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Wednesday August 5th 2015

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The Bananas are Back in Town: Are Secret Societies Making a Comeback?

Seven_Society_Maury_HallIt’s spring in Charlottesville, and we all know what that means: birds are in the trees, Imps are in the streets, and every secret society is preparing for Jefferson’s birthday festivities. The usual suspects will of course be present: the Purple Shadows will deliver their ceremonial wreath at sunrise in front of an audience of sleepy fourth-years, and the Sons and Daughters of Liberty will release their “Rebels and Tyrants” list any day now. However, the unaware masses have to wonder: is there more clandestine activity this year than in previous years?


This question is, by definition, unanswerable: if secret societies were being revived, how would us outsiders even know? Obscure traditional practices occur so often at this University that most students probably would not even notice a groups of masked men and women in colonial garb silently passing out flyers on the second floor of Clemons. However, for those curious about the esoteric rites of some of the most secretive groups in college society, look around; each society has individual characteristics to watch out for, and if you’re observant enough around Grounds, you may be fortunate enough to see a gaggle of giggling Thursdays, or TILKAs running past in a blur of drums and robes.


For some groups, this identification is easier than with others. Of the societies at UVA, the least secretive is the Imps, or as they were originally known, the Hot Feet. Members are recognizable by public pictures, and by the fact that they travel in groups of pitchfork-bearing, red-and-black clad figures. Though the Imps have always been notorious for causing mayhem around grounds, they’ve started to take initiative in various philanthropies over the past few years, as is evident by their “Imp Service Fellowship” grant application, which was due last week.


In this same mischief-causing category is the lesser known Mystic Order of Eli Banana. Recognizable by their Hullabahoo-like robes and massive bass drum (which they bring everywhere), the Eli Bananas began as a philanthropic society of men “with contempt for fear and hatred of shame”; this sentiment, along with more details about the Eli Banana Society, can be found on a plaque in Pavilion VIII, which was installed in honor of former member William Echols in 1949.


Other societies to keep an eye out for in the upcoming weeks include the decidedly creepy Society of the Purple Shadows, which leaves a wreath on the East Lawn statue every year on Jefferson’s birthday (April 13), along with a note detailing their thoughts on the current state of the university. Also on April 13 is the release of the list with the 13 Society’s current members, of which there are 13.


In addition, the A.N.G.E.L.S Society will leave a bouquet of white roses at the feet of the Jefferson statue on the North side of the Rotunda to commemorate Founders Day (April 11). Anyone who walks through through the Academical Village will likely see the Rebels and Tyrants list posted by the Sons and Daughters of Liberty; however, except for their decision to list Helen Dragas as a tyrant last year, the logic behind those decisions remains mysterious.


As societies make their appearance known on Grounds, those who are not among the chosen should not despair. New societies, such as the OWL literary secret society, The Order, and the Children of the Quad, are created anew every so often to reflect the diverse interests of the current students. Whatever your interests or involvements, there’s always a possibility that you’ll be the next recipient of an anonymous letter, sending you off to discover a hidden part of this great University.