TIS' THE SEASON
History of the Order
The Order of Knights of Pythias is a great international fraternity which
was founded in Washington, DC, February 19, 1864, by Justus H. Rathbone,
and embraces more than two thousand subordinate lodges in the United
States and Canada, with occasional lodges having been formed elsewhere.
The primary object of fraternal organizations is to promote friendship
among men and to relieve suffering. Each organization adopts some
outstanding principle as its objective. The individuality of an order is
determined by its ideal sentiment. The distinguishing principles of the
Order of Knights of Pythias are "FRIENDSHIP, CHARITY and BENEVOLENCE".
It bases its lessons and builds it ritual largely on the familiar story of
the friendship of Damon and Pythias, who were historical characters living
about four hundred or more years before the beginning of the Christian
era. They were members of a school, founded by Pythagoras, who was known
as the father of Greek philosophy.
To become a member of the Pythagorean Brotherhood, certain very rigorous
tests were demanded and applied, some of which are very similar to the
ritualistic work of our order today. The object of the organization was
the moral uplifting and purification of society. Strict morality, absolute
truthfulness, honor and integrity were thoroughly inculcated in the minds
of its membership. It was a maxim of Pythagoras that the two most
excellent things for man were "to speak the truth and to render benefits
to each other" The outstanding feature of the society, however, was the
marvelous friendship and loyalty which bound the brotherhood together with
hoops of steel, which was so remarkably demonstrated in the incident which
forms the historic basis of our order.
Damon had opposed the pretensions of the king of Syracuse, who had gained
the throne by fraud, and as a result he was condemned to death. Pythias
became a hostage for Damon, while the latter was permitted his liberty to
bid his wife and child goodbye. Each was willing to die to save the
other's life. Their loyalty to each other, the adventures that beset them,
and the outcome of this noble friendship, form the basis for one of the
most beautiful stories of history as exemplified in our ritual.
The Drama - Damon and Pythias
John Banim, Irish poet and dramatist, wrote a play based on this
friendship, which was first produced in London in 1821, and has since been
staged many hundreds of times.
Familiarity with the Banim play encouraged Justus H. Rathbone to organize
a fraternal order on the basis of such friendship. Its first small group
of members took the vows of the new order with their hands placed upon a
pocket Bible that had been given Mr. Rathbone by his mother. This Bible is
still cherished as a treasured relic of the Order, and many thousands of
others have been privileged to become members in what is known as "Rathbone
Bible Classes" the original Bible being used to obligate them.
Abraham Lincoln and Our Ritual
The Order began, of course, during the Civil War, and its founder believed
that it might do much to heal the wounds and allay the hatred of civil
conflict. President Abraham Lincoln, being advised of the contents of the
ritual and its teaching, said: "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."
The suggestion made by the President was adopted. An application was made
to Congress for a charter, and the Order of Knights of Pythias was the
first American Order ever chartered by an Act of the Congress of the
In the Order's ritualistic work, every sentence has a meaning and every
paragraph a beautiful and inspiring lesson. The flag of the country has an
honored place at every meeting and the Holy Bible is the supreme Book of
Law. The Order does not seek to shape any man's creed, but Pythianism is
the practical application of religious and charitable principles to every
day life. We have a heritage of which we are proud and our precepts and
teachings lead men to higher ideals of life. We invite like minded men of
good character to join us in making these ideals the dominant factor in
Peace Through Understanding
The Knights of Pythias is dedicated to the cause of universal peace and is
pledged to the promotion of understanding among men of good will as the
surest means of attaining it.
We believe that any two men, believers in a Supreme Being, meeting in a
spirit of good will in an honest effort to understand each other, can live
together in peace and harmony.
We seek those who agree with this belief to apply for membership in the
Knights of Pythias and join us in an effort to reach