USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘pleding’
Customs
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Pledge Fraternity Paddle

The informant describes the importance of the paddle during pledge’s semester pledging and the time beyond that semester.  The informant explains he learned of this tradition immediately after getting accepted into the fraternity.  He has close ties with this tradition because he has many memories of getting signatures for his paddle and feels as though it was his way of being fully accepted into the fraternity.

At the beginning of the pledge semester, all of the pledges need to get a paddle and put their name on it.  The paddle is typically made out of wood and has the fraternity’s letters on it.  The paddle also has the pledge class year and semester and the pledge’s last name.  And over the course of the semester you’re supposed to earn paddle sigs or paddle signatures from all the actives in the house.  The signatures are put on in black sharpie on all different sides of the paddle.  Older members of the house are allowed to sign signatures on the front of the paddle, while younger members may not.  The paddle gives you an opportunity to get to know the active members of the house and the active members of the house to know you. A paddle signature is an active’s acknowledgement of wanting and accepting the pledge into the house.  This tradition has been a part of his chapter since the beginning.  Getting paddle signatures involves hanging out and getting to know the active better. The paddle signatures are your way of earning your spot in the house – it is a sign of approval. The point of the paddle is that by the end of the semester you have every actives signature and this indicates everyone saying they want you in the house and it allows everyone to get to know you better.

I find role of the paddle for the incoming pledge class to be a great example of a folk object that represents the liminal period the pledges of the fraternity find themselves in.  The pledges have received bids from the fraternity indicating that the active members have interest in them and want them to become full members. The paddle acts as a form of their growth and transition into a full member.  The paddle, as stated by the informant, serves the role to spur interactions between active and pledge members and acceptance from active to pledges.

Legends

The Exorcism at St.Louis University

My informant stated that the library of St.Louis University was taped off and there were rumors that some sort of supernatural experience took place. This experience eventually was found out be an exorcism within the library itself. It was said that there was foreign writing on the walls mostly in the form of symbols and depictions. Some people state that a student was actually possessed by a demon and acted in an obscene and violent fashion. The student actually had to be imprisoned within the library and a Jesuit Priest reportedly came in an exorcised this student.

My informant’s uncle passed down this story to him and told him it was a passage when pledging his fraternity, while attending the University, to enter the allegedly haunted library and spend a night there to remember this event. To this day, this library is infamous to those who know of or heard of this assumed supernatural anomaly.

This is actually an example of annotation of authored folklore. As the alleged exorcism that took place at this university inspired both the film and novel titled The Exorcist.  This folklore is more as a legend within the university as this incident cannot be proven to have actually have happened, however students at this particularly university all know about this incident. This is a strong example of a legend quest and also part of a ritual, as fraternity pledges need to prove their bravery by spending a night in this haunted library. What is also interesting about this is that is a form of adapted literature, as the original legend was about a boy but however this was soon transformed into a tale about a little girl who got possessed.

Annotation: This case actually inspired the film and novel, The Exoricst. The boy that inspired The Exorcist, was given the name, “Roland Doe,” by the Catholic Church to protect his identity.

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