Chivalry & The Arrow of Light

Author’s note:

In February, 2002, I was asked, along with several members of the Society for Creative Anachronism (a medieval re-enactment group), to put on a demonstration of medieval jousting as part of the Arrow of Light ceremony for Cub Scout Pack 319 in San Diego, California. The Arrow of Light is the Cub Scouts’ highest honor, and it is the only one which a Cub Scout carries with him when he becomes a Boy Scout. As such, we wanted to do more than entertain the boys and their parents with exciting swordplay; we wanted to demonstrate our respect for the effort these boys had put into reaching this admirable goal. I was honored to be asked to address the pack at the beginning of the ceremony, and this is the speech I gave.

An address to Cub Scout Pack 319 at the Arrow of Light ceremony

Cub Scout Arrow of Light AwardTonight we have come here dressed in our armor to demonstrate for you the art of knightly combat. This is quite fitting, for in the Middle Ages, the king often hosted a joust or a tournament in order to commemorate a special occasion. At such times, knights would gather to compete in games and contests of skill and courage, which were conducted under a set of rules known as the Code of Chivalry.

When competing under the Code of Chivalry, knights in shining armor made a promise that they would act in a manner which would ensure the safety of other knights as well as the spectators. A knight would never intentionally seek to cause harm to another person, he would never lose his temper during a joust, and he would never strike at an opponent who was helpless, because a knight had a duty to protect those who could not protect themselves.

But the Code of Chivalry was more than just a set of safety rules. In fact, the knightly virtues of the Code of Chivalry are much like the twelve points of Scout Law. Just as a Scout is expected to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent, a knight was expected to be courageous, just, merciful, generous, faithful, honorable and hopeful. As you can see from this comparison, Scout Law has its roots in the Code of Chivalry used by the medieval knights.

In the Middle Ages, a boy began training to become a knight just about at your age; it was a very long and difficult education. A large part of their training was learning the value of the Code of Chivalry, not only in the games of the tournament, but in all aspects of their lives.

Being made a knight was a very special moment in the life of a young man, just like receiving the Arrow of Light is a very special moment in your lives. It is a moment you will remember fondly and proudly in years to come, but like the accolade of knighthood, the Arrow of Light is only one step along the path of honor and virtue that I know you will all follow for the rest of your lives.

It is a great privilege for us to stand beside you this evening as you accept these honors, and we thank you for allowing us to be part of your special occasion. May the Arrow of Light always point to the true path of chivalry.