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 that are 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.

Pseudohistories Edit

A portion of secret societies make pseudohistorical claims- claims of a very old origin and direct descent from a fabled founder or group of founders.

For example, The Horseman's Word claims to have been founded by the character Cain from the book of Genesis. The rosicrucians claim direct descent from Christian Rosenkreuz (1378 - 1484; who was himself a made-up character who was invented in the early 1600s by a pamphleteer), when in fact the first rosicrucian group was created in the 1700s. The Odin Brotherhood claims that it was established in 1421, when in fact it was invented by Mark Mirabello in 1992. Gerald Gardner claimed that Wicca was a survival of a pre-christian "witch cult", when in fact it was invented in England in the late 1930s and 1940s, in large part by Gerald Gardner himself.

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 often begins with an initiation ritual. That initiation ritual may involve darkness, blindfolds, blood oaths, and/or symbolic icons such as skulls, daggers, or sacred texts. The candidate may undergo some kind of ordeal, such as a symbolic death and resurrection.

According to the historian Ronald Hutton, initiation into 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 onto 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 (namely, scottish-rite Freemasonry).

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

International or non-governmental organizations Edit

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

Student societies Edit

  • 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
  • Skull and Bones (1832) at Yale University
  • 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 organizations Edit

Historical secret societies Edit

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

Revolutionary or underground organizations Edit

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

Secret society - Alleged secret societies Edit

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

Religious Edit

See Also Edit

References Edit

  • 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
  • Kenneth J. Beatty Human Leopards * ISBN 0766161218
  • Jean Chesneaux (Editor), Lucien Bianco Popular Movements and Secret Societies in China, 1840-1950. ISBN 0804707901.
  • Arkon Daroul. A History of Secret Societies. ISBN 0806508574
  • 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
  • Bernard E. Jones. Freemasons' Guide and Compendium. ISBN 1581825609
  • Thomas Keightley. Secret Societies of the Middle Ages. ISBN 140216355X
  • John Lawrence Reynolds. Secret Societies: Inside the World's Most Notorious Organizations. ISBN 1559708263.
  • John Morris Roberts. The Mythology of the Secret Societies. ISBN 0-684-12904-3
  • Steven Sora, Secret Societies of America's Elite: From the Knights Templar to Skull and Bones, Destiny Books (February 24, 2003), ISBN 0892819596, ISBN 978-0892819591
  • Herbert Vivian. Secret Societies Old and New. ISBN 1417979526
  • 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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