Telling the Story of Odd Fellowship
By Seth Anthony
Triune Lodge #307 Middletown, PA
This year, on Halloween, I had the pleasure of going to a live performance of the Lore Podcast given by its creator, Aaron Mahnke, at the historic Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia. If you’ve not checked out Lore, I strongly encourage you do. During each episode, Mahnke tells a series of strange, historically accurate stories relating to a common theme. His show has over 97 million downloads and was recently made into an Amazon Prime television series.
The show opened with Mahnke talking about the importance of story telling and “liminal spaces” – the places in between. He gave some great examples, such as sunrises and sunsets, the place where the beach meets the ocean, and doorways of old houses. Storytelling, he says, helped to connect our forefathers to the places in between and to explain the unexplainable. The stories also provided a means for educations and the passing down of traditions without being ham-fisted. After sharing many great stories, he ended his show by reminding us that we are all storytellers in our own ways. Some do it traditionally through writing, while others use art, computer code, etc. This thought really stuck with me and I wrestled with it in my head as I made the long, cold trek back to my car on that crisp fall night.
Then, I made the connection. Yes! I am storyteller. My chosen stories just happen to be in the form of ritual. Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not a ritualist. I’m not one to memorize the work in a word-perfect fashion, nor do I dig at the symbolism to peel back layers of allegory. No, my way of doing ritual is through telling a story. When I’m presenting a part, only two people matter – the candidate and myself. In that moment, we both occupy a liminal space. We are may be a Lodge room, but we’re also transported in thought.
During my Masonic career, my favorite degree to confer was the first degree in Freemasonry. It’s a man’s first experience with the fraternity. Candidates are often anxious and feel out of place. But, through my recitation of the ritual, I can put them at ease and make them feel welcomed into the Brotherhood. Odd Fellowship is no different. Our ritual tells a story in a similar way. How we present it makes an impact on the candidate for the rest of their life (if done well.)
This realization was quickly followed by another; in Odd Fellowship, we have stopped telling THE story and started telling OUR story. Rather than using our ritual as a way to unite our membership through common experience, many have discarded it as archaic and painful to memorize.
It has become a hurried necessity rather than being central to our rites.
Instead of using the ritual to tell THE story of the fraternity, we have decided to go out and evangelize about our good works. We share our triumphs in charitable work and community service.
In place of learning the ritualistic work, we tell the story of our Lodge and our history – what we used to be.
We are now telling OUR story, rather than THE story. It seems to me, at least, that we are feeling the impact of that across the organization.
My Brothers and Sisters, in Odd Fellowship, we are storytellers. The book has already been written for us. We are now able to interpret it and share it for a new generation. The Skald of yore sat around a campfire, weaving his great tales to younger generations. Today, we are the bard, sitting around a Lodge room, telling our new members of the heroes of old.
So, I ask you, are you telling THE story of Odd Fellowship, or are you just telling OUR story to those who aren’t listening?