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Writings, March-April 2013

186: Imbolc - Spring Equinox 2013The Beltaine issue of Pagan Dawn will be out soon and will feature an article I was asked to write; a short overview of modern Druidry. This was not easy to write as there are just so many different Druidries around these days. There are at least a couple of dozen Druid groups in the UK, a similar number in America, several in Australia, others in France and elsewhere. Between them they represent a very wide spectrum of practice and belief, from the strictly cultural, Christian Druids of the Welsh Gorsedd to American Celtic Reconstructionists via Masonic-style friendly societies and even an insurance company. I did my best to be as inclusive as possible in the given space, but am aware that I was only really able to scratch the surface. In order to make some kind of sense, I focussed mainly on the groups who represent what Ronald Hutton has called the New Druidry, i.e. those that have come into being since the formation of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids in 1964. The article is illustrated with photos from Elaine Wildways. The graphic shows the current Winter issue.My good friend and long-time BDO stalwart, Steve Rumelhart, has an article coming out in the next issue of Pentacle, also due out next month, so watch out for that too. Again, the graphic here is from the Winter issue.
Meanwhile, my latest piece for the BDO ovate course has been a rumination on the role of group ritual and how to inject meaning into it. This was brought about by re-watching a video called Shamans of the Blind Country, a brilliant 1981 documentary on shamanism amongst the Magar people of central Nepal. Their rituals often involve the whole village, much dressing up, a fair bit of ribaldry and silliness and quite a lot of laughter. This contrasted strongly with what I remembered of Christian church services in my youth which were invariably deadly serious and deadly dull. Some Druid rites I've attended have unfortunately been more C of E than Magar. Pagan festivals to Dionysus were definitely more along the Magar lines, beginning with processions of youths William S. Burroughsbearing long poles with bronze or wooden penises attached to the ends towing a cart with a very big penis in it. It's hard to be solemn when you're decked in greenery and waving a big willy in the air. Sometimes we forget that spirituality can be fun. In fact, I believe it should be fun. Incidentally, a curious aspect of the Shamans of the Blind Country is that it is narrated by William S. Burroughs, author of Junkie, The Naked Lunch and The Soft Machine.
My current writing task is another magazine article, this time for Dreampunk, a magazine put together by long-time BDO friend, Allegra Hawksmoor. Dreampunk brings together the worlds of Steampunk, alternative spirituality and ecology. To quote from the homepage, Dreampunk aims "To build a world of equality, liberty and community that reaches for wonder, invention, and a more balanced relationship with ourselves, one another, and with the wild world around us." My article is about consciousness-changing in contemporary Druidry, and I should get back to writing it. It'll appear later in the year.
Peace and love,
Greywolf /|\

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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.

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