Section: Features

Seals, gates and fireplaces: Kenyon’s beloved superstitions

Seals, gates and fireplaces: Kenyon’s beloved superstitions

COURTESY OF KENYON ALUMNI MAGAZINE

Immediately upon stepping onto campus, whether as a prospective student, a first-year embarking on orientation or a visiting family member, all Kenyon community members have knowledge about various campus superstitions. 

One of the most prominent superstitions lies at the heart of the school: the College’s gates, colloquially known as the ‘Gates of Hell.’ As it is told time and time again, anyone walking through the gates must walk on the same side of the stone in the middle, or else their friendship will be forever ruined. The time-honored tradition is taken very seriously on the Hill. There is no evidence as to why this ritual began. Who knows? Perhaps the tradition was derived from Philander Chase himself. 

Another important superstition that students in particular follow is the lore of the Peirce Dining Hall Seal. The seal is vivid as soon as anyone steps into Peirce with its shining gold tone and eyes of Philander Chase looking up at viewers. It seems that Kenyon’s superstitions tend to have a flair for the dramatic. This one entails that if a person steps on the seal, they will not graduate in four years. 

While those superstitions are widely known by the entire Kenyon community, many organizations and individuals have their own unique traditions. Kenyon’s student-run radio station, WKCO, even incorporates one of their superstitions into their weekly meetings. “We always go to the left doing intros (left is law),” WKCO President Brooke Fowler ’24 wrote to the Collegian.

The theater community also gets creative with its superstitions. “There is a common superstition to never say Macbeth in a theater, and to only refer to it as the Scottish play,” Drew Sutherland ’25 wrote to the Collegian. “However, some theater productions, such as the StageFemmes production of Macbeth and the [Kenyon College Player’s] production of Falsettos last semester either replaced this rule or added another — with the name of the show to not be named changed to Godspell.” 

Greek life has plenty of traditions. The Archon Society has a few fun superstitions to add to the bunch, especially during the ever-important finals week. “People also have to sit in the Hanna [Hall] fireplace for good luck on their finals,” Archon Secretary Ryan Sellers ’26 wrote to the Collegian. For all concerned readers, the fireplace has not been turned on in a long time. This tradition is just a fun, comfortable and cozy good luck charm.

Kenyon’s athletes have practice and game rituals too. “I always do my hair in a fun style before games,” volleyball captain Joy Carstanjen ’26 wrote to the Collegian. “It’s a silly superstition that you won’t play your best if you don’t have a fun hairstyle, but everyone with a pregame or pre-performance ritual knows it’s all about consistency.” Many of these longstanding traditions hold the fact that consistency is the key to success, or avoidance of other dire circumstances, but this one highlights looking good and feeling good. 

Many on the Hill view superstitions as sacred. Whether performing onstage, preparing for a big exam or even walking to grab a bite to eat, these rituals are a special part of the Kenyon community that is home.

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