A Bow and an Arrow


Geb. J. 28, Dec. 1829

Gest. J. 25. Marz 1873

Aged 43 Jahre 3 mo. & 27 Tag.

The small rounded-top tablet of Jakob Zondler, a German American buried in the Congressional Green Cemetery in North Bend, Ohio, displays a bow and arrow in the tympanum or top of the gravestone.  The bow appears to be loaded but while the bowstring is drawn back it is not actually in the arrow’s nock (notch). This is made clear by the fact that the fletching (fins) are outside the bowstring.  Inside the bow are the most common and widely recognized symbols for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows fraternal society, that is, the three-chain links and the letters F, L, T, which signify the organizations motto: Friendship, Love, and Truth.

According to Stacy C. Hollander, curator of the American Folk Art Museum in New York, “These bow and arrow props were used by American Odd Fellows lodges to teach the lessons of friendship in the First Degree of the group’s rituals. The biblical story of the friendship between David and Jonathan, related in the Book of Samuel, was adapted and recounted, explaining that the bow and arrows were used by Jonathan to warn David of danger in returning to King Saul’s court. After 1882, when the group revised its degree structure, the Odd Fellows used the bow and arrows and quiver as symbols in the Second, or Love, Degree. The bow is understood as an emblem of authority, and the arrows symbolize uprightness and truthfulness.”

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