One of dozens of private clubs in American cities that cater to the needs and interests of America’s economic and political elites, the Bohemian Club in San Francisco has attracted a good deal of attention in recent years by way of the ritual performed at its annual retreat in a pristine corner of northern California. Routinely labeled occult, pagan, or Satanic worship by fundamentalists and the far right press, the Bohemian Grove ritual actually has no religious or esoteric content at all. In contemporary conspiracy theory, however, it has come to play a role far out of proportion to its actual importance.

The Bohemian Club was founded in San Francisco in 1872. Originally a social club catering to artists, writers, and intellectuals, it began to attract members of the city’s financial elite within a few years of its founding, and by the early twentieth century was the most prestigious social club in town. Its imposing six-story building stands a few blocks from San Francisco’s financial district. The Club began hosting its annual male-only retreat at the Bohemian Grove, a wooded property 65 miles north of San Francisco, in 1878, and within a few years guests from high political and economic circles began putting in appearances at the encampment. At this point the attendees at the retreat include many of the top politicians, financiers, and corporate executives in North America.

The two-week retreat, held in late June and early July, features theatrical and musical performances, informal talks by influential speakers, and many other events, but the feature that has attracted nearly all the attention lavished on the Bohemian Club focuses on the annual ritual of the Cremation of Care. In the ceremony, the body of Dull Care is brought to a funeral pyre, but comes back to life before it can be burnt and mocks the guests for thinking they can be rid of their cares during the retreat. The Bohemians beseech the Owl, the emblem of the club, for his guidance, and the Owl tells them that only the flame of the Lamp of Fellowship can incinerate Dull Care. This is duly applied, and Care gives up the ghost in a blaze of pyrotechnic glory. The ceremony is a typical piece of nineteenth-century fraternal ritual. Inevitably, though, it has been redefined by conspiracy theorists and fundamentalists as a pagan ritual of sacrifice to Satan.

The attendee list for the Bohemian Grove retreat overlaps with the memberships of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, and the Bilderberg group, and it is often included by conspiracy theorists (together with the mythical Committee of 300) as one of the secret elite organizations intent on bringing about the New World Order.



The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006