A major secret society in early nineteenth-century Italy, the Raggi (“rays” or “radii”) emerged in northern Italy sometime in 1797 in the aftermath of the French invasion. The French were originally welcomed as liberators by Italians weary of the political and religious autocracy of late eighteenth-century Italy, but soon changed their minds as the French turned the newly founded Cisalpine Republic into a puppet state subordinate to orders from Paris. Attempts to remedy the situation by legal means failed, and in response the Raggi formed and began plotting a revolt against French supremacy.
The organization, also known as the Centri (“centers”) or Astronomia Platonica (“Platonic astronomy”), pioneered a system of organization that became standard throughout nineteenth-century political secret societies. Individual members, or “lines,” belonged to groups of five, “rays,” and members of one ray had no contact with other rays or their members; the head of each ray reported instead to one member of a “segment” or regional coordinating body. The president of each segment belonged to one of the two “hemispheres” or governing councils of the order, which were headquartered in Bologna and Milan respectively, and received instructions from the supreme directing body, the “Solar Circle.”
The Raggi expanded throughout Italy during the next decade; some estimates put its membership in 1804 at between 30,000 and 50,000. The Napoleonic Wars put the Raggi in a difficult situation, however, as it became increasingly clear that the alternative to French rule was a return to the old conservatism. After the fall of Napoleon, when most of the small kingdoms of Italy ended up ruled by reactionary governments backed by Austrian troops, the Raggi were apparently absorbed by the Carbonari and Philadelphes, two more militant secret societies with connections to the wider world of European revolutionary movements.
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