On the Edge of Revival

I have only been a member of the Odd Fellows for a small handful of years. But I have noticed a sharp uptick in Pop Cultural interest in these last several years in Odd Fellows and Secret Societies in general. Especially, among younger people. We need to seize this moment to reach out and remind the world that we are still here, active, and relevant, and that Odd Fellows is worth being a part of.

While our numbers may not be as many as our Fraternal cousins the Freemasons, you would think we were long dead and gone purely by the number of businesses that occupy former IOOF buildings and have appropriated “Odd Fellows” into their names.  Below is a list of eating establishments in the United States bearing some form of the name “Odd Fellows” found on the first handful of pages on a Google search for “Odd Fellows Restaurant”.   I am sure there are many more in the US and around the rest of the world

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Oddfellows restaurant in Dallas, Texas.

Oddfellows Dallas, TX
Oddfellow Cafe + Bar Seattle, WA
The Odd Fellows Cafe Smyrna, DE
Five Odd Fellows Nashville, TN
Odd Fellows Ice Cream Co. New York, NY
Odd Fellas Burger Lock Haven,  PA
Odd Fellas Pub Auburn, WA
Oddfellows Liquor Bar Columbus, OH

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Ink Master judge, Oliver Peck is a member of Waxa 80 in Waxahachie, TX. … co owns Three Links Deep Ellum  (a bar/music venue) and owns Heart in Hand Gallery (Art gallery and private tattoo studio), both in Dallas, TX.

Bruce Lee Webb is arguably the father of the modern fraternal revival.  He started selling old fraternal objects in the late 80’s in the Webb Gallery located in Waxahachie, TX.  He also has been a member of Waxa 80 (and other fraternal lodges) since around that time as well.  He is a prolific collector and dealer of Americana items and is very well known in the Oddity/Americana/Folk Art communities.

Last year he and Lynne Adele released the art book “As Above So Below” that documents fraternal art and related folk art of all of the major American fraternal organizations during their late 1800s- early 1900’s heyday.

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In 2014, the New York Times wrote an article about Waxa 80 and cite Bruce Lee Webb and Oliver Peck as influencers of the resurgence of their Lodge.

In 2016, the American Folk Art Museum held an exhibition of fraternal art and objects that was widely publicized and covered in articles and reviews. The museum also put out an extensive photo book of all the items in the exhibition.

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American Pickers even did an episode some years back featuring some Odd Fellows items.

These are only but a few of the cases of pop culture latching onto the Odd Fellows in recent years.   But it is also worth mentioning the increase in interest in anything related to secret societies, oddities, occult, symbolism, and the like.   Stores like the one featured on the TV Show Oddities are popping up all over the US and online that deal in the mysterious objects from a bygone era.  Clothing companies like Darkside are popping up that focus on the imagery as the source of their designs.  Tattoos that depict fraternal symbolism like the All Seeing Eye are also increasingly popular.

 

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Occult themed shirt by Darkside Clothing

There are individual Lodges all over that have seized this moment and are enjoying their own revival with the 75 and under crowd. Online, I have noticed many tattoo artists joining the Order, and motorcycle enthusiasts, and the Philippines is having a huge renaissance of Odd Fellowship.  Meanwhile, other Lodges have kept their doors so tightly shut to outsiders that they are still dying out and closing.  This is totally preventable if there is even one member in these Lodges with a little fire left in them.

 

My theory is that the Gen X and Millennial generations are looking for something outside of formal religion that is fun, mysterious, and meaningful to help make sense of the chaotic world we live in today.   People like me got intrigued by the history and the mystery of all of the symbols and rituals and it drew me to the order. I needed to feel like I was a part of something larger than myself. Something that was serious but didn’t take itself too seriously. Something that helps the community. Something that gives me a purpose and reminds me to do the right thing.  Odd Fellows is all of those things and more.

We all just need to do a better job spreading the word, as an Order.  Will you help?

-Ainslie
Tuscola #316 

 

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