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Frequently Asked Questions about the BDO: 1

There are some questions I get asked quite a lot, and at the top of the list is this one:
What's the difference between the BDO and OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids)?

It's not the easiest of questions to answer. In terms of our courses, for example, I can only compare ours with what the OBOD Bardic Grade and the first half of the OBOD Ovate Grade were like in the early 1990s when I did them. They have since been completely rewritten. I have a copy of the current OBOD Bardic Grade on CD, given to me by OBOD chief, Philip Carr-Gomm, because I contributed a song and some other bits and pieces to it. However, I have only listened to a few clips from it. Why? Not hard. Because I didn't want to be influenced by it in putting together our own courses.

So, personally, I don't know what's in the current OBOD courses. However, those who are familiar with other courses, including OBOD's, tell us that ours are very different in both style and content. If they weren't substantially different, there would, after all, have been little point in us spending five years putting ours together. I'm told that, compared to OBOD's, our courses are more overtly Pagan. They are also, I gather, more than twice as long by word count. They are densely packed for a reason. When we undertake any course, we only fully absorb and regularly work with a percentage of the material we're given. By putting so much into our courses, the idea is that more will be recalled and used. Professor Ronald Hutton has suggested that those who have taken OBOD's courses could benefit from then moving on to ours, as GCSE students move on to A levels.

More than most other groups, we see Druidry as the native shamanism of Britain and much of Europe, and that vision is reflected in our courses.

We place more emphasis on the traditional areas of study and practice associated with bards, ovates and Druids, i.e. music, poetry, myths, storytelling, history and genealogy for bards; divination, seership, natural philosophy and healing for ovates; constructing and conducting ritual, shape-shifting, weather-working, counselling and moral philosophy for Druids.

Unlike other groups, we do not offer set initiations at the beginning of our courses. Instead, we recommend personal rites of passage to be undertaken at the end of each course to mark their completion and to prepare for moving on to a new level of understanding based on what has been learned.

Our Druidry draws more direct inspiration for our practice from history, archaeology and surviving medieval literature than others we have seen. We have, for example, reconstructed systems of meditation, spiritual development and healing based on medieval Irish texts. We are not, however, Celtic Reconstructionists. We adapt ancient inspirations for the modern world. We do not claim to be reconstructing Druidry as it was, 5,000, 2,000 or a 100 years ago. We use 21st century methods such as incorporating links to web-based resources into our course booklets and delivering those booklets as pdf files. We believe that Druidry is a way to connect more deeply with our own times, not to escape to some mythical other time.

We freely acknowledge that Druidry is a broken tradition and are open about the fact that we can only successfully recreate it for our modern world by looking to other, similar traditions, that are either better recorded or, in some cases, still extant. We do not try to hide our debt to these other traditions by pretending access to unknown manuscripts or secret oral teachings.

Several of these things differentiate the BDO from other groups but are things we have in common with OBOD. In knowledge of the history of the Druid tradition, for example, Philip Carr-Gomm and I are pretty evenly matched, though we may use our knowledge in different ways or emphasise different aspects of it.

Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm have been friends since I first met them in about 1990. Many members of the BDO are also members of OBOD, myself included. Our takes on Druidry are different but compatible. Along with The Druid Network, the American ADF and others, we represent a spiritual Druidry that differentiates all of us from the cultural Druids of the Welsh Gorsedd or the social Druids of the Ancient Order of Druids and its offshoots. But within that overall sense of Druidry as a viable spiritual path there are variations in understanding and presentation, differences in style and emphasis. These often derive from the different personalities of the groups' founders. I my own case, my background in Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Ritual Magic, the Hebrew Kabalah and Wicca all feed into my understanding of Druidry. So do the visionary experiences I've had since childhood that eventually drew me into a practice of Druidry that has been described as 'shamanic.' Ronald Hutton once described me as "a shaman quite convincingly disguised as a Druid."

One of the remarkable things about Druidry is that although (perhaps because) we know very little about what Druids did in their heyday 2,000 and more years ago, we have been recreating Druidry almost ever since, re-moulding it every time in line with the needs and aspirations of our own times. The type of Druidry we recreate, adopt or associate with depends very much on our own needs and aspirations within our changing times. There will, therefore, always be room for many Druidries, appealing to different needs. Each group represents one band within the great rainbow that is contemporary Druidry.

The picture below shows a joint ritual with members of the BDO and OBOD on Dragon Hill by the Uffington White Horse, during the visit of The World Drum in May, 2008.BDO & OBOD Joint Ritual

Published on Categories BDO Courses, BDO FAQs, British Druid Order

About Greywolf

I'm Greywolf (aka Philip Shallcrass). My main claim to fame (such as it is) is that I'm chief of the British Druid Order (BDO). I discovered Druidry in 1974, seeing it as a native British 'shamanic' spirituality. An Alexandrian Wiccan coven I joined in 1978 transformed into the Grove of the Badger as Druidry increasingly replaced Wicca in its rites. The end result was the BDO. Emma Restall Orr was joint chief of the Order with me from 1995 to 2002. I live in rural Wiltshire, not far from my spiritual heartland, the area in and around the Avebury henge. I'm a writer, musician, artist, drum-maker, roundhouse-builder and thatcher. I have three sons who share my obsession with music, books and film. Personal obsessions include the work of Britain's greatest bard, Robin Williamson, the comic books of Jack 'King' Kirby (1907-1994) and the speed-freak rock'n'roll of The Screaming Blue Messiahs.

2 thoughts on “Frequently Asked Questions about the BDO: 1

  1. avatarnigel cafe

    Having just started the BDO course I have found it all so interestng, little things have changed and I notice other things. Not just the tree but the lichen on the tree and the moss that is inbetween. A Druid you may know Elain (Wildways) lets me touch base with her as she is the only person I have Druid contact with via e mail. I find it supportive to be able to message someone who understand what has just happened with my meditation etc.

    I try and read what you wright, there is a lot. In a small way I wonder if I will ever be as knowledgable as you. (My memory is not great) The bard course I have done so far is well presented and full of information and links that get me thinking through the day. It has had such an effect that I have just brought a bike so I can pedel to work along the river and see and feel the seasons and the power /beauty of the fabric of life which I am a tiny tiny part, instead of being in slow traffic and seeing nothing.
    Your Ogham cards are very informative and yes you have stuck the box down very well. There is so much learn and I am a late starter, one thing I do feel comfertable with are healing stones (Ikeep records). Its like I have used them before like they are old freinds. On 04/08/13 I joined the GORSEDDAU OF CAER ABIRI and am looking forward to 22nd September. I have checked with Morgan what I want to bring and she says I am on the right road, she has been encouraging.

    Well I have used enough of you time and I wish you well and I strive to be as knowledgable as you

    Blessings to you


    1. avatarGreywolf

      Hello Nigel,
      Many apologies for taking so long to reply ... I get lost at times ...
      Elaine is a Druid with many years experience and a kind, supportive woman I'm very glad to have as a friend.
      The course contributors between us have over a hundred years of experience as Druids behind us. Next year will be my fortieth as a Druid. Over that time, you do pick up a lot of information and develop a lot of ideas, all of which we're feding into the courses. So, yes, there's a lot to work with. We do allow for the fact that some of it will connect with people while other bits won't. That's not a problem at all. We're all very different in our backgrounds, our journeys, our personal interests and needs. Hopefully, through having several different writers and offering so much information, everyone will find something that appeals to them and helps them on their own journey through life. Well, that's the plan ๐Ÿ™‚
      Incidentally, my memory is getting more patchy as I get older, which is one of the reasons why I wanted to get all my stuff written down as part of these courses ... it'll save me having to try and remember it all ๐Ÿ˜‰ I have theory that memory space is limited and that, after so many years, we have to keep losing bits of data in order to make room for new memories. I await the day when we can plug extra storage space into our brains as well as into our computers ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Lovely to hear of your biking to work as a way of engaging with the natural world. That's a great idea from so many angles.
      Glad you've got in touch with Morgan too ... she's another great woman and fine Druid.
      Many blessings on your path,
      Greywolf /|\


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