Eight years ago, a member in Germany came up with an idea: a quilt made up of squares created by members of the Order from around the world. It took a while for the project to grow, but this summer a parcel arrived at the OBOD office with a beautiful gift inside: the finished quilt which we then hung in the Town Hall at Glastonbury for the Summer Gathering.
Imagine now that this review of what has happened in the Order and in the world of Druidry over the past year is like that quilt, with each of the following topics being specific and unique in themselves and yet connected to the greater whole – to the life of Druidry and the Order.
At the Winter Solstice 2015, the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Druid Order in America, John Michael Greer, announced that he was handing on his role: “I’m staying a member of the order, of course, with the slightly less fanciful title of archdruid emeritus, but the big chair and the funny hat are going to my successor, Gordon Cooper.” Both Gordon and John Michael are also members of OBOD, and both are Mt Haemus Scholars too. John Michael is a prolific author, and his Archdruid Report presents cutting-edge thought on environmental, cultural and political issues. He continues in his role as leader of the other Druid group he started, the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn.
In February, John Belham-Payne, a good friend of the Order, who led the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation, died just before his dream of an exhibition to feature Doreen and Paganism was realised in Brighton.
In July, Honorary Bard of the Order Esme Vincent, died. Esme was an extraordinarily gifted calligrapher, artist, book maker, and Bardic mentor.
At the Autumn Equinox, Ivan McBeth, OBOD Druid and Founder of the Green Mountain Druid Order in Vermont died. Ivan was well-known and much loved in the Druid community and beyond, and a driving force in establishing OBOD camps. His wife Fearn Lickfield has taken on the mantle of leadership of the Green Mountain order.
Blessings on the journeys in the Otherworld of those who have left us (including, of course, other members and friends not mentioned). And blessings, too, for Gordon and Fearn in their new roles as leaders in the community.
This last year has seen a flurry of interest in Druidry and related subjects from museums and the art world. Mt Haemus scholar Dr Julia Farley co-curated the hugely successful The Celts – Art & Identity exhibition at the British Museum. Will Worthington’s artwork from the Druid Animal Oracle and DruidCraft Tarot was the final exhibit.
From October to March the Whitechapel Gallery in London ran an exhibition called Intellectual Barbarians: The Kibbo Kift Kindred, about an idealistic group formed by John Hargrave – a friend of Ross Nichols – and that Vera Chapman, the Order’s first Pendragon, enthusiastically promoted. I participated in a day event at the gallery in February, talking about the relationship of the Kibbo Kiftto OBOD.
In Brighton, at Preston Manor, the exhibition envisaged by John Belham-Payne was mounted. Entitled Folklore, Magic and Mysteries: Modern Witchcraft and Folk Culture in Britain, it has been running since April. Included in the displays are the magical possessions of Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente, and we have lent items for the case featuring Druidry, including our dord – the Order’s bronze ritual horn. The exhibition has been such a success, with record attendances, it has been extended into November.
In May the Slade School of Fine Art in London asked me to give a talk. I chose to speak about the often unrecognised influence of Druidry in Art, Music and Fashion, and called the presentation:From Stonehenge to the Catwalk.
In October, The Horniman Museum in London invited me to talk about Druid wands, for their evening event ‘Magic Late’. Earlier in the year Stephanie and I had been invited to view their extensive collection of charms at their storehouse in Greenwich, in preparation for their permanent exhibition at the museum next year.
Druids by nature seem to like books – reading them and writing them – and this year has seen another great crop of books by Order members and friends:
Zen for Druids: A Further Guide to Integration, Harmony, and Compassion with Nature by Joanna Van Der Hoeven looks at integrating aspects of Zen Buddhism and Druidry into one’s personal practice.
A Legacy of Druids edited by Ellen Evert Hopman, gathers the voices of many prominent Druids to provide a fascinating perspective on the development of modern Druidry.
The Mt Haemus Lectures Vol II – the last eight years of contributions to OBOD’s Mount Haemus project.
Swan Circle by Ivan McBeth tells the story of the Swan Stone Circle, located at the site of the annual Glastonbury Music Festival. It describes the process of manifestation from the initial vision to its inauguration, the practical problems involved, and some of the magical adventures encountered on the way.
Ultimum Mysterium: Beyond the Cutting Edge of Scienceby Anthony Burns, attempts to explain mysterious phenomena from a new perspective, examining a number of reportedly true cases of such activity, reviewing the latest scientific discoveries (mainly in physics, but also in neurological research) with a view to seeing whether these can offer an explanation of such phenomena.
The Urban Ovate: The Handbook of Psychological Druidry by Brendan Howlin focuses on culture, genetic inheritance, local environment, and the pressures of expectations, with each section ending with helpful questions for reflection.
The Magical Year by Danu Forest. A collection of traditional lore, activity suggestions, recipes, rituals, deities and prayers to help us connect to and draw wisdom from the seasons.
The Book of Uncommon Prayer by Annie Heppenstall. Liturgies and prayers that are inclusive and nature-based, from the author of Reclaiming the Sealskin.
Re-Enchanting the Forest: Meaningful Ritual in a Secular World by William Ayot with a foreword by Mark Rylance. Drawing on his own experience, and on the ritual cultures of the indigenous world, Ayot demonstrates the value and power of ritual to revive and ‘re-wire’ our sometimes confused and disconnected spirits.
The Gamble-Hounsome Tarot – The Tarot of Gnosis. Visionary Artist Patrick Gamble has collaborated with Tarot Author and Tutor Steve Hounsome to realize this inspirational Tarot deck and book.
Earth Tree – An Anthology of Poems by Dawn McKenzie – A New Zealand member’s collection of touching poems inspied by Nature.
Druids: A Beginners Guide To Druids by Sophie Cornish – an overview of Druidry by an OBOD member.
Sylvan Voices: Druid Poetry by members of the Sylvan Grove.
Way of the Taibhsear by Sencha the Vate.
Weeds in the Heart by Fiona Owen and Nathaniel Hughes.
Hawthorne (Druid Spirit Chronicles Book 1) by Kevin Fury. ‘Can a Druid’s apprentice, a renegade skinwalker and a Celtic prince find the strength to defeat a goddess of death and war?’
Mindfull by Christine Heron. A cosmic spiritual novel about staying conscious in a world of crisis and cake.
Star’s Reflection by Gail Nyoka. Young Adult fiction:‘What do you see when you look in the mirror? For schoolgirls Vida and Sammi, it is a very special mirror with a very different reflection, for they can see life in Ancient Egypt.’
The Prophecies by Philip Carr-Gomm. Part political thriller, part esoteric journey, and part moving love story about the real-life Druidess of Brocéliande and a priest who built a church of the Holy Grail.
Cosmiel’s Gift: an excerpt from The Prophecies by Philip Carr-Gomm with images by Angela Lemaire, focussing on the post-mortem journey of the soul through the Seven Heavens.
T.L.Merrybard’s ten books are all on Amazon. ‘T.L. Merrybard lives in the hills above Perth, Western Australia in a stone cottage surrounded by tall trees. She shares her home with her partner and her dogs and cat. T.L. is a practising Druid, tree hugger and planter, and follows many creative paths at the same time.’
Awen Publications, based in Bath, continues to publish excellent books. They are a Gloucestershire-based small press publishing fiction, poetry, and non-fiction with an ecobardic emphasis.
The Charter for Trees, Woods and People
A major new initiative has been started in the UK, bringing together more than 50 organisations including tree charities, the NHS, and Druid groups, to celebrate the practical, social, physical and spiritual value of trees, and to help guide future policy and practice. It will launch in November 2017 on the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest. OBOD, The BDO and The Druid Network have come together to help promote this, and various creative ideas are in the planning stages. Watch the pages of Touchstone and the website for news over the coming months!
The One Tree Gathering
In August, the fifth One Tree Gathering was held over two days at Beaumanor Hall, Leicester, amidst serious discussion and much laughter. Have a look at the dedicated section of the OBOD website to learn more about the One Tree Project, which explores the connections between Druidry and the Dharmic traditions of India, and to see photos of the 2016 event.
This is the Order’s project to foster scholarship in Druidry and related subjects. Every year an award is given, and every four years a conference presents the last four papers.The fourth Mount Haemus Gathering was held in September at the Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre in Berkshire, and you can see photos of the event and read all 16 papers published so far on the dedicated section of the OBOD website. At the Gathering we also launched Volume 2 of the papers, which you can buy as an ebook or paperback from Amazon or the OBOD online store.
The Celebrancy Project
Last year we began a training programme in funeral celebrancy, and then also in family celebrancy (for weddings, handfastings, and namings). These courses have now been filmed and include extensive text material and audio, and are open to non-members as well as members. The funeral celebrancy programme will soon be available in this new format and you can find details at www.druidryonline.org
The family celebrancy course will be available in the spring.
ONGOING EVENTS & PUBLICATIONS
The various patches of the quilt of Druidry described above – the transitions and changes, the exhibitions, the books published and the projects that have been advanced – have all taken place against the background of the continuing life, celebration and study of Druidry which have been a feature of the Order’s work, and the community of Druidry, for many years. There have been retreats and camps, workshops, talks and gatherings taking place all over the world: each one different, each one inspired by Druidry in one way or another. If I mention some, I risk leaving out others, and it is a measure of the way Druidry and the Order have flourished in the last few years that here at OBOD HQ we cannot keep up with all the events that now occur each year – and often we do not even know about them, or learn about them well after they have occurred. This feels healthy, and is a measure of how empowered members and groves and seed-groups feel. They do not need approval or permission to hold camps, workshops or retreats, and the Order honours the local and the individual as well as the global. If you are organising an event and would like it mentioned in Touchstone or on the Events page of the website just send in details as far ahead as possible to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
There are now over 150 groves and seed-groups of the Order around the world, and membership has grown so much in the last year that in the office we have welcomed another member – Marianna – to the team of Stephanie, Damh and Annie, responding to members’ queries and administering the course. And this year Mike Williams has joined Steve Hounsome as a deputy co-ordinator to Susan Jones to help alongside the team of over 50 mentors.
As regards magazines, we think we know of all that are published, but if you know of one we’ve missed, tell us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Over the last year, there have been fantastic issues of these magazines, and if you haven’t yet looked at them, do go online and have a browse. They are filled with beauty and inspiration:
Druid Magazine – On Being An American Druid is published by members in the USA
Serpentstar is the magazine for Australasia & Oceania
Dryade is the Dutch Language magazine
Il Calderone is the Italian Language magazine
Druidenstein is the German language magazine
Menhir is the French language magazine
As well as these online journals published by members, see the excellent Aontacht, the magazine published by Druidic Dawn, and Touchstone – the in-house magazine for members of the Order.
Druids want to protect and preserve the Earth. Each of us will have our preferred charities and projects that we support. The Order regularly donates to Trees for Life, Tree Aid and The Woodland Trust, and in addition, many members support the work of The Warrior’s Call, which opposes fracking in magical and other ways. The need to do this has become increasingly clear in Britain, within the new and confusing political climate here. In other countries, the situation is different, but all over the world the ubiquity of injustice, inequality, and environmental degradation, means there will always be plenty of projects for us to support.
Holding to a sense of the sacred nature of the Universe, of the beauty and the existence of the Soul, can help us to stay hopeful and inspired, despite all that we see around us. This is one of the purposes of a spiritual way.
May Druidry and the Order provide you with such hope and inspiration in the coming year!
Yours in the Peace of the Grove,