USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘pledge’
Customs
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Malibu Cave

This is another collection from a Greek friend who offered to tell me about a ritual involved in their initiation week. I asked what his favorite one was and here is what he had to say.

Informant: Every semester we initiate a new group of pledges and we have a whole bunch of traditions and shit that go on during the last week but my favorite is the Malibu Cave.  It always happens the first week of pledge semester and the morning before they finish before the sun rises.  We take the pledges out to Malibu and hike them through the hills until we come to this cave that looks out over this amazing view.  It’s like a valley sorta that goes all the way down to the ocean.  Usually when we get there the clouds are at our level and they clear as the sun comes out.  It’s really sick.  Then we sit around and listen to music and the pledges reflect on the semester.

Me: What kind of reflection do you mean?

Informant: Umm pledging isn’t exactly the easiest thing and there are lots of memories and close relationships formed throughout the process so I guess we just talk about the semester, I don’t know you’d have to be there.

Me: Why this cave? Does it mean something to your fraternity?

Informant: Fuck if I know, it’s a sick cave and someone probably just heard of it a long time ago and decided to take the pledges there.  And it does now, it like sorta symbolizes the end of pledging because that’s where they first started the semester and now they came full circle.

After hearing this recount of this fraternity tradition I realized just how much the pledge semester brings a group of guys together, who previously had not known each other.  My informant didn’t know why or how this cave became a customary tradition for initiation but it clearly became very symbolic and meaningful for the members over time.

Adulthood
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Fraternity Initiation – Pledge Plays

My informant attended the University of Chicago during the 1940’s and early 1950’s, and was a member of the Zeta Beta Tau, or ZBT, fraternity.  While fraternity life was different than it was at other universities and certainly is different now, they had one initiation ritual in particular that my informant remembers.  After they had become fully admitted into the fraternity, the pledges had to put on a play where they got to parody the older members of the fraternity.  Each older member had to be represented at least once during this play.  Also instead of hazing rituals, the pledges had to do tasks around the house like cleaning and other chores.

Personally, I find it amazing that the USC Trojan Marching Band, or at least the alto saxophone section of the TMB, has this very same ritual.  At the end of the Weekender trip, which is the away game against either Cal or Standford depending on the year, the freshman are tasked with putting on sketches about the older members of the band.  Every older member must be represented at some point, which often means that some freshman must pull double duty and do two skits.  The fact that a tradition so similar is still being practiced 60 years later tells me that this tradition is at least somewhat universal.

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