Club, society, order, alliance, league, union, fellowship – words that summon thoughts of insiders, trysts, beauty, intelligence, schemes, and most of all – secrets. And as we know, secrets are power.
Secret societies are breeding grounds for great stories, so it is understandable that so much literature is focused on these elite, if not impossibly unattainable, groups. It is interesting to note that these secret societies are almost always viewed from the outside: the protagonist is, like all of us, an outsider, wanting to get in.
From Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, the V.F.D. is an elusive group that begins as a distant mystery and becomes an all-encompassing obsession of the books. The Baudelaire orphans are mostly in the dark about what V.F.D. is and does, this darkness is created by adults in their lives who think they know best. But as we’ve learnt time and time again, children have power, do not underestimate them.
Motto: The World is Quiet Here
Rituals: fighting literal and metaphorical fires, taking notes in a commonplace book, creating and deciphering codes, taking on disguises, being well read, arriving early, drinking bitter tea, having an eye tattooed on the ankle
Headquarters: Mountain Headquarters in the Valley of Four Drafts, Mortmain Mountains, but this has sadly been burnt down. The V.F.D. has safe places “to exchange information, discuss plans to defeat our enemies, and return books we borrowed from one another”. However, there was a schism and many of these places are no longer safe. The “Last Safe Place” is known to be under the pond at the ruins of the Hotel Denouement.
Members of Note: Lemony, Kit, and Jacques Snicket; Beatrice, Bertrand, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire; Montgomery Montgomery; The Quagmire family; Frank and Dewey Denouement.
The Classics Scholars
Of The Secret History fame, the Classics Scholars do not have a name, but can be certainly recognised at a secret society who study under Julian Morrow. Julian only lets the best of the best into his classes, which is why, at the beginning of Tartt’s novel, there are only five in the class. Our narrator Richard Papen is obsessed with the group and finds himself on the inside, caught up in their money, class, literature, drinking, and dark secrets.
Motto: Live Forever or Beauty is Terror
Rituals: drinking, wearing beautiful clothing, staying up all night, studying, translating Latin, Bacchanals, murder, sex, blackmail.
Headquarters: Francis’ country house and Julian’s office.
Members of Note: Henry Winter, Bunny Corcoran, Francis Abernathy, twins Charles and Camilla Macaulay, and Richard Papen
An insomniac who visits support groups for kicks meets Tyler Durden who asks him to hit him as hard as he can. After some encouragement, the narrator does and a fight ensues. Buoyed by the adrenaline they move in together and create Fight Club. Men from around the country begin to join until a cult has been created, with it’s focus to ruin civilization.
Motto: Don’t talk about fight club
Rituals: fighting, pranks, mayhem, making soap, blowing things up, trusting Tyler
Headquarters: Tyler’s House
Members of Note: unnamed narrator, Tyler Durden, Big Bob, Angel Face
The Order of the Phoenix
Formed by Dumbledore, the secret society that Harry’s parents were apart of and fought with in the First Wizarding War, reformed after Voldemort came back in Harry’s fourth year. The adults in his life, who of course think they know best, try to keep him, Ron, and Hermione out of it. But of course, as it’s an anti-Voldemort club, Harry finds a way in.
Motto: No known motto
Rituals: Fighting against Voldemort and his Death Eaters, protecting Harry, dying, concealing the prophesy from Voldemort
Headquarters: 12 Grimmauld Place
Members of Note: Dumbledore, Moody, The Potters, The Weasleys, Mundungus Fletcher, The Longbottoms, Snape, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Tonks, Hagrid, Hermione Granger, Minerva McGonagall
The Order of the Phoenix’s little brother, Dumbledore’s Army was founded by Hermione with the intention to learn practical defense against the dark arts. Because they are being taught shit with Umbridge as their teacher. Harry leads the group and teachers them spells that will actually help them in the read world. Because of Umbridge’s tyrannical rule over Hogwarts, with the help of Dobby, the students keep the group a secret.
Motto: No known motto, but could be – “Every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than what we are now: students. If they can do it, why not us?”
Rituals: Learning practical defensive magic, rebelling against Dolores Umbridge and the Inquisitorial Squad, pissing off Filch, hanging out with Dobby
Headquarters: The Room of Requirement
Members of Note: Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, Ginny Weasley, Fred and George Weasley, Cho Chang, Dean Thomas, Seamus Finnegan
The Unbroken Spine
I loved reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore not only because the cover glows in the dark (try and get that on a kindle!) but also because it is centered around a secret society named The Unbroken Spine. Members of The Unbroken Spine use books borrowed from 24-hour bookstores around the world to decipher and centuries old code. Borrow a book, and within it you will find a secret message that will lead you to the next book until you have solved the legacy of Aldus Manutius, the Venetian printer
Motto: Possibly – We seek those who are curious, discreet, observant and adventurous. We seek those who cherish the written word and are open to the magic of technology. We seek those who love stories in whatever form they may take.
Rituals: Borrowing books at all hours of the night, cracking codes, reading, visiting New York, secretly using technology, breaking into subterranean libraries, keeping records of the comings-and-goings of book shoppers
Headquarters: Unbroken Spine Headquarters in New York
Members of Note: Ajax Penumbra, Aldus Manutius, Clay, Kat