When the word Illuminati comes to mind, the first thing many people associate are satanic worshipers, one eye, a dark force and ironically, celebrity icons. Many people associate the Illuminati with a dark cult or a new world religion or even celebrity gossip. There is no doubt that the term Illuminati often comes up during discussions of popular media and music, but the question is why, what exactly is the Illuminati and what is its association with popular culture as a religiously inspired or deviating movement?
What Is The Illuminati?
There are two main views towards the origins of the Illuminati. Historically, the roots of the Illuminati can be traced back to the 18th century as a group which opposed the Roman Catholic Church’s control over philosophy and science; promoted the education of women and their treatment as equals; sought to “enlighten” people’s minds and free them from superstitions and prejudices; and tried to reduce the oppression of the state (Castro). This group was believed to be defunct and no longer active.
Nowadays, the Illuminati is more commonly associated with a modern-day secret society with ancient roots that is made of up powerful and elite individuals who conspire to control the world — politics, government, religion, entertainment, etc. Their goal? A “New World Order” (Sprankles).
Illuminati as a Religion through Popular Culture
How does a deviant group arising during the Renaissance to oppose the Catholic Church’s ideologies, or even a modern day society conspiring to control the world have such a heavy influence on media and popular culture?
Yahoo News links the origins and modern purpose of the Illuminati in an article viewed by over 83 million viewers a month,
“There is a part of the world that believes certain famous faces yield more power than others. This power, they believe, stems from the backing of an ancient German secret society that quietly rules the world: the Illuminati (yes, the same group Tom Hanks sought in ‘Angels & Demons’). The mysterious sect is thought to be a front for the rise of the Antichrist — the Devil’s all-seeing eye triangle is their universal sign — and is often accused of masterminding large-scale events (think President JFK’s assassination) in an attempt to establish a New World Order, in which they can rule” (DeNinno).
It is evident that the two origins of the Illuminati have been combined to create this satanic New World Order. When viewing the representation of Illuminati in popular culture, it is evident that the depictions represent this new perspective. Many celebrities have become associated with the secret group and tabloids often break out stories associating celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Madonna, Kanye West, Ke$ha, Kim Kardashian and LeBron James, to name a few.
The association of these popular celebrities has brought the group once believed to have died out, back into the lime light. However, it is evident that the association between media and the Illuminati has little to do with a New World Order or defying the Church as the group was once meant to be. Instead, symbols of the Illuminati have made their way into media culture as marketing tools and symbols.
Not everyone agrees with this view of the modern day Illuminati as a New World Order society. According to the Liberty Voice, there is no relationship between celebrities and the Illuminati, because it does not exist.
“No stars are members of the Illuminati because an organized and powerful group such as this cannot, does not, and will never exist. What does exist is normal, otherwise rational human beings with a propensity toward natural brain processes to find patterns and meanings in random events that are not actually connected. This phenomenon is called ‘confirmation bias,’ or, looking for evidence that confirms the theory one wants to be true” (DeNinno).
It goes on to state,
“Today’s modern ‘Illuminati’ is nothing more than a racist, anti-Semitic, and sometimes paranoid version of an unreachable fantasy; a societal meme that has taken hold in a portion of the population so strongly that now even reputable companies like Yahoo are feeding into the hysteria” (DeNinno).
The Liberty Voice argues that the Illuminati is used as a marketing tool to create relationships between celebrities and the secret society, create a buzz and promote themselves. Symbols of the group have been distorted to create a satanic image and that is presented within the media.
There are many examples of Illuminati references within popular culture, both direct and subliminal. Symbols of the secret group such as the triangle, goat head, or one eye make its way into music video, posters and celebrity logos and symbols. In this way, the symbols of Illuminati and identities of celebrities intersect, creating relationships regardless of intentional association.
Celebrities such as Lady Gaga are instantly associated with the Illuminati through loud and controversial videos, costumes, and photo shoots.
Lady Gaga commonly uses triangle icons, images of unicorns, and goat heads, supposed symbols of the “immaculate conception” of the New World Order. Gaga also incorporates Illuminati ritual into her shows after having a dream about it (Sprankles).
The same is evident with Beyonce, referred to as the Queen of Pop Culture, who supposedly flashed the “Illuminati triangle” during her Super Bowl halftime performance in 2013, symbolizing the pyramid which is said to represent the hierarchical structure of the Illuminati.
Many other celebrities use the triangle symbol. Popular examples are Jay Z, Rihanna, and Kanye West who use the symbol liberally.
When popular celebrities who have a large following and are influential in Western popular culture use these traditional symbols openly and repetitively it is evident that these depictions are not coincidental. However, the intentions are in question and it is likely that not all of popular media has associations with the secret group, and probably marketing schemes instead. In this manner, celebrities are seen portraying Richard Schechner’s performance theory, where the Illuminati symbols are used in public manner through media depictions, to create the association and symbolism of their inclusion in the secret society, creating buzz and increasing their commercial benefits. In this way, the Illuminati group- dead or alive- has actively infiltrated the popular culture of the West and formed a religious statement in the process.
Castro, Joseph. “What Is the Illuminati?” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 30 Sept. 2013. Web.
DeNinno, Nadine. “What Is the Illuminati?” International Business Times. N.p., 18 Dec. 2013. Web.
Sprankles, Julie. “16 Celebs Supposedly in the Illuminati.” SheKnows. N.p., 13 Jan. 2014. Web.
- Making use of satanic references through symbols and icons.
Jay Z in fact, uses Illuminati symbols in many ways. Shhh… don’t tell anyone, but Jay Z is pretty much the modern-day godfather of the Illuminati. For starters, the symbol — which he often flashes — for his Roc-A-Fella Records label is the pyramid, which is said to represent the hierarchical structure of the Illuminati. In his “On to the Next One” video, Hova wears devil horns, incorporates a goat skull (representing the goat-headed demon Baphomet) and employs symbols of Freemasonry.
Move over, Jay Z — Madonna may just have seniority when it comes to musical Illuminatis. A now-infamous picture keeps making the rounds on the web that shows Madonna rocking a jacket with an All-Seeing Eye and pyramid on the back. She only bolstered occult claims with her 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, which featured everything from devil horns on her helmet to a human pyramid.
D***… you know you must be good when people start claiming you got your skills by making a pact with the devil. Seriously. That’s the crux of the theories connecting LeBron James to the Illuminati. Well, that and the fact that he has been photographed a time or two flashing the triangle hand sign, and that he posted a picture on Instagram in which he is sporting a T-shirt covered in triangles with eyes.