The IOOF shares many symbols with the Masons, so many that the IOOF has been called a “poor man’s Freemasonry.” (In the past, the Masons tended to be populated with more of the upper classes, while the Odd Fellows were more welcoming of all social strata in their acceptance of new members.)

The main symbol of the IOOF is the three chain links, sometimes with the letters F, L and T inside them, which stand for Friendship, Love, and Truth. When the three chain links are joined with an axe, the symbol means that truth must persevere and the parts of us that “do not bear good fruit” must be cut down, as an axe fells sickly trees.

The IOOF shares the all-seeing eye symbol with the Masons, as both fraternities require members to believe in a higher being, a deity of some sort, though the specific religion of each member is not dictated by the fraternity. (Although many of the IOOF symbolism traces the meanings back to Judeo-Christian teachings.) The all-seeing eye reminds Odd Fellows that God watches them always. When the all-seeing eye is in the center of the sun, it symbolizes that the blessings of God descend on all of mankind. When the all-seeing eye is in the center of a cloud, it means God (and we should) see the suffering in the world and be moved to sympathy for human woe.

The bundle of rods symbolizes that in unity, there is strength. Try breaking a bundle of sticks instead of just one at a time.

Heart in Hand Symbol

heart in hand samples

Another symbol that usually signifies the IOOF is a hand, palm facing out, with a heart in the center, signifying “cheerful giving” and benevolence to those in need. Thousands of artifacts sculptures, pins, buttons, adornments, and eccentrics have been created over the centuries with this symbol. The symbol is also frequently associated with Shaker and Amish communities. Two shaking hands (grasping each other in a handshake) is also a symbol of the IOOF as a sign of Friendship, one of our tenets.

A higher order of the IOOF called the Encampment uses the symbols of crossed shepherd’s hooks and/or ancient Middle Eastern-looking tents. The Encampment branch of the IOOF strives to impart the principles of Faith, Hope and Charity. The crossed shepherd’s hooks symbolize that the higher order of the IOOF are like the Israelites  – shepherds, watching their flocks and keeping them safe. And the tents are the tents of the wandering Israelites, to remind us we “do not permanently abide here, as we are on a pilgrimage to the grave.”

For Rebekah, the dove symbolizes peace and the lily symbolizes purity.

Heart in Hand

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For our 2018 Sesquicentennial Celebration, we have chosen the heart in an open palm as our symbol of charity, given from the heart.

Read more about symbols

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