Why be an Elangomat or Ceremonialist?

First I could smell it. The smoke from the fire lazily drifted through the forest like the fog above the lake, making its way to our little train of people. We marched forward at a casual pace set by our Elangomat. At this gait, it took a long time before we could see anything related to the ceremony, but this void of time provided an opportunity for reflection.

Next I felt it, deep in my gut. I was nervous — nervous for the ceremony; nervous for the night alone; nervous I would make a mistake in front of the candidates. But, despite my nerves, I was excited.

Finally we saw it. I could hear the sharp intake of breath from the candidates around me. Before us a fire blazed with four ceremonialists standing stoically around it. To our right was Melakwa Lake, and to our left stood all the other members, imposing yet familiar. Along with the candidates, I exhaled, just then realizing I had held my breath.

I straightened my sash as Kichkinet shot the arrow, reminded of my Ordeal just a couple months before. I led the candidates through their Ordeal as a Nimat, not knowing that, barely one year later, I would shoot the arrow myself.

When I was first inducted, I didn’t even know I could be a ceremonialist. I figured that only the best of the best could do something like that. I was surprised, then, when my lodge’s ceremonies vice chief approached me and asked if I wanted to be in the next Ordeal Ceremony. Nor did I know I could be a Nimat. Yet, as I stood waiting to set up my tent at the Ordeal immediately following mine, I was asked if I could help out.

The truth is, ceremonialists and Elangomats don’t have to be the best of the best. The only real requirement for either is the desire to help. I speak from experience when I say any volunteer is more than welcome. I’ve spoken with leadership in other lodges and sections, and all agree that finding ceremonialists and Elangomats can be one of the hardest parts of planning an Ordeal. If you think that you are capable to any degree of being a ceremonialist or Elangomat, the best first step is to ask someone about the commitment. Talk to your Elangomat about how to get involved.

The first experience any candidate has in the Order of the Arrow is their Ordeal, and that Ordeal, with its tests, runs only through the volunteers that choose to help. To be a ceremonialist or Elangomat is to be someone’s first impression — not just of the lodge, but of the Order of the Arrow as a whole. It is a weighty responsibility, but one that can be taken up by any willing heart. 

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