The Ordeal

Perhaps you are a Scout who has heard other Scouts talking about the Order of the Arrow. Maybe you are the parent of a Scout who will soon be participating in an "Ordeal." The following information is provided to answer questions you may have.

The Order of the Arrow is a fraternal service organization dedicated to four purposes:

  1. To recognize Scouts and Scouters who best exemplify the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
  2. To develop camping traditions and spirit.
  3. To promote the camping program.
  4. To develop habits of helpfulness and leadership in Scouts.

The Order of the Arrow is called the "Brotherhood of Cheerful Service."

There are three levels of Order of the Arrow membership: Ordeal, Brotherhood and Vigil. As a Scout or Scouter grows within the Order of the Arrow, he or she becomes eligible to advance from one level of membership to the next. At each level of membership the Order of the Arrow "Arrowman" participates in the ceremony and challenges for that level: first Ordeal, then Brotherhood, then Vigil.

In order to be a candidate for the Order of the Arrow, Scouts and Scouters must be elected by the members of their own unit (Troop or Crew). To be eligible a Scout must have attained the rank of First Class, and he must have at least fifteen days and nights of camping experience, including one week-long Summer camp. An adult Scouter must also have fifteen days and nights of camping, including a week-long Summer camp experience. The Scout youth in the unit vote for new youth candidates from their unit. The adult Scouters in the unit, including active leaders and Committee members, vote for new adult candidates. The Order of the Arrow is unique in being one of few organizations whose members are selected by both members and non-members as well. It is a special honor to be a part of the Order of the Arrow knowing (1) that your fellow Scouts and Scouters selected you and (2) that you are following in the footsteps of thousands of Scouts and Scouters who have gone before you.

The San Diego Order of the Arrow Lodge is called Tiwahe Lodge. There are ten Chapters in the Tiwahe Lodge. The Chapters generally cover the same geography as the corresponding Scout District. New candidates usually join the OA Chapter in their District, but Scouts and Scouters may join any Order of the Arrow Chapter in the Tiwahe Lodge.

Newly elected Scouts and Scouters are called Ordeal Candidates. To be a member of the Order of the Arrow, you must take part in an experience called the "Ordeal." Ordeals are conducted once a year by each Chapter, usually around the same time each year, and an Ordeal is conducted by the Tiwahe Lodge in the Fall. The Ordeal usually starts on a Friday night and continues until Saturday evening or Sunday morning. Newly elected Order of the Arrow Candidates have until the end of the year to participate in an Ordeal somewhere in the San Diego-Imperial Council. If you do not participate in an Ordeal before the end of the year, you are no longer an Order of the Arrow Candidate. You must be elected again by your unit in order to be an Order of the Arrow Candidate again.

Part of what makes the Order of the Arrow exciting are its special ceremonies that are repeated year after year for new and advancing members. Members are asked not to disclose what takes place during the ceremonies, to preserve the experience for new members. Part of the enjoyment and satisfaction of being in the Order of the Arrow derives from the activities and surprises that occur during the various ceremonies.

Please be considerate of your fellow Scouts and Scouters by not telling them the events of your Ordeal, so their own experiences will not be diminished. Scouts may discuss their Order of the Arrow ceremony experiences with their parents, unless their parents might be future Order of the Arrow candidates. In that situation, parents should be given the same consideration as other Scouts and Scouters, to preserve their future Order of the Arrow experiences. Any parents with concerns or questions about the Ordeal or any other Order of the Arrow ceremony or activity are encouraged to contact the San Diego-Imperial Council Service Center or the Order of the Arrow Lodge Adviser before or after the event.

Sometimes we hear that someone has made up stories about things that happen during Order of the Arrow ceremonies, either to frighten young Scouts or to make the experiences seem more challenging, thrilling, or scary. The Order of the Arrow follows all BSA youth protection guidelines, including the BSA policies that prohibit hazing and secret organizations. The Order of the Arrow is not a secret organization, and its ceremonies are planned programs that follow standardized guidelines, developed at the national BSA level. The Order of the Arrow and its ceremonies are approved by all major religious organizations. The activities and challenges that occur during Order of the Arrow ceremonies are kept confidential from Scouts and Scouters until their own participation in the ceremonies, to enhance their experiences when they go through them themselves..

That is not to say that the Ordeal or any other Order of the Arrow activity or event is easy. The Ordeal is designed to challenge Scouts and Scouters. Will you work hard, or will you do the least amount of work possible? Will you deny yourself and put others ahead of your own desires? Will you show your true honor by keeping promises that you have made? These are all questions you will face and answer to yourself during the Ordeal, Brotherhood, and Vigil ceremonies.

Revised 12/23/10