Order of Myths 

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In 1867, Rutledge and Wallace Parham, along with Harry Pillans were approached by their friend Aristede Hamelin who had the idea of starting an association and a parade like the Cowbellions, but doing it on Mardi Gras, as the Krewe of Comus had done in New Orleans 10 years earlier.
In the winter of 1867, a meeting was held in the office of Harry Pillans, Assistant Engineer and Draftsman for the City. There they
developed their plans. Pillans came up with the name, Order of Myths, which he derived from the Order of Odd Fellows but he said he wanted to give the title of this new organization a sense of the “mythical character of the sacredly secret membership.” 
    
First President, Joseph Seawell, “an ancient and seasoned Cowbellion” was also a respected attorney and politician. Seawell had come to Mobile from North Carolina to practice law in the mid-1830s. In the 1840s he was a Democratic State Senator and then Judge of the County Court of Mobile.  He had also been Mayor of Mobile in 1852. With a full resume behind him, he symbolized, as President, the high quality expected of the membership.
The creation of an “emblem,” a symbolic representation of the society was, along with choosing a president, a name, and a meeting place, one of the first tasks taken up by the organizing committee. The Order of Myth’s emblem was intended to reveal the members’ classical education and Anglo-American heritage. Folly chasing Death around a Broken Column was the concept, rendered as a visual image by Morton Toulmin. The symbol of the broken column was a reference to a life cut short but the symbol had very important connections to Masonic rituals as well. 

According to Pillans, Seawell chose the theme of the first parade, a book-length poem by Thomas Moore, Lalla Rookh, which had also been the theme used for one of the Cowbellion parades in the 1850’s and was used for the first Krewe of Comus parade ten years earlier. The O.O.M.’s likely used the same props and costumes. The poem depicted Romantic intrigues, the Eastern setting of Deli and Cashmere, the struggle of Zoroastrians against Muslim invaders.

It was well understood that the theme would be a mystery to the public. The average person would gaze at the elaborate costumes and float designs with a sense of having missed the point, but confident that the organizers considered it to be common knowledge. That was expected.  The themes were clearly communicated to the newspapers ahead of the parade so that each design could be described in the press the following day, giving the impression that the editors of the newspaper, as educated men, understood the arrangements completely as they watched the parade. Following the 1868 parade, the Mobile Daily Register reported, “About half-past eight the mystic order made its appearance on Royal Street.  It was speedily evident that the design of the celebration was drawn from Lalla Rookh.” It was all part of the excitement and wonder created by the mystic parades. Only in Mobile did all of society play along to create this separate universe of mystery and magic that existed on only one day of the year, from the press, to the mayor, fire and police departments, to the average citizen.

While the group’s structure and rituals still followed the Masonic pattern, the purpose of the Order of Myths was both beneficent and social. The primary functions of the group included offering charitable donations to the community on a regular basis and, of course, providing amusement and “cultural enlightenment” to the public each year with their annual parade. But members considered it very much a social opportunity as well.