Secret Societies, Oaths and Handshakes
Latter day horse whisperers can claim credit for the formation of many secret societies that sprang up in Great Britain during the 18th century, each with its own secret handshake, oath and password. Scottish whisperers were regarded with great awe and the expression ‘orra loon’ meaning odd or misplaced was applied to members of this group. It makes one wonder if the adjective ‘loonie’ that is applied to an odd person comes from this?
The Scottish Brotherhood or Society of Horse Whisperers was still in existence in the late 19th Century and possibly into the early 20th in the areas of Aberdeenshire and Morayshire. Other areas of Scottish lowlands may also have retained their fair share of horse whisperers as the flatter terrain enabled horses to work even after tractors were invented.
In the horse whisperers oath dating from 1780, novices had to promise to:
“heal, conceal and never reveal any part of the true horsemanship which I am about to receive at this time.”
They also swore not to tell their friends, family, nor to write it, speak of it, carve it in wood or stone nor to reveal it to anybody less than 16 years of age or older than 45 unless the potential member had been questioned and examined by ‘three or more lawful sworn brethren present.’
For those who didn’t keep their promise the consequences were dire: their flesh would be torn to pieces by a wild horse, the heart cut out with a horseman’s knife, and his bones buried on the sands of a seashore where the rides ebbed and flowed every 24 hours.
After taking the oath the novice was blindfolded and a ‘regal crown, the royal robe, and the sacred sword belt of the Brotherhood’ were placed upon him. When his blindfold was removed, he found that this was in fact an old hat bedecked with imitation horse ears, a horse blanket and a girth strap. Young farmhands would then be taken into a darkened byre to shake hands with the “auld chiel” – the devil – after swearing the oath of secrecy. The evening then degenerated into ‘true drunkenness and horseplay.’
Whisper It…Klu Klux Klan Origins in Horse Whisperers
There is a final and chilling note to this Scottish Society of Horse Whispers that never fails to astonish.
While many horse whisperer societies forged links with Masonic Societies, some went a step further. On Christmas Eve in 1865, six young Confederate army officers who had emigrated from Scotland held a meeting to form a secret society using their knowledge of the whisperers’ traditions and oaths as the basis in Pulaski, Tennessee. They discussed possible names and because horse whisperer meeting back home were called ‘kuklos’ a word that comes from the Greek word meaning circle, they settled on the same with the word clan added to it but spelled with a K. The group probably started out as a drinking and hellfire club that soon got out of hand and finally emerged as the Klu Klux Klan.
Today the initiation rites for this infamous group include the robing of a new member along with a ‘sacred crown, robe and sword’ which are modern versions of the old hat, blanket and leather strap.
Can You Explain This?
Today, many people claim to be able to communicate with animals. However, unlike the horse whisperers of old, today’s animal communicators do it through mental telepathy, or with visions. While it is easy to dismiss the old horse whisperers as horsemen who just knew a trick or two, some of the faded old photos of the whisperers at work might make you stop and reconsider hasty judgement.
One such photo taken at a fair in West Lothian, England reveals a middle aged gent complete with peaked cap and tweed coat standing beside two enormous draft horses who are lying down with their heads facing the camera. They are fully harnessed complete with hames and their manes are braided and topped with ribbons. Their plow lies in front of them. One has to wonder if those with ‘the word’ might have indeed had the special gift of communication bestowed upon them. After all when was the last time you were able to get two 18 h.h. Shire horses to lie down for you?