When I was a child, I joined the Brownies, which turned out to be a huge mistake. Huge!
Brownies are the section in the Girl Guides organization for girls aged 7-10, and its purpose is to turn grubby little brats into good little girls.
If I’d realised that, I wouldn’t have touched it with a ten foot pole obviously, but I wasn’t very observant at the age of 8.
What Brownies meant for me was that I attended a weekly group in a local gym hall, where I and my fellow young women lined up to have our hands and nails checked for dirt and to be judged on the tidiness of our appearance.
Notes were taken by our group leaders, and we would be spoken to sternly if for instance, our uniforms were not freshly washed and ironed.
We were sorted into groups and given options of various activities to collect badges. These included Pet Keeping, Embroidery, Reading, Baking, Housework and Thrift.
There was a Photography badge, but I had no access to a camera or film, so that was right out.
The main emphasis was on being polite and helping. I have no issue with these concepts, but as a child growing up in the 1970’s they were hardly big news to me.
We were frequently told to be quiet and sit tidily, with our legs crossed or together and no ‘sprawling’ or knickers showing. This doesn’t sound unreasonable, but the uniforms were so short – basically mini dresses – which made modesty challenging.
I only joined because I had a friend in the group. My friend left shortly after I joined because she moved to another area so I tried to leave too, but was informed that this would not be possible until I was old enough to join the Girl Guides.
I think I wouldn’t have joined at all, except that they had quite an exciting initiation ceremony with a talking owl and a gigantic toadstool. I have always been attracted to magical things.
Never will I forget discovering my Grandad’s old Masons regalia after he died, and I will always regret not nicking it so I could dress up in it later. He had a weird apron and black candles and everything.
All the Brownie groups are named after magical creatures, and I thought it would be a sort of supportive witchy female coven type situation.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We were judged and controlled by female leaders with the titles of Brown Owl, Tawny Owl etc. There were no technical qualifications for these roles that I am aware of.
I was always raised to be a people pleaser, so I went along with the Brownie activities although I was unhappy there and dreaded the meetings.
I was overjoyed when I achieved the age of 10, as I thought that would mean my freedom. In fact, when I attempted escape, the organisation closed in around me.
I was eventually summoned to Brown Owl’s house so that she could speak to me very seriously, and she informed me that I WOULD be joining the Girl Guides, which she had already put my name down for.
At that time, the Girl Guides had cool moulded hats like airline stewardesses but that wasn’t enough to persuade me. I stated clearly that I wished to leave, which triggered an avalanche of intended guilty pressure.
Apparently if I left, I would be rejecting the organisation, and why would I wish to do that? Hadn’t I been happy in the group? The best thing would be if I at least tried Girl Guides rather than let everybody down.
This was obvious bullsh*t though because once uniformed, signed up and delivered to my first GG meeting I would have been trapped again, and fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.
It took a lot of sullen passive aggression on my part and eventually a desperate show of panicky tears to finally gain my exit from the Brownie cult.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only little girl to be attracted by the pagan veneer of the group, only to be faced with a solid Christian organisation when I arrived.
This was the initiation ceremony:
Once upon a time, there were two naughty girls who wanted to find a Brownie so that they and their mother 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 into the water, the name of the Brownie that you see will complete the rhyme.” the owl said.
So off they went to find the Brownie.
This story is played out in every Brownie Promise ceremony I witnessed.
There is a faux foil pond (and that cool fake toadstool) in the middle of the circle. When a Brownie Sixer team leader takes the new girl into the centre, they go to the pond. The new girl is spun around while the “naughty children” story is read out, gazes into the foil pool/mirror, and declares “myself!” as loudly as she can.
Moral of the story – don’t look for help with the housework. Grab a mop and start work because the only magical little helper is YOU.
Then everyone salutes and speaks the Brownie Promise:
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.
Brownie Law: A Brownie Guide thinks of others before herself and does a good turn every day.
I have no problem with the Brownie Law, but I do have a big problem with an organisation which assumes all little girls to be “naughty” and stresses the importance of housework and obedience.
I was very happy when I finally got free of the Brownie cult, and prefer now to only enjoy Brownies as delicious chocolate cake dessert.
I joined the Woodcraft Folk briefly afterwards, which provided almost identical activities, but with a more relaxed atmosphere and an emphasis on community and the environment as opposed to being a quiet unquestioning worker.
I enjoyed the Woodcraft Folk.
I have created a cocktail which represents the cake rather than the organisation, with a tequila element of rebellion, which I think we all need to experience in our lives.
Dark Brownie or Twist Me & Turn Me Cocktail
1 shot chocolate tequila liqueur, ideally Olmeca Tequila Fusion Dark Chocolate
1 shot Baileys cream Liqueur
1 shot vodka
1 chocolate brownie for the garnish
Fill a shaker with ice. Add the chocolate liqueur, Baileys, and vodka. Shake quickly to chill. Strain the cocktail between 2 martini glasses.
Garnish with brownie bite pieces skewered onto cocktail picks.
Drink a few of these and to hell with the Brownie Law.
Consider rather “Do What Thou Wilt Shall be the Whole of the Law” as per the Satanism movement, and be good as and when it suits you.