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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!

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 /|\

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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 /|\

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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A quick look at the Events section on the British Druid Order website will show that the next month is going to be quite busy.The World DrumWe are hosting the World Drum, a remarkable instrument made by Sami shaman, Birger Mikkelsen, that we last worked with in May 2008 at rituals on Dragon Hill below the Uffington White Horse and at the Avebury henge in Wiltshire. During its seven-year journey, the World Drum has been played at 500 locations on six continents. This year we are returning with the Drum to Avebury at noon on Saturday March 30th. This in the year that marks the 20th anniversary of the Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri, a little idea I came up with in 1993 after being invited to create a ritual for a multi-faith conference at Avebury organised by the late Tim Sebastion, founder of the Secular Order of Druids (SOD).
After Avebury, we bring the World Drum to Glastonbury Tor on Sunday, March 31st. The weather in the UK has been bitterly cold this Spring, with many parts of the country blanketed in snow. The forecast for the weekend is for a continuation of the unseasonal chill. Given that Glastonbury Tor is one of the most exposed places in the whole of Somerset, it should be interesting.
Britannia on a Roman coinPlans for the Glastonbury rite include connecting with the spirit of the goddess Britannia, seen here on a Roman coin. While often pressed into the service of narrow nationalism, she is actually a pagan goddess of the land. We shall also call upon the spirit of Albion, described by the bard, William Blake, as a sleeping giant awaiting the call to save our island in their time of need. He is the spirit of the people of the land. Some say he sleeps beneath Glastonbury Tor. By calling on these two deities, we hope to trigger a re-connection between land and people in the inhabitants of Britain. We shall ride this call into the earth on the beat of the World Drum and the other drummers we hope will join us. Given the cold, we may even dance, if only to keep warm 🙂
IronbridgeThe following Wednesday, April 3rd, we bring the World Drum to Ironbridge in Shropshire. Ironbridge is the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, a process that led to many benefits for humanity but also had its downside, a downside that includes pumping huge amounts of pollution into the water we drink, the air we breathe and the earth in which we grow our food. Since the World Drum is a call to reinstate a spiritual relationship of respect and care for our Mother Earth, Ironbridge seems like the right place to take it.
On the weekend of April 5th-7th, the World Drum will be on and around Titterstone Clee, one of the highest points in Shropshire with extraordinary views across a large part of the British Midlands. From here we shall be sending cascades of energy from the Drum and chanted awens to flow through the veins of the Earth, carrying the Drum's messages of global peace and reverence for Mother Earth.
Cae Mabon's roundhouseThe following weekend, April 12th-14th, we shall be at Cae Mabon in North Wales, a remarkable spiritual retreat centre. From there, we shall carry the Drum across to the ancient Druidical isle of Anglesey, specifically to the chambered tomb-shrine of Bryn Celli Ddu (the Mound of the Dark Grove). Here we shall call upon the spirits of our ancestors to aid us in spreading the Drum's message of re-awakening spiritual connections.
From there we return to Wildways in Shropshire for what promises to be an even more amazing weekend on April 19th to 21st. For one thing, we have two of the World Drum founders joining us, White Cougar, whose original vision inspired the Drum's creation, and Morten Wolf Storeide, who has overseen its travels around the world for the past seven years. They will be performing a rite for us that centres around the World Drum and chaga, a plant widely used throughout Eastern Europe and Asia for its healing properties. They are also bringing two musician friends, Lena and Will, and together they will be performing shamanic music for us as part of our Saturday might concert as The Northern Lights Shamanic Band.
During the day on Saturday we have sample sessions to launch the Druid Hedge Schools Project. This is a joint project between the British Druid Order, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, and the Druid Network. For this launch weekend we have eight teachers coming from all over the country to give workshops on daily Druidry, meditation, healing and many other subjects. Further Hedge Schools sessions will be on Sunday morning.
Robin WilliamsonThe Saturday night music session will be more than a little special. Not only do we have the above-mentioned Northern Lights Shamanic Band, we also have musical legend, Robin Williamson. Robin (left) was co-founder of the Incredible String Band in the mid-60s, formed the Merry Band in the 70s and has since pursued a solo career that has seen him collaborate with fellow folk legends such as John Renbourn, with brass bands and jazz ensembles. He's also made award-winning albums of harp music and has recorded versions of traditional Celtic tales. Many Druids regard him as the successor of Taliesin to the title, Primary Chief Bard of the Isles of Britain. And as if that weren't enough, we also have Andy Letcher performing for us. Andy is lead singer, song-writer and mandolin player (and Northumbrian piper, as our picture shows) with 'darkly crafted folk' band, Telling the Bees, whose albums have been winning critical praise and enthusiastic fans all over the country. I'll be doing a set myself, featuring songs from my own album, The Sign of the Rose, and new tracks from its long-awaited follow-up, The Lord of the Wildwood. Rounding off the evening, we'll have a set from talented guitarist, Jake Thomas.
On Sunday, after the morning's Hedge Schools sessions, there will be a buffet lunch accompanied by more live music and a bring-and-buy market. Then, in the afternoon, we have our farewell ceremony with the World Drum before we send it on its way with our blessings to its next destination.
After all that activity and travelling, it'll be good to get home again and take a rest. Well, get back to finalising our ovate course anyway.
During these rites, I hope that my youngest son, Mike, currently studying documentary video production at Bournemouth University, will be filming. Results will be posted here and elsewhere. Eventually I hope that Mike will put together a documentary on modern Druidry. It would be great to have a documentary about Druids made by Druids. We'll keep you posted on that too.
Meanwhile, I hope we'll see you at some of these events over the next month or so. The World Drum is a wake-up call to bring ourselves back into good relationship with the spirits of our lands and the peoples of all nations. The beat of the Drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth. May the sound of her heartbeat reach all peoples, wherever they may be.
Many blessings,
Greywolf /|\

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When we finished putting together our bardic course in the middle of 2011, we'd put so much into it that I seriously wondered if we'd have enough material left to create either an ovate or a Druid course. I needn't have worried. Our ovate course is almost twice the length of the bardic, running to about 400,000 words, with most of the 24 booklets being 52 pages long, the most I've found it possible to get a staple through.

Ovate booklet 17: The Way of the GodsIt's now shortly after the Spring Equinox, 2013, and the ovate course is nearing completion. The first 16 booklets are complete, the next 4 just in need of minor editing and 2 out of the last 4 almost complete. That leaves something like 30,000 words or 100 pages to go, about half of which needs to be written, while the rest just needs formatting and editing. I hope to have the whole course completed at the end of May.

As to the content, I couldn't be more happy with it. We have wonderful contributions from Elen Hawke, author of In the Circle: Crafting the Witches' Path (2001), Praise to the Moon: Myth & Magic of the Lunar Cycle (2002), The Sacred Round: A Witches' Guide to Magical Practice (2002) and others. For our course, Elen has written on the lunar cycle and on astrology. We also have a unique compendium of traditional astrological lore from Seattle-based Pagan priest, Leon Reed. Leon, a magical and medical herbalist for more than 30 years, Ovate booklet 2: The Path of the Seerhas also given us the herbal he compiled for use in his practice. Elaine Wildways has written a cycle of seasonal festival rites for us, and also a cycle of rites of passage. We include a funeral rite composed by myself and Emma Restall Orr. Nina Milton and her OBOD group helped us put together a series of tree-based exercises in movement and meditation. Blue Fox has provided several pieces, including a wonderfully-accessible Ogham oracle with a card set designed by your humble author. We also have more words and art from Robin Williamson, as we did in our bardic course. It's been a real pleasure to edit such a wide range of well-researched, well-written pieces and I thank all our contributors.

I'm even pleased with my own contributions and usually I am extremely critical of my own work. Part of the process of writing these courses has been to go back to basics. I've stripped down every belief I've developed since early childhood and re-examined each one in detail to see if it still makes sense and if it can be fitted into context with others. This process has been both educational and cathartic. I've also re-explored the medieval literature of Britain and Ireland. While I'd been familiar with it for years, looking at it afresh for the purposes of the course led me to understand sections of it in entirely new ways. One result of this has been the re-construction of a remarkable healing technique and a set of spiritual exercises and meditations, both based on Irish manuscript sources, though there is evidence that both were also known in Britain and have parallels in cultures much further afield.

Thomas the Rhymer and the Queen of ElfhameI'm also pleased with the range of illustrations in the booklets, many created specially for the courses, others sourced from all over the place. One of the great advantages of delivering our courses as pdf files is that we do not have the cost of reproducing so many colour illustrations in print and can therefore include lots of them. Sourcing illustrations for writings on Druidry is by no means easy, particularly if you don't want to just keep using the same ones that everyone else uses. We've out almost as much work into sourcing interesting and information pictures as we have into writing the text that goes with them.

The range of subjects covered in the course is very wide, from the creation of the universe and the myths of creation, through birth to death via health and healing, nature spirits, philosophy, astrology, divination, seership, herbalism, group ritual and more, including the ways of the gods.

With this course, following on from the bardic course, I think we've achieved a turning point in the history of modern Druidry, raising it to a new level of vibrancy and understanding. And I no longer worry about having anything left to put in the Druid course. I'm pretty sure we'll be OK.

2

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