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Men of Letters are "preceptors, observers, beholders, chroniclers", of mysteries not easily explainable or known to men. They had knowledge of mysteries of the supernatural and many arcane arts like alchemy. They considered hunters to be a lower class to them. Thus, their order only shares its secrets to the most elite hunters they deem to be worthy.
The order was identified with the crest of the Aquarian Star, a six-pointed sign that represents great magic and power and was linked to the gates of Atlantis. The order was led by elders, who held their most protected secrets. Members of the order were ordained through the paternal line of their family. Despite the name of the order, members are not gender specific, as one of their initiates was female, although the majority of them were men.
Men of Letters had been active beginning an unspecified point in time. It was known that by 1958, they possessed a significant number of members, as well as weapons and locations that were powerful. At some point between the late 17th century and their destruction, they used their political power to destroy the Grand Coven's power by whipping the church into a frenzy, causing many of the Grand Coven's best members to be burned at the stake or forced into hiding. The Men of Letters took the Coven's best spells and potions and hid them in their bunkers across the world.
In 1958, two initiates Henry Winchester and Josie Sands were sent to investigate events in St. Bonaventure Convent as part of their last test to be members of the order. The convent housed a nun murdered two victims before she threw herself from a tower. During Henry and Josie's investigation, it was revealed that they were dealing with a group of demons serving a Knight of Hell, Abaddon. The demons were possessing the nuns, and although Henry and Josie cast out a couple demons, the Knight of Hell quickly overpowered Henry. As Abaddon stated her intention to possess Henry to study the Men of Letters, Josie begged the knight to stop and offered herself as a vessel instead. Abaddon agreed and ordered the remaining demon to act dead. She convinced Henry that they successfully exorcized all the demons. Abaddon, while possessing Josie, also subtly threatened the surviving nuns to keep the ordeal quiet, thus preventing them from warning Henry of the truth.
Much of the order was destroyed by Abaddon during Josie and Henry's initiation on August 12, 1958. With the death of Henry Winchester and the only known surviving elder Larry Ganem, both at the hands of Abaddon in 2013, the order is extinct. The only other surviving member, rogue former Man Cuthbert Sinclair, was killed by Dean Winchester while hunting for The First Blade. Later, Henry gives Sam and Dean the key to the former Men of Letters headquarters, which the latter calls the 'batcave'. The headquarters could only be accessed by a special key.
While the American branch was wiped out, the British branch remained intact and used their knowledge of lore to protect Britain. To this end, they put up warding all over Britain that would detect a monster the moment it entered their borders allowing the Men of Letters to capture the monster within twenty minutes and kill it within forty. Due to this level of organization, there has been no monster related deaths in Britan since 1964.
Restoration and ResurgenceEdit
The order's headquarters, although unused, still functioned perfectly when the Winchester brothers visited it and used it as base of operations in uncovering more about the Men of Letters. Soon after, the two brothers identified a case involving bringing down some members of the Necromancer Nazi party known as the Thules. Similar to how Aaron Bass and his saboteur Golem took up the mantle to keep the Judah Initiative alive and active, Sam found an interest in the Men of Letters society and took up the throne as the next legacy, becoming the newest member of the formerly extinct Men of Letters. Additionally, Charlie Bradbury also expressed interest in becoming a woman of letters.
It would seem that though the American branch was destroyed by Abaddon in the 1950s, a British chapter still exists, operating out of London (Alpha and Omega). They appear to be lead by a male leader and have female operatives, one of them being Lady Antonia Bevell.
The order possessed a rating system for demonic possessions with a possession like that of The Exorcist being a Class Two Infernal Event. This system went up to at least Class Five and the order was interested in a new type of exorcism that could conceivably cure a demon. The first attempt failed, but Father Max Thompson eventually succeeded, though it is unknown if the order was aware as they only recorded the first failed attempt. Using the rating system, the order recorded every possession for hundreds of years up until their destruction.
Some spells used by the members were also classified according to ranks. For example, knowledge of the blood sigil cast by Henry Winchester is expected of high-level members.
Although considering Hunters below them, Men of Letters did share many of their characteristics and habits, such as keeping journals, and guarding secrets. Much like Hunters they also sometimes investigated supernatural events and phenomenon, using alias and impersonating officials. This sort of "Field work" was necessary for initiates to partake in before initiation. It is evidenced that the Campbells family were among these trusted hunters, as Mary wore their crest on her bracelet.
In The Vessel, it's revealed that the Men of Letters even had their own supernatural "Black Ops" Division. One of its executive officers was Clifford Henshaw, and one of its operatives was Delphine Seydoux. This division was tasked with infiltrating various organizations, including the Nazis, to prevent the misuse of supernatural knowledge. One of these missions was preventing the Nazi from misusing the power of a Hand of God by retrieving it.
Powers and abilitiesEdit
Men of Letters were powerful humans who knew a great deal more about the supernatural than even veteran hunters. They had knowledge of ancient and powerful magic, including exorcism and time travel spells. One of the members, Henry Winchester, tapped into his own soul in order to power a spell. They also were aware of the existence of angels, something hunters only gained knowledge of during the ushering of the Apocalypse. Additionally, they knew of the existence of dragons, and Atlantis, among other things. While conventional lore stated that Soul Eaters couldn't be killed with even experienced hunter Bobby Singer believing it to be impossible, the Men of Letters had knowledge of a sigil that could destroy the creature. However, their knowledge on some things seemed to be limited: they knew of the Knights of Hell, but believed that the archangels had killed them, not Cain. They also seemed to be unaware of how to kill a Knight or even stop one as Larry Ganem told Sam Winchester he couldn't stop Abaddon when asked how and Kevin was unable to find anything in their records about how to kill a Knight. They also had no lore on the Mark of Cain.
They seem to be ranked by Levels of supernatural knowledge that they have attained; the higher the level, the more powerful and experienced they are.
Up until Henry's death, they were in possession of 'the key to every object, scroll, spell ever collected in thousand years under one roof.' This key passed on to Henry's grandsons, Sam and Dean Winchester. The location of this 'supernatural mother lode' were revealed to Sam by Larry Ganem. He said that this place is 'the safest place on earth warded against any evil ever created.' This place, usually simply called "The Bunker", was magically warded by former Men of Letters Cuthbert Sinclair, who was so proficient in sorcery that was made Master of Spells right after his initiation.
- Mr. Markham, senior member and the last known chief of Men of Letters in 1956. He led a meeting on the matter of Cuthbert Sinclair expulsion. He also ordered the Werther Box burial so it never harmed anyone again.
- Mr. Fletcher, a high-esteemed member and one of the two who died at the Werther Box incident in 1956, thus becoming a pivot of Sinclair's expulsion from the Order. Committed suicide two hours after being affected by Sinclair's spell on the Box.
- Mr. Martinez, the other high-esteemed member who died trying to close the Werther Box in the incident of 1956, afterwards becoming another pivot of its maker's expulsion from the Order. Committed suicide by cutting his wrists as a result of the Werther Box's protective sorcery.
- Larry Ganem, elder, first blinded by Abaddon in 1958, then killed by her in 2013.
- David Ackers, elder, killed by Abaddon.
- Ted Bowen, elder, killed by Abaddon.
- An Unnamed Elder, murdered by Abaddon.
- Edward Durbin II, a Men of Letters representative in Europe from the American branch. Grandfather of Eileen Leahy.
- Delphine Seydoux, a Woman of Letters and Men of Letters operative in Nazi Occupied France in 1944. Committed suicide using the Hand of God.
- Clifford Henshaw, a Man of Letters who operated out of the bunker in 1943. He aided Delphine Seydoux in her mission to steal the Hand of God from the Nazis and was described as her mentor.
- Josie Sands, an female initiate, and Henry's working partner. Possessed by Abaddon, killed with her by Dean Winchester in 2014.
- Henry Winchester, an apprentice in the Order, and Sam and Dean's paternal grandfather. After travelling forward in time to 2014, he is killed by Abaddon while saving Sam and Dean.
- Henry Winchester's paternal ancestors.
- Max Thompson, a priest and fellow member who spent his life in research of how to cure a demon. Murdered by Abaddon after Hell was made aware of his activities.
- Albertus Magnus, described by Henry as 'the greatest alchemist of the 14th century'.
- L. Frank Baum, father of Dorothy. Journeyed to the magical dimension of Oz in a rescue mission to bring back Clive Dylan. He later wrote the Oz books to leave Dorothy clues on how to stop The Wicked Witch.
- Peter Jenkins, possessed by The Wicked Witch and killed by James in 1935.
- James Haggerty, researched Dorothy's disappearance until he retired. He also compiled On the Inner Workings of Angels.
- Cuthbert Sinclair, Spell Master of the Men of Letters who went rogue in 1956. Beheaded by Dean Winchester with The First Blade in 2014.
- Clive Dylan, the member who discovered by means unknown the Key to Oz, got trapped in there, then kidnapped and magically split into two by an evil witches' coven. Retired and then killed by Charlie Bradbury to stop The Wizard of Oz, his dark side.
- Dean Winchester, became a legacy. Presently one of four known members alive.
- Sam Winchester, became a legacy. Presently one of four known members alive.
- Dorothy Baum, daughter of L. Frank Baum who was trapped in stasis at the Order's Bunker. Presently in Oz as its new ruler and one of four known members alive.
- Maura Leahy, daughter of Edward Durbin II. A legacy. Mother of Eileen Leahy. Killed when defending her family during a Banshee attack in 1986.
- Eileen Leahy, can be considered as a legacy due to her bloodline although she chose her own path. Presently one of four known legacies alive.
- John Winchester would have been initiated into the order in the same way his father Henry was.
- The order's symbol is known as a Unicursal Hexigram and is the symbol of Thelema, an occultic school founded by 20th-century magician Aleister Crowley.
- Despite Cuthbert Sinclair, aka Magnus' claim that the Men of Letters don't actually act on their knowledge, clearly they do at times: Henry Winchester and Josie Sands were sent to investigate the activities of Abaddon in Milton as a field test of their abilities before initiation; they also used their political power in the Middle Ages to destroy the Grand Coven and to kill the witch Nadia. They also allied themselves to and helped out the Judah Initiative against the Thule Society during World War II. Likewise there are several cases of them investigating and helping out those troubled by the supernatural. As Sinclair proved to be insane, it is safe to say his claims carry little merit.
- At first, some may find the Men of Letters slightly similar to the Freemasonic order. However, they were better described as ritual-structured philologists of the occult than Freemasons properly said.
- The groups title references their nature as a "glorified book club;" traditionally, "man of letters" is a title for well-read individuals.
- Albertus Magnus, the "greatest alchemist of the 14th century" according to Henry, whose name the Men of Letters used as a code when working in secret, is a reference to the Roman Catholic saint of same name. He was a Dominican monk, a Bishop and a polymath who wrote not only on Theology and Philosophy, but also on a number of Human and Natural Sciences, including Alchemy and Astrology: which were not taken by "occultic" at the time since they were not distinct from Chemistry and Astronomy. His complete works deal with almost every intellectual subject of his days, and he is also celebrated as Saint Thomas Aquinas' personal mentor and teacher.
- Mary Winchester reveals that she knew of the Men of Letters but always thought them to be a hunter's myth.