I am an Odd Fellow in The Tribe of Individualism and America is my Great Spirit.
Most Americans and probably most people in the Western world, have no real concept of how secret societies have truly underwritten the architecture of modern day civilization for good and or for evil. Which is not what I’m really here to fulfill as an understanding today. Nope, that’s next week! This writing is but a mere peek into a facet of one branch and my own reflection within the workings of that group.
In my own humble opinion, The Odd Fellows, were one of the more charitable in the history of such societies, and were part of what could be likened to an offshoot program of Masonic traditions but were “friendlied” up to make them more appealing to a nation full of working class people. The Odd Fellows became part of what were called The Friendly Societies and they, along with others like The Elks, Knights of Pythias, Order of Rebecca, Order of The Eastern Star, Alee Temple and dozens, became charitable arms of the nation embracing many causes. They assisted in the building of orphanages, asylums, hospitals, schools, and so many wonderful things that in my opinion, were at the height of advancement until Robber Barons captured the American dollar and in so many ways, gave control of welfare over to the government. I will also write about this in coming days to highlight how this radical and yet, subtle changing of the guard was an abysmal failure and today we have the crime, the ghettos along with the hate movements of the “have nots” to prove it.
By 1910, The Odd Fellows were the largest of fraternal orders in America, with 5 million members and raising 100 million annually in charitable revenues. The Odd Fellows were comprised of workers, actors, comedians and quite the “odd mix,” hence their name and are credited with being America’s first insurance salesman and notably, were the first whites to institutionally harbor slaves and teach them to read and write. In fact, there were black Odd Fellows who were still slaves and all of that collaboration was dangerous to say the least but shows the heart of such organizations. Furthermore, we typically hear the conventional narrative of Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad, but what is strangely lacking is how the The Odd Fellows were greatly instrumental to the movement and helped organize the “tracks” for which slaves could travel. In such reading? The “safe houses” that are often discussed and the symbols built into chimneys that designated them as havens for hiding were homes of Odd Fellow members. Quakers too, but lots of Odd Fellows. In fact, some of the marks on the houses were the symbols of The Odd Fellows. Every now and again, you’ll go through a Southern town and can still find those symbols in the brick design of chimneys and exterior woodwork.
Respective of myself as a storyteller in cemeteries, one aspect that is of great interest to me is that The Odd Fellows were a part and parcel to new thinking about cemetery layout in The Victorian Era, working hand in hand with city fathers as far as where they would make sense to create and how they should function in times of pandemics and the processing of the dead. Many “Stranger Sections” were courtesy of The Odd Fellows for burying indigents and “persons unknown.” It was not uncommon to find an Odd Fellows Lodge in very close proximity to a Victorian cemetery in the period. And for those who are in the know about such things, a good many of the symbols found on Victorian headstones, stem from The Odd Fellows’ canon. Their motto was, “Visit The Sick & Dying. Educate The Orphan: Bury The Stranger.” My kind of people you could say.
In part what moved me to write a few things about them today was that I unboxed my 19th century “Red Race” ritual costume and hung it up on my living room wall. Complete with quiver and arrows, a traveling bag, medicine pouch with flint rock and starter stick and then a rather creepy mesh mask that is smiling adorned with real hair, probably horse. I’ve had it for couple of years and decided while house cleaning it was time to show it off.
Seeing this costume also recalled that in a time when people didn’t have much education, a part of the role of lodges, was to give their members an opportunity to role play in order to better understand other cultures, and to learn something of the history of the world, and how certain pivotal human events became part of America. And as The Odd Fellows were certainly very Christian in their operations, and probably more diversely than the actual churches near them, role playing was also a way of teaching scriptures and their deeper hidden meanings not revealed to them in churches. By putting members in the roles of Biblical figures and letting them embody a sense of what those people did as individualists, along with some of their ritualism, they could feel more participants in the mystical world than just “average Joe” as they were outside of the lodges. Most key is that The Odd Fellows believed in teaching respect for other races and cultures, or at least in the parts of them, like any, that were worthy of respect.
All of these reflections today spurred me to write this blog because whether or not most people see it, we are living in a time where very skilled politicians and dubious social engineers who with their millions and billions, are intent on hurting relations between people and using “racism” and “bigotry” as their buzz words to divide The Tribe of America. And yes, we see the spirit of that hatred taking root in so called “educated” people who for some insane reason, probably self-hatred, are happy to brandish those concepts of ill will as their own monikers and run out to do the dirty work of such nefarious souls seeking such ends.
I don’t expect everyone to totally process everything I’m saying here. These are complicated subjects and I won’t claim to be their greatest author either! I just know that part of the goal of America, by its own history of say, The Odd Fellows, has been about We The People as a “tribe,” working together to solve our society problems. And without a largely infringing government and us running to them for the answer to every little willy nilly or major difference we have had with others. Constantly pandering to them and their media really, is to empower them with guns and force. This will only be to the destruction of us all and all “human” customs. Its actually our differences that makes us so unique in America but we have to make ourselves more self governing in our lives and deal with our brother’s like fellow members of the tribe. My message really here is that The People must be their own government more than ever if we are to really survive as a nation, and quite possibly a planet. In many ways, we must disenfranchise the government by being greater people.
So yes, I’m an odd fellow in my views, even if I believe I’m just being traditional. It is my love and understanding of history that makes me think I’m onto something not so odd here and is definitively American. Funny what unboxing a collectible evokes in one’s self. Putting it up on a wall to admire for a bit. But this is why I collect such things. They are like my flint and striking stick in the battle to survive and keep alive what is so integral in the war now and the battles to come. Especially in a time when most arguments lack historical perspectives and facts which is why everything is so lopsided between people. Many days it feels the rifts are less than a “The Haves vs The Have Nots” and is really more of a war between The Educated vs The Uneducated. I am also wise to know that we have been dumbed down to be this way by these leaders and their shadow government movements. They only want highly emotional people embattling so they can push, prod and enslave. All while claiming to be doing the collective good of course. For those reasons, this Indian costume is woeful in some ways but it also strengthens my spirit. Because of it, I cannot forget that people before me suffered much and fought hard battles for freedom so that I might inherit their spirit and live and understand them and pass it all along to others. Or as Oglethorpe duly printed on The Seal of Georgia, “Non Sibi Sed Allis” He too was fascinated by the Indians but that is another story for another writing…