CLIO FINAL - page 31

Throughout history we have seen the ap-
pearance of a multitude of different secret soci-
eties, many of which were religious worships not
part of the mainstream religion, known as cults. As
London has nearly always had a prestigious reputa-
tion, many of these societies that looked to succeed
yet to also keep their content private, began in Lon-
don and still exist today with secretive meetings.
The most common style of society is an exclusive
all-male club with often famous members. However
those societies still around today, which keep their
purpose and beliefs the same, can often seem out-
dated and pointless which adds to the segregation
of a society which is supposedly equal.
One of the most famous societies, with
many conspiracies surrounding them, was the Free-
masons. As much of their history is kept secret, no
one really knows how they began though a popular
theory suggests it was in Egypt and they then jour-
neyed to England. This was theorised as the oldest
document referencing the masons was the ‘Regius
Poem,’ which stated that the move of the society to
England occurred prior to 1390. In 1717, four lodges
were established in London forming the first Grand
Lodge in England and marking the beginning of the
recorded history of the Freemasons. The placement
of London was vital as it was where the decision
to choose from nobility to raise the profile of the
society was born.
Today there are many conspiracies sur-
rounding the Freemasons and their ‘questionable
practices’ but at the time, those who knew of their
existence celebrated them for their philanthropic
ideas and beliefs that everyone should worship in-
dependently, as God was benevolent. Furthermore
they strongly supported the idea of public educa-
tion and therefore endorsed the first public schools
in Europe and America. The Masons also had many
practices which they still keep today, however
‘historic initiation,’ where the hopeful new member
would be publicly humiliated, no longer exists as far
as the public awareness goes. Today, the main ritual
is the performance of plays to one another where
the group puts on shows to impress the rest.
One of the lesser known societies is ‘The An-
cient Order of the Druids.’ This also has an unsure
beginning, as it was at a time when formal records
weren’t always kept, though it was known to be
founded in 1781 at the time where fraternal socie-
ties were growing in popularity. The most popular
theory of the establishment of the Druids was that
it was formerly a group of friends who met in a pub
in theWest End and wanted to stop people intrud-
ing on their private conversations so decided to set
up a legitimate society. The name ‘Druids’ was cho-
sen as one the members, Mr Hurle, had a particular
fascination with the ancient druids (the popular
name for wizards in the Medieval period) in Rome.
The popularity of this group meant that the society
grew in popularity and by 1846 there were more
than 330 lodges set up around England andWales.
The main purpose of this group was to promote
‘general philanthropy and benevolence’.
The Druids then spread to America and seemed to
grow further. However, only white males over the
age of eighteen were admitted meaning the group
experienced a sharp decrease in popularity in the
1930s and became defunct in 1979 as their outdated
segregation could not survive in the modernising
period. Whilst the Freemasons still exist today they
have decreased in popularity and have come under
much public scrutiny. The Grand Lodge remains in
London and is still in use by many in the fraternal
society. Unfortunately, there are also definite ques-
tions as to whether the society is still productive
in today’s modern world, as it remains a strict no
women club with many still not admitting people of
African descent. Moreover, the fact that societies of
such a nature still exist today, especially in a diverse
city such as London, may just add to the segrega-
tion in parts of our society meaning clubs such as
those which have been discussed are outdated in
the current world and in fact merely take us back to
a time when society was a lot more prejudiced.
Louisa Owen 10D
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