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Author Topic: Knights of Pythias - An American Knightly Order  (Read 126 times)

jason77

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Knights of Pythias - An American Knightly Order
« on: 2017-10-23, 19:19:50 »


The Knights of Pythias is an American fraternal Order founded by Justus H. Rathbone during the Civil War. The Knightly Order was inspired by a play from the Irish poet John Banim wherein the historical characters of Damon and Pythias were portrayed and their story of friendship, loyalty and faith in one another. Damon and Pythias were students of the school Pythagoras, the founder of Greek philosophy, and were devoted to the principle of brotherly love and benevolence. Upon the rise of Hiero II, King of Syracuse, Damon became an outspoken critic of the King for ascending the throne by fraud and for being a tyrant to the people. The King had Damon apprehended and held for execution. Pythias came to his friend’s aid requesting the King to give Damon a temporary stay of execution so that he may bid his farewells to friends and family. Pythias pledged to take Damon’s place in chains and to even be executed if Damon failed to return. The King agreed and Pythias was taken while Damon was released. After the allotted time of Damon’s release he returned to confront his fate and Pythias was released. The story of Damon and Pythias was an inspiring message of hope, unity and brotherhood during the tumultuous times of the Civil War. Upon hearing the message and ritual of the Fraternal Order of the Knights of Pythias the then sitting President Abraham Lincoln stated:

The purposes of your organization are most wonderful. If we could but bring its spirit to all our citizenry, what a wonderful thing it would be. It breathes the spirit of Friendship, Charity and Benevolence. It is one of the best agencies conceived for the upholding of government, honoring the flag, for the reuniting of our brethren of the North and of the South, for teaching the people to love one another, and portraying the sanctity of the home and loved ones. I would suggest that these great principles by perpetuated and that you go to the Congress of the United States and ask for a charter, and so organize on a great scale throughout this nation, and disseminate this wonderful work that you have so nobly started. I will do all in my power to assist you in this application and with your work."

After receiving an endorsement from the President and his referral to Congress the Knights applied for and received a Congressional Charter. This is quite significant for no other Knightly Order, as far as I know, has ever received recognition from the US Government. It must be clarified that the US Government does not recognize class distinction, special privilege nor nobility as is the case in Europe. However, it had recognized the Knights of Pythias as a fraternal Order and granted them a Congressional Charter.

The Civil War was a time of great division in American history and today we see great division in our Country and in our own communities. The Knights of Pythias promotes friendship, brotherly love and unity. The Order also engages in a myriad of charitable causes to help the underprivileged, sick and struggling within our communities. The Order represents that which a Knight should be – chivalrous in every sense of the word; a Knight that is needed today just as much as was need during our nation’s past.

In the 1920’s the Order was said to have no less than a million members but has declined to an estimated twenty-thousand members as of a 2003 estimate. The Order which was well represented in every State of the Union is now defunct in many States. The decline is due to an aging membership that honours its past but does not know how to communicate to a new generation within contemporary American culture. The new American culture doesn’t place a value on fraternalism, has many other distractions competing for their time and attention, and unfortunately largely values self over service to others. To thrive in a modern era it is my opinion that the Knights of Pythias must strive to find new ways to be relevant in current culture. Whilst the Knights are an interesting part of American history they have a fight ahead of them in order to establish an even more illustrious future.
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Thorsteinn

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Re: Knights of Pythias - An American Knightly Order
« Reply #1 on: 2017-10-25, 19:58:10 »
Interesting bit of history. I remember seeing their building in Virginia City a few times when I was there.

They also have a requirement that flat excludes 20% of Americans, more if they're younger, and, as far as I can tell, there is no articulatable benefit to joining them over some other group.

But still, interesting.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_of_Pythias
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jason77

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Re: Knights of Pythias - An American Knightly Order
« Reply #2 on: 2017-10-25, 21:20:07 »
I guess the case could be made that since they received an endorsement from the President and are one of only two organizations to receive a Congressional charter then that makes them the closest thing we have to an American counterpart of the European Chivalric societies. Of course they don't have any intrinsic benefit anymore. Back in the day they offered life insurance to their members which was a big draw since this wasn't widely available for the common joe. Their main goal now is to raise money for charity which is a good thing but I think that's all they pretty much do and there are other groups doing that as well; i.e. the Salvation Army, Knights of Columbus, United Way, etc. Now if they started up a Knights Militant branch I would have to jump on board. They would then be like a historical version of the Fiat Lux guys.
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Thorsteinn

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Re: Knights of Pythias - An American Knightly Order
« Reply #3 on: 2017-10-26, 00:50:29 »
Oddly if they had a militant branch I would have to oppose them. I'm not a big fan of modern pseudo-Christian groups that go militaristic. Fairly soon they get taken over by the Motivated, and as St George said those are folks to watch out for.

If you'e looking for an Order with history & pomp that does martial activities outside this one to join, why not become a KSCA?

And again, it's nifty that the Knights of Pythias are part of US history.
« Last Edit: 2017-10-26, 00:51:15 by Thorsteinn »
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jason77

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Re: Knights of Pythias - An American Knightly Order
« Reply #4 on: 2017-10-26, 12:17:41 »
They're not a Christian order nor even a religious order. The founder was a secular Jew and most members are non-religious. The only religious over tones it has is the insistence that members profess a belief in a Higher Power, which could be anything. I'm also not looking to join anything per se. I was just trying to show an interesting historical organization with a deep American heritage. I don't know what the KSCA is? I Googled it and it comes up as a chess club and a cricket club - not my interest although I do love a good game of chess.
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jason77

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Re: Knights of Pythias - An American Knightly Order
« Reply #5 on: 2017-10-26, 12:29:36 »
So the KSCA was highlighted in my last response and provided a definition - great thinking on Ed's part here. Knights of the SCA is an interesting re-enactment group but I am not a big fan of the SCA. I visited a group once and they were pretty stuck up and snobbish. They also didn't do anything for the community at large. I also am not into the whole "persona" thing - pretending to be something you're really not is too much like cosplay. I'm pretty content with just doing HEMA around here locally as we are quite active but I also enjoy local volunteering and it would be fun to mix the two like the Knights of the Fiat Lux have done.
« Last Edit: 2017-10-26, 12:32:26 by jason77 »
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jason77

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Re: Knights of Pythias - An American Knightly Order
« Reply #6 on: 2017-10-26, 16:50:57 »
I should probably clarify that by "knights militant" I don't mean anything violent bent or militia based. I'm only speaking of a martial art quality to a group - like Christian Toblers Order.
"Love everybody, but never sell your sword" - Paul Coelho