Field Guide

Eastern Star

The Order of the Eastern Star has a complex history; simply put, it is a female counterpart to Freemasonry. There are three organizations that use the name Easter Star: the General Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star; the Prince Hall-affiliated Eastern Star; and the Federation of Eastern Star. The original group, the General Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, was formed in 1876. It has been in decline in recent years, no doubt because of its powerful patriarchal rules. All degrees must be adminsitered by a Master Mason (male).

A five-pointed star with the tip pointing down marks the grave of a member of the Eastern Star. Each symbol within the star represents a heroine: Adah, Ruth, Esther, Martha, and Electra. They symbolize the tenets of the Eastern Star: fidelity, constancy, loyality, faith, and love. On tombstones, sometimes between the points of the star and other times in the center of the star, are the letters F A T A L. This refers to a double meaning of an oath taken by a member of the Easter Star when a degree is bestowed on her: the first is simply the the word F A T A L, which means that it would be fatal to the character of the lady if she disclosed any of the secrets of the order; the other is an acronym meaning "Fairest Among Ten-thousand Altogether Lovely."

Eastern Star Past Matron

The emblem of an Eastern Star Past Matron has the Eastern Star symbol with a gavel suspended on a link of chain (or sometimes a gavel mysteriously levitating on a link of chain). Occasionally a laurel wreath circles the star and a gavel is attached to the wreath by a chain.

Taken from Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography written and photographed by Douglas Keister, published by Gibbs Smith, Salt Lake City, 2004.