Knights of Pythias

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The Order of Knights of Pythias, an international, non-sectarian fraternity, was founded in Washington, DC, by Justus H. Rathbone, in 1864. It became the first fraternal organization to receive a charter under an act of the Congress of the United States after careful investigation by then-President Abraham Lincoln.


The order follows three distinguishing principles: friendship, charity, and benevolence. The Fraternal Order of Knights of Pythias promotes cooperation and friendship between people of good will. Pythians know one way to happiness is through service to mankind. Pythians believe that friendship is an essential ingredient in life.


Domains of the Order exist in most states and provinces, and subordinate lodges are in many cities and towns across the United States, Canada, and Europe.


The order bases its lessons and builds it ritual largely on the story of the friendship of Damon and Pythias. These historical characters lived 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. Their loyalty to each other, the adventures that beset them, and the outcome of their friendship, form the basis for the history exemplified in their ritual.

Membership Requirements

Membership has historically been open to males in good health who believe in a Supreme Being. Maimed individuals were not admitted until 1875. Members are accepted by blackball ballot.[4]:184

A member must be at least 18 years of age, not be a professional gambler or involved with illegal drugs or alcohol, and he must have a belief in a Supreme Being. The oath taken by members:

I declare upon honor that I believe in a Supreme Being, that I am not a professional gambler, or unlawfully engaged in the wholesale or retail sale of intoxicating liquors or narcotics, and that I believe in the maintenance of the order and the upholding of constituted authority in the government in which I live. Moreover, I declare upon honor that I am not a Communist or Fascist; that I do not advocate nor am I a member of any organization that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the Country of which I am a Citizen, by force or violence or other unlawful means; and that I do not seek by force or violence to deny to other persons their rights under the laws of such country.[5]

By the end of the so-called “Golden Age of Fraternalism” in the early 1920s, the order had nearly a million members. By 1979, however, this number had declined to fewer than 200,000.[4]:185


The order follows three distinguishing principles: friendship, charity, and benevolence.


The primary charity supported by Supreme Lodge is the American Cancer Society. Many other charities and programs are supported by Grand and Subordinate Lodges. Examples include the Texas Pythian Home for children, a retirement center in Vancouver, WA and the Kinkora Pythian Home (near Harrisburg, PA), a residential facility offering various levels of care.


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