The Grand Howl is the jungle ceremony you’ll use most often. Cubs salute their leader (Akela or any other invested leader) with the Grand Howl at the beginning and end of every meeting. They also welcome new Cubs and leaders with the Grand Howl and use it to say goodbye to Cubs who are leaving the pack.
The Grand Howl features a figure of a wolf’s head on a stand about 1.5 metres tall. Usually made from plywood or scrap materials, this “totem” serves as a pack symbol.
To do the Grand Howl:
- Stand in the centre of the hall and call out, “Pack!” – the signal for Cubs to freeze.
- Call out, “Pack, Pack, Pack!” The Cubs respond by shouting a long drawn-out “P-a-a-a-a-ck!” as they run to form a circle in sixes. With the sixer on the right and the second on the left, they stand shoulder-to-shoulder around you.
- Cubs take three paces back to form a circle and stand at alert. (You may decide to signal the start of the three paces with a nod of the head.)
- Ask a Cub to bring the totem into the centre. This Cub can be the sixer who will lead the Grand Howl, but it may be better to let another Cub do it so more Cubs play an active role.
- If your totem has a stand, place it to your right. If not, hold it in your left hand (or ask a Cub to hold it).
- With the totem, turn to face the sixer (or other Cub) who is to lead. Pause for a moment to give him a chance to get ready, then nod your head.
- The sixer raises hands over his head and drops to a squat position with knees wide apart. At the same time the sixer lowers his hands to touch the floor in front with the first two fingers of each hand, fingers closed.
- The other Cubs follow his lead and go into the same squat, without first raising their hands over their heads. All Cubs raise their heads and look upwards, as though ready to howl like wolves.
- With the sixer leading the chorus, the Cubs howl, “Ah-Kay-Lah, W-e-e-e’ll D-o-o-o, O-u-u-u-r BEST!” (Draw out all words except the last, putting equal stress on each syllable. “BEST” is a short, sharp bark.)
- At the word “BEST,” the Cubs jump up to stand at alert with the first and second fingers of both hands pointing upward at each side of their head like wolves’ ears. While the pack stands in this position, the sixer challenges them to Do Your Best by calling a loud, drawn-out “D-Y-Y-Y-B, D-Y-Y-Y-B, D-Y-Y-Y-B, D-Y-Y-Y-B! ”(pronounced DIB, it means “Do Your Best”).
- After the fourth D-Y-Y-Y-B, you make the Cub salute, the Cubs drop their left hands, make the Cub salute with the right, and call out, “W-e-e-e’ll DOB, DOB, DOB, DOB!” (Do Our Best. The DOBS are four short, sharp barks.)
- After the fourth DOB, all Cubs drop their right hands to their sides. Thank the pack for their greeting and carry on with the meeting.
Note: “Pack!”, followed by “Pack! Pack! Pack!” is the traditional way to call Cubs to the circle for all purposes – not just the Grand Howl.
If your pack has one or more flags, keep them well outside the circle, close to a wall. The other leaders line up and stand at alert near the flags.
The description may sound terribly complicated if you’ve never seen a Grand Howl performed, but it isn’t. Watch another leader conduct the ceremony and you’ll see how simple it is.
Two common difficulties will present themselves at first; both are easily remedied.
- The sixers’ D-Y-Y-Y-Bs may trail off and stop at three. When this happens, the pack’s answering DOBs invariably sound tired and dispirited. Give the sixers lots of chances to practise during Sixers’ Council meetings.
- A Cub may have trouble telling left from right and will drop the wrong hand. Take the Cub aside discreetly to practise away from the pack. If he learns right from left, you’ll help him in his daily life as well as in Cubs. If he doesn’t, let it go for awhile. He’s not ready to learn that skill yet, and too much unsuccessful effort may only make him unhappy.