Chapter 5 - Managing Spirit and Traditions

White Stag Staff Ceremonies

The ceremonies for staff members usually include the following events.

Legend Ceremony

This ceremony usually begins staff development, and typically includes the awarding of a staff "training" neckerchief, designed for and unique to that program year and phase. The ceremony itself is an adaptation of the candidate legend ceremony. The White Stag Legend is adapted from the award-wining children's book by Kate Seredy, The White Stag, published in 1937. The White Stag Candidate Opening Campfire is used as the basis for the staff ceremony.

Staff Neckerchief Ceremony

Usually the night before the candidate arrive, and including their staff neckerchiefs for the year and phase. (See Youth Staff Neckerchief Ceremony.)

Adult Neckerchief Ceremony

There is one ceremony for adult members of the program, usually held the night before the candidates arrive. It is conducted by the Program Director. The ceremony is passed from one Program Director to the next.

Program Director Ceremony

There is also a ceremony to induct the new Program Director. One special totem, belonging to the Program Director, deserves special mention. The Krackenstock is a special stick, or branch, which contains the names of all past Program Directors. It is passed from one Program Director to the next.

White Stag Summer Camp Ceremonies

The candidates participate in two key ceremonies:

What follows are the regular ceremonies conducted each year in White Stag. They are done in a variety of ways, different from year to year, based upon the experience and desires of those conduct-ing them, and for whom they are being conducted for. Nonetheless, they retain consistent purposes and elements.

Youth Staff Neckerchief Ceremony


To inspire staff to their optimum effort during the week, and to provide each an opportunity to set challenging personal goals.


Held the night before the candidates arrive for summer camp.


An area where each staff member can be left in privacy, then assembled in small groups before a small campfire, and finally before a large campfire. There should be a sense of vistas unseen, things unknown.


See "Ceremonial Preparation Work Sheet".

Roles and Procedures

At the sound of three blasts of the Kudu horn, an adult leader will assemble the youth staff and ask them to follow him. He will lead them, using a Tiki Torch or a flashlight, to the various station points. There will be one station per youth staff member, each marked by a trail lantern containing a single candle lighted. A letter from the phase advisor tied with a green ribbon is placed at each station.

A youth staff member will be left at each station point, told to read and contemplate the contents of the letter which will be a memento of the occasion for each of them. They will reassemble on the trail at the next sound of the Kudu horn and as they leave they are to pinch out the candle and return to trail and follow the adult leader again.

The leader will take them down the trail to the first small campfire where one of the Associate Advisors (AAs) will be waiting. He will drop off one-third of the members there, then proceed to the next fire where he will drop off another one-third of the staff, proceed to the last fire with the final one-third.

The AAs will open the discussion by asking each member to discuss where we have been, where we are going, what he feels his responsibility to the candidates will be, and what he hopes to accomplish. The AA's will initiate discussion and then listen to the thoughts of the youth staff.

The Kudu will sound again, and after they re-group on the trail, an adult will lead the staff forward. The adult will proceed to a large central campfire circle. The other AA's will stay behind and put out all fires, then follow.

At the large campfire, the Phase Advisor (PA) will be waiting and will greet the youth staff with these remarks:

You started along this trail tonight by individually pondering the challenge of the week to come; you further pursued this quest by sharing your thoughts in small groups and at this third and last station we join together to make the sum of the spirit of the members of this staff, far greater than any one of us could generate alone. At no other time in the coming week shall we be together in such a contemplative manner as this.

Most of the time we will be alone or in pairs working with candidates, or fulfilling whatever our individual tasks may be. Those few times that we are together as a staff will be late at night, hectic, and stressful and they will not equal the serenity of this moment. May the spirit of this moment be with us the entire week and continue to lead us to our ultimate goal.

At this time, each of you is invited to share any thoughts or feelings about your expecta-tions of the week to come.

Time will now be allotted for each member to make any comments or thoughts that he would like to contribute. At the conclusion of these remarks the program will proceed.

The staff neckerchiefs will be on hand, rolled and ready and will be presented to each Patrol Counselor by the Phase Advisor.

At the conclusion of the neckerchief presentation, the Advisor will read (or play a tape of) Baden Powell's message to Scouts at the 1933 World Jamboree when the idea of the White Stag as a Scout theme came into being. They will be asked to rededicate themselves to the ideals of Scouting and Exploring as they hear his words.

At the conclusion of this reading, the youth staff will be instructed to return to camp area along the trail. Adult staff members and the Senior Patrol Leader (SPL) will remain behind to put out the fire, and to proceed to Adult Ceremony later.

White Stag Candidate Opening Campfire


This campfire is the high-point and end of the candidates' first day, therefore it ought to leave him with the significance of the White Stag and the words "follow him" firmly planted in mind. All preparations ought to have this goal in mind.

Although the White Stag's basic history ought to have been explained to the candidate during Orientation earlier in the day, this ceremony is the first time he is really introduced to the characters in the White Stag Legend, and the concept of ever-increasing challenges from which so much of the program takes its basis. The legend is adapted from the book by Kate Seredy, The White Stag.


If it is presented to the entire troop on the evening the Candidates arrive at summer camp. Sunday night around 10:00 or so is a good time, as the cer-emony can take up to 1½ hours or more.


A private spot away from the other phases where the entire troop can easily hear the sto-ryteller and which lends itself to the presentation.

Roles and Procedures

The story teller(s) are the most important people in this campfire presen-tation. The White Stag Legend ought to be told from memory to give the story vitality and force. A dress rehearsal ought to be held before the candidates arrive.

One staff member is with a White Stag statue on an adjacent slope ready to illuminate it so it can be seen by the candidates upon the story teller's cue. If an echo effect is chosen for the words, "Follow me!", additional people will be stationed at staggered intervals away from the campfire. Someone will be needed to feed the fire. Two or more staff members will be responsible for escorting the candidates back to bed and taps.

Morning Ceremony

This schedule approximates what is used daily during the summer camp, except the last day, by all phases.

Troop formation SPL
Patrol reports SPL
Thought for the Day APA
Inspection APA/SPL/ASPL/Scribe
Change Patrol Leaders SPL
Change duty patrol symbols SPL
BP exercises ASPL
Yell Song Leader
Good turn challenge ASPL
Song Song Leader
Announcements SPL
Phase Advisor's challenge Advisor
Dismissal SPL

Patrols and staff assemble at ceremony area five minutes prior to morning ceremony. SPL summons patrols to line up inside area.

ASPL meets daily with service patrol 15 minutes before morning ceremony to practice flag cer-emony.

QM checks to be sure Program and Service Patrols have their respective symbols at morning cer-emony.

SCRIBE checks inspection sheets and posts results of this and other objective completion each day. Also moves the White Stag symbols on the staves that represent inspection scores.

Final Candidate Neckerchief Ceremony


To recognize the candidates for completing the week, to award them their phase neckerchief, and to encourage them to continue to fulfill the challenge of the White Stag.[4]


A small fire-circle with access from two directions to allow access and egress for patrols coming and going; space adequate to seat a patrol.


It has been traditional to wake the candidates for this ceremony on the last night of the summer camp, after they have gone to bed.

Roles and Procedures

They are told earlier in the day to obtain a stick or twig about 9-12" long and the thickness of their finger from the tree bearing the patrol name. The candidate will be told to carve his initials on the stick and set it aside near their sleeping area. At 10:15 the candidates are wakened under the Order of the Still and asked dress and bring their sticks with them. At 10:30pm the Patrol Counselor (PC) will already have their patrols at small campfires in their patrol sites. The candidates will be instructed by the PCs to prepare for the closing ceremony by getting into full uniform with necker-chief.

At 11:00 there will a triple blast of the Kudu and the patrols will move to a designated meeting area. Here the SPL will remind them they are the under the Order of the Still and move them single file to the cer-emonial area.

As the candidates enter the fire circle the SPL will indicate to them a suitable rock, branch or stump upon which they are to place their candidate neckerchief. They will then move to the fire alter and place their stick on the teepee fire lay. As the last patrol is seated, one of the Assistant Phase Advisors (APA) will say:

Fire, God to the ancients, but a slave to their sons,
Friend of our homes but a foe to our houses,
Builder and breaker of cities and civilizations.
From the cave dweller of yesterday, to the cliff dweller of today,
Fire has been inseparably interwoven with the destiny of man.
The ability to make fire is no less important today.
The number one skill a modern woodsman must master,
The most vital thing one must learn, is to build a fire and control it
Under any circumstances, anywhere, anytime.

As these words are concluded, a PC will step to the fire altar and light the fire. The Phase Advi-sor then speaks:

Together we have built the final campfire of this White Stag event. The symbol of the White Stag stands for the true spirit of Scouting, leading us always onward and upward. Tonight's campfire becomes the symbol of the Scout Spirit which burns in our hearts and inspires us to become the kind of person we have the potential to become. This fire is laid on a base of ashes you each brought from the Quest--it represents you as you were at the beginning of the week. The stick you have brought along the trail tonight represent you as you are now, carved with the pattern of good leadership.

But this still is not the end of your quest--your quest continues and you are charged to fol-low the White Stag even when you leave this place. You have traveled an exciting adventure this week and now are about to receive recognition for a job well done.

Mr. ________, will you proceed with the recognition ceremony.

The APA steps forward and says:

It was six days ago you joined together on this adventure. You have come from different places and from different units but you have discovered that when you band yourselves together as an organized patrol you have been able to accomplish much more, you could solve problems and overcome hurdles that were not possible when working alone.

If you were to withdraw your stick from the fire (removes a stick and holds it vertically upward), it would rapidly cool and soon go out. However, this stick, in association with other sticks, continues to give off a strong light and cast a warm glow, just as your life radiates more effec-tively when working cooperatively with other people.

Our fire tonight is a unique fire. It could not have been built before and it can never be built again. It is here and now--it is your life.

In a moment of silence, let us each in our own way bow our heads and give thanks to our own God for this experience together and evoke his guidance to become the best in whatever we do.

(Silence.) The PA steps forward beside the APA and speaks:

Let us maintain the spirit of this moment, this spirit of teamwork with other men in all our endeavors.

(An APA brings forth the phase neckerchiefs which have been previously rolled.)

It is with humility and admiration for the greatness of the potential in each of you that we bestow on each of you the distinguished symbol of a White Stag leader.

(PCs assist their patrol and congratulate candidates as they receive their neckerchiefs.)

The staff will move to the rear of the candidates, leaving the altar area clear. The PA addresses the candidates from behind, asking each to express whatever is in his heart tonight, what each feels he has learned, what each enjoyed, what was disappointing, what he feels prepared to do with life, what has meant the most of all the things during the week.

When all who want to have had an opportunity to speak, everyone will circle the fire, left and right hand on their neighbor's shoulders; from outside the circle, a member of the staff will read Lord Baden Powell's final message to the Scouts of the World. (Or play a tape of it.)

All will then sing several verses of "Kum-bi-ya," and as each verse concludes, a patrol at a time will return to bed, reminded they are again under the Order of the Still.

The White Stag Legend

The man stood tall on the crest of the hill, bathed in the rays of the setting sun. He was searching, gazing intently west at the formidable snow-capped mountains that lay where the sun had gone to rest.

The man was powerful--he seemed to tower over this surroundings...he epitomized strength, yet there was in his stance the suggestion of despair.

This scene took place many centuries ago. The man was Nimrod, Might Hunger Before the Lord, great leader of his people. Of late, he felt he had failed them, for a great scourge was upon the land. The land had gone dry--the game had fled--there were no fish in the tepid streams--and Nimrod's two stalwart sons had been away for seven moons. He knew they must return soon, or all hope in finding the promised land of Nimrod's' visions was lost.

Nimrod remembered well his two sons: strong, fearless, great hunters, tireless horsemen. These were the men to whom he planned to pass on this leadership, they who could surpass all others physically, who could read the signs of the sun, moon, fire, and water.

As old Nimrod scanned the horizon before him, he remembered well his son's departure, the start of their quest. It had been a day like this, at sunset, when there had appeared, outlined against the setting sun, a glorious White Stag. The red sun shone through it s majestic antlers as if the White Stag were supporting the solar giant.

Hunor and Magyar had jumped on their horses to capture the majestic animal. For seven moons they had been gone on the chase--and each day Nimrod went forth to look for them. Now, as the sun set, his own eyes began to dim.

Suddenly there was a shout from one of the tribe. Nimrod looking again to see two riders appear on the crest of the western hill--Hunor and Magyar--their saddles laden with game, their faces proud and happy.

The famine was broken. At the end of the feast, Nimrod stepped forward and his sons stood by his side. As a majestic oak towers over young saplings, Nimrod towered over his stalwart sons.

Nimrod spoke: "My people, you have seen the sun set on a day so great that it will be remembered long after we are dust and ashes. It is a day you will swear obedience to you new leaders, Hunor and Magyar. They will now tell you of their quest."

Hunor was the spokesman: "Seven moons ago a miraculous White Stag appears on the crest of the hill...he was white as the driven snow, and bigger than any stag ever seen by man. He waited until we were so close to him that we thought we could touch him. Then he spun around and leaped away as lightly as sunlight leaps over the running water. He ran swifter than the wind.

"All night he ran--through the forest and plains, across rivers, over mountains. We rode after him as we had never ridden before... When morning came, the White Stag stopped on the edge of a misty blue lake. As he stopped, our horses fell back exhausted. The White Stag pawed the ground three times, shook his antlers, and disappeared in the floating mist over the water.

"All that day we searched for him. We did not see him again, but we saw that the lake was full of fish, that the meadows were green and alive with game, the forest around it teeming with deer and other big game. There were trees heavy with fruit, the air sweet with the breath of flowers. We had found a land that would provide our people room and food for all.

"We rested, hunted until we could carry no more, and started back... The White Stag had led us there in one night--it took us seven moons to come back."

When Hunor finished, old Nimrod stepped forward and spoke to his sons. "My work is done. Tomorrow you will go forth to lead your people to the promised land. Go and fulfill the will of Hadur."

In that moment Nimrod's eyes closed and he crashed to the earth. A huge mound was build over his body during the night, and when the sun lighted the way, the tribe followed the trail west created by the White Stag to the beautiful valley.

Hunor and Magyar became worthy successors to Nimrod. For years they stayed by the misty blue lake. And then Hunor had Magyar saw the White Stag again.

All day they had been on a hunt that had taken them far from their home. Night had fallen rapidly--they were awed and hemmed in by the darkness. They had finally stopped--peering about, trying to penetrate the black forest. The great hunters were lost.

Suddenly Hunor exclaimed, "Look! Brother! To your right! The White Stag!" Shimmering white against the dark trees stood the stag. He seemed to float on the rising mist. And then to move slowly, silently away.

"Follow him," whispered Magyar.

"Follow him," whispered the leaves.

"Follow him," gurgled the spring.

"Follow him," sighed the wind.

Always in sight, but never letting them near, the White Stag led them through the forest, until suddenly he disappeared. Hunor and Magyar stopped. Gradually, softly at first, they heard the sounds of singing and laughter. To their delight and amazement, they found two beautiful women alone in a meadow. They spoke gently to the women; the women climbed behind the saddles of the brothers, and with the first rays of the sun, all four found their way to the people's encampment.

The maidens were beautiful and happy. The tribe came to love them, and there came a day when Hunor and Magyar chose them for wives. Twelve moons later, Hunor's son was born: Bendeguz, the White Eagle.

When Bendeguz was ten years old, a great scourge settled over the land... Hunor and Magyar commanded the tribe to set forth once again into the west. Always on the move, Bendeguz grew into a loving and fearless young man, and in time he was united with the proud and beautiful Aleeta... And then, on a night where lightening flashed and thunder roared and the wind howled--Attila was born, son of Bendeguz.

Attila was fearless, Attila was invulnerable, Attila became the leader of a restless tribe, ever searching for the promised land. Ever pushing west, the tribe came at last to the sheer walls of the Carpathian Mountains. Day after day Attila sent scouts out to find a path across the mountains...those who returned said, "There is no way."

For days the weather had been growing steadily colder. The sun was hidden behind clouds heavy with snow. There was no wood for fires. Their food was at an end. The people huddled close together, silent, miserable, puzzled that their God had forsaken them.

Bendeguz and Attila sat alone in an icy tent, their helplessness and impending doom tore at them with claws more viscous than the claws of the icy wind.

Suddenly Attila sat up. "Listen, father! Listen to the wind--no! It's not the wind! The people are calling my name--listen!" He tore the tent flap open and the wind smote him with violence. "Attila! Attila!" came the cry of many voices. "Attila! Look!"

He saw, luminously white against the white of the snow, standing like a majestic statue, glowing with an unearthly light--the White Stag!

Attila whipped around and snatched a horn from the tent. "To saddle! To saddle!" blared the horn.

"Follow the stag!" cried Attila.

"Follow the stag!" echoed the mountains.

"Follow the stag!" howled the wind.

The White Stag moved ahead of them, now slowly, now swiftly. Like a shimmering will-o-the-wisp, always just within sight, but never letting them nearer...leading them safely over the icy expanses, across deep drifts of snow and vast crevasses of ice. No one knew where the White Stag, the miraculous White Stag, was leading them.

Perhaps it was their own faith that was leading them--faith in their God--faith that smoothed the path under the stumbling feet of the horses, through the buffeting, stinging, whirlpools of snow, into the unknown.

Gradually the storm abated. They saw the White Stag had led them through a winding defile, between towering peaks, a deep gorge between overhanging cliffs, opening onto a broad, green valley.

"What enchanted land is this?", cried Attila... "Like an immense green bowl, surrounded by mountains, warmed by the sun, sheltered from the cold, a land rich in game and green pastures, between two great rivers rich in fish..." Attila recognized the words of Nimrod... This was truly the promised land.

The White Stag had led them to the promised land, and he had faded away into the golden sunlight.

Thrice the White Stag appeared before the people of old Nimrod. When they were in need of his challenge--when adversity seemed to rule--he brought faith and the will to move onward. The White Stag led the people of Nimrod and his sons upward and onward, to bigger and better accomplishments.

There on yonder hill is my image! I am the White Stag!

"Follow me!"

"Follow me!"

"Follow me!"

[4] This ceremony was conceived by Bill Roberts, 1974.

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Copyright © 1981— , Brian Phelps. All rights reserved. Short portions may be excerpted for review and quotes. For copyright purposes, only introductory portions of this book are available online. Order the newest edition today.