Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | July 13, 2010

The Seven Secrets

Ernest Thompson Seton, naturalist, artist, author and founder of the Woodcraft movement wrote this in the 1920s:

The Seven Secrets of Woodcraft

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bbr000l.gif  (13921 bytes)The Fourfold Law. From the Great Central Fire are four pathways: the Body Way, the Mind Way, the Spirit Way and the Service Way. Along these four all men must go if they would be truly men. And each of these leads to a lamp, a little fire that we light from the Great Central Fire. These lamps are Beauty, Truth, Fortitude and Love. From these four, issue the twelve laws of Woodcraft, and this is the secret of the Fourfold Fire.

bbr000e.gif  (6706 bytes)The Medicine in the Sky. This is perhaps the greatest secret: that the sun rays have power to purge away many of the worst ills that afflict mankind. Tubercular troubles of all kinds find their deadly enemy in the sun. To most of us the sun rays are a wonderful tonic. One in fifty, perhaps, because of some physical defect, is unable to stand it. This is the test: as long as it is pleasant, it is good; if unpleasant, it is bad, for pain is nature’s protest against injury.

bbr000f.gif  (7641 bytes)The Sacred Fire. The rubbing stick fire has always been the sacred fire, the “Need Fire.” You can make it if you follow the directions in this Birch Bark Roll, with balsam fir in the north and east, with cedar in the south, with yucca stalks in the southwest. This is the sunlight bottled up in the wood, and it comes forth again under the power of the bow. With this we light the Great Central Fire of Council. It is the symbol of the one Great Spirit.

bbr000g.gif  (10098 bytes)The Bread of the Woods. In every part of the wilderness there is a food that a starving man can find to save his life. In all parts of the United States, where there are ponds and slow streams, we can find the Wapato or Duck-potato. Its leaf is like a slender arrow head and its root bears a nutritious bulb as big as a walnut.In all the eastern part of Canada and the United States, the Bog-nut or Indian Potato abounds in low bush land. It is a climbing plant with purple flowers, and leaves composed of 5, 7, or 9 leaflets. On its roots are strings of the bog nuts about the size of hickory nuts.

In all the prairie country we find the Indian Turnip or Pomme Blanche.In all the far north, we find the Rock Tripe on which Richardson and Franklin lived for months.In each region is at least one such starvation food. It is the pleasant task of the Woodcrafter to search for and discover  this hidden blessing in his home land.

bbr000h.gif  (5173 bytes)The North Star. No one need get lost at night in the wilderness if the sky be clear enough to see the stars; for the seven stars, that is, the Dipper, point to the North Star, the Home Star, swinging around it, but pointing ever to it.



bbr000i.gif  (4320 bytes)Vigil. Do you know that when you sit alone all night by a fire in some high sheltered place, without food, books ;or company, you get very close to the Great Spirit? And if you earnestly desire it, you may hear the voices and will surely have the guidance of better wisdom than your own.


bbr000j.gif  (4437 bytes)The Peace of the Night. There was a time when our grandmothers taught us that the night air was poison. We know now that this is a mistake. God does not put out any worse air at night than in the daytime. Only it is cooler. And there is danger of being stung by malarial mosquitoes at night if we are not protected. We know now that the air of the night is not only cooler, but more tonic, a power for nerve rest. We know that the Angel of the Night brings healing under her wings. The weary, the nerve-wracked, the sleepless, may trust themselves to the outdoor night with certainty of blessed repose.

For more see: The Birch Bark Roll of Woodcraft

A friend Gordon Cooper writes: ‘Seton’s woodcraft stressed building a cabin in the woods, making one’s own kit, and meditating while nude or nearly nude in the summer months. When Seton spent time with Julian Huxley in the 1890’s in London, he became a vegetarian and flirted briefly with Zen Buddhism. There is certainly a pacifistic, communal and individualist message conveyed in all of the Woodcraft games, as well as within the Honors and Degrees System.’


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