(Disclosure: Alan Butler threatened to sue me in 2005 for publishing this review of one of his books because he erroneously believed I required his permission to do so.)
Anyway, Butler wrote:
After Scott and I had been to California we flew up to Minnesota, to meet Janet there and to do some really important research into a strange and little-known but very important group known as the Grange. Janet and I want to write a book about the Grange, which is going to shock people in the US especially - even those who thought they understood what the Grange was actually about.
Under the direction of President Andrew Johnson, Oliver Kelley, a Freemason, was tasked with improving the agricultural practices of the post-Civil War South. Kelley found deep resentment of the North but realized that the shared values of Freemasonry helped to overcome these differences. He therefore modeled the Grange on the Freemasons as a way of bringing Northerners and Southerners together to improve agricultural practices. However, Kelley’s organization won a unique spot in history because, on the advice of Kelley’s niece, the Grange allowed the participation of women, becoming one of the few Mason-influenced groups to do so. Naturally, alternative speculators with a matriarchal bent like Butler and Janet Wolter must have pricked up their ears at this.
Butler and Mrs. Wolter are not blazing any new ground in accusing the National Grange of matriarchal, occult connections. In the New Encyclopedia of the Occult (2003), John Michael Greer (himself a neo-pagan occultist) writes that the Grange had “pagan” symbolism drawn from Roman mythology. Three female officers represent Flora, Pomona, and Ceres—Roman agricultural goddesses. He calls the highest degree of initiation, the level of Ceres, “a full-blown nineteenth-century reconstruction of the Eleusinian Mysteries,” the Greek rites of Demeter (= Ceres) and Persephone (Proserpina) designed to prepare the soul for the afterlife. According to Greer, Kelley borrowed the ritual from an Italian nobleman, and it contains such pagan material that good Christian Grangers refuse to undertake the ritual. Nevertheless, Greer notes that the organization is not a pagan cult, has no connection to modern paganism, and is almost certainly simply a bit of Victorian Classicism.
This is confirmed by Grange documents from the 1860s and 1870s, which made no secret of the fact that the order modeled itself on what was then known of the Eleusinian Mysteries: “Ancient history tells us of the Eleusinian Mysteries, where both male and female, young and old were admitted to membership… It is the leader of modern associations in admitting young and old of both sexes,” as the secretary of the National Grange discussed in an 1873 speech published in the organization’s official journal.
Here’s exactly how secret the Grange kept its organization and its female empowerment. The image below was a poster showing the “pagan” organization of meetings. Yes, a poster. For everyone to see.
The Grange’s Eleusinian influences were supposedly provided to its first “High Priest of Demeter,” F. M. McDowell, by the Duc D’Ascoli (also given as Duke of Ascoli or Duc Dascoli) in the 1850s and 1860s. That Sicilian fellow, in turn, claimed rather grandiosely that he was the apostolic successor of the priests of Eleusis, who had gone underground after Theodosius closed the Temple of Demeter in 392 and survived in Sicily (but of course) as an order of knighthood dedicated to preserving Roman (?) Republican (??) freedoms. I’m not quite sure how that worked since the last two hierophants of Eleusis are known to us: Eunapius (Lives of the Sophists 10.8.1-2) tells us of the final hierophant, the last descendant of the hereditary Eumolpidae priests, and an unnamed priest of Mithras who usurped the hereditary priest’s place. Given that the priesthood was hereditary, and the family died out, where does “apostolic succession” come into play? From the usurper? Asterius of Amaseia, in the Encomium on All the Martyrs (10.9.1) gives us our final glimpse of the Mysteries, accusing (by implication) the hierophant and chief priestess of retreating into the sanctuary of Demeter to have sex in order to secure the immortality of the cultists’ souls. Then, Christians pulled down the temple, put up a basilica, and the Mysteries were forgotten.
From this unpromising stew, it seems that Butler and Mrs. Wolter plan to construct an elaborate fantasy about Greco-Roman goddess worship persisting underground in Italy until American labor leaders imported it to the United States, hid it under the guise of a political and social welfare organization, and… what exactly? Held weird orgies at night? Worshipped wheat?
I will say this for Butler: He claims that the Grange is “strange and little-known,” and if you only read alternative history, you’d agree. As Greer noted, alternative types have almost completely ignored the Grange and its pagan trappings. In fact, the only way you’d know everything I just told you is if you (gasp!) read the scholarly literature on the subject. All of the facts I provided above were taken from standard histories published over the last few decades and widely available in most large libraries, including Oliver H. Kelley and Thomas A. Woods, Knights of the Plow (Purdue, 2002); Mari Jo Buhle, Women and American Socialism (U of Illinois, 1983); and others. Yup, it’s a hidden mystery scholars are trying hard to suppress.
By the way, if you would like to go join in on the pagan goddess worship, you can visit the Grange at its super-secret website here or at its ultra-pagan headquarters at 1616 H Street NW in Washington, DC, across the street from the White House. Oops... That proves it’s a government-Freemason-Jesus Bloodline conspiracy! I guess they put it there so that it would be a convenient walk for the President to attend the human sacrifices.