By Bill Hartman, Elangomat Founder
The Elangomat Clan System is a crucial and central program for an Order of the Arrow lodge. But it is easy for your lodge to allow its practices to become sloppy. And your Ordeals ultimately become a disorganized mess, Elangomat in name only.
The most common problem is getting enough volunteers to become Elangomats. If you are having this problem, it isn’t so much what you are doing wrong. It is what you are not doing but should be! You can fix this!
1. Do your members realize that being an Elangomat is a character development program for themselves as an Elangomat? That setting the example for the candidates is a worthwhile experience that they will remember for the rest of their lives? That it, and the Vigil, are the most advanced personal development programs that we offer in the Order of the Arrow? Those who have been Elangomats need to emphasize that it is a very different experience than going through the Ordeal as a candidate, so that those considering becoming an Elangomat won’t think it is just the same thing over again..
2. Do your members realize that many Elangomats return to go Elangomating over and over again? Why? Because they care. Why else? Because it is fun! Like all good Scouting, being an Elangomat is challenging in places, but ultimately memorable and deeply enjoyable.
3. Do you thank your Elangomats for their service? After the Ordeal Ceremony, in front of everyone, call forward the Elangomats for this Ordeal. Have them stand in a line, facing everyone else. You stand in front of them, facing them. Then call forward all who have ever served as an Elangomat and have them form a line behind today’s Elangomats. Say something like the following:
We humbly thank you for your cheerful example to your candidates. Their lives have been changed. And because of that change, they will likewise set the example to others throughout their lives. All of us here have seen your actions today and you have filled us with the Spirit of the Order.
Some may ask, what is the reward for being an Elangomat? There is nothing we can give you that adds anything to your experience. [Yes, there is a patch. Skip if your lodge does not have a patch for Elangomats.] But you who stand before us know that the real reward, what you will carry with you for life, is what you have done for your candidates. And you know two secrets — that your personal experience today defies description. And you know why you will be drawn to be Elangomats again.
We applaud and thank you. [All applaud and move to them and shake their hands with the OA handclasp.]
4. Do you allow and encourage willing but untrained or hesitant members to serve as Assistant Elangomats? The Lead Elangomat has to communicate (ideally by writing on a notepad) with his candidates and others. But an Assistant Elangomat is a pure Exemplar of our principles whose leadership is entirely by example. No training is or should be required. We all have gone through the Ordeal. That alone is sufficient training. A member should be able to decide at the last minute to be an Assistant Elangomat. As each member appears at the registration desk at the Ordeal, they should be asked if they wish to be an Assistant Elangomat. Like Elangomats, they remain with their clan the entire day, Test the Bow during the Pre-Ordeal Ceremony and commit to completing all of the Tests of the Ordeal.
Assistant Elangomats are to be referred to as Elangomats and to receive all the same recognition, including patch if any, as the Lead Elangomats. The Assistant Elangomat program is like a “farm team” of professional sports. A program to develop Elangomats for the future.
5. Do you encourage even Ordeal members to become Elangomats and Assistant Elangomats? The OA has a firm principle that no positions or roles are to be limited to Brotherhood or Vigil members. Except, of course, the induction of members into a level that you have not yet achieved. There was actually a Brotherhood member who served as National Chief, and an Ordeal member who served briefly as Section Chief!
It’s not unusual for a few new Ordeal members to be so filled with the Spirit of the Order upon completion of the Ordeal, and so impressed by the example of their Elangomats, that they leave the Ordeal with a firm commitment to themselves to become an Elangomat. Do not suppress their enthusiasm!
6. Does your Elangomat training consist of hours of talk by an expert adult? What you need to do instead is give former Elangomats (youth and adult) the opportunity to tell their stories, to speak from their experience. Yes, you do need an outline so that you cover everything. And a youth chair and advisor to keep everyone focused. But the former Elangomats who are kind enough to show up for training should be “the stars of the show”.
Some lodges call their Elangomat training a “Meeting of the Elangomat Society”, “The Guild of Elangomats”, or similar. This encourages Elangomats to see themselves as special (they are). And makes it clear that being an Elangomat is something which is passed from Elangomat to Elangomat. (More on that below,)
7. Any Elangomat patches or other awards should be given to all who serve as Elangomats (including Assistant Elangomats), with that as the only requirement. If your lodge screwed up and didn’t have enough Elangomats and you had to use someone who did not undertake your formal training, that person had an even more difficult time than those who were trained. So you punish the Elangomat and not give them a patch like the others, because of someone else’s failure? Of course not! You can forbid people serving as Lead Elangomat who have not completed training. But if you decide to have someone serve who is not fully trained, give them the patch. Likewise, requiring Brotherhood membership is just wrong, as covered above. Granted, being an Elangomat is inherently a post-Brotherhood experience. But we must encourage and reward all who step forward.
8. So how do you “jump start” the Elangomat program in your lodge? There is one fundamental principle. The Elangomat concept must spread by example. You absolutely are in no position to ask others to serve as an Elangomat if you have not done so yourself! To stand there and claim what a wonderful experience it is, when you yourself are unwilling, is hypocrisy.
Throughout the history of the Elangomat system, when the system has broken down in a lodge, individuals have braved the unknown and the disapproval of others and simply decided, as a person of position, authority, or influence, to serve as an Elangomat themselves. Sometimes they have paid a price by the disapproval of others who just don’t understand how this “Elangomat thing” works. But their example always reaches the hearts and spirits of many. As Kitchkinet says in the Pre-Ordeal Ceremony, “Sometimes even friends will mock you, tempt you to betray your promise”. For example, as Chief, you can turn all planning and execution of the Ordeal over to your Vice Chief, freeing you to serve as an Elangomat. An Elangomat can have no other responsibilities during the time that they are leading their clan.
And if you have been an Elangomat? Speak from out your heart to others. What it meant to you. How it feels to show others a way of real happiness and success in life. The joys, but also the difficulties. People don’t sign up for the Marine Corps because the believe it will be easy. They sign up to squarely face the challenge. And feel the sense of accomplishment when then do. So it is when it comes to being an Elangomat.
Many fraternal organizations have “tests” that are primarily meant to weed out those who are not committed. The OA is different. It has always been understood that the Tests of the Ordeal teach the principles of the Order. Thus only those who truly believe in our principles, and who know that the Tests are reflections of those principles, are willing to be Elangomats.
Is that you?