’ also reflects two aspects to Freemasonry. Firstly, it is actually referred to within our rituals as the wheel of fate; those who have been fortunate to find themselves at the top, or are ascending on the wheel of fate, should keep in mind that we are all on the wheel of fate, and we should strive to support those that, by fate, complete the circle, but have found themselves on the bottom or descending motion of the wheel.
The second value of the wheel to Freemasonry again relates to its structure; not simply the circle of life, but rather the structure and design of Freemasonry, of how its nature is set to last eternally. Masonic rituals mark the progression of each individual and, as such, new individuals are required to perform these rituals. As each Mason passes through them they are instrumental in assisting the next generation. And so the wheel turns on and on.
As I stated at the beginning, I am not saying that this design is Masonic in its origin, but seeing how widespread this design has been throughout Europe, I would not be surprised if certain Masonic groups, or similar organisations, related these same words to these meanings and came to use this device.
Those familiar with the mystery of Rennes-le-Château will have learnt that the artist, Nicolas Poussin, was supposed to have adopted the word ‘tenet’ as the first part of his personal motto as the ‘Keeper of Secrets’, and the reversed ‘N’ has been seen in other related aspects of the Rennes-le-Château story. Could this, too, be a tip of the hat to the Sator Square, never forgetting that Masons meet and part on the ‘square’?