Examining the Riding the Goat ceremony

Riding the goat

Candidate kneels upon a representation of a coffin

Most Protestant people in Northern Ireland and many parts of Scotland have heard the saying “riding the goat” in regard to being initiated into the Order Order. But what does this mean? Up until recent times, one had travel the Orange Order’s 3rd level (the Royal Arch Purple degree) to understand what “riding the goat” really signifies. The outsider has been left largely in the dark in regards to this up until the release of the explosive publication Behind Closed Doors written by W.P. Malcomson. It is only now that we are able to examine the Royal Arch Purple degree’s riding the goat ceremony in full and establish its true meaning.

Behind Closed Doors

Those who belong to the Orange Order will jokingly use the term “riding the goat” when talking about a candidate being initiated into the Royal Arch Purple degree. But the aim of the banter is carefully designed to unsettle the candidate by creating unease. This helps subjugate him and makes him easier to be manipulated.

Before the blindfolded Royal Arch Purple degree candidate experiences “riding the goat,” he is led over to within four or five feet of the front of a purpose-built ladder, symbolising ‘Jacob’s ladder’. The candidate then steps ‘two and a half’ paces forward towards the ladder, in an observance called ‘the advancement’. The Royal Arch Purple draft explains, “This ‘advancement’ by steps is not unique to the Arch Purple but is shared by the Masonic Order.” This ‘two and a half’ paces represent the secret mystical number of the Order. This mystical number permeates through all aspects of Arch Purple secrecy.

The Protestant Truth Society booklet of 1925 reveals the significance of the two and a half, stating, “They [The Royal Arch Purple] claim to be representative of the two and a half tribes that led the vanguard of Israel to the Promised Land, and the numerals two and a half are to some extent the badge of their Organisation.” This ‘two and a half’ is the mystical number of the Order, as the Arch Purple lecture explains:

Q.”Have you a number?
A. Practical, or mystical.
Q. Mystical?
A. Two, and a half.
Q. What two and a half?
A. The two tribes and a half.
Q. What two tribes and a half?
A. The tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh.
Q. What became of the two tribes and a half?
A. They were restored to their former inheritance on the other side of Jordan in the land of Gilead.”

Like all secret societies and occult bodies the Royal Arch Purple entrusts its initiates with secret passwords, handshakes, knocks and signs, as keys to open doors into its secret world of mystery. The Royal Arch Purple Order itself owns three permanent passwords.

1. The entrance password for the Arch Purple is: “Shib-Bo-Leth.”

2. The central password for the Arch Purple is: “The-Ark-of- God.”

The ignorant candidate is later informed that this mystical password really represents G-O-A-T spelt backwards.

3. The great and grand password for the Arch Purple is: “The-great-Jehovah-be our-guide.”

A changeable password known as an ‘annual password’ is made every year and is taken from Scripture in the most superstitious manner. Like all secrets within the Order, this password is given mystically. This is performed by furnishing the membership orally with four numbers. E.g. 2-25-2-12. This would tell the members that the ‘annual password’ is to be found in the second book of the Bible, Exodus, in the twenty-fifth chapter, in the second verse and is the twelfth word. The password for the year would then be ‘offering’. That word, along with the permanent passwords of the Order would then be the members pass into any working Royal Arch Purple Chapter meeting.

The Bible is certainly not a basin to fish superstitious passwords from, but the true, open and infallible revelation of God’s Word. The Scriptures say, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:25-26).

We recommed An Army with Banners: The Real Face of Orangeism by William Brown

The Holy Scriptures are the Divine revelation of God, with the intention of showing God’s will for man and His plan of salvation. Dealing with Scripture in such a mystical manner can only serve to damage the way in which Royal Arch Purple men look upon God’s precious Word and have the ultimate effect of concealing the truths contained therein rather than revealing them. The Bible says, “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (2 Corinthians 4:1-4).

Masonic historian C.S.M. Ward explains the significance of passwords, in his Masonic book, ‘1st Degree Handbook’ (p. 37): “Why passwords at all? Here we wander into a strange field, no less than that of old world magic…such passwords are universal in the great mystery rites, ancient and modern” (‘Hidden Secrets of the Eastern Star’ p. 296).

The ‘two and a half’ is also incorporated into the Order’s secret handshake, which identifies one Arch Purple man to another. This is performed by both persons placing pressure with their respective thumbs upon the others middle knuckle thus meeting two and a half finger lengths up the hand, and verifying their Arch Purple membership. This handshake is used when meeting fellow members in both private Chapter meeting and everyday encounters.

The ‘two and a half’ is used as a mystical knock, to gain admittance to all Royal Arch Purple meetings. In Freemasonry the member wishing entry into the lodge makes three loud knocks, but to achieve the ‘two and a half’ the Arch Purple make two slow knocks followed by a sharp, quick knock.

The two and a half is used again as the sign of the Arch Purple by coupling the fore finger and middle finger together pointing upward and coupling the small finger and ring finger together downwards and bringing the thumb across in between them. This sign in reality is the same sign as made by the Pope (in the Greek form) when making a statement that he is ‘God’s representative on earth’.

The secrecy and mysticism surrounding the Royal Arch Purple is in stark contrast to the open ministry and teaching of our beloved Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord taught: “For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad” (Mark 4:22).



The blindfolded candidate stands nervously in front of the set of steps, known as ‘Jacob’s ladder’. The initiate is then assisted in climbing up this three stepped ladder (one step at a time), with the help of his guide, whilst the Chaplain reads I Corinthians 13:13. Each rung of the ladder being labelled as he progresses upward, “And now abideth (1) Faith (2) Hope (3) Charity, these three; but the greatest of these is Charity.” Unknown to the candidate, at this stage, this climb symbolises one of the great mystical doctrines of all occult bodies.

The Royal Arch Purple, once again, takes this custom directly from Freemasonry where the first-degree Mason is taught: “The way by which we, as Masons, hope to arrive there [heaven] is by the assistance of a ladder, in Scripture called Jacob’s ladder. It is composed of many staves or rounds, which point out as many moral virtues, but three principle ones, which are Faith, Hope and Charity: Faith in the Great Architect of the Universe, Hope in salvation, and to be in Charity with all men.”

Whilst secret societies surround this peculiar ascent with quasi-biblical language, it is employed, solely, as a means to a deceptive end. This is seen as one carefully examines the teaching of these bodies. The Masonic reference book, ‘The Craft and its Symbols’ (p. 29) boldly states, “Freemasons are taught to use the ladder of Jacob to climb towards their reward.” Here we see one of the core doctrines of all secret societies revealed, that of ‘progressive salvation through ritual initiation’.

Masonic adept W.L. Wilmshurst, in his book ‘The Meaning of Masonry’ (which is addressed to Masons), expounds the spiritual significance of ‘Jacob’s Ladder’, stating: “Man who has sprung from the earth and developed through the lower kingdoms of nature to his present rational state, has yet to complete his evolution by becoming a god-like being and unifying his consciousness with the Omniscient- to promote which is and has always been the sole aim and purpose of Initiation. To scale this ‘height’, to attain this expansion of consciousness, is achieved ‘by the use of a ladder of many rounds or staves, but of three principle ones, Faith, Hope, and Charity’, of which the greatest and most effectual is the last” (p. 94).

Although labelled Faith, Hope and Charity the steps of this ladder represent the candidate’s mystical journey to ‘spiritual bliss’. We can see therefore, as the Arch Purple candidate ascends this mysterious ladder, he is taking a blasphemous, symbolic, spiritual journey.

Such a practice is nothing new, but is traced back to the ancient mysteries in which there always existed a peculiar belief in a ladder extending from earth to heaven. Thirty-third degree Freemason Albert Mackey explains: “In all the mysteries of the ancients, we find some allusion to this sacred ladder…Its true origin was lost among the worshippers of the Pagan rites, but the symbol itself, in various modified forms, was retained.” Mackey then states that in the mysteries each step was “the representative of a world, or state of existence, through which the soul was supposed to pass in its progress from the first world to the last, or the world of truth” (A Lexicon of Freemasonry, pp. 152-153).

For more on the internal debate within the Orders we recommend The Orange Order by Brian Kennaway:

The Royal Arch Purple also attempt to justify this pagan symbol of ‘man’s progressive salvation’, by using the scriptural story where Jacob dreamt of a ladder extending to heaven, as if to justify its use. Then in typically Masonic manner the Arch Purple attempts to Christianise the practice by labelling the steps Faith, Hope and Charity. Scripture makes no reference to Jacob’s ladder having three steps and consequently makes no mention of the steps been branded “Faith, Hope and Charity.”

The Bible warns, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

In the draft to their book, ‘History of the Royal Arch Purple Order’, the Royal Arch Purple Chapter unashamedly describe the mystical significance and the pagan origins of this practice, although, they conveniently chose to withhold such a passage from their published book. The draft outlines how many organisations use the ladder as “symbolic of moral, intellectual and spiritual progress,” and explains how, “The belief in the existence of a ladder leading from earth to heaven was at one time widespread throughout the world. The ancient mythology and religions of the Persians, Scandinavians and Brahmins, used this symbol…In the Mithraic mysteries the seven-runged ladder was a symbol of the ascent of the soul to perfection, each rung being termed as a gate.” No wonder this frank explanation was carefully omitted from the final publication of the Royal Arch Purple Chapter book.

The Masonic ‘Californian Cipher’ (coded ritual) sheds further light on the significance of this practice, by explaining that each step is “emblematic of the three principal stages of human life: Youth, Manhood, and Age.” This peculiar Masonic explanation confirms, further, the mystical nature of the ladder.

Significantly, the Royal Arch Purple candidate is also given the same bizarre explanation, albeit it is only given to him in the closing address, long after he has scaled the ladder. He is told: “You can wear an emblem of the three-stepped ladder representing Faith, Hope, and Charity. By faith we are saved, by hope we are raised, and by charity brought nearer to God. It is also emblematical of the three principal stages in life – Youth, Manhood, and Age.”

The Royal Arch Purple here, like Freemasonry, admits that this ladder is a mystical dualistic symbol, with both physical and spiritual meanings. In keeping with all secret societies they ultimately present the confused candidate with a counterfeit path of salvation. Rather than revealing Christ they hide Him.

Man will always rebel against God’s appointed way of entry into heaven. Since the devilishly designed Tower of Babel, man has always thought it possible to climb his way to heaven. The Bible account of Babel says, “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name” (Genesis 11:4). In this instance God destroyed man’s abominable counterfeit, as He will every other one constructed. All secret societies by their nature are crude man-made inventions.

Contrary to the teachings of secret societies, Jacob’s ladder in Scripture was not literal but symbolic, Jacob having seen it in a dream from God (Genesis 28:12). This ladder is in reality a symbolic Old Testament figure of Christ, the only way by which man can get to heaven.

The truth of God’s Word exposes every subtle man-made innovation, however well constructed. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).

Clearly no one can climb to Christ – they must be lifted! Man must be drawn God’s appointed way. Jesus solemnly outlines in His Word, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep” (John 10:1-2).

We therefore see that Christ alone is our only way of access to heaven. Jesus said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).



At the top of this ladder, the blindfolded Arch Purple candidate is made to kneel upon a representation of a coffin. The Royal Arch Purple lecturers then outline the importance and profound significance of this solemn act to him: “With my knees upon a representation of a coffin, my toes extended over the earth, to testify that I was duly prepared to suffer death and all its penalties, before I would divulge anything I had received, or was about to receive.”

Here the candidate agrees, by symbolically kneeling upon a representation of a coffin, to suffer the destruction of his own life before he would divulge the bogus teaching of this man-made counterfeit order. Yet Jesus says, “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56).

How could a believer submit himself to such Arch Purple bondage for what is in reality a counterfeit gospel? This is in stark contrast to Paul the Apostle in Acts 20:24 who was only prepared to pay the ultimate cost, for the Gospel’s sake. He said, “Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”

And in Philippians 1:17,20-21 he declared: “I am set for the defence of the gospel… According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

The immediate source of such a Arch Purple custom is (once again) found in the domain of Freemasonry. There, the ignorant candidate is placed upon a representation of a coffin and in some lodges he is even put into an actual wooden one.

The origins and significance of this act are explained in the Masonic dictionary: “In all the ancient mysteries, before an aspirant could claim to participate in the higher secrets of the institution, he was placed within the pastos, or coffin, or in other words was subjected to a solitary confinement for a prescribed period of time, that he might reflect seriously, in seclusion and darkness, on what he was about to undertake, and be reduced to a proper state of mind for the reception of the great and important truths, by a course of fasting and mortification. This was the symbolical death of the mysteries, and his deliverance from confinement was the act of regeneration, or being born again; or as it was also termed, being raised from the dead.”

Whilst the three steps of ‘Jacob’s ladder’ represent the three principal stages in life – “Youth, Manhood, and Age.” The Arch Purple candidate, by kneeling on this coffin, symbolically indicates he is dying to his old self, and commencing a new mystical life within the Royal Arch Purple Order.

Riding the goat ceremony

After the gravity of his obligation is further impressed upon the Arch Purple candidate, the assembled Chapter gather at the back of the steps (‘Jacob’s ladder’) and unfold a large canvas blanket. The blindfolded initiate, who has his back to the blanket is then told to cross his arms whilst still kneeling upon a representation of a coffin.

He is then asked, by the lecturers, “In whom do you put your trust?” The nervous candidate answers ” God” (normally with a little prompting from his guide) whereupon he receives a violent push backward unto the blanket. Here he undergoes one of the most painful and humiliating experiences within the Royal Arch Purple ceremony, when he is brutally kicked and tossed upon the blanket by the assembled Chapter for a number of minutes. This practice is known as “riding the goat.”

There is no greater proof of the spurious religious credentials of the Royal Arch Purple Order than this demeaning farce. How anyone could interpret it as anything other than an organized disgrace defies belief. One wonders how any Christian could defend such an irreligious sham and explain how it at all promotes holy living or respect for one’s fellow man. The Bible solemnly states: “be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD” (Isaiah 52:11).

Leading Orangeman David McNarry recently conceded, in a Belfast Telegraph interview (25/07/17): “There’s the fearsome bit about riding the goat.” Even though he refused to disclose details of the ceremony, he testified: “For those that haven’t ridden it I am not going to spoil it for them…. but it scared the hell out of me.” He told how he “rid the goat” over 40 years ago and was “intrepid in going to Comber Orange Hall that night.”

Describing the practices of the Royal Arch Purple degree in 1878, Thomas Macklin, Grand Secretary of the Grand Orange Lodge of Scotland asserted: “Viewed in relation to religion not only are they useless but profane and degrading, and ought to restrain the men who practise them from laughing at the mummeries and buffooneries of Popery.”

Lord Advocate J.B. Balfour attested that on April 27th, 1895, one Rankine of Airblies, Scotland was being initiated into the Arch Purple degree at the Motherwell Orange Lodge when he was blindfolded and tossed so violently in a net or hammock that his spine was dislocated or broken at the neck. He also gave evidence of how in July 1893, one David Blair, while being initiated into the Royal Arch Purple degree at an Orange hall in Belfast, was likewise blindfolded, and while in the act of mounting a table (or ladder) in this condition, fell backwards and was killed.

Such violence within the Order is alluded to in the Chapter’s recent book (p. 125). Under the title ‘Deterioration in the Arch Purple Discipline’ they state “In the early years of the present [20th] century concern was felt by Clerical Brethren and by medical practitioners called upon to render first aid to Arch Purple candidates who had endured a particularly rough travel.”

This ceremony, of “riding the goat” is shared by other institutions involved in the mysteries. Former thirty-second degree Mason and Wiccan Witch High Priest, William Schnoebellan testifies to his own experience within Freemasonry: “I was kept in an anteroom. The fellow who was in charge of keeping an eye on me said that I should not worry about riding the goat in the initiation – most guys did it and never fell off. Another fellow came in and said that I shouldn’t believe any of ‘those stories’ about riding the goat. A third fellow winked at me and said they’d only lost a couple of candidates in the last year through death by violence, so I shouldn’t worry. It was all done in the manner of good-natured teasing.”

Schnoebellan then reveals the foul pagan origins of this blasphemous ceremony, stating: “In the many initiations I observed or actually took part in, I saw a lot of variations of this kind of fraternity house humour. The only common thing in the many jokes and disturbing allusions was this business about riding the goat. That is interesting when one recalls Albert Pike’s teaching about the he-goat of the witches’ sabbat, and the way witches in the Middle Ages demonstrated their allegiance to Satan. They had to consent to sexual intercourse with ‘the goat’; (usually a high priest rigged up with a goat’s head, but occasionally a real demonic form which looked goat-like). Or they had to perform the so-called osculum infamum (obscene kiss) which involved kissing the goat’s backside to show their fealty to Satan” (Beyond The Light p. 87).

The ‘Romanistic’ Knights Templar were known to have introduced such practices into their order after the Crusades had been completed. They were widely accused of practising black magic, blasphemy and homosexuality during their many initiations. Such wickedness was too much even for Rome who began to persecute the Templars. When interrogated the Templars told of strange occultic rituals wherein they worshipped a goat-headed demonic apparition called ‘the Baphomet’.

This manifestation, ‘the Baphomet’, seems to have been regarded with idolatrous reverence amongst the Knights Templar. Some authorities on the subject associate ‘the Baphomet’ with the Arabic abufihamet, pronounced in Moorish Spanish as bufihmat. This name meaning ‘Father of understanding’ or ‘Father of Wisdom’. The word ‘father’ in Arabic is taken to imply ‘source’. The ‘source’ in this case being clearly the devil.

Secret societies’ obsession with the goat is most striking when one looks at what the Lord says in Scripture: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:31-34).

Read a detailed exposure of the Royal Black Institution:

It is time for the godly to separate from this heathenism!


red_dot The History of the Orange Order
red_dot The Royal Arch Purple oath
red_dot Properly Prepared
red_dot A hostile reception
red_dot The Five Points of Fellowship
red_dot Riding the goat
red_dot The Orange Order Blood Curdling Penalties
red_dot Mystical enlightenment
red_dot A false hope
red_dot Symbolism


Royal Arch Purple push-back

Evangelical Truth response to Former Independent Orange Grand Master’s attack on Behind Closed Doors.
Biblical response to Rev. Ron Johnstone (Royal Arch Purple spokesman): Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6
Grand Chaplain to the Grand Orange Lodge of England JRG Harvey book in response to Behind Closed Doors: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Evangelical Truth debate with Independent Orange Institution

Ulster Christian review of Behind Closed Doors
The response of George Dawson (Imperial Grand Master of the Independent Orange Institution).
Readers response (including the author of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ – Paul Malcomson).
Second response of George Dawson (Imperial Grand Master of the Independent Orange Institution).
Evangelical Truth reply to George Dawson

Read a detailed exposure of the Royal Arch Purple by W P Malcomson: