This article is a follow-up to Freemasonry, Scouting and the Order of the Arrow

Following Arrows
by S. M. Adkins

In a previous article on Freemasonry and Scouting I discussed the honor society of the Boy Scouts of America called the Order of the Arrow.  Founded by two 32nd degree Freemasons in 1915, it spread outwards through the nation to become an official part of the BSA in 1936.  It was not the first such organization created, and it certainly was not the last, but it was by far the most successful.  It was also the most Masonic--although many other early Scout honor societies bore Masonic characteristics, usually by having three grades or degrees, the OA is thoroughly Masonic.  Scouting itself, as conceived by Lord Baden-Powell, has some undeniable Masonic traits; after all, they are both linear systems of progression which use symbolically-charged rituals to instill in men certain lessons about moral, civic and religious duty.  As we will see, Masonry has not only influenced official BSA honor programs such as the OA, it appears in initiation ceremonies for new Scouts.  From Cubs to Eagles, the Masonic and other esoteric influences are apparent.

The Scout movement is rich in symbolism and it is through its symbols that I have chosen to explore the movement, for every rank, club, camp and Jamboree has its patch, a symbol to honor it.  Scouting is regimented and symbols are its markers of authority and achievement.  The Boy Scouts of America was conceived of as representing a form of regenerated youth, yet men and boys were grouping themselves within the BSA into secretive honor societies before the BSA’s fifth anniversary.  A multitude of such groups existed; the clamor for it became so great that the BSA was required to accept the inevitability and recognize the biggest; when the OA became official, it was only a matter of time before all but the most stalwart rivals went by the wayside.  Masonry was the perfect model for the OA, an almost guaranteed formula for success. 

The symbols of the OA are not entirely unique to the group, and it is through its symbols that I discovered much of the rest of the information included in this article.  It almost all springs forth from the question:  Why the Order of the Arrow

In the OA Ordeal ritual the Arrow is explained thusly: 

As the warrior draws the arrow most trustworthy from the quiver, you were drawn from many others, for the first shaft of the hunter must be straightest, must be surest. If through many moons unflinching you hold fast to Scouting pledges, straight and true you each will travel as an arrow driven skyward, as an eagle soaring sunward. (OA Ordeal Ritual)

In the OA the arrow symbolizes the elite.   In other contexts it symbolizes war and mortality, but like the needle on a compass, its function is to point the way and it appears repeatedly in Scouting.  Note here several themes in the excerpt: elitism, destiny, obedience, discipline, travel.  A comparison with the Eagle is made: traveling high above, through the sky and into the sun.  The boy is an Arrow.

According to the Pinetree Web, a respected web-based Scouting resource, the 3rd World Jamboree was held at Arrowe Park in Birkenhead, England in 1929.  It was called the "Coming of Age” Jamboree because it celebrated the 21st anniversary of the Scouting Movement.  Nearly all cultures have ritualistic “coming of age” initiations, but why did Scouting come of age at 21?  An American Boy Scout must earn 21 merit badges before he can become an Eagle and the 21st birthday often proves special in Scouting.  The 21 (in this case years) and the 3 (in this case the third Jamboree) appear repeatedly in Scouting.  Not surprisingly, given the mathematical relationship, so does the 7.

The Arrowe Park Jamboree ended in a curious ritual.  The Scouts in attendance marched for a final farewell to B-P.  They formed a great “Friendship wheel” around him, and he addressed them thusly:

"Here is the hatchet of war, of enmity, of bad feeling, which I now bury in Arrowe," said Baden-Powell, and drove a hatchet into a barrel of arrows.....“To-day I send you out from Arrowe to all the World, bearing my symbol of peace and fellowship, each one of you my ambassador bearing my message of love and fellowship on the wings of sacrifice and service, to the ends of the earth. From now on, the Scout symbol of Peace is the Golden Arrow.”

Then B.-P. sent four golden arrows to the four points of the compass, and they were passed from hand to hand through the nations of the world. His final message was then given. (Pinetree Web)

The bow and arrow, and  the four points of the compass, appear in Scouting with ubiquitous regularity.  The friendship wheel described, encircling B-P as he shot his arrows, would have formed a kind of cross within the wheel, a target, a compass.  The metaphors of flight and travel are the essence of the Scouting program.  They trail the Eagle, they are the keenest arrows drawn from the quiver.  Theirs is a higher destiny.  They travel.

Let me cite the following paragraph from a letter written to me by Nigel Cavell, Secretary of Baden Powell Lodge No. 488.

....the Badge of the Baden Powell Lodge....was consecrated on 29 September 1929 after discussions which began in June of that year among a number Victorian Scout Leaders, including the Chief Commissioner, and who were also Freemasons, about forming a Scout Lodge.

In August 1929 the Leader of the Australian Contingent to the "Arrowe Park" Jamboree held at Birkenhead in England sought and received the consent of Lord Baden Powell to the use of his name for this new Lodge and the Badge of the Lodge is the same as the Badge worn by the Scouts who attended that Jamboree in 1929.

World Jamboree 1929  Baden-Powell Lodge 488

The symbol is a fleur-de-lis in a circle, superimposed over a golden arrow which points upwards and to the left.  Early skeptics of Scouting saw the fleur-de-lis as a spearhead and accused B-P of militaristic designs; he responded by saying it was a lily and as such represented peace, and that he chose the fleur-de-lis because it was widely used to designate the North Point in cartography and because “it points in the right direction (and upwards), turning neither to the right nor left, since these lead backward again....” (Pinetree Web)  An arrowhead or fleur-de-lis was used to indicate the North on the Compass Rose, a figure which still forms the basis of contemporary navigation systems.  The Compass Rose, originally called the Wind Rose, is divided into 32 points which are based on bisections of the four winds.  In the past, one of the first things an apprentice seaman had to learn were the names of these 32 points; naming them successfully, in order, was called "boxing the compass".

The Empire Sentinels, a Masonic Scouting scheme in New Zealand, placed their “Chief Scout” in the North.[1]  Chief  Allowat Sakima in the OA is also placed in the North.  It is undoubtedly a result of B-P’s explanation of the fleur-de-lis that this is so.   B-P, a.k.a., the Chief Scout, also had this to say of the Scout symbol: “The two stars on the two side arms stand for the two eyes of the Wolf Cub having been opened before he became a Scout... The three points of the fleur-de-lis remind the Scout of the three points of the Scout's Promise....” (Pinetree Web)

We speak of Masons “coming into the Light.”  This is symbolized at one point in Masonic ritual by the removal of a candidate’s blindfold, his eyes opened to knowledge, a step in one’s moral, spiritual and intellectual development.  In American Cub Scouting, the highest rank is known as Webelos, which means  “We’ll be loyal Scouts.”[2]  The boy’s eyes are opened as he crosses a bridge to the Boy Scouts known as the “Arrow of Light.”  The Arrow of Light is a horizontal golden arrow, pointing right, from which rises a seven-rayed golden sun representing the Seven Great Virtues:  Wisdom, Courage, Self-Control, Justice, Faith, Hope, Love.  The Order of DeMolay, the Masonic youth organization founded in 1919, is based on Seven Cardinal Virtues:  Filial Love, Reverence for Sacred Things, Courtesy, Comradeship, Fidelity, Cleanness, and Patriotism.[3]  In the Middle Chamber lecture of the 2nd Degree of Masonry, a candidate climbs a stairway divided into three sections, the last of which is comprised of seven steps symbolizing the seven liberal arts and sciences, and if we consider the BSA program as having three degrees--Cubs, Webelos and Scouts--Webelos would be the equivalent of the 2nd Degree.  Seven is an archetype, and it forms part of the numerological symbolism of the initiatory transition of the Cub Scout. The Arrow in this instance, pointing left to right, also points from West to East. A Mason's conductor is asked: "Whence came you and whither are you traveling? The response: "From the West, traveling East." "Why did you leave the West and travel East?" "In search of further Light in Masonry."

Arrow of Light

The first Wolf Cubs sprung up in England in 1916; the BSA began establishing Cub packs fourteen years later.  The idea of the Cub Pack arose from a need to find an appropriate way to bring younger kids in the Scouting fold and was inspired by the “Seonnee” pack in Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book (1893).  Kipling, close friend of B-P and an ardent Freemason, was a booster of the “Wolf Cubs” organization, or simply “Cubbing.”  In the US it is known as the Cub Scouts, where the Wolf still symbolizes the 2nd rank.[4]  An ominous, if obvious, comparison can be made with the Pimpfe, or "Wolf cubs” of the Deutsches Jungvolk, the junior branch of the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugen), founded July 4th, 1926 for boys aged ten to fourteen.  German youth groups which resemble Scouting date back to at least 1896, when the Wandervogel (literally, “migratory bird,” but figuratively “rolling stone”) was formed in a Berlin suburb.  Formalized in 1901, the group organized hiking and camping expeditions and developed a sort of “uniform,” a system of ranks and modes of addressing their fellows.  They identified with German folklore, heroes, myths and traditions. The first Scout (Pfadfinder, literally "Pathfinder") group was formed in Germany in 1909. Because of the Wandervogel, Scouting in Germany never dominated youth movements as it did in other countries; instead, the two currents influenced one another.

Germany had a number of Wandervogel-inspired groups in the fertile 1920’s, eventually culminating in the formation of the Bündische jugend. This, along with Scout and other Scout-like groups were outlawed by the Nazis in 1934.  Some of these groups became a part of the Nazi program but others resisted. The famous White Rose of Munich, along with the more aggressive Edelweiss Pirates of Cologne, were comprised of participants of the latter category, and many were executed by 1945.  Another underground group from the same roots, the Grey Rider (grauer reiter), consisted of about 400 participants in eight cities. A Grey Rider group in Poland was decimated entirely.  After the war, many members of these underground groups reformed and integrated into a Scout organization referred to as Bund deutscher Pfadfinder, and a new grauer reiter was formed for older Scouts, its name chosen to honor the fallen Polish comrades. Due to conflicts with the Bund deutscher Pfadfinder, the new Grey Rider formed its own federation in 1956.  Their symbol was taken from their prewar precedents, the Sturmtrupppfadfinder, which was the regular Scout lily, except the middle leaf was shaped like an arrow, colored black and red.  As a whole, these postwar groups are regarded as the “third wave” of German Scouting after the original Wandervogel  and Bündische jugendgroups of the 20’s.  One of the most prominent of these "third wave" groups was dj1.11, or "deutsche jungenschaft vom1. 11. 1929 jungenschaft vom1. 11. 1929" ("German Boys' Federation from the 1st of November 1929"). Like the other youth groups of the Twenties, this group was outlawed in 1934; the contemporary group of this name was founded after the war in their honor.  Their symbol is a falcon, flying leftward, atop three waves. Armin Müller, whose response too my queries did much to clarify the tangled history of German Scouting, is affiliated with a Grey Rider group called weltfahrtengruppe (literally "world trip group"), which in 2003 undertook a trip around the world. Their symbol was the sextant, their motto, "Jabonah." Taken from the Mongols, it means "Let's start the journey." I found this particularly striking in that Masons refer to themselves as "travelling men," use the compasses as their symbol and that their lost word, "Jabulon" is very similar to "Jabonah."

Sturmtrupppfadfinder Graue Reiter dj1.11

The Nazi period is considered as an interregnum in German Scouting of which B-P disapproved, but it is worth quoting this passage from from B-P’s diary (1939):

Lay up all day. Read Mein Kampf. A wonderful book, with good ideas on education, health, propaganda, organization etc.—and ideals which Hitler does not practice himself.

These passages on the Swastika[5] from B-P in What Scouts Can Do: More Yarns (1921) are also interesting:

On the stole of an ancient bishop of Winchester, Edyndon, who died in 1366, is the Swastika or Scouts' Thanks                 Badge.  It was at that time called the "Fylfot," and was said to represent Obedience or Submission, the different             arms of the cross being in reality legs in the attitude of kneeling.


B-P presents other examples and continues:

How it got from one country to another, separated as they are by oceans, it is difficult to guess, but some people who say they know all about these things, affirm that there was once a great continent where now there is the Atlantic Ocean, but it went under the sea in an earthquake.

This continent was called Atlantis, and joined up Europe with America.

It was supposed to have four vast rivers running from a central mountain in different directions—North, East, South, and West—and the Swastika is merely a map of Atlantis showing those four rivers rising from the same center.

Anyway, whatever its origin was the Swastika now stands for the Badge of Fellowship among Scouts all over the world, and when anyone has done a kindness to a Scout it is their privilege to present him—or her—with this token of their gratitude, which makes him a sort of member of the Brotherhood, and entitles him to the help of any other Scout at any time and at any place.

I want specially to remind Scouts to keep their eyes open and never fail to spot anyone wearing this badge. It is their duty then to go up to such person, make the Scout sign, and ask if they can be of any service to the wearer. (Pinetree Web)

Friendship Badge

I am not sufficiently acquainted with Atlantis lore to make any worthwhile comment upon it as a specific influence of Baden-Powell, but it is certainly a curious reference.  In this passage we find some basic tenets and symbols of Scouting enunciated:  Discipline.  The four points of the compass.  International fellowship and brotherhood.  Mutual Assistance and Service.  The scout sign is mentioned.  He reminds Scouts “to keep their eyes open.”   It’s useful to recall B-P’s explanation of the Scout fleur-de-lis:  The two stars on the two side arms stand for the two eyes of the Wolf Cub having been opened before he became a Scout...”  It also points the way, and its three points represent the three major points of the Scout oath.  The three points of the fleur-de-lis superimposed upon the four arms of the swastika brings to mind the twelve points of the American Scout Law, not to mention myriad Biblical associations.

Freemason Dan Beard, another influence on B-P, merged his group the Boy Pioneers with the nascent BSA in 1910.  He was the first national Scout commissioner, helped design the Scout uniform and developed the First Class Scout badge.  He also continued to maintain his own projects, one of which was the "Dan Beard Outdoor School for Boys" in the mountains of Pike County, Pennsylvania until at least 1922.  I have seen a photo of a uniform from one of these camps and the hat is adorned with curious symbols.  On one side there are three red and white crosses circumscribed by circles, and a blue six-pointed star of the type commonly referred to as the “Star of David.”  On the other side there is black and white swastika and another red cross.  The crosses apparently represent “notches,” or tokens of recognition.  The Beard scheme also included “top-notches” represented by other symbols; the blue Star of David, for example, honors Theodore Roosevelt.  Other symbols include a heart, an anchor, an Indian chief’s head and a cow’s skull, replete with horns.  We find the Indian Chief in the OA.  The anchor appears in Freemasonry, as does the “naked” heart; this heart also figures in the symbolism of various college fraternities of Masonic origin, such as Sigma Phi Epsilon.  It is also found on the 2nd highest BSA rank (Life).  The cow’s skull brings to mind the horns of Seton’s Woodcraft badge.  The star appears on Scouting’s fleur-de-lis and it forms Scouting’s 3rd highest rank (Star).  What the swastika represents is unknown; given its widespread diffusion it could be from anywhere.  In my copy of A Short History of the World (1922), by Freemason H.G. Wells, it is used on the fronts-piece. Kipling also used it to decorate his books.  Given B-P’s interest in the use of the swastika to symbolize obedience, we should also note that the seventh British Scout Law reads: “A scout is obedient. He obeys his parents, Scoutmaster, Patrol Leader and all other duly constituted authorities.”[6]

Beard is honored today by The Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award.  The award is presented to a Master Masons who are registered Scouters and active in the Scouting program and who, among other criteria, strengthen the relationship between Freemasonry and Scouting.  The award consists of a certificate endorsed by the recipient's Grand Master, a Masonic neck medallion (a square and compasses upon a sunburst with a blue and silver ribbon), and a BSA-approved patch to be worn with a Scout uniform.

B-P’s Scouting borrow heavily from the writings of Ernest Thompson Seton and his influence, especially on the BSA, cannot be underestimated.  His Birch Bark Roll predated B-P by some years, and with B-P’s blessing he was intimately involved in the BSA’s foundation, writing the first handbook in 1910 and playing an executive role (Chief Scout) thereafter until an acrimonious parting of ways in 1915.  There proved a fundamental difference between B-P, the soldier, and Seton, the naturalist, and the BSA chose to follow B-P’s lead, whose interpretation of Scouting’s possibilities was not surprisingly more martial.  In many ways there was a fundamentally different approach to nature and man’s place in it.

During his Scouting days, Seton was well known through the articles he penned as the “Black Wolf.”  After his split with the BSA, he launched the Woodcraft League with the publication of the Book of Woodcraft, (1916) an elaboration on the Birch Bark Rolls of 1902.

All members of the Woodcraft League were authorized to wear the badge of the League: a white shield with blue horns.  The badge looks like a sun-disk superimposed over a crescent moon.  Perhaps it is a horned full moon; it could just as well be an Egyptian tiara or the headdress of Diana.  One cannot help but think of the union of Goddess and Horned God celebrated in Wiccan ritual; it is a symbol which would not be out of place in any coven.  At least one author has suggested that Gardner’s Wicca was an offshoot of an English Woodcraft group.  This might be a bit far-fetched if the Book of Woodcraft was not, quite simply, so infused with such a pagan sensibility.  Take the Seven Secrets of Woodcraft.  They are worth quoting in detail, with italics added:

The Fourfold Law. From the Great Central Fire are four pathways: the Body Way, the Mind Way, the Spirit Way and the Service Way. Along these four all men must go if they would be truly men. And each of these leads to a lamp, a little fire that we light from the Great Central Fire. These lamps are Beauty, Truth, Fortitude and Love. From these four, issue the twelve laws of Woodcraft, and this is the secret of the Fourfold Fire.

The Medicine in the Sky. ....This is perhaps the greatest secret: that the sun rays have power to purge away many of the worst ills that afflict mankind....

The Sacred Fire.  The rubbing stick fire has always been the sacred fire, the "Need Fire." You can make it if you follow the directions in this Birch Bark Roll, with balsam fir in the north and east, with cedar in the south, with yucca stalks in the southwest. This is the sunlight bottled up in the wood, and it comes forth again under the power of the bow. With this we light the Great Central Fire of Council. It is the symbol of the one Great Spirit.

The Bread of the Woods. ....Its leaf is like a slender arrow head....

The North Star. No one need get lost at night in the wilderness if the sky be clear enough to see the stars; for the seven stars, that is, the Dipper, point to the North Star, the Home Star, swinging around it, but pointing ever to it.

Vigil. Do you know that when you sit alone all night by a fire in some high sheltered place, without food, books; or company, you get very close to the Great Spirit? And if you earnestly desire it, you may hear the voices and will surely have the guidance of better wisdom than your own.

The Peace of the Night. There was a time when our grandmothers taught us that the night air was poison. We know now that this is a mistake....We know that the Angel of the Night brings healing under her wings....[7]

There are of course many themes present which appear in the BSA.  The four pathways, leading off into B-P’s four directions, carrying light which flows from a central fire like the four streams of Atlantis from a central source.  Then there are four lamps to be lit, from each of which is derived three points of the Woodcraft Law.  We speak of the Great Spirit, or Great Scoutmaster of All Scouts.  There is the sun and its rays, the seven stars and the arrow-headed Bread of life.  Finally, there are elements which became part of the Order of the Arrow beginning in 1915:  The North Star, the Vigil and the Peace of Night.  The description of the Vigil is especially intriguing.  The OA Ceremony for the Vigil calls for a candidate to sit alone through the night by a fire, where during the night he is called upon by two voices in the woods.  Towards morning he is invested with the sign and watchwords of the Vigil Honor and invested with a new name.  Is the OA’s Vigil Honor based upon Seton’s  6th secret?

The Twelve Woodcraft Laws enunciated by Seton are undeniably echoed in the BSA:

The four Lamps lighted from the Great Central Fire are Beauty, Truth, Fortitude and Love.

From each of these Lamps issue three rays: Be brave, be silent and obey, Be clean, be strong, protect wild life always; Speak true, be reverent, play fair when you strive Be kind, be helpful, glad you are alive.[8]

The Twelve Woodcraft Laws would emerge in the BSA as the twelve points of the Scout Law:  “Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent.”  B-P  posited nine in 1908, but added cleanliness to make ten in 1911.  In 1938 these points were modified but ten remained.  In addition to open eyes, the two five-pointed stars on Scouting’s fleur-de-lis are said to represent the ten points of the British Scout Law.  Given this symbolism of ten in British Scouting, it seems logical to assume that the change to twelve was somehow connected to Seton’s influence.  Incidentally, the American additions to the Law are “Clean and Reverent.” 

Scouting has always reinvented itself when the program appears to be struggling.  Thus in 1978 we see the Developed Arrow Scheme (1978-1990) of British Cub Scouting:

Arrow Scheme Badges

There were three Arrows which could be earned in the order Bronze, Silver and Gold. The Cub had choice of the activities he could do for his Arrows.

They were divided into four areas

For each arrow, he needed to do twelve activities, three from each activity area. (ScoutBase UK)

                        Sound familiar?

In the Book of Woodcraft Seton wrote that “Certain adult tribes devoted to the mystic side of Woodcraft have been organized as Red Lodges or Sun Lodges.”[9]  Seton developed the Lodges for men and women over 21 that emphasized the "mystic side of Woodcraft."  Included in the adult program were three degrees of initiation.  Red Lodge is sometimes used to refer to Royal Arch Masonry, as opposed to the Blue Lodge, or Craft Masonry.  For those not familiar with the history of Freemasonry, a schism within the first Grand Lodge of England developed over a disagreement on the place of this Rite within the Craft.  Its use was considered essential by those called the Antients.  The Moderns rejected it.  The Antients wound up being the splintering faction; they took their name from the supposition that the Royal Arch was part of an older tradition rejected by the Moderns.  Continental Masonry, due to reasons not the least of which were political, was influenced more by the Antients, so it too is sometimes called Red Masonry.  Some have cited John Dee, Sir Francis Bacon and or a group of Rosicrucians as its source.  Croix-Rouge Degrees continue to have a predominant place in both of the appendant bodies of Masonry.

John Dee, in addition to being a brilliant mathematician and the first to apply Euclidean geometry to navigation, was an alchemist and court astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I.  He was also a secret agent, and his communiqués to her from the continent were signed with two circles followed by an elongated seven.[10]  The circles represented his eyes, wide open, and seven was considered a lucky number to alchemists.[11]    Revisionist historian Michael Hoffman, quoting from Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End:

“In the Middle Ages people believed in the devil and feared him.  But this was the twenty-first century...It was                 One World.” 

            Hoffman explains:

The materialization of this....diabolical nightmare [Satanic One World Government], was inseminated by a millennia old esoteric current, fine-tuned and propelled by England’s royal astrologer and secret agent, John Dee, code-named 007...for full viral materialization in our 2(001)1 age.  The process began with the number 7 and culminates in a hermetic game of hazard or “chance,” 21.

Hoffman elaborates in a footnote:

The Zohar says that “everything lies veiled in numbers.”  This principle corresponds to the three sevens of the 2001 gateway to the “21” epoch.  The mechanics of numbers as delineated in the Zohar and elsewhere in the Kabbalah, are the products of a consensus about measurement.  Dee’s significant number 7 and Clarke’s only slightly disguised, significant number 21, are arbitrary yardsticks imposed on our perception of the temporal order so as to orient us to the space-time conjunction necessary to the maintenance of the once-and-future inevitability of the Cryptocracy’s Camelot allegory. (Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare)

It is irresistible to reflect upon this passage, which I stumbled upon unintentionally during the course of writing this article.  First of all, the title of Clarke’s book recalls the “coming of age” theme of the Arrowe Park Jamboree, the third jamboree in twenty-one years of the movement.  In Clarke’s book the end of childhood is a reference to the coming of age of humanity in the 21st century, as it enters a New Age of a one-world government heralded by the appearance of demon-like Overlords who had long been preparing for their appearance with subliminal programming.  If we consider the aim of Scouting is to regenerate humanity through the development of youth, we must also consider the recurrence of the numbers three, seven and twenty-one in its symbolism and point out its analogues in seemingly diverse contexts.  It is, no matter how you take it, a interesting Hoffman has spotted the same patterns in literature and the occult which outline a program for the development, either positive or negative, of humanity.

I would here like to emphasize that I do not profess to believe the Scouts are in any way part of a global “scheme” in the sense of what Hoffman is describing, but given the course my research was taking I felt compelled to include these paragraphs.  It is at least a fantastic coincidence, and entertaining.

In the great tessellated chessboard of the Masonic Universe, can a Black Wolf exist without his other half?  Enter Jonathan Hargrave, a.k.a. the “White Wolf.”  Hargrave was an ambitious young man who rose within Scouting’s ranks only to be ejected, like Seton, due to his opposition to the militarism of the movement.  Perhaps it proved too much for B-P when the White Wolf founded an organization called the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift; the Kindred was formalized on August 18, 1920 and Hargrave was expelled from Scouting less than five months later.  Hargrave based the Kindred on Seton’s Woodcraft movement, having long admired the man.  However, like both Seton and B-P, the aim of the Hargrave was no less than the regeneration of a society gone slack in the face of urbanized luxury.  The Kindred, like the Wandervogel, was preoccupied with folk traditions and the mythic idyll of ancient life, which may explain Hargrave’s influence on the German youth movements of the 1920’s.  Hargrave also incorporated Native American trappings into the Kindred; according to the Kibbo Kift Foundation, the Kindred was organized into Clans and Tribes and each individual was given a Indian woodcraft name by his peers.  Weekend camping and the annual “Althing” featured ritual work inspired by Native American lore and performed in archaic language.[12]  In these aspects it shares many elements with the OA.

In 1920 the aims of the Kift were written down in the form of a Seven-point Covenant: 1. Open Air Education for the Children.  Camp Training and Naturecraft  2. Health of Body, Mind and Spirit  3. Craft Training Groups and Craft Guilds  4. The Woodcraft Family, or Roof Tree  5. Local Folk Moots and Cultural Development  6. Disarmament of Nations - Brotherhood of Man  7. International Education based on these points: Freedom of Trade between Nations, Stabilisation of the Purchasing Power of Money in all countries, Open Negotiations instead of secret treaties and diplomacy and a World Council.[13]  In the 1930’s the Kindred evolved into a militant political group advocating Social Credit and in still later years Hargrave claimed to have psychic healing powers.

A brief digression....

Point 2 of the Covenant, “Health of Mind, Body, Spirit,” mimics the first of Seton’s Seven Secrets of Woodcraft.  But this credo is not unique to Seton and Hargrave.  The symbol of Alcoholics Anonymous is a triangle circumscribed by a circle; it’s motto:  Mind, Body, Spirit.  The AA Program has Twelve Steps.  Like Masonry and “Scoutism,” AA has also been accused of being a religion.  The YMCA has also been thus accused, and promoting health of Mind, Body, Spirit is an important part of its mission statement; a red triangle figures prominently in its logo, in the crux of the Y.  The AA evolved out of an evangelical group called the Oxford Group, itself founded by a former YMCA secretary named Frank Buchman.  Furthermore, the YMCA was a crucial early supporter of the BSA.

The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry was founded by Ernest and Aubrey Westlake in 1915, with Seton’s aid.  Father and son, the Westlakes were Quakers interested in Paganism and Woodcraft.  They organized the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry into three grades: wood cubs, woodcraft scouts, and Pathfinders.  The “elite core” of Woodcraft Chivalry worked at Sun Lodge at Godshill in the New Forest.[14]  The three grades and the use of the term Sun Lodge recall Freemasonry and Seton’s use of the term in the Book of Woodcraft.  The Westlakes asked John Hargrave to join the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry in 1917.  He didn’t join but became a member of their guiding council.[15] 

The Woodcraft Folk formed after breaking away from the Kift in 1925 in response to Hargrave’s authoritarian tendencies.  Their first leader, Leslie Paul, was only 19 when he assumed the mantle.  Although Seton did not help found the group, he was a big influence on Paul and the two had met, at least long enough for Seton to teach the younger man some Native American dance steps.  The Folk symbol depicts a five-rayed sun, either about to rise or set between two pine trees which bring to mind the Masonic pillars Jachin and Boaz.  They still exist today, and are kind of counterpoint to Scouting.

Woodcraft Folk

In 1910 B-P asked William Booth[16], founder of the Salvation Army (1878), to become a part of Scouting’s governing body.  Booth refused, but saw Scouting’s potential and in 1913 formed the Life Saving Scout Movement, replete with red and grey uniforms, patrols, badges and camping.  They held out 35 years before becoming a part of the Boy Scout Association in 1948.  In 1915, Catherine Booth inaugurated the Life Saving Guards for girls.  This group was absorbed by the Girl Guides in 1959.  It’s goal, according to the Salvation Army website, was the “enrichment of Mind, Body and Spirit.”  The Crest of the Salvation army features several Masonic-like symbols such as crossed swords and a 33-rayed sun.  The cross and crown is reminiscent of the symbol of the Knights Templar; a five-pointed crown is decorated with five gems and surmounted by five five-pointed stars.  There are seven “shots” at the bottom of the crest which represent the seven truths of the Gospel.  The S in the center wrapped around the cross represents “Salvation.”  I have seen a church in Toulouse, the Basilica of the Daurade, which features a similar motif and a Black Madonna.  At the Daurade, however, the S is a serpent.  In addition to the Knights Templar, identical cross and crown symbols figured prominently on the early publications of Christian Science (1879) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (1869).

Another religious body which developed its own Scout groups is the Church of Latter Day Saints.  Joseph Smith himself authorized the organization of a youth group as early as 1843 and many others followed suit.  In 1875 Brigham Young amalgamated them all under the aegis of the Young Men's Mutual Improvement Association (YMMIA).  In 1911 the Church formed the YMMIA Scouts for young men ages twelve through eighteen; in 1913 they were affiliated with the BSA and issued a national charter.  The YMMIA is currently organized into two “priesthoods”:  the Aaronic Priesthood for twelve to eighteen-year olds and the Melchizedek Priesthood for unmarried men ages eighteen and older.  A group called the Young Men are an auxiliary to the Aaronic Priesthood and are responsible for Scouting activities in the church.  The general presidency of the Young Men is comprised of three members and since 1989 the general board has been made up of deacon, teacher, and priest committees.


The Young Men are divided by age into deacons (Scouts); teachers (Venturers); and priests (Explorers).  Each “quorum” is presided over by a three-member presidency.  The Young Men organization uses Scouting as part of its activity program and Young Men are encouraged to earn the Eagle Scout (or international equivalent) and religious service recognition badges called “Duty to God” and “On my Honor.”[17]  The LDS, needless to say, is pretty close to the BSA.  It is the single biggest sponsor of Troops and Packs in the USA and it was the first church to recognize the BSA, in 1911.  It is also, as far as I can tell, the only religion in the world which uses Scouting as an official part of its youth development program.  It is also worth bearing in mind that “Mormonism” is itself a ritual-based system of increasingly elite inner groupings, a reflection of a cosmology which is much the same: three increasingly lovely Heavens, the best of which is naturally reserved for the LDS faithful.  The inner Temple Ceremonies of Mormonism were also, beyond question, “appropriated” from Freemasonry. 

We would remiss if we did not at least take a look at a few of the other Boy Scout honor societies which bear Masonic characteristics.  Manhawka (1919) was created in St Joseph, Missouri by a Scout Executive named Tilden.  It had three levels of membership including Papoose, Brave and Warrior.  The St. Joseph group was eclipsed when H. Roe Bartle arrived and created the Tribe of Mic-O-Say in 1925.  The Tribe of Mic-O-Say also existed in the Coronado Area Council in Kansas from 1944-1949 under the name "Order of the Red Arrow.”  It was started there by one Leonard Lewis.  It became OA Lodge 434 in 1949.  Clan of the Mystic Oak’s (1921) purpose was threefold and had three honors:  First, Second, and Third Degree.  It became OA Lodge Amangamek Wipit Lodge 470.  The Tribe of Ku-Ni-Eh (1922) was started by Arthur E. Roberts in Cincinnati.  Apparently candidates had an arrow scratched into their arm with a needle and they were given an arrow shaft and told to make an arrow with their name on it; it was placed in a quiver with the other member's arrows.  Alpha Phi Omega (1925) was started at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania by Freemason Frank Reed Horton, referred to as the “light-bearer.”  APO has three guiding principles: Leadership, Friendship and Service.  H. Roe Bartle was “Supreme Grand Master” from 1931-1934, whereupon the use of the title was discontinued.  The Tribe of the Black Arrow existed in Comanche Trail Council, Texas from 1931-1935.  It was replaced by Ku Ni Eh in 1935 and Ku Ni Eh was later replaced by the OA.  The ranks were: Hunter, Brave and Warrior.  The Order of Nikiwigi existed at Camp Nutter in York County, Maine in the 1930's and Camp Sachem in the Sachem Council.  It was replaced by OA lodge 496. There were three levels of membership:  Ranger, Order of the Trail and Nikiwigi.

The earliest Scouting honor society known, The Tribe of Gimogash, was formed on May 16, 1914 by J. St Clair Mendenhall.  Gimogash meant "the silent power.”  There were three degrees:  First Degree was for First Class Scouts, Second Degree was for Life & Star Scouts and Third Degree was for Eagle Scouts.  At 21 one was ineligible to join.  The patch was three-sided and there were three ideals:  honor, leadership and service.  The initiation ceremony took place within a triangle and featured three Indians.  Candidates for the initiation ritual were roped together then taken single file to the council area.  The 1918 yearbook has a full color picture of the emblem and it is a black outer triangle with a blue inner triangle.  There is yellow rising sun in the middle, and there are 13 rays coming off the sun.[18]

The “silent power” and the rest represent just a few of the Scouting honor societies that existed over several years, many of which eventually became, not always ungrudgingly, OA Lodges.  There are dozens of groups documented but there are in many cases few details.  One must assume that at least a few more shared Masonic characteristics.  In many respects, the OA was the society that won out over many others.


Scouting has not only contained Masonic content in its independent honor societies.  The Senior Degree Honor Society was an official part of the BSA program from 1917 until the mid-50’s.  Details are limited but a pair of Scouters named Michael R. Brown and Michael Eby have put together a few facts.  At its founding in Montclair, New Jersey the Honor Society was called the Senior Division, BSA.  By 1923 it existed in New York and perhaps in Florida.  James E. West, Chief Scout, was a member, perhaps explaining how the program came to be an official part of Senior Scouting in 1935.  How large the program got and when it ended is unclear.  It was probably never very large, perhaps a 1000 or so members concentrated primarily in Brooklyn Council, and it is presumed to have been eclipsed by the OA.  There were two degrees in the program:  Merit Degree and Honor Degree.  The boy had to be at least fifteen for the Merit Degree and eighteen for the Honor Degree.  If the boy did not make Honor degree before his 21st birthday he was made non-active, but if he did he was allowed to continue and at 25 became an alumni. (It is worth noting here that in DeMolay active members become alumni at the age of 21). There were apparently four citations:  Third Order, Second Order and First Order.  The Roosevelt Citation--the group’s highest honor--could only be earned after the 21st birthday.  Did the Roosevelt Citation represent a kind of third degree?  Although adult involvement was kept low, there were two adults per chapter, a Degree Master and a Deputy Degree Master.  All the chapters were under one Degree Master General per council.

The rituals of the Society are filled with symbolic encounters.  Three officers were required:  a Master, Senior and Junior Banneret.  There was also a Master of Ceremonies, a Secretary, a Treasurer and two Gate Keepers.  The Banneret, in addition to being an officer, was a signal flag used in the Society’s symbol:  two crossed Flags (Bannerets)--like two crossed swords or the two pillars at the entrance to a Masonic Lodge--formed the “Gate of Decision.”  One pole stood for “Firmness,” the other “Purpose.”  In the Merit Degree there was a “Story of the Stone.”  “Three Grand Questions” were asked and a pledge was made.  Another part of the ceremony was called “The New Light” which featured a “Story of the Coins.”[19]  All the images in these parables should strike a chord with anyone familiar with Masonic ritual.

Masonic content in Scout ceremonies is not limited to its honor programs.  A BSA publication called Investiture Ceremonies (Series B. No. 3, 1928) details three ceremonies designed to invest a new Tenderfoot Scout.  One is called the “Circle” Investiture Ceremony.  The other two are called the “Triangle” Investiture Ceremony and, perhaps most significantly, that of the “Compass.”  They have some definitive Masonic elements which will, again, sound familiar to anyone who is familiar with Masonic ritual and symbolism.

In the Circle Investiture Scouts form a ceremonial ring around a small table covered in dark cloth.  Three candles in a triangle are placed on this altar, surrounded by twelve smaller candles.  The three candles stand for the three points of the Scout oath, the twelve for the twelve Scout laws.  In addition to four Scouts placed at the cardinal points—the Scoutmaster in the North—there is an outer guard.  A Scout stays with the candidate(s) in an ante-room, where he helps to prepare them by, among other things, blindfolding them.  In the ritual, the Scoutmaster announces that “beyond our circle of brotherhood” a boy is “groping his way toward” the “Gate of Opportunity” in order to pass through and unlock the “mysteries” he finds there, whereupon three loud knocks are heard at the door.  A Patrol leader is sent to investigate.  The Patrol Leader finds the candidate, reports back to the Scoutmaster and is instructed to challenge the candidate for the Golden Key, then bring him before Scoutmaster.  He is thereupon challenged as to his qualifications.  Besides having passed all the tests, “by what further right” does he possess the key, asks the Scoutmaster.  He is vouched for by the Patrol Leader, who removes the blindfold and escorts him to the various troop leaders stationed East, South, West and North.  The Patrol Leader greets these leaders with three taps of his staff upon the floor, and they then impart to the candidate lessons about the Scout Oath:  Duty to Country, to Others and to Oneself.  When he is returned to the Scoutmaster in the North, he is ready to be “conducted” back to the center of the circle “Where he may officially assume this obligation which....he is now ready to take with his eyes open to all that it involves.”  The Scoutmaster raps a pedestal three times and imparts to the new Scout the oath and Scout sign.  The Candles symbolizing the Scout Law are lit and explained.  He is then given the handclasp.  A closing follows.

The Triangle Ceremony is a much simpler affair but bears many of the same features.  Scouts are seated in a triangle.  A small cloth-covered table adorned with three candles sits in the middle.  There is a guard at the door and a guide prepares the candidate by blindfolding him.  The Scoutmaster announces that  there is a candidate without but the troop must “wait until we are satisfied that he is duly qualified” to enter.  Three knocks are heard.  A Patrol Leader announces this fact, and he is sent to investigate.  Upon entering the triangle, the candidate’s blindfold is removed and he is turned to face each point of the triangle so that he may receive a lesson on the three points of the Scout Oath.  The Oath is given, then the handclasp.  The scoutmaster then says “May your progress be ever upward and onward as you travel over the trails in Scouting.”  Following this simple investiture is a more light-hearted initiation which seeks to impart a serious message.  In this initiation the Scoutmaster explains that the twelve candles representing the Scout Law are placed in a square because it represents the equilibrium of the Scouting program, namely the attempt to develop the Physical, Mental, Spiritual and Social sides of the boy.  This must obviously derive from Seton, who emphasized the Mind, Body, Spirit and Service Ways of the Woodcraft Laws.  (It is also another connection with the YMCA slogan.  YMCA executive Edward M. Robinson had in fact offered the BSA the use of YMCA infrastructure to help the BSA get started; the Y’s organizational assistance has been considered a crucial element of the BSA’s early success over rival organizations.)[20]

The Compass Investiture is so-named because Scouts stand at the cardinal points and the twelve in between.  A candidate, blindfolded, is led into the circle by the left arm.  He is barefoot and wears a blue sash over his left shoulder (loyalty) and a white sash (purity) over his right.  (Recall that Seton’s Woodcraft badge was blue and white; in addition, a Sachem in Woodcraft, as of 1920, was entitled to wear similarly-crossed sashes.)  A red sash around his waist symbolizes sacrifice.  The ceremony begins much the same way as the others.  The candidates are announced, and as the Scoutmaster instructs the Senior Patrol Leader to take charge of the ceremony, the candidates arrive, announced by three animal cries.  The Candidates are informed by the officers at the Cardinal Points of the obligations of the Scout Oath.  The twelve other boys then give a brief summary of the Scout Law.  By this they time they have made two circuits of the Compass and are ready for “further instruction.”  They are given the Scout Sign, the Oath and the badge of Tenderfoot.  As with the other ceremonies, the Compass Investiture is concluded with a brief prayer to the “Great Scoutmaster of All Scouts.” [21]

B-P’s good friend Kipling once remarked that the only place you could find a Christian, Muslim and a Hindu sitting down peacefully together was in a Masonic Lodge and he wholeheartedly promoted the religious tolerance he saw exemplified therein.  Good friend B-P never became a Mason but he the agreed with the sentiment, and he seems to have wanted to expand this ecumenicalism to the Scout troop.  He never regretted inviting Muslims and Buddhists to recite prayers at his training camps, even after having to defend himself against charges of spiritual relativism.  If B-P’s lack of religious bigotry concerned churchmen, his seeming rejection of revealed religion horrified them.  In 1917 he had written “Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity.”  In 1921 he proclaimed nature was the best way to know God and that no one religion held the truth.  B-P seems to have come by his religious iconoclasm honestly.  His father had died in disgrace, a veritable heretic, especially for his book The Order of Nature, which proclaimed that Darwinism shattered many claims of the Bible and that there would have to be an end to the application of logic to the Gospels.  Only their moral truth would be considered.  The book was apparently quite pantheistic, and further writings denied the miracles.  He was savaged by contemporary Anglican theologians, a fact that was not lost on young B-P, who thereafter nurtured mixed feelings towards the clergy.  As early as 1898 B-P called The Order of Nature  “the most remarkable book I have ever read.”  In his Rovering to Success (1930) he titled a section “Nature Knowledge as a Step Towards Realizing God.”[22]

Many feel at times B-P represented Scouting itself as a form of religion.  I am certain he thought of it as one way to get closer to God.  It seems to me that there is an interlocking series of symbolic journeys encapsulated in Scouting, journeys by which boys advance in various fashions towards manhood and self-knowledge.  The OA was one of many American Scout honor societies--quasi-secretive, frankly elitist--that patterned themselves on Masonic models which were formed to facilitate this voyage.  Given that Masonry has influenced so many organizations, it is not surprising that we also find correspondences in Scouting to a variety of Western esoteric symbols and traditions.  Some of these links are tenuous, perhaps coincidence, but there is so much meaningful connection between disparate elements that it is difficult to cast them aside as frivolous.  Within the welter of social and religious experimentation of the 19th Century that resulted in the great social movements of the age, Scouting persists, still a major force in the world, dedicated to the cultivation of mind, body and spirit towards the overall aim of brotherhood and service.


[1] Sentinels were organized into “Towers” and the scheme had three degrees based on four principles:  religious duty, patriotism, sacrifice and work, each with a corresponding “Watch,” or ritual. For more info, see Freemasonry, Scouting and the Order of the Arrow. 

[2] It could just as easily be read as “we below.”  It is also a conflation that echoes Masonic practice, such as in the word Jabulon (Jah-Baal-On), which figures prominently in the York Rite. 

[3] The Masonic Service of Oklahoma; report to the M. W. Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Mason of the State of Oklahoma :  “We believe that we, as an organization, should keep in touch in some way through some organized effort with the boys after they have put on long pants and after they have graduated from the Boy Scout Movement. There is an organization today known as the ‘Order of DeMolay’ which is at this time gaining headway especially in some of our larger cities. This organization takes the boys after their 16th year and directs their movements, looks after their interests, and aids in the molding of their character until they become of age. There is one organization that says, ‘Give me the child until he is 12 years of age, and you can have him the rest of the time.’ In other words, if the boys are taken as they are now in the Boy Scout Movement, and after the boy is 16 years of age, DeMolay continues the work of the Boy Scout Movement, a larger percent of the boys so trained will become useful and serviceable men in this life” (The Builder, Sept. 1920).  From theWisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library:

[4] The other two ranks are Bobcat, (1st), and Bear (formerly known as the Lion).  The Bear is the third animal step before Webelos, a badge symbolized by a fleur-de-lis which, in my day, bore an odd resemblance to an ear of corn.  The Webelos neckerchief is a kind of tartan which bears the same symbol.

[5] “Many theories have been presented concerning the symbolism of the Swastika, its relation to ancient deities and its representation of certain qualities. In the estimation of certain writers it has been respectively the emblem of Zeus, of Baal, of the sun, of the sun-god, of the sun-chariot of Agni the fire-god, of Indra the rain-god, of the sky, the sky-god, and finally the deity of all deities the great God, the Maker and Ruler of the Universe. It has also been held to symbolize light or the god of light, of the forked lightning, and of water. It is believed by some to have been the oldest Aryan symbol. In the estimation of others it represents Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, Creator, Preserver, Destroyer.” Thomas Wilson, Curator, Department of Prehistoric Anthropology, U.S. National Museum, 1894. This quote is taken from the preface of his book The Swastika, which can be found in its entirety here:

[6] “Scouting teaches that the scout is necessarily a person of distinction, of whom more is expected than others. The same tendency toward Pharisaism…. Like the Blue Lodge of Masonry, Scouting has three degrees (viz. Star, Life, Eagle). And as Masons may continue to proceed into higher degrees, so scouts are given merit badges for progress up the ladder of accomplishments until the degree Eagle Scout is reached.… All of which seems to justify the conclusion that the Boy Scout movement is patterned upon lodging, specifically Freemasonry, and is in its religion, morality, secretism, organization, oath and symbolism a progymnasium for secretion, specifically Freemasonry.” (Dr. Theodore Graebner, Y Religion and B. S. Morality quoted by The Boy Scout Movement in America, Edwin A. Breiling, 1946.)  From the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library:

[7] The Inquiry Net, Rick Seymour. Rick has done an amazing job of putting original texts online, replete with scans, OCR and extensive editing.

[8] ibid.

[9] ibid.

[10] Although many have interpreted the 7 as a square root sign, Ian Fleming supposedly designated James Bond ‘‘007’’ after seeing the symbol in a biography on Dee.

[11] B-P, another fan of open eyes, was also, among many other things, a spy.

[12] LP Elwell-Sutton, Chief Executive Officer, Kibbo Kift Foundation, 1979.

[13] ibid.

[14] Hence the claimed Wicca connection.  Gardner was supposedly initiated into a coven in the New Forest in 1939.  The use of the word Craft and the fact that Gardnerian Wicca has three degrees is also worth pondering; it resembles both the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry and Freemasonry.

[15] Liddell, Bill and Howard, MA.  The Pickingill Papers. Capall Bann Publishing, Berk, 1994.

[16] A Freemason?

[17] From “Young Men,” by Charles E. Mitchener and Mark E. Hurs, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Macmillan, 1992.

[18] This information about Scouting Honor societies depend entirely upon the work of David L. Eby.

[19] Details of the Honor Degree are unknown.

[20] Robert W. Peterson, The Boy Scouts: An American Adventure (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1984)

[21] All quotes from the rituals come from Rick Seymour’s transcriptions of these ceremonies on The Inquiry Net.

[22] B-P and Nature Knowledge, Rick Seymour.  This article relies heavily on Tom Jeal’s book.






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