History of Our Ritual


History of Our Ritual

It has been discovered that as early as 1840 there existed a simple pledge that was recited by new members upon entering the Social Fraternity. Thus, the history of the initiation ritual begins. From that point in 1840, things began to evolve.
The pledge was revised and finally included in the constitution in 1848, which followed the direction of the Anti-Secret Confederation in 1847. From that point, the initiation "ritual" consisted simply of the reading of the constitution to the new members, which now included the pledge.

In 1858, the Fraternity's motto was officially adopted as Dikaia Upotheke or Δικαια Υποθηκη meaning Justice, Our Foundation. Until this time, the motto of the Williams Chapter, Ouden Adelon, or Nothing Secret, was used. In 1864, the name Delta Upsilon, and subsequently a newly designed badge were officially adopted. On October 15, 1864 a letter from the Washington and Jefferson Chapter to the Rutgers Chapter was sent which inquired as to the initiation practices and remarked, "that merely taking a pledge and reading the constitution seemed altogether too cold and barren." This letter and the correspondence that followed seemed to lead the 1866 Convention to establish a "Committee on Initiation." The delegates of the 1866 Convention in Rochester, NY accepted the report of the committee, which read:

"The pledge shall be administered to members-elect standing. The candidates and President shall stand in the center (directly in front of the President's desk), with the members of the chapter standing about them. The pledge having been assented to, the President shall address the newly elected members assuring them of the cordial sympathy of the society, and defining the relations in which they stand to the Fraternity. He shall then give them the hand of fellowship in the name of the entire Fraternity. After this the other members of the Chapter shall also welcome them as brothers."

The Initiation Rite of 1866 served the Fraternity for many years. In performing this Rite, the chapters were supposed to comply with this form, but were not limited to the additional nuances that they could add themselves. Thus, uniformity did not exist. In 1878, chapters began to express their opinion that the ritual be revised again. The issue was voted upon at the 1878 Convention to which the delegates decided to leave the matter "to the taste of each chapter."

This procedure stood until 1890 when again, the delegates at the 1890 Convention instructed the Executive Council to consider the improvement of the initiation rite. The idea was brought up often at conventions that would follow and was unsuccessfully reviewed by several different committees to the result that no significant progress was made on the improvement of the initiation rite for the next 10 years. Finally, at the 1900 Convention "a committee of five was appointed to draw up a uniform method of initiation and report at the next annual gathering." This committee apparently followed through with their work and prepared a more definitive initiation rite, which after some minor changes, was accepted at the 1901 Convention.

The new initiation rite underwent several modest changes for the next few years. After the chapters were able to put the new rite into practice, they saw the need for some minor adjustments. These revisions caused some varying opinions from the different chapters, and eventually led to a lack of uniformity. To combat this, the chapters used a "temporary form" of the initiation rite while the Executive Council worked with a committee to once again review the process. In 1910, the Council announce that a final draft of the rite was being handed over to Brother John Erskine, Columbia 1900, who would revise the final draft of the Ritual of Initiation. The draft was formally approved at the 1911 Convention, and in the fall of 1912, the Fraternity published the ritual.

The ritual consisted of three rites. In Rite I, the candidates took pledges of a negative character and were informed of the general nature of the vows to be taken later on.

An opportunity was also given for each man to express a willingness to continue the ceremony. While this was in progress, the rest of the chapter and visiting alumni were called to order in another room and informed of the names of the candidates. It was at this time that the opportunity to express any objection towards any candidate was offered. Rite I and II were conducted simultaneously. Rite III was then conducted towards the candidates containing the formal ceremony of reciting a pledge that closely resembled the current Oath of Initiation.

No alteration of the 1911 ritual took place until 1921 when the use of roll books and having the candidates inscribe their names within them was added to the ceremony. In addition some slight wording changes were made, and structurally, Rites II and III were combined to make the ritual a ceremony of two rites. Once again, some minor changes in the language were made to the ritual until finally, in 1937, the Convention and Assembly adopted the Ritual of Initiation that is now in use today. The only change up to this point was the addition of an alternate text in 1973 that is recited at the beginning of Rite II by the Master and Chaplain.

In the fall of 2000, the task was undertaken to revise the ritual to update the language within the text, to include additional resources and further explanation as to the implementation of the initiation ritual, and to expand the book to include other ceremonies to be used by the chapters. Through this process, the addition and development of the ceremonies included herein, with the exception of the initiation ritual took place. The intent of the expanded book is to help raise the level of pride and awareness of the Fraternity's ritual, and to help bring a greater sense of uniformity and formality to the chapter level.

The Ritual Book of Delta Upsilon (pdf)