Odd Fellows Hand Painted Third Degree Ritual Banner
An original hand painted silk Odd Fellows Lodge Banner dating from the early 1900s. Overall very good condition, paint intact, minor discoloration but no splitting in silk. Back has some discoloration.
The International Order of Odd Fellows is an initiation based fraternal order originally established in England in the mid 18th Century. In 1819, the first North American branch was chartered and over the following century this group saw explosive growth reaching its peak in 1921 with 16,298 lodges and nearly two million active members.
As an initiation based secret society, the group utilized a variety of esoteric symbolism and imagery in its rituals and pageants. Some of the imagery was quite macabre, with skulls, tombstones, coffins, and other frightening objects mixed with more conventional religious appurtenances. Despite the often sinister trappings, the mission of the Odd Fellows was benevolent as indicated by their motto “Friendship, Love, and Truth” and much of their resources were towards their stated mandate to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.”
There are four degrees of initiation into Odd Fellowship beginning with the Initiatory Degree, the First or Friendship Degree, the Second or Brotherly Love Degree, and cumulating in the final Third or Truth Degree. This banner is adorned with the assigned symbolism appropriate to the Initiatory Degree- the All-Seeing Eye, the Three Links, the Bible, the Scythe and the Skull and Crossbones. As part of the initiation ceremony the candidate is quizzed on the meaning of the symbolism and in return gives the following response:
"The All-Seeing Eye, enveloped in a blaze of light and glory, reminds us that the scrutinizing eye of Omnipotence is ever upon us ; that all our thoughts, words, and actions are open to his view. The light of morning and the darkness of night are alike to him ; and he trieth the reins and searcheth the hearts of the children of men. Yet at the same time it illustrates that sleepless goodness which looks down in mercy upon our frailties, and kindly ministers to our ever-returning wants.
The Three Links represent the grand motto of our Order : Friendship, Love, and Truth. They belong to that long chain of moral principles that bind us together as a fraternity. They are welded in the fires of purity by the sacred hands of Jehovah. Thus bound with the chain of sincere friendship, unfeigned love, and simple truth, we may live in the bonds of peace, and harmoniously pursue our labors for the amelioration of our race.
The Skull and Cross-Bones are to remind us of the consuming process of nature. To-day we are in the full realization of health and enjoyment of the pleasures of this world. In a little while, the ever-burning furnace of time will consume to ashes all that hath life and vigor in this terrestrial sphere. They forcibly remind us, that we are bound by solemn engagements to give to the mortal remains of a departed brother decent
sepulture ; and, while we lay his body in the tomb, to cherish a lively recollection of his virtues, and bury all his imperfections beneath the clod that rests upon his
The Scythe, the universal emblem of time, is to us the symbol of death. As the grass falls before the mower's scythe, so man, like the flower and grass of the field, must wither beneath the touch of time, and fall before the scythe of the King of Terrors."