Woapalanne Lodge reignites ceremonies tradition

By Jake Jellison

Ceremonies have been known as the foundation for the Order of the Arrow since its beginning. With the loud drum and the bellowing sounds of song echoing in the trees, ceremonies are a time for both new members and long-time Arrowmen to come together.

The wise words of the principals remain timeless in all of the hearts of those inducted, and the tightly knit ceremonies team represents a life of cheerful service in lodges across the nation. They spend hours rehearsing lines and weekends around the fire to get everything just right. In a few years, the members of these teams will have to take a step back and sit amongst the rest of their lodge as they make the transition into being an adult.

For the last five years, Woapalanne Lodge has found itself in this situation. After the majority of the ceremonies team became adults, it found difficulty getting new members interested in the ceremonies program. At the fall fellowship weekend one year, it needed to put a ceremony together. Faced with a narrowing deadline, it looked for volunteers to be principals, having them read off shields. This was implemented as a temporary situation while it assembled a more formal team. Pushing hard to recruit new people in the winter, Woapalanne Lodge continued to do this for the next few years, struggling to get ceremonies off the ground again.

In the beginning of this year, the lodge was met with dramatic change. The vice chief of lore worked alongside the ceremonies adviser to create a plan. They wanted to break the habit of looking for volunteers just hours before a ceremony. They sought to do something that would not only recruit new team members, but get all of the Arrowmen in the lodge excited and interested in ceremonies. Managing with a tight schedule, they worked tirelessly to organize a weekend up at Camp Lewis. Inviting the entire lodge, they did not just get up off the ground; they took off running.

Nine members of the lodge pulled into camp on a cold January morning, most of them having not been in a ceremony before. After everyone had an opportunity to meet each other, they immediately started learning how to beat the drum. After a short demonstration on proper technique, they worked together to learn new rhythms and keep everyone in sync. Once comfortable with the drum, they sang the accompanying songs with contagious excitement. A former member of the team had everyone on their feet and learning how to dance in circles around the cabin. In just a few hours, a once empty cabin was erupting in energy and harmony.

By lunch, it was evident that a promising team was beginning to form. They were far from done and were instructed to put their jackets on and head outside. Not being told where to go, the sense of mystery drove their adventure forward. They arrived at the ceremonial grounds for their neighboring lodge. Adult advisers emerged and discussed how the grounds were only used once a year. Standing on the cool stone, rain began to fall, but a solemn silence presided over everyone present. In silent reflection, the nine in attendance found that their purpose was now very clear; it was their turn to continue the tradition. It was up to them, and the decisions they made and what steps they took after that moment determined the success of Woapalanne’s ceremonies program.

Former members of the ceremonies team stood around the fire ring and, in a moment, they began the Pre-Ordeal Ceremony. No scripts present, each of their words properly articulated, it stood as an outstanding example for these new team members to follow. Returning to the cabin, the remainder of the evening was spent rehearsing the ceremonies. They arrived at camp as brothers, but it was now clear they were leaving camp as a team.

Since that weekend, the team has been working restlessly to improve. They are scheduled to attend blue and gold banquets over the next few months and are being presented with opportunities to perform at district and council events. More practices are being scheduled to help them attain their goal to perform the first unscripted ceremony the lodge has had in over five years. If they continue in their unwavering dedication, there is little doubt that they will be successful. By keeping their eyes on the prize, they continue to demonstrate the qualities that make Arrowmen outstanding. With all of this, there is no doubt this spring will be an exciting time for not only ceremonies, but all of Woapalanne Lodge.

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