leslie's guiding traditions

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Where Guides have horseshoes, Brownies have their Brownie Ring.

The 1918 Handbook advises: "Have you ever seen a Fairy Ring?  I have got one in my garden, and I know of many in the woods - just a wide circle of ground of rather darker grass than the rest of the turf round about it.  It is said to be a track made by the Brownies who come together and dance on the grass by moonlight, round a toadstool in the middle.  So our Brownies have a toadstool as their Totem, and they make their ring about it.  Like true fairies they can make their ring anywhere, not only in the woods or out on the grass, but even in the town and in a room.  As you can see from the illustration, there are actually two types of ring used by Brownies - the 'dancing ring' and the 'pow-wow ring'.  We'll look at the dancing, or Brownie Ring.


To begin the ceremony, the centrepieces are put in place.  These often feature items such as a toadstool (perhaps upon a 'magic carpet'), an owl, a pool, a unit flag in a stand - each unit chooses what to have as centrepieces.  The Leaders stand at one end of the room opposite the centrepieces, the Brownies queue up in their Sixes opposite.  When the Leader gives the command, the Sixes, led by the one on the Leaders' right, skip up the room, through the arch, and round the centrepieces to form a circle, singing the Brownie Song to lah.  Once all are in the circle, they sing the Brownie song together.

Pre-1968, each Six in turn would then slip-step round the centrepieces, singing their own Six song, which went to the same tune as the then Brownie Song.  Some units still use these.  The rhymes are:


SPRITE - Here we come, the sprightly Sprites, Brave and helpful like the knights.

ELF - This is what we do as Elves, Think of others, not ourselves.

GNOME - Here you see the laughing Gnomes, Helping mother in our homes.

FAIRY - We're the Fairies glad and gay, Helping others every day.

LEPRECHAUN - We're the Irish Leprechaun, Guiding strangers when forlorn.

LITTLE PEOPLE - We, though known as 'Little People', Aim as high as any steeple.

IMP - We're the ever-helpful Imps, Quick and Quiet as any shrimps.

PIXIE - Look out!  We're the jolly Pixies, Helping people when in fixes.

KELPIE - We're the little Scottish Kelpies, Smart and quick and ready helpers.

BWBACHOD - We're the Bwbachod from Wales, Filling farmer's milking pails.

GHILLIE DHU - Ghillie Dhu it is our name, We guard the bairns and lead them hame.

TYLWYTH TEG - We're from Wales, the Tylwyth Teg, Dance and work and never beg.

The author Freda Collins wrote stories based on each Six's rhyme, in her book 'Pow Wow Stories' - but the rhymes existed before the stories, not the reverse.

With the programme changes in 1968, there were some changes for the Brownie Ring.  The fairy references were toned down and it became simply a Brownie Ring.  The Brownie Song was changed to a new tune and lyrics to reflect the new Promise.  As a result of this the Six songs ceased to be part of the programme, and with magic carpets and toadstools being dropped too, there was more choice of what to have in the centre of the Brownie Ring.


Of course, just because traditions were not carried forward into the new programme, doesn't mean they were abandoned.  The new song was longer, which made it easier for dancing into a ring, and Six songs might be more chanted than sung as the old tune became less familiar, but many packs continued to use them.  This Brownie song isn't now an official part of the programme either, but many units continue to use it, with these lyrics or with adapted ones.  As units can choose what tradititions them want to have, they can choose which of their customs they want to retain, or which customs they might adopt.