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Traditions and Public Rituals


A Heritage that Dates Back to Yale University

Traditions 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. The oldest and most cherished of our traditions are part of the esoteric Rituals of the Fraternity 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.

The oldest traditional dance held by Alpha Sig chapters is the Black and White Formal; a formal occasion with all decorations and dress in black and white. Nu Chapter at UC-Berkeley is credited with beginning this tradition.

The Black Lantern Processional serves to remember our deceased brothers and commemorate Founder's Day. It is one of the Fraternity's oldest traditions, dating back to the 1800's when it was used at Yale University to announce to the campus those candidates who were accepted into Alpha Sigma Phi. All Brothers are 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. Chapters often reenact the Black Lantern Processional on other appropriate occasions such as Founders Day, the anniversary of the chapter's 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.

The chapters of Alpha Sigma Phi have always been given Greek letter designations, assigned in order of founding. No chapter is designated Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet that signifies the end. Brothers who have passed away are said, respectfully, to have joined the Omega Chapter. 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 alumni members.

Fraternal traditions very carefully specify the use of the Fraternity flag, with the U.S. Flag taking precedence by flying either above or at the left of the Fraternity's emblem. The Fraternity flag is displayed at full-staff on national holidays or celebrations and at half-staff on days of institutional mourning. Chapters may fly the Fraternity flag at any time, but should be displayed alone on days of Fraternity celebration, such as Founder's Day, days when Grand Chapter is in session, during official or invited visits of Grand Council members or any representative of the Fraternity, or whenever ordered by the Grand Senior President, Grand Council, or Fraternity President and CEO. The Fraternity flag may be used to drape the coffin of a member.

One of the oldest traditions of Alpha Sigma Phi is the Mystic Circle. It is rich in symbolism. It should be used at the end of each chapter meeting, initiation, or other special Fraternity function. It is strictly for initiated members only; non-members are asked to excuse themselves briefly and wait in a nearby area.

The following ceremonies are open to the public and available on our website:

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

First held in Cincinnati in the 1880's to insure the re-dedication of Delta Chapter to the Old Gal, most chapters hold a "Sig Bust" sometime during the year when alumni brothers return for a traditional dinner to renew fraternal ties and to meet the current undergraduate members. 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 re-dedication to the Fraternity and to the pursuit of its lofty goals and objectives. During the 50th Grand Chapter, Delegates passed a resolution asking that all chapters and affiliate organizations celebrate Founders' Day and that all members undergraduate and alumnus wear their Badge on that day.

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