Boy Scout Resources

Cave Exploring by Youth Groups

Information for Youth Group Members, Leaders, and Parents

Prepared by the Youth Groups Liaison Committee of the National Speleological Society

Cave exploring is becoming increasingly popular as an activity for young people. Scout troops, high school clubs, church groups and others are attracted by the challenge and excitement of the underground world.

In some areas, however, heavy caver traffic has led to destruction of cave formations and cave-dwelling animals. Landowners have refused permission to enter their caves because of the rude and thoughtless actions of some cavers. Serious or fatal accidents have occurred when inexperienced, poorly prepared groups of cavers have failed to observe safety rules.

To protect the caves, cavers, and cave owners, the National Speleological Society (NSS) offers this information to the members, leaders, and parents of youth groups who are interested in cave exploring.

A Few Cave Safety Tips

Because caving is quite strenuous and requires physical and emotional maturity, it is strongly suggested that the activity not be planned for young people under junior high school age. All participants should be healthy, well fed, and rested before the trip.

The group should consist of from four to ten people. Larger groups tend to be slow, noisy, and hard to control. Very large youth groups should split into two or more sections, each with one or more leaders, for the caving trip. Never go caving alone!

One or more knowledgeable adults with caving experience should lead youth group caving trips. The NSS can supply the name of its closest chapter, or grotto, which may be able to provide a trip leader. In any case, the leader's decisions on all matters should be followed during the cave trip.

The cave should be suitable to the group, taking into account the capabilities of the slowest, youngest, or least experienced member. Members should not be encouraged or allowed to overextend their abilities or to attempt more than they feel confident in doing.

Leave word with a dependable person as to where you are going, who is in the group, what time you expect to return, and who to notify in case of emergency.

Running, jumping, and horseplay have no place in cave exploring. The rescue of an injured, caver can be extremely difficult; don’t take any chances of a sprain or fracture. The safety of the entire group can be jeopardized by a major injury to one member, and a serious accident often leads a landowner to restrict future access to his cave. A simple first aid kit should be carried in case of minor injuries.

In an unfamiliar cave, keep track of prominent features so that you can find your way out. Rock cairns can be used as reminders, or leave pieces of reflective tape to mark your way and remove them again as you leave the cave.

Vertical caving, where there are climbs or drops to be made, is an advanced skill which should be learned only after groups are very experienced in horizontal caving, and then proper instruction and equipment should be obtained. Never attempt climbs or drops without the proper knowledge and equipment. Ladders, ropes, and other equipment found in the cave should be considered unsafe, as they may be old or rotten. Never attempt to go up or down a rope hand-over-hand in a cave or pit.

Caves are often cold and damp, and hypothermia is a danger, especially on long trips or trips requiring wading or crawling in water. Try to dress for conditions to be met, stay as dry as possible, and leave the cave immediately if any member shows signs of hypothermia such as uncontrollable shivering, slurred speech, or loss of coordination.

Some caves flood rapidly in response to surface rainfall. Avoid stream passages in wet weather or if rain is predicted, and leave the cave or move to upper-level passages if the water begins to rise.

Your youth organization may have some requirements as to parental permission, adult supervision, transportation, or other matters. Be sure that these requirements are met.

Proper Equipment Is Important

Each person in the caving group should wear gloves, sturdy shoes or boots, a jacket or coveralls, and some type of hard hat with a chin strap. Other clothing should be determined by the cave conditions, remembering that caves are often cool, damp, and muddy. Long hair should be tied back or tucked under the hard hat, if possible. Valuable watches and jewelry should be left at home. Car keys may be hidden near the car or near the cave entrance; if they are carried through the cave, pin them securely in a pocket or pack. A small pack with a belt or shoulder strap should be carried to hold waterproof snacks, drinking water in a plastic bottle, a plastic bag to hold trash and used carbide, and several spare light sources such as candles, waterproof matches, and a reliable flashlight with extra bulb and batteries. How much equipment to take is determined by the type of cave and expected length of trip.

The main source of light should be a helmet mounted lamp, either carbide or electric. Spare parts and extra carbide or bulbs should be carried in the pack. A hand-held flashlight like the Fenix PD35 is all right for short trips in simple caves, but is not recommended on longer trips since both hands are often needed for balance, crawling, or climbing. A gasoline or kerosene lantern can easily be broken and should not be carried in a cave.

Each person should bring a change of clothes and shoes to be left in the car for the ride home. A large plastic bag to hold your wet, muddy cave clothes and boots is a good idea.

Help Save The Caves

Although caves are formed in rock, they are not indestructible. They can easily be damaged by littering, vandalism, or even a careless footstep. Cave formations are quite fragile due to their crystalline structure. They grow very slowly over thousands of years, but can be destroyed in an instant. Be careful not to bump formations with your boots or hard hat. Even touching formations can discolor them, and the oil from your skin can disrupt the water film that allows them to form. Removing cave formations, even those that may already have been broken must not be allowed. If you want a souvenir of your trip, bring your camera and record what you see!

If you are lucky enough to discover any Indian relics, fossils, or bones, notify the anthropology or science department of the nearest college or university, but don't disturb your find.

Cave creatures, from tiny insects to larger mammals, should not be disturbed. Bats, in particular, should not be disturbed or handled, as they are highly beneficial animals, eating many times their own weight in insects. They may also transmit rabies to humans through a bite or scratch.

Most caves are not well suited to overnight camping due to the lack of sanitation facilities and a clean water supply. To avoid filling the cave with smoke and disturbing the cave life, do not build fires in caves or near cave entrances.

Remember to leave the cave just as you found it. Remove all food scraps, trash, dead batteries, and used carbide that your group has brought in. If your youth group would like to get involved in a service project, you could clean trash out of a cave or use wire brushes to restore areas where names of recent visitors have been written on the rocks and walls. Local NSS grottos can usually provide further information about such projects.

Caves Have Owners-Courtesy Pays

Nearly all caves have interested owners upon whose hospitality cave visitors must depend. In eastern, southern, and Midwestern states. Most caves are privately owned, generally by farmers. In western states, most caves are managed by various government agencies. But in all parts of the country, more and more caves have been closed to cavers because of the thoughtless actions of a few visitors. Such problems could be avoided if everyone would follow the rules of courteous caving:

  • Before the trip, find out who owns the cave and get permission to enter it.

  • Ask the owner where to park your cars. Don't block roads, gates, or driveways.

  • Walk through gates, if possible, instead of climbing fences. If you must climb a fence, do so one at a time, close to a fence post. Be sure to leave gates exactly as you found them, either open or closed.

  • Don't disturb livestock, farm buildings and equipment, or newly plowed or planted fields. Walk single-file around the edge of a planted field, rather than across the middle of it.

  • Some cave entrances are blocked to keep livestock out of them. Be sure to block them behind you as you enter the cave and again as you are leaving.

  • Find out whether the cave is a water supply for the owner. If so, avoid muddying the water or disturbing pumps or pipes in the cave.

  • Tell the owner how long you expect to be in the cave, and then make sure you are out on time. Tell the owner that the group is out and thank him for allowing you to visit his cave. If it is late at night, make every effort to leave quietly without disturbing the owner and his family. Then send a thank-you note the next day.

  • If you change clothes after the trip, be sure you are out of sight of the owner and his neighbors.

  • Be sure to remove all litter from the cave and grounds. Used carbide, which contains poisonous impurities, should never be dumped in the cave, on the ground, or in streams or ponds.

  • Don’t ask to visit the same popular cave too often, and don't come with large, noisy groups which are hard to control.

  • Don’t strain the owner's hospitality by asking to picnic, camp, or build fires on his property or in the cave.

The NSS is an organization devoted to the exploration, study, and conservation of caves. Throughout the country, local NSS chapters, or grottos, welcome those interested in caves to their meetings and field trips. Association with the NSS provides many benefits, especially for beginners, such as:

  • Interesting programs and activities.
  • The fellowship and know-how of experienced cavers.
  • Training programs in various aspects of caving.
  • Useful magazines, newsletters, and books on caves and caving.
  • Participation in cave exploration, study, conservation, and rescue projects.

Additional information on the NSS may be obtained by writing to the National Speleological Society, Cave Avenue, Huntsville, Alabama 35810.

You can get specific information on Boy Scouts and Caving here.

The Caver's Motto:

"Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time."

Caving and Scouting

Caves and Scouts
Caving and Scouting

by: Tray Murphy
Scoutmaster, Troop 891, Bon Air, VA
Life member of Richmond Area Speleological Society, Richmond, VA
National Speleological Society, NSS#29211 Life Member & Fellow of the Society

I’ve been in the mix of caving and Boy Scouting for many years, and I’ve heard every argument there is for and against Boy Scouts going into caves. Either on their own (that is, without the benefit of an experienced cave trip leader), or with members of grottos in one form of trip or another. In some places, cavers and Scouts get along fine. In others, total "disacknowledgement" that the other group exists. The arguments appear on the Internet from time to time, and this piece was first posted as a "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) on several Internet news groups and mailing lists. This forum will give the issue a little greater exposure. And, maybe this will help to lessen the friction between the two groups (Scouters and cavers) that I’m hearing about on both fronts. This will be in two major sections, the first for Scouts and their leaders, then one for the cavers. First, a little background, and some common elements.

I started caving over 29 years ago at 14 years of age. The cavers of ESSO Grotto took me under their wing, and taught me how to cave without getting hurt, and to minimize my impact on any cave I visited, "sacrificial" or not. In other words, cavers taught me how to preserve caves, and do it safely. At 18, I joined a Boy Scout troop that my brothers belonged to, mostly to take the older Scouts caving, and teach them climbing, and ropework. I’ve been involved with both groups on a local, regional, and national level ever since. I regularly take Scout troops caving, and so far, have a perfect safety record. Some of these Scouts have become accomplished cavers who have made contributions to the caving community, others have never been underground again. The next few paragraphs should help to explain how we (the cavers and Scout leaders who assist me) do it safely, and why I do it the way I do. Unless otherwise cited, the opinions herein are mine, amassed over the previous 20+ years of Scouting and caving.

A few common elements

Caving has been found to be the third fastest growing "adventure" sport in the country. That means the pressure on cavers to introduce people to the underground environment will only continue to grow. This is a fact of life, owing greatly to the exposure caving has received in recent years in the news media (Lechuguilla’s discovery, rescues of both cavers and non-cavers, articles in magazines such as Boy’s Life - featuring the caving Brown family, Outside and National Geographic - featuring Bill Stone during his Huautla expeditions, etc.). All we as cavers can hope to do is educate, alleviate (more later), and find cave trip leaders that know how to take groups caving safely and responsibly. What cavers are trying to avoid is finding 25 Scouts with little or no equipment, several hours back in a cave with high exposures, and other dangers, mindlessly stomping through a cave tramping down everything in sight, while daintily plucking bats from the walls; this is an accident waiting to happen, not to mention against the law. What Scout leaders are trying to do is find ever more challenging, educational, and exciting things to inject into their program, since they compete with so many other activities for the boy’s attention.

Cave resources are limited, and threatened on many fronts, all across the country. Laws have been enacted to help protect the natural resource of caves, and we all need to do everything possible to protect both the cave and its environment, and the health and safety of the people who explore them.

For the Scouters:

First, read the Guide to Safe Scouting (opens in a new window, scroll down to the Caving section). It is available from your local Scout Service Center. It is the bible that you should follow when planning trips and activities for your Scouts. It has a specific section on caving, climbing, and rappelling.

From "Guide to Safe Scouting", off the Boy Scouts of America's official website:
"These minimum safety requirements apply (emphasis mine):
1. Cave exploring, other than simple novice activities, should be limited to Scouts and Venturers fourteen years of age or older. (Emphasis BSA’s, indicating BSA rules and policies).
2. Group leaders qualify through training and experience in cave exploring and through knowing established practices of safety, conservation, and cave courtesy (meaning land owner relations, etc. - my addition).*
3. Leader and group must understand and agree to follow the basic practices and policies of caving approved by the National Speleological Society and the Boy Scouts of America."

References: Venture activity pamphlet, Caving, No. 33458, and detailed information prepared by the National Speleological Society available from the Council Services Division at the National Office.

*My asterisk, too - just because a father says he went caving 20 years ago with his frat buddies (or even a grotto), don’t assume he knows about modern, safe caving. A lot has changed in the last few years concerning safety, equipment, techniques, conservation, and landowner relations.)

Pretty clear. Yet, a lot of the Scoutmasters I see writing, and calling, seem to think the rules don’t apply to them. The 14 year old age limit is there for a reason. There has to be a carrot-and-stick approach to keeping boys interested. If they’ve done everything by the time they’re 14, there’s not much left. That’s why it is a Venture Scout pamphlet, and not a merit badge! Also, it’s very clear in Scouting literature that not every activity is for every boy. Project COPE limits its participants, as does Philmont and the other high adventure bases, even National Jamborees have age limits. This age limit also helps with another problem. The literature cited as references talks about it: group size. Cavers try to limit the size of any group to 12 or less, except under some exceptional circumstances. This includes caving trip leaders, and the 2-deep leadership (that means 2 registered adults) required by the BSA. That only leaves about 8 youth spaces. The size limit helps to control the group, its whereabouts, and its activities. Small groups are more easily supervised, and are generally better behaved. Realize that an injury to a Scout only an hour from the entrance of a cave could take 15 or more hours to effect a rescue. Only one Scout has to get out of line for someone to get hurt. Also, limiting group size helps the group in moving through the cave smoothly. Except for show cave trails, few caves have hiking grade footing throughout. Tight spots, or a tricky crawl or climb can slow the group to a snail’s pace. Too many people means the ones in back get cold and antsy while waiting, and the ones in front tend not to wait for them, creating a situation where the group is split up - obviously a dangerous situation. If you have too many 14 and ups, find another way to cull out some - use attendance, rank, dues status, or other method to weed out those who only show up for the "fun stuff". Limiting the group size also lessens the impact on the cave. Studies have shown that very small air temperature changes in the cave, which can be caused by human body heat, can adversely affect bats living there, especially if they are hibernating. Lint, trash, and other human debris is left in caves, no matter how small the group, but smaller groups tend to police the cave better, leaving it in better shape than a convoy of people on a stampede. Also, consider the older Scouts, too. In the last stampede* I witnessed, the older Scouts were clearly tired of having to push the younger, smaller Scouts along. The younger ones were exhausted, cold, and in way over their heads. The older ones resented having to push them every step of the way. As a result, the group saw little more than the entrance room and a couple of dead passages, while my crew visited the prettiest sections of the cave, only 45 minutes beyond where the other group was stalled.
*The stampede consisted of some 25 Scouts in the group, only two cavers, one of them 14 years old; string for chinstraps on helmets with a 2-AA battery flashlight taped on the helmet; almost all of them completely out; and few packs — most of them "hip" packs, not even fanny packs.

Now, what about that "simple novice activities". Lots of discussion with leaders and cavers has brought me to this conclusion:
Simple novice activities are: no exposure (danger of falling) over the height of the shortest participant, and that exposure must be spottable. The trip should be no more than 2-3 hours long (not enough to challenge a gung-ho patrol of 14-year-olds, plenty enough for a bunch of 11 and 12’s). Our troop sends younger Scouts to commercial show caves for their trail tours, and since we only schedule caving trips about every two years, after a 12 year old goes to a commercial cave, he’s generally eligible to go on the sport trip next time. This is an excellent Venture Scout activity, and in fact, the BSA has a Venture pamphlet entitled "Caving and Rappelling". Young Scouts simply don’t have the maturity to handle many of the challenges, both physical and mental, that go along with sport caving, if your trip leader intends to go much beyond an entrance room. Panic in one young Scout can spread rapidly (or even in an older boy, but they tend to control their emotions better) .

Another question I often hear: Why won’t cavers talk to me about taking my troop caving? Well, it will be a lot easier if you read the above references first, and plan to let them know that you will abide by their rules for going underground. Remember, you’re the one asking someone else to do you a favor, and possibly expose him- or herself to liability by taking your Scouts caving. No one has a "right" to go caving. Many cavers are simply not willing to leave themselves hanging out like that. If they have insurance, they’re a potential litigation target. If someone gets hurt, they have to prove they weren’t negligent, and if some judge or jury doesn’t understand the what the case is all about, they could lose everything they own. Sound like fun? The BSA will not help them if they are not registered Scouters, so most cavers are on their own with liability coverage, and most probably have no more than their homeowner’s blanket policy, if that. Another reason is that so many Scoutmasters seem to think that they know all about taking boys on adventure activities, even if they’ve never done it themselves. Yes, I’ve done this, too, and gotten a few surprises through the years! Books and literature are no substitute for experience when it comes to adventure programming. You should no more take a group to the top of Denali without years of experience than you should insist that someone else take your crew underground. Realize that some cavers may not feel qualified to lead a novice group underground. I’ve seen some excellent underground group leaders, and some abysmal ones. Trust the caver if he/she says they can’t (or won’t) lead and offers no further explanation. I don’t like to admit when I can’t do something, either.

Probably the biggest reason that cavers don’t respond well to requests to go caving is that they get so many. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, college (and high school) outdoor clubs, parks and recreation groups, the list goes on and on. So, many grottos have had to say "no more outside group trips". They’re just inundated. If you were my the fifth caller on a given night, I think I’d be a little short, too.

And finally, there’s the question of equipment. Cavers have to be properly prepared to be safe in the underground. Remember how long it takes to get an injured person out? Where’s the food and water? How about warmth and light? A lot of cavers live on a shoestring caving budget, and cannot afford to outfit 12 other people with helmets with chinstraps and a light source, spare lighting for each, and all the other things you need to be safe and comfortable underground. A comfortable, fully adjustable UIAA/CE certified climbing helmet starts at about $49. Construction hardhats with string under the chin will not cut it. $5 headlamps are OK only for the simple novice activities. Packs need to be bigger than a wallet, and hold all the correct stuff. It’s mighty expensive if you’re trying to equip a whole crew.

If you do approach a caver, try to do it in person. The NSS Home Page can help you find a grotto and contact near you. Go to a grotto meeting. Meet some of the cavers. Maybe go caving with them, if you can. Stress that you want to teach your Scouts something about caves and caving, rather than coming off as a thrill seeker, and maybe they’ll talk to you. In any case, they’re going to talk to you about it on their terms. So accept that, and go from there. Cavers aren’t necessarily standoff-ish or cold. They just don’t get approached in the right way (I know from first hand experience!). Don’t ask to camp underground in a cave. Your Scouts can get the full caving experience without spending a night underground. Few cavers will accept such a request anyway. Little camping is ever done underground, except for expedition style cave exploration where there is no choice. The reason is cave conservation: how do you manage human wastes, trash, and body heat warming the cave? What about drinking water? Lots of reasons to camp in campgrounds and cave in caves.

Now what happens, if no one will take you caving. Well, you can keep looking, perhaps contacting another grotto, or another caver. Or you can limit your trip to a commercial show cave. Some of these caverns offer "wild" trips, typically for a fee. They are usually geared for a lowest common denominator, and can be little more than exploring unlit commercial trail, or they can venture out into undeveloped areas of the cave, adding in something more than simple walking. There are such operations in Pennsylvania and Tennessee, though I will not vouch for any of them. I truly believe that any time you start paying for caving, it becomes a buyer beware type of situation, and I would sure check out anyone who takes money for caving carefully. Read on: A last resort can be cave-for-pay operations. With cave for pay, it’s a toss-up as to what you get. Few "operators" carry liability insurance, and as "commercial outfitters", they certainly should. Checking credentials can be extremely hard. There is no organization that I’m aware of that "certifies" cave-for-pay trip leaders. With a profit motive, they are more likely to cut corners with equipment and safety. They may or may not have permission to be in a cave. Not many landowners are happy to have cave-for-pay operations going on in their caves, and the discovery of trespassers can be embarrassing and expensive for the operator and his charges. And, you are not likely to get any education in caving techniques. They also seldom limit group sizes ($$$$$), and a huge group in a cave just isn’t going to have any fun. However, I have recently been in contact with a Scouter who had a positive experience with a cave-for-pay operator. I won't name the company, because I refuse to endorse any commercial cave exploitation in this way (and that's purely personal), but I guess there are some people out there who can satisfy the requirements for Scouts going caving.

Cavers and Scouters can co-exist. As with any outdoor adventure sport, it will continue to grow. Scoutmasters can try to understand cavers’ fears of too many people heading underground, and cavers can try to understand a Scoutmaster’s desire to provide a vibrant, exciting program to his troop. Working together, cavers can tap a huge reserve of conservation-minded folks like themselves to help spread the word about caving and the natural resources associated with caves. Scout leaders can find a whole new adventure just waiting for his charges to learn about and try out as a new learning experience. Let’s just douse the sparks, and keep the lines of communications open.

For the cavers

It does not look like the requests to take Scout groups caving are going to go away. I do know that some cavers simply will not, under any circumstances, take a youth group, or even any other non-caver group underground. In this case, you’re wasting your time reading this, it won’t change your mind, no matter what your reasons for your decision: liability concerns, concern for the caves’ well-being, lack of equipment to loan, etc. Nor am I going to encourage groups to contact you, or even suggest that you take them caving. What I do ask, is that you at least consider the possibility, for reasons I’ll set out later.

Not all Scoutmasters are enemies. If you read the section intended for them, you’ll see some of the reasons why caving is such an attractive activity, and where many of them are coming from when they contact you and ask for a caving trip. Most all of them are looking for an activity that is both educational, challenging, and exciting. Their motives are 99.9% pure: they’re trying to fulfill their commitment to Scouting by providing the best possible program for young boys to grow into young men.

Some of the reasons we as cavers should consider fulfilling at least some of the many requests to go caving are these:
1. We are, on the whole, better educated about caves, and therefore better able to teach the conservation and safety aspects to novices in a convincing way.
2. We have knowledge as to which caves can safely be visited by various groups, and we keep up with landowner status regarding by whom, and when their caves may be visited.
3. We have the resources available to teach the general public about caves and cave resources, and dispel some of the myths about caves and caving (and bats, too).
4. We will undoubtedly have to rescue at least some of the people we refuse (not that we should accept any and all requests). Some bull-headed people never learn, and will try to go on their own, without any preparation, and there’s nothing we can do about it.

Probably the best way to explain this topic is to use the Richmond Area Speleological Society’s method of accommodating requests to go caving (by any group, by the way, not just Scouts). We have had an Education Committee for many years to handle the requests, from initial contact, until the trip comes off. They also arrange public demonstrations, and schedule our grotto display for outdoor shows, and other public events, such as Earth Day. We are not soliciting new cavers, we are merely educating the public about caves and cave resources, and hoping to reel in the few that are really interested in caving, and steer them right from the beginning, as I was at 14 years old. Anyone who calls our office, or contacts any member of the grotto about taking a group caving is put in touch with the Education Chairman. The Chairman explains our policies about age and numbers limits, and a few other minor things. They also explain that for us to take them caving, we require an orientation by a grotto member about the trip. Then, dates are negotiated. Then Chairman is responsible for finding a trip leader (from a pool of cavers who have indicated a willingness to take groups, and who, in many cases, go out with more experienced trip leaders to learn cave routes, and techniques for dealing with the groups). Usually, a new leader will go on a trip as an "assistant leader" to get used to working with crews of non-cavers.

We require an orientation meeting or two, especially with youth groups. We have developed a scripted slide show that any member can present to a group with only a little preparation. It covers everything from how caves are formed, conservation of resources and why, what formations are, biota, and the human history of cave exploration. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to present. Then, we go over cave safety, more conservation, and give out an equipment list. Every item is required to be supplied by the participants: proper clothing, extra lighting, food, water, extra light sources, and batteries. We, as a grotto, supply helmets with mounted electric light sources. We are not afraid to refuse to take someone underground who shows up ill-prepared for the trip. SAFETY COMES FIRST!!! This orientation usually takes about 30-45 minutes, which is why we usually take up two Scout meetings. It also provides a different program for the Scoutmaster for 2 weeks. We never supply maps, directions to caves, or other information directly to group leaders. If they make a map to the cave as they drive, there’s nothing we can do about that. Hopefully, the orientation teaches them that you must have more than just a map to the cave to cave safely.

We limit trips to one per group per year. Usually, we won’t take Scout troops more than once for several years, the demand is too great. Participants with Scout troops must be 14 or older, and we require First Class rank. The rank requirement weeds out slackers who don’t participate in the Scouting program except when it is "exciting". The Scout leader may argue that this activity will "motivate the boy who is 14 and not yet 1st Class" - so what, if the program up until now hasn’t motivated him to reach this intermediate rank, a single cave trip isn’t going to help! You get a better bunch of kids this way. The troop must supply two leaders to go underground. That way, if there is an accident, the Scout leaders can deal with the boys, and the cavers can deal with the emergency. We take a minimum of two cavers, which is why we occasionally stretch the group limit to 14 total - 2 cavers, 2 Scout leaders, 10 Scouts. We do not camp underground. Our trips stress safety, conservation of cave resources, and education about the cave. If it’s exciting, too, great. Usually, they boys are so engrossed with the formations and other pretties, or so busy slogging through whatever fun the leader has found now - a nice mud crawl, or a belly crawl through a stream, that they are having fun, whether they realize it or not!

Picking the proper cave can be a chore. Permission to use the cave for educational trips is essential. Some landowners do not want non-cavers in their caves. Heed the landowner’s wishes! Most heavily caved areas have at least one or two "novice" caves. It’s a good idea to pick something with relatively large passages that a group can move through fairly easily. Tight crawls slow everything to a crawl, and the guys in back get cold and anxious waiting their turn in the barrel. The cave should not be vertical at all. Some low exposure is OK, but avoid slippery ledges that pitch off into a bottomless chasm (or probably worse: a very tight slit or crevice). Remember, these guys don’t have the cave savvy that we cavers have to move easily over the tough stuff. Belays really aren’t much good with an inexperienced group unless you are going to take the time to rig them properly, and supervise the crossing of the heights. It’s easy and safer to find another route with less danger. Excitement doesn’t necessarily have to mean dangerous places where sure injury or death can occur on a misstep. See my description of "simple novice activities" in the Scoutmasters’ section of this paper for further guidance. Base your selection on your best judgment of the groups’ capabilities and desires.

What about liability? That’s a question best left for the lawyers, but this is what little I know about it. If you do not accept money to take someone caving (and we do not even solicit a "maintenance donation" for helmet use), you’re only liable in cases of negligence, i.e., where you go off and leave the group behind, or quit supervising them, or take them somewhere they clearly don’t belong (like the edge of a 200 drop without vertical gear and training), or if you gotten yourself so far in over your own head that you can’t help the troop either.** Of course, anyone can sue for anything, and if little Johnny gets hurt underground on your trip, someone can probably sue you for it. And, unfortunately, no matter how absurd the charges, you pay the lawyer(s). Proper safety training can go a long way towards alleviating that risk: witness our grotto’s perfect safety record (and mine, too). You can’t ignore, or duck all risk; just taking a group underground is risky, and if you aren’t comfortable leading groups because of this, by all means explain this to a Scoutmaster. If you are a registered Scout leader, working within your training and experience, and within National BSA safety standards, they will at least acknowledge that you exist, unless it is clearly negligence or worse. Get yourself a copy of the Guide to Safe Scouting from a local Scout Service Center, along with a copy of the Venture Scout pamphlet Caving, and the Scout Fieldbook, which has a section on caving in it. Also, get the NSS guidelines. You’ll know the rules, and if nothing else, you can fend off the Scoutmaster who insists on taking the eleven-year-old munchkins along with you on the trip. Our grotto has helmet users sign a liability waiver, but no state allows you to sign away your right to sue. The waiver basically says that caving can be hazardous, and the participant assumes these risks. The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) has an assumption of risk form — unlike a liability waiver, it spells out in plain English the risks associated with outdoor adventure programs, and tells participants they must take responsibility for their actions in the activities they engage in. They will be happy to send you a copy if you request it. Whether a judge will throw out a suit against a leader if the plaintiff has signed such a form remains to be seen. So, there is a risk involved in taking other groups caving, you can’t avoid it. It is a consideration.
**Like I said, I’m not a lawyer, if you are really concerned about this, contact a liability or personal injury lawyer for more details. The liability lawyer will give you the case law, the P.I. lawyer will tell you he’ll sue no matter what the merit of the case - you have to balance the two.

If you’ve made up your mind that neither you, or your grotto will take non-caving groups underground, at least use a little tact when turning down Scoutmasters or other group leaders. Part of the friction between the groups stems from Scoutmasters insisting that they should be taken no matter what, or the cavers insisting they won’t with no further information. At least return the call, or send a form letter…"We regret to inform you that we do not take outside groups caving because…blah, blah, blah". Then, maybe the hostility will not turn into an alt.caving or rec.scouting.usa shouting match. If you won’t do it, explain why. A simple courtesy call saying "we’re afraid of being sued" at least does not promote the idea that we are "elitists" of some sort.

For more information:
Here is the official
National Speleological Society's policy on "Cave Exploring by Youth Groups"

Your local Boy Scout Service Center

The National Speleological Society, Cave Ave., Huntsville, AL

The NSS Home Page:

Illinek Callout

Call-Out Ceremony

Ceremonies Committee

Illinek Lodge #132

September 2000

Principals walk out onto the stage.

Chief: Good evening. We are from Illinek Lodge #132, Order of the Arrow. The Order of the Arrow is a national honor society of the Boy Scouts of America. Its continuing purpose is to recognize those scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.

Those whom we bring forth this evening have been selected for candidacy in our great and honored order. They have all been chosen by those who know them, their fellow scouts. They have been selected because they have served their friends, family, and unit, even when it may have put a burden upon their shoulders.

Guard: They were also elected because they go about their daily lives cheerfully. They accept challenges willingly and maintain a smile on their face and a cheerful flame within them, even under hardship.

Shaman: The members of their units see them as a good friend and a brother. They are people who can be trusted and will make personal sacrifices out of love for one another.

Guide: This unwavering path that they follow sets them apart from others as to deserve this honor.

Chief: We will now call the names of those who have been chosen for candidacy into the Order of the Arrow. If your name is called, please stand.

My brothers, find the candidates and bring them before me.

All: It shall be done!

A loud drum beat will signify the beginning of the call-out. At that point the Guide will begin choosing the candidates. When the Shaman calls unit number and the name from a list concealed behind a shield, the candidate should stand. The Guide will approach the candidate and motion as if he is tapping him simultaneously with the beat of the drum. (The drummer times the beat to match the motion of the Guide’s hand.) The guard will bring the candidate to the Chief as the Shaman calls the next name. The Chief will great him with the Scout handshake and place him in line.

Chief: (To the candidates): Having been elected to the Order is but the first step of a long journey. You now have the opportunity to attend our Ordeal where you will learn more of our traditions of brotherhood, cheerfulness and service. You may then choose to become a member of our Order.

Guide: (To the candidates): My new friends, I congratulate you on your first step of the journey. As your guide, I will be with you on your journey, as far as any friend can guide his brother.

Chief: Ladies and Gentlemen, thank-you and good evening.

Nawaka Old Callout

by: Tray Murphy and the Nawakwa Lodge #3 Ceremonial Team

In an effort to help our Chapter Ceremonial Teams with the ever- present need for Calling-Out Ceremonies, and the OA's need to avoid certain practices and revealing certain information (which is not secret, only mysterious), the lodge has developed this "Suggested Calling-Out Ceremony". It is our hope that you will find this useful in your efforts to present the Order of the Arrow and Nawakwa Lodge to members and non-members in a favorable way.

A calling out (not TAP OUT) ceremony can be a memorable, rewarding experience for everybody involved: the principle characters, the audience, and of course, the soon-to-be candidates. This can set the stage for the pre-Ordeal ceremony, the Ordeal, and the Ordeal ceremony. This ceremony, however, must be constructed and performed in such a way as to not reveal too much of the symbolism and procedures of the Ordeal itself. The following is reprinted from the "Administration Guide for the Ordeal" pamphlet, published by the National Order of the Arrow. Please note that this edition no longer uses the words "tap-out". This is no longer allowed, don't argue about it, just accept it.

This is the final word on what you can and cannot do in a Calling Out Ceremony. Italics are added.

"The purpose of the call-out ceremony is to officially recognize a Boy Scout, Varsity Scout, or Explorer (or Scouter) as a candidate for full membership in the Order of the Arrow. The national committee (the OA's governing body) does not prescribe a set form for this ceremony, and lodges are free to make up their own within a framework that does not conflict with the ideals and purpose of the Order.

"The call out is performed sometime after the unit election and before the pre-Ordeal ceremony, and may be witnessed by non-members. For this reason, lodges should develop call-outs to avoid any disclosures of the induction sequence and ceremonies. Its dignity must impress all with the high ideals and standards of the Order. It should help intensify a Scout's desire to become a member. Rough stuff, hazing, or any activities that demean or endanger the candidate have no place in Scouting.

"Be sure also that the symbolic progression of the induction is not disturbed by any call-out procedure (if you and your team have not participated in training on the use of symbols in the Order of the Arrow, contact the Training Chairman, and arrange a time to receive this important training. It will thoroughly enhance your knowledge of the Order.) The meaning of the nationally prescribed induction unfolds in a logical, systematic manner. The premature use of Ordeal symbolism upsets the orderly pattern, violates the requirements that our ceremonies be kept a mystery (notice: mystery, not secret) to nonmembers, and confuses the early impressions of the candidate. the standard ceremonies develop these impressions gradually and purposefully. Common errors to avoid:

1. Binding candidates at any time before the Ordeal ceremony.
2. Telling the Legend of the Lenni Lenape prior to the Ordeal.
3. Having candidates walk hand-on-shoulder at any time before it is called for just before the Ordeal ceremony.
4. Requiring candidates to go on silence before Meteu's instruction in the pre-Ordeal.
5. Shooting of arrows (especially flaming ones), which is a focal point of the pre-Ordeal.
6. The marking of candidates on the face and head is demeaning and objectionable to some and should be avoided. (National policy now prohibits face paint in ceremonies on anyone - principles, torchbearers, etc.)

"The successful call-out should last no more than 15 minutes, and leave a strong impression on candidates and nonmembers. Keep things moving, avoid repetition, and keep to the point. Use originality and imagination. Always look for ways to improve your ceremony. Some lodges make up several and alternate them.

"A good call-out should have four basic parts: (1) Explanation of the Order; (2) Formal opening and buildup; (3) Identification of candidates, during which the name, unit number, and community of each candidate should be clearly announced; and (4) Challenge to nonmembers. The closing should be brief, followed perhaps by instructions to the candidate."
Reprinted from "Administration of the Ordeal", 1990 printing, Copyright 1981, Boy Scouts of America, Irving, Texas

As you can see, National is very open about some things, and very strict about others. It is the desire of the Lodge to help you present a Calling-Out Ceremony that fulfills these goals. Several other things to remember include the following:

Parts should be memorized. Nothing looks worse than an Indian mumbling from behind a shield as though he'd never seen the part. Sometimes it's impossible to give someone enough time to get the part fully learned, but at least give him time to get familiar with it before the performance. Remember, too, that no one else knows what he's supposed to say. If you blow a line, wing it.

Allow plenty of time before the event to prepare. It takes time to get into costumes and makeup. Check out the grounds or the hall before you go on. Make sure there will be enough light to be seen. Discuss what you're going to do with the people in charge. Decide where the principles will stand, etc. before you get in front of the crowd.

Plan an impressive entrance. Drums, torches, and Indian music all add to the mood. (Don't use torches indoors.) Remember, as impressive as they are, flaming arrows should be avoided, as arrows are an integral part of the Pre ordeal and Ordeal ceremonies.

Speak loudly and slowly, and enunciate your words. Public speaking and performing boils down to three keywords: SPEED (not too fast, in other words, much slower than you usually talk), VOLUME (it's hard to be too loud unless you're actually screaming the words), and ARTICULATION (you must pronounce words clearly, place all sounds in their proper place, especially ending consonants). Words quickly get muddled in halls and in the outdoors. All manner of noises will compete with you, from frogs and crickets to screaming babies and jet planes. We've even had geese honking overhead. Mumbling just won't work.

Practice, Practice, PRACTICE! You can't get any better unless you spend time doing it. Critique each other. Allow adults to critique you. Practice in circumstances similar to the real thing: in a field, in a fellowship hall, at camp near a lake. Every time you perform, evaluate the performance later, while you change back to uniforms.

The following pages contain a "suggested" Calling-Out Ceremony. You should notice that much of it is paraphrased from the Order of the Arrow Handbook. It is not written in stone. Make changes and adaptations if necessary to make the ceremony fit the way you wish to do it. Keep in mind, however, the guidelines listed by National. This ceremony should tell people a little about the OA, what is it, and what it stands for, without revealing our more mysterious concepts and ideas. These things will be revealed to the candidates at the proper time during their induction into the Order (that is, at their Ordeal). If you've got any questions about what can and can't be put into the ceremony, call the Lodge Adviser, or the Ceremonial Team Adviser. The main purpose of a Call-Out Ceremony is to recognize those Scouts and Scouters that have been elected as candidates to the OA, and to strengthen their desire to learn more and become members of the Order, not to begin an induction sequence that should properly begin at the pre-Ordeal Ceremony of their own Ordeal.

If you feel this ceremony is too long, shorten it; vice-versa, if it's too short (not likely, you'll only hold an audience's attention for a few minutes), lengthen it. This is a suggested script. Just keep the aforementioned items, and the information reprinted from the Ordeal pamphlet in mind as you modify it.

The principles can make their entrance before the FULLY uniformed OA member introduces the OA to the audience, or they can wait until he finishes the opening speech. They should enter with the Guide in the lead, followed by the Guard, then the Chief, finally the medicine man. When they turn to face the audience, the Medicine man should be on the Chief's right, the Guard to his immediate left, then the Guide on the far left of the Chief.

OA member:
Scouts, Scouters, and guests; the Order of the Arrow is the Boy Scouts' National Society of Honor Campers. It was founder in 1915 by the Camp Director of the Treasure Island Scout Camp in Philadelphia. Dr. E. Urner Goodman was looking for a way to recognize the accomplishments and leadership of campers that went above and beyond the call of duty, whom best exemplified the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives, and most importantly, those who were considered to be able to exhibit these traits throughout their lives, whether in or out of active Scouting. The Order is based on the legends of the Lenni Lenape tribe of the Delaware Indians.

The requirements to join are simple, yet quite unique. A Scout must be First Class in rank, and he must have the Scoutmaster's approval. Both Scouts and adults must have 15 days and nights of camping in the last two years, including at least one week of long-term camping at Scout summer camp or High Adventure trip. Elections are then held, with all eligible Scouts on the ballot. A Scout must receive at least fifty percent of the votes cast to be elected as a candidate to the Order. It is important to note that since most troop members are not in the OA, elections are controlled by those outside the organization, something that sets the Order apart from other organizations that choose their members from within. After his election, the candidate must undergo an Ordeal, a series of tests designed to clarify and strengthen the tenets of the Order of the Arrow: a brotherhood of Cheerful Service given freely by each Scout to his world around him.

We as members of the Ceremonial Team of (insert District or, preferably the Chapter name), Nawakwa Lodge #3, Robert E. Lee Council, Boy Scouts of America, are here to recognize those Scouts and Scouters that have been chosen for this high honor by this (these) troop(s) as candidates for membership in the Order of the Arrow.
I am the guide of the lodge. I represent that part of the Scout Oath that tells us to help other people at all times. From now until the completion of your Ordeal, I will be beside you; I will lead and guide you. (Guide now begins to pick candidates out of the crowd. Do not be ROUGH! Lead them to the front to the medicine man. He remains with them.)

(If there are many candidates, and depending on time and other circumstances, the Guard may also go out to get candidates, remember: BE GENTLE!)

Medicine Man:
(Asks each person their name and unit (if more than one troop is present) in a whisper, then announce them to the audience.)

Guide and/or Guard:
(Takes each candidate in turn to stand in front of the Chief.)

(Asks each candidate in a whisper): Are you ready to begin the journey that leads to membership in this Brotherhood and to a commitment to a life of Cheerful Service? (On affirmative answer, taps each candidate on the right shoulder, one long tap, two short taps. DO NOT HIT THESE CANDIDATES TOO HARD!!!! THESE ARE TAPS, NOT POUNDINGS!!!.)

Guide/ Guard:
(Takes each candidate to the side, leaves them facing the front.)

(Follow this procedure until all candidates are recognized. It is helpful to get a count of candidates from the Scoutmaster(s) ahead of time to ensure you don't miss anybody.)

I as Mighty Chief, represent the greatest of a Scout's obligations: his duty to God and his country. Look upon these candidates elected for membership in the Order of the Arrow. These are your chosen few, ready to face all that will be required of them as they begin a life of Cheerful Service as members of the Order of the Arrow, Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik, Witahemui. We challenge you to discover the qualities that have allowed these few to be elected to our Order. Makes these attributes part of your life, and you may one day find yourself also before me, prepared to be inducted into the Order of the Arrow.

OA member:
Thank you very much for this opportunity. (Add appropriate comments to return the Court of Honor, campfire, etc. back to the person in charge.)

At this point, the principles should exit in the same order as they came in. Take the candidates to a quiet, private place. Inform them of Ordeal opportunities, time limits, etc. Keep it short and simple. If a written letter or registration form is available, use that. If you are close to an upcoming Ordeal, get the Candidate's Letters from Bob Rasmussen, and hand them out. If there is more time available, tell them that they will receive more information in the mail soon. When finished, the candidates should be returned to the main group quietly, and the principles should remove costumes and makeup before rejoining the group.

New Nawaka Callout

You can also download this script as a pdf or .doc

{The lights in the campfire ring dim. A slow drumbeat precedes the entrance of the principles and guides. Besides the 4 costumed principles, these should be 2 torchbearers to form a “gate” and up to four guides, all in torchbearer costumes or Class A uniforming. Under no circumstances may there be shirtless guides wearing Scout shorts, or other “partial” costuming.}


In this great brotherhood of Scouting, there are some who stand out from their peers. Those who strive to do their best both within scouting, and in their communities. It is with these scouts in mind that Dr. E. Urner Goodman, a camp director at Philadelphia’s Treasure Island Scout Camp, founded the Order of the Arrow in 1915: to recognize those campers who best exemplified the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.

Today, the Order of the Arrow is known as Scouting’s National Honor Society, an association of honor campers, who are recognized by their peers as being living examples of the Scout and Law. In 1919, the Pamunkey Lodge Number 3 of the Order of the Arrow was formed in this region, and in 1944, become Nawakwa Lodge Number 3. Translated, Nawakwa means “in the middle of the forest.”


The purposes of the Order are fourfold:

  1. To recognize those Scout campers who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Law in their daily lives.
  2. To develop and maintain camping traditions and spirit.
  3. To promote Scout camping within the unit.
  4. To crystallize the Scout habit of helpfulness into a life purpose of leadership in cheerful service to others

The three principles of the Order are; Brotherhood, Cheerfulness, and Service. It is by these principles that the Arrowmen of Nawakwa Lodge provide countless hours of service to the Robert E. Lee Council, and the community at large. Our 1500 local members promote Scout camping in their units and in the Council. There are about 350,000 members nationwide. The entire organization, at all levels, is youth-led, with all our officers under the age of 21.


The Arrowmen of Nawakwa Lodge continue the traditions started at Treasure Island Scout Camp to the present day. We do this by holding elections in each Scout unit that requests one. Scouts who have earned the First Class rank, have 15 days and nights of camping in the last two years, and receive their Scoutmaster’s approval are eligible for election to our Order. The Order is unique in that those who elect candidates for membership are by and large NOT members of the society, since all active members of a unit are encouraged to turn in a ballot, rather than just those already in the Order.


Tonight, we come to publicly recognize those Scouts who have been elected by their fellows to become a part of our Order. Upon completion of the Ordeal, each of those noted tonight will become a full member of the Nawakwa Lodge 3, Order of the Arrow. Our guides will escort those so chosen to the front so that they may be recognized.

{The 2 torchbearers move to the center, about 4 feet apart. The Chief and Medicine Man are slightly in front of the gate formed by the 2 torches. The Guide stands behind the “gate” to escort the recognized candidates to the line behind the council fire. The Guard should acknowledge each Scout as he passes thru. The guides move thru the audience, escorting those pointed out by their leaders. Before the ceremony, troop adults are asked to stand behind each elected troop member until a guide brings them to the front. As each is brought to the front, their name, unit and hometown are announced. This is done in a dignified manner, no pulling, shoving, or other roughness is tolerated – this is a special occasion, not one where candidates are yanked out of their seats and dragged to the front!}


{As each Scout is brought forward by a guide, he is met between the torches by the Medicine Man, who asks each Scout his name, rank and home town, turns the Scout to face the audience, then announces:}

We recognize {insert Scout’s name} a {insert Scout’s rank and unit type/number}, from {insert Scout’s hometown}. {For example: “We recognize Johnny Smith, a First Class Scout in Troop 999, from West Point, Virginia.” For an adult, it may be “We recognize Mr. John Smith, an Assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 888, from East Point, Virginia.”}


{Places right hand on the candidate’s left shoulder*, gives him/her the Scout handclasp, and says}


{*The hand on the shoulder is traditionally a reassuring gesture. The shoulder is NOT tapped. This can also be construed as a foreshadowing of the taps used when Kichkinet leads the candidates into the ceremonial ring after the completion of the Ordeal. Giving the Scout handclasp reinforces the fact that the OA is a part of Scouting, not separate and above.}

{The Guide then places him in a line across the front of the campfire area.}

{When all candidates have been recognized, the 4 principles come together at the front.}


We congratulate these candidates for membership in the Order of the Arrow, and challenge all Scouts and Scouters to emulate the traits which these chosen few have shown in their lives. Then, too, you may join them in recognition of those accomplishments.


We invite unit leaders to contact the Lodge and arrange for a Unit Elections team to assist your unit in electing the most deserving members in your troop to the Order. Please see a member of the OA after this campfire or call the Council office to obtain the phone numbers of the appropriate people.


We who wear the symbol of the Order of the Arrow

Honor those who’ve been elected.

Stand beside and guide them forward

On the next step of this journey,

On a long and inner journey.

And with guidance from our Maker,

We with hearts and wills united

Pledge to serve his holy purpose;

This our reason and intent,

Mark with silence reverent.

{Pause for approximately one minute of silence.}


This completes the recognition of our newest candidates. Thank you for your attention.

{The four principles lead the candidates from the ring, where they are given the first “Spirit of the Arrow” pamphlet, and information concerning registering for their Ordeal, including the “one year from election to completion” time limit. This may be in the form of the standard candidate letter, or may be specifically tailored for the event. When all questions are answered, the candidates should be released to rejoin their units.}

Position of principles and others at opening

Position of principles while candidates are being brought forward.



The Ordeal Drawout is designed for a team of six in full Indian regalia. A bow, a bowstring, and a quiver of arrows are required. If the ceremony is to be performed at night, torchbearers may be needed. The ceremony requires advance preparation, and includes a speaking part for the program’s Master of Ceremonies.

This ceremony meets the policy guidelines established for such procedures. Especially:

1) Rough stuff, hazing, or any activities which demean or endanger others have no place in Scouting and are prohibited. This includes any “tapping,” hustling, jostling, or running of candidates, or forced physical contact of any sort. The marking of candidates on the face and head is considered demeaning and must be avoided.

2) The symbolic progression of the induction must not be altered by any recognition procedure. For example, candidates must not be bound by a rope or told the Legend of the Lenni Lenape as part of a Call Out Ceremony. Stringing a bow and shooting an arrow, focal points of the pre-Ordeal Ceremony, must not occur as part of a ceremony prior to the pre-Ordeal Ceremony.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE COORDINATOR: In advance of the ceremony, prepare an envelope for each candidate. Place the candidate’s name and troop number in large print on the front of the envelope. Along the left edge place a distinctive colored marking or emblem which can be recognized from a distance of 20 feet in dim light. (The emblem should be different from ones used in previous stagings of this ceremony.) Enclose in the envelope the first “Spirit of the Arrow” booklet and a written summons to the Ordeal. Attach to the outside of the envelope a note with the following instructions:
Order of the Arrow Drawout Ceremony, Instructions for Spotters

All Scouts will be asked to form a circle facing the center, with Scouters and guests behind the Scouts. Take your place directly behind the person named on this envelope. The ceremonial team will make at least two passes around the circle, “drawing out” half the candidates on each pass. Every time the team approaches the position directly facing you, display the EDGE of the envelope with the colored marking for just two or three seconds behind and slightly above your Scout’s shoulder. (Keep the envelope out of sight otherwise.) Shortly after the team advances to your Scout, one member of the team will ask the Scout to come forward with him. Discreetly give the envelope to the team member before he moves with your Scout to the center of the circle. Then move to the place in the first row that your Scout vacated.

If you discover that the person named on this envelope is not present for the ceremony, return this envelope to the ceremonial team official who gave it to you as soon as the Scout’s absence is known.

Within a few hours before the ceremony, show a sample of the envelope to the Drawout team. Arrange to meet with unit leaders and OA members from each unit having candidates to recognize. Give an envelope to each leader or member appointed as a Spotter, and review the instructions with them. Prepare a list of names of all candidates known to be present and give it to the Drawout team Announcer. If an adult is to be recognized, have him or her serve as a Spotter. Then when this adult Spotter moves to the inner circle after the Scout candidate was drawn out, the adult is in position to be identified by another Spotter and drawn out.

CEREMONY PROCEDURE: When the ceremony is to begin, the Master of Ceremonies instructs everyone present to form two large concentric circles facing inward. Scouts form the inner circle and Scouters form the outer circle behind them. The Chief, Guard, Guide, and Shaman, each accompanied by a torchbearer with torch unlit, quietly take places outside the circles, one at each of the four directions, as the Master of Ceremonies introduces the event:

MASTER OF CEREMONIES: “In every troop there are a few experienced campers who stand out and lead as Scouts, even though they may not hold office. Their serious desire to live by the Scout Oath and Law is bringing out the best in themselves, and their life is inspiring others. These Scouts are respected and quietly followed. Most of the time they do not know it. Recently, their fellow Scouts voted in a special election and identified them as inspirational leaders. So now has come — a time of knowing! Today (tonight) we draw them out for membership in the Order of the Arrow, Scouting’s Honor Society.”

The drummer begins a steady beat, torchbearers light their torches, and each of the figures with his torchbearer approaches the circle. Each torchbearer opens a temporary pathway and the four figures enter, stopping near the center. The Chief bears a quiver full of arrows. The Shaman carries a bowstring. The Guard carries an unstrung bow. They speak as if talking among themselves but projecting clearly and distinctly so that all can hear:

GUIDE: “Brothers in the Wimachtendienk, there are a few in this circle who have been selected by their fellows as examples of the high ideals of Scouting. Let us recognize them and honor them! They deserve our respect and our assistance, for they soon will begin a long and toilsome journey.”

GUARD: “Let us recognize them and honor them! The shadows deepen on the way that leads from this circle. Whoever would take the upward trail must bring with them an inward light. Only those with courage and vision can keep to the path!”

SHAMAN: “They have seen the distant heights, but sore trials await. Will they cast off comforts and heed the ancient voice which bids us climb? Yes, they are eager and strong. Let us recognize them and honor them!”

CHIEF: “Each has been chosen, like an arrow drawn from among many in the quiver.” (The CHIEF draws an arrow from his quiver, and then holds it high with its head up.) “Each has been singled out to give a higher service than he now knows.” (The CHIEF lowers the arrow to his left side, grasps it with his left hand just above the point and holds it in a vertical position with the fletchings up.) “Brothers, let us recognize them and honor them!”

(The drummer strikes a series of rapid beats.)

NOTE: OPTIONS: There are two sets of options in this ceremony. The first is to use either the “sidestep” or the “walk-and-turn” search for candidates. The second is to have the candidate merely “touch” the arrow when it is presented or to have him “take” it as a gift. Strike out the indented portions of text underneath the options you do not choose.


CHIEF: “If I raise the arrow before you, reach up for it!”

SHAMAN: “Touch it, feel your first bond to it...”

GUARD: “Grasp it and then release it...”

GUIDE: “Then follow me on the pathway to the Ordeal!”

CHIEF: “If I give you an arrow...”

GUARD: “take it...”

GUIDE: “come forward with me...”

SHAMAN: “and prepare to search for it!”

Torchbearers position themselves between the ceremonial team and the center of the circles.

The four stand abreast facing the Scouts from a distance of about 10 feet of the circle in the order Guide-Shaman-Chief-Guard. The drummer strikes a beat once every two seconds and immediately after the stroke, the team sidesteps to the left in unison. When the team reaches a position where the Chief is directly in front of a Scout identified by a Spotter, the Chief [OPTION “TOUCH”] grasps the arrow just below the fletchings with his right hand and lifts it high and forward at arms’s length. [OPTION “TAKE”] draws an arrow from the quiver and holds it high and forward at arm’s length. The drummer picks up the pace and the four approach with forward steps in time to the drum until they are within about six feet of the candidate. [OPTION “TOUCH”] The four team members look directly at the candidate and the Chief lowers the arrow directly in front of him. At the same time the Guard raises the bow above his head, holding it with both hands, the Shaman lifts up the string loosely with both hands, and the drummer stops. As soon as the candidate touches the arrow, the Guard flexes the bow vigorously and the Shaman pulls the string tight. After a moment during which the candidate may grasp the arrow, Guard relaxes the bow and brings it to his side, the Shaman relaxes the tension in the string and lowers it to his side and the Chief withdraws the arrow to his side. [OPTION “TAKE”] The CHIEF then lowers the arrow to eye level within arm’s reach of the candidate. As soon as the candidate takes the arrow, and in unison, the Guard flexes the bow vigorously and lowers it to his side, and the Shaman pulls the string tight and then lowers it. [END OF OPTION “SIDESTEP”]

The team walks slowly, to the beat of the drum, from the center to about six feet of the circle of Scouts. Here they turn left and walk counter-clockwise by twos, with the Chief and Guard in front and the Guide and Shaman walking behind them, two abreast. The Chief walks nearest the Scouts, to the right of the Guard, and the Guide walks behind the Chief, to the right of the Shaman.

When the Chief is in front of a Scout identified by a Spotter, he raises his right hand to his left shoulder. The drummer stops. In unison, the Chief turns and faces the candidate, still with hand on shoulder, the Guard comes around and stands at the Chief’s left, the Shaman moves to the Chief’s right, and the Guide moves to the Shaman’s right. [OPTION “TOUCH”] The CHIEF grasps the arrow with his right hand just below the fletchings and lifts it high and forward at arm’s length. The four team members look directly at the candidate and the Chief lowers the arrow directly in front of the candidate. At the same time the Guard raises the bow above his head, holding it with both hands, the Shaman lifts up the string loosely with both hands. As soon as the candidate touches the arrow, the Guard flexes the bow vigorously and the Shaman pulls the string tight. After a moment during which the candidate may grasp the arrow, Guard relaxes the bow and brings it to his side, the Shaman relaxes the tension in the string and lowers it to his side and the Chief withdraws the arrow and positions it at his left as before. [OPTION “TAKE”] The Chief draws an arrow and holds it high and forward at arm’s length. The four team members look directly at the candidate and the CHIEF lowers the arrow within arm’s reach of the candidate. As soon as the candidate takes the arrow, and in unison, the Guard flexes the bow vigorously and lowers it to his side, and the Shaman pulls the string tight and then lowers it. [END OF OPTION “WALK-AND-TURN”]

The Chief and Shaman step back as the Guard and Guide approach the candidate. The Guide says, “Follow me,” and the Guard receives the candidate’s envelope from the Spotter. The Guard comes abreast of the Guide, with the candidate behind them both. They walk to the center, where the Guide says, “Remain here”, and the Guard gives the envelope to the Announcer. The Announcer reads the candidate’s name and troop number aloud, gives the envelope to the candidate, and checks off the candidate’s name on his list. The Guard and Guide return to accompany the Chief and Shaman. The drummer resumes the beat, and the process is repeated until all candidates have been drawn out.

(If the number of candidates to be drawn out is small, the team passes completely around the circle without drawing out any candidates on its first circuit. On the second circuit they draw out every other one, and on the third circuit they draw out the remaining candidates. If the number of candidates is large, escorts for the candidates separate from the four central figures can take candidates to the center while the central figures resume their search immediately.)

(The entire team escorts the candidates out of the circle to a separate location, or the Master of Ceremonies concludes the event and all except the candidates and OA members are dismissed.)