The Order of Chaeronea was a secret society for the cultivation of a homosexual moral, ethical, cultural and spiritual ethos. It was founded by George Cecil Ives in 1897, as a result of his realization that the "Cause" (the end of the oppression of homosexuals) would not be accepted openly in society and must therefore have a means of underground communication. The society is named after the location of the Battle of Chaeronea (338 BC) where the Sacred Band of Thebes was finally annihilated in 338 BC.
Nature of the organizationEdit
Ives and other members dated letters and other materials from the year of the Battle of Chaeronea, so that 1899 would be written as C2237. An elaborate system of rituals, ceremonies, a service of initiation, seals, codes, and passwords were used by the members. The Secret Society became a worldwide organization, and Ives took advantage of every opportunity to spread the word about the "Cause."
The Order, according to Ives' notebooks, had a specific purpose, distinct prescriptions and philosophy, and its particular symbolism: the "sign-word" AMRRHAO and "the seal of the double wreath." The prerequisites of membership are indicated to be "Zeal, Learning and Discipline." The principle of secrecy is conveyed by the metaphor of "The Chain" underlining that one should never reveal any information about the order or its members.
In Ives' words: "We believe in the glory of passion. We believe in the inspiration of emotion. We believe in the holiness of love. Now some in the world without have been asking as to our faith, and mostly we find that we have no answer for them. Scoffers there be, to whom we need not reply, and foolish ones to whom our words would convey no meaning. For what are words? Symbols of kindred comprehended conceptions, and like makes appeal to like."
The Order can be said to have been the first gay-rights group formed in Britain, and it presaged much of the modern gay political organizing of the twentieth century.
Members included Charles Kains Jackson, Samuel Elsworth Cottam, Montague Summers, Laurence Housman, John Gambril Nicholson and Oscar Wilde. It is thought that Charles Robert Ashbee was a member. In his voluminous writings, Ives refers to Walt Whitman as "The Prophet" and used lines from Whitman's poetry in the ritual and ceremony of the Order.
Long believed extinct, the late 1990s saw a semi-successful effort to reconstitute the Order of Chaerona along Freemasonic lines of doctrine, governance and ritual principally undertaken by the Moorish Orthodox Church's Bishop of New Jersey, the Rt Rev. Sotemohk A. Beeyayelel. Dr Beeyayelel was appointed as Grand Master of a newly instituted Grand Lodge of a revived Sovereign Military Order of Chaerona which today has affiliates in New Jersey, Kentucky, and Missouri (USA), the United Kingdom, France and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea and South Africa. The new Order is an affiliate of the Union of Radical Magi.
- George Cecil Ives, Papers: 1874-1949 - Harry Ransom Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin
- Elysium Books catalog with description of Ives' notebooks