Symbolic uses of arrows surround us in everyday life. We use arrows in logos, fashion, street signs and official seals, obviously and subtly.
For instance, you probably aren’t thinking “archery” when studying a compass or spending a dollar, but arrows are hiding in plain sight. On the back of the $1 bill, The Great Seal of the United States uses arrows to represent the 13 colonies, because arrows symbolize power. Arrows can also indicate direction on maps, street signs and compasses because they symbolize true or straight paths.
The Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts use the arrow’s powerful symbolism in the Cub Scouts’ highest rank, the Arrow of Light. The Arrow of Light badge is the only Cub Scout badge that can be worn on the Boy Scout uniform when a boy graduates into a troop, according to Scouting.org. It is a true honor to receive this rank, and Cub Scouts must remain dedicated to ensure they meet all of the requirements.
Ben Summers, chair of the Archery Trade Association’s board of directors and director of operations for T.R.U. Ball Release Products, a manufacturer of high-quality archery accessories, is also a Cub Scout leader. He credits the Cub Scouts for creating time to bond with his son.
“I’ve used the whole Cub Scout experience as a way to be outside with my son, and just spend quality time with him,” Summers said.
Summers’ Cub Scouts worked hard to complete their requirements, and he wanted to make them special Arrow of Light awards to accompany their badges. By combining his archery skills with the Arrow of Light’s classic symbolism, Summers turned wooden dowels from the hardware store into unique awards.
He started by testing them for straightness, rolling them on the floor while watching for any wobbles that indicate a warped dowel. Bent arrows won’t fly true, and a straight arrow is part of the symbolism of the Arrow of Light. A straight, true arrow symbolizes a Scout who is honest and true to himself.
Then came fletching, the process of applying feathers to the arrow’s back end. Feathers stabilize the arrow and make it fly straight. Fletching also requires three feathers, symbolizing the three groups that support a Scout: his pack, parents and den leaders.
Up front, Summers installed flint arrowheads for a primitive look, securing them with glue and embroidery floss. The arrow point symbolizes a Scout who is sharp and alert. Summers also wrapped embroidery floss around the arrow’s back end to create a pattern. He used a different color for each year the boy was in Cub Scouts.
Summers then mounted the arrows on wooden plaques so they could be displayed at home. On the plaques, Summers continued the symbolism with a personal touch by adding artificial eagle and hawk feathers, as well as a natural turkey feather. The eagle feather represents the Scouts working toward their Eagle Scout project. The hawk feather reminds the Scout that hawks are Summers’ favorite bird. The turkey feather represents another den leader who helped the Scouts achieve their goal.
Summers said building the awards for his Scouts was a rewarding experience. It gave them a handmade award they’ll always cherish. Meanwhile, building traditional wooden arrows gave Summers a new perspective on archery.
“It actually brings you back to the roots of archery,” Summers said. “It helps you feel like you’re more a part of the tradition of archery.”
In other words, arrows can remind you of the past, point you toward home, and provide hours of fun while building and shooting them. If either of these interests you, then you’re in luck. It’s easy to get started in archery. Local archery stores and clubs offer introductory lessons for archers of all ages and skill levels. Your own “Arrow of Light” might be closer than you think.
For more information about the Boy Scouts of America and their dedication to building future leaders, click here.