Having formed in 1881, the Krewe of Proteus is the second oldest parading krewe in Carnival (after Rex) and the oldest night parade. If you want to see carnival as historic preservation, see this parade. Don’t worry about the beads; look instead at the old floats and the theme developments. For the first time ever, the Proteus parade description is released on the internet:

Krewe of Proteus 2011 Parade Narrative
“The Prophetic Old-Man-of-the-Sea”

The Krewe of Proteus, founded in 1881, celebrates its 130th anniversary with this year’s parade. This is the oldest nighttime parading krewe in New Orleans, offering you a glimpse into the fabled pageantry of the Golden Age of Carnival. 

The 11th Captain of the Krewe of Proteus leads the way astride his steed, masquerading in his timeless white plumage. He is followed by his many-hued lieutenants, as they escort this music-filled mystic procession into another magical Lundi Gras night.

The wooden wheeled wagons that carry this parade date back to the 1880s; the era of flambeau illuminated spectacles drawn by mules through the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter. These aged floats make their mystic journey once more for your pleasure this evening, featuring the finely-crafted tableau roulants created by The Royal Artists.

This year’s pageant explores the mythology of Proteus himself. The ancient god Proteus is shepherd to Poseidon’s sea cattle, and has the remarkable ability to change his shape at will, be it man, beast, fire, wind or water. He often changes his form to escape those wishing to exploit his gift of prophecy. These floats illustrate the deities and creatures associated with Proteus, his role in Homer’s Odyssey and other legendary stories, plus the many forms he can assume. As you enjoy the parade, note the presence of the distinctive red and gold crown of Proteus. This signature crown is the indicator of the “Prophetic Old-Man-of-the-Sea” in his various forms.

Join us now, as Proteus, with his special gifts, provides his loyal subjects with a rainbow of innovative floats unparalleled in the oldest traditions of Mardi Gras.

List of floats:

1) Proteus CXXX (130)
Proteus himself leads his glittering array of tableau roulants aboard his gold and pink shell, astride a cascading wave. Pulling his shell throne is a team of Hippocampi (half horse and half fish), creating the most memorable and magnificent monarch’s float in New Orleans Mardi Gras. The design, shell and wave structure of this float originated in the 1920s. 

2)  The Prophetic Old-Man-of-the-Sea
As Proteus emerges from the swirling sea, he directs his trident to the banner displaying this year’s theme: The Prophetic Old-Man-of-the-Sea. Proteus invites us to learn more about his personal story: his world, his deeds and his powers. Join us as we explore the mythology of Proteus, the ancient Mediterranean sea god.

3) 1881: The Dawn of Proteus
Springing from a crest of turbulent waters, this glittering fish carries its riders into a Mardi Gras fantasy which began 130 years ago. Based on the design of the king’s car from the very first Proteus parade, this faithful reproduction of the wing-like fins reflect the colors of the rainbow, the glittering scales shed flashing like a million diamonds.

4) Triton, Herald of the Seas
Leading this year’s parade is the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, the Greek god known as Triton. He is blowing his twisted conch shell, producing a thunderous tone which has the ability to raise or calm the seas at his will. Triton is the traditional escort of marine deities, a duty he is fulfilling tonight as he leads Proteus and the stunning illustrations of his mythology through the streets of New Orleans. Half man and half fish, his name has become associated with a class of creatures known as “tritones,” the aquatic equivalent of the terrestrial satyrs.

5) Hippocampus
A mighty Hippocampus springs forth from the sea upon its sinuous tail, rearing gracefully upward. Under his command, the Hippocampi ply the shell-shaped chariot of Proteus through the seas.

6) Poseidon: Sire of Proteus
Proteus is the offspring of the great sea god Poseidon and the nymph Amphitrite. Poseidon is also known as the "earth-shaker," and is known to cause earthquakes. He is the brother of the Olympian gods Zeus and Hades.

7) Proteus Betrayed by Eidothea, His Daughter
In The Odyssey, Menelaus becomes stranded on the island of Pharos, near Egypt. This is the home of Proteus and his daughter, Eidothea. She tells him how to capture Proteus, in order to gain the knowledge of the future: his return home and the state of his home in his absence. She provides Menelaus and his men with seal skins to hide under and the knowledge to surprise the sea god.

8) Menelaus Wrestles Proteus
As Proteus rested among his seals, Menelaus ambushed the Old-Man-of-the-Sea to force him to reveal his prophecy.  Proteus assumed many forms to elude his captors. Among these transformations were the guise of a bearded lion, a snake, a panther, a monstrous boar, running water and a towering leafy tree. As Proteus began to tire, he reluctantly revealed his tragic prophecy.

9) Proteus in the Form of Fire
Raging fire is one of the brilliant forms Proteus may assume. Here we see anthropomorphized tongues of fire flying among dark billows of smoke. His range of transformation is boundless.

10) Proteus in the Form of Water
Crashing and swirling waves of water illustrate this form of Proteus. This watery form allows him to slip away or become practically invisible and integrated into the sea.

11) Proteus in the Form of a Dragon
Among the many forms Proteus could assume is that of a serpent, or dragon. We see him mid-transformation, as he morphs from his human-like form into a fierce dragon.

12) Proteus in the Form of a Beast
Emerging from many colored flames and stars is Proteus in the form of a lion. He can assume the form of any beast, including that of his beloved seals.

13) Proteus in the Form of a Tree
A great leafy tree is yet another form that can be assumed by the Old-Man-of-the-Sea. He has been known to shake his leaves and mimic the whistle of the wind when in this state.

14) The Tragic Prophecy
The prophecy demanded by Menelaus is one of tragedy. Proteus reveals that he has been stranded because he has not offered the sacrifices due to the gods. The tragedies include the suicide of Ajax, the murder of his brother Agamemnon by his own wife and the vengeful murder of her lover Aegisthus at the hand Agamemnon’s son Orestes.

15) Proteus Guides the Argonauts
Proteus aids the passage of the Argo and its heroes as they travel in search of the Golden Fleece to ensure their destiny.

16) The Undersea Realm of Proteus
A giant octopus is seen here, spilling its dark ink into the clear waters. The coral caves harbor the sea god as he lords over the depths.

17) Hercules Defeats the Sons of Proteus
This float is a memorial to Polygonus and Telegonus, the sons of Proteus. They were slain by Hercules in the course of his 12 Labors.

18) Proteus Bound by Aristaeus
Aristaeus is the patron god of bee-keeping and other useful tasks. He was greatly disturbed when he found his bees dead and his honeycombs incomplete. His mother, a Nereid, suggested he consult the Prophetic Old-Man-of-the-Sea. She instructed him to bind him as he slept so he could not escape. Proteus told him to sacrifice a bull. From the skull of this sacrifice arose a new swarm of bees.

19) Nereids and Oceanids
Nereids and Oceanids are sea nymphs, known to inhabit and protect particular springs, rivers, seas, lakes, ponds, pastures, flowers or clouds. They can be friendly and helpful to sailors fighting perilous storms. Nereids are particularly associated with the Aegean Sea, where they dwelt with their father, Nereus, in the depths within a silvery cave. Oceanids are the offspring of the titans Oceanus and Tethys.

20) Proteus: Shepherd of the Seas
Our final float features a protective Proteus, tending his flocks of seals. Each day at noon, Proteus rises from the depths to count his flocks and rest with them in the sunlight on the beaches of his island home, Pharos.

We now close the window into the world of “The Prophetic Old-Man-of-the-Sea.” Proteus invites you to join him next year for another Mystic Lundi Gras pageant in the traditional New Orleans style.