N.R.C.W – What does this mean?

The official badge of Phi Mu Fraternity can be jeweled as the member desires.

Written By: National Ritual Chairman Peggy King, ΑΗ

Did you wear your badge on Monday? I hope so! International Badge Day kicked off National Ritual Celebration Week 2017 (commonly known as NRCW)!

Your Phi Mu badge is a tangible manifestation of your commitment to the values that it represents. The 1908 Phi Mu Constitution describes the badge as “a symbol of the Fraternity, it being the outward expression of Phi Mu’s deep inner meanings, and its natural position is directly over the heart.” Is your badge over your heart? Is your heart in Phi Mu?

Here is a little information about the Phi Mu badge, thanks to Annadell Lamb’s, ΔΑ, thorough research for The History of Phi Mu: The First 150 Years.  (2002)

  • Our Philomathean sisters in their earliest years proudly displayed blue ribbons to identify themselves as a part of their sisterhood.
  • The original Philomathean badge was cast in 1852 from a $20 gold piece. Sarah Amelia Bardwell Wright created the design.
  • Alpha badges were often individualized designs crafted by members’ personal jewelers.
  • The Phi Mu badge was standardized in 1904.

Our early Philomatheans were well-educated young women. Their choices for Phi Mu symbols were not random. Aglaia (pictured left), one of the three Graces in Greek mythology, seems to be wearing a quatrefoil “badge” or brooch in the Botticelli painting, La Primavera.

La Primavera, detail of Mercury and the Three Graces.
La Primavera, detail of Mercury and the Three Graces.

Let’s think about other “outward expressions of Phi Mu’s deep inner meanings,” or what I would call tangible symbols of the Ritual of Phi Mu. These come immediately to mind and are popular representations of our sisterhood.

  • The colors rose and white (even though the Philomatheans used pink rather than rose!) candles, ribbons, walls and whatevers!
  • The Enchantress Carnation (“carnation” is derived from Latin “flesh-colored” and represents “love of beauty,” “promised happiness,” and “devotion and constancy”)
  • Lions, in particular “Sir Fidel”
  • The Quatrefoil (four-leafed figure), an ancient artistic design used in many cultures, especially Chinese and Arabic
  • The Phi Mu Coat of Arms
  • The Lamp of Learning
  • The Open Motto, “Les Souers Fideles”
  • Phi Mu Songs
  • Ritual Services

While all of these are lovely, without our Phi Mu Ritual, they are simply “things,” not claimed by Phi Mu alone! Other fraternal groups share similar outward symbols and treasure the values that they represent.

So if they are just “things,” tangibles, where is the celebration? The celebration is in the “deeper meanings,” the intangibles. It is our Ritual that gives them those meanings.   When our members are initiated, they learn the deeper meanings of the outward expressions of our sisterhood.

National Ritual Celebration Week is the perfect time to review all aspects of the Initiation ceremony. Of course, very few fraternal groups appreciate their Initiation ceremonies being shared in the public forum, so where else might we look to share the values of Phi Mu with our families, our fraternity/sorority communities, our campuses and our prospective members?

I hope you answered our “Phi Mu Creed”! We devotedly recite the Creed as an expression of membership, again almost like a “thing,” a piece of poetry or literature, until we look deeper into the meaning of the words. Each line of the Creed carries with it a commitment to a set of values and ideals that we, as Phi Mu members, strive to achieve. We are not always able to achieve Phi Mu’s high ideals, but just being aware of our commitment to them unites us in a sisterhood worthy of our best efforts.

Let’s agree to not “recite” the Creed. Let’s consider what we are committing to as we say it. Let’s commit to the Creed.

Although you may have other synonyms for these intangible values, here are the ones I discerned as I read through it again and again line by line:
Your adjectives may be a little different, but no less descriptive of the values we share, not only as Phi Mus, but as a Greek community. Phi Mu members represent many cultures, faiths, geographical areas and age groups, but it is a commitment to these high ideals that binds us together as sisters.

While the words may seem intangible, they are brought to life by our actions and made tangible: our Creed incarnate in our members. Can you think of a specific act of a sister being generous? Forgiving? Grateful? Fair? Accepting?  Humble? Loving? I can think of thousands over my 48 years of membership in Phi Mu. And I continue to see them on a daily basis.

Let us all stop and be mindful of those “little things”
that we have come to expect from our sisters and ourselves.

Let us take nothing for granted,
for those “little” tangibles and intangibles are
who we are and who we strive to be!