BSC Folklore

Undertaker's Cotillion

Description:

This fall date party is so-called because a brother “dies” and the party is a sort of wake for him. The party is held on a Saturday night, but on Friday, usually about lunchtime, the chosen brother (whom we've voted on in chapter) “dies” in the caf. The freshmen come and carry him out of the caf.

On Saturday evening, we all gather somewhere on campus, usually by the Old Row, and we have a funeral procession (the “dead” brother is in a coffin on the back of a truck). Sometimes we carry the coffin from Striplin to the house and sometimes we drive it from the Old Row.

Anyway, we take it to the back patio and then older brothers, usually friends of the “dead” brother, give eulogies which of course are hilarious. The “dead” brother is usually a colorful person that did lots of things worth remembering in story form, and so these memories are recounted. After this, the “dead” brother comes back to life and the party begins. Ugly Owl

Source:

Sigma Nu brothers, collected by Parks Gilbert in 2006.

Commentary

This is a variant of the “Paddy Murphy” theme party which itself derives from the Irish wakes of legend. The traditional Irish tune “Finnegan's Wake” tells of the merriment that ensues at the customary “waking” of the deceased. The song ends with the revival of the corpse, whiskey having spilled on Tim Finnegan as the revelers scuffled about him.

The practice of eulogizing the “dead” brother also fits in the category of ritual insult, such as a roast, which is meant to highlight the eloquence of the speaker and express the participants' affection for the roastee.

Questions

  • How long has this party been a tradition for Sigma Nu?
  • What other theme parties have a long tradition at the college?
  • Are other parties as formally structured?
  • Do other groups have creative ways of "honoring" their members?

YOUR THOUGHTS?
Email your comments, corrections, or additions to tcowan@bsc.edu.