Thursday, March 3, 2016

Secret Societies

 So I checked out the Masonic and Odd Fellow folk art exhibit ("Mystery and Benevolence") at the museum of folk art last Saturday. My husband, a Mason, is very into secret societies, and was eager to go with. Sadly, the Odd Fellows had cooler occult imagery. The robe above was worn during one of the rituals in the late 1800s. It is pretty awesome. Full description, if you are interested:

Masons also perform plays (though of course I've never seen one.) My husband has practiced for them though. They give him a little booklet in "code" to read from, but you can kind of sort of fgre t ut. Thy jst rmove a fw ltrs.

 Here is a masonic quilt, which is done in a traditional cheerful'd almost think this was for a kid's bedroom and not a secret society.

So the Masons have square and compasses, but the Odd Fellows have these cool hands for ritual staffs.

impressive embroidery

this was a rug

odd fellows. They seem to have cooler stuff

odd fellows

this was a paper cutout. very cool. Oddfellows

a not so secret handshake?

odd fellow

So it seems the odd fellows also have aprons

Masonic apron
It was a cool exhibit. I'm usually not a fan of folk art (cause it usually looks like something someone would do for their high school art class), but I feel like it's best expressed in these sorts of situations: untrained artists who create something decorative because they were compelled to. These were guys in a social club, not Artists with a capital A.

The Masonic stuff was kind of lacking, though I feel like this is because many Masonic halls have their own museum. The one in Philadelphia was particularly impressive--that one had George Washington's apron and and many other cool things. But the Odd Fellows stuff was cool. I like the hand and chains and eyes more than the square and compasses.



  1. Ahhhh, this is amazing!!!!!!! Thank you for sharing this visit to this amazing exhibit. Derek and I got married in an old (defunct) Masonic Hall, as I am very much into all things Masonic and secret societies (I used to belong to the O.T.O)

    1. That's so cool! Must have been an awesome wedding! You should tour the temple in NYC...its free! ( if you haven't already, lol, which I'm sure you have)

  2. Those are some cool pieces! I'd love to have that collection! Secret societies are probably more exciting from the outside, but it's fun to inagine!

    1. Lol I think your intuition is correct. I think that's why there's so many offshoots. The guys are like "I'm going to start a better secreter society" and then it's back to balancing the budget and organizing the bake sale

  3. Thats a really cool exhibit! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Such a wealth of symbolism! I always love reading your museum posts.

  5. Such a cool exhibition! And those hands are awesome! :D

    P.S. I can totally relate your point that folk art looks like something one made at high school art class. :'D And hence I too am not a big fan of it.

  6. sorry im late for the post. what museum was this???? i have never seen that many items! i used to work the philosophical research society headed by Manly P. Hall, Manly became an honorary 33rd degree mason simply because he wrote so much about them. thanks for posting all the pics. Id like to get a catalog book if possible. never mind found it. thanks a bunch for posting!