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Section III The "Mystic Circle" -Filled with Traditions Responsibility of a Lifetime Click Once

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section iii

Section III

The "Mystic Circle"

-Filled with Traditions

Responsibility of a Lifetime

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Traditions can be young or old. They are manifestations of the spiritual ties that bind men of kindred soul and common goal. Alpha Sigma Phi has developed a rich heritage of traditions over the years, many dating back from the early days at Yale. One of the best examples is the tradition of referring to Alpha Sigma Phi as the “Old Gal.” That affectionate term is so old that its origin is unknown. Alfred Dewey Follet, Marietta 1872, the first Grand Senior President of the Fraternity, addressed a group of Brothers in 1918. the term was old even then, so Brother Follet described his visualization of the Old Gal:

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If I were a sculptor, I would take a block of the whitest marble and carve it into the form of a beautiful woman. Her brow should be high to denote her intellect, and wide to show her calm serenity of spirit. Her ears should be small to show her refinement; her eyes deep-set and clear to show her penetration; her nostrils should be widely expanding to show her alertness to every condition about her; her lips should be full to show her love; her well-rounded breasts should show her power to sustain; her broad hips should show her power of reproduction; and, her arms should be outstretched in an attitude of friendliness and welcome ... (continued)…

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I would place that carved figure under a white canopy, the emblem of chastity and secrecy, and upon the pedestal of the temple, thus created, I would carve the letters Alpha Sigma Phi. Into this temple I would enter and raise my arms in token of praise and adoration, and before that statue I would bow my head in token of my willingness to receive her instruction, and I would bend my knee in token of my unswerving loyalty and undying fealty. I trust that if not the marble statue, at least the letters Alpha Sigma Phi, standing for the Fraternity, will be a constant inspiration to you after you are out of, and away from college. And as you come to address younger Sigs, as I am doing tonight, you will be glad and proud to say that to ‘the “Old Gal” you owe in a great measure the good you have been able to do.

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Just as Brother Follet was passing on to younger Brothers his insights into the Fraternity, so you too will pass on to others the lore and customs of your chapter Fraternity. The oldest and most cherished of our traditions are part of the Rituals of the Fraternity, esoteric and never revealed to non-members. The beauty and depth of the Ritual is appreciated more and more as you participate actively within the Mystic Circle. Alpha Sigma Phi has a secret Grip (handshake) that has never been described in writing. It is passed on from Brother to Brother. It, like our traditional heraldry, is a device of recognition shared only by the initiated.

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Chapter Designations

The chapters of Alpha Sigma Phi have always been given Greek letter designations, assigned in order of installation into the Fraternity. No chapter is designated Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet that signifies “the end.” Brothers who have passed away are referred, respectfully, to have joined the Omega Chapter.

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All members have equal status as Brothers. Therefore all Badges are the same and none may be jeweled. There are no honorary members and there is no inactive status. A chapter consists of all the members ever initiated through it. The undergraduate group should never refer to itself alone as “the chapter.” alpha Sigma Phi has no defunct chapters, even though some are not currently active at the undergraduate level. Each of these chapters still exists for it has its graduate members.

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Annual Events:

The Sig Bust & Founders Day Activities

First held in Cincinnati in the 1880s to insure the rededication of Delta Chapter to the Old Gal, most chapters, today, hold a “Sig Buts” sometime during the year when alumni Brothers return for a traditional dinner to renew fraternal ties and to meet the current undergraduate membership.

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To honor the anniversary of our founding, close to the sacred December 6th date each year, chapters hold a banquet or other observance of Founders’ Day. Alumni Brothers and special guests are invited to attend. It is an important time of rededication to the Fraternity and to the pursuit of its lofty goals and objectives.

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Pinnacle Week

Pinnacle Week is a time of special significance to the current non-initiated members and brothers. The week immediately prior to initiation is a period of candidates for initiation to reflect on what they have learned and have reemphasized the ideals, purposes, and traditions of Alpha Sigma Phi. It should be a meaningful time for both candidates and Brothers. The program for Pinnacle Week is designed by each chapter in keeping with the objectives of the Fraternity and reflecting the special traditions of each chapter. A review of all material studied during new member education period is also worthwhile. Traditionally all alumni Brothers of the chapter are invited to participate in the initiation ceremonies that climax Pinnacle Week.

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Black Lantern Processional

One of the oldest traditions of the Fraternity, dating to Alpha Chapter, is the Black Lantern Processional. All Brothers are “cowled” in black (hooded robes with hoods up) and marched in single file, approximately six feet apart. Each carries a black Diogenes lantern with a single candle. The Processional is conducted in a very dignified manner and in strict silence with the candidates interspersed throughout the Processional.

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Chapters often reenact the Black Lantern Processional on other appropriate occasions such as Founders’ Day, the anniversary of the chapters chartering, or as a memorial for those Brothers who have entered Omega Chapter. Probably the longest continuous use of the Black Lantern is Delta Chapter’s Processional following its annual Sig Bust. As used by Delta, the Processional is enacted in memory of Brothers who have passed to the Omega Chapter, signifying that, although they are no longer present, their spirit remains forever in the minds of the Brothers.

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The Black and White

The oldest traditional dance held by Alpha Sig chapters is the Black and White – a formal occasion with all decorations and dress in black and white. Nu Chapter at California is credited with beginning that tradition.

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Other Traditions

In writing members of Alpha Sigma Phi, the usual salutation is, “Dear Brother ____” The title “Brother” should never be abbreviated. “Fraternally Yours” is the most popular form for closing letters. “Yours in the Mystic Circle” and “Yours in Alpha Sigma Phi” are also often used. In addition, the term “Brother” should never be used on an envelope.

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Almost every chapter has its own traditions. These can be fun and an important link from one group of Brothers to another. It would be an interesting project to research the origin of your chapter’s traditions if you don’t have special traditions, you might talk with older alumni Brothers of the chapter to learn if there were certain things done in your chapter year after year in the past. Or you may wish to correspond with other chapters to find out what special traditions they observe.

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A Singing Fraternity

Traditionally Alpha Sigma Phi has taken great pride in being known as a singing fraternity. And its collection of songs, many of them written over the years by Alpha Sig Brothers, is an impressive one. You should learn the songs and sing them at every opportunity. Form quartets and special choral groups. Sing out for Alpha Sigma Phi and you’ll be carrying on a tradition that goes back to the days of our Founders. (Included in the Appendix is a small collection of some of our most popular songs.) All of Alpha Sigma Phi’s rituals are about life and for life.

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They challenge us to lead a fuller, more realized life. They challenge us throughout our lives. We take our oaths for a lifetime and should use what we learn at the Fraternity altar to guide us for a lifetime.

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A number of Alpha Sigma Phi’ rituals are public ceremonies and should be shared with those who we care about and who can assist us in our journey. While these rituals are not esoteric, they are based soundly on the ideals, traditions, and symbols of the Mystic Circle. Use of public rituals allows us to give others some insight into the high purposes of our Order. And they also reaffirm the joy of brotherhood in all aspects of our lives. They enrich our fraternal experience and they serve to renew the vows and dedications of all members of all ages.

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On a regular basis, chapters should take the opportunity to enrich the fraternal experience by performing the following ceremonies as described in the Ritual Book:

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  • The Senior Service
  • The Wedding Service
  • The service to Celebrate a Birth
  • The Milestone Service
  • The Memorial Service

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