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18

I wanted to make drums with Red Deer hide. I have an affinity with these animals from a variety of angles. For one thing, over the last year or two I've developed a deeper knowledge and respect for one of our native deities, Gwydion ap Don. For a variety of reasons, I've come to recognise him as our local representative of the widespread antlered Lord of the Animals. Also, in 2008, when we started clearing the land on which our roundhouse was to be built, I immediately stubbed my toe on a deer skull hidden in the tangled undergrowth. The skull is now buried in the NE corner of the roundhouse. Rufus' Antlers above the roundhouse AltarAbove it (left) looms a massive pair of antlers belonging to a great old Red Deer stag called Rufus, who lived in the same valley. A powerful, shape-shifting deer spirit is the protector of the roundhouse, while another potent antlered spirit cares for the whole valley. I have communicated regularly with both for the last seven years. Plus there are few finer natural sights in Britain than a Red Deer stag walking through a forest. And then, of course, there's the fact that I'm a wolf, and wolves certainly do like the strong, gamy taste of venison.
My initial problem was to find deer skins. I read online that the skins and other unwanted parts of many deer farmed for venison are simply thrown away, either burnt or buried, because they are viewed as having no economic value. I asked on facebook if anyone knew of where I could obtain some of these skins. I got a response from Peter Tyldesley, who manages the deer herds at Bradgate Park, Britain's longest continuously operated deer park, dating back to the 14th century. He does make use of hides, antlers, etc., to the greatest extent possible. However, none of his hides had been used for drum-making. Peter gave me a good deal on five hides and they duly arrived. Four of them fitted into my freezer. The fifth didn't. One slightly panicked phone call later, I had arranged to travel to Wild Ways, the woodland retreat centre run by my friends, Elaine and Garth. They had all the space and equipment I would need to treat the hide.
Never having treated a hide before, I resorted to the modern Druidical trick of appealing to the Internet. There I found a number of sites, some decidedly more useful than others. I discovered that a natural substWashing the Deer Hide in Borle Brookance that can be used to de-fur a hide is wood ash. It so happens that almost all the heating at Wild Ways is provided by wood-burning stoves. Garth kindly sieved a quantity of ash for me to get out most of the charcoal and other impurities.
The hides as Peter sent them had been well cleaned and salted. The first thing to do was to remove the salt. This was achieved with the aid of the brook that runs through Wild Ways, a tributary of the nearby River Severn, sacred to the native goddess, Sabrina. I tied the hide by its tail to an underwater root, weighted down the hide with stones and left it for a couple of days (left).
In the meantime, I built a frame on which to stretch the hide and tried to find out how much wood ash to use. Eventually, one website gave me the necessary key: you mix wood ash with one gallon of water until a fresh hen's egg floats upright in it with a disc about an inch across showing. Brilliant!
Then it was time for a body-painting weekend, but that's another blog.Wringing out the washed deer hide
Elaine loaned me a plastic dustbin, which I took down to the brook to carry the hide in. I washed the river mud off the hide as best as I could, wrung it out and put it in the bin. A thoroughly soaked hide from an adult Red Deer weighs quite a lot. Elaine helped me carry the bin across the field and lift it over the gate, where we had a wheelbarrow waiting for the rest of the journey through the woods.
The hide was then washed with spray from a hose, then again in clean rain water in the bin. Then I made up the wood ash solution in a bucket, added it to a further four gallons in the bin, stirred it around thoroughly with a stick, then lowered in the hide. NB. As I found when I searched the web, there are many approaches to curing hides for drum-making. I chose the techniques that felt right to me and it's those I outline here. For another, equally valid, approach, see my old friend Corwen's comment below...
The natural tendency of a hide with fur on is to float, so it's necessary to weight it down with a flat rock. This then has to be left for a few days, during which time you take out the rock and stir the mixture with the hide around. The wood ash solution is alkaline. The effect it has is to cause the cellular structure of the hide to expand, loosening the follicles that hold in the fur. Test the fur every now and then. You'll know it's ready when you can run your hand across the hide and the fur just falls off. When this happens, pull out the hide and fully de-fur it. Because hides de-fur unevenly, you will probably need to scrape some of the fur off. A not-too-sharp knife works well for this. Put the hide on a flat surface, hold the knife so that the blade is at a little bit of an angle (as shown in the picture) and pull it towards you in even strokes, being careful not to apply so much pressure that you go through the skin.
Scraping the hideThen you need to flip it over and work on the flesh side (some recommend scraping the flesh side first). This needs to be scraped to remove any remaining bits of flesh and also to take off the layer of membrane covering this side of the hide. The wood ash solution should make this much easier. The worry is in knowing how far to go. Obviously you don't want to go so far that you weaken the skin. The key seems to be to take it down until the flesh side shows clear white. I don't think I'd left this first hide in the wood ash long enough because the flesh side proved something of a challenge. Back it went into the solution and back home I went for a few days while Elaine and Garth went to the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. After which, they gave me a lift back to Wild Ways.
Soaking the hide in baking soda solution More hide scraping on the flesh side, following which the hide was washed before going into another solution, this time of a handful of baking soda to four gallons of rain water. The idea of the baking soda is that it neutralises the Ph level of the hide after its long alkaline bath. After an overnight soak in the baking soda (right) and some more flesh scraping, the hide was washed again before being placed in four gallons of rainwater to which about a 1/3rd of a pint of clear vinegar had been added and left for about eight hours, stirring occasionally. This has the effect of raising the acidity level of the hide back to something like it was when you started. It also, usefully, takes away some of the strong smell the hide develops while soaking in the wood ash solution.
The stretcher frame Then comes the fun bit, sewing the hide to your beautifully constructed frame. Woohoo! If, like me, you're lucky anough to have a friend with acres of woodland, you can do what I did and find strong saplings to construct your frame. The small cross-pieces on the corners provide extra strength and help stop the frame twisting out of shape too much as the skin dries and applies more tension to the frame. The corners of the frame shown here are lashed with strips of ash bark, which is remarkably strong. While this looks really neat, I admit that most of what's holding the frame together is the screws I put in before the lashing was done. Some modern innovations are extremely useful. If you don't have access to woodland, 8' lengths of 3" x 3" from your local timber yard will do equally well, and that's what I've used for making my second frame at home. You can use pretty much any kind of string or twine to attach the hide to the frame. I used sisal twine because there happened to be a lot of it going spare. A very useful tip I picked up from the Internet is to sew on your hide in four sections, the head end and tail end and both sides. By using separate lengths of cord for each of these you make it much easier to tighten or slacken them off as needed.
Deer hide stretched on frame The frame I made at Wild Ways was about 8 feet high and 4.5 feet across. This looked huge, but proved to be only just big enough. It's called a stretching frame for a reason. The hide will stretch a lot. I'd seen an online video of a guy stitching a hide onto a frame, so I followed his lead, which was to use a small, pointed knife to pierce holes through the hide about a ¼ inch in from the edge of the hide. I was sure the wet skin would tear when I pulled the string tight. I was wrong. This stuff is really strong. Put your holes about five or six inches apart or wherever there's a point of skin sticking out.
I started with the tail end. Having the tail still attached meant that I could tie it to the centre of the frame's bottom with a separate piece of string and use it as my fixed point. I then flipped the frame up the other way and started at the former bottom, now top, right corner of the frame and threaded the twine through each of the already-made holes, looping around the frame as I went. I did the head end next as the already tied tail end gave me something the pull against. Same process. Make your holes first all the way across from one front leg to the other, then stitch and loop. Then I flipped the frame back the other way and did the same for the two sides.
At this point, check the tension on the strings. This is done simply by twanging them with a finger. If they are floppy, they need tightening. If you get a good, resonant twang, they're fine. To tighten, work from one end of your side, top or bottom cord, pulling the cord through each threaded hole in turn as you go. At the far end of each run, undo the cord where you tied it in place, take up all the slack you've just created and tie it again. Do this all round until you're happy that you've got all the strings as tight as you can. Don't be afraid to tug quite hard. This is very tough stuff.
Drum hoop with pentagram 'signature' Then leave it for two or three days to dry, checking the cords every once in a while to make sure they're still tight. You'll probably find they're tighter. After only about a day, my hide was so tight that it was already starting to sound quite drum-like. This is a good sign.
While all this was going on, I'd been finishing off two drum hoops I'd made at Wild Ways some time before. These were looking really good. The timber they are made from is Ash, a beautiful, pale wood. As is my habit, I'd rubbed linseed oil into them. This acts as a preservative, brings out a really nice golden glow in the wood and makes the grain stand out clearly. One of the last parts of my hoop-making process is to drill five small holes and thread rawhide through them in the form of a pentagram. This helps hold the already glued ends of the hoop together and is also my 'signature' (right).
With the hide drying nicely on the stretcher frame, I held the two drum hoops up against them and realised that, with care, I might get two drum skins out of this one hide. Woohoo!
The smaller of the two Ash hoops is kind of egg-shaped and kind of pentagram-shaped. It seems to want to manifest a vision of mine to create a little British sister to The World Drum, a Britannia Drum. The larger of the two fitted beautifully across some strange markings in the hide. It seems to want to be mine. I shall continue listening to what the hide and the hoops want of me during the rest of the making. The next stage is to cut the hide to size and fit it to the hoops. I'm very excited! See you next time at Greywolf's Lair for Part Three: Making the Drums...

26

CapitalismIsASpiritualDiseaseIn our increasingly materialistic world, an ethical question that plagues many of us who try to live as persons of spirit is that of whether, and how much, to charge for our services. A vocal section of the Druid and Pagan communities in Britain maintains that it is always wrong, verging on evil, to charge a fee for anything connected with spirituality. A cynic might argue that some who express this opinion do so because they expect to be given everything in life and to offer nothing in return. However, the same argument rages amongst Druids themselves, as it does amongst other indigenous healers, medicine people and shamans around the world.

The problem is that we live in a capitalist, consumerist culture, where, like everyone else, we have to pay rent or a mortgage, electricity, gas, water and telephone bills, feed ourselves and our families, buy fuel for our stoves, clothes to wear and so on and on and endlessly on. To do so, even the most spiritual of us need money, because, for better or worse, money has come to be the accepted means of exchange for virtually every material thing we need to keep us fed, housed and clothed. Therefore we need a way to make money in order to live.

Many spirit workers subsidise their spirituality by having other jobs that they do to earn their keep. I've CatatGMritedone this myself, subsidising the growth of the BDO throughout the 1990s out of my earnings from painting pottery and then from writing, giving talks and workshops and appearing on TV, often with Bobcat (Emma Restall Orr). Bobcat and I debated the financial question and reached various conclusions, one of which was not to charge a fee for 'priestly' services such as conducting handfastings (Druid weddings) or other rites of passage, but to ask for a donation of whatever the folk we were working with thought appropriate. This led to us preparing and conducting rites in various parts of the country for anything from a bag of apples to a cheque for £600. It balanced out. This is a technique used by spirit workers in many cultures.

Many of my 'shamanic' friends say that, if you have faith, spirit will provide. Again, this is a widespread belief amongst spirit workers worldwide. At the same time, we're all canny enough to recognise that just sitting around waiting for riches to pour out of the sky isn't going to work. We need to be active participants in the process, from deciding on the forms ceremonies are to take to making travel arrangements and booking venues.

In the British Druid Order, we charge for the distance learning courses we offer. We could give them away, but we don't. Why? Well, I've spent an average of about 40 hours a week working on them over the last seven years and still have at least another eighteen months to go. For six of those years I received nothing at all for this work. Even at the national minimum wage of £6.32 an hour, I could have expected to earn over £75,000 or £12,500 a year. I did it without payment because it seemed like the right thing to do and it was also a good thing to do, in part because of what I learned from it and gained in terms of personal growth. Oh, and because I doubt that the BDO has generated £75,000 in its entire 35-year existence.

Following my wife's death in 2000, I received financial support that enabled me to put in all these hours on the courses whilst bringing up our two sons. Only when that support ended did I, out of necessity, begin to draw any payment from the BDO. Given that the BDO courses are relatively new (our first went online in June 2011) and unknown (we only began to advertise beyond our own websites when our second course went online in 2012), the BDO does not produce much revenue and the amount I draw from it comes nowhere near covering my family's living costs. As I write, myself and two of my sons are living on my savings. I keep working on these courses, however, because I believe in them, and part of that belief is that they will one day generate a living wage sufficient to keep me through my rapidly approaching old age.

My BDO colleagues and I spent about a year and a half deciding how much to charge for our courses. Should we charge a token amount just to cover admin? Should we charge the same as OBOD? No, because our digital delivery doesn't entail anything like the overheads and secretarial costs that OBOD has. But pitch our cost too far below OBOD's and we risk upsetting people who might think we were deliberately trying to undercut them. In the end, we settled on a compromise figure that more-or-less satisfied everyone, and we do consider requests for reduced fees in cases of genuine financial hardship.

cash-cowHow much to charge for individual events is also a cause of much debate within the BDO. My parents never had much money, I was raised to be frugal and, in my hippy youth, lived for some time on nothing but the kindness of strangers. The result was the malnutrition that contributed to my mental breakdown at the age of 18, but that's another story 😉 As I've tried to make clear, my motives for being a Druid are not financial. I'm reminded of Robin Williamson's joke, “Did you hear about the Irishman who became a folk musician for the money?” Druidry is not a cash cow. However, if they're well-planned and conceived, Druid events can make a bit, or at least break even. When Elaine Gregory and I, ably assisted by many wonderful friends and colleagues, hosted The World Drum in April 2013, we took it to ceremonies all around the West and South-West of Britain for six weeks, culminating in a wonderful weekend at Wild Ways in Shropshire. Most of the ceremonies were free. Two events were charged for. At the end of the time the Drum was with us, we managed to break even and were delighted to do so.

Will, Lena & White Cougar in the woods at Wild WaysPart of the reason we were able to charge so little for the World Drum 2013 events is that many of our teachers and musicians gave their services for nothing, including World Drum founders, Kyrre Franck White Cougar and Morten Wolf Storeide, and their friends, Lena Paalviig Johnsen and Will Rubach, who travelled over from Norway at their own expense to bring us the amazing Chaga ceremony and to be with us in other ceremonies with the Drum.

In May this year, White, Morten and Lena are coming back, accompanied by Bobby Kure and Anita Dreyer, members of the shamanic band, Baalfolket. This time we hope to make a few quid. We obviously need to in order to cover the hire of two venues, travel expenses and other basic costs, but we also want to be able to pay the guys something for coming over to the UK for 12 days. Like us, they have to have money to live. I even hope to make a few quid myself to compensate for the many hours work involved in putting these events together, producing leaflets, visiting venues, generating advertising. And why not? If I were doing these things in any other sphere of activity, no one would bat an eyelid at my being paid a reasonable sum for my time and expertise.

Why then do I still feel vaguely guilty about it? Partly, it's a hangover from my impoverished youth, partly it's because I view the whole capitalist enterprise as deeply and irrevocably flawed. It rewards the basest of human motives, relying on the vast majority of the world's population having next to nothing so that a tiny, obscenely wealthy minority can lord it over the rest of us. It stinks. No wonder I feel guilty. It baffles me that anyone doesn't. And yet, as said, until we demand and get a better, purer, more equitable way of running human affairs, my family and I need money to live.

CelticWarriorFor most of the existence of classical Druidry, of course, we were supported by the warrior aristocracy of Iron Age Europe (OK, this guy may not look like a patron of the arts, but take my word for it, he loved nothing better than a finely honed poem), a patronage that was transferred to the bardic colleges of Ireland, Wales and Scotland. We were part of society's elite, fed, housed, clothed, provided with musical instruments and given high social status because our services were deemed worthwhile. We sang for our supper … in the case of bards, literally. We advised kings, divined, prophesied, oversaw ceremonies, told tales of gods and heroes, judged legal disputes, healed the sick, created poems of praise or blame, and, for many centuries, were both honoured and handsomely rewarded for doing so. We still do many of these things, but without either the social status or the payment, bed and board that came with it. We are, instead, looked upon as colourful eccentrics at best, dangerous loonies at worst, occasionally despised, more often simply ignored by our wider society. Hence our need to find new ways of making a living.

Druidry is no longer viewed as a job but as a hobby. For some of us though, it wholly defines who we are and what we do. For this minority of driven individuals, Druidry is our calling, and one that we see as every bit as valid and valuable as more recognised fields such as traditional teaching or medicine or, of course, priesthood in the more mainstream religions. I very much hope that our courses demonstrate both the breadth and the worth of Druidry. I know from my own experience that Druidry can and does regularly transform and even save lives.

The Druid Network undertook a three-year campaign, the result of which was to have Druidry as they HenryVIII&Popeunderstand and practice it recognised as a valid religion, the Druid Network itself achieving the status of a charity. This status means, among other things, that they can legally accept donations and bequests and have certain tax and planning advantages. Such charitable status for 'alternative' religious groups is commonplace in the United States, where freedom of religion is written into the Constitution and, as a result, has traditionally been taken seriously by legislators. The presence of Native Americans endeavouring to maintain their own religious cultures has also played a part in ensuring that religious balance under law is maintained in the USA. In the UK, on the other hand, we have had a state religion since Henry VIII's decision to abandon Catholicism so that he could get a divorce. This state religion, Anglicanism, as manifested through the Church of England, has, until recently, enjoyed a virtual monopoly on state support and the status and financial advantages that such support brings.

However, the Druid Network case does not mean that all Druid groups now have charitable status or official recognition. Should other groups such as the BDO decide that charitable status was a good idea, we would need to go through much the same bureaucratic process that TDN went through in order to prove that our brand of Druidry is also worthy of the name religion and that we too have purposes in mind that come under the fairly broad umbrella of 'charitable.' If we wanted to, I'm sure we could, but it would involve precisely the kind of bureaucracy that our current constitution seeks to avoid while gaining us very little.

The most successful Druid group in the world currently is the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. obodawenMy friends, Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm, have been running it for nearly thirty years. During that time, they have also been running a Montessori School, Stephanie has worked for Glyndebourne Opera House and Philip has written numerous books (some with Stephanie) and lectured widely. It is these latter activities that have kept the roof over their heads and food on the table, not running a Druid Order. Some folk have the mistaken impression that they were making loads of money from OBOD camps. On the contrary, it was only the Summer Camps that ever made a profit at all, and that was used to subsidise the camps in the rest of the year that ran at a loss. Druidry is not a cash cow, one simple reason being that it is a minority interest, best estimates being that there may be 10,000 Druids in the UK, or 0.01% of the population, though the true figure may be less. There's also the fact that many of us attracted to Druidry and other 'alternative spiritualities' are, to a greater or lesser degree, outsiders within our society, a position that leaves us ill-placed as well as un-inclined to benefit from its capitalist structures and agendas.

Ours is by no means the only culture to wrestle with the uncomfortable clash between spirituality and GaryHolyBullcommerce. A Lakota healer called Gary Holy Bull (his Lakota name is Ampohiksila, which means 'Sunrise') has spoken of his own struggle with this dilemma:

“Prior to 1942, everyone took care of their healers and medicine people. They understood the sacrifices that they made. Today, unfortunately, too many people feel that giving a K-Mart blanket is a sufficient offering for seeking spiritual help. It's a very difficult life that we live. We have to pay bills, have a home, drive a car, and place groceries on the table.

“I was always told to ask for nothing. If a person asks you to do a ceremony, they will give you what is needed. The Creator helps you in this way. When you seek the help of a spiritual person, think about the price they pay to help you.

“I was taught that you should give to others because the Creator will return it to you. You will get twice as much back as you put out for others. You give because you have compassion for children and for families.

“Here's the advice I give to others who want to know how to approach a medicine person. First, don't call them. Go find them, no matter how far you have to drive. Then offer them some tobacco*. This is called a binding ceremony. Then tell him or her what you need. Don't insult him by leaving a skull of an animal, a seashell, or a feather, because his family doesn't eat animal skulls or seashells. If you don't want to leave money, then buy some groceries, or some fuel oil for his stove. Don't insult him with five dollars. Give in proportion to the value of what is being done for your life. Show your sincere appreciation. Demonstrate your compassion to the Creator through generosity and sharing. In the old days, a family would give up several horses to be healed. What price is enough for your life?”

So you see it's not just us. Similar views are expressed by spirit workers around the world. The big, organised churches can pay their clergy a living wage because they have, over many centuries, demanded payment from 'the faithful' and expected many of them to leave their entire fortunes to their church when they die. Groups such as Scientology have flourished financially by being arranged as pyramid selling schemes designed to generate wealth for those at the top. The Guru Maharaj Ji, founder of the Divine Light Mission, became hugely wealthy by exploiting his followers, buying himself a fleet of Rolls Royces, yachts, personal jets, etc. Fortunately, such exploitation is anathema to all the Druids I've ever met.

I think the answer is that when everyone else stops demanding money from us for taxes, services and goods and adopts a barter system instead, we'll be utterly delighted to do the same. In the meantime, we'll continue to struggle with our consciences and the Druid community will continue to benefit from those struggles as we strive to do everything for as little as we can feasibly manage and still put food on the table.

Many blessings,

Greywolf /|\

2

The World DrumThe folk at Wildways are very eco-conscious, so the heating in the house only kicks in at around 7am when people are getting up. The World Drum's skin is of reindeer-hide and is quite sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. This was one of the coldest springtimes on record in the UK. We left the Drum out one night on the table in the hall. In the morning, all was far from well. The Drum's skin had become flaccid, visibly dipping into the frame. It was completely unplayable. I tried warming it by the Rayburn stove in the kitchen. It didn't work. The Drum was still acoustically dead. Even more worrying was that the next day we were due to take the Drum to Cae Mabon for ceremonies there and on the island of Angelsey. We needed to do something, and quickly.

 

I had been worried about the Drum for a while. When it arrived at my house, it was packed with a very thick sheepskin that was lying against the skin of the Drum. When the flight case was strapped shut, the sheepskin was pressing into the reindeer-hide skin of the Drum. Add to this the effects of sending the Drum from hot Hawaii to freezing cold England and the result was not good.

 

At this point, a certain level of controlled panic set in. After all, this is a shamanic tool that has been travelling the world for seven years, played by thousands of people in hundreds of ceremonies on six continents. This is not just a drum, this is The World Drum, the heartbeat of Mother Earth, a symbol and sign of the best and brightest hopes of humankind for peace a reverence for our Mother. There was no way I could let anything bad happen to this amazing creation. Not on my watch.

 

I pulled out the printed instruction sheet on caring for the Drum that travels with it. It said that if the Drum failed to respond to normal warming, it should be fully immersed in water and then allowed to dry slowly. What it didn't say was how long it should be immersed for. I contacted Morten Wolf Storeide on facebook and asked for more detailed instructions. He told me to immerse the Drum for about ten minutes, then put it to dry slowly propped up on sticks so that air could circulate around it.

 

So, I filled a bath with water and gently lowered The World Drum into it. I held it under the water for 12 minutes, singing to it whatever songs came to mind and seemed appropriate, or just wordless chants. I was nervous … very nervous … but at the same time, I felt that this strange process was strengthening the connection I already felt with the Drum, and that, with the blessings of the gods, all would be well.

 

I lifted the Drum from the bath, allowing the water to drain and drip from it before carrying it through to the kitchen. Here, rather than sticks, I'd rigged two microphone stands angled towards, but not too close to, the Rayburn stove. The stove ticked over all night, meaning that the kitchen maintained a reasonable room temperature. Having carefully balanced the Drum with its frame on the ends of the two stands, neither of them pressing against the skin, I bid the Drum goodnight and with a whispered prayer, went to bed.

 

I got up a little before 6am, being unable to sleep any longer. I really needed to know if the Drum was all right. I slipped out of bed and tiptoed to the kitchen as quietly as I could. Of course, to discover whether the bath had worked I had to play the Drum. I took it off its stands carefully, picked up a beater and tapped gently on the skin close to the frame. Even with such a light tap, the Drum sang beautifully, the overtones ringing in the quiet kitchen for a good length of time. As you can imagine, I was very relieved and very, very happy. I was even happier a little later when Garth and Elaine got up and I was able to give the Drum more of a test. Sure enough, she was fine, healed, whole and singing better than ever.

 

Here's the facebook message I sent to Morten Wolf:

 

“Hey, Brother Wolf,
Up at sunrise, tried the Drum ... she sings! Sounding really beautiful I held her under a bath full of cold water and sang songs to her, then propped her on two microphone stands in the kitchen overnight. Very relieved and happy this morning. We're off to Wales in about an hour and will be offline till we get back on Sunday. Catch up then...
Peace, love and all the good stuff,
Greywolf /|\”

 

And so, on to Cae Mabon!

Gillian at Cae Mabon with TWD

Gillian Kavanagh, who organised our trip to Cae Mabon, playing the World Drum there. Yay!

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.

 

We'd made rituals at Avebury, Stonehenge, Glastonbury Tor and Ironbridge, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Iconic places all, each in their own way. Where next? Clee Hill. OK, you may ask, where is Clee Hill and what is it? Clee Hill is an exposed area of high, stony land in Shropshire in the West Midlands of England. It has a number of distinct peaks and archaeology shows it to have been inhabited off and on since the Neolithic period. Suzanne Thomas, her musician husband, Jake, and their kids live there and have a deep affection for the place. Before the World Drum, I knew little of it, only having ever been driven across it on the way to other places. That was about to change. The first event Suzanne had organised for us was on one of the highest peaks, one with the curious name of Titterstone Clee. Elaine, co-ordinator of all the World Drum events, also lives in Shropshire but had never been to the top of Titterstone Clee. As mentioned in an earlier blog, this was one of the coldest springtimes on record, so, with a good deal of snow still lying on the high ground, Elaine though it might be wise to take a drive up to the Clee and see how passable it was. We did this the day before the ceremony was due to take place. Much of the very narrow road leading up onto the Clee was covered in a thick layer of impacted snow and ice. The car did slew about a little, enough to make us turn around well before we reached the car park and head back down the hill. Not very promising, but we had faith in The World Drum. It had been kind to us so far.
The following morning, we headed back to Titterstone Clee, the Drum stowed safely in its flight case in the back of the car and the rest of our drums and assorted robes in with it. Driving carefully in a ragged convoy, we made the upper car park without incident and climbed out of the car as others were doing the same. As at Glastonbury, the sun was shining brightly, the skies were bright blue all around us, and despite the frozen puddles and streams and the quite deep snow in places, it was actually quite warm. Once again, we were blessed.
Hiking up Clee Hill We began to make our way up the hill. It was a long and winding way, taking us past two giant golfball-like structures that are apparently government listening and aircraft tracking centres. They look as surreal perched there on these ancient hills as Dali's lobster telephone. The walk being long, often steep and quite adruous, I took the opportunity to pause for a few moments by one of the giant golfballs and request the spirits of the land and people to bring us to a time when such places will no longer be necessary. This led to an image of the two great white balls tumbling down the hill in winter, gathering snow as they went and, on reaching the bottom, forming the most enormous snowman in history...
Back to the walk, which at times became a climb. Every now and then, I would see a group of people in front of me who had stopped and I would think, "Aha! We've arrived at the ritual site!" Then my hopes would be quickly dashed as they broke off their conversation and continued walking. This seemed to go on for hours. Perhaps the fact that I was carrying both the World Drum Drum Circle on Clee Hilland my own drum and wearing a thick robe and wolfskin cloak may have made it seem longer. Nevertheless, being a determined sort of chap, I carried on ... and on .... and then on a bit more ...
At last, just as I thought we must have left not only the county but probably the country by now, we did arrive at our appointed destination. This was clearly a particularly high point as it had been marked with a concrete plinth at the base of which was an awen symbol.
Here we gathered. The weather was still superb, the views in all directions breathtaking, and I was quite pleased at the number of folk who had made the climb. There were about forty of us on the hilltop. So this was Titterstone Clee. I had to admit, it was impressive.
We formed our circle, spoke our blessings, spoke again the words of Morten Wolf Storeide's 'Speech for Mother Earth,' and then began to drum. The World Drum began the beat, a steady, rhythmic heartbeat. Other drummers picked it up and, as is the way with these things, the rhythm built in strength Drums on Clee Hillas we continued to drum, increasing our energy yet more, so that the power of the drums stepped up again, increasing our energy still further. Despite the surrounding snow, I began to feel quite hot.
At the close of the rite, we were all elated, as I think is apparent from some of these pictures. Once again, I thank Elaine Gregory (known on facebook as Elaine Wildways) for the photographs, including the one below, when Suzanne's husband, Jake, took me to visit the Giant's Chair, a little way over the hill from the site of the ceremony. In this peaceful, beautiful spot, I felt moved to play my flute to honour the spirits of the place.

Blessings to all,Greywolf /|\

Greywolf Fluting on Clee Hill

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 /|\

1

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!