Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
Most secret societies are formed to keep a secret. Why the secrecy? Because most members don’t want to face persecution and death. That was the case with many secret societies including the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
During the time of Queen Elizabeth I of England, tensions were slightly elevated between Catholic and Protestant. This is a gross understatement. Each side was persecuting the other. With Elizabeth in power, the Protestants had the upper-hand and used it quite often. Many priests went into hiding. Many Catholic families had to find secretive and unique methods to worship and still avoid death.
Numerous groups rose up to help those that were persecuted as they would find themselves without home, food, or clothing. Fraternal orders began to appear around the country and stretched to America as well. It also began to develop a militant aspect as conflicts and persecutions arose. Some orders began to take up the offensive instead of always being on the defensive.
The official beginning of the Ancient Order of Hibernians comes from American in 1836. It began when an order from Pennsylvania called the Hibernian Benevolent Society and St. Patrick’s Fraternal Society of New York met together in New York. They united and formed the official joining of the many orders into one called the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Their motto was “Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity”.
One might think it was not needed in early America with its emphasis on freedom. Yes, the colonies and the early years of the country were founded on freedom but it was usually the majority that were free. Certain colonies were predominantly Catholic or Protestant. They were notorious for persecuting those that did not follow the accepted religion of the area. Keeping the Ancient Order of the Hibernians and other similar orders was the only way to survive.
Many of their rituals are still secret but more from a tradition standpoint. The creation of the society was due to the intense persecution of the Catholics. The need for secrecy was due to the intense persecution of the Catholics. This secret society is not intent on ruling the world or to take power from governments. They were created to protect those that were victimized. Secrecy was the only way for them to find success.