There's a reason members of the Ku Klux Klan wear robes and hoods and use odd-sounding titles as they preach their message of white power: They have a rule book.
Through its 150-year history, the Ku Klux Klan has been associated with hatred, terror and mayhem. The group's rule book — known as the Kloran — was first published 100 years ago, in 1916. The Kloran lays out a series of beliefs, titles and rituals that formed the core of Klan practices, sometimes dubbed "KlanKraft." The book was supposedly secret for generations, but today copies are posted on the internet.
Some groups within the modern, splintered Klan say they don't follow the Kloran, while others do. Regardless, an online version of the Kloran published by the University of Wisconsin library offers a glimpse into one of the world of the nation's most notorious organizations.
Some Klan groups try to present themselves in a soft light today, but white supremacy combined with religion is at the core of the group, which considers itself a Christian organization. From the "Ku Klux Klan Kreed" at the opening of the Kloran: "We avow the distinction between the races of mankind as same has been decreed by the Creator, and we shall ever be true in the faithful maintenance of White Supremacy and will strenuously oppose any compromise thereof in any and all things." Aspiring members must swear that they are a "native-born white, Gentile American citizen."
ROBES AND HOODS
The title page of the Kloran includes a drawing of the garb most commonly associated with the Ku Klux Klan. In it, a Klansman wearing a white robe and hood sits astride a rearing horse, which also is wearing a white robe bearing a cross.
The practice of setting crosses aflame dates back to the earliest days of the KKK. The script of a ritual proscribed by the Kloran describes flaming crosses as "the emblem of that sincere, unselfish devotedness of all Klansmen to the sacred purpose and principles we espoused."
A SOUTHERN THING
KKK groups exist from coast to coast in the U.S. and in a handful of other countries. But the organization is rooted in the perceived atrocities committed upon white Southerners by the federal government during Reconstruction, the period after the Civil War. A lecture published in the Kloran describes the Klan as the protector of whites who "stood aghast and pale, wondering at the meaning and purpose of the gathering gloom" after the South's defeat by the Union in 1865.
The Kloran lays out titles for multiple positions within the Klan. The "imperial wizard" is the "emperor of the invisible empire." A "grand dragon" oversees a geographic area within the Klan, and an "exalted cyclops" is the chief officer of a single Klan unit, also known as a "klavern." Group chaplains go by "kludd," a term taken from the ancient Druids.