Thursday, March 15, 2007

Caves, Women, and Apes Oh MY!

Night Of the Taking was heavily influenced on a book I read on Hellfire clubs. I am still so fascinated by them…









The Hellfire Club that I want to talk about is the one that was at Medmenham Abbey on the River Thames. This club was founded by Sir Francis Dashwood.(Black and White Print to the right. I love the image of the woman on the rock before him.)

The members called themselves such things as “the brother hood of st. Francis of Wycombe” or “the Monks of Medmenham”. They referred to themselves as brothers. They wore robes, pretending to be monks. There are rumors that they had an Ape or Monkey that was in some form or way used in the rituals that they conducted at the beginning of each meeting. The earl of sandwich upon seeing this monkey stated him to be the devil. This caused all sorts of rumors to fly about Satan worship within the abbey walls. The Monks of Medmenham’s motto was “Do what thou wilt” a saying made famous from Francois Rabelais.(image of the man with hat.) Many through the ages have based clubs and occults on that motto.

The brothers, blindfolded woman, either prostitutes or ladies of upper class and had them brought in by carriage to the Abbey for their enjoyment, calling them Nuns. The blind fold held two purposes to hide the way to the Abbey and to disguise the upper-class woman from the town folk they passed. It was also rumored that any children that were born because of hellfire rituals were raised at the abbey or in the town and were put into service there.

The abbey itself was said to have a library filled with erotica but no one really knows for sure. There was a painting of the god Harpocrates, finger to lips, which presided over the refectory and a portrait of Henry VIII's where his eyes were pasted over with paper. Both symbols of not to talk or mention what you see at the Abbey. The chapter room is the room that no one dared talk about.

John Wilkes stated this about the chapter room, a room that, though he was a member, he never was permitted to enter… "No profane eye has dared to penetrate into the English Eleusinian mysteries of the chapter-room, where the monks assembled on all solemn occasions, the more secret rites were performed and libations poured forth in much pomp to the BONA DEA." Legend portrays the Monks as indulging in sadomasochistic orgies with in this room. Yumm.

No one knows quite what really happened at the Abbey. The records were destroyed and members were sworn not to breathe a word about the goings on. John Wilkes had a trial attempted against him for seditious libel against the King in early 1763. During a search a version of The Essay on Woman was discovered set up on the press of a printer whom Wilkes had almost certainly used. This was the only bit of information on the goings on that escaped the Abbey and it was used against Wilkes destroying him as a public figure of the time.

Medmenham also had caves some say also based on the teachings of Rabelais which are still in existence today…

For a bit of fun… you can check out the website for the caves of west Wycombe http://www.hellfirecaves.co.uk/home.htm

It is said that the Hellfire Club held elaborate parties here as well as performed rituals of sexual delight. Some say the rituals were more of the satanic vein, but there is no true evidence of that.

I found what I read about this specific Hellfire and the lengths that brothers went through to enjoy themselves,women, and wine, to do what they will absolutely fascinating.

Hugs,
Lacy.

7 comments:

Kate Pearce said...

I've always been fascinated by what went on in the 'hood'. The good thing is, because we don't know, we can let our imaginations run wild!
Nice pictures and great post!

Robin L. Rotham said...

Well, my imagination is certainly running wild, LOL! I'm not sure what to think about that ape, tho...

Elizabeth Parker said...

Very interesting post! It all reminded me of a modern version of a club like this in the movie EYES WIDE SHUT.

Jane Lockwood said...

Right off topic, but I believe Jane Austen had some sort of connection with the Dashwoods and that's why she chose the name for Sense and Sensibility. Or knew someone else in the neighborhood.
I don't think she participated in any of the fun and games. I rather think her sarcasm might have wilted the enthusiasm.

Sam said...

There is a Barbra Dawson Smith book called Tempt Me Twice that has something like the Hellfire Club in it. I cant remember if it was called the Hellfire club exactly but it was something similar. Smith just used the idea as the spooky evil villains deflowering virgins as sacrifice and all that. I didn't know that it was based on a real thing, very interesting.

Mina said...

Fascinating. I never knew the Hellfire club actually existed. I'd read about it in a novel ages ago and thought it an invention of the author. It's a shame we'll never really know what went on. I wonder if Sandwich's comment was because he got bitten by the monkey. I know I got horribly savaged by a ferret a while ago and I haven't liked the little critters since.

Pam Rosenthal said...

Re Jane's post -- there ought to be a book (or at least a post here) called What Jane Austen Knew... and Didn't Talk About in her Novels.