Is ritual it just a formal, routine observance? Or does it have the power to create change? In some traditions, ritualistic ceremonies are believed to bring about a physical change in the natural world: dances bring rain, a community feast secures the next harvest, prayers bring safety, and various superstitions bring about good luck.
In other traditions, the results are more metaphysical. Although the ceremony may not transform the world around us, it still creates a change within us. And among us. (Read more in Liberating Rites: The Transformative Power of Ritual)
This is true of fraternity and sorority rituals. In fraternal organizations, the ritual marks a transition. It offers a reminder. It provides order. It formalizes a bond. It solidifies commitment. It creates a new status. It is the pinnacle experience which transforms a group of men or women into a values-driven force dedicated to changing the world.
When the words are spoken by performers and participants, we give life to a set of ideas established long ago. For a brief moment, the intentions of our founders become real again, and anchor themselves into our consciousness as a mission, not just a metaphor.
But if it’s done poorly… ...if the performer thoughtlessly reads words on the page ...if members snicker in the background ...if participants believe it to be a secondary experience
...then there is no transformation, only a yearning for something more powerful - some other intense experience that provides transition, reminder, order, bond, commitment and status. In the void, members begin to look elsewhere: hazing, pranks, irrelevant challenges, etc., and a ritual that once had such transformative power becomes little more than the specter of our founders.
Ritual can be just a routine observance, or it can be the force of change within each member, throughout our organization, and by extension the world at large. It's up to you.