Originally Published at Conspiracy Archive on 2012/08/05

Anyone the least familiar with the Bohemian Grove has come across the claim that the 40-foot stone owl is a reference to Moloch, associated with child sacrifice in the Bible and rabbinic tradition. The owl, however – to the Bohemian club, as well – has traditionally symbolized wisdom. While there’s no ancient description of what a Moloch idol actually looked like, relatively modern representations have invariably depicted a bull-headed statue. Throughout history, in fact, not once was Moloch ever associated with an owl – until, that is, the age of the internet.

Classic Moloch illustration from the early 1700s (Johann Lund: Die alten jüdischen Heiligthümer ...)

Classic Moloch illustration from the early 1700s (Johann Lund: Die alten jüdischen Heiligthümer …)

I’d initially surmised that Alex Jones was the first person to put the Moloch spin on the owl. In 2000, as we know, he snuck into the Grove, videotaped the Cremation of Care ritual, and became an internet superstar – and rightly so. Numerous times in his film, Alex matter-of-factly states that the Bohemian owl represents Moloch.

The first conflation in book-form appears to be David Icke’s The Biggest Secret (Feb. 1999), a little more than a year before Alex Jones, Mike Hanson, Jon Ronson and “Rick the lawyer” had infiltrated the annual elite summer encampment in July of 2000.

On page 335, in the first edition, we read:

The owl is the symbol of Moloch or Molech, an aspect of Nimrod/Baal. Moloch demands the sacrifice of children and it was to this deity that the children of the Babylonians, Hebrews, Canaanites, Phoenicians and Carthaginians, were sacrificially burned. This picture provided visual support for the claims over many years that Druid rituals were being performed at the Grove with people in red robes marching in procession chanting to the Great Owl, Moloch. … The symbolism of being able to see in the dark and with a 360 degree range of vision are also appropriate for a Brotherhood deity. These world famous Brotherhood initiates at Bohemian Grove burn a Celtic wicker effigy at the start of their ‘camp’ to symbolise their ‘religion’. …

A local community newspaper, The Santa Rosa Sun, reported in July 1993 about the Cult of Canaan and the legend of Moloch at Bohemian Grove, but police investigations into alleged murders on the site have predictably led nowhere.

The last paragraph is key to finding out where the theory had originated.

When I first got wired (as they used to say) in 2000, a conspiracy-related reading frenzy ensued. I had already been a bibliophile of sorts before that, but the World Wide Web opened the flood gates on anything and everything supposedly arcane or hidden. One of the most popular webpages on the grove, as some may well remember, was called “Bohemian Bigwigs Perpetuate Canaanite Cult.” This article was The Santa Rosa Sun piece referred to by Icke. Here’s how it looked back in 1996. The Moloch (Molech)/Owl identification, per Mark Evans, is as follows:

Should the Cremation of Care ceremony so quickly be dismissed, given its occult nature and historical antecedents? This ceremony resembles the ancient Canaanite worship of the idol, Molech. Like the Owl of Bohemia, the ancient Ammonite idol Molech was a towering larger-than-life edifice. Whereas the Owl is solid, the bronze Molech was hollow. Molech worship consisted of the ritualized sacrifice of the first-born infant son of every Ammonite newlywed family. Building a fire in the belly of the beast until the flames poured out of the mouth, the high priest mounted a scaffold and tossed the first-born male child into an aperture in Molech’s chest, to the incantation of drums and droned liturgy of the priests of Molech.

Technically, Owl worship, as it is practiced at the Grove, is somewhat different from Molech worship. Peter Weiss, writing in Spy Magazine, November 1989, states, “Bohemian Club literature . . . boosts that the Cremation of Care ceremony derives from Druid rites, medieval Christian liturgy, the Book of Common Prayer, Shakespearean drama, and nineteenth-century American lodge rites.” Is this the straight goods, or is it PR sugar coating of a darker sacrificial rite, terrifying even on a symbolic level?

John DeCamp’s book, The Franklin Cover-Up, includes Paul Bonacci’s testimony about a snuff film of a child being murdered on July 26, 1984 in California in “an area that had big trees.” At a meeting in Santa Rosa, DeCamp told a group that he had edited out Bonacci’s references to an enormous, moss-covered owl and men in hooded red robes because he not know then about the owl at the Grove and thought it “too far fetched for people to believe.” In the fall of 1992, Paul Bonacci was shown a black and white photo of the moss-covered owl at the Grove and quickly identified it as the site of the July 1984 snuff film described in DeCamp’s book. Although this testimony has been available to law enforcement officials since mid-October 1992, no official investigation has been made. A casket christened “Dull Care” and borne, like the passing of Arthur, in a boat across the lake could be a symbol, also, not only of “cares of the world,” but of caring itself. The denizens of the Grove, as a collective body, are the ruling class and upper echelon bagmen who make and orchestrate war – the modern Molech. It would make sense to immolate caring, conscience and the consequences of their business transactions, lest they take responsibility for millions of souls around the globe whose lives have been affected by wars of Yankee Imperialism in the twentieth century.

Seems the most explosive allegations about the Grove are included in the Moloch narrative from the get-go. However, Evans didn’t go so far as to state that the owl at the grove is a representation of Moloch – that would be left to later embellishments on the internet, in books, and film – only that there are similarities between the Cremation of Care ceremony and what little we know about the Moloch worship of antiquity.

Mark Walter Evans has indeed admitted he’s the originator of the analogy – to Brian Romanoff of Nor Cal Truth, and in a reply to an IndyMedia article on Grove:

As the author of the original article [published simultaneously, in July 0f 1993, in the Santa Rosa Sun as "Inside Bohemian Grove," and in the North Coast Xpress as "Bohemian Bigwigs Perpetuate Canaanite Cult,"] that suggested an equation – of sorts – between the “Owl of Bohemia” and Molech, I’d like to put my own two cents into the pot.

In the first place, I am glad that the occult nature of the “Cremation of Care” ceremony has begun to receive the attention that it deserves. The Masters of War at the Bohemian Grove are nasty customers, and all their works are evil. On this point, both the Left, and the Right wings of the anti- New World Order forces, can agree.

I wish to say that when I wrote the article, I did not mean to make a literal equation of the “Owl of Bohemia” with Molech, but a figurative one, stressing the simularities, and announcing the continuity of a “cult of Sacrifice,” on a Symbolic level. That many fundamentalist Christians have run with this thesis, and taken the equation literally, is an intersting phenomenon — but I was more inclined to draw a simile that to starkly declare it was “Molech” his-self. …

Alex and company were the first to actually capture footage of the famous Cremation of Care ritual. But it was a quick in-and-out operation. Fearful of being made, the infiltrators retreated after the conclusion of the opening festivities.

In the 1980s a few journalists managed to spend days in the Grove, publishing articles about their experiences.

The first was in 1980. Mother Jones sent Rick Clogher, whose report appeared in the magazine a year later: “Bohemian Grove: Inside the Secret Retreat of the Power Elite” (Mother Jones, Aug. 1981).

Clogher wasn’t there for the Cremation of Care, but he was privy to a Lakeside talk by William F. Buckley, as well as the main grove play (that year called Olympus, written by Peter R. Arnott). “Cronus, the Harvester, has declared himself God of the Universe,” Clogher writes, describing the play. “In the past, gods have had their power usurped by succeeding generations. To prevent this, Cronus devours his own offspring. But he is undone by his wife, Rhea, and his mother, Gaea, who help one son escape. That son, Zeus, returns full-grown to challenge his father. Having freed an army of demigods banished by his father to the Underworld, Zeus leads the attack against Cronus’ forces. Along the switchback trails that rise up the tree-covered hillside at the back of the stage, the battle ebbs and flows. Rockets streak off into the night over the heads of the audience; smoke bombs explode and columns of fire shoot skyward; spotlights careen off each other as the armies clash. In the end, Zeus pledges to establish a new, just reign and to create a race of humans, touched by divinity yet humbled by mortality.”

A screenshot from Alex Jones' film on the Grove, in 2000. At the time, speculation on the internet was rampant as to what in the world in could mean. It turns out that Alex had filmed the entrance to the featured Grove play for that year: 'Je Suis LaFitte,' by James C. Crimmins, about the famous pirate.

A screenshot from Alex Jones’ film on the Grove, in 2000. At the time, speculation on the internet was rampant as to what in the world in could mean. It turns out that Alex had filmed the entrance to the featured Grove play for that year: ‘Je Suis LaFitte,’ by James C. Crimmins, about the famous pirate.

The Bohemian Grove stagecraft, owing much to David Belasco in the early 1900s, is like the “paraphernalia of a secret cult,” wrote Richard Reinhardt for American Heritage. The plays developed “a sort of institutional inertia, like the rites of an ancient church. Their evanescence, their exclusivity, their pageantry, their archaic language all gave them the aura of tradition in a young state that has been said to lack tradition. Every summer, the Grove Plays rolled forth in comforting similarity. Immense, heathen allegories, old-fashioned heroism, soul-stirring morality: that was the stuff of Bohemian dramaturgy.”

The most detailed article about the Grove, in a mainstream setting, was Philip Weiss’ “Masters of the Universe Go to Camp: Inside the Bohemian Grove,” Spy Magazine, November 1981. Like Clogher, with the help of Mary Moore, Weiss snuck in; and spent a week there during the 16-day encampment.

Weiss quotes an official invitation to the Grove, thus:

“Brother Bohemians: The Sun is Once Again in the Clutches of the Lion, and the encircling season bids us to the forest — there to celebrate… the awful mysteries!”

“Bohemians come! Find home again in the Grove! Burn CARE and hurl his ashes, whirling, from our glade!”

“Come out Bohemians! come out and play, come with all the buoyant impetuous rush of youth!”

“The religion they consecrate,” he writes, “is right-wing, laissez-faire and quintessentially western, with some Druid tree worship thrown in for fun.”

For the Bohemians, the Cremation of Care ritual is essential. Sociologist G. William Domhoff writes that it’s an “initiation into the spirit of the encampment. It is all very fancy. The script varies only slightly each year. It is also a put-on, a mock of rituals — but it is a ritual ceremony nonetheless. Postmodernists might call it a meta-ritual.”

“Initiation” is apt in this situation. Another sociologist, James Vaughn, in his “The Culture of the Bohemian Grove: The Dramaturgy of Power,” Michigan Sociological Review, Vol. 20 (Fall 2006), goes to great lengths to describe the meaning and function of the ritual. “The paramount event of the Midsummer Encampment is a Druidic ‘mock ritual’, the Cremation of Care ceremony,” he writes:

The Cremation of Care is a ritualized sacrifice of an effigy of the body of the Dull Cares of the world. Dull Care is understood to mean the accumulated stresses, boredoms, and sins accumulated by each Bohemian during the past year. This effigy is cremated upon the altar of Bohemia at the foot of the Owl Shrine. The Shrine is a forty foot tall Owl Deity that symbolizes “…all mortal wisdom…” (Annals of the Bohemian Club vol. V: 431) and is the tutelary deity of the Club. Through the process of conducting this research, I came to an understanding that the Cremation of Care is a formal ritual that functions as a group catharsis for those that participate in it.

As a sociological researcher, Vaughn went to the grove to observe his subjects in “the discrepant role of the servant”; the “classic type of non-person” that wouldn’t raise suspicions. Lowly servant or not, from 1995 through to 1997 he had managed to meet “Presidents of the United States of America, Speakers of the U. S. House of Representatives, Secretaries of: Defense, State, Treasury, and Energy, and Directors of the CIA. …Directors of some of the largest U. S. Corporations involved in: banking, development, military contracts, insurance, transportation, communications and energy. Several individuals present during this field study were identified as judges, elected state officials, lobbyists, famous entertainers, and academics from some of the most prestigious universities in the United States.”

Vaughn describes how the Cremation of Care generates “heightened emotional states,” even in himself:

As the Cremation of Care unfolded, I experienced several levels of emotion. One emotional state that was experienced was astonishment that men of such high social status and mostly political conservatives were assembled and engaged in this ritual. Another was a sense of “calming, being soothed by the music.”

He continues with descriptive language such as the “assembled witnesses” becoming “a single whole”; “darkness removing boundaries between them”; lifting their drinks at certain points, or swaying “together to the music” … “a quasi-religious sentiment permeated the proceedings” … “a group cathartic release in flame.”

Alex Jones and Jon Ronson had similar views about the revelry of the participants they had witnessed during the ceremony.

Moloch or no Moloch, Babylon or Baal; the Grove, it seems, is a hallowed place for the power elite. “Like Delphi or Montserrat,” according to Richard Reinhardt, “whose sacred allure affects every visitor and whose sanctity seems to predate recorded history; no one observing the pilgrimage can doubt the Grove’s power, whatever the nature of its ritual.”