What is ritual?

Elizabeth Scott

Ritual is ceremonies, white clothing, memorizing songs and speeches, and absolute silence. Ritual ceremonies welcome our new members into the sisterhood and send our seniors on their merry way at the end of their collegiate experience. Every other week, ritual dictates the format of our chapter meetings. Is there more to ritual?

Like many sorority women, this is what I thought about ritual during my collegiate experience. Until I went through leadership consultant training, I did not think of ritual in any other way. I knew our ritual ceremonies were very important and by following the ritual book we were staying in line with our founders and the standards they set 137 years ago. I also realized that by following the ritual ceremonies, we were in line with the rest of the national organization. Let me tell you a secret. There is SO much more to ritual.

During training, we read Edward King’s The Secret Thoughts of a Ritual (excuse my notes and underlining). This article really opened my eyes to the importance of ritual and how it can be used. It gave me a new perspective on my approach to ritual. Here are the two main things I found:

  1. Ritual is a day to day activity. Living our sorority values should be the constant goal of all of our collegiate chapters. As a member of Sigma Kappa, I should uphold our ritual with all my actions every day. From interactions with my Sigma Kappa sisters to how I prioritize my life, my Sigma Kappa ritual should be seen. Ritual should not just be a five to six times a year deal. It’s an everyday activity and others should be able to see my values through my actions.
  2. Ritual should hold members accountable. Think about your ritual. Does it encourage you to undermine your fellow member? Does it give you permission to only be involved your first two years of membership? Does it encourage disrespect? Does it promote risky behavior or breaking rules? Of course, “no” should be the answer no to all of these questions. Using ritual as an accountability tool is a great way to help chapter morale and keep all members on the same page. As initiated members, we all took the same oath. Why not use it to make our chapters stronger?

With “initiation season” among us, think about how your chapter uses ritual. I challenge you to make ritual a main focus of your chapter year round, not just during inspiration week. Alumnae, think about how you live your ritual. Even if you are not in an active chapter currently, you can still exemplify Sigma Kappa’s ritual in your day to day life.

At the end of September, I had the privilege of returning to the Alpha Gamma chapter at Washington State University during their inspiration week. The night before I left, I helped the women prepare for their upcoming Initiation. As I said above, it is refreshing to be at a school clear across the country and hear those same words that I said during my initiation. I listened to the words with new ears and thought about how easy it is to make that oath a part of my life. I challenge each of you to live your values each day and show Sigma Kappa’s ritual through all you do. Obviously, we will still keep certain things a secret for members, but we can show the system of values our ritual is based on through our actions each day.




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