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The Ancient Noble Order of the Gormogons was a short-lived 18th century society formed by expelled Freemason Philip Wharton. It left no records or accomplishments to indicate its true goal and purpose. From the group's few published articles it is thought that the society's primary objective was to hold up Freemasonry to ridicule.[1] During its brief existence it was accused of being a Jacobite-leaning group,[2] perhaps because the first known Grandmaster (or Oecumenical Volgi) was Andrew Michael Ramsay of Ayr, Scotland, a Jacobite of strong convictions.[3] It also appears to have been a charitable organization, at least according to its surviving bylaws. There are also some surviving pendant badges, bearing their sign.[4]

Possible etymology of the name[edit]

Jonathon Green suggests in Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang that, in the form gormagon, the word is a blend of gorgon and dragon, while the Oxford English Dictionary describes the etymology as "meaningless: pseudo Chinese."[5]

In The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,[6] the word gormagon was humorously defined thus: "A monster with six eyes, three mouths, four arms, eight legs, five on one side and three on the other, three arses, two tarses [penises], and a **** upon its back." The compiler Francis Grose gave the game away in his dictionary entry by explaining that it was "a man on horseback, with a woman behind him".[7] (His "five legs on one side" description could be merely that the woman was riding side-saddle).

One of the earliest references to the Gormogons was a September 3, 1724 entry in The London Post, which stated that it was founded by a certain Chin-Qua Ky-Po, who was claimed to be the first emperor of China, many thousand years before Adam.[8] In this entry, the order was said to have been brought to London by a "Mandarin", who in turn initiated several "Gentlemen of Honor" into its ranks.[9] Scholars offer differing accounts as to when this order became extinct. For instance, it was proposed that it ended in 1738.[9] Another account maintained that it survived until 1799, when an Act was passed in July 12th of that year suppressing all secret societies with the exemption of Freemasonry.[10]

In popular culture[edit]

The Gormogons have been referenced in the TV show Bones. Beginning with the season 3 premiere, "The Widow's Son in the Windshield", the Jeffersonian team investigated a cannibalistic serial killer they call Gormogon, for his obsession with secret societies and his targeting of the Knights Templar.


  1. ^ Antient Noble Order of the Gormogons
  2. ^ Lyttle, Charles H. "Historical Bases of Rome's Conflict with Freemasonry", Church History, Vol. 9, No. 1. (Mar., 1940), pp. 3–23.
  3. ^ Carr. J. L. "Gorgons, Gormogons, Medusists and Masons". The Modern Language Review. Vol. 58, No. 1 (Jan., 1963), pp. 73–78.
  4. ^ Sotheby's October 1974 catalogue, reproduced in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 116, No. 858 (Sep., 1974), pp. i–lx.
  5. ^ "gormagon", OED Online (2nd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, retrieved 26 March 2009.
  6. ^ Francis Grose (1994), The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue: Buckish Slang, University Wit and Pickpocket Eloquence, London: Senate, ISBN 1-85958-045-9, a facsimile reprint of Captain [Francis] Grose, comp. (1811), Lexicon balatronicum, London: Printed for C. Chappel.
  7. ^ See Captain [Francis] Grose; Juliet Sutherland [et al.], eds. (April 2004), 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue [EBook #5402], Salt Lake City, Ut.: Project Gutenberg, retrieved 26 March 2009CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link).
  8. ^ Zagami, Leo Lyon (2017). Confessions of an Illuminati, VOLUME III: Espionage, Templars and Satanism in the Shadows of the Vatican. San Francisco, CA: CCC Publishing. p. 176. ISBN 9781888729665.
  9. ^ a b Redfern, Nick (2017-03-14). Secret Societies: The Complete Guide to Histories, Rites, and Rituals. Visible Ink Press. ISBN 9781578596461.
  10. ^ Ward, J. M. S.; Stirling, W. G. (2006). The Triads. Oxon: Routledge. p. 126. ISBN 9780710312044.