For centuries, Freemasons have used signs and signals for various important purposes. Masonic handshakes, also called grips or tokens, are used among Freemasons as a means of greeting, testing, and identifying each other. By this sign, a fellow Mason can understand whether or not you are a legitimate member, which degree(s) of Freemasonry have been conferred upon you, and sometimes even identify from which country you hail. These signs are always discrete, the correct usages of which being closely guarded and considered part of the secrets of the fraternity.
Distress signs are also used within the fraternity of Freemasonry. Al Masons are in possession of the proper methods with which they may signal to a brother that they are in serious distress. These signs cary much gravitas within the fraternity and are only given in truly dire situations, as the Brother receiving it will react within their fullest faculty. These types of signs are rarely given but always watched for by members of the fraternity. The Masonic signal of distress varies by geographic location, and by which order of Freemasonry they belong. All Freemasons, however, are taught to recognize the various forms of this sign.
Another way that Freemasons use signs, is within their ritual ceremonies. They are used within the ceremony to identify the degree of the one giving it as well as which degree the lodge is currently operating in. These signs are also considered part of the secrets of Freemasonry and are never displayed in a public setting, only being used during a guarded and sanctioned assembly of verified Freemasons. The usage of this sign along with the former, are considered solemn and hold a deep significance to the one invested with it.