Fox Iconography

The Fox Complex was originally meant to be the headquarters for the Yaarab Temple Shriners. They are a "secret society" and in order to be a Shriner, you must first be a member of the Masonic Order, also a "secret society". When the Shrine organization was formed in the late 1800s and the Atlanta Shrine Mosque was designed in the 1920s, people were not as interested in conspiracy theories, nor was there such a thing a political correctness. 

Around the 1960s, a large group of people began to feel that things were not as they appeared and that there were "forces at play" behind the scenes. These were imagined to be secret societies that operate in the shadows with a rather nefarious agenda they were working to advance. In modern times, the Masonic Order has been the target of many theory conspirators that claim the group is rooted in some deeply-held world domination plot. Since the Fox Complex began life as the Atlanta Shrine Mosque, have tried to make out hidden meanings in the heiroglyphs and various icons that ornatment the Fox Complex. As it often is, the truth is much more boring than these wild titillating claims. 

As with most societies that come from or are based on antiquity, there is a certain amount of iconography and symbolism in their practices. and as one can imagine they like to incorporate some of that into their lodges. At its very core, one of the Shriner's founder, William J. Florence, was an actor and known for his flamboyant nature. He wanted a lot of fanfare and spectacle incorporated into Shrine ritual and functions. The Middle Eastern theme he chose was rife with exoticism, mystism, mystery, and intrigue. That was the specific reason he chose to base the group's theme as such. Therefore, if there was any group that was a prime target for speculation, I can't think of any group more appropriate than the Shriners. 

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" as the old saying goes. This is true with most everything today. When it comes to conspiracy theorist and iconography, places such as the Atlanta Fox Theatre are prime targets. There are a number of things in the Fox that draw suspicion, but in most cases, the architect and interior designers did things specifically for appearance's sake and since the world is a much-changed place since the 1920s, people often look at their work differently than they originally intended. The designer saw one thing, I may see something else, and the conspiracy guy sees something far more suspicious.

There does seem to be a small amount of Masonic/Shrine iconography embedded in the Fox Complex, but I believe it is not nearly as much as it has been made out to be. From my experience, people love to talk about the Fox and show off their knowledge of it. As with any good yarn, many expand on what they've been told. Over time, these things become myths or legends and as they get older and more talked about, they become to be thought of as being true. No one really bothers to check on the accuracy of such things and when it comes to the Fox, it is ripe for this type of thing. 

Compounding this, when the Auditorium was managed by Fox Films, prior to when the threatre opened on Christmas Day, 1929, Fox had mounted an intense promotional campaign in the Metro Atlanta Region. They made all sorts of fantastical claims to hype the spectacle that was the Fox Theatre. Many of those things were completely false, yet to this day people assume it is fact, simple because it was stated as such so many years ago. Then, over time, the Fox became the target of additional claims that had no basis in reality. Once again, over time, these urban legends were taken to be completely true. 

I cover a lot of these myths and legens in another section of the web site. For right now, using my 20+ years of experience at the Fox along with my admittedly limited knowledge of the Masonic and Shrine Orders and their practices, I am presenting this section to point out what I know to be fact. 

Overall Design Theme

There is no real significance to the overall design of the building other than it's continual Middle-Eastern influenced design theme. The overall concept of the building theme was to be collection of different inter-connected Middle-Eastern cultures within one walled city or village. As you go from one area to another, you experience a different style or culture that are either early Egyptian or Islamic faith inspired as conceived by the architects of the 1920. This is a design theme and was not meant to be any sort of religious or political statement. The design merely reflected the adopted theatrical aesthetic of the Shriners who instructed the architects to "Out-Baghdad Baghdad".


In the Masonic tradition, the cornerstone was laid in the northeastern corner of the building. It was done so in a formal grand Shrine/Masonic ceremony.

The southern side of the building was designed to be the main entrance to the building and because of that, it is the most architecturally interesting facade of the complex. I believe the Mason's chambers where they conduct their rituals are designed so you enter from the south with the place where the rituals are conducted from at the northern end of the room. I think it is simple coincidence that the Fox's main entrance faces south.

Above the original main entrance sits a large onion dome flanked by two additional smaller onion domes. At the base of the large dome, there looks to be some form of Arabic wording. According to Rick Flinn, the Fox's first Restoration Director, the lettering forms no words nor a complete sentence. 



The actual auditorium contains no significant Iconography that I am aware of. It was designed to replicate a Moorish courtyard at night.

I have been told that supposedly the location and arrangement/alignment of the stars in the sky were laid out to represent how they would look if you were in the Middle East, particularly Egypt, however I do not see any recognizable constellations in the star arrangements in the sky, most noticeably the omission of the constellation Orion that had particular meaning in early Egyptian religious rites. The stars appear to be have actually been placed in random locations and those stars that blink, or "twinkle", were chosen to do so at random as well.

There is one item in the Auditorium that is now rarely seen that may have some meaning in Masonic or Shrine iconography. When Atlanta Landmarks took possession of the Fox, Joe Patten discovered a contraption that was later found to be a "Sunrise - Sunset" machine. It was in total disrepair and it took a number of years for Joe and his team to figure out how the machine operated and then how to restore it. It was debuted at the Fox's 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1979.

As wonderful as the night time sky effect is, this machine would also allow the theater to transform the sky from night to day and back again, or vice verse.  

In theory, and this is total speculation on our part, this is how we think the machine was meant to be used. When the theater was opened to the public, the machine would be set so the auditorium had the appearance of being in the dusk hours just before twilight. As the event was set to begin, the light would start to dim with the "Sun" setting in the northwest corner of the auditorium, revealing the night time sky with it's twinkling stars and slow-moving clouds.  When the event concluded, the "Sun" would start to reappear in the Southeast corner of the auditorium and slowly return the auditorium to a new morning sky. From memory when I saw it in action, the effect of going from night to day took about one to two minutes and the same amount of time to return to night. .

In the Masonic rites, there is a duality of darkness and light. This is not where "dark" effectively means "evil" and "light" means "good". This duality has many meanings of significance to a number of traditions. The transition of "dark" to "light" can represent the coming of knowledge, spiritual enlightenment, the dawn of a new age, or even birth (or re-birth). And the transition from "light" to "dark" can mean a conclusion, the end of a cycle, or even death and with that the process of re-birth.


The lower downstairs men's lounge was designed to bring to mind the then-recent discovery of King Tut's tomb back in 1922. While King Tutankhamun was more or less one of the minor Pharaohs as he was still a very young man at the time of this death. The discovery of his tomb had huge historical importance because the other tombs of Pharaohs had been robbed with most all of the artifacts taken and the bodily remains defiled. Tutankhamun's tomb was nearly 100% intact and to paraphrase its discoverer, Howard Carter, it contained "Wonderful Things" The discovery of the tomb was an international sensation. The lower men's lounge was Olliver Vinour's nod to Carter's discovery.  While inspired by King Tut's tomb, the Men's Lounge design is more "Tomb-Like" than an exact  reproduction of a tomb. 

There is a small alcove where a lighted obelisk had been placed. On the lighted portion of the obelisk, there are hieroglyphs that have been chiseled into the frosted glass. They appear to be purely decorative and have no real meaning.  On the wall around the alcove are a set of simplistic black hieroglyphs. The legend has been told to me is that when the building was completed, it was decided that a glyph would be placed here to represent each type of craftsmen that constructed the building. I can only assume some of these might be genuine Egyptian hieroglyphs, but others had to be made up to represent craftsmen that were not around in antiquity such as piledrivers or jackhammers.

The lower downstairs ladies lounge was designed to bring to mind a middle eastern "harem". On the back wall, there is the only door that is not rectangular in shape. This door is shaped like a keyhole.  Once again, this is purely decorative and when the building was constructed, behind the door originally was a closet. It has since been converted into a utilitarian hallway

In the Mezzanine Ladies Lounge, the first chamber was meant to represent a royal Egyptian courtyard at dusk or dawn (your choice of interpretation). On the walls there are two large relief panels depicting ancient Egyptian royalty, a man and a woman. They have no hidden meaning or symbolism as they were selected out of a theater supply catalog. They are generic and do not represent any particular Pharaoh or Queen. 

There are hieroglyphs above the cetnral mantle piece. They are purely decorative and have no meaning.

In recent times, a new purpose for the "fireplace" has been suggested. It has been pointed out that in Ancient Egypt, a false doorway or passage was put into the more elaborate tomb chambers and was to represent a passageway into the World of the Dead.  Not only are these passageways meant for the Dead to find their way to the World of the Dead, they can be used by the Living to commune with the Dead. 

In many ancient traditions, it was believed there was a day between cycles or "years" that was not on their recorded calendars. It was a "day out of time" and thus on that day the Dead could cross over back to the world of the living. Some beliefs contend that the Dead would cross over to see how their descendants were doing and if they felt they needed help, they could stay to look over them, potentially haunting the family. In order to prevent this, families would enter the tombs and leave tributes to their dead ancestors at the passageway. The thought behind it was that if the ancestor began to come through the passageway, they'd see the tribute, be impressed, take spiritual embodiment of the tribute, and return to the World of the Dead.  Cool story, eh? Some contend that the "fireplace" actually represents that tradition.

I disagree with this assessment of the fireplace being such a passageway. Primarily, the downstairs men's lounge was the only area in the complex that was inspired by an Egyptian tomb. The Mezzanine Ladies Lounge depicts an open courtyard, and therefore a ritual passageway to the World of the Dead would have been totally out of place in that setting.  I further contend that back in the 1920s, not a lot was known about Egyptian beliefs of the World of the Dead and for those reasons, I feel this was meant to be a faux fireplace. 

In the center of the Mezzanine Ladies Lounge, there was placed an ottoman and two wooden chairs placed in front of the fireplace facing into the Mezzanine. The chairs are replicas of two throne chairs that were discovered inside King Tut's tomb. If there was any significant meaning placed to the chairs other than their aesthetic value, they should have been placed in the lower men's lounge because of their direct connection to King Tut and the treasures found in his tomb. Photos taken in the Fox just days before it was opened to the public clearly show the decorator's intention as the chairs were placed were they are still placed today. I believe the chairs were placed there because of their beauty and with the open doorway to the Mezzanine, they were readily visible where they were placed.

Once again, the chairs were selected out of a supply catalog and I believe with a bit of searching replicas are still available for sale today. The markings on the chairs are supposed to be exact reproductions of the original throne chairs albeit with modern seat cushions. I do not know what meaning the ornamentation was meant to represent. 

The Fox tour guides state the value of the Fox's throne chairs have been estimated and insured for approximately $32,000 a peice. I find that to be laughable.First off, these are reporductions of furniture from antiquity. Since modern reprductions are available, the only thing that would give value to these chairs are their age. Furthing my point, if the two chairs are worth in excess of $64,000 together, I cannot see any one in their right mind leaving these valuable chairs sitting out in public where they can easily be damaged or even stolen. Nor can I see any insurance agency insuring these chairs for that amount of money and allowing their display as they are shown in the Fox. 

The Mezzanine Men's Lounge is was designed to represent a single room Moorish family residence. The "built in" sofas that line the walls were a feature of those homes and would be used at night as beds for the family members. The fireplace was larger than what one would expect because it would be used for cooking as well as a source of heat. Like the other fireplace in the ladies lounge, it is purely decorative and cannot be used.

In the center of the Mezzanine Lobby is an open balcony. Looking across the balcony there is a very faded painted mural. It depicts a peacock sitting in the proverbial Paradise. Besides the cast lion heads spigots in the fountains and the Sphinx replicas on the ladies lounge's vanities, this is the only artistic depiction of an animal in the Fox Complex. Let me also mention the use of wall reliefs of ancient Egyptian men and women in the lounges and Ballroom. In the Islamic tradition, it is forbidden to depict people or animals for fear of creating idols to worship. These examples go against that and further prove the architects and designers were more interested in artistic means rather than any spiritual practice. 

Grand Banquet Hall / Egyptian Ballroom

The Grand Ballroom was the only room in the complex that was specifically created for Shrine Mosque "ritual functions". For that reason, of all the rooms in the complex, this is the one that would contain any form of ritualistic iconography. The room was supposedly fashioned in the spirit of the great holy areas inside the Temples of Karnack in Egypt. These were enclosed sanctums that only the priests were allowed to enter. The originals had no lower windows and were lighted through windows or slats at the top of the room that allowed sun light in. 

In the area around the skylight are hieroglyphs that are reported to represent the Egyptian belief in Astrology and the Constellation Gods they worshiped.

The lower walls, are decorated with what was believed to be reproductions of ancient Egyptian wall art representing Papyrus and Lotus flowers. Papyrus was from the lower wetland regions of Egypt as well as along the edges of the Nile River. It is from this plant that ancient Egyptians created sandals, mats, baskets, fencing, boats, and paper. The Lotus flower was associated with rebirth because it retracts into the water at the night, and re-emerges in the Sun the next day. The Egyptians therefore associated the Lotus flower with the sun which also disappeared in the night, only to re-emerge in the morning. Therefore the lotus came to symbolize the Sun, the Creation, as well as their devotion to the Sun God, Ra. As something that is associated with rebirth, it is no surprise that the Lotus flower is also associated with death, and the famous Egyptian book of the dead is known to include spells that are able to transform a person into a lotus, thus allowing their resurrection.

The Lotus flower was also a symbol for the unification of the two Egyptian Kingdoms, that is to say the bonding of upper and lower Egypt. For a long time the Lotus had been used in the hieroglyphics and art of upper Egypt, whereas in lower Egypt the Papyrus plant was used for the same purpose. Therefore pictures of Lotus and Papyrus that were inter-wound with each other was a symbol of the unification of the two kingdoms.

Behind and above the stage is a relief of what looks to be a Pharaoh holding a bow. This suggests that there was some sort of battle or conflict. Pharaoh is standing over a captured, wounded, or conquered warrior with his left arm just above the person's head with his hand holding a feather. Above the warrior is a bird in flight. The bird is a depiction of the Egyptian God Ma'at that represented Egyptian justice and fairness. The feather in Pharaoh's hand is from Ma'at and thus that is implying that Pharaoh, with guidance from Ma'at, is pronouncing judgment on the warrior. The feather is a symbol that Pharaoh will be wise, just, and prudent in dealing with his former foe. Many contend that the Pharaoh is a depiction of Ramses the Great, however there is nothing documented to support the claim.

Between Ma'at and the arm of the Pharaoh is a glyph. That has been translated as the date of 1929, the year the building was completed.

On the front of the balcony is the large winged symbol of the Egyptian Sun God, Ra, along with a pair of beetles bearing discs that represent the Sun or other celestial objects. Below the Balcony is a set of hieroglyphs. It is reportedly a welcoming blessing and greeting to those who enter the room. 

The door knobs for the Banquet Hall have been decorated with the renown Shriner logo emblem. I believe this is the only location these type of door knobs were used, once again emphasizing the significance of the room to Shrine ritual function and importance.

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