“Raising Cain” in The Ancestral Home of Mardi Gras-Mobile, Alabama
Sometimes your bucket list picks you. Last Sunday I had ten minutes to get out of bed, decide, dress, hit the road and play bucket list. Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama is “the U.S.A’s ancestral home of Mardi-Gras,” and celebrates “Joe Cain Day.” Touted as the more family friendly version of Mardi Gras, the Joe Cain Day “procession, said never to be called a parade, is one of the three-week events during this season.
Mardi Gras Museum- On Lundi Gras in 1699, French Catholic Settlers named the area ‘point du Mardi Gras” and a nearby tributary ‘Bayou Mardi Gras.” Mobile, the First Capital of French Louisiana held festivities of some sort but The Civil War put a halt on the shindigs.
After the Civil War, on a Fat Tuesday in 1868, a character by the name of Joe Cain, dressed up like a Choctaw Chief, wearing a plaid skirt and headdress. He was joined by six fellow Confederates; with a decorated coal wagon, playing drums and horns. Apparently, the Choctow Nation had never lost a battle. I guess Joe and his compatriots’ had an axe to grind.
I might mention that Joe had a name for his character. He called himself “Slacabamorinico.” Slac IV has been leading for the past 30 years. Joe Cain 1832-1904, had been buried in Bayou La Batre, Alabama but was reinterred to Mobile to be next to his family in 1966. Apparently Slac II hand carried his skull to Mobile, walking in front of a jazz procession, and thus began passing of the torch to each honorary successor.
I started out at The Church Cemetery where the procession ends cause I dig cemeteries, and there lies Joe Cain. On the day that I visited, the cemetery was closed for construction but I was able to get a look.
Raising Cain comes from the Old Testament and not Alabama.
I saw a large friendly police presence. The city discourages nudity, blatant public drunkenness and other lewd behavior, which will lead to a prompt arrest if witnessed by law enforcement. It is not New Orleans.
In 1966 when Joe’s grave was moved from Bayou La Batre, Alabama, a jazz funeral took place. This jazz group became known as The Minstrels Band, and today are called “The Lost Cause Minstrels of Mobile.”
There is a history of Societies, some secret. A few of these groups are represented in the procession.
By chance, I met some really nice people. This man has been leading out the procession with The Society of Bums since 1976. One of the bum spouses (don’t take that wrong, she was so nice) found out that I was a Mardi Gras Virgin and invited me to dinner.
The Merry Widows of Joe Cain Float.
The widows throw garters, roses and black beads
In 2003, “The Mistresses of Joe Cain” group was founded. Before the procession begins, The Mistresses make a toast; “Here is to Joe on this day we do mourn. He loved us dearly though we face lots of scorn. From dusk til dawn we mourn his death, cause we all know, HE LOVED US BEST!!!” Unlike the widows, the mistresses walk behind the coal wagon to be near to Joe.
This used to be a “people’s parade/procession, but entries are now capped. Neighborhoods, families and large groups of friends build floats and not mystic societies. There were about 34 entries.
I give this event ***** megastars. It’s fun, historical, traditional and unique, and hey you can bring the kids.
Megatips- when in Mobile eat at Felix’s Fish Camp-Yum!
Check out my Instagram for more photos of this event at https://instagram.com/kickingthebucketlistwithmeg/