Frequent Questions

Frequently Asked Question of the Patriarchs Militant

What are the Patriarchs Militant, anyway?

The Patriarchs Militant are the uniformed branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), one of the oldest and largest fraternal orders in the world today. The Patriarchs Militant were established by the Sovereign Grand Lodge - the international governing body of Odd Fellowship - back in 1885. For more information on Odd Fellowship, visit The Sovereign Grand Lodge website.

Why does a fraternal order like the Odd Fellows have a "uniformed branch"?

Back when the Patriarchs Militant were founded, lodge organizations were among the largest social groups in American society - 40% of all adult Americans belonged to at least one lodge in 1900 - and most lodge groups took part in local parades on a regular basis. Many lodge organizations put together uniformed branches during those years, in order to make a more colorful show on parade. Nowadays, PM units appear in some local parades, but their main function in Odd Fellowship is in the Order's ceremonies, where they provide color guards and honor guards for local, national and international events. Some jurisdictions have also established an innovative "First Aid Team" program, in which PM and LAPM members offer first aid services at Order events and provide a nucleus for local disaster preparedness in their communities. 

Just how military are the Patriarchs Militant?

That depends on what you mean. Chevaliers of the Patriarchs Militant wear semi-military uniforms and hold military ranks, and close-order drill is an important part of the ritual and traditions of this branch of Odd Fellowship. Members of the Patriarchs Militant also strive to practice the classic military virtues of courage, honor, self-discipline, and comradeship at all times - not only when in uniform. On the other hand, the Patriarchs Militant doesn't carry around military weaponry! Chevaliers do wear swords most of the time when in uniform, and training in sword drill plays an important role in meetings in active Cantons. 

Is the Patriarchs Militant only open to men?

A lot of people think that lodge organizations like the Odd Fellows are only for men. In the case of Odd Fellowship, this hasn't been true since 1852, when the Rebekah Degree - the first lodge organization for women in North America - was established. It became a good deal less true at the beginning of 2001, when by vote of the Sovereign Grand Lodge, membership in an Odd Fellows Lodge was opened to women as well as men. There are now female members of the Patriarchs Militant, abd there will probably be many more in the years to come. As a legacy from the years when men and women in Odd Fellowship belonged to different units, we also have a separate uniformed branch, the Ladies Auxiliary Patriarchs Militant (LAPM), which is open to members of Rebekah lodges in good standing. The LAPM has its own worthwhile traditions, ceremonies and activities. 

How are the Patriarchs Militant organized?

The basic element is the local unit - called a Canton - which elects its own officers and governs its own affairs under the provisions of the order's laws and the supervision of state or provincial officers. The Department is the next level up, and supervises the Cantons or Auxiliaries within a given state, province, or region. Each Department Council, formed of representatives from the Cantons it governs, elects representatives to the international governing body of the Patriarchs Militant - the General Military Council - which has supervision of the entire organization, and reports in turn to the Sovereign Grand Lodge, the supreme international governing body of the order as a whole.

What goes on at Patriarchs Militant and LAPM meetings?

Most of what happens at meetings of the uniformed branches of the order would be familiar to anyone who has ever attended a lodge meeting of any kind - or, for that matter, a meeting of nearly any community group. There is a formal opening, which includes a prayer; the roll of officers is called, and the minutes of the last meeting are read; the Canton or Auxiliary takes care of any business that comes before it, which may include anything from paying the rent to planning a community service activity; the meeting finishes up with a formal closing, after which most Cantons and Auxiliaries have coffee and snacks. The opening and closing ceremonies, though, involve a good deal of marching and close-order drill, and in active units the presiding officer usually schedules time in each meeting for drill instruction and practice. 

Where does the name "Patriarchs Militant" come from and what does it mean?

Up until the 1960s, when it was given some rather different meanings, the word "patriarch" usually referred to certain figures in the Old Testament - particularly Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the ancestors of the Jewish people. The Biblical patriarchs play an important role in the symbolism and traditions of the Encampment branch of Odd Fellowship. It was in the Encampments that the move to establish a uniformed branch of Odd Fellowship first got under way, and so it made sense to draw on the same symbolism for the uniformed branch when it was established. 

The word "militant," similarly, had less uncomfortable meanings back in the late 1800s; it simply meant "similar to or connected with the military." Since the uniformed branch of Odd Fellowship drew on the symbolism of the Biblical patriarchs and used uniforms and ranks along military lines, the name "Patriarchs Militant" seemed logical enough. 

The patriarchs of the Bible were on the whole peaceful chiefs of their people, but on a few occasions - when they or their kin were attacked by others - they led their people to war. This concept of a peaceful ruler who is still capable of taking up the sword in defense of others' rights was deeply meaningful to the generation that witnessed the Civil War, and it remains equally meaningful today. 

Besides, unusual names are something of a tradition in our order. We've been called Odd Fellows for more than three hundred years, and it hasn't hurt us any... 

What are the mottoes of the Patriarchs Militant? 

We have two mottoes, both of them in Latin. The first one, Justitia Universalis, means "Universal Justice"; this is the central ideal of the Patriarchs Militant. The second, Pax Aut Bellum, means "Peace or War" and represents the commitment of the Patriarchs Militant to seek "Universal Justice" by peaceful means as well as the more forceful ones commemorated in our symbolism. 

Who is eligible to join the Patriarchs Militant or LAPM?

The Patriarchs Militant Degree is the highest of the degrees of Odd Fellowship, and is one of four Odd Fellow degrees. Any Odd Fellow who is a 3rd degree member or Rebekah Sister in good standing is qualified to be mustered into the Patriarchs Militant. 

Membership in the LAPM requires a one to be a Rebekah Sister in good standing.

What if I don't belong to the Odd Fellows or Rebekahs?

Then we'd love to give you an application! Membership in the family of Odd Fellowship is open to anyone over the age of 10 who believes in a Supreme Being - the Creator and Preserver of the universe - and who is loyal to his or her country. Those from 8 to 18 are eligible to join Junior Lodges (for boys) and Theta Rho Clubs (for girls); or United Youth Group, (boys and girls) and Cadet Corps (boys and girls), who serve as Youth members of the Patriarch Militant; those 16 and up are welcome to apply for membership to Odd Fellow and Rebekah lodges. Click here for more information on how to join.

                             © Dan Mathews 2018