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Order of the Arrow Ordeal Secrets – And More!

So I’ve finally figured out how to make Google Analytics work with WordPress, and, in the process, I find out that most frequently visited post on my blog is an ancient post from 2007, and it’s not even gay-themed! It’s this post right here – the Order of the Arrow. It’s a fine post where I discuss the hideous Order of the Arrow ordeal, an event that perfectly embodies the more al Qaedaesque extremes of the Boy Scouts of America. Still, as near and dear as this subject is to my own heart, I couldn’t account for why the page has remained so darn popular after four years. People still visit it on a weekly and almost daily basis. Is it because I’m such a great writer? A genius, even? Or could it be that the silent majority shares my loathing for hazing from awkward teens in neckerchiefs and loincloths?

I got my answer when I entered the phrase “order of the arrow ordeal” in the little Google box up in the right hand corner of my Safari browser. The second choice in the suggestions Google pulls up is “order of the arrow ordeal secrets.” If you Google that phrase, guess what link is at the top of the page?


Yep. Turns out zillions of terrified young Scouts use the Internet to get a sneak peek at just how wretched their ordeal is going to be, and the Internet thinks that out of 6,820 possible sources, I’m the most trusted voice on the planet on this particular subject.

I can’t emphasize just how sick, twisted, wrong, and delightful that is.

I wish I had revealed more secrets than I did. Those looking for specifics are bound to be disappointed by these revelatory gems:

“The Order of the Arrow is a secret society within Scouting, one with secrets so secret that I can never reveal them, mainly because I can’t remember any of them.”

And…

“I was allowed to open my eyes to see some weird, creepy Indian ceremony in front of a campfire, which would last a couple of minutes or so, and then you were led to the next station, where you did the same thing. It’s here that I think the Order’s deepest secrets were revealed. I’m sure they were very important. I had to go the bathroom.”

I did manage to remember the menu – breakfast was some matches and a dixie cup filled with water and a raw egg. Then there was a half a slice of baloney and a half a slice of bread for lunch, and a carrot and a gumdrop for dinner. I also remembered the activity for the day – slave labor digging and hauling and chopping, all done under a vow of silence.

Only a scant few of the thousands who have visited had the courage/gumption/chutzpah/pinheadedness to leave me a comment. But, oh my stars and garters, what zippy comments they were. I share them with you below, with their original spelling and punctuation preserved.

Anonymous said…

I’m sure this will be a story for which your spirit family will comfort you in the next life. Geez, don’t get your holy underwear in a bunch.
October 21, 2007 9:08 PM

My “spirit family?” Is that an Order of the Arrowism I missed when they were starving me to death? (As for my underwear, people in glass loincloths shouldn’t throw stones.)

SGT Baker- Eagle Scout and Brotherhood member said…

… or you could just pretend to be a man and quit your bitching, you little girl! How about you come out and try the U.S. Army Special Forces selection, sally!
November 26, 2008 9:13 PM

Sgt. Baker, Eagle Scout and Brotherhood Member, just what do you think you’re doing? You dare Google sacred secrets of the Order? No gumdrop for you.

Proud Arrowman said…

wow I really think that you got your underware in a twist and you need to pick it out. If you don’t like it than don’t talk about it. Everything in the ordeal has a pourpose and it really soulds like your just a wuss cause if you wine about ants in your sleeping try going to philmont but you wouldn’t do that because once again you are a wuss
January 1, 2009 9:57 PM

So standardized spelling, apparently, is not a prerequisite for order membership, but porpoises are.

Anonymous said…

Hey thanks a lot you jerk. I’m about to go on my ordeal, and you got me all freaked out.

Also, i’ll bet you never made it to Eagle. (am i right?)
April 29, 2009 3:33 PM

Yes. You are right. Perceptive little freaked-out punk, aincha?

bakark omaba said…

u r a pussy. r u a fag 2?
June 6, 2009 6:02 PM

Alas, I am neither cat nor cigarette. On the plus side, I’m less illiterate than your average bakark.

Anonymous said…

you’re an idiot! The ordeal is a bad part of the OA introduction but it’s to prove you’re ready to be part of the organization. Although i see you obviously failed. It’s an honor to get in and you should treat it as such.
August 18, 2009 12:20 PM

Here’s how I treated it, Señor Anonymous. Right from the outset, I moaned and whined about what a piece of rat crap the whole experience was, so I got harangued by the guy who was supposed to be my sponsor/mentor/parole officer, who demanded I give him my phone number so he could drag me to a single one of your brain-dead meetings, which meant that I was honored to give him the phone number of the girl I sat next to in English class, who apparently received dozens of phone calls demanding that she keep current with her/my Order of the Arrow dues, which paid for the Boy Scout uniforms of grown men who have nothing better to do than boil eggs in dixie cups and send prepubescents into the woods to freeze.

Thus, with the wisdom that comes with years of hindsight, I now treat the experience with all the honor it deserves, which is precisely the amount of honor I just treated the hot, steaming pile my puppy left on the bottom bunk of my six-year-old’s bed.

I wonder where this post will end up in the Google rankings.

Leave a Reply

54 Comments

  1. Oh how i hate the boy scouts, and now apparently the US Army special forces selection. Did that guy write (or rite as the others may have spelled it) that comment on steroids? What a bunch of loon bats.

    • Hate is such a harsh word for a group that has helped provide the leadership of the past that made you able to be in the position you are in currently. You might want to consider using loon bat in reference to yourself instead.

  2. Second Higenflagen’s comment.

    I never made it to eagle – I was fortunate to have a mother who refused to do the work for me, unlike most of my friends whose mothers rightfully earned the eagle awards only to receive a pin and hug from their son.

    Its Only A Pin

    by S. Kurtz Hingley*
    A fond mother watches her boy where he stands
        Apart from his comrades tonight,
    As they place on his camp-battered tunic, a badge…
        An Eagle, the emblem of right.

    It seems just a few short months have passed
        Since he joined with the youngster next door…
    How proud he was then of his Tenderfoot Pin
        As they told of the message it bore.

    But the years have gone as he struggled along
        To learn what the Scout law’s about;
    He practiced them daily, the Oath and the law
        Until now, he’s an Eagle Scout.

    You may smile in your worldly old wisdom at this
        And say, “Why, it’s only a pin.”
    But I tell you no honors he’ll gain as a man
        Will mean quite as much to him.

    The Red, White and Blue of the ribbon you see
        Are the symbols of honor and truth.
    He has learned how to value these fine attributes
        In the glorious days of youth.

    And the outflinging winds of the eagle that rests
        On the breast of this Knight of Today,
    Are the things which will lift him above petty deeds
        And guide him along the right way…

    Yes, it’s only a pin, just an Eagle Scout Badge,
        But the heart that’s beneath it beats true
    And will throb to the last for the things which are good,
        A lesson for me.. and for you.

  3. It’s quite possible to make elementary school sound like a bizarre form of torture as well, if you word it just right. Just because you don’t agree with the beliefs of an organization doesn’t mean you need to make it out to be an evil group. I’m sure you’d be just as resentful if someone targeted something you believed in.

    • I’m trying to remember the times when my elementary school made me sleep on rocks in subfreezing temperatures, perform slave labor for 12 hours in total silence, and fed me a dinner consisting of a carrot and a gumdrop.

  4. This is about the most ridiculous post I’ve ever read in my entire life! I’m am Eagle Scout, Brotherhood Member, and currently an Assistant Scoutmaster. I have been a Boy Scout since Aug 8, 1992. I could go on for days talking about how much of a wuss you are but I’ll make it short and sweet. The Order of the Arrow is a selection of the most elite scouters and campers and if this is the story or your Ordeal then apparently you were chosen by mistake. For you weren’t even worthy to have seen and heard the things you did..you learned absolutely nothing apparently you don’t even understand what being a Boy Scout even is. I’m sorry for whatever Scoutmaster had to deal with your pink panty whiny tail. I feel terribly sorry for whatever Klan leader had you on that ordeal. Shame on all you ppl who put down Scouts and the Order! I bet Baden Powell would completely
    over

    • Thank you for putting me in my place. As a wuss, I recognize that it is important for me to be properly identified as such and repeatedly insulted. I’m sure Baden Powell would appreciate the tone of superiority and derision dripping from your comment.

      You, good sir, are clearly the embodiment of everything the Order of the Arrow has to offer.

  5. It was pretty clear to me after a semester in Cub Scouts that it was all a worthless ruse. All we ever did was sit around giddily discussing the sixth grader with the largest boobs and I was pretty sure we didn’t need a den mother for that.
    Sorry it took you so much heartache, pain and wasted time to arrive at the same conclusion.

  6. Im 48 now I was a Eagle and member of the order of the Arrow I did not get the point then Its a shame more 15 year olds don’t get whats going on and symbolizes. It was Rough if your going to do it my advise is to pay attention to whats being said

  7. I think this is an unfair generalization of the Order. As I remember, in the beginning of the ceremony, they ask those who are willing to pass through this Ordeal to step forward. They also ask those who did step forward to test a bow. Both of these actions are optional. You don’t have to do them, and you don’t have to go through the Ordeal. You can break your vow of silence in front of an adult leader and be sent home. If you made it to the part of eating a boiled egg in a Dixie cup, that is of your own fault. You have nobody to blame but yourself. I believe it is also unfair to call it “slave” labour. You don’t have to do it, so don’t blame the men who cooked you your egg. And be happy you were even given food, in my day I received none.

    • Ah, yes. I should be grateful they didn’t starve me completely. And of course I could have humiliated myself in front of all my leaders and friends by backing out. Yes, that emotionally-scarring option was indeed available. Of course it’s an unfair generalization to describe the order’s specific practices. Thank you for, once again, demonstrating the kind of keen, piercing insight I’ve come to expect from members of your rancid Order.

      And I cooked my own egg in the Dixie cup, mister.

      • You just crack the egg and put it near a fire. The cup will not burn. Kinda cool.

        I sent my Order of The Arrow sash and my Scout of the Year medal back to the national office when they stopped taking atheists and gays. I use my uniform for Halloween. My wife dresses up as a scoutmaster and I am a boy scout and we make out the whole eve!

  8. I ended up here because my son just got tapped out last week and will go through his Ordeal soon. As I re-read your original post, what jumped out at me was not the details of a crappy weekend in the woods, but your sentiment that you are somehow destined to be a crappy Scoutmaster. By all means, don’t volunteer.

    in my experience, the worst things I have or could have done to my son is/was to limit his opportunities to experience things because of MY experiences in them. Just because I thought Cub Scouts was a complete ass-whipping when I tried it, I resisted the urge to completely shoot him down when he joined as a Tiger Cub. All these years later, as he’s grown and matured and started deciding for himself what he likes and dislikes, I am impressed by his achievements and willingness to serve.

    I certainly wasn’t that kid when I was in high school. And by the way… I still hate camping. But I don’t go on outings… and by the sounds of things, neither should you. There are plenty of Scouters who will be a better fit for the troop than someone who hated it as a child and apparently, as an adult has never gotten over it.

    • My twin boys are both Scouts and love it, and I just got back from an overnight camp out with them – which, admittedly, I don’t really dig. But your advice is well taken. Their Scouting experience thus far has been at more positive than mine ever was.

  9. I learned how to haze younger boys and jump around in an Indian costume and speak “Indian” just like in the old cowboy movies.

    What a ridiculous idea. I felt like I joined the KKK or something.

  10. Mr. Cornell,
    I wish your experience with OA had been a positive one. I’m afraid that the Scouts who elected you did you a disservice. The instructions for Arrowmen selection have been standard for several decades now. They were supposed to choose candidates that would embrace the “cheerful service” mantra and enjoy the aspects of OA that you clearly didn’t. As for your personal experience, I’d be interested in knowing when and what lodge you were inducted. The “carrot and a gumdrop for dinner” that you describe is not a standard practice with ANY lodge in the U.S. In fact, standard meals for an ordeal call for “limited food” for breakfast and lunch ONLY. The dinner on the ordeal day is supposed to be a large meal shared with brothers. Breakfast is usually a hardboiled egg, toast, juice and or hot chocolate. Lunch is a half a bologna and cheese sandwich, an apple and Kool-Aid. Dinner has always been a big feast with all the brothers. I’ve been participating and planning ordeals for 17 years and that’s been the standard since I’ve started. To be honest, I usually put more work into a weekend yard project with my father that I did with my OA ordeal and we never plan events with much more than weed pulling, setting up tents or clearing brush at a Scout camp. The most difficult part is usually making a teenage boy remain silent for 10 or so hours. Again, I wish you had been able to appreciate the positive aspects of OA service. I honestly believe that the Scouts that elected you must have missed something in the selection. Not everyone is meant to be in the OA and they should have not selected you if you weren’t the kind of scout who would appreciate the OA for what it is.

    Randall Cone
    Atlanta, GA

    • There was, in fact, a big feast after the whole ordeal was over, some time around 11:00 PM or so. It certainly wasn’t “dinner.” More like “hefty midnight snack.” I don’t know into what “lodge” I was inducted. It was at Camp Whitsett, and I was in Troop 498. The year was 1982 or thereabouts. Reports are that things have changed in the intervening three decades since my miserable experience, and the modern experience isn’t quite as hazing-esque.

      Nice to know, however, that it’s me, not the OA, that is defective. Again, with defenders like these, who needs enemies?

  11. Mr. Cornell,
    I apologize, I didn’t mean for my post to seem like I was saying YOU were defective. I mean that OA just wasn’t for you at that time. Just as people who don’t skydive aren’t defective and people who smoke aren’t ALL dangerous (just a few of them). The guys that elected you may not have known you very well and the responsibility of the vote is to select the boys that WILL fit in with OA. I was inducted at age 16. When I was 14 I would have hated every second of my ordeal. If you completed ordeal then you are entitled to maintain your membership. Maybe you should attend a few functions and be one of the people that insure that ordeal isn’t the experience that you had. They still camp but most of the time it’s in permanent shelters with mattresses and good food.
    Randall Cone
    Atlanta, GA

  12. I didn’t think ordeal was that bad i’ve been through worse not that i care a whole lot for the organization i just think if kids wanna be in it its their problem and if parents wanna force their kids into it shame on them but the order deserves better then this…

  13. That is a time honored ceremony going back hundreds of yours you disgrace the brotherhood by reveling these secrets

    • Hundreds of mine? My what?

      Assuming you mean “years,” the Order of the Arrow was founded on July 16, 1915, which isn’t hundreds of years ago, unless you’re mathematically incompetent as well as borderline illiterate. And which secrets do I revel, exactly? Revelry is always good fun, and, as such, bears no relationship to the Order of the Arrow.

    • Here’s a nice piece of trivia. The Order of the arrow was founded in 1915, less than a hundred years ago.

      Your logic is invalid.

  14. Ordeal is not really a horrible thing and if you had any sense you would take this down; or at least edit it. You make it seem like they kill you just so you can get ordeal level. Having gone through ordeal it is not as horrible as people may think. If you actually got to first class and above without your parents doing everything for you like me it is easier than if your parents did. I do not think this reflects the OA at all. There are a lot of fun things about ordeal. Also ruining OA secrets for people just seeing how wretched this site is like all of the others is not okay. If I sent this to national you would be in so much trouble. If you remember in your induction you promised not to tell anyone any of this.

    • But I don’t remember. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? I don’t reveal any secrets here, other than the meal schedule, because I didn’t care enough about them at the time to commit them to memory. For me, the Ordeal was, in fact, a horrible thing. I stand by everything I’ve written here. I’m trying to remember where I said they murder people. Perhaps you could provide a link?

      If not, because, you know, you can’t, just do me this favor – live up to your empty thread and kindly send this to “national.” I’m hardly quaking in fear as to the kind of retribution they could dish on a 44-year-old ex-Scout who never attended a single OA meeting after the entirely wretched Ordeal, but I’m intently curious. If they write me a nasty letter, I’d be happy to post it here in its entirety.

  15. I’m a girl and to me, it sounds like you’re just more of an “indoor” kinda guy. My father is an Eagle Scout, and his Ordeal which lasted a couple of days is actually one of his fondest memories. One day with little or no food is hardly starving, and doing work while hungry and silent is not going to kill you. To me, it sounds like something that separates the men from the boys. Native Americans had similar ordeals for their boys to become men. If you hated it so much, why did you do it? I’m a proud Scout mom and my son and his friends are looking forward to this ritual, and I know my son would do well. You see, he’s been Scouting since he was 6 years old, and unlike some of the other commenters here, he has earned every belt loop, every pin, and his Arrow of Light on his own. I look forward to one day attending his Eagle Scout ceremony.

    • Wow. Which of the commenters didn’t earn their own belt loops, exactly? What’s with the arrogance and superiority complex?

      And why did I do it? Because I didn’t want to be humiliated by backing out. So, instead, I was humiliated by sadistic boys smacking me in the back of the head.

  16. I am an eagle scout and a member of the oa and I say to all the scouts going for there ordeal go for it it is well worth it

  17. I was never a scout. As an adult leader I went through the ordeal. It was a hard days of work with little food. No problems with that. Then at the end of the day, we sat for about 2.5 hours in silence. One of the “supervisors” told the boys and adults that there were no bathroom breaks during this time. Sounds like fraternity hazing to me on this one. I immediately stood up and announced that i had to use the restroom to make sure that all the boys also knew that it was ok to do so. I then proceeded to “use” the restroom every 30 minutes so the boys would still know it as OK.

    I did complain to our Council about this part, but from what I understand, they still do the same. They continue the same practice. This is part of the problem ith the OA. They know there is an issue, but they don’t change it. Then if you complain, you are not “Worthy”.

  18. Thanks for this post. Just sent my son off to his 2nd year of scout camp, and he was nervous as hell. We homeschool, so we’re together all the time and he misses me and his 4 siblings. Just found out THIS MORNING that he’ll likely be doing this ordeal Wednesday night and he has no clue. Wednesday night is family night so I feel it’s my duty as him mom to warn him so he’s not too freaked out. i wish I could sneak him your post as reading material … .the comments would make him laugh! I will say that sometimes it seems to me that FATHERS are the ones who PUSH their sons through scouts. How do I know this? Because some of the boys talk to me about it, and this is what they say. Scouts is not for everyone, and you are not a piece of crap if you don’t get Eagle. Thanks for posting this and for informing a 42-year-old mother about this. Obviously I think outside society’s box since I homeschool, but that just makes it that much easier to see that doing this to 11-year-old boys is kinda mean.

  19. I would just like to remark that your Ordeal was over 30 years ago. While this may have been a traumatic experience for you, due to hazing policies put in place, no Scout has to go through the same experiences you did to become a member of the Order of the Arrow. So instead of scaring millions of young Scouts over your experiences, which they will not have to go through, you could be more open-minded to the new processes that occur. Your article, I am certain, scares thousands of Scouts into opting out of their Ordeal, missing out on excellent opportunities to learn about Brotherhood, Leadership, and Service, even though most of the ceremonies and practices you had to participate in no longer occur. I am very certain that any Scout or Scouter who has learned and practices the principles of the Order in their everyday lives would vehemently oppose any hazing that currently occurs in the Ordeal.

    • I have no interest in editing my history because it’s embarrassing to an organization that did significant damage to a number of boys, including me. Glad the Order of the Arrow is allegedly better now – I’m not convinced that’s true, but I’ll go along just for the sake of argument – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to come to terms with its shameful legacy.

      If a boy reads this and is suitably scared, as well they should be, then I have given them the opportunity to confront current leaders and ensure that such hazing doesn’t occur and preempt the abuse before the fact rather than heal from it afterward. That alone makes what I’ve written worthwhile.

      • I agree, but you could at least state outright that these events happened for you 30 years ago and no longer happen now. I did my Ordeal a year ago and have attended 3 Ordeals as a member since, AND I will be RUNNING my Lodge’s Ordeal this fall; I truly promise you, on my honor as a Scout, that the traumatic events you had to go through no longer happen.

        • 1) I can’t imagine anyone reading this is under the impression that I’m still a teenager, given my references to my children, family, etc. It’s transparently obvious this happened a long time ago.

          2) I can’t speak firsthand as to whether or not it’s not happening now. Officially, such things weren’t allowed to happen back then, either, and yet they did. I’m encouraged you are taking efforts to ensure that such things do not happen under your stewardship, but there are many other OA ordeals other than the ones you supervise, and wherever teenage boys are in charge, there is the potential for cruelty.

  20. You defame the Scouts just like your obvious God Barry Soreto (Obama is His Muslim Name) does. Sure you aren’t writing this Blog from a Jail Cell?

  21. My son went through the ideal at 13 and is 6′ tall. At least I knew to take him to Carls Jr and buy him a few when he got back. I appreciated this. Basically I just learned that they starve and work kiddos. Hes really into scouts, but at least on that level your blog was very helpful to me.

  22. It’s confronting to read the gamut of puerile, secret ceremonial piffle that surrounds what should be a healthy, learning experience for America’s youth. Can I suggest the only people who derive benefit from turning boys into ‘men’ via such grueling ordeals are primitive individuals reluctant to privately contain their bent. Transitioning from childhood via cloak and dagger physical and mental anguish surely belies the desired messages of honest, loyal morality that Scouting America touts. I’m intrigued as to why lessons on the art of elementary outdoor survival need to be delivered in such an offbeat package.

  23. I am an Eagle Scout and none of what you say is true about the OA. In my Ordeal we had a small, but hearty breakfast and then worked in silence for 10 hours. We then ate 1/2 a boiled hot dog, and 1/2 a piece of string cheese; you described this negatively, but it was the most fun day of my life. This “Ordeal” is what is sounds like, it is meant to be a painful ordeal; but if you are determined, then it can be a great experience for all youth.

    Plus if you are old enough, meet the requirements, and you get one of the cool lodges, you get abducted in the night of Ordeal and may be invited to the Order of the Black Arrow

    • Wow. You’re right. If you had a different experience than me, then my experience didn’t happen. I must’ve made all this up for some reason! Quite a vivid imagination I’ve got.

      Except if I were to fantasize about something, don’t you think I would make up things about something less repugnant than the Order of the Arrow?

      Order of the Black Arrow? Good gravy. Why not just kill me with a brick to the head?

  24. Dear Sir,

    I am an Eagle scout, and a Brotherhood member in the Order of the Arrow. I loved your article, it was hilarious! I personally love the OA, and I understand and appreciate that you do not feel the same way about the organization. I applaud your efforts in trying to ensure that no boy gets hazed, yet in my experience in the OA, I have never seen hazing occur. Every challenge of the Ordeal has a specific purpose, and no such challenge was designed to embarrass or demean a Scout. I saw your point that what you called hazing happened to you, even though it was expressly prohibited at the time. In my mind, this is unacceptable and conduct like this brings a bad light on the OA as a whole. I see from previous comments that your ordeal was at camp Whitsett. That would make you an ex-member of the Malibu Lodge. If you are interested, I would like to contact the lodge and see if they can officially apologize to you for the unscoutlike Ordeal you were made to go through.

    Sincerely,

    An Arrowman

    • Very kind of you, Arrowman. I don’t need a formal apology, nor did I ever intend to be the spokesperson for all hatred and loathing of the O of A. I’m actually now an assistant Webelos leader in the local cub scout troop, so I’ve managed to stay active in Scouting and move past all this stuff. But I appreciate your thoughtful reply.