Secret Societies are organized conspiracies working in secret to achieve a hidden agenda. Members use secrecy to protect themselves and their movement. Critics view Secret Societies as malevolent organizations working against the general will of mankind. '

Members may be required to conceal or deny their membership, and they are often sworn to hold the society's secrets by an oath. Violating the oath may result in the application of severe sanctions.

Like the most successful forgeries, the most effective secret societies are unknown beyond their adherents. Members may be required to deny the organization itself exists.

During the "Burning Times," the pagan followers of such groups as Wicca and Odinism were forced to form secret organizations for their own protection.

Legends Edit

Secret societies generally claim to have a long--and often legendary--history. They claim direct "initiatory desent" from a fabled founder or group of founders. By definition, no secret society can appear to be a novelty.

Thus, the Society of the Horseman's Word claims to have been founded by Cain. The Rosicrucians claim direct descent from Christian Rosenkreuz (1378 - 1484). The Odin Brotherhood claims it was established in 1421.

Function Edit

Secret societies have many functions. Some, such as the Odin Brotherhood, the Rosicrucians, or the Thelemic societies, exist to maintain, spread, and practice their esoteric or occult knowledge. Others, while they have esoteric philosophies, are social organizations, such as Greek Fraternities or Elk Lodges. Others were created to provide benefits and charity to members, such as the Knights of Columbus or Woodsmen.

Some secret societies have been considered dangerous by their enemies. Freemasonry, especially irregular masonry, was highly political in the past and involved in radical movements. The Carbonari of Italy were an outright revolutionary, anti-monarchist movement. The Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria (Illuminati) were so considered so dangerous that they were crushed and suppressed by the State. The Sons of Liberty were also a secret society which helped launch the American Revolution.

One especially provocative secret society was the Black Hand of Serbia. Organized in 1911 as a secret society of Serb assassins, its purpose was to use targeted killings to liberate Serbian lands held by other nations. Dmitrievich recruited assassins who were young and were suffering from terminal diseases. A member of the Black hand, Gavrilo Princip, was 19 years of age when he sparked World War I by firing 2 shots–with a pistol–and killed an heir to the Austrian throne and his wife. When recruited Princip was dying of tuberculosis.

Initiation Edit

Admittance into a secret society begins with an initiation ritual. Often, this involves darkness, blindfolds, blood oaths, and symbolic icons such as skulls, daggers, and sacred texts. The candidate undergoes some kind of ordeal, often a symbolic death and resurrection.

According to historian Ronald Hutton, initiation in the Society of the Horseman's Word involves reading the Bible backwards three times over three years, indulging in a mock Eucharist (with bread, jam, and whiskey), and--at the climax of the initaition--"shaking the devil's hand." On the last point, the blindfolded initiate had to grasp a heated spade.

According to Kenneth J. Beatty, initiation into the Human Leopards of West Africa involved murder, cannibalism, and cutting permanent markings on the body.

Many secret societies will have layers of membership, with a person entering first as a neophyte of some sort, and then advancing through the ranks as he participates more in the organization. These ranks are very often called "degrees". Some organizations have as few as one or three degrees, others as many as thirty-three.

As the applicant advances through the ranks, he will often learn new passwords, hand grips, or other modes of recognition during the rituals.

International or non-governmental organizationsEdit

These groups are often considered and talked about in the context that they are secret societies.

Student societiesEdit

  • Anak Society (1908) at Georgia Institute of Technology
  • Berzelius (1848) at Yale University
  • Bishop James Madison Society (1812) at the College of William and Mary
  • Book and Snake (1863) at Yale University
  • Cambridge Apostles (1820) at the University of Cambridge
  • Flat Hat Club (1750) at the College of William and Mary
  • Order of the Greek Horsemen at the University of Georgia
  • Phi Beta Kappa (1776) at the College of William and Mary, began as a secret society, but eliminated secrecy in 1831 and is now national
  • Quill and Dagger (1893) at Cornell University
  • Scroll and Key (1842) at Yale University
  • Seven Society at the University of Virginia
  • Society of the Pacifica House (1824) at Brown University
  • Sphinx Head Society (1890) at Cornell University
  • St. Anthony Hall (1847) at Columbia University
  • Juris confraternity (1991) at Auchi Polytechnic

Fraternal organizationsEdit

  • Order of the Eastern Star
  • Confraternity of the Rose Cross
  • SRIA (Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia )
  • National Society of Pershing Rifles
  • Order Militia Crucifera Evangelica
  • Order of the Solar Temple
  • Order of the Arrow

Historical secret societiesEdit

  • Beati paoli
  • Knights of the Golden Circle
  • Know-Nothings
  • Ku Klux Klan (exists at present with very small membership)
  • Gladio Society of the Elect
  • Tiandihui
  • Wide Awakes

Revolutionary or underground organizationsEdit

  • Black Hand
  • Carbonari
  • Fenian Brotherhood
  • Germanenorden
  • Katipunan
  • Mau Mau
  • Narodnik
  • Red Turbans
  • Righteous Harmony Society
  • Tongmenghui
  • Vihan Veljet
  • Walhalla-orden
  • White Rose Society

Secret society - Alleged secret societiesEdit

Either existence, or secret society status, is subject to significant doubt

  • The Green Man
  • Order of the Raven
  • Vril Society


  • Bwiti
  • Cathars
  • Compagnie du saint sacrement
  • The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
  • Knights of Malta
  • Order of the Solar Temple
  • Sufism
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

See AlsoEdit


  • Alan Axelrod. The International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders. ISBN 0-8160-2307-7
  • David V. Barrett. Secret Societies. From the Ancient and Arcane to the Modern and Clandestine. ISBN 0713727721
  • Jean Chesneaux (Editor), Lucien Bianco Popular Movements and Secret Societies in China, 1840-1950. ISBN 0804707901.
  • Charles William Heckethorn. The Secret Societies of all Ages and Countries, Embracing the Mysteries of Ancient India, China, Japan, Egypt, Mexico, Peru, Greece, and Scandinavia, the Cabbalists, early Christians, heretics, Assassins, Thugs, Templars, the Vehm and Inquisition, mystics, Rosicrucians, Illuminati, Freemasons, Skopzi, Camorristi, Carbonari, nihilists, and other sects. ISBN 1-56459-296-0
  • John Lawrence Reynolds. Secret Societies: Inside the World's Most Notorious Organizations. ISBN 1559708263.
  • Arthur Edward Waite The Real History of the Rosicrucians: Founded on their own manifestoes, and on facts and documents collected from the writings of initiated Brethren ISBN 1402197691

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