Ceremonies & Traditions Series
How OLD is Your Ash List?
Did you save any Ashes??
If you are not currently, nor in your past life have ever been a Girl Scout, this might seem like a weird question! I assure you that once you know, you will be curious! Saving a small portion of cooled campfire ashes and a record of the campfire dates (an “Ash List”) creates a history for your troop and something special to share with other girls at camp and camporees for years to come.
This tradition dates back to even before Girl Scouts began, the list that I keep dates back to 1910!! Having a history of places and events you can follow back to the legendary Lord Baden Powell, the founder of Boy Scouts and friend to Juliette Gordon Low gives you a glimpse into the longevity of these two movements. It has been said that Lord Baden Powell started this tradition with his scouts in the year 1907, which I hope is true because his name is the FIRST one on my list of ashes.
This tradition of saving campfire ashes isn’t native to the US. The entire global community of WAGGGS participates in this history of fun and comradery. As the girls begin to understand the sisterhood involved WORLDWIDE, they will get a glimpse into what they are a part of, even from something so simple as a tiny bit of ash leftover from a campfire.
The tradition is that only those who were present at the fireside will take away ashes from that fire, and that holds true today. Each girl, troop, or community can keep a history of their own. As a community, we keep a community list that the girls can see or email as a reminder. We ask each leader to bring ashes from the fires they have with their troops so we can celebrate their additions at the next community fire. Those dates are added to our list. I have attached our community list here as an example.
This tradition calls for the collection of ashes from a cooled campfire and then adding those ashes to the next campfire, to share the friendship and spirit of scouting from those who came before us. Whether you have two girls or your whole community, this tradition is scalable to include everyone. It will just take a little prep and maybe a little imagination.
If you have never thought about doing this before, this is a great time to start! A new year is coming up and hopefully new chances to camp and have some friendly songs and s’mores around a campfire!
I thought that I could give you a few ideas on safe and fun ways for girls to add their ashes to the next fire and at least a couple traditional Ash Ceremonies that will add a little meaning to your event.
Past Ashes and Future Offerings
At a troop campfire it is a little easier to control how close girls get to the fire and how elaborate they want to be on their mode of conveyance. But these ideas will work for any number of scouts.
Wooden Sticks – Take some recycled tissue paper and put ashes in it, wrap it around a dry stick and tie with cotton yarn or string. The whole bundle is tossed into the fire.
Boho Parcel – Make a 5” square out of 2-3 layers of tissue or 1 layer of heavier recycled paper, add a spoonful of ashes to the middle and bring the edges up and tie with a cotton ribbon. These can be tied to a stick to complete the theme.
Egg Carton Wishes – These are fun to do ahead during camp planning. Take a paper egg carton, add a tablespoon of ashes from your last fire into each crevasse, add a written wish to each one and then melt a crayon or a candle over the top to seal. (The melted wax should be done by an adult. I personally mark the bottom of the carton with each girl’s name so that they will get their own back.)
I try to think ahead for camporees or troop campouts and match the theme. I have loaded small papier mache boxes that the girls decorate and write wishes on and build the fire around those. We have made construction paper packets in bug shapes. We have also filled paper straws then sealed the ends for a space saver while hiking! Use your imagination or ask your girls what they would like to do, they are always full of ideas that you might not think of.
Girl Scouts seems to have a traditional ceremony for everything, not that I am complaining, I like structure and a little pomp is cool. But as times change it seems that we have gotten lax in the way we do a lot of things with our girls. (Oops, let me put that soap box back in the cupboard.) Here are a couple traditional ceremonies and a couple casual but thought-provoking things.
Ashes of Friendship (A leader or older girl can read this or split the paragraphs up so multiple girls can participate.)
“We carry our friendships with us in these ashes from other campfires with girls in other lands. May the joining of the past fires with the leaping flames or this campfire, symbolize once more the unbroken chain that binds Girl Scouts and Girl Guides of all nations together.”
“With greetings from our sisters around the world, I will add these ashes from the sisterhood therein, to our campfire. Will anyone with campfire ashes please come forward and join me.”
(Wait for others to add their ashes)
“The ashes I spread into this campfire carry memories of past campfires dating back to <year your list dates to>”
“I will now charge these ashes to the campfire.” (Sprinkle ashes)
“So that you may pass these ashes on and share them with others at your next campfire you will be given a history of where these ashes have been.”
Charge of the Ashes (This one we have the oldest girls read to teach the littles about ceremonies like this.)
“May the spirits of past campfires be here with us tonight, carry fellowship in these ashes from other campfires, thus uniting us with friends and comrades in other lands.”
(Sprinkle saved ashes over the fire)
“May the joining of dead fires with the leaping flames of our campfire tonight symbolize once more the unbroken chain that binds Girl Guides and Girl Scouts around the world. Fond greetings to Girl Guides and Girl Scouts of all nations, everywhere.”
If you would like to add ashes to your camping schedule, but aren’t into making it into a formal affair, try something lighter. Bring some paper and markers and have all the girls write something special about their time on this camping trip, a wish, or a dream, or something they are thankful for. You, as the leader, can add the ashes and then have the girls come up and throw their papers into the flames. My girls do this while singing a song, usually a more mellow one like ‘On My Honor’ or ‘Linger’. Try not to use a more movement-oriented song so that girls do not get bumped while near the fire.
There is no wrong way to incorporate new traditions into your camping experience. Some you and your girls may love and some just won’t click, keep those you fall in love with. Memories and happy times are what the girls are going to remember.