Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus

Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus

We’re talking about the Krewe of Proteus, a Lundi Gras tradition.

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Mobilius in Mobili photo

Podcast 41 – Krewe of Proteus.

Happy Lundi Gras! The Krewe of Proteus first rolled the streets of New Orleans in 1882. While they’re not the oldest Carnival organization, they’re the oldest that still parades. Here’s the video of the history of Proteus:

Heere’s the PDF of the presentation.

The Krewe that came back

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Of the three krewes that withdrew from parading in 1992 (Comus, Momus, and Proteus), the Krewe of Proteus returned to the streets in 2000. As we discuss in the pod, Proteus had stronger reasons to return to public view. While the other two krewes hold seniority, Proteus held visibility. Momus paraded on the Thursday before Mardi Gras. That spot now belongs to the Knights of Babylon. Babylon traditionally paraded on Wednesday, and moved up in the pecking order. Or did they? After all, Thursday night now belongs to the Krewe of Muses, one of the super-krewes.

Comus paraded on Mardi Gras night. When they began in 1857, the Mystick Krewe were the only parade in town. Over a century, however, other krewes out-shone the oldest organization. By the 1980s, the Comus parade was essentially glorified transportation to their ball. Worn out from a day of marching clubs, Zulu, Rex, and the truck floats, the majority of Uptown carnival-goers gave up before dusk.

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The Comus ball, held for decades on one side of the Municipal Auditorium on Mardi Gras, is still the Big Deal in “society” circles. Even Rex defers to Comus by leaving his own ball and closing out the season with Comus. So, the members of the Mystick Krewe didn’t lose much sleep over not returning to parading. That’s ironic, of course, since they eventually did prevail in court over the city.

Proteus, on the other hand, had the most prominent position of the three. Even before “Lundi Gras” was an event in itself, they embraced the anticipation and excitement of the evening, leading into the big day.

Queen Zulu 1997 #watercolorwednesday

Queen Zulu 1997 #watercolorwednesday

Designers created a red costume for Queen Zulu 1997. (cross-posted to krewehistory.info)

Queen Zulu 1997

Queen Zulu 1997

Costume for Queen Zulu 1997. Here’s the LSM record for the watercolor:

Costume drawing for queen’s costume, Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, queen was Mercedes Antoine-Robert (wife of king), standing figure in large costume in watercolor shades of pale red, gold scrolls, wearing “Z” headpiece, signed “Colombo” l. r.

This illustration is part of the extensive Carnival Collection at the Louisiana State Museum.

Zulu Royalty

Carnival organizations use a number of methods to choose their kings, queens, and other “royalty.” For example, the School of Design’s choices for King of Carnival (Rex) are usually civic leaders. They don’t necessarily have to be a member of the organization. Endymion chooses their king via a lottery. Members desiring kingship pay a fee, their name goes in a hat, and the last name remaining in the hat as they draw them out becomes king.

Zulu holds an election for their king. Candidates for the position “campaign” by holding lavish parties and dinners for voting members. The club votes, and the man elected chooses his queen. Many Zulu kings select their wives to be their queen. That’s what happened in 1997. Reigning as Zulu the King is an expensive proposition, between the “campaign” and actual expenses for the parade and ball.

Carnival artwork

This watercolor is signed “Colombo.” I haven’t researched who this artist is. If you have more details, please comment or drop me a note. These illustrations are incredible. They offer a vision to the costumers. Those folks build on that vision, lifting it from the page.

LSM Tour

While they don’t offer a tour every year, the tour of the LSM Carnival Collection is absolutely worth the price of admission. The tour is sponsored through the Friends of the Cabildo, so members of that organization get dibs on reservations. The curators pull out all sorts of interesting pieces from the collection that you can walk through and see up close. It’s a blast.