The Toast is irresistible. Here is a sample from this week:
Mallory Ortberg: "The Ability To Control Both Horses And Women": “Far be it from me to criticize the tactics of modern union organizers...
...but frankly I think the world was a better place when tradesmen organized to agitate for their rights in the workplace and practice esoteric mind-controlling spells at the same time:
The Society of the Horseman’s Word was a fraternal secret society that operated in Scotland from the eighteenth through to the twentieth century. Its members were drawn from those who worked with horses, including horse trainers, blacksmiths and ploughmen, and involved the teaching of magical rituals designed to provide the practitioner with the ability to control both horses and women.
The Wikipedia page is sadly light on information about the Society’s mind-control tactics for women, but presumably one just did the same ritual as used on horses, subbing “human” for “horse” wherever necessary in the script.
The initiation rituals into the society incorporated a number of elements such as reading passages from the Bible backwards, and the secrets included Masonic-style oaths, gestures, passwords and handshakes. Like the similar societies of the Miller’s Word and the Toadsmen, they were believed to have practiced witchcraft. In East Anglia, horsemen with these powers were sometimes called Horse Witches.
It is absolute garbage that UNWORTHY MEN get to be called something as cool as Horse Witches, but I kind of love how straightforward most secret societies are. “Freeasons control the government! Skull & Bones orchestrated Atlantis’ 9/11 and they have the secrets of the Benghazi Monks of Mu!” I guarantee you that they do not. They drink beer and the most creative “dark arts” activity they can think of is reading the Bible backwards, which is adorable. Five bucks says their password was “palomino.”
Initiates had to ‘shake the Devil’s hand,’ which was usually “a stick covered with some sort of hairy skin,” because people are simple and wonderful.
Their big horse-controlling secret? Candy. (This also works on women; can confirm.)
There were also pleasant smelling and inviting materials, such as sweets, that the horseman could keep in their pocket in order to calm, attract, and subdue a crazed horse. Keeping these techniques secret, along with the myth that there was a word that only the horseman knew that gave them and them alone power over horses helped guarantee their reputation, prestige, job security, and pay. The same type of logic and protection of trade secrets can be seen among modern magicians who keep their tricks secret and only share them with other members of their trade.
One critic of the Society, a ploughman who later became a grocer and published a book entitled Eleven Years at Farm Work; being a true tale of farm servant life (1879), claimed that:
Without betraying any secret, it may be said the real philosophy of the horseman’s word, consists in the thorough, careful, and kind treatment of the animals, combined with a reasonable amount of knowledge of their anatomical and physiological structure.
The current Baron of Kilmarnock is a member of the Society of the Horseman’s Word; his website is here if you want to ask him any questions about it, which I think you should. God bless.