A Carnival Primer for everyone.

carnival primer

Comus Parade, 1858

Podcast 39 – A Carnival Primer

When I’m asked to speak to a group that’s come to town for a convention, meeting, etc., they often ask for a talk on a Carnival-related subject. I’ve expanded this into a Carnival Primer that traces the celebration back to its medieval European roots, up to modern times. Now it’s a podcast and “cornerstone” content.


As y’all know, I record the podcasts using Zoom. I’m also going back through talks I’ve given re-recording them via Zoom. That way, y’all can clearly see the images used for that presentation. In the case of this Carnival Primer, the talk is a good bit longer than something I’d do for a live group. They can’t pause and run to get another glass of wine.

Zoom saves both video and audio files upon completion. So, I upload the video to YouTube. Here you go. The audio-only is classic podcast in our traditional format.

The Pod

We present a history of Mardi Gras:

  • Origins – Carnival’s Medieval Roots and how it came to New Orleans
  • Comus – the city’s first “modern” parade.
  • Old-Line Parades – Comus, Rex, Momus, Proteus
  • Black Mardi Gras – Indians, Zulu, Debutante Balls
  • Super Krewes – Bacchus, Endymion, Orpheus, Rex, Zulu
  • Yardi Gras – Carnival during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Going Forward – 2023 and beyond!


Some images from the pod. The full presentation is available as a PDF here.

a carnival primer

Medieval Mardi Gras as a float in Proteus

Fat Tuesday, the last day before Lent was a day of celebration and feasting in Medieval Europe. The lord of the castle would elevate eligible Squires to Knighthood. The time of fasting and preparation for Easter began the next day, on Ash Wednesday.

a carnival primer

Modern Flambeaux!

Using fire to light the way of the parade!

a carnival primer

#RexComus – The Meeting of the Courts

Carnival formally comes to a close when the courts of Rex and Comus meet at the Comus bal masque on Mardi Gras Night.

a carnival primer

King Cake from Adrian’s Bakery in Gentilly

The King’s Cake dates back centuries. Here’s a modern incarnation of the confection, from Adrian’s Bakery, located on Paris and Mirabeau Avenues in Gentilly.

a carnival primer

Masking Indian

Black Mardi Gras includes “Masking Indian,” a tradition dating back over a century. There are a number of origin stories for the tradition.



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