Cantus

From Academic Kids

A cantus (Latin for 'singing', derived from 'canere'), is an activity organised by Flemish student organisations. A cantus mainly involves singing traditional songs and drinking some to a lot of beer. The use of this dates back a few centuries and was inspired by German student organisations, however some of the songs that are sung date back to the Middle Ages.

The songs are compiled in what the students refer to as the codex, which contains the club anthems of most student organisations and hundreds of songs in various languages, such as Dutch, French, English, German, Latin and Afrikaans. Nearly all of the songs predate World War II and refer to either drinking, the student's (love) life or the history and past of the home country, city or region. They usually have easy and familiar melodies.

For this reason, some songs are typically sung more by students of one city or another, e.g. students from Gent will not sing songs about Leuven and vice versa, or they will simply replace instances of one city with another. Also due to the old nature of the songs, some of them have in the past years been controversial because they are seen as sexist, too obviously right-wing or downright racist.

The codex has for years been published by the KVHV Leuven (Katholiek Vlaams Hogeschool Verbond or Catholic Flemish Higher Education Bond).

Structure of a cantus

The cantus is being led by the senior. In most cases, the senior is the praeses (president) of the student organisation that organises the cantus. He is responsible for keeping order at the cantus and can punish people who disrupt the order at the cantus. Punishments usually involve drinking beer. The rest of the people are called the 'corona' (Latin for 'circle'). The senior can be aided by the zedenmeester (Dutch for 'master of customs') and the cantor (Latin for 'singer'). Another group of people at a cantus with a special status are the so-called proseniores (singular: prosenior), former presidents of the student's club.

A special group at the cantus are the so-called schachten. They are in general first-year students, who can be considered as some kind of trainees. They have the lowest status at the cantus itself and are responsible for going around with the beer or saying the page number out loud of the song that is to be sung. A schacht is not part of the corona. The schachten are supervised by the schachtentemmer (Dutch for 'tamer of schachten'), who answers only to the authority of the senior.

People at a cantus use special formulae, usually in Latin. For example, after a song, a senior can order the corona to collectively drink. They can do this by either saying 'prosit corona' (after which the corona responds with 'prosit senior') a few times, or by using the formula 'ad exercissimum sanctissimi salamandris omnes commilitones' (onwards to the exercise of the most sacred salamander, all of you fellow students). Then the senior has the choice of either ordering 'ad libitum' (drink as much as you want) or 'ad fundum' (drink until your glass is empty). The corona can also start such a drinking procedure if it collectively begins with 'prosit senior'. This is usually a manner of teasing the senior or testing their ability to withstand huge amounts of alcohol.

Normally, people at a cantus are required to remain silent (although most seniors are fairly tolerant in this regard), and if they want to address the corona or the senior, they should ask the senior for premission first, by asking 'senior, peto verbum' (senior, I request to speak). They can reply by 'habes' (go ahead) or 'non habes' (forget it). Most of the time the request is granted.

The cantus consists of four parts. During the three first parts, normal songs are sung. In the intervals in between, people are allowed to visit the bathroom, walk around or talk among each other. If they want to do any of these things before these intervals (also called 'tempus', plural 'tempora'), a commilito may ask for a personal tempus much like they request to speak. Usually they may only visit the bathroom then if they create a 'pissing rhyme'. In the fourth and last part of the cantus, also called the silent part, quiet songs are sung and every student organisation and club that is present at the cantus sings its own song.

At a cantus, people wear hats and lints that tell something about their status in student life (e.g. broad lints for members of the presidium, small lints around the right shoulder for commilitones and small lints around the left shoulder for the schachten). Not all student clubs hold on to this tradition, however. As of today only a minority wears hats, and the use of lints is also on the decline. In some towns the use of hats and/or lints is identified with the extreme-right.

See also: Tableround (University)

de:Kneipe (Studentenverbindung) nl:Cantus

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