I’ve been involved in several Brownie units and visited a whole lot more over the time I’ve been volunteering with Girlguiding. All of them have slightly different traditions and quirks in their Promise ceremonies. They range from the simple to the complex, from the very serious to the more fun, but there are a few things that they all have in common.
How to Begin?
One of the wider ranging differences involves how the new Brownie gets from wherever they begin to standing in front of their leader.
In one unit, those making the Promise hide just outside the Brownie meeting room and knock loudly on the door. All of the Brownies chorus “Who’s that knocking on the Brownie door?” and the leader picks some Brownies (the new girl’s Sixer, usually) to go and find out. They bring them to the centre of the circle. I’ve noticed that the girls who do this are very excited by it – they’re allowed to go into the corridor, on their own! And they’re trusted to come back at the right time!
A couple of units have a large circle with arms linked and raised to form arches. The new girl is led around by her Sixer, ducking and weaving through the arches while singing a song until they finally end up in the middle. The song varies between units.
Here’s one version:
Sixer and New Girl: I want to be a Brownie, a Brownie, a Brownie I want to be a Brownie, and join your Brownie pack!
Everyone: Do you know your Promise, your Promise, your Promise? Do you know your Promise, and your Brownie Law?
Sixer and New Girl: Yes I know my Promise, my Promise, my Promise. Yes I know my Promise, and my Brownie Law.
Everyone: Then come into our circle, our circle, our circle, Then come into our circle, and join our Brownie pack!
The Sixer then leads the new girl into the centre of the circle.
Twist Me and Turn Me
Once upon a time, there were two very naughty children who wanted to find a Brownie so that their mother (and they) didn’t have to tidy up after themselves around the house. They went on a long dark walk through the woods until a wise old owl told them where to find what they were looking for.
“Go to that pond over there,” she said, “and turn around three times while saying this rhyme: ‘twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw…’. When you look in the water, the name of the Brownie that you see will complete the rhyme.”
So off they went to find the Brownie.
This story is played out in miniature in every Brownie Promise ceremony I have seen. In many cases, there is a pond (and often a toadstool) in the middle of the circle. When the Sixer leads the new girl into the centre, they go to the pond. The new girl is spun around while the rhyme is said, looks in the water, and declares “myself!” as loudly as she can.
The exception I’ve seen recently is the second of the circle-arch units. They don’t have a pond – they are the pond! The song they sing goes like this:
“Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw… shh!
Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw… shh!
Twist me and turn me and show me the elf, I looked in the water and there saw… “
By this point the new girl has made it to the centre, and can finish the rhyme.
From this point onwards, the differences largely disappear. If you know of anyone who does the next bit differently, I would be particularly interested in hearing from you in the comments!
The Sixer brings the new girl to stand in front of the leader. She says “This is Alice and she wants to be a Brownie”, is thanked, and leaves. The leader turns her attention to the new girl (who I appear to have decided is called Alice).
There is usually a short discussion at this point about whether the girl is ready to make her Promise, and whether she understands that once she’s made it she must keep it. Naturally, this discussion has been had in more depth before the ceremony begins!
Everyone salutes, and the new Brownie recites the Promise. At the moment this is:
I Promise that I will do my best,
To love my God,
To serve the Queen and my country,
To help other people,
And to keep the Brownie Guide Law.
But of course it’s changing soon. I’m not going to get into that here!
Sometimes the Brownie recites the Law, too. I think it is good to check that they know the Law – otherwise they’re promising to keep it and they don’t know what they’re promising!
A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself,
And does a Good Turn every day.
The leader pins on her Promise badge and welcomes her to the unit. All of the other Brownies welcome her too, and that is it. Her Promise made, Alice rejoins the other Brownies to continue whatever else is going on that evening.
What traditions does your unit have for making the Promise?