Membership in the Order of the Arrow by those youth selected to be members is considered an honor by those in the scouting community. The Order is, in fact, considered to be “Scouting’s National Honor Society.” Scouts are chosen to become Arrowmen by the youth in their troop, both Arrowmen and non-Arrowmen alike. In order to become an Arrowmen, a Scout must hold First-Class rank and have experienced 15 days and nights of Scout camping within the two years prior to his election, including at least one long term resident camp experience of at least 6 days and 5 nights. Adults, on the other hand, are chosen not necessarily as an honor, but for how he or she will help to fulfill the Order’s purpose. That is to say, adult Scouters are selected to become Arrowmen so that their contributions to the Scouting movement may be enhanced by participation in the Order.
There are no ranks in the Order of the Arrow, every member has the same rights and privileges. However, there are three different levels of membership, known as honors, that distinguish and set apart some Arrowmen from others. Ordeal membership is the first honor, an honor bestowed upon an Arrowmen by the Scouts in his troop. Brotherhood membership is the second honor, a personal choice bestowed upon an Arrowmen by his or herself. Vigil membership is the third and highest honor, conferred upon an Arrowmen by those members of the lodge who are not eligible for selection as Vigil members. The three honors are explained in more detail below.
Ordeal Membership is the first step of membership in the Order of the Arrow. First, an Arrowman is elected by the Scouts in his troop, both members and non-members of the Order who felt that you lived up to the high ideals of the Scout Oath and Law. He is then called out and invited to participate in the Ordeal weekend. On Friday night he participates in a pre-Ordeal ceremony and then on Saturday met several tests in the Ordeal. He then participates in the Ordeal ceremony and is recognized with the Ordeal Sash. There is no rank in the Order of the Arrow and as an Ordeal member he is entitled to all the rights and privileges of membership in the Order.
The next step of membership in the Order of the Arrow is Brotherhood membership. This is an opportunity for members to reflect on their service to Scouting, the Order of the Arrow, and their unit. The Brotherhood is a sealing of one’s membership in the Order. Where the Ordeal member’s primary responsibility is to his unit, a Brotherhood member makes a commitment to the lodge as well as his unit. The Brotherhood sash is the Ordeal sash with a bar at each end to signify the sealing of membership in the OA. It is the purpose of the Order to strengthen the principals set forth in the induction sequence of the Ordeal; thus, Brotherhood membership is a sign of this commitment to the ideals of the Order and to a lifetime of service to our fellow man. The requirements for Brotherhood membership are listed below, they can also be found in the Order of the Arrow handbook.
The Vigil Honor is awarded to Arrowmen for service to the Lodge, Scouting, their unit, or their Scout camp. The Vigil cannot be sought by a member but is bestowed upon a member by the Lodge with approval of the National Order of the Arrow Committee. It is recognition of unselfish leadership in service and is bestowed for going beyond the normal responsibilities of an Arrowman. To be eligible for the Vigil Honor, one must have been a Brotherhood member for at least two years. The Vigil sash adds a triangle to the center of the arrow to signify the Vigil Honor.