Never fear, your answers are here…
The Men of Letters is a secret hunter society that exists within the lore of Supernatural mostly thanks to episode 12 of season 8 “As Time Goes By”. Because the show was running low on idea fuel they decided wouldn’t it be cool if Sam and Dean had a bunker to stay in instead of an endless rotation of hotel rooms? Hence the introduction of the Men of Letters and, to give it more legitimacy within the series, the revelation that Sam and Dean are actually legacies!
Turns out John’s father, Henry, was due to become a member (his father was also a member). Unfortunately, on the eve of his initiation, a Knight of Hell named Abaddon crashed the party and basically murdered everyone. Henry was presumed dead, but in reality, he used magic to transport himself to the year 2013 to protect the Key to the bunker of the Men of Letters from falling into the wrong hands.
Long story short, history is preserved thanks to Dean Winchester and Abaddon is defeated (kind of). Sadly, Henry dies which works out since there goes the temptation to return to his timeline and fuck up the future.
While that covers their canonical existence, you might be interested to know a little more about the society. Here are a few key points:
- The Men of Letters see Hunters as barbaric: Because all secret societies are generally seen as snobby and elitist, is it any surprise that the Men fit this description to a tee? We discover this tidbit when Henry is horrified to discover his grandsons are, ug, hunters. He then sets the boys straight about their true legacy and what they really are. Fun Fact – Dorothy Gale of Kansas (in the Supernatural universe she’s L. Frank Baum’s daughter) calls them glorified librarians!
- There is a London division: Revealed in episode 23 of season 11 “Alpha & Omega” Sam and Dean learn the hard way that the Men of Letters extend beyond America. This is probably a good thing since the American chapter is destroyed in 1958 and doesn’t get revived until 2013. However, they are very different clubs. Where the American Men of Letters was like an uppity collection of intellectuals more interested in studying the supernatural than banishing it, the British Men of Letters is a no-nonsense collective that likes to kill first and ask questions never. So ruthlessly efficient are they that there hasn’t been a monster-related casualty on their watch since 1964! Fun Fact – the resurrected Mary Winchester joins their rank for a while and even forms something of a “friendship” with one of the members before everything goes, as they like to say, tits up.
- The Men’s Bunker holds a bevy of supernatural knowledge: This is the main reason that Henry risks a time-travel spell to escape from Abaddon in his series debut. It fails in terms of getting him away from the Knight of Hell, but it is successful in safeguarding the key which he inevitably passes down to his grandsons. Why is it so important to guard this key? It’s essentially a skeleton key that can open, not only the main bunker, but any and all Men of Letter chapter houses. Fun fact – I’m pretty sure the bunker serves as a replacement for John’s diary, which was Sam and Dean’s main source of monster info next to other hunters.
- They’re not technically sexist: The Men did have some female members. Delphine Seydoux, a spy during World War II, the initiate Josie Sands, who voluntarily allowed herself to be possessed by Abaddon in an effort to save Henry Winchester, the aforementioned Dorothy Baum, deaf hunter Eileen Leahy (she’s a legacy as was her mom, Maura), Ophelia Avila, who along with her family is charged with guarding a trapped god, until Sam and Dean help them out, and most recently Charlie Bradbury (we don’t get to see this but it’s largely assumed she’s a member) who dies helping the Winchesters but has her alternate self appear later in the series. Fun Fact – though it doesn’t look like there is a separate secret society, female members of the Men of Letters do often get referred to as Women of Letters.
- Lastly, like all great secret clubs, the Men of Letters have a symbol that members can use to identify other members or friendly places. Theirs is the Aquarian Star which is linked to Atlantis, and the great magician Aleister Crowley. In real life, Crowley was an occult guy who founded his own religion that used the Unicursal Hexagram (aka the Aquarian Star) as its symbol. Fun Fact – Crowley is the name of the King of Hell in Supernatural, who dies in service to the Winchesters, later his mother Rowena takes the mantle becoming the Queen of Hell.
How will the Men of Letters factor into The Winchesters? Guess you’ll just have to watch the pilot and find out!