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The pyrotechnic climax to the 1907 Cremation of Care

The Cremation of Care is an annual theatrical production written, produced and performed by and for members of the Bohemian Club, and staged at the Bohemian Grove near Monte Rio, California at a small artificial lake amid a private old-growth grove of Redwood trees.

Bohemian Club[]

In 1878, the Bohemian Club of San Francisco first took to the woods in Taylorville, California (present-day Samuel P. Taylor State Park) for a summer celebration that they called Midsummer High Jinks.[1] Poems were recited, songs were sung, and dramatic readings were given; the practice was repeated each summer in other areas, primarily near the Russian River in Sonoma County. In 1881, the ceremony of the Cremation of Care was first conducted after the various individual performances, with James F. Bowman as Sire.[2] The ceremony was further expanded in 1893 by a member named Joseph D. Redding,[3] with a Midsummer High Jinks entitled The Sacrifice in the Forest, or simply "Druid Jinks", in which brotherly love and Christianity battled and won against paganism, converting the druids away from bloody sacrifice.[4] Redding formed the framework of the ceremony but the main actors, including George Tisdale Bromley as High Priest, were asked to supply their own major speeches.[4] In 1904, the prologue to William Henry Irwin's Grove Play The Hamadryads included text such as "Touch their world-blind eyes with fairy unguents." The play depicted the intrusion, the battles, and the symbolic death of the maleficent Spirit of Care.[5]


The ceremony involves the poling across a lake of a small boat containing an effigy of Care (called "Dull Care"). Dark, hooded figures receive from the ferryman the effigy which is placed on an altar, and, at the end of the ceremony, set on fire. This "cremation" symbolizes that members are banishing the "dull cares" of conscience.[6] At the time the script was developed, the primary meaning of the word 'care' (< O.E. cearu, "anxiety, anguish") was synonymous with 'worry', having more negative connotations than in modern times when it tends to be associated more positively with compassion.[7]

The ceremony takes place in front of the Owl Shrine, a Template:Convert hollow owl statue made of concrete over steel supports. The moss- and lichen-covered statue simulates a natural rock formation, yet holds electrical and audio equipment within it. During the ceremony, a recording is used as the voice of The Owl. For many years the recorded voice was club guest Walter Cronkite.[8] Music and pyrotechnics accompany the ritual for dramatic effect.[9][10][11][12]


On July 15, 2000, filmmaker Alex Jones and his cameraman, Mike Hanson, infiltrated the Bohemian Grove expecting to uncover the owl statue being worshipped as Moloch, with human sacrifices thrown into its fiery interior.[13] With a hidden camera, Jones and Hanson filmed the Cremation of Care ceremony. The footage was the centerpiece of Jones' documentary Dark Secrets: Inside Bohemian Grove. Jones claimed that the Cremation of Care was an "ancient Canaanite, Luciferian, Babylon mystery religion ceremony". [The audio of the ceremony mentions Babylon and Tyre with reverence] The Grove and Jones' investigation were covered by Jon Ronson in Channel 4's four-part documentary Secret Rulers of the World. Ronson documented his view of the ritual in his book Them: Adventures with Extremists, writing: "My lasting impression was of an all-pervading sense of immaturity: the Elvis impersonators, the pseudo-pagan spooky rituals, the heavy drinking. These people might have reached the apex of their professions but emotionally they seemed trapped in their college years."[14]


  1. Garnett, 1908, p. ix.
  2. Garnett, 1908, pp. 19–20.
  3. Domhoff, 1974.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Garnett, 1908, p. 21.
  5. Garnett, 1908, pp. 4–5.
  6. Phillips, 1994.
  7. "History of the Notion of Care", Encyclopedia of Bioethics (1995)
  8. Philip Weiss, Masters of the Universe Go to Camp: Inside the Bohemian Grove. Spy Magazine, November 1989
  9. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 6. Macmillan. 1920. p. 136. 
  10. Miller, Leta E. (2011). Music and Politics in San Francisco: From the 1906 Quake to the Second World War. University of California Press. p. 38. ISBN 9780520268913. 
  11. Wert, Hal Elliott (2005). Hoover The Fishing President: Portrait of the Private Man and His Life Outdoors. Stackpole Books. p. 108. ISBN 9780811700993. 
  12. Buck, Richard P.; Bethards, Jack M. (2005). Music and Musicians in Bohemia: The First One Hundred Years – a Research Document. Bohemian Club. p. 389. 
  13. Jones, Alex. Dark Secrets: Inside Bohemian Grove. 2000.
  14. Ronson, Jon (2002). Them: Adventures with Extremists. Simon and Schuster. p. 321. ISBN 0-7432-3321-2. Retrieved 2010-04-18.