Masonic Mnemonics

For millennia, mnemonics have been used by humanity to help cement in the mind information that may otherwise be difficult to retain. Yet, in today’s day and age, mnemonics are often overlooked as many turn to technology to assist and aid with memory. However advanced the profane world becomes outside the lodge, within the confines of the symbolic temple the art and science of memory will continue to be a treasured masonic tradition.

Memorization is a major component of what freemasons do. In 1599, Scotland’s master of works, William Schaw, deemed the art of memory and science thereof to be so essential to the craft that apprentices and fellow craftsmen were tested regularly by the wardens of their lodges. If they failed to demonstrate proficiency, they were required to pay a financial penalty. In modern times brethren might not be held financially accountable for a poor memory, but they may be denied admittance to higher degrees, barred from participation in ritual, or fail to be elected to an officer position in lodge.

For some, memorization work comes easy. For a great many more, the task of memorizing even a single line of masonic text may be daunting. However, having difficulty with memorization doesn’t necessarily mean one has a poor memory. It’s much more likely the individual struggling to remember their catechisms, lecture, or ritual hasn’t been taught how to memorize.

Want to improve your memory? Here are five mnemonic devices any brother can learn to improve their memory, and increase their masonic experience overall.


Most people are familiar with acronyms as they are abundantly present throughout our modern world. Organizations like NASA (national aeronautics and space agency) or elementary concepts such as roy-g-biv are considered to be general knowledge and serve as simple reminders for much more complex sets of information. They may not always be the right application for large portions of text but are great devices to remember bite sized lists of sequential information.

Applying acronyms to freemasonry can help to call to mind things such as the seven liberal arts or the five orders of architecture. Simply pick a list or sequence of information you’d like to remember, examine or arrange the letters corresponding to the starting character of each word into a single representation. For masons familiar with the shorthand cipher, like that used by the grand lodge of the state of New York’s ritual monitor, acronyms can take on a much broader function in their phonetic representation of something that is easier to call to mind.

For instance, the example of the seven liberal arts and sciences is the acronym grlagam, remembered as “gorilla gam.” This may call to mind the picture of a classy gorilla but also serves to represent grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.


Similar to acronyms, acrostics work great to help recall bite sized chunks, or series of information. They have a home in grade school math and sciences like, cherry pie’s delicious, representing the circumference of a circle is equal to pi times diameter, or my very educated mother just served us nine pizzas to remember the order of the planets (and Pluto). Acrostics become especially useful with information too large or obscure for a simple acronym.

In freemasonry, acrostics may not always be the most effective means to learn ritual, but they are especially useful for remembering important sets of information. For those interested in furthering their esoteric study of the craft, acrostics can contribute to remembering structured information like the ten spheres of the sephiroth, seven chakras, or nine gates of the body.

Here’s an example acrostic that’s especially useful for newly initiated brethren helps to remember the seven officer stations within a lodge of entered apprentices. “just some wise joyful sages discovering secret treasure within,” can assist in calling to mind the junior warden, senior warden, junior deacon, senior deacon, secretary, treasurer, & worshipful master. 


The link method of mnemonics basically harnesses the power of visual association by establishing a chain reaction of recall in one’s mind. The process utilizes a string of associated mental images or situations that each serve as a reminder to the underlying information while calling to mind the next. The link, or chain, method becomes especially useful with large series of information, including text.

For Freemasons, link method mnemonics is incredibly useful working tool to master. It lends itself to verbatim, word-perfect, recall which for masonic lecture tradition and ritual excellence, is a big deal. Practice with this method also helps to strengthen one’s own faculty to listen actively and quickly absorb written information.

Take for example this line of scripture from psalm 133:1 behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! To use the link method, first visualize an associated image to each word. Often the first image that comes to mind is the best, though the more detailed or unusual a mental image the more immediately it will stick in one’s mind: bees holding hands (behold), a spotted cow (how), the hood of a car (good), sand (and), another spotted cow (how), begging an ant please (pleasant), cousin it from the addam’s family (it), goddess isis (is), fur coat (for), polaroid picture of the brothers of your lodge (brethren), a cartoon number 2 (to), a dewalt power drill (dwell), two feathers (together), a motor inn (in), a circle of people holding each other’s hands (unity). The next step in the process would be to link these visuals together to form a chain or story that logically leads from one image to the next: a bee holding hands with a cow standing on the hood of a car stuck in sand near another cow that is begging an ant please, etc.. The more one practices this technique the more rapidly they will be enabled to create these strings of mental images, aiding in the rapid retention of ritual text.


Popularized by American magician and a memory-training specialist, Harry Lorayne, the peg system is a popular mnemonic technique that relies on mental imagery and symbolism to remember list information. Like hanging a jacket from the peg of a coat rack, every item that needs to be remembered is associated with a pre-memorized list of “peg words.” Often pegs are associated with numerical values or playing cards whereby a string of data can be rapidly be translated into visual associations of easy to remember scenes or narratives.

For instance, the number 1 might be associated with “sun,” 2 with “shoe,” 3 with “tree,” and so forth. A well-developed peg system may include well over a hundred pegs, but with even a base set of ten, one can design a personal system to aid in the memory of dates, phone numbers, or even grocery lists. The year 2133 could be represented as a shoe atop a sun positioned between two trees. A grocery list of coffee, apples, & toothpaste recalled as a shoe full of hot coffee takes a bite out of the sun like an apple then brushing its teeth with a tree.

For freemasons, the peg system can be a wonderfully useful tool both in and outside of the craft. The building of one’s own peg system based upon freemasonic symbolism is a great exercise in focus, contemplation, and practice of link memory mnemonics.  A well-developed peg system can aid in rapid memorization of ritual, while even a base ten set of symbols can help to cement in one’s mind key historical events or even passages of sacred law. 

To serve as an example of a basic masonic numerical peg system:

0 = point within the circle

1 = all seeing eye

2 = pillars

3 = tapers or candle

4 = square and compass

5 = volume of sacred law

6 = seal of Solomon

7 = father time with a sickle

8 = hourglass

9 = memento mori

Memory palace / system of loci 

Since the 6th century BCE, the memory palace, or system of loci, has been a cornerstone of mnemonic techniques. Popularized by the Greek poet, Simonides of Ceos, a memory palace makes use of our natural visual and spatial memories by mixing in vivid mental images to familiar locations to serve as a reminder for whatever is needed to be recalled. This system is a wonderful device for memorizing lectures, stories, poems, and sequences of information. Being as the memory palace is a place within one’s own mind, this mnemonic technique can be built up to retain endless amounts of information. From something as simple as a single sentence to the complexity of epic poems and entire books.

Where freemasonry is concerned, this mnemonic technique fits so well into the work, it leaves one to wonder if this is the art and science of memory william schaw was so keen on preserving within the craft at the end of the sixteenth century. To begin work with this method is quite simple. First, start with a physical space familiar to you; a house or apartment are good, even a small space like an office, kitchen, or garden can work quite well. Next it’s wise to establish your movement through that space. Imagine observing the area of your location as you preamble around a set course. After the path to traveled and location are fresh in your mind, begin the perambulation again placing mental images as visual associations about the space. These mental images will make up the furnishings of your newly established memory palace and ought to strike the eye as out of the ordinary to make them difficult to forget. Ultimately, to remember the underlying information simply revisit your memory palace and let the arrangement of odd furnishings serve as reminders while you move throughout the space.

A great example of a masonic memory palace would be utilizing the symbolic lodge to remember the catechisms of a degree. Retracing a ritual’s preparations and perambulations while stacking stations and places with easy to recall imagery works great to commit information to mind. As this memory palace is revisited, it also helps illustrate the lessons and symbols of the degree and becomes great for further contemplation.

A note for consideration

Appreciate mnemonic devices and techniques as tools to help retain information but be mindful not to confuse the associated images with the significant teachings imparted in masonic ritual and degrees. Where mnemonics are most effective is in allowing one to retain information in their short-term working memories to be able to continue to revisit the information in spaced increments later on. This process of returning to the over a period of time will help to move it from short term to long term memory. However, in committing something to memory it’s also important to consider and contemplate on what is actually being said. Understanding this is key to bridging the gap between words and wisdom and at the very heart of ritual excellence.

Seeking Light

The following reading course is a wonderful place to begin one’s own journey into mastering masonic mnemonics and training ones mind in the art and science of memory.

Introduction for the uninitiated

Moonwalking with Einstein by Josh Foer introduces its readers to the word of competitive memory, mnemonics, and the mind through an entertaining account of the author’s own non-fiction account of training and then competing in the 2005 u.s. memory competition. This book works to illustrate how it’s possible to improve one’s memory through mnemonics and dedication.

Easy reading for the Entered Apprentice

Solomon’s Memory Palace by Bob Lingerfelt and Memory Palaces and Masonic Lodges by Charles B. Jameux both provide a wonderful crash course on memory palace techniques applicable to freemasons and the craft.

Light work for the Fellow-Craftsman

The Memory Book, Ageless Memory, and How to Develop a Super Power Memory by American magician and memory champion, Harry Lorayne, are fantastic for building upon one’s own memory practice. These books present a variety of mnemonic devices and techniques that can be applied across a countless of situations. These books are great for brethren studying the seven liberal arts and sciences, or improving memory overall.

Further light for the Master Mason

Dive deeper into the art and science of memory and the role it’s played in spiritual and philosophical practices throughout the ages with this collection of more advanced books on the topic. The Art of Memory by Frances Yates explores the history and development of exoteric and esoteric memory techniques and practices. While, de Umbris Idearum (on the shadows of ideas) by Giordano Bruno written in 1582 explores an advanced system of medieval mnemonics that are infused with hermetic mysticism and spiritual philosophy.

Written by: Bro. Jason W. Short

Presently, Jason is the Treasurer of Aurora Grata-Day Star Lodge 647, a Royal Arch Mason with Nassau Chapter 109, and a 32º Sublime Prince of the Scottish Rite Valley of New York City.


Jason Short