/ #cantus #committee 


The Cantus Scintillae: A tradition of traditions

Cantus: a night full of singing and drinking. Almost all students are familiar with the concept, many have joined one cantus or more in their student time and every institution handles a cantus differently. Already during the Kick-In students get familiarized with this concept during the Taste cantus and (of course) our own Scintilla intro-cantus. But where does it come from? And why do some people like it so much, while others absolutely hate it?

Trying to explain a cantus to someone who is not familiar with the concept usually results in some interesting looks, which is not surprising when you tell someone you go to an activity where you first dress up formally, after which you will spend your evening sitting on the same spot on a beer bench where you will sing together without any backing track music and when you are not singing, people will bring up humorous anecdotes which almost always result in someone having to drink a beer in one way or another. So where did this behaviour come from?

When looking at trusted sources such as Wikipedia one can find that the tradition of a cantus has been upheld for multiple centuries already from when it was being held by German student organizations. Nowadays the tradition is mostly found among students in northern Europe with Belgium as a prominent player. And this is also where we can trace back the origins of our own Cantus Scintillae, because in 1989 a delegacy of Scintilla members went to Leuven where they attended a cantus which ignited the spark that those people took back to our own Enschede. And so in the summer of 1989 the tradition started at the introduction camp that year. It was not only the first cantus of Scintilla, but also one of the first at the University of Twente. This activity appeared to be amiable enough that it stayed a central part of the introduction camp up until this day.

In the years thereafter the cantus would stay exclusive to the introduction camp, but at a certain point the members of Scintilla wanted more. And Scintilla said: “Wir schaffen das”. Nowadays we are up to a steady trend of five cantus a year, with which we have the most active cantus tradition of all the study associations here at the university.

If you are already this far into this article you probably know how a cantus works in general. But if not, here is a quick overview of a Scintilla cantus:

The cantus layout is divided over 3 subgroups. The senate, which consists of a Praeses, a procantor and a master of novices. They have the highest authority and will guide the cantus in a certain direction. The corona consists of members who already have attended multiple evenings and thus can be considered experienced. At last there are the novices, officially also part of the corona, but seated at a special table. The novices usually consist of first-year students or members new to the cantus. Every group has their own seating position, where the senate is set across from the rest of the corona. It is the job of the senate to keep the corona in check and make the evening flow smoothly.

Cantus Scintillae set-up

Cantus Scintillae set-up

What often differentiates a Scintilla cantus from a cantus of another association is the variety of items used and the balance between the senate talking and people from the corona talking. Many associations have a cantus structure in when the senate is almost solely talking and the content of the cantus consists of a series of pre-determined punishments, often with some ingredients to make it a bit more sensational like mayonnaise or tomato juice. The Scintilla cantus works with a lot more interaction between the corona and the senate. When the senate will call someone forward who will tell an anecdote over how that person misbehaved himself on a drunken evening, the consequences that flow from that story (often comprised of a ridicule way to drink a beer) are often not decided by the senate, but by the corona. The senate will only ensure a proper execution of this consequence. This way an interactive evening can be created where no one can predict how the evening will turn out. Also the Scintilla cantus stays relatively clean, where the only thing that may get into your suit is a “tiny” amount of beer.

Within the history of Scintilla there have been over a hundred evenings where this tradition has been continued, some more successful than others. When you ask members what they think of a cantus the opinions usually range from ‘the best thing I have ever witnessed’ to ‘how can people ever like this?’. But what makes a cantus an enjoyable cantus? Since this is a very subjective matter, consider the next paragraph as my personal opinion. But in my view, the best cantus evening is achieved when the influence of the senate and the corona are perfectly balanced. Meaning that the senate will keep control and make everything that happens go in an orderly fashion, but the things that are happening are decided by the corona. To get this situation the senate, and especially the Praeses, has to play a very delicate game of challenging the corona to speak up and give their input to the cantus and at the same time maintain enough order so everyone will stay focused on the person that is brought up front.

A large quantity of the fun of a cantus comes from the ridiculous things that the people in the corona bring up. One memorable moment that perfectly describes this is the time where someone had to down a beer through their tie and a member in the corona made the comment: “Well, this could waste a lot of beer. What tactic could be used to reduce this?” And so a scientifically sound mini-report was set up with the conclusion: To have the highest flow of beer into the mouth, the length L of the tie should be as small as possible. None of these jokes came from the senate, but where created by the members of the corona. Some situations are so humorous that they will even be remembered in the next few iterations of the cantus and become running jokes throughout the year. This is only possible with a corona filled with experienced members. Luckily, there are enough people within Scintilla who regularly attend the cantus and even a special committee is in place to maintain the cantus tradition: The Censores Cantus Scintillae.

All in all the conclusion can be drawn that a cantus is very delicate piece of entertainment with a lot of aspects that can either make or break the ambience. But to truly appreciate the Scintilla cantus, one should get to know the ins and outs of all the traditions that are used within one evening as it is a big bulk of references. So if you feel like a lot of singing and talking dumb, do not hesitate to join us on one of these beautiful evenings and try to spot all the small traditions and references that make up the cantus Scintillae.

The first Cantus Scintillae bundle

The first Cantus Scintillae bundle


Koen Raben

President of the 88th board of E.T.S.V. Scintilla