What is a ritual? A ritual is preforming a series of actions in a prescribed order religiously. Closely aligned with tradition, rituals are done throughout campus each and every day by Michigan students. In 1932, a large piece of Canadian limestone became known as “The Rock”. In the mid 1950’s, some of those green people from the west painted a large, repulsive “S” across “The Rock”. Almost immediately, a group of Michigan students gathered to paint over the Spartan’s art with some school pride (School, 2014). This inspired the ritual of painting “The Rock”. The beauty of this ritual is that everyone has the power to express him or herself; you see Greek symbols for the frats, advertisements for athletic matches, works of graffiti and art, and even the occasional political opinion.
Many famous rituals at Michigan revolve around football games. Football Saturday in Ann Arbor is unlike anywhere in the country—and I believe that any student will vouch for that. On game day, Michigan fans are RARELY seen in colors other that maize & blue. The pregames and tailgates takeover campus on each and every home football game day, and it gives the university a sense of community unlike anything else can. At the game itself, the catchy cheers, chants, and the oh-so famous stadium wide wave are not only expected, but also expected to be preformed well. It seems as though every fan as these engrained in their mind. So much so, that we don’t even remember learning them—it’s just part of who we are! The one that sticks out to me more than anything is the Michigan fight song, The Victors. Written in 1898 by a Michigan music student, it remains one of the most well-knows school fight songs to this day (School, 2014). When fans rise to sing and pump their fists in the air, it becomes apparent how religious all of Michigan’s rituals really are.
So how are campus rituals at the University of Michigan related to political science? Johan Huizinga suggested that civilization did not necessarily come from play, but instead, play has been seen through it. Huizinga recognized a close connection between play and ritual. He explained that play often always includesritual, but ritual doesn’t necessarily have to include play (Playground, 2014). In his book, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, he stated, “Now in myth and ritual the great instinctive forces of civilized life have their origin: law and order, commerce and profit, craft and art, poetry, wisdom and science. All are rooted in the primeval soil of play,” (Huizinga, 1955). Huizinga further discusses how humans are playful, and that play is vital to each and every culture, and will continue to be. In fact, Huizinga states that play is older that culture itself, “Play is older than culture, for culture, however inadequately defined, always presupposes human society, and animals have not waited for man to teach them playing,” (Huizinga, 1955).
Wherever there is play, there are rituals. Clearly, students attending the University of Michigan work hard; but we also play hard.
Huizinga, J. (1955). Homo ludens: A study of the play-element in culture. Boston: Beacon Press. Pgs. 1, 5
Playground Professionals. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014, from http://www.playgroundprofessionals.com/encyclopedia/h/johan-huizinga
(n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014, from https://www.umhsheadlines.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/rock.jpg
SCHOOL TRADITIONS – TourTheTen.Com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2014.