The Strawberry Patch

Enrichment and Inspiration for Beta Sigma Phi Sisters from Marilyn Ross

Understanding Our Rituals
From Beta Sigma Phi International

 To trace the origin and growth of ritual in Beta Sigma Phi is to draw the picture of the heart of an association of people devoted to the development of a better self as individuals, and to a better world.

 Even a computer cannot turn out results that are good unless the right data is programmed into it. Rituals are the programming by which Beta Sigma Phi feeds into the minds and hearts of its members the basic data from which they will, in time, be rewarded. The rewards are individual and personal results, differing in form but not in the essence from symbolic statements more general and abstract.

 The urgency and variety of lesser things press upon us many hours of every day. But constructive thinking, to be most effective, must be habitual. It needs cultivation as a habit, until it is firmly established as one. Here again, the rituals are of value-especially the ones repeated at every meeting. By reiteration, we deepen our comprehension, and at the same time form a habit of good thought.

 Beta Sigma rituals are symbolic representations of the spirit of sisterhood and of the determination of the members to improve themselves and, in this way, make a better world. The language of the rituals is purposely poetic, because of the heightened emotional impact made possible by that form of expression. It deals with images and stories outside our normal terms of reference, so the ideals and ideas expressed may be approached and appreciated, as if seen for the first time. In this way, the words themselves, and the things of which they are symbolic, are not the "old friend" principles of our school days, but the living, acting, effective ones by which we mature into ever more valuable adults.

 The very first ritual of Beta Sigma Phi, the Pledge Ritual, begins with a story which, like the ancient myths, imparts a message in a vivid way. The story concerns Diotima, the wise woman of Mantinea. To some experts, Diotima is a mythical person; others feel she did exist. She was reputed to be the teacher of Socrates, and a prophetess who taught that philosopher about the art and mystery of love. In Diotima's time, the idea that love is something more than physical desire was unheard of. Diotima taught that love is the very core of progress; the urge, the whip that drives us all toward projection of self in the creation of goodness, truth and beauty, which she maintained were the most sublime goals.

 In the story in the Pledge Ritual, a woman slept and dreamed that she wandered in the night through quiet streets of an ancient city, in the company of Diotima. She saw a light and realized that it was a torch moving in the distance, and she discovered they were following the torch. She asked Diotima what the torch was, and was told that it is called learning, and it moved away through the darkness to show them the way. She discovered that the torch never stopped, but always led onward. Diotima told her that the torch itself was lighted from a fire that some call truth, some call beauty, and some call love; and that those who follow it learn all of these. The symbolic message of the story is that each new member of Beta Sigma Phi is handed a torch which can guide her through her search for the good, the true and the beautiful.

 The rest of the ritual expands on the opportunities offered a new member through her acceptance of the sisterhood of Beta Sigma Phi. It expands also on the importance and depth and meaning of the fellowship of Beta Sigma Phi; and its lesson of love that grows between women who have been "united at the same distaff." The word distaff is described as part of a spinning wheel which has since Old English times symbolized women, their work and concerns. And the ritual describes the scope and impact of that kind of love, that kind of fellowship.

 The second ritual of Beta Sigma Phi, the Ritual of Jewels, is chiefly concerned with beauty and with six virtues. These virtues are part of beauty, and shine forth from you as though your life were a crystal prism, separating the light of the torch into the spectrum. The virtues are courage, vision, humility, loyalty, fellowship, service. The first three are represented by the colors red, yellow and blue, which are primary colors, and which signify the importance of those three virtues. The last three colors are secondary colors, each of which is formed by the combination of two primary colors, signifying that those virtues are seen as combinations of the virtues of courage, vision and humility.

 The Exemplar Ritual is basically a recognition and an honor for those who have proved themselves in Beta Sigma Phi. It reminds members of the basic principles, of the symbolism, and of what they have learned in practicing the principles themselves. It celebrates what they have learned, and what they have been together. It confers upon them the right to be known as one who exemplifies the highest purposes of Beta Sigma Phi, an Exemplar.

 The Preceptor Ritual is, again, a ritual of honor. Its candidates are honored as examples of friendship and living examples of the precepts of the organization, which they not only exemplify, but teach. They are called upon to give special concentration each year to one of the six virtues.

 The fifth ritual for the Laureate degree gives each member a symbol of honor, the laurel wreath. The Laureates are urged to accept the continuing responsibility of progress and achievements.

 The Master ritual is the sixth ritual. Its focus is on the courage it takes to continue on life's journey. Life does not stand still. Master degree members are encouraged to add on to their journey other creations which will amplify and expand the scope and depth of life.

 Each ritual becomes progressively simpler because more is already known, much has already been practiced, a great deal has been achieved. Each ritual marks personal growth and group achievement in Beta Sigma Phi.

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