The Warden’s Axe – our 100th post!

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By Ainslie Heilich, PG
Tuscola #316
ArtofVintageKarma.com

This marks our 100th post on Heart and Hand!  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read, share, or write something.  We are just trying our best to do something “for the good of the Order” and to get more people thinking and talking about Odd Fellowship.

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There is an old Odd Fellows tradition that has been lost, but we recently decided to bring it back in my lodge.  It is the tradition of the Warden’s Axe.

In many lodges it is customary to collect donations for the needy and distressed on the Warden’s axe, which has painted on the side presented for the donation the expressive Heart in Hand –Grosh’s Manual p.104

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Tuscola #316’s Warden’s Axe

I had brought it up as something we should bring back after we hosted the District #70 meeting and they end their meetings by passing around a basket like in church (but with less pressure!) to put money in. When they reach $100 they pick a charity to donate it to. We already had a perfect axe on hand (see above) for the job.

Our axe unfortunately doesn’t have a Heart in Hand painted on it, but it still serves its purpose.  At the close of the meeting a member (we have been taking turns, so it doesn’t fall solely on the Warden) walks around the room holding the axe flat and those that wish to offer up some pocket change or a couple bucks then place the money on the blade. It makes the most sense to start at the NG station and to work counter clockwise around the room and end at the Treasurer’s desk for counting.  It ends up looking like a solo egg and spoon race and everyone has a good laugh.

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Clearly some of those making these folk art wooden axes wanted to save the poor Warden from inevitable embarrassment so they included a carved out depression or added a small frame in the design to keep the contents put as they made their way around the room.  It is not mentioned if the Warden was expected to carry the ever increasing load of coin on the blade the entire trip around the room or if the Conductor follows behind carrying a container for each member’s donation to be dumped into from off the axe.

It is a fun way to wrap up meetings and it is neat to revive a small tradition that had fallen out of use after the 1800s.  Maybe some of you have one of these wooden axes in storage that you can make use of, or a crafty member can make one. You can also usually find one or two on eBay at any given time, but they tend to be in the $200+ price range.

Let me know if your Lodge still collects donations this way or if you start doing it again.

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5 thoughts on “The Warden’s Axe – our 100th post!

  1. We at Jacksonville number 10 Jacksonville Oregon still Have our Original Axe… I will try to get you a photo next time I’m upstairs.

    Kc Carr
    G.P. of Oregon

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  2. In the early ritual of the IOOF Manchester Unity in the UK it was the practice for the Warden to collect contributions for the distressed of our Order, calling out the name of each brother and the amount given (to encourage generosity or shame the miser?); this would be recorded by the Secretary, and the money would be placed in the Box on the Noble Grand’s table, thus ensuring security.

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  3. A lodge in my jurisdiction Ballard-Alki #170 still practices this. However, they have a velvet bag that hangs from the axe, frequently you get a handful of change though some brothers and sisters remember to seed their pocket with green. The warden collects every meeting. Another lodge has a coin drill (though it is now a dollar), and you get a raffle ticket. They draw for the pot at the end of the meeting. Whomever “wins” the pot is responsible to clean the coffee pot. Usually the money is then donated to either the Grand Master project or the Assembly President’s project.

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