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Mythouse Calendar: Graduation Ceremonies


The standardization of academic regalia in the Middle Ages represents a convergence of European wisdom traditions. With the emergence of the first universities, academic gowns were adopted from Christian clergy attire, rooted in Roman Catholicism and influenced by Classical and Near Eastern adornments. The mortarboard, arguably academia's most peculiar item, derives its name from a masonry tool of the same shape. The debate continues over whether the Masters' Hood symbolizes the heightened intelligence attributed to Druids. These vestments, evolving over centuries and across cultures, have become the universal garb of college.


For thousands of years, and for some precious special ones, you and the world have been endowing the graduation ceremony with meaning. The curriculum completed by those who wear this common regalia goes back to Plato’s Academy, back to Ancient Greece, where they wore robes like these, robes that the European church adopted for the first universities of Europe, which is why we wear them today.

And that silly hat, it’s called a mortarboard, and it’s modeled after a literal board on which a mason holds mortar. You wear it as a symbolic expression of your initiation, not just into the academy, but into the secret and meaningful wisdom traditions that have been secretly informing it since the beginning of time. You will also see some hoods, We wear them, because, secretly, many of the most initiated academics in Europe were druids. So while on one level, a graduate is initiated into the academy and its institutions, on another, these institutions have always been subverted and shaped by those they’ve tried to leave out.

Academics, Druids, Masons — where then are the arists? On one level, it may seem like there hasn’t been much of a place for artists in academia, and, on the surface, that has been true. But what is also true is that the initiatory material itself, the myths, the plays, the epics and literature, it’s artists who, throughout time, have provided the material that has awakened and informed the world.

We as humans have been working to initiate ourselves into deeper and higher levels of knowledge as artists, as scholars and as students of the world. And for mellinnia, it’s looked like this — and that’s why we wear the robes. That’s why we wear the hats: to make sure we overflow with consciousness about the fact that we are participating in something epic, something historic.

And if you've done your part, you've made it through in a way that's never been done before — you’ve challenged the academy and stretched it and, in my own department, you’ve helped make it new.

So it should be clear in your minds as you sit where you are that what you are doing is completing a ritual of initiation that you have been in for four years—you are completing a ritual that humanity has been developing for millennia.


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