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House of Cards Season 5 makes a number of unsettling references to secret societies, the hidden elite and where the real world power may actually lie.

(Partial spoiler alert for House of Cards Season 5) More than halfway through the fifth season of Netflix’s staple original series, Frank Underwood attends a peculiar outdoor retreat hosted by a secret society called Elysian Fields, where the most powerful men engage in a sacred ritual that pays homage to an ancient god of Greek mythology.

Although fictitious, historically the name Elysian Fields stems from ancient Greece and a conception of the afterlife held by certain cults at that time. Apparently, admission into this so-called paradise was reserved only for mortals related to gods and other heroes. 

In House of Cards, one particular episode opens at night in the woods, with dozens of men holding torches while cloaked in red robes and masks. Soon they begin chanting before a 40-foot tall stone idol of Elysium.


Crow of Elysium, we honor thee,” says the masked leader.

We honor thee. We honor thee. We honor thee,” chants the crowd in unison.

The ritual continues on for a bit before Underwood breaks the fourth wall to illuminate his audience:

Look around. Some of the most powerful men in the world are gathered in this clearing. Members of one of our country’s most exclusive clubs…they carve up the world like a Sunday roast. This is where the real power is.

Although Elysian Fields is not an actual secret society, its implied existence in a major show like House of Cards does raise some important questions around the real ones – including who belongs to them, how they became members and what that membership actually means.

Reportedly, a real secret society does exist with a similar moniker called Bohemian Grove. It has been the source of much conspiracy and myth, apparently holding gatherings with members that include every Republican president since Coolidge. There also is something to do with the worship of an “owl shrine,” which creates an obvious parallel to the “crow of Elysium.”

Bohemian Grove has also piqued the interest of many, resulting in individuals like Infowars’ Alex Jones, who has previously infiltrated the gathering. Jones posted a video shot at the campground in 2000, depicting a ritual where the members set fire to a coffin effigy in front of the aforementioned owl statue.

But what is even more remarkable is what secret societies like these may actually represent, and what House of Cards is trying to say about them by illustrating this to the masses.

During the episode that Frank Underwood attends the retreat, he maintains an uncanny reverence for the clandestine fellowship. He treads carefully all weekend, even making sure to manage his conversations with grace and cordiality. To the viewer, it becomes quickly clear that among this particular crowd, even Frank Underwood – a President of the United States – is virtually powerless.

Towards the end of the season, as the Underwoods are fiercely debating their next strategic move, Frank makes a direct reference to Elysian Fields as he declares, “It’s no longer about who lives in the White House. It’s about who owns the White House.”

Claire then retorts by asking how much more power can be obtained outside the presidency.

The real power isn’t here. It’s beyond here. It’s above it, but still working in conjunction with it.”

Is this carefully crafted dialogue a veiled reference to the Illuminati and the real power it holds over the highest office in our land?