Riding the Goat

Hi everyone — greetings from the History Dept.

Check out this cool new piece by artist Lillian Ripley, then read about its super-weird yet fun connection to the Elks and how they turned a strange rumor into a tongue-in-cheek legend.

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The artist of this piece found inspiration in a 1920s-era postcard bearing the mysterious slogan, “Are you an Elk? Riding the goat.”

The origins of the phrase “riding the goat” comes from clandestine societies and private clubs being suspected of Satanism. To varying degrees, these organizations are shrouded in secrecy, which lends itself to speculation from outsiders. In the era of this postcard, saying someone was “riding the goat” was insinuating they were secret society members practicing witchcraft.

Because all witches ride goats.

Wait, no, there’s absolutely no proof of that.

Anyway, the insinuation transformed into a full-fledged rumor over time and eventually it became a common outsider belief that “riding the goat” was part of an Elks initiation ceremony.

Sometime in the 1920s, various Elks Lodges across the country, amused by the chatter, decided to embrace the faulty notion. They began bringing in actual goats, or making mechanical ones, for blindfolded new members to ride; hence the postcard.

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