People are fascinated by secret societies. They are mysterious and they appeal to that nagging human curiosity. Secret societies are typically groups whose rituals and activities are hidden away from non-members. Since the time of the crusades, hundreds of secret societies have been formed from different parts of the world to serve diverse political, social and religious purposes. While some of them are believed to be fictitious or have already been dissolved, traces of their existence or their legend remain even until today. Check out the 25 biggest secret societies to ever exist.
Ancient Order of Hibernians
The secret society Ancient Order of Hibernians was organized in 1890 and is a fraternal circle of Irish Roman Catholics who uphold the values of friendship, charity, and oneness among its members. This secret society has historically been primarily devoted to protecting Catholic churches from anti-Catholic forces, and assisting Irish Catholic immigrants to get into America, especially those who faced discrimination or harsh coal mining working conditions.
Oliver Hudson Kelley organized the National Grange in 1867 following the order given to him by President Andrew Johnson to visit the southern United States and identify the war-ravaged areas that needed rehabilitation. In response to the order, he proposed the formation of a secret society that would promote the advancement of rural life. Today, National Grange uses the Masonic Fraternity as its model but accommodates both men and women.
The United Ancient Order of Druids
The Ancient Order of Druids (AOD) is a fraternal organization founded in London, England in 1781 that still operates to this day. It is the earliest known English group to be founded based on the iconography of the ancient druids, who were priest-like figures in Iron Age Celtic paganism.
United Order of the Golden Cross
In 1876, Dr. J.H. Morgan organized the United Order of the Golden Cross to provide a means through which members can have a safe and economical method of getting life insurance policies. Though it originated in England, the strength of this secret society lies in its New York chapter. Its members today are men and women from Indiana, Columbia, Tennessee and Kentucky who pledged to abstain from taking alcoholic drinks. The Golden Cross is among the very few secret societies that treat men and women equally.
The Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm
A Freemason organization more commonly known as M.O.V.P.E.R. or The Grotto, was originally created to “add in greater measure to the Masonic fraternal spirit the charm of radiant cheerfulness and to maintain within the fraternity an impetus of royal good fellowship”. One of their most notable accomplishments is their resolution to establish a 501(c)3 national charitable program, named the Humanitarian Foundation whose first project was “Aid for the Cerebral Palsy Child”. Since its inception over $1,000,000 has been contributed to Research for Cerebral Palsy.
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
Also known as the Golden Dawn this was a “magical order” active in Great Britain during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which practiced theurgy and spiritual development. It has been one of the largest single influences on 20th-century Western occultism.
Foresters Friendly Society is a British friendly society which was formed in 1834 as the Ancient Order of Foresters. Although not as secret or mysterious as some of the others on this list its nearly 70,000 strong membership deserves some mention. As far as purpose is concerned, as with most friendly societies, it primarily seeks to provide insurance policies to its members.
“Illuminati” typically refers to various organizations claiming to have unsubstantiated links to the original (and very real) Bavarian Illuminati or similar secret societies. It is said that the Illuminati is one of the secret organizations that rule the world by masterminding events and planting agents in government and corporations to establish a New World Order and gain further political power and influence. Central to some of the most widely known and elaborate conspiracy theories, the secret society Illuminati have been depicted as lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings and levers of power in dozens of novels, movies, television shows, comics, video games, and music videos.
Knights of Columbus
The Knights of Columbus is the largest network of Catholic men and their families throughout the world. Founded in 1882, most of the rituals of this organization are modeled after those of the Masonic Lodge. Today it has over 11,000 councils all over the globe and boasts of the insurance policies that it provides for its members.
Knights of Pythias
The Knights of Pythias was the first fraternal organization to receive a charter under an act of the United States Congress. It was founded by Justus H. Rathbone, who was inspired by a play by the Irish poet John Banim about the legend of Damon and Pythias. A member must be at least 18 years of age. He cannot be a professional gambler or involved with illegal drugs or alcohol and he must believe in a Supreme Being.
Ku Klux Klan
The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), informally known as the Klan, is the name of three distinct past and present far-right organizations in the United States, which have advocated extremist reactionary currents such as white supremacy, white nationalism, and anti-immigration, historically expressed through terrorism. It is classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Also known as the Bilderberg Club, the Bilderberg Group is a secret society composed of some of the most influential men in the world, including prime ministers, presidents, and international bankers. It is believed that the major purpose of this private club is “to create an aristocracy of purpose” between the United States and Europe. This organization is so private that only its steering committee decides who should be enlisted as its members.
The Loyal Order of Moose
Founded in 1888 by the Scottish Dr. Wilson, the Loyal Order of Moose dedicates itself to providing health benefits to its members. The organization went through hard times in the 20th century after it lost most of it members until a man named James Davis took the reins and helped Moose recover from its membership slump. He convinced and recruited thousands of new members and established a thriving network of Moose Lodges throughout the United States.
One of the most popular secret societies today with one of the most recognizable secret societies symbols, Freemasonry is a fraternal society that was established between the 16th and 17th century and has over six million members. It remains actively engaged in the conduct of charitable works in the secluded communities of Scotland and England. Its members uphold the constitution drafted by Scottish minister James Anderson, where the establishment of fraternal friendship is central.
A women’s organization with about 250,000 members in the United States and Canada, P.E.O. Sisterhood was organized on January 21, 1869 to provide opportunities for education to all its female members around the world. The society has organized chapters in the United States and Canada and is known for being the second sorority to have ever been formed in the United States. Currently headquartered in Iowa, Canada, P.E.O. Sisterhood maintains its traditions of secrecy even after its “It’s OK to talk about P.E.O.” campaign in the 20th century.
The Improved Order of Red Men
The Improved Order of Red Men was organized on December 16, 1773 by some members of the Sons of Liberty to promote liberty as well as to challenge the tyranny of the monarchy of England. Throughout the course of the Revolutionary War, members of the Red Men joined the Continental Army to push for the downfall of the English crown. The rituals of its members are patterned on the rituals practiced by the Native Americans.
The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine
Commonly known as Shriners and abbreviated A.A.O.N.M.S., they were established in 1870, and are an appendant body to Freemasonry. In 2010, the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, as well as Shriners North America, changed its name to Shriners International, now covering nearly 200 temples (chapters) across North America, South America, Europe and Southeast Asia. This secret society organization is best known for the Shriners Hospitals for Children it administers, and the red fezzes that members wear.
Established in 1883 by Joseph Cullen Root, Woodmen is among the largest fraternal benefit societies today with about 845,000 members worldwide. Members of this organization are called “Neighbors” and conduct fraternal projects for various communities. Its services include the donation of equipment to police and fire and rescue units as well as the provision of assistance to senior citizens, orphans and disaster victims. Known today as the Modern Woodmen of America, the society uses an axe, beetle, and wedge as its primary symbols.
Knights of the Golden Eagle
The Knights of the Golden Eagle is a fraternal benefit secret society founded in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1873. At the peak of membership in 1900, this organization was active in 20 states with approximately 20,000 members. It began to decline about 1943-1944, during World War II. Some historians believed that this fraternal organization had become extinct.
Ordo Templi Orientis
The “Ordo Templi Orientis” or the “Order of the Temple of the East” was founded at the beginning of the 20th century as an international fraternal and religious organization dedicated to the Law of Thelma as its guiding principle. Membership in this organization is similar to Freemasonry where an initiatory system followed by a series of secret ritual dramas is among the prerequisites. The purpose of the system it adopts is to strengthen fraternal ties as well as to introduce its spiritual teachings.
The Priory of Sion
The Priory of Sion is an umbrella secret society composed of multiple smaller groups that all aim to allow and convince their members to involve themselves in studies and mutual aid. Considered the most controversial secret society to have ever existed in the Christian world, the Priory of Sion is said to have been founded as early as 1099 by a man named Godfrey of Boullion on Mount Zion.
Initially named “The Study Group for Germanic Antiquity,” the Thule Society is a secret organization formed in Munich, Germany principally created to return power to Germany after its defeat in the First World War and the fall of the Treaty of Versailles. Its name was derived from a fictitious northern country from Greek mythology, Thule. Since 1917, people who seek to become members of this secret society have been obliged to undergo a “blood declaration of faith” before being admitted.
The Sons of Liberty
The Sons of Liberty was a group consisting of American patriots that originated in the pre-independence North American British colonies. The group was formed to protect the rights of the colonists and to take to the streets against the taxes by the British government. They are best known for undertaking the Boston Tea Party in 1773, which led to the Intolerable Acts (an intense crackdown by the British government), and a counter-mobilization by the Patriots.
Devoted to the pursuit of esoteric wisdom, the Rosicrucians is a secret organization founded between the 16th and 17th century to spread occult doctrines and occult powers. By the dawn of the 17th century, two books were published to allude to the rituals of Rosicrucians, which generally bring together elements of Egyptian Hermeticism, Gnosticism as well as Jewish Cabalism. It is believed that Isaac Newton was a member of this secret organization.
Skull and Bones
Informally known as “Bones,” Skull and Bones is a secret society that evolved from a group of senior students from Yale University. The senior class of Yale founded the organization in 1832 to show its resistance to the debating societies of the university – Linonia, Brothers in Unity and the Calliopean Society. Much like the secret society Illuminati, this secret organization is sometimes theorized to play a critical role in global conspiracies that aim to dominate the world.