Monday, November 16, 2015

Masonic Cipher

The pigpen cipher (sometimes referred to as the masonic cipher, Freemason's cipher, or tic-tac-toe cipher) is a geometric simple substitution cipher, which exchanges letters for symbols which are fragments of a grid. The example key shows one way the letters can be assigned to the grid.

The exact origin of the cipher is uncertain, but records of this system have been found which go back to at least the 18th century. Variations of this cipher were used by both the Rosicrucian brotherhood and the Freemasons, though the latter used it so often that the system is frequently called the Freemason's cipher. They began using it in the early 18th century to keep their records of history and rites private, and for correspondence between lodge leaders. Tombstones of Freemasons can also be found which use the system as part of the engravings. One of the earliest stones in Trinity Church Cemetery in New York City, which opened in 1697, contains a cipher of this type which deciphers to "Remember death" ("memento mori"). George Washington's army had documentation about the system, with a much more randomized form of the alphabet. And during the American Civil War, the system was used by Union prisoners in Confederate prisons.

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