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Cae Mabon is a spiritual retreat centre in North Wales. It nestles on a mountainside, a stream cascading through it from which it gets its water supply. The structures at Cae Mabon are eco-homes in an interesting range of styles, from a Hobbit hole to a reconstructed roundhouse, of which more later. It's a beautiful setting, with a large lake at the bottom of the slope and views across to Mount Snowdon.

 

Llanberis PassWe arrived on Friday, April 12th, following a drive through some of the most beautiful scenery in Wales, most memorably the spectacular Llanberis Pass. The 'we' in question were myself, Elaine and my sons, Joe and Mike. Joe is a fine ritualist while Mike, having studied video production, had accepted the task of recording as many of the World Drum events as possible in HD video. Elaine was our driver and chief events coordinator. Also joining us from previous events would be my good friend and BDO stalwart, Steve Rumelhart, musician, Jake Thomas, and Lorraine Munn, organiser of our ceremony at Ironbridge.

 

The last part of the drive was quite interesting as Elaine negotiated a well-laden Subaru down a very narrow, very winding tarmac track, to one side of which was a precipitous drop down tree-covered slopes towards the lake far below. For one not used to mountain driving, it was … erm … educational. However, we reached the car park safely, as did the rest of our merry band. We unloaded our gear, including, of course, The World Drum, and began the steep trek down to Cae Mabon itself. Slippery from recent rain, one had to watch one's footing, but we made it without mishap and were guided to our accommodation. The brilliant Gillian Kavanagh, organiser of this event, was there to greet us. My sons, Joe and Mike, were to sleep in the roundhouse. Elaine, myself and three other women were to sleep in the Longhouse, which turned out to be basically an extended garden shed but with better insulation, beds and a desk.

 

Jeff, Greywolf & Adam at Cae Mabon roundhouseFriday evening was spent greeting new arrivals as they came, exploring the site and buildings, discovering the kitchen and socialising. The new arrivals included the BDO's web wonder and all-round genius, Adam Sargant (that's him, far right), accompanied by a new BDO friend generally known as Farmer Jeff, because his name's Jeff, and he's a farmer (that's him, near right - and yes, that's me in the middle). The excellent bard, Barry Patterson, arrived with his partner, Anne, and a range of instruments including several flutes, bagpipes and a drum. Welsh bard, Gwyn Edwards, joined us too, a delightful man and a fount of lore, legend and laughter.

 

Eric Maddern, the originator of Cae Mabon and its guiding light, treated us to a talk about the place and its history. This took place in the comfortable dining hall, created from the ruins of a former agricultural building. Here an altar was established, decorated with stones and flowers from the area, on which The World Drum was to be placed when not is use. I have to admit, after the experience of soaking the Drum overnight just before setting out for Cae Mabon, I had become more than a little protective of it. It was still very cold and we were instructed to use heating sparingly, which was fine for us but gave me some concerns for the Drum. Hence I put it back in its case and removed it to the Longhouse for the night, reasoning that five sleeping in a small space would generate enough warmth to keep the Drum's skin from losing tension again. This proved correct. However, there was another problem.

 

I sleep very little anyway and, given the excitement of all the ceremonies and events and the strange surroundings, I found it impossible to sleep at all. Instead, I lay listening to the uncoordinated choir of the differently pitched snores of my companions. Finally, at about 5.30am, I gave up and got up, sneaking out as quietly as possible in the half-light. It was Saturday morning, just about, and we were to travel to Anglesey after lunch for a ceremony at 2pm.

 

Caryl DaileyJoining us for lunch and the afternoon ceremony was Caryl Dailey (left), an OBOD Druid and tutor whom I had not previously met. Caryl duly arrived with her friend, Tracy, both beautifully robed and smiling. Caryl turned out to be a bit of a star. She has Sami blood in her ancestry and treated us to a display of joiking, a type of throat-singing practiced by the Sami of Norway that produces some very strange sounds. While Caryl sang in the roundhouse, I was sitting by the central fire with the World Drum held next to me. Whenever she slipped into joiking, the Drum responded, picking up the sound and singing along with her. When she sang with her normal voice at the same or greater volume, nothing. Only when joiking. The Sami are reindeer-herders. The Drum's skin is reindeer. Interesting.

 

After lunch (the food at Cae Mabon was wonderful), we wended our way back up to the car park and decamped for Anglesey. The significance of Anglesey for Druids is that it was long supposed to have been the site of the Druids' last stand against the Roman legions in 55 CE. The Roman historian, Tacitus, gives a wonderfully vivid description of the event, with the legions formed up on one side of the Menai Strait and the Anglesey side lined with Druids perched on every high point and hurling imprecations into the wind while women clothed in black tatters ran amongst them waving flaming torches and screaming. Eventually, the legions overcome their fears, storm across the Strait, murder everyone on the island and burn down the Druidic shrines they find there. Thus ended Druidry in Britain.

 

Except, of course, it didn't end. For one thing, Anglesey had then, as it still has now, excellent sea-borne links with Ireland. It would be absurd had not at least some of the Anglesey Druids jumped into boats and high-tailed it across the Irish Sea, or in the other direction to Scotland, depending on the prevailing winds. For another thing, it would have been equally absurd for every Druid in the whole of the British Isles to present themselves conveniently in the same place on the same day so that they could all be conveniently massacred. Add to that the fact that there were a number of British tribes who welcomed the Romans' arrival and it seems very unlikely that the Romans would have repaid their welcome by murdering their Druids.

 

Barry piping in Bryn Celli DduOur chosen site for the ceremony on Anglesey was the megalithic chambered tomb-shrine of Bryn Celli Ddu, the 'Mound of the Dark Grove,' pronounced something like Brun Kethly Thee. I was happy with the choice, having last visited the Mound almost thirty years ago. It is an unusual site in many ways. Passage graves of this type are generally earlier in date than stone circles. In this case, however, the passage grave, dated circa 2000 BCE, was constructed inside a pre-existing henge and stone circle constructed around a thousand years earlier. It is also unusual amongst British tomb-shrines in having carved decorations on some of its stones, such decorated stones being mainly found in Irish tomb-shrines where they are relatively common. Bryn Celli Ddu's 27-foot long passage is aligned on the sun at Midsummer. Another extremely unusual feature is the free-standing stone pillar that stands inside the central chamber. There has been speculation that this stone is actually part of a petrified tree, or it may have been chosen for this special placing because of its resemblance to a petrified tree. That's Barry playing his pipes next to that very stone pillar.

 

We crossed the Britannia Bridge onto Anglesey and turned left towards our destination. Parking nearby, we walked along field edges until we reached the site. With its surrounding bank and ditch, it is an impressive site. The obvious place to old the ceremony was the flat area between the henge ditch and the Mound. I took the World Drum in its case and laid it at the approximate centre of what was to be our circle. While waiting for the rest of our party to arrive, I stood looking around at the place, my mind idling. My eyes were drawn back to the grassy area where the ceremony would be held and I saw beneath the grass the pattern of a huge serpent. Now snakes are very important in Druidry, which has its own equivalent of the Kundalini serpent of Hindu yoga and also sees earth energies as serpents or dragons, so this vision seemed to bode well.

 

Lorraine and The World Drum at Bryn Celli DduWhen about 50 people had arrived, I joined Caryl, Elaine and others to talk about what we were going to do in the ceremony. I had wondered if Caryl might have some firm plan for the rite. I needn't have worried. As with the other World Drum rites, she was happy to start off and see where spirit took us. Our 'plan,' such as it was, included a short introduction to the World Drum, a reading of Morten Wolf Storeide's 'Speech for Mother Earth,' and then for Lorraine, as she had before, to carry the Drum around the circle for everyone to play. Caryl would open the circle and Elaine might recite the ancient Greek 'Hymn to Gaia,' a beautiful piece of liturgy. Our Welsh bard, Gwyn, would speak a piece of Druid liturgy in its original language and in English. And that's pretty much what happened.

 

Serpentine Conga at Bryn Celli DduThe end of the rite, however, took me by surprise. Caryl gathered everyone together for a hokey-cokey, which was followed by a serpent-dance, beginning just where I'd seen my serpent vision in the grass, snaking away around the Mound and returning to its starting point. Serpent energy. Yes! And the drummers, as drummers will, played on throughout.

 

It was a good, energised and energising rite, lighting up the place literally and metaphorically as the sun broke through and smiles broke out.

 

Another surprise was looking to the top of the Mound and seeing there my old friend, Andy Letcher, and his wife, Nomi. This was slightly surreal, since I had last seen them a couple of weeks earlier when they had unexpectedly appeared at our ceremony at Avebury. At Bryn Celli Ddu, they had at least known that a ceremony was due to take place on Anglesey, though they had not known the venue and had made an educated guess. We arranged to meet up again, making sure we wouldn't miss each other by not telling each other where we'd be.

 

After the ceremony, many of us went into the chamber inside the mound, taking the World Drum and other drums, while Barry took his pipes. I caught the end of the session in the Mound, and it was good.

 

Evening in Cae Mabon roundhouseThat evening, we had an eisteddfod session in the roundhouse. It was good. We enjoyed a mix of music, stories, jokes and songs.

 

Having slept hardly at all the night before, I decided to try spending the night in the roundhouse with my sons. Not having bedding or a sleeping bag with me, I figured I'd be OK in my thick woolly Druid robe with my wolfskin cloak over me. Of course, what I hadn't allowed for was that this was the night North Wales would be hit by storm force winds of up to 75 mph and torrential rain.

 

The doorway of the Cae Mabon roundhouse has a heavy woollen blanket hung across it. As the winds rose, this heavy blanket was, at times, stretched out parallel to the ground. Meanwhile, the flames of the central fire, which I was keeping fed to try and maintain a reasonable temperature, were being swung wildly around, sending sparks flying towards the straw-bales placed near the fire as seating. The Cae Mabon roundhouse has a stone wall. The roof poles are rested on top of that wall, the thatch applied on top of the poles. However, the gap between the top of the wall and the thatch has not been filled, therefore the furious winds were blowing into the roundhouse from all sides. Candle lanterns, fortunately not lit, were blown over. Luckily, the sofas and armchair on which Joe, Mike and I were trying to sleep were below the level of the top of the wall and, therefore, sheltered from the worst of the wind. On the other hand, we were not protected from the sound of the wind which roared around us all night with a noise like an express train passing a few feet away. I had not heard winds like it since the night of the famous hurricane of 1987. Needless to say, I did not sleep.

 

On Sunday morning there were more opportunities to talk. Barry and I, as bards will, fell into comparing our various flutes and talking music. There was a final lunch, followed by a farewell ceremony with the Drum, and then it was back up the path for the long drive back to Wildways, passing once more across the beautiful Llanberis Pass.

 

Cae Mabon rocks and treesBefore we left, Cae Mabon held one last bit of magic for me. As mentioned, Mount Snowdon is visible from Cae Mabon. Mount Snowdon is the home of the four storm-bringing eagles who are depicted on my drum. Just before we left, I stepped off on my own and found a suitable perch from which to view the mountain. I wanted to re-connect with my eagle companions. It had been a while. Facing the mountain across the lake, I raised my arms from my sides and spread them as wings. Without even thinking about it, I found my spirit soaring across the waters of the lake in eagle form and heading for the clouds that wreathed the mountain-top. There I found my eagle companions and greeted them. I took a moment to enjoy wheeling around the mountain with them, then broke away to return to Cae Mabon and my body. I knew that my companions would be anxious to be underway. It was a beautiful, magical moment and I give thanks to the spirits.

 

Barry has written a beautiful poem/song about our time at Cae Mabon and Anglesey, which is available online as a rather lovely sound file on which Barry plays the World Drum and his lilting bagpipes while the sound of the Cae Mabon stream rushes along and he speaks/sings his words. The text is on the same page, and you can find both at http://www.redsandstonehill.net/2013/04/world-drum-at-cae-mabon.html

 

Enjoy!

 

As ever, the photos here are by Elaine Gregory, aka Elaine Wildways.

 

On first visiting the Avebury henge in Wiltshire in the mid-1970s, I came to the same conclusion that the antiquary, John Aubrey, arrived at after his first visit in 1649, which is that Avebury "doth as much exceed in greatness the so renowned Stonehenge, as a cathedral doth a parish church." In scale, it certainly does, Avebury's massive bank and ditch enclosing an area of 28.5 acres compared to Stonehenge's humble 1.9. In spite of having half a village built inside it and being sliced in two by a busy main road, Avebury also retains an extraordinary atmosphere. On my first visit, it felt like an active, living sacred site.
As I strolled around the south inner circle, I had a vision in which I saw the body of a grey-haired man lying on a wicker-work stretcher next to the base of one of the sarsen stones. Kneeling by him was a woman of a similar age who I took to be his partner. She was singing a keening song and wafting her hands across the dead man's chest. I got the distinct impressions that she was singing the man's soul into the sarsen, and that this was a common practice among her people. About a dozen other women and men stood in a loose semi-circle around the couple, all facing in towards the stone. Some of them were also singing, while the women were supporting the woman's wafting motions. All were dressed in clothing of rough-woven cloth and skins that suggested they had lived about 4 - 4.5 thousand years ago. This vision gave me the clear idea that one of the functions of the stones in megalithic circles was to act as soul-shrines, receptacles for the spirits of the dead in which they would reside after death as continuing members of their tribes.
Avebury Funeral RiteIt is this vision that I've tried to recapture in the illustration here, made for one of the booklets in the BDO ovate course, one on rituals of death and dying. I began with a photo taken by my son Joe next to the very stone where I had the vision 37 years ago. In it, I play the dead man and Elaine Wildways plays my grieving partner. Since our photo was taken on a bright sunny early afternoon, while the vision was set at twilight, I darkened the sky and some of the surrounding landscape. The over-large moon and the rook were added from another photo of Avebury taken at another time. They were added just because I think they look good. The wolfskin covering my body was also added digitally. I also played around with the colours a bit. I thought about including some of the other figures I had seen in the vision but decided not to as they would have partially hidden the central couple. If you're thinking the image really looks digitally manipulated, that's deliberate. There's something about the weird accidents that happen when digitally playing around with pictures that, for me at least, gives them an Otherworldly appearance which is exactly what I was looking for.
Intriguingly, the archaeologist, Mike Parker-Pearson, believes that the stones at Stonehenge are soul-shrines, having been led to this conclusion when he invited
Ramilisonina, a colleague from Madagascar, to visit Stonehenge in the 1990s. Ramilisonina told him that, in Madagascar, there is a still active megalithic tradition in which the souls of the dead are transferred into stones that are regarded as sacred. He strongly felt that the stones of Stonehenge had the same function.
It's interesting, though ultimately futile, to speculate whether Mike Parker-Pearson would have so readily accepted the same opinion from me, an English Druid, if I had shared my vision with him. Somehow, I doubt it. There is a peculiar cultural bias by which spirit vision is perfectly acceptable as 'evidence' if it comes from a person born into a culture regarded as 'traditional,' 'tribal,' 'shamanic,' or 'aboriginal,' but not if it comes from an English, European or American Druid or Pagan. Why this should be so is not entirely obvious, since we are all humans and share exactly the same capacity to have visions and to commune with ancestral spirits. It's almost as if there's a kind of inverted racism at work. Just a thought ...

Unveiling the World Drum After Avebury, Stonehenge and Glastonbury, where next for the World Drum? Why to the town of Ironbridge in Shropshire of course! Why Ironbridge? Well, Ironbridge is widely credited with being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution and it was the Industrial Revolution that led to so many of us being divorced from our Mother Earth. In 1760, some 80% of the population of Britain lived and worked on the land. By 1830, 80% of us lived in towns and cities and worked in factories. This process has been repeated across the world in other industrialised nations. As a result, much of the world's population has become cut off from the Earth as our source of food and of spiritual sustenance. Since the message of the World Drum is about re-connecting with our Mother Earth, what better place to bring it than Ironbridge, the very place where the great disconnection began?Lorraine, who lives nearby, offered to co-ordinate this event with us, working with the tireless Elaine Gregory, who cross-coordinated all of the World Drum events. Our profuse thanks and blessings to both and, of course, to everyone else who made our journeys and ceremonies possible and who took part in them.
We tried to contact the local council and the tourist board at Ironbridge to ask if what we were planning was OK with them. They failed to respond to repeated attempts so we assumed everything was OK. And it was.
Beginning the ceremony we call for peaceIronbridge came as a surprise to me. When it's spoken of as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, this instantly conjures images of coal-blackened factories, smoke-belching chimneys and polluted waterways. Ironbridge is beautiful. It nestles in a steep-sloped, wooded valley, the River Severn, sacred to the goddess Sabrina, flowing serenely beneath the bridge from which the town is named. The main street, shops and cafes are decked with flower baskets. It is clearly a place that is loved and cared for by those who live there. It is also a living testament to Mother Earth's ability to revitalise, restore and renew our built environment if we only give her a little help and encouragement and stop doing the things that hurt her and harm her creatures. So, an even more perfect venue for the World Drum to sound out the heartbeat of our Mother Earth.
On our exploratory visit to the town prior to the ceremony, we were struck by the presence of a memorial to the dead of the 1st World War that stands at one end of the bridge. Since the World Drum's secondary message is of peace between all peoples, it seemed right to honour this memorial to the destructive folly that is war.
Taking the World Drum to each of the previous venues, we had at least a sense that there would be other like-minded people ready to join us in our rites. Taking the Drum to Ironbridge, we had no such expectation. Indeed, for all we knew, we might be moved along for giving a public exhibition without a license or some such. In the event, our rite was attended by those we knew would be there with us plus just a few passers-by intrigued by our curious dress and behaviour. One delightful family ended up spending much of the afternoon with us as well as participating in the ceremony and playing the World Drum.
With the World Drum at IronbridgeThe ceremony was quietly energising, blessed once more by glorious sunshine and blue skies as the river flowed peacefully on below us. The goddess Sabrina was honoured, the Speech for Mother Earth spoken once more. We spoke for peace at the foot of the memorial to war. We formed our circle on the bridge the symbolises both the birth of the Industrial Revolution and, nowadays, the Earth's ability to recover from even the worst effects of industrial processes if we allow and encourage her to do so.
With the World Drum at IronbridgeIt was a good day...
Blessings to all,
Greywolf /|\

Photos by Elaine Wildways. Video footage to follow soon /|\

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St Michael's tower on Glastonbury TorAfter having brought the World Drum to Avebury and Stonehenge, where should we go next? Well, the answer is obvious really, we must, of course, go to Glastonbury. Glastonbury has long had a reputation for myth and magic. It is said that Joseph of Arimathea came there during the lifetime of Jesus and again after his death. Some say he brought the child Jesus with him, others say he brought the Holy Grail and hid it there. Others say he planted a holy thorn tree when he pushed his staff into the ground and it took root. Some say that Merlin was imprisoned beneath the oddly shaped Tor that dominates the skyline for miles around. Some claim that King Arthur and his queen, Guinevere, were buried in the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey. Local legend has it that a dragon sleeps coiled within the Tor. The Tor is believed to be hollow, with two caverns within it. Some say that Merlin still resides frozen in one of them, while Arthur and his knights are reputed to sleep in the other, awaiting Britain's time of greatest need to arise and aid us once more.Whether you believe any of these tales, they certainly indicate that Glastonbury exercises a powerful pull on the imagination of the people of Britain.
When we first began to talk about taking the World Drum to Glastonbury, there was never any doubt in my mind that we would have to play it on top of the Tor, next to the ruined tower that is all that remains of the church of Saint Michael that used to stand there. Others suggested that, given the very cold spring we were experiencing, an indoor venue would be wise. To me, it had to be the Tor and no other place.
Britannia from a Romano-British coinWe began to consider ritual. Long time BDO supporter and Elder, Morgan, has been holding regular ceremonies in Glastonbury for many years and so we felt we could rely on her to advise and assist, which she was eager to do. I had a notion that we should call upon the Romano-British goddess, Britannia. Now known mainly through the patriotic dirge "Rule Britannia," she is actually a far less warlike and jingoistic figure than one might imagine. From her earliest representations on Roman coins, she has been represented as enthroned, seated, not in a warlike posture but in repose. She holds a large shield at her side, showing that she is protective of her land and people. In her right hand she holds a trident, symbolising that she is a daughter of Neptune, god of the sea that surrounds our islands. She seemed to me a daughter also of our Mother Earth and, therefore, a good local deity to invoke when asking for our people to reconnect with Mother Earth in respect and reverence.
To balance the feminine nature of Britannia, I began to think about also invoking the spirit of the people of our islands through the male figure of Albion (though some say Albion is hermaphrodite). Albion was adopted by the counter-culture of the 1960s and early 70s of which I was a part, and I was pleased to learn that at the first Glastonbury Fayre, the pyramid stage was positioned in relation to the Tor so as to act as a kind of spiritual dynamo to awaken the sleeping giant, Albion. This sacred alignment was suggested by John Michell, author of 'The View Over Atlantis.' I attended that first Glastonbury Fayre. Years later, in 1993, John Michell was among those present at the first gathering of the Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri that I inaugurated at Avebury. Synchronicity...
The weather forecast for the day of the rite was not promising. It was supposed to be cloudy, dull and freezing cold. Nevertheless, it looked quite bright as we set off in the car in the morning and, by the time we reached Glastonbury, the sun had emerged and the skies clear. We climbed the steep slopes of the Tor in brilliant sunshine and arrived at the summit to be treated to spectacular views across the surrounding countryside under beautiful blue skies. The World Drum had come through for us again.
The World Drum circles with the sunWe found Morgan on top of the Tor and the accustomed conversation took place. "So, what are we going to do then?" "I don't know, what do you think?" "Well, I guess we could ..." So we chose where we were to conduct the rite and began to exchange ideas. I mentioned Britannia and Albion, Morgan mentioned the sleeping dragon. As we talked, a woman in blue standing close to us suddenly exploded with a cry of "You cannot block Brigit!" She said it so loudly that those of us standing near jumped sideways. I said, "Pardon me?" and she repeated, equally loudly, "You cannot block Brigit!" I ventured to suggest that no one had proposed that we should block Brigit. She proceeded to lecture us on how Brigit is the goddess of these lands, the goddess of the Brigantes. Well, technically speaking the Brigantes were a tribe of Northern Britain, a very long way from Glastonbury, but I had no desire to argue on such a lovely day, so suggested that Brigit should be included in our rite.
Sunshine drummers on the TorWhen we formed our circle, we were still bathed in beautiful sunshine and over a hundred people joined us, many with their own drums. We spoke of the World Drum and its message, reading Morten Wolf Storeide's 'Speech for Mother Earth' once again. We invoked the goddess Britannia, spirit of the land, Albion, spirit of the people, all the people, whatever their creed or colour, our new friend spoke beautifully for Brigit and Morgan for the dragon of the Tor. then we began to Drum. As at Avebury, Lorraine carried the Drum around the circle so that everyone got the chance to play it. The many other drummers joined their drums to the heartbeat of Mother Earth. There were a lot of very good drummers on that holy hill and we raised some really good energy. Walking the circle with my own drum and looking around at the faces, you could see them lighting up with joy and the magic of the place and the rite. It was beautiful and inspiring. You could feel the spirits rising, and the drums continued...
The rite ended with an outbreak of spontaneous cheering. It was a truly joyous event.
With the World Drum on Glastonbury TorAfter the ceremonyAfter the rite, there were many conversations with folk wanting to know more about the World Drum Project, about who we were and what we were doing. Children played the Drum, people took photographs. People introduced themselves. Two women had come all the way from America to be with us. As things began to wind down, I heard drumming coming from inside St. Michael's tower. I was about to put the World Drum back in its case when it called to me and told me that it wanted to be played in the tower. I picked it up and walked into the tower. There was Ginny, leading the drums with her djembe, while my friend Steve was in one corner of the tower and a tall guy called, I think, Ben, was in the opposite corner. The Drum and I took up our place in the one corner that didn't yet have a drummer and joined our voices. Between us drummers were the dancers, including a group of Spanish women who went wild. It was beautiful!
Drumming and dancing in St Michael's towerI have to say, after the rite itself and then the amazing drumming inside the tower, I pretty much flew down off the Tor. My only concern: how are we going to top that?
In conversation with Morgan after the rite, I learned that the theme of the Goddess Conference in Glastonbury in 2012 had been the reclamation of Britannia as a Pagan goddess. Synchronicity...
I love this life, the life of the Druid is the life of the land as I once said in song ...
And so to the next venue ...

PS. Photos by Elaine Wildways. Sound and video to be added soon ... /|\

The Ring Stone at AveburyMy first visit to Avebury was in the very hot summer of 1976, when I arrived by bicycle. I recall sitting with the Ring Stone that stands between the Southern Entrance and the South Inner Circle. It's called the Ring Stone because it was once a lot taller and had a hole right through it. When I leaned my head into the part of the stone that is now missing - as shown in our picture, only a short stump is left - it produced a distinct sensation of weight and solidity, as though the upper part of the stone were still there in spirit. Because a similar ringed stone in Scotland was used to conduct handfastings (Druid weddings) with the couple linking hands through the hole, we adopted Avebury's Ring Stone for the same purpose, inviting each couple to link hands at the point where they felt the hole had been. Hundreds of couples have since been joined there in love. My second spiritual experience of Avebury (I think during that same visit) was a vision of a middle-aged man's body lying on the ground next to one of the stones of the South Inner Circle. He was partly covered by an animal hide (bull I think it was). By his side knelt a grey-haired woman of a similar age who was singing a lament and wafting the man's spirit from his chest towards the sarsen that towered above them. Others stood by, some joining the keening lament. All were dressed in a combination of woven fabrics and animal hides. This convinced me that the stones of Avebury and, by extension, of other megalithic sites, are, among other things, shrines containing the spirits of our ancestors. Many years later, the archaeologist, Mike Parker-Pearson, reached the same conclusion at Stonehenge based on input from a Madagascan 'medicine man' he brought to visit the henge.In The first Avebury Gorsedd, 1993September 1993 (see picture above), I was responsible for founding the Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri amongst the great sarsen circles of the Avebury henge. This resulted from an invitation to create a ceremony for a multi-faith gathering organised by the late Tim Sebastion, founder of the Secular Order of Druids. A couple of years later, the Gorsedd had become what Ronald Hutton described as "the central event of the New Druidry."
I live only about 12 miles from Avebury and it remains a very special place for me. Therefore it was a 'no-brainer' that we should take the World Drum there for the first ceremony of this year's UK trip, especially since we had brought the Drum there during its last visit to us in 2008.
With the World Drum at AveburyWhen you put out a call for folk to come to a public ceremony, you never have any idea who, if anyone, will turn up. It is put into the hands of the gods, the spirits and, in this case of course, the spirit of the Drum. To say we had a good result is a whopping understatement. Our circle consisted of about 60-70 people, all of whom were thoroughly tuned in to what we were there for and put beautiful energy into our rite for Mother Earth and for world peace. I also like the fact that we artrived with only the outline of a few ideas, talked them through a few minutes before we started and made a ceremony that seemed to flow naturally and easily. One part of the rite, repeated at each subsequent ceremony, was the Speech for Mother Earth composed by World Drum Project founder, Morten Wolf Stereide for the first World Drum ceremony which took place at the Norwegian Parliament building in 2006. Part of this says: "Mother Earth is crying. Soon she will have no tears left and then it will be too late. The time has come to unite and stand together. Please, I ask you, take each other's hands, lift them high and make a prayer while the World Drum sings her song and we feel her heartbeat. It is the heartbeat of Mother Earth. It is our heartbeat, from each and every one all over the world. It is the heartbeat of life itself. Let us join together as one that this heartbeat may continue."
The World Drum brings out the Sun!I love it when the natural world responds to what we are doing in sacred ceremony. In this case, we were making our ceremony during one of the coldest Springtimes on record and yet, as was to happen elsewhere, when we began to play the World Drum and our other drums along with it, the sun burst through the clouds and blessed us as shown in this picture by Elaine Wildways. For this, as for so much else, we give thanks to the spirits of the place, the people, our ancestors, the gods and the Drum!
The gentle, peaceful, honouring, loving energy of the day reminded me so much of the early days of the Avebury GorsThe Guardian of the Stonesedd in the 1990s. It was a joy to be there once again, singing the awen, the flowing spirit of inspiration and creativity, and swearing the Oath of Peace, "We swear by peace and love to stand, heart to heart and hand in hand. Mark, O spirits, and hear us now, confirming this, our sacred vow."
Thanks and blessings to all who came, both seen and unseen. What a wonderful event to begin this journey with the World Drum. I have always had an image of Avebury as a great mother, welcoming those who come in peace and reverence with open arms of glistening sarsen stone and green earth banks. The image here shows a woman in the dress of the megalithic era seated in the 'throne' in the outer face of one of the two huge sarsen stones that flank the Southern Entrance to the henge. An unusually short woman in her 30s was buried near the entrance in a circle of small sarsens, curled in a foetal position with her face towards the West Kennet Avenue of stones that reaches the henge bank at this point. In her honour, the Gorsedd has always selected someone, usually a woman, to embody her at the beginning of our ceremonies. We presented the World Drum to the 'throne' before entering to begin our ceremony. What a perfect place to begin this journey with the Drum that calls to us with the heartbeat of our Mother Earth, calling us to honour and respect her and all her children. May we be true to her call!

12

CeridwenWe often get the impression that paganism in Britain was completely eradicated by the arrival of Christianity and its adoption by our ruling elites. We also tend to think of pagan revivals as not occurring prior to the 20th century, or perhaps the Victorian magical schools of the late 19th. However, the more I've looked at the medieval literature of Britain and Ireland over the years, the more I've come to see that the bards of our islands have concerned themselves not only with the preservation of our myths, legends and histories, but with a brand of mysticism that amounts to a pagan revival. In Wales, for example, the literature surrounding the Cauldron of Ceridwen and its magical brew of Inspiration (Awen), and the subsequent tales and poems associated with Taliesin, the Primary Chief Bard of Britain, all point to a mystical, spiritual understanding that has at its core the witch-like figure of Ceridwen herself, Patroness of Bards, magician and initiatrix.

In Ireland, the Bards (filidh) wove mysterious legends of Druids, describing their rites of healing. They also created complex systems of cyphers and hidden languages based around the Ogham alphabet, itself described as being used for magic and divination.

Nor was England left out of this medieval pagan revMastering Herbalism by Paul Husonival if the following Prayer to Mother Earth is anything to go by. I first came across it in the 1970s in a book called Mastering Herbalism by Paul Huson. It comes from a 12th century English herbal and is very clearly pagan:

“Earth, divine goddess, Mother Nature who generates all things and brings forth anew the sun which you have given to the nations; Guardian of sky and sea and of all gods and powers and through your power all nature falls silent and then sinks in sleep. And again you bring back the light and chase away night and yet again you cover us most securely with your shades. You contain chaos Blodeuweddinfinite, yes and winds and showers and storms; you send them out when you will and cause the seas to roar; you chase away the sun and arouse the storm. Again when you will you send forth the joyous day and give the nourishment of life with your eternal surety; and when the soul departs to you we return. You indeed are duly called great Mother of the gods; you conquer by your divine name. You are the source of the strength of nations and of gods, without you nothing can be brought to perfection or be born; you art the great queen of the gods. Goddess! I adore you as divine; I call upon your name; be pleased to grant that which I ask you, so shall I give thanks to you, goddess, with one faith.

“Hear, I beseech you, and be favourable to my prayer. Whatsoever herb your power produces, give, I pray, with goodwill to all nations to save them and grant me this my medicine. Come to me with your powers, and howsoever I may use them may they have good success and to whomsoever I may give them. Whatever you grant, it may prosper. To you all things return. Those who rightly receive these herbs from me, do you make them whole. Goddess, I beseech you; I pray you as a suppliant that by your majesty you grant this to me.

“Now I make intercession to you all you powers and herbs and to your majesty, you whom Earth, parent of all, has produced and given as a medicine of health to all nations and has put majesty upon you, be, I pray you, the greatest help to the human race. This I pray and beseech from you, and be present here with your virtues, for she who created you has herself promised that I may gather you into the goodwill of him on whom the art of medicine was bestowed, and grant for health's sake good medicine by grace of your powers. I pray grant me through your virtues that whatsoever is wrought by me through you may in all its powers have a good and speedy effect and good success and that I may always be permitted with the favour of your majesty to gather you into my hands and to glean your fruits. So shall I give thanks to you in the name of that majesty which ordained your birth.”

Translated in 'Early English Magic and Medicine' by Dr. Charles Singer, Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. IV. The 'thees' and 'thous' of Singer's translation have been replaced with modern English. It's also quoted in The Old English Herbals, by Eleanor Sinclair Rohde, which should open as a pdf file if you click on this title: Old_English_Herbals. Well worth a look as it's got quotes from lots of other early Anglo-Saxon and English herbals, including assorted spells and charms...

It seems we are following in the footsteps of many generations of pagan revivalists. Or perhaps paganism never fully gave way to Christianity but always hung on like silver-dewed cobwebs in our hedgerows, sparkling briefly at twilight times then all but disappearing in the full light of the day.

I trust the unnamed writer's prayer was answered, and that she or he found the healing virtues so eloquently requested from our great Mother Earth.

Many blessings,

Greywolf /|\

 UPDATE, January 27th, 2014:

As so often, this particular historical mystery has been solved by my old friend, Professor Ronald Hutton. On page 384 of his book, Pagan Britain (Yale University Press, 2013), Ronald identifies this poem as a product of the late Roman Empire, reproduced in various continental manuscripts from the 6th century onwards, though only the aforementioned 12th (or possibly 11th) century herbal in England, always under its Latin title, Praecatio Terrae Matris, 'Prayer to Mother Earth.' It is translated in J. Grattan and Charles Singer, Anglo-Saxon Magic and Medicine (Oxford University Press, 1952).

My suggestion that it may represent part of a 12th (or 11th) century pagan revival still stands. My theory is that this took place, particularly in the Welsh courts and bardic colleges, but also in other parts of Britain, as a direct result of the Norman invasion of 1066. This violent influx of foreign culture led native Britons to look to their past, including their pagan past, for comfort, inspiration and a strengthened sense of identity. The fact that the pagan past was, by then, barely remembered (if at all) led them to look beyond Britain to fill the void, hence this Latin poem in a Saxon manuscript and the features from Irish mythology that appear in the Welsh Mabinogi, a collection of legends also compiled in the 12th century.

This was the one we had to keep quiet about ... March 30th, 2013, 5.15pm, the evening we took the World Drum to Stonehenge. Five years ago, the last time we hosted the World Drum, I thought it would be good to take it to the Henge. In the 90s and early 00s, Emma Restall Orr and I had built up a good rapport with Clews Everard, then running Stonehenge for English Heritage. Clews appreciated the approach we brought to negotiations about ritual access to the Henge, which was simply to discuss politely and without anger, prejudice or bitterness. However, by the time the World Drum reached us in 2008, I had not attended the regular Stonehenge access meetings for 7 years and Clews and everyone else we knew at English Heritage, Stonehenge had left. When I telephoned the EH office, I was rudely stone-walled by a man who refused to give his name and lied to me about access, not realising that I had been involved in discussions on the subject for several years and probably knew more about it than he did.So, this time, rather than go through the frustrating process with EH again, I decided to contact the folks who now look after the Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr, the group Emma and I founded nearly 20 years ago to enable peaceful access to the stones for focused ritual. Christine Cleer came up trumps. Having an ongoing relationship with the folks at EH Stonehenge, she was able to arrange a one hour access for us.
Christine Cleere with the World Drum at StonehengeOf course, things are seldom quite as simple as they appear, and this was no exception. When Christine arrived at the office next to the Henge, she was told they had no record of her access request. However, Christine, having encountered similar problems before, had brought with her a copy of the e-mail from EH confirming the access arrangements. We were OK.
We were limited to 12 people, hence not being able to announce the event beforehand ... we didn't want to disappoint all the people who I'm sure would have loved to share the access with us. Ah well, we were pleased to be there at all.
Another slight oddity was that these special accesses to the stones are normally conducted out of public visiting hours. We, however, were ushered through while sight-seers were still strolling the perimieter of the henge on the concrete path that runs around past of the outside of the sarsen circles. I'd never attempted a ceremony surrounded by such a large group of onlookers who were clearly interested but were not allowed to join us. Very strange.
The reason why EH limited us to 12 is that the grass had been trampled to mud by a larger group who had ritual access at the Spring Equinox. EH are a little absessive about their grass. Inside the stone circles the ground is protected by plastic matting through which the grass grows. When I was a kid, the grass between the stones was a little word by generations of visitors, there was only one low fence and no one paid to get in. The stones didn't seem to mind... Unfortunately these days the henge has become a major generator of funds for EH as one of their greatest tourist attractions. Not quite what local resident, Sir Cecil Chubb intended when he gave it to the nation in 1918 with the proviso that it be kept open for public access.
The World Drum being played before one of the trilithon arches at StonehengeThe henge is a strange place, surrounded by much contention. Various Druid groups and others argue over access to it, it sits on Salisbury Plain surrounded by busy main roads and extensive army camps and firing ranges. In its heyday, 4,500 years ago, it was a ritual focus for people from as far afield as the Orkneys and Switzerland, this at a time when almost every other henge and sacred structure in Britain was falling into disuse and decay. The implication is that Stonehenge was run by a powerful elite who ruled the whole of Britain. The very structure of the place speaks of this elite dominance. Unlike Avebury, 20-odd miles to the North, with its openness and massive scale, the centre of Stonehenge is tightly enclosed between four circles of stones, well, OK, two horseshoes and two full circles. Some of the gaps between stones are very narrow and the actual space in the centre of the henge is small. Seeing into the centre from outside the stones would have been very difficult. This was designed to be a hidden sanctum where the priests of the ruling elite conducted rites away from the prying eyes of the populus who gathered outside to await the words of wisdom brought out from within. All this makes it a little strange that it should have been so firmly adopted as a favoured destination for gatherings by the young, the anarchic and the dispossessed, those as far from the ruling elite as one can get. But maybe that's appropriate? Maybe it's a redressing of an ancient balance?
Anyway, the point is, it makes for a very strange place to do ritual. You might wonder then, why did we want to bring the World Drum here? Well, partly for the very reasons the place is strange. The fact that it did once network across the whole of Britain and across deep into Europe means that there is still the possibility to send out messages from it through the network of Earth energies that may still touch the spirits of folk in the Outer Hebrides or Switzerland. Then there is the notion of taking the World Drum, this amazing creation of peace and reverence for our Mother Earth, into the heart of a place with such a troubled past and present. To sound the Drum there, to radiate peace within those ancient stones, felt right. Plus it would be churlish not to mention our other motive, which was simply to get photographs of the World Drum being played in this hugely recognisable temple, surely one of the most recognisable buildings on the face of the planet. After all, part of the World Drum vow is that we will do all we can to promote the presence of the World Drum and its message of reverence for our Mother Earth and peace between all her peoples. We hope that our photographs, and video footage, of the Drum sounding out at this iconic location will help to promote the Drum, the reverence and the peace.
So may it be! And to help us promote the World Drum and its message, please feel free to share this blog and any of the images here.
Blessings to all and thanks to my son, Mike, and Elaine Wildways for the photos,
Greywolf /|\

6

The World Drum is a remarkable shamanic instrument created as the result of a vision given to Norwegian shaman, White Cougar. White Cougar heard the call of Mother Earth asking for the Drum to be created and sent out around the world carrying the message that it is time for all the people of the world to awaken to the harm we are doing to our Mother Earth before it is too late, and that as part of this re-awakening we must put an end to war and hatred. The drum was made by Sami drum-maker, Birger Mikkelsen. It was first played in ceremony outside the Norwegian parliament in 2006. Since then, it has visited six continents and been played at over 500 venues.

The World Drum at my houseThis extraordinary Drum arrived on my doorstep a few weeks ago after having been played in ceremonies in Hawaii. By contrast, here in Britain, Spring had taken a jump back to Winter with freezing temperatures and snow covering much of the country. The picture here shows the drum sitting by my altar. In front of the drum is my branch of peace, the magical instrument by which the bards of old called for peace before a performance. I now use it to call for peace at the beginning of ceremonies too.

The arrival of the Drum was a wake-up call to me personally. I have spent so much time working on the distance learning courses we're putting together for the BDO that I've been neglecting the things that Druidry is really all about, i.e. getting out in the world and creating ceremonies with as much beauty, truth and peace as we can muster. The World Drum having been played by so many thousands of hands in so many sacred ceremonies and different cultures is a powerful reminder, a clarion call to step up to the mark, get your act together and make ritual not only happen but work.

Since then, we've made ceremonies at the Avebury Henge in Wiltshire, at Stonehenge, on the summit of Glastonbury Tor and at venues in Shropshire, including the summit of Titterstone Clee with its ancient remains of Bronze and Iron Age ancestors. Thes ceremonies have been strong, focusing as they have on the charisma and energy that the World Drum has built up during its incredible, seven-year journey.

On Glastonbury Tor, we invoked the ancient pagan goddess, Britannia, protectress of our lands, daughter of Mother Earth and Father Neptune. We invoked Brigit, goddess-saint who spans pagan and Christian traditions as well as being patroness of bards and artists. We invoked Albion, spirit of the people of our lands, representing all that is best in us, whatever our origins, colours or creeds. We invoked the Dragon who sleeps curled within the Tor, the Dragon who is the power of the earth, the power that also coild within ourselves awaiting the awakening of enlightenment. And then we drummed. O, how we drummed. The World Drum was moved around the circle so that all the 100 people there could play it and sense its potent presence while adding their own spirit, their own prayers, to the Drum. It was beautiful, magical, energising and just utterly amazing ... exactly what Druidry should always be. There are still further ceremonies to come, including one on the old Druidic centre, Angelsey, focus of a huge spiral anomaly in the Earth's magnetic field.

But what do we hope to achieve through all this activity?

Many years ago a Native American friend, John Two-Birds, said that if the world is to become the place we dream it should be, it is up to us, the dreamers and workers with spirit, wherever we are in the world and whatever tradition we are part of, to bring it about, because only we can weave the magic capable of changing hearts, minds and spirits towards that better world. I firmly believe this to be true and I believe that the World Drum is a strong part of that beautiful magic we are weaving together. I believe that if we continue to grow what we are doing, there will come a time when the balance tips in favour of we dreamers and spirit workers of the world, and that our way will become the way of the world, the way of peace, harmony and reverence, of sharing not taking. If there is to be a future, we must be it 🙂

What do we hope to achieve then? Well, not much, just changing the world by putting an end to war and creating social systems based on sharing, so that none need know poverty, injustice, hunger, homelessness or fear. Can we do it? Of course we can! 😀

Peace, love and many blessings,

Greywolf /|\