Secret societies were and still are popular around the world. From the ancient Greeks to the Freemasons, secret societies have become a part of history and have influenced politicians and presidents. Most secret societies have symbols that are only known to their members. Here is a list of some secret society symbols.

Secret Society Symbols

Elk Symbol

Symbol of pride, guardianship, stamina, and strength

Elk symbolism comes from Native Americans. It was believed that the elk protected women and would lead them home if they were captured by enemies. Elks were symbols of bravery and were used as a symbol for the warrior’s societies. The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks is a secret society that was founded in 1868. It was originally a social club in New York City. The society originally was only composed of white men and only later admitted people of colour and women. The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks helps many charities, youth programs, and veterans. Its symbol is an elk superimposed on the face of a clock that reads 11:00. There is a red star above the elk. The eleven o’clock significance goes back to one of the founding members, Charles Richardson. He was born and raised in England and then moved to New York City. In England, people would raise their glasses at 11:00 as a remembrance of the Battle of Hastings in 1066. After the battle, a curfew was put into place that started at 11:00. The 11th hour also suggests the eve of battle. It is also the Hour of Recollection and members of the club who have died are remembered at that time. While a red star signifies communism, communists were barred from the group. The star represents unity and the elk represents pride, strength, and guardianship.

Elk Secret Society

Because people of colour were not admitted into the original Elk society, the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World was formed in 1897. Their symbol is an elk running on the globe. This symbolizes protection, stamina, and guardianship throughout the world. This organization was founded by B.F. Howard and Arthur J. Riggs. They wanted to form a branch of the Elk’s society but were denied because they were people of colour. They formed their own society instead and it is still active today. They have 500,00 members in 1500 lodges worldwide. This order also helps charities, youth programs, and veterans. They provide spiritual and financial support to their communities. Members wear a ring with an Elk on it. Above the Elk is a five-pointed star surrounded by Roman numerals similar to a clock face. The letters BPOE appear under the Elk. The star symbol represents excellence and divine protection and guidance.

Skull and Bones Symbol

Symbol of death.

The Skull and Bones secret society is found at Yale University. It was founded after a dispute between some debate societies at Yale. Its symbol is a skull and bones with the number 322 underneath. The skull symbolizes death and the number 322 symbolizes the death of the Greek orator Demosthenes. When he died Athens became a plutocracy and only rich people were considered citizens. Another name for the Skull and Bones is the Brotherhood of Death. The society was founded in 1832. The Skull and Bones meeting place is called the Tomb. The members are called Bonesmen and they are picked from the elite of Yale University. Until the 1970s the membership was white Protestant males with occasional males of other faiths or races. Females were finally permitted to join in 1992. The society has been known to steal from other societies and keeps its treasures, including human skulls, in the Tombs. Presidents and business people have been members of this secret society.

White Lotus Symbol

Symbol of mental purity, spiritual perfection, rebellion

The White Lotus Society was a secret society founded in AD 402 in China by a monk named Master Huiyuan and a group of like-minded monks. The group was named after a large lotus pond built by Master Huiyan. They observed the Buddhist’s five rules of discipline, they worshiped the Amitabha Buddha and illustrated the teachings through pictures and drawings. The White Lotus Society also encouraged men and women to intermingle which was not done during those times. Later the society took on a millenarian aspect when the members started to believe that the Buddha would return to the Earth and bring mankind salvation. They brought about the destruction of the Yuan Dynasty. The following Yuan government banished the society. Over the next decades, secret societies were made illegal and then legal again. The White Lotus Rebellion which lasted from 1796 – 1804, was brought about by the White Lotus Society. The Qing government quashed the rebellion but not before the members diminished the wealth of the Qing government and weakened its power. Up until 1912 people associated with the White Lotus Society could be served and processed.

White Lotus

Green Ribbon Symbol

Symbol of agriculture, activism

The Ribbon Society was a secret society formed by poor Catholics in Ireland. They formed in contrast to the Protestant Orange Order which was founded to oppose Catholicism. The Ribbon Society called its members Ribbonmen. They were formed to help poor farmers and tenant workers in 19th century Ireland. They were active from 1835-1855. During that time, the landlords of the farms would just kick farmers and tenants out of their houses. They raised taxes beyond what people were able to pay. The Ribbon Society members would attack the process and tithe servers. The Ribbonmen and Orange men clashed in a number of confrontations ending in some deaths. The Ribbonmen wore a green ribbon in their lapel as a symbol of their membership in the society. Green is the colour of Ireland and agriculture. It is symbolic of the earth and activism. The Ribbon Society met in lodges in secret to plan and organize the tenants and farmers in rebellion. They helped establish the policy of Tenant’s Rights.

Green Ribbon
Green Ribbon

Crocodile Symbol

Symbol of power, death, and rebirth.

The Neegee Crocodile Society in West Africa is a cannibalistic secret society. They are mostly located in Libya and have been there since the 1800s. The Negee Crocodile Society takes people and eats them to appease the crocodile god and gain power. They believe that eating a person gives them magical powers to help them transform into crocodiles. This group is called the Crocodile Society because their members usually live near water. The members dive underwater with the help of a gourd and wax in their nostrils, and knock over canoes or take people from the edge of the water and drag them underneath the water as a crocodile does to its prey. After killing them, the members imbibe on the person’s flesh. To become a member of this society, a person must sacrifice a family member. This society was believed to still be active in the mid-2000s.

Red Spear Symbol

Symbol of protection, anti-government.

The Red Spear Society was founded in the 1920s in Northern China. This society challenged government control in Northern China. Buddhist monks usually led the Red Spear Society and they carried red spears into battle. The red symbolized protection against disaster. The Red Spear Society was formed to help protect tenants from warlords, bandits, tax collectors, Japanese, and Chinese communists. From 1928-1929 the Red Spear Society rose up against Liu Zhennian, the Nationalist warlord ruler. Liu raised taxes and his army brutalized the tenants. The Red Spear Society rose up to protest the way the tenants were being treated. While they won some skirmishes and managed to set up their own proto-state, the rebellion was eventually crushed by Liu. It was believed that over 3 million people participated in the Red Spear Society.

Yellow Sand Symbol

Symbol of protection and anti-government.

The Yellow Sand Society was a secret society founded in China in the early 1900s. The Yellow Sand Society was a millennial group that believed the only members of the Yellow Sand Society would be spared in the upcoming armageddon around 1919. They were against government intrusion and increasing taxation. They were involved in many uprisings but were usually crushed. When the People’s Republic of China was formed, they outlawed secret societies, but there were still active members of the Yellow Sand Society into the 1980s. The Yellow Sand Society wanted to restore the idyllic Ming Dynasty. They believed through magic, that they were immune to gunfire. They carried a yellow flag during uprisings. The Yellow Sand Society wanted a reign of happiness and justice for all people.

Rosy Cross Symbol

Symbol of consciousness, education, knowledge.

The Rosicrucians were a secret society formed in Europe in the early 17th century. They believed in a universal reformation of mankind. Their main symbol was a rosy cross symbol. This was a calvary cross with a rose in the middle. This symbol first appeared in Byzantine and was adopted by the group. Some people believed that the cross was a representation of the human body and the rose symbolized the opening of the consciousness. Christian Rosenkrutz formed a small circle of friends in 1407 who agreed to help the sick without receiving payment and maintain a secret fellowship. This was the foundation of the Rosicrucians. Manifestos were written by Rosicrucians about astrology, philosophy, and alchemy. These manifestos helped promote and expand the group throughout Europe. The Rosicrucians were the foundation for many other secret societies later in Europe, some of which are still active today.

Rosy Cross
Rosy Cross

Square and Compass Symbol

Symbol of morality.

The Freemason Society was established in the 14th century by local stonemasons. They have different degree levels that include: Apprentice, Journeyman/Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. As they progress through these levels they learn new information about the Freemasons and are trusted with different responsibilities. The Freemasons meet in private lodges where they bestow degrees on their members and listen to lectures about Masonic history. They are guarded by an armed swordsman at the door who is there to keep non-members out of the lodge. The Freemasons’ main symbol is the square and compass symbol. The square symbolizes squaring their actions by a square of virtue to all mankind. The compass symbolized how to conduct yourself within certain boundaries. Put together, the square and compass symbol symbolizes wisely conducting actions within boundaries. The Freemasons support charitable causes that contribute to health, education, and old age. The Freemasons are sworn to secrecy about their society and symbols.

Square and Compass Symbol
Square and Compass Symbol

Hatchet Symbol

Symbol of survival, power.

The Carbonari were a secret society in Italy. Their name means charcoal burners and they were founded by charcoal burners in the 18th century. They called their meeting place a baracca which is a hut. The interior of the baracca was called the vendita which is a coal-burning term meaning the place for selling coal. The members were called good cousins and non-members were called heathens. The members consisted of apprentices and masters. The masters wore a small hatchet signifying their rank and were bound to secrecy about the Carbonari. They organized to establish a constitutional government and defeat tyranny. They also defended the common people against tyranny. They rose against King Ferdinand I in Italy in 1820. Because of this uprising King Ferdinand I agreed to a new constitution. The rebellion was beaten down and the Pope excommunicated members of the Carbonari. In 1831 they rose up again in support of Duke Francis IV of Modena. The leader of this uprising was arrested and condemned to death before the uprising could take place. The Carbonari continued until 1848. They were an influence to other secret societies that arose afterward in Italy.

Double Leaf Symbol

Symbol of growth.

The Double Leaf Society was founded in Japan in the 1920s. It was a secret military society composed of majors and colonels who had graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. They wanted to oust Choshu elements from the Imperial Army who held higher ranks. Because the Coshu had been given these ranks, the members of the Double Leaf Society were less likely to be granted higher leadership roles. The Double Leaf Society also hoped to prepare the Army system for national mobilization. The members of the Double Leaf Society ended up merging with another secret military society.

Black Dragon Symbol

Symbol of nationalism, vengeance.

The Black Dragon Society was a secret nationalistic military society in Japan founded in 1901 by martial artist Uchida Ryohei. Their goal was to keep the Russian Empire out of East Asia. Its members included high ranking military officials, Cabinet members, and secret agents. They were in charge of an espionage training school that trained spies to spy on Russia. The members of the Black Dragon Society were active in the Russo-Japanese war as spies and assassins. They also waged a successful psychological war against the Russians. The Black Dragon Society formed alliances with different Buddhist sects. In 1946 the Black Dragon Society was disbanded.

Black Dragon Symbol
Black Dragon Symbol

Owl Symbol

Symbol of knowledge.

The Bavarian Illuminati was a secret society that was founded by Adam Weishaupt in Germany. The society lasted from 1776-1785 although some people believe it is still around today. The Illuminati believed in Enlightenment ideals. Weishaupt wanted to promote those ideals throughout the German elite. He hoped that the new members would be well versed in philanthropy, reason, and other more secular values so they could spread their influence in politics. Members of the Illuminati would infiltrate other secret societies, such as the Freemasons, in order to recruit people to their society. The members of the Illuminati wanted to infiltrate and overturn the monarchical rule. Eventually, the Illuminati hoped to take over the world. They used many bizarre means to keep their identities secret including spy-like protocols. One of the Illuminati’s symbols was an owl on top of a book encircled by laurel leaves. These symbols together mean the victory of knowledge over religion. The Illuminati was disbanded in 1785 when Karl Theodor, the Duke of Bavaria outlawed secret societies. After they disbanded their myth still lives on. They were accused of infiltrating the Freemasons and were accused of being behind the French Revolution. George Washington mentioned the Illuminati in a letter that kept the society and secrets alive in America.

Bavarian Illuminati Owl
Bavarian Illuminati Owl

Horse rider Symbol

Symbol of wealth, sportsmanship.

The Bullingdon Club was established in 1780 at Oxford University. It was started as a sporting club that was dedicated to horse-racing and cricket. Members of the Bullingdon Club are known for extravagant meals and destruction. Their uniforms are expensive and tailored. The president of the club is referred to as the General. He presents the winner’s cup at an annual horse race. The symbol for the Bullingdon Club is a rider on horseback playing cricket with a flag and the letters BC included. The horseback rider symbolizes wealth and power. Members of the Bullingdon Club have gone on to be prominent politicians and members of society.

Red Cross Symbol

Symbol of charity and martyrdom.

The Knights Templar were a secret society dedicated to helping Christians on their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. They were active during the Crusades. Members of the Knights Templar pledged obedience, poverty, and chastity. They abstained from alcohol, swearing, and gambling. They formed a bank with pilgrim’s money and loaned money to kings. Their symbol was a red cross which is a symbol of charity and martyrdom. The three ranks of Knights Templar included the noble knights, the non-nobel sergeants, and chaplains. In order to join the rank of knights, members had to have already been knighted. The Knights Templar were founded by Hugues de Payens in 1118. He was the first Grand Master who oversaw the whole operation including the financial operations and the military operations. Their surcoat and mantle each bore the symbol of the red cross. The order of the Knights Templar was dissolved in 1312.

Red Cross
Red Cross