The Order of the Pug: Meet Bavaria’s bizarre secret society

It is 1738, and the Catholic Church has just banned its members from partaking in freemasonry. How are freemasons in a region known for its love of secret societies to react?

Against this backdrop, the Order of the Pug was formed.

The Order of the Pug retained many of the conventions of masonry, but used a different name in order to skirt the Catholic Church’s restrictions. The pug was chosen as the group’s emblem due to its alleged loyalty and trustworthiness. It is also thought that use of a pug demonstrated affinity for England, which was then a bastion of Enlightenment thought. Pugs were, by this time, thoroughly dispersed in that country, and to many, the pug manifested the virtues of English government.

Members (called “mops,” German for “pug”) were initiated by wearing collars and scratching at the entrance of the lodge. They were then blindfolded and led beside a group of barking pugs, whose barks were meant to test the resilience of prospective members of the order. The initiation also required members to kiss the backside of a pug under its tail. Thankfully, the pug was porcelain. Members also carried medallions bearing the likeness of a pug.

The group was, of course, eventually discovered, and was banned by Gottingen University in 1748. However, it is thought that remnants may have existed as late as 1901. While the Order of the Pug has been almost entirely forgotten today, pug lovers everywhere can be proud of the breed’s momentary spotlight in the annals of secret societies.

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