The Use Of Wands

By Bro. J R G Harvey HDGC Grand Chaplain On behalf of John E Bingham LOL 844 Sheffield


Having received the necessary permission from the members, the Master shall direct the Tyler to open the door and admit the Candidate and his Conductors, who shall accompany him into the lodge room, bearing wands decorated with the colour of the Degree, and the brethren shall rise and remain standing. – extract from the Orange degree ceremony of the Loyal Orange Association of British America 1926.

The “deacon poles” still carried on parade by lodge marshals in Ireland and Scotland would have originally been called wands. They would have been carried by a lodge’s principle officers and it is highly likely that they were also at one time used in the initiation and advancement of candidates for degrees. The very name “deacon pole” is itself is indicative of this. There has never legally been such an office as “deacon” in the Orange Institution (although it is known that some early Irish lodges did appoint “deacons” and were censured by Grand Lodge for such actions) but in Masonic lodges, deacons accompany candidates being admitted or raised to degrees and carry wands to indicate their office and the only plausible explanation of the use of deacon poles in the Orange Institution is that these were originally analogous with that the wands carried by deacons in Masonic lodges.

However whilst we have no internal evidence on what the wands carried by the earliest Orangemen looked like other than that they were painted, there is much external evidence on their likely appearance from the practices of other fraternal societies contemporary in age with the Orange Institution because when we look at those societies, we find that the practice of candidates for membership being accompanied by sponsors bearing wands was and remains common to them all..
All fraternal societies in the 18th and 19th centuries used them both in their rituals and in their public parades. The Oddfellows Magazine for October 1839, in an account of an Oddfellows procession in Liverpool earlier that year reported “The PGs (or Past Masters to use Orange terminology) and other officers who walked at the head of each lodge bore white and in a few instances scarlet wands”, i.e. they bore wands of the colour of the Oddfellows first degree (White) and the third degree (Scarlet which was originally introduced exclusively for the Masters of Oddfellows Lodges)).

Wands continue to be carried on parade by members of the “Loyal Laurel and Crown Lodge No 1056” of the Independent Order of Oddfellows (Manchester Unity) in the small Derbyshire village of Parwich. Interestingly however, no one in the lodge wears any regalia and the oldest photographs of the lodge on parade (which are over 100 years old) show this has always been the case. Ordinary members carry white wands whilst the Master of the Lodge carries a wand with a red and blue stripe at the top. What is the significance of this? White is the first degree of the Oddfellows; Scarlet (Red) is the third degree. The third degree is now available by all members who desire it but it was, as has previously been stated, originally available only to the Masters of lodges!

Thus in the traditions of the Parwich Oddfellows lodge, we are able to see a practice which was the norm in the very earliest Orange Lodges. That this lodge should have retained the 18th century practice of carrying wands in procession as an indication of degree and have never discarded these to take on the later practice of wearing regalia to indicate office and degree is a unique anachronism unknown in any other lodge of any other fraternal society. Even more remarkable is that this practice has continued totally by chance. The lodge has practiced no ritual for the past 90+ years with the consequence that no one in the lodge now knows why member’s wands are painted white or why the Master’s wand has a red and blue stripe, even though they are repainted every few years! It is an informative indication of how quickly knowledge of the meaning of the symbolism used by a fraternal society can be lost and illustrates very clearly why it is important that we record old Orange traditions of the LOIE whilst there remain lodges which still practice them.