Sorority Initiation

My informant told me the story of an initiation into her sorority. “Okay, sooo, it was like eight o’clock at night and we were told we had to be at the sorority and I get to the sorority, everything is blacked out. We can’t see in the house, all the windows are blacked out with like bags or sheets or something, so you can’t see in at all. And we were told to wear white, so all the new members of the sorority who are in my pledge class are all wearing just white. So we get to the door and we’re told to wait so we all wait like ten minutes, and then um, the president of our sorority comes out, she’s wearing a white tunic that’s floor length, we can’t see any of her face but we know it’s her. She leads us upstairs and she takes us to this waiting area and in the waiting area there are no lights, they collect our cell phones, wallets and keys. Then they told us to wait, so we wait like two hours. We’re  not allowed to talk. Soo, we’re all just sitting there in the pitch black, dead silent, then two more people come in in robes shrouding their faces, and they call the first six girls alphabetically in my pledge class. So they lead us downstairs, and , this is kinda weird, there are glow sticks lighting the way. and there are like girls lying on the floor, and they look like dead and there are strobe lights flashing on them. It’s like really scary though. Then we’re lead into the dining room and there are chairs and all the other active members are sitting in the chairs in robes. and their are like candles lighting up the side and that’s all the light, except there’s a a thing in the front, there’s like a podium, all white, and there’s like an arch with sheets and stuff, and it’s very pretty and there are flowers with candles lighting it up. Our sister president is standing there with a candle and a bible and next to the bible there is, like, a “hook up” code for our sorority. So the person who’s going to be initiated as our big sis leads us up to the podium and everybody is singing our song. And then as soon as they start, like, saying our name they tell us that we’re now initiated members of the sorority and we are lead to something called the playroom, where we are then forced to sleep on the floor the whole night. locked in a room with all of our sisters and then every hour we come get woken up for something. And maybe three a.m. they wake us up and all the girls are covered in blood and we’re all really exhausted because we’ve been initiated all day.  And the girls are, like, covered in animal blood, pounding on the window, wearing masks and like we thought they were all asleep, and it was really scary. Then an hour  later we heard screaming upstairs and it sounded like someone was being beaten up, but we couldn’t leave, cause if we leave then we were like breaking our pact… and yeah, they do that initiation every year, every parents weekend”

This seems to be a ritual process that bring the girls out of the liminal state between membership in the sorority. The idea of wearing white shows a sign of purity possibly, and makes a type of connection to marrying the sorority which also comes in at the initiation ceremony, where all of the girls walk down the aisle to the podium. The idea of crossing “death” in the room that everyone is pretending to be dead in before they get to the wedding-like ceremony, is also interesting and could be some type of symbol for dying and then being reborn as a part of the sorority. Not being able to see the active sisters’ faces before they are initiated adds to an idea of separation and intangibility, as well as just being creepy. The bible and “hook-up” codes being placed next to each other is an interesting juxtaposition, which gives the hook up codes the same authority, or “holiness” as the bible. After this ceremony they spend the night, which also recalls a wedding ceremony in a way because after the wedding the couple then spends there first night together being married, and traditionally the women loses her virginity that night; which, makes a connection to the active sisters covering themselves with animal blood, like when bloody sheets were set on display the morning after the wedding night. The scaring of the girls also proves the girls commitment to the sorority by staying in the room and not getting out of the situation. And the girls staying downstairs and not leaving the situation shows that they are committed and that they obey the rules. Not leaving the room even to see if your sorority sister is alright because she sounds like she is being beat also shows that the girl can follow rules, and will follow rules even when allowing another sister’s safety to be put at risk.