Odd Fellows Symbolism

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a fraternal organization that formed in England in the 1700s as a service organization. The American association was founded in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819. According to the I.O.O.F. Website, “Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1. This lodge received its charter from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England.”

Members of the Odd Fellows, like many other society members, choose to be buried in common burial grounds.  Others, when they are not buried in a common ground, often mark their members’ graves with metal markers denoting membership.  Some of the metal markers are quite, with only the three chain links.   The three links of the chain are the main symbol of the society. Often shown inside the three links are three letters, F L T, which signify the organizations motto: Friendship, Love, and Truth.  However, this metal marker from the Mount Wollaston Cemetery in Quincy, Massachusetts, is quite elaborate.

This metal marker is an elaborate cartouche divided into four quarters with Odd Fellows symbols:

  • The Keys symbolize the financial security of the Order. This symbol is often used on the Treasurer’s badge.
  • The Hourglass represents the shortness of life and the certainty of death. Because time is short, the hourglass also emphasizes the need to assist others quickly and efficiently.
  • The Hand-in-Heart symbol has significance with several organizations and religions, especially the Shakers, but when coupled with the three linked rings, it is associated with the Odd Fellows. The Heart-in-Hand symbol represents charity given with an open heart.
  • The Globe denotes the universal spirit of benevolence in Odd Fellows Order.

The sash that crosses the cartouche carries the letters: I.O.O.F., the initials for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  Underneath the acronym are the three linked rings, the most recognizable Odd Fellows motif, symbolizes how much better communities, states, and the country works when working together.

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4 Responses to Odd Fellows Symbolism

  1. Lynn says:

    Hi Doug! I do work in cemeteries for municipalities, etc. I also have a blog – The Graveyard Shift ! So exciting to find someone who has the same passion. I am also on FB. Lynn.

  2. Brenda Hamilton says:

    I have found a completely different and elaborate Odd Fellows marker at a grave site in Upstate NY. There is a heart in hand, a large eye with radiant beams, a skull, a coffin, a quiver of arrows and a bow, the three link chain. a coffin with hour glass on top, and a sort of pastoral scene. I wish I could post the photo here, it is the banner this month for my FB group Graveyard Angels, Saints, Skulls & Epitaphs

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