Friday, May 27, 2011

Seal of Melchizedek - Eight-Pointed Star

May 27, 2011
Last updated October 9, 2011
by Tim Barker

In my initial posting on the Seal of Melchizedek, I noted that this symbol has been gaining popularity in LDS culture.  The eight-pointed star was illustrated in Hugh Nibley's book Temple and Cosmos, and was discussed by Bryce Haymond in his blog with respect to its connection with the architectural design of the San Diego Temple.  Nibley's book includes an illustration by Michael Lyon of a mosaic in St. Apollinare in Classe, in Ravenna, Italy, wherein the above symbol is located on the front of the altar cloth.  I discussed this mosaic and the symbol in terms of Christological symbolism.  I also cited the apocryphal Book of the Secrets of Enoch, noting that Melchizedek was purportedly born with the "seal of the priesthood" upon his chest, following which; I discussed the connection of the Holy Priesthood after the Order of the Son of God with the Melchizedek Priesthood.  I then pointed out that the mosaic in St. Apollinare in Classe, as well as the mosaic of Melchizedek and Abel in the Basilica of St. Vitale, both lend themselves towards being a temple setting.  Additionally, I pointed out that Freemason Henry P.H. Bromwell identified an eight-pointed star connected with the 47th problem of Euclid as the "signet of Melchizedek."  Additionally, I briefly noted the connection between the six-pointed star and Melchizedek.  Lastly, I stated that each of these elements come together within the temple.

A few months after my initial posting on the subject I read an article written by Alonzo Gaskill on the Seal of Melchizedek.  His study inspired me to further investigate the symbol's history and meaning.  As a result of certain assertions made by Brother Gaskill in relation to Michael Lyon's role as the illustrator of Nibley's book, I inquired of Brother Lyon and received some needed clarification on a few subjects.  My correspondence with Brother Lyon was documented in my second posting on the Seal of Melchizedek.  Brother Lyon recalled that he authored the caption in Nibley's book regarding the mosaic, but Hugh Nibley added the prefatory, "so-called," before "seal of Melchizedek," in Lyon's identification of the eight-pointed star.  This was due to the fact that they could not find a contemporary identification of this symbol with Melchizedek.  Michael Lyon suggested that another scholar connected the symbol with Melchizedek some time after the mosaic was completed.  He also remembers seeing this symbol in connection with Melchizedek in a book on symbolism some years ago; however, the whereabouts of this book are currently unknown.  It was noted that rosettes can be radially symmetrical designs, rather than just botanical symbols.  Additionally, Brother Lyon was unaware of any General Authority's acknowledgement of this symbol in connection with Melchizedek.  Lastly, he indicated that he does not believe there is anything wrong with identifying the symbol with Melchizedek.

My third post on the subject was in relation to its Christological symbolism.  In my original posting I had noted this connection, and in Alonzo Gaskill's article this was a significant discussion point.  My post was meant to elaborate on the symbolic elements within the eight-pointed star identified by Brother Gaskill.  Most of my discussion focused on the gamma and stars.  Regarding the square and the number eight, I didn't have much too much to add, nor did I feel inclined to discuss the square beyond what other Christians have noted, and it is easy to get carried away with numerical symbolism.  Accordingly, I focused on the gamma, which has an early Christian connection with the temple veil and altar cloths, and stars, which have a Christological metaphoric counterpart in the scriptures.  Finally, I noted that the cross was also a symbol used on the altar cloth in early Christianity in the same location as the eight-pointed star is in the Ravenna mosaics.  Both symbols can be symbolic of the Savior.

Aside from Hugh Nibley's book and Bryce Haymond's blog, a few other sites have taken notice of this symbol, including: "The Seal of Melchizedek: Understanding the Seal of Melchizedek," (unnamed author), "Seal of Melchizedek," by Professor Bill Hamblin, "Seal of Melchizedek," by Jeremy Swindlehurst, "The Sign of Melchizedek," by Ernest (last name not given), and finally, a website called "The Seal of" (unnamed author), which is currently under construction.  These sites illustrate the point that this symbol is gaining popularity in LDS culture, especially considering that the symbol is showing up on other temples, and it has a historical presence in the Middle East under Christian and Islamic usage.  It is the purpose of this post to document some historical connections of the eight-pointed star for the purpose of providing additional context to subjects previously discussed.

Ravenna, Italy

St. Apollinare in Classe

Michael Lyon's illustration in Hugh Nibley's Temple and Cosmos is from a mosaic found within
the Basilica of St. Apollinare in Classe.1

This cathedral was built in the 6th century A.D., commencing between 534 and 538, with the addition of the mosaics during 671 to 677.2  The building was named for Apollinaris, a Bishop who reportedly came with the Apostle Peter from Antioch to Rome, and "Peter, having laid hands on him, sent him to preach in the east of Italy."  The Basilica's location is attributed to the spot where Apollinaris was martyred in Ravenna, and his body was subsequently buried under the high altar.3

Interior - Basilica of St. Apollinare in Classe (Ravenna, Italy)4

The building is characterized as having Roman and Byzantine influences (more so the latter), and is decorated with marble and mosaic.5 The church was built under the direction of Emperor Justinian and may have been designed by Julianus Argentarius.6 Included in the numerous mosaics throughout the basilica, is the depiction of Melchizedek, Abel, and Abraham (with Isaac) presenting offerings at an altar before the veil of the temple. This scenario is generally referred to as representing the Eucharist, which symbolizes the sacrifice of the Savior.7 As noted above, the "so-called seal of Melchizedek" is depicted on the altar cloth.

Mosaic of Melchizedek, Abel, and Abraham - Basilica of St. Apollinare in Classe8

For additional pictures of this Basilica (in color), see here and here.

St. Vitale

The Basilica of St. Vitale was named after St. Vitalis, a soldier in Nero's army who had been converted to the gospel by the preaching of Peter. "He was condemned to be buried alive for having taken up and cared for the body of a Christian martyr."9 Hence, this cathedral was erected on the spot where St. Vitalis was buried. A sketch of the building is below. 

Basilica of St. Vitale10

This cathedral was built between 526 and 547 and was also designed by Julianus Argentarius during the reign of Emperor Justinian.  The building has been noted as being "thoroughly Byzantine in detail..."11  It is octagonal in shape, with "eight tall round-headed arches,--rising from brick masses which are coated with thin marble,--[that] sustain a tambour pierced with eight two-light windows, and a round dome....In the middle is an apotheosis of S. Vitale."12  The structure is rather unique, being an "utter departure from the ground plan of the other churches of Ravenna....There are other round and polygonal churches in the West, both earlier and later than Saint Vital, but it would be hard to find for it any immediate parent, and it would be hard to find for it any immediate offspring..."13

St. Vitale - Interior14

Included in the many mosaics of the basilica is the offering of Melchizedek and Abel at an altar.  "The offering of Abel is a favourite subject in Byzantine art, but the complementary figure is usually Cain," which is more frequently depicted on sarcophagi than on wall decorations.15  The combination of Melchizedek and Abel is quite unique (later repeated with the addition of Abraham and Isaac at St. Apollinare in Classe).  "One of the earliest known representations of the eucharistic offering is that of the mosaic in St. Vitale at Ravenna, dating from the 6th century....On one side Abel is represented as standing with hands raised in prayer, clad in cloak and short tunic, and just issued from a house; it is possible that this, with the streaked sky of the mosaic, may indicate a morning or evening sacrifice. At all events the presence of Abel connects the other figure of the priest and king Melchisedech, with the idea of the sacrifice of the lamb, and therein of the death of the Lord. Melchisedech is standing before an oblong altar-table; his hands are raised in prayer, not in the act of blessing, and he is clad in the penula or cloak over a long tunic and girdle."16

Eucharist - Abel and Melchizedek, St. Vitale17

For additional pictures of this basilica (in color), see here and here.

While these mosaics provide much for commentary, it is interesting that the "seal of Melchizedek" or the eight-pointed star, appears to be a significant focal point in both pictures.  However, Brother Gaskill noted that the usage of the eight-pointed star is "common in a variety of cultures," each using the symbol for their "own reasons and without any cross-cultural meaning," thus, "there is no consistency in use or symbolic meaning..."18  Accordingly, the Ravenna mosaics provide just another example of this design.  He points out that Hindus have used the eight-pointed star as a symbol of Lakshmi, a goddess of wealth, and Muslims have used this star, identified as the Rub al hizb ("quarter group") which was used to indicate divisions in the text in the Qur'an.  The usage of this symbol by Muslims, however, is a moot point since their faith sprung up in the early 7th century AD, and they appear to have adapted this symbol from Byzantine art.  C.R. Clifford has noted:
In searching for the origin of the star, the octagon and the triangle we are brought frequently to the doors of Constantinople. We may go back to India and the Brahmans and we find the triangle as a sectarian mark. The combination of two triangles gives us the six-pointed star. The combination of two squares gives us the Mohammedan eight-pointed star, and the five-pointed star is supposed to be a Christian symbol. Yet if we go back to the period of Christian enthusiasm in the Byzantine Empire we will find the Brahman and Mohammedan eight-pointed star in universal use. The marble mosaic which covered the floors contained geometrical shapes innumerable. The five-pointed, six-pointed and eight-pointed star is simply a geometrical combination of squares and circles. After the fall of Constantinople the beauty of its decorative system was promptly copied by the Mohammedans, quick to perceive a means of beautifying without the use of animal forms, interdicted by the Koran, and we trace this Byzantine influence through the Anatolian Peninsula and the Caucasus.19
As our interest lies in the historical roots of the star, the Islamic usage becomes irrelevant, since we know that the eight-pointed star pre-dates the founding of their faith.  Similarly, we shouldn't get too excited when we discover this symbol, or variants thereof, used elsewhere when the origin can be pointed back to the Byzantine era.  Such, for example, is the "Caucasian Star"20:

Brother Gaskill notes that the eight-pointed star has been used on flags for Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, and coats of arms, such as Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, as well as formerly for the Iraqi Boy Scouts.21  However, usage of this symbol in each of these cases is irrelevant since they are all current adoptions (19th and 20th centuries).  Considering that each of these cases have indirect connections to Islam, we shouldn't expect to find a cross-cultural connection to Melchizedek, unless the Islamic world had previously connected this star with Melchizedek.  Such does not appear to be the case, especially since Melchizedek is absent in the Qur'an and early Islamic exegesis.  However, the eight-pointed star, also known in Islam as khatim sulayman, is referred to as the "seal of the prophets, as in signet ring,"22 an interesting, but inconclusive correlation.


Charles Wesley Bennett has noted that art discovered in some Mediterranean Basilicas "are interesting for showing the commingling of Christian and Egyptian symbolism."23  More to the point, Albert Frank Hendrick has noted an Egyptian connection with the Ravenna mosaics, stating that "A mosaic in S. Vitale, representing the Sacrifices of Abel and Melchizedek, shows an altar-covering with angular ornaments, and a large eight-pointed star in the middle.  Numerous ornamental details of the mosaics at Ravenna also resemble in a remarkable way the more elaborate patterns of the stuffs from Egypt.  Such stuffs are mostly of the polychrome kind, lacking the severity both in colour and pattern of those showing Graeco-Roman inspiration, and presumably later in date.  It should also be remembered that, although none of the Ravenna mosaics are earlier than the fifth century, many of the ornamental details were survivals of patterns used at an earlier date."24  Even more direct is Walter Lowrie, who states:
In both of the mosaics at Ravenna the central device is a star shaped figure composed of two squares, the one superimposed upon the other; in S. Clement's it is a lozenge shaped figure with a cross inscribed.  In this case there can be no doubt from which art the design was derived, for it appears on the textiles four centuries earlier than it does in stone reliefs.  The sequence here is besides peculiarly plain: nothing could be more natural, when the altar came to be enclosed between its four legs by solid plates of stone, than the transference to the stone of the design which commonly adorned the cloth, and the general extension of this design to panels of all sorts.  In regard to sculpture of this character nothing more need be said.  Indeed nothing more could be said except by way of citing examples, which are so numerous that they are sure to fall under the eye of any one who may seek them for the purpose of this comparison.25
For our benefit, Albert Kendrick published images of some of these textiles found in Egyptian graves, dating from the second to the fifth centuries AD.  Relevant textiles showing eight-pointed stars from the 4th century AD, excavated at Akhmim, Egypt, are shown below.26

Perhaps the most relevant textile in Kendrick's book is the elaborate picture below, which bears remarkable similarities to the altar cloths in the Ravenna mosaics.  The eight-pointed star is centered between four gammas. 

Kendrick's dating of these textiles is based on contemporary Egyptian Coptic art.  In connection with this, he identified two portraits from the 2nd century AD, showing a pattern consisting of an "interlaced ornament indicated by a white outline...the interlacings take the form of an eight-pointed star-figure."27  These two portraits, originally displayed at the Guimet Museum in Paris, France, are shown below:28

A larger image of this emblem is provided below:

Similarly, this portrait also includes the emblem on the subject's tunic:

A larger image of this emblem is provided below:

While these last images are hardly discernable, Walter Lowrie further identifies these designs with Egyptian Coptic textiles.  He stated that "the embroideries found in the Coptic graves of Egypt correspond perfectly with the designs of textile fabrics--curtains, altar cloths and dress--which are represented in the sixth century mosaics at Ravenna."29  The continuity of this clothing design is further illustrated in two of the mosaics in St. Vitale; first, with the Empress Theodora and her attendants, and second with Emperor Justinian and his attendants.  In both cases the eight-pointed star is worn on the clothing of one of the attendants.

"Empress Theodora and Her Retinue" - Basilica of St. Vitale30 

A color picture of the star on the hem of the attendants robe:

For additional pictures of this mosaic (in color), see here and here.

A color picture of the star on the shoulder of the attendants tunic:31

For additional pictures of this mosaic (in color), see here and here.

While the designs employed in Byzantine art had some derivation in Egyptian Coptic art, it has also been noted that some believe the basilicas themselves may have originated in Egypt.  Charles Bennett stated that the Egyptian churches "peculiar architectural features seem to furnish some foundation for the theory that Egypt was the native home of the basilica, being appropriated by the Greeks, and then, in modified form, becoming a ruling type in the West-Roman Empire."32 

While we have identified an Egyptian correlation with the eight-pointed star in the Ravenna mosaics, we still haven't identified any historical meanings associated with the symbol.  Lowrie advises us, in contradistinction to Brother Alonzo Gaskill's assertion that the design is simply architectural,33 that we "must recognize in particular that this art was not limited to architectural motives."  However, he does not provide us with any definite meaning.  "The problem of the origin of the designs which are characteristic of low relief sculpture from the V. to the IX. century is one which presses itself upon the attention; many explanations have been suggested, but none can be esteemed adequate."32 The most reasonable explanation at this point, as discussed in my previous posts, is that for Christians of this era, the symbol used on the front of the altar cloth probably primarily symbolized Christ since the cross was also used on altar cloths in the place of the eight-pointed star.  An example of one altar cloth was at Sancta Sophia (Constantinople), as illustrated in the Menologium.

Church of Sancta Sophia, Constantinople34

Additionally, the mosaics themselves have motifs that point towards Christ.  Abraham and Isaac at the altar, Abel and his offering of a lamb, Melchizedek and the Eucharist, and all the other elements seem to have a symbolic meaning associated with the Savior.  Similarly, the surrounding mosaics in the Basilica of St. Apollinare in Classe have a Christological theme.35  Whether the artist or designer of the Ravenna mosaics had any other intended meanings with the eight-pointed star will remain unknown unless some historical evidence surfaces.   


Labeling this section under Freemasonry is a bit of a misnomer since the following information is not found within the fraternity; rather, the elements identified below are independently produced by individual Freemasons.  Such, for example, is the eight-pointed star identified as the "Signet of Melchizedek," by H.P.H. Bromwell, as discussed in my original posting. 

Henry Pelham Holmes Bromwell36

While Bromwell was in good standing with the fraternity, his posthumous book, Restorations of Masonic Geometry and Symbolry Being a Dissertation on the Lost Knowledges of the Lodge,37 has had some mixed reviews by other Freemasons.  It was praised by some,38 but was also criticized as being "a work of little value to scholarship, enthusiastic, amateurish, and occultistic, yet full of out-of-the-way information about symbolism."39  Another freemason stated that Bromwell's book was "more imaginative than real.  His approach was an attempt to restore lost knowledge to the Lodges in the way of introducing symbolism that never was part of the Order and providing novel interpretations of those that did exist in the Fraternity."  He continues by saying that "there is much in it that has zero to do with legitimate Freemasonry, its ritual and its practices and policies.  There also is some that does have connection with Freemasonry.  The reader must learn to sift through the material for it to be of good use."40 

That having been said, we should be reluctant to associate Bromwell's assertions and conclusions within his book to Freemasonry, despite his membership in the fraternity.  Nonetheless, Bromwell does connect an eight-pointed star with Melchizedek, and the question of where he derived this connection remains open.  Is it merely coincidental, or did he draw on this information elsewhere?  His book contained a discussion on the 47th problem of Euclid, known in geometry as Pythagorean's Theorem (a2 + b2 = c2), and included a geometrical illustration of an eight-pointed star based on Euclid's problem. 

The eight-pointed star also shows up on a logo for the official periodical of the Antient [sic] and Primitive Rite of Memphis and Mizraim, entitled The Kneph.  This periodical was published from 1881 through 1900 in London, England, edited by Kenneth R.H. MacKenzie, but primarily driven by John Yarker.41

This fraternal order was viewed as a clandestine organization by other Freemasons.42  John Yarker became a Freemason in October 1854, resigned in 1862, and in 1871, he established the Antient and Primitive Rite in Manchester, England.43  According to the Rite, the spirit of the vocation was to "preserve and to transmit the philosophical reflection on symbols of Ancient Egypt and the different currents that have marked our civilization (Hermetic, Gnostic, Kabbalistic, Templar, and Rose+Croix)."44  Accordingly, Kneph was actually an Egyptian deity, regarded as the "first emanation of the Supreme Being, the good genius of the world, the demiurgus, the efficient Reason of all things, and the Architect of the Universe.  It is in this last aspect that Kneph is represented in the Gnostic figure portraying, a serpent thrusting from its mouth an egg."  It is also noted that "as the solar deity, Kneph becomes the Christos of the Gnostics."45 

Why the eight-pointed star is central in the image is uncertain; however, if the Kneph, the Architect of the Universe, and "Christos of the Gnostics," is primarily symbolized, then the eight-pointed star might also symbolically represent the Creator.  John Yarker's writings on the subject discuss the Kneph as the 85th degree of the Antient and Primitive Rite, noting that "In one view this Egyptian Symbol of a winged egg signifies the two energies of creation by which all things are produced,--universal spirit acting on primordial matter; but in a less recondite sense it represents the productive world."46  At any rate, whether any specific symbolism was intended to be drawn from this eight-pointed star remains uncertain.47 

One non-Masonic book states that "the Masonic Order and other Secret Elite groups proclaim Melchizedek as the Lord of the Eight--eight meaning the eight pointed star of pagan illumination....The number 8, in esoteric literature, signifies a journey into a higher consciousness--the crossing point from earthly life to the spiritual world and vice versa."48  This book unfortunately neglects to reference where this information derives from, and glosses over the subject since it is not central to her discussion.  We are unable to ascertain, once again, where this assertion originated.  My inclusion of these quasi-related Masonic references from the 19th and 20th centuries are provided because there appears to be some outside connection to Melchizedek by certain members of the Masonic fraternity. 

Ancient History

As previously mentioned, the eight-pointed star has been connected with Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of wealth and prosperity.  There are actually eight forms of Lakshmi, or Ashtalakshmi ("eight Lakshmis"), over eight forms of wealth.49  While the Hindu religion is very ancient, the earliest references to Lakshmi are within the Mahbharata.50  This 'Sanskrit Epic' was attributed to Vyasa, and the earliest extant portions of this text are dated to approximately 400 BC, although it is believed that the origins may date as early as the 8th and 9th centuries BC.51  This book includes the Bhagavad Gita, and other epics.  What is missing in the text; however, is any references to an eight-pointed star, much less, any symbolry being connected with Lakshmi.  When this particular icon came to be associated with Lakshmi is uncertain.  Typical iconography associated with the goddess generally includes the lotus flower and elephants.  The earliest connection between Lakshmi and a star that I could find was on an Indian coin from approximately the 6th century AD, showing a "star or sun above the left shoulder of Laksmi."52

Reverse side of copper coin from the Shahi Mihirakula era, circa 6th century AD53

This coin, however, is from the Ephthalites, or "White Huns," who had a strong presence in India until about the mid 5th century. Apparently some cultural mixing took place, since the front side represents Mihirakula, a Huna, or Hun, that ruled India.54  Other Huna coins in India show this same star (or sun) placed next to the King - Shahi Jabul - with an Ephthalite symbol opposite the King.55  What does this all mean?  It could suggest that as Lakshmi was known for eight forms of wealth or prosperity, the eight-pointed star aligned well symbolically, and as such it was adopted within Hinduism.  While such may be the case, history seems to be lacking evidence to support this.  A surveying of art over the last thousand years provides no apparent connection between the star and Lakshmi, and books that specifically discuss her iconography are silent with respect to this symbol.56  What is currently known as the Star of Lakshmi (an 8/2 polygon - ├«), is not the same star as depicted on the coin and does not appear to be associated with Lakshmi prior to the 20th century.  Jack Tresidder, in his 1,001 Symbols: An Illustrated Guide to Imagery and Its Meaning, actually states that the six-pointed hexagram is called the Star of Lakshmi, an assertion also supported by Dr. Jyoti Sahi in his book, The Child and the Serpent: Reflections on Popular Indian Symbols.57  While my research in Hinduism is not in depth, it appears that the correlation between the eight-pointed star and Lakshmi is relatively modern. 

In ancient Babylonia, however, the eight-pointed star does have a strong historical presence.  It is commonly associated with Ishtar (previously Inanna), representing Venus, or the evening and morning star.  The star also shows up in numerous places absent of Ishtar.  A sampling of Babylonian images are provided below:58

While different variations are illustrated above, the usage of the eight-pointed star in ancient Babylonia is unmistakable.  The star is shaped differently than the eight-pointed star in the Ravenna mosaics, however, there are some interesting corollaries.  While associated with Ishtar, the star represents Venus, known to the Babylonians as the evening and morning star,59 a subject previously discussed with respect to Christological symbolism; additionally, the star in some cases was also associated with the King of Babylon (who may have at times been associated with Ishtar).60  W.M. Flinders Petrie, the Egyptian Archaeologist, had noted that the eight-pointed star had been "used for king in Babylonia."61  Other Egyptologists expand on Petrie, noting that the eight-pointed star represents God, or a servant of God.62 

Archaeological findings also date an eight-pointed star to the ancient Sumerian city of Ur.  One-time home of Abraham, Ur has been excavated and findings therein have been published.  Interestingly, eight-petal rosettes, all similarly fashioned as the 8/2 polygon (see image here), were discovered in Ur.  One figurine, now held in the British Museum, is entitled the "Ram Caught in the Thicket,"  which shows a ram-like figure against a bush or tree, with these same eight-petal rosettes as leaves, or possibly flowers.63  If the description of the figurine accurately describes what the artist was trying to depict, than we have some evidence that places this 8/2 polygon shape closer to Abraham's day. 


While this certainly provides no connection to Melchizedek, it is interesting to note that this shape has ancient historic roots, and there is certainly a possibility that there may be a connection, considering this shape existed in the same time period as Melchizedek.  But what does all of this provide for us?  The answer is really not much.  What if the eight-pointed star had no ancient association with Melchizedek?  What if other shapes or symbols also had an association with Melchizedek, like the six-pointed star?

Melchizedek Mosaic in the Latin Chapel of the Nailing to the Cross, Jerusalem64

In this mural (probably significantly post-dating the Ravenna mosaics), a six-pointed star is on the altar cloth where Melchizedek presents an offering to the Lord.  If there were no ancient connection with Melchizedek and the eight-pointed star, is it wrong for us as Latter-day Saints to adopt the eight-pointed star as the seal of Melchizedek?  Brother Gaskill feels that if anything, it should only represent the Savior.  While I agree that it should represent the Savior, I personally see nothing wrong with associating this symbol with Melchizedek, who might be the person who most strongly symbolizes the Savior.  Gaskill asserts that the symbol never has "anything to do with Melchizedek or the Melchizedek Priesthood," and that "there is nothing ancient or scholarly to support such a connection." He stated that the "unknown artist of the murals left no known explanation of his objective," and further declares that he has "established that there is nothing in scholarly or ancient sources to support the interpretation that this symbol represents Melchizedek or his priesthood..."65  But how well have we really dug into the matter?  Gaskill cites 20th century sources, and I primarily cite a number of 19th century sources. Does the lack of identification of the eight-pointed star with Melchizedek, approximately 1,500 years removed, mean that there never was a connection?

I had previously noted that the "signet of Melchizedek" identified by Bromwell was an eight-pointed star, and that the Apocryphal Book of the Secrets of Enoch states that Melchizedek was born with the "seal of the priesthood," upon his chest.  Brother Michael Lyon saw this symbol in a Catholic book of symbolism entitled the "seal of Melchizedek."  These are intriguing corollaries that shouldn't be dismissed without consideration.  I am reluctant to conclude on this issue without a resolution to these findings.  But what of all the other eight-pointed stars that have no apparent connection to Melchizedek?  Hugh Nibley noted with respect to the gamma that "these things do get around.  They become lost; they become simply designs; nobody understands what they are; nobody understands any more the meaning of the words.  Thus, we speculate as we try to reconstruct them."66  It seems that this explanation is equally relevant to the eight-pointed star.  What of the Ravenna mosaics?  Are Latter-day Saints inaccurate in ascribing the star to Melchizedek?  In the 1982 Yearbook of Austrian Byzantine Studies, Constantin Marinescu Marin specifically connects this star with Melchizedek.  The star "on the table cloth of the altar table of the representation "Melchizedek's Sacrifice" receives, in the context of Holy Text, the power of a symbol expressing the Divine Essence of Melchizedek."67  Thus, at least one scholarly source makes a similar connection.  Accordingly, I do not believe that it is unwarranted for Latter-day Saints to either interpret the symbol as a historical sign of Melchizedek or to adopt it as such currently.  Further research remains to be done.

1 "Two Days at Ravenna," by Elizabeth Harcourt Mitchell, in Once A Week: An Illustrated Miscellany of Literature, Popular Science, and Art (Bradbury, Evans, & Co., London, England) 3 (Jan-Jun, 1867):378
2 A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities (2 Vols.), William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D. and Samuel Cheetham, M.A., Eds. (John Murray, Albemarle Street: London, England, 1875), 1:63.  The church was begun by Ursicinus and consecrated by his successor, Maximian in 549.  "The Goths at Ravenna," by Ferdinand Von Quast, The British Quarterly Review 56 (Oct 1872):179
3 Ibid, 1:108; A Handbook of Christian Symbols and Stories of the Saints, Clara Erskine Clement, Ed. by Katherine E. Conway (University Press: John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, MA, 1886), 55; Sketches of Continental Ecclesiology, or Church Notes in Belgium, Germany, and Italy, by Rev. Benjamin Webb, MA. (Joseph Masters, Aldersgate Street: London, England, 1848), 438. Apollinaris' remains were removed to St. Apollinare in Nuovo in 856 (wiki).
4 Ravenna, by Walter Goetz (Derlag von E.U. Seemann, Leipzip, Germany, 1901), 68
5 A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, 1:377; Byzantine Art and Archaeology, O.M. Dalton (Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, 1911), 357; "The Goths at Ravenna," by Ferdinand Von Quast, The British Quarterly Review 56 (Oct 1872):179; A History of Architecture in All Countries From the Earliest Times to the Present Day (3 Vols), James Fergusson, F.R.S., M.R.A.S. (John Murray, Albemarle Street, London, England, 1865), 1:375-377; Monuments of the Early Christian Church: A Handbook of Christian Archaeology, Walter Lowrie (New York, NY, 1901), 314-315
6 Sketches of Continental Ecclesiology, 438; History of Mediaeval Art, Dr. Franz Von Reber, translated by Joseph Thatcher Clarke (Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square: New York, NY, 1886), 50; "Abroad: Ancient Ravenna and its Monuments," by Thomas O'Hagan in Rosary Magazine, cited in Our Young People 22/2 (February 1913):8-9; "The Goths at Ravenna," by Ferdinand Von Quast, The British Quarterly Review 56 (Oct 1872):178
7 A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, 2:1457; "Two Days at Ravenna," Once A Week: An Illustrated Miscellany of Literature, Popular Science, and Art, 378; "Early Christian Miniatures," by Jane Bury, The Scottish Review, Alexander Gardner (Paisley; and 26 Paternoster Square, London, England, 1897), 30:103; Monumental Christianity or the Art and Symbolism of the Primitive Church, John P. Lundy (J.W. Bouton, New York, NY, 1876), 363-364; Monuments of the Early Church: A Handbook of Christian Archaeology, 317
8 Ravenna, 71
9 A Handbook of Christian Symbols and Stories of the Saints, 320
10 Library of Biblical and Theological Literature: Vol. IV - Christian Archaeology, by Charles W. Bennett, D.D., edited by George R. Crooks, D.D., and John F. Hurst, D.D. (Phillips & Hunt, New York, NY, 1888), 227
11 A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, 1:375-376; History of Mediaeval Art, 50; Sketches of Continental Ecclesiology, 435; "The Goths at Ravenna," by Ferdinand Von Quast, The British Quarterly Review 56 (Oct 1872):178.  The church was began by Bishop Ecclesius and consecrated by St. Maximian in 547.  "Abroad: Ancient Ravenna and its Monuments," by Thomas O'Hagan in Rosary Magazine, cited in Our Young People 22/2 (February 1913):8
12 Sketches of Continental Ecclesiology, 436
13 "The Goths at Ravenna," by Ferdinand Von Quast, The British Quarterly Review 56 (Oct 1872):179; also see Library of Biblical and Theological Literature: Vol. IV - Christian Archaeology, 226
14 Christian Archaeology, 225
15 Byzantine Art and Archaeology, O.M. Dalton (Clarendon Press, Oxford, England, 1911), 357; A Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, 2:1457
16 Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, 1:626; also see "Symbolism in Ecclesiology," by B. Edmund Ferrey, F.S.A., F.R.I.B.A. in Transactions of the St. Paul's Ecclesiological Society (Alabaster, Passmore, and Sons, London, England, 1886-1890) 2:51
17 Everyman's History of The Prayer Book, Percy Dearmer, D.D., edited by Frederic Cook Morehouse (Young Churchman Co., Milwaukee, WI, 1915), 199
18 "The Seal of Melchizedek?" by Alonzo Gaskill, in The Religious Educator: Perspectives on the Restored Gospel, 11/3 (2010):110
19 Rugs of the Orient, C.R. Clifford (Clifford & Lawton, New York, NY, 1911), 29
20 Ibid, 29, 34, 36
21 "The Seal of Melchizedek?", 110; it appears that Brother Gaskill was reliant on the Rub el Hizb Wiki page for this portion of his article, where each of these items, and others, are listed and illustrated. 
22 "Origins and Meanings of the Eight-Point Star," Sarah (last name not given), Moroccan Design (accessed on May 4, 2011). 
23 Christian Archaeology, Charles Wesley Bennett (Phillips & Hunt, New York, NY, 1888), 211
24 Catalogue of Textiles From Burying-Grounds in Egypt: Vol. 1 Graeco-Roman Period, Albert F. Kendrick (Majesty's Stationary Office, London, England, 1920), 38-39
25 "The Relation Between Early Medieval Sculpture in Low Relief and Contemporary Textile Design," by Walter Lowrie in Atti Del II Congresso Internazionale Di Archeologia Cristiana (Rome, Italy, 1900), 48
26 Catalogue of Textiles from Burying-Grounds in Egypt, 1: Plate III (pg 145), Plate XXII (pg 164), Plate IV (pg 146), and frontispiece, respectively.
27 Ibid, 1:18
28 Les Portraits D'Antinoe Au Musee Guimet, Emile Etienne Guimet (Librairie Hachette et Cie, Paris, France, 1912), 39, and 36, respectively
29 "The Relation Between Early Medieval Sculpture in low Relief and Contemporary Textile Design," 45
30 Byzantine Art and Archaeology, 356
31 Brother Gaskill suggests that the male figure next to Theodora may have the eight-pointed star on the shoulder of his tunic ("The Seal of Melchizedek?", 101); however, better pictures, linked above, clearly show that such is not the case.
31 Christian Archaeology, 212
32 "The Seal of Melchizedek?", 109
33 "The Relation Between Early Medieval Sculpture in low Relief and Contemporary Textile Design," 44
34 The Church of Sancta Sophia, Constantinople: A Study of Byzantine Building, W. R. Lethaby and Harold Swainson (Macmillan & Co., New York, NY, 1894), 69
35 Monuments of Medieval Art, Robert G. Calkins (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1986), 37-38
36 Per
37 Restorations of Masonic Geometry and Symbolry Being a Dissertation on the Lost Knowledges of the Lodge, Henry P.H. Bromwell (H.P.H. Bromwell Masonic Publishing Company, Denver, CO, 1905), 170
38 Lightfoot's Manual of the Lodge, Jewel P. Lightfoot, Past Grand Master (Grand Lodge of Texas A.F. & A.M., Fort Worth, TX, 1953), 234.  Lightfoot also lists Bromwell amongst the "best Masonic scholars," including Mackey, Pike, Oliver, Preston, Webb, etc., viii, 148.  Also see Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge (The Collier & Cleveland Lith Co. Denver, CO, 1888, 146; and Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Volume 3, Albert G. Mackey and H.L. Haywood (Kessinger Publishing, LLC, Whitefish, MT, 2003), 1226.  Harry L. Haywood stated that Bromwell's book was a work of "prodigious erudition."  Also see:
39 Blakemore, as cited by D. Charles Pyle - email correspondence March 14, 2011.  Also see, A Masonic Reader's Guide, Alphonse Cerza (Missouri Lodge of Research, MO, 1980), 142.  Brother Pyle is a "Knight Templar in the New York Rite of Freemasonry and a Master of the Royal Secret, 32°, in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, currently holding the rank and decoration of a Knight Commander of the Court of Honour..." and has "set in the East as Past High Priest, Illustrious Past Master, Past Commander and Past Sovereign Master in the York Rite and in a Council of the Allied Masonic Degrees (an invitational body of York Rite Masonry)."  My sincere appreciation to Brother Pyle for the references, and additional information provided.
40 Ibid 
41 Per and
42 Ibid
43 Per, and
44 Per
45 The Encircled Serpent: A Study of Serpent Symbolism in All Countries and Ages, M. Oldfield Howey (Noble Printers, Inc., New York, NY, 1955), 19
46 The Secret High Degree Rituals of the Masonic Rite of Memphis, John Yarker (Kessinger Publishing, Whitefish, MT, 1997), 93
47 One wiki site indicates that "the Masonic symbol of two superimposed squares at 45° angles representing order and disorder (and probably other dualistic concepts)."
48 Eden: The Knowledge of Good and Evil 666, Dr. Joye Jeffries Pugh (Tate Publishing, LLC, Mustang, OK, 2006), 95-96.  I would normally refrain from passing judgment on a book in a footnote, but this book is so poorly done, and so full of wildly speculative assertions, and so full of bad information, that I can hardly imagine anybody taking it seriously.  Her lack of knowledge in her discussion on various topics is blatantly obvious, and I was quite reluctant to include something of this nature in my post; however, she does connect Melchizedek and the eight-pointed star within Masonry, which of course has no references or explanation.  I am curious to know where she is obtaining this information, but I have not received a response from my inquiry.  Her assertions in connection with the subject of Masonry is ludicrous (e.g, Masonic Satan worship, etc.). 
49 Devi: Goddesses of India, John Stratton Hawley and Donna M. Wulff (University of California Press, The Regents of the University of California, CA, 1996), 104; also see Ashta Lakshmi at Wikipedia
50 The Sanskrit Epics, J.L. Brockington (Brill Academic Publishers, Boston, MA, 1998), 100; also see Wikipedia.
51 The Sanskrit Epics, 26; also see Mahabharata, William Buck (University of California Press, The Regents of the University of California, CA, 1973), 9, 105, 203, 416; also see Wikipedia.
52 "Further Observations on the History and Coinage of the Gupta Period," by Vincent A. Smith, Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 63/1 (1894):204-205.  Smith is describing a coin previously discussed by Sir Alexander Cunningham, as discussed in the next footnote.
53 "Coins of the Later Indo-Scythians--Ephthalites, or White Huns," Sir Alexander Cunningham, The Numismatic Chronicle, and Journal of the Numismatic Society, 14/3 (1894): 242 (plate VIII, Fig. 6), 254, 281.  Cunningham describes the reverse side of the coin as a "Seated goddess with cornucopiae.  Star above on right."  He had previously identified this seated goddess as Lakshmi (pg 256).
54 Ibid, 245, 256
55 Ibid, 242 (Plate VII, Fig. 8), 278
56 For example, a 14th century distemper on wood of Lakshmi is available at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and 12th century portrayals are online from the Ohio State University Huntington Archive - see here, here, here, here, and here.  An 11th century copper alloy figure of Lakshmi is available at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, CA.  Also see a 19th century painting by famous Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma online at Edgar Degas Gallery.  An 11th century statue is held at the Denver Art Museum.  None of these images depict a star in connection with Lakshmi.  Wikipedia lists the star of Lakshmi as an eight-pointed star; however, there is no support provided to sustain this assertion, other than a math book.  In fact, an online search through Google Books (currently 12 Million+ books) returns the "star of Lakshmi" in connection with 20th and 21st century geometry books.  Apparently, at some point, the 8/2 polygon came to be known as the Star of Lakshmi, at least within the world of mathematics; where this derived from, is unclear.  Modern descriptions are also silent as to the "Star of Lakshmi."  For example, a recent book on Hindu goddesses devotes 25 pages to Lakshmi, and there is no mention of the star; however, there is mention of the lotus and elephant and other imagery more commonly associated with Lakshmi (see The Living Goddess: Reclaiming the Tradition of the Mother of the Universe, Linda Johnsen (Yes International Publishers, Saint Paul, MN, 1999), 53-78).  Additionally, see the following sources for Lakshmi iconography - Invoking Lakshmi: The Goddess of Wealth in Song and Ceremony, Constantina Rhodes (State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 2010), see especially, page 204 which references eight cardinal directions, an interesting, but inconclusive point.  Also see  Indian Angles: English Verse in Colonial India from Jones to Tagore, Mary Ellis Gibson (Ohio University Press, Athens, OH, 2011), 225.
57 1,001 Symbols: An Illustrated Guide to Imagery and Its Meaning, Jack Tresidder (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, 2004), 19; also see Mandalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions, Gudrun Buhnemann (Brill Academic Publishers, Boston, MA, 2003), 63-64; The Child and the Serpent: Reflections on Popular Indian Symbols, Dr. Jyoti Sahi (Penguin Arkana, NJ, 1990), 204; also see Hinduism (Religions of the World), James B. Robinson (Chelsea House Publishers, New York, NY, 2004), front cover; and The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z, James G. Lochtefeld (Rosen Publishing Group, New York, NY, 2002), 486
58 The set of pictures are all taken from Wikimedia Commons, or from The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East, Manual of Biblical Archaeology Volume 1, Alfred Jeremias (Williams & Norgate, New York, NY, 1911); also see The Seal Cylinders of Western Asia, William Hayes Ward (Carnegie Institute of Washington, Washington, D.C., 1910).  For a discussion on Babylonian astronomy, see (accessed May 26, 2011). 
59 See Exploring Ancient Skies: A Survey of Ancient and Cultural Astronomy, David Kelley, Eugene Milone, and Anthony Aveni (Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, New York, NY, 2011), 38; Babylonian Historical Texts Relating to the Capture and Downfall of Babylon, Sidney Smith (Hildesheim, New York, NY, 1975), 65 (although this book indicates that star is six-pointed; A Dictionary of Ancient Near Eastern Mythology, Gwendolyn Leick (Taylor & Francis, London, England, 1998), 163
60 Ishtar and Idzubar, The Epic of Babylon; or The Babylonian Goddess of Love and The Hero and Warrior King, Volume 1, Leonidas Le Cenci Hamilton, M.A. (W.H. Allen & Co., London, England, 1884), 84; Ancient Epic, Katherine Callen King (Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, England, 2009), 23
61 Hierakonpolis, J.E. Quibell and Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (Bernard Quaritch, London, England, 1900) Part I, 9
62 History of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria in the Light of Recent Discovery, L.W. King and H.R. Hall (The Grolier Society Publishers, London, England, 1906), 52
63 Treasures From the Royal Tombs of Ur, Richard Zettler and Lee Horne (University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 1998), 61
64 My sincere appreciation to Brother Bill Hamblin who provided permission to use this picture.  The dating of this mural is somewhat difficult since the Chapel of the Nailing of the Cross (Station 11 of the Via Dolorosa ) in the Church of the Resurrection has had significant damage and restoration over the last millennium+.  See a summary of the history of this edifice on Wiki.
65 "The Seal of Melchizedek?", 101, 111
66 Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, Hugh Nibley, Ed. Don Norton, Ill. Michael Lyon ("The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley" Volume 12; Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, UT, and FARMS [The Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies; now The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship], Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, 1992), 111
67 "The Byzantine Concept of Divine Light as Reflected in Romanian Post-Byzantine Art and Architecture," by Constantin Marinescu Marin, Jahrbuch der ├Âsterreichischen Byzantinistik [Yearbook of Austrian Byzantine Studies] 32/6 (1982):317 


  1. For your info you need to check the eight pointed star formed in the ceiling of the Sioux sweat lodge which is representative of Wakan-Tonka or second in attributes which is the Son of the Creator and the fact that the Lakota Sioux claim descent from Christ when he was in the Great Lakes area and took wives of the Native Americans. Also to the Sioux the path Venus makes in the sky is an eight pointed star and the eight sided octagon formed at the same time is very sacred to these people.

  2. Hi, this is Ernest of Seal of Melchizedek™ Jewelry and Art. This is, if not the best, my favorite article on the subject that I have found. It is very well researched and objective as any I've seen. Thank you so much for researching and posting this for all to peruse.

    The great thing about symbolism is that it is open to inspiration and interpretation and may mean different things to different people at different times. The Lord sends us inspiration and messages through symbolism and so perhaps ultimately what any symbol may mean is what we feel the spirit may whisper to us. That being said, there are many commonalities in 8-point star uses in the examples above and throughout history. Very often they are associated with the highest forms of worship in the different times and cultures. Perhaps most interesting to us as Latter-day Saints is that an entire Temple (San Diego) was designed around it and it has been added to the Salt Lake City Temple at the request of President Hinckley, so the story goes. Since President Hinckley also oversaw the construction of the new Conference Center, it perhaps should be no surprise that eight-point stars are found all through it... on door handles, in carpet, the skylights, lampposts, etc. At any rate, we find the so-called Seal of Melchizedek fun and fascinating because its occurrence in temples, on altars, in spiritual environments, its heavenly shape (star), and even its name that point towards Christ just too many occurrences to be coincidence.

    And certainly we've received so much positive feedback from those that learn about it and/or wear/gift our jewelry that add to the light and joy of the wearer. In a day of so many negative and inane symbols, if it helps remind us of eternal things, it is a good thing. We think so any way.

    Thanks again, brother Barker, for sharing your exhaustive and enjoyable research. By the way, Claude S. thanks also for your comment. Several members of northern American Indian tribes have shared with us the relation of the symbol in their culture to priesthood and worship of God. We are sure there is much more to be discovered and discerned.

    1. Thanks Ernest - I appreciate your kind remarks.

  3. Just came across this. These things can be difficult to talk about outside of the temple. But I'm just curious.... Have you noticed that several pieces of Melchizedek themed art of ancient date has him standing before a veil, with the "hand of God" extending from heaven or from behind a veil? Sometimes the hand is in unusual positions, or have fingers shortened, etc. ...