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Islands Museum

Costume, Performance


Accession number: 1994.029.03a-c
Date: 1881 – 1914
Materials: fabric
Measurements: 140 cm LVest is 60cm long with 34cm long ties.
Narrative: This High Priest costume was worn by one of the Knights of the Maccabees from Laurier Tent #11 in Tiverton, during the Degree Ceremonies. Leading up to the Maccabean rebellion, the Seleucid ruler King Antiochus IV auctioned off the role of high priest to the highest bidder, and this transaction would likely have been portrayed in the Degree of Protection. Founded in London, Ontario in 1878, the Knights of the Maccabees took their name from the biblical Jewish family who rebelled against Antiochus IV and reconsecrated the defiled Temple in Jerusalem. A benevolent legal reserve society, they provided sick and death benefits to their members, who had to be white persons of sound health and good character. Those who made, sold or drank alcohol were automatically excluded from membership, as were workers of dangerous professions, such as coal miners. Their motto was Astra Castra Numen Lumen, meaning: The stars my camp, the Deity my light, and the colours were black, red and white. Each chapter was known as a Tent, and contained the offices of Commander, Lt. Commander, Knight Record Keeper, Master at Arms, Sergeant, Chaplain, Guards, Sentinel and Picket. Many Tents also had the office of Past Commander. Among their rituals was the conferment of degrees, namely the Degree of Protection, the Degree of Friendship, and the Degree of Loyalty. Each involved a ceremony and dramatization of biblical events associated with the rebellion led by the group’s namesake, Judas Maccabeus. In 1914 the name was shortened to the Maccabees, and in 1962 became the Maccabees Mutual Life Insurance Company. This costume was made by Dominion Regalia, a Toronto Ontario company that has been in operation since 1881. Originally catering to fraternal and religious organizations, they now (2007) have four areas of specialty: awards and identification, fraternal organizations, embroidered, and church products.
Description: Knights of the Maccabees High Priest costume. White lightweight cotton tunic with 6 pairs of snaps down front. Two front panels, side gusset panels, and one main back panel. V-shaped collar. Overlying mercerized cotton vest is bib-shaped and extends to waist with gold metallic trim around exterior edges and at neck. Muslin lining. Cotton ties on either side, mid-way down vest. Hat is white, mercerized cotton with gathered brim on band, trimmed at top and bottom with gold braid. Lined inside with a stiff, formed and pasted material and muslin. The lining has an edging through which a black fine ribbon can be pulled to adjust for head size.