A True Story
as told to Bliss Kelly
[Forward: As State News Editor on The Daily Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in 1922, and as beginning activity in Masonic work, the following story was told to me by the good doctor involved, shortly after the incident occurred and who exhibited to me the fresh scar of the cut made as part of the ritual. He was an active Mason and related the story to me “on the square” as true. Dr. J. B. Thoburn, Secretary of the Oklahoma Historical Society, vouched for the veracity of the doctor.]
Rolling across the vast expanse of Western Oklahoma prairie, the syncopated beat of a drum played by many sticks seemed to be carried on the heat waves of August, 1922. As far as the eye could see there was no sign of life except an enclosure made by hanging blankets between tall poles set in the ground. Inside this the ancient ceremonies of initiation were being held for the last class of the ancient order of “Blood Brothers,” a secret fraternity of American Indians.
At sundown on the previous evening, Indians, old and young, from many different tribes had come from many states and from as far away as Mexico and Central America. Each had walked alone the last few miles, according to custom, carrying a blanket and a tall pole with which to build the outer framework of the stockade-type enclosure where the most secret of ceremonies were to be conferred upon a class of candidates. As each arrived, he sat on the ground without speaking a word, and was served a portion of liquid from a large pot filled with herbs, and boiling hot.
This was a cathartic to cleanse the body of all impurities and evil, symbolical of the cleansing of each man’s mind of hate, dishonesty and deceitfulness. Before each had started his journey to the meeting place, he had complied with another part of the ritual by walking at sundown the previous evening to the top of a lonely hill out on the prairie, where he had spent the night alone and in contemplation of the Great Spirit and the magnificent works of his creation, and had prayed as the sun rose in the east to bring light and knowledge to all those who desired it.
After the morning had been spent in quiet and friendly conversation and the sun was at its height and there was some murmuring among the throng of about a hundred men. Some complained that there was a white man among the candidates for initiation and these demanded that he be removed before any ceremonies could begin. “White men did not approve of the Blood Brothers and had passed laws against them,” it was said. Besides, this man was old and would never be able to pass the tests by which every candidate must prove himself fit, valiant and worthy.
Meeting of all except the candidates was held. The master of the lodge explained to the members that the white man was Dr. John W. Duke, Commissioner of Public Health for the State of Oklahoma, and that for many years he had been tireless in his efforts to improve the health of the Indians. He had saved the sight of many children as well as adults and had been instrumental in having hospitals built and maintained for Indians. He was the greatest benefactor of Indians of all tribes in his time. He had proved himself able and worthy.
The master’s talk was eloquent at first and ended on a passionate note with the statement that “besides, he is a devoted Mason.” No one said anything, but when the ballot was taken, there were no broken twigs, so the election was unanimous.
Then the young men to be initiated were brought into the enclosure, which was about fifty feet across, each carrying a stone weighing about ten pounds, tied to the end of a long leather strap. The doctor was excused from this part of the initiation as it was explained that he had already demonstrated his physical and mental stamina by his years of work. The others would be required to prove that they could endure torture and long periods of strain without breaking, before being recognized as Blood Brothers.
Each candidate then passed before the master of the lodge who was flanked by lesser officers on each side, after a lecture on integrity, fortitude and brotherhood, of considerable length. The master made a cut on each side of the large muscle of the left breast of each and passed the thong underneath the muscle, knotting it in the front. When all were tied, the candidates were lined up around the inside of the enclosure and the beaters gathered around the drum on the west side. As the beat began to throb the initiates started to run around the enclosure dragging the stones after them. It was shortly after noon and the heat was terrific. None were allowed to stop or to drink, although there was some loss of blood. No words of encouragement were spoken and no assistance given. The old members stood and watched each candidate, judging his ability.
At first, the stones seemed easy to drag, but as the afternoon wore on, and the steady beat of the drum did not lessen, some stumbled and others fell. No hand was stretched out to assist and each arose as quickly as possible and went on. Then as it seemed the runners would all drop from exhaustion, the sun dropped down in the west and the drum was suddenly silent.
Then it was that the old members went out, each to his candidate, and untied the thong from the torn flesh, yet applied no bandages or wiped away any blood. All were then seated about the enclosure, with the master and his officers in their stations in the east, west and south.
In the center there was a pile of rocks with a blanket covering it. After considerable incantations and ritualistic admonitions, to the candidates, the blanket was removed, exposing a white cube stone approximately one foot in dimensions, showing signs of much wear and great age, polished and chipped a little although harder than marble. Into the top of the stone a square and compasses had been cut, showing that it had been carved many years before and was very ancient. On one face was a star, on another a crescent had been carved, with a sun and then a moon on other sides. The under side of the stone was not shown.
Each candidate in turn, stood up and going to the altar, placed his hand upon the stone. Then the master had him repeat after him a solemn pledge to be honest, upright, stalwart, honest, brave and always to assist a brother of the order, never to quarrel with him or strike him, even in battle. This included the white doctor-candidate.
All the old members, and the doctor, then passed by the master who cut a little slash in the right breast of each. Each then embraced each candidate in turn so that their blood was commingled with that of each other, making them all Blood Brothers.
The class was then instructed in the signs of recognition, several of which were approximately the same as Masonic signs and grips. The sign of distress was the same, but the words were not understood.
Each took his blanket and walked back the way he had came, into the dusk.
Where did the stone come from, and why were Masonic emblems upon it?
With the stone, was a wampum belt many feet long, with several hundred pieces on it, each telling of an event in the history of the stone. These were merely reminders of each event and the historian in whose custody the stone was left was supposed to have the history memorized. However, old members said the stone was brought from Central America for this occasion, and those entrusted with it had taken it back there. They admitted that many of the older pieces on the wampum belt were so old they had forgotten their stories. The legend of the stone is that it came to South America from a foreign country many hundred of years ago, perhaps two or three thousand years, and was kept in the area of Central America civilization with its great cities, which were discovered by Charles Lindburg some years ago. It is true that the fraternity of Blood Brothers existed among the Indian tribes for some centuries and may still be practiced, secretly for all we know.
Recently an article has appeared in a reputable publication stating that 400 years before the discovery of America by Columbus, a number of ships left Wales for a voyage, but one of them was lost and never heard from again. When explorers reached the interior of America, they found two tribes of Indians who spoke the Welsh language. Could this be an explanation ? Does anyone have a better theory? Can anyone add to this story?
In that connection, what about the “rune stones” in southeastern Oklahoma, with their carvings? When were they made, and by whom? Is there any Masonic indications in them?
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on pp. 61-64 of Volume I of the Oklahoma Lodge of Research.