2022 Annual Review

Peace, Here you come, striding up that leafy street, looking for me. I’m here. Remember sitting under that tree in Pavia? We were there together there and I knew, for an hour, your happy blood. Open your heart now, let me enter it, I want to live in you for good. ~ Brendan Keneally

How wonderful to write an Annual Review of the year we emerged from lockdown!  Although the year began in the shadow of Covid and its restrictions, I am so grateful that we are free at last!  The year has been full of activity, as OBOD members revelled in our ability to gather together again.

Our Online Winter Gathering at the Solstice was still held online, and there were two wonderful presentations. David Bramwell’s No. 9 Bus to Utopia was about the various communities he visited around the world. Jo Dunbar and Adrian Rooke treated us to a magical story about the Mistletoe and the song of the mistletoe.  We had our first zoom meet-up where members didn’t just watch the online offerings, but got to meet each other in breakout rooms.  This was a great success and many members have told us they valued the opportunity to meet and talk with other Druids from around the world, so we have continued to host these.

In March I attended the Druid Gorsedd held in a beautiful centre called Noddfa in Pen Maen Mawr in Wales. The last one had been held in 2020 in Ireland. What a joy to be able to sit in circle with fellow Druids and reconnect once more.

The highlight of the year was our Summer Gathering which was attended by over 450 members from all over the world. Unfortunately due to Covid restrictions we had only three members from the Southern Hemisphere. The excitement as we gathered in the marquee in the Abbey grounds was palpable given that it was the first time in two and a half years that we had been together in Glastonbury. We were welcomed by Adrian Rooke standing in as Pendragon, as Damh could not attend due to a COVID infection. While Damh was very much missed, Adrian did a wonderful job and held the space beautifully. Ronald Hutton gave a most entertaining presentation on the history of the Order going back to its predecessors. He had us all enthralled with his usual wit and erudition. He spoke of how the successions of the role of Chosen Chiefs were so acrimonious and how the handover of the Chosen Chief role from Philip to me was the first peaceful one. I remember his repeated phrase “And what could possibly go wrong!” I am happy to say that all is still well. Ronald’s talk can be heard on Druidcast and watched on the Order’s Youtube page. This was followed by Philip who spoke of how the Order has developed and spoke of  all the people who have contributed so much to the Order through their dedication to service to make it what it is today. It never ceases to amaze me how generous our members are in giving of their talents, gifts, and service to the Order. Long may this tradition continue!

As I had already been installed as Chosen Chief we had what has, thanks to Peter Cawston, become affectionately known as the Celebration of the Confirmation of the Installation of the Chosen Chief. It was a very moving ceremony for me – to stand with Philip, Stephanie and Adrian standing behind me holding their wands in the form of the Awen while being held so beautifully by all who were gathered there. Philip presented me with a beautiful gold and silver pendant representing the triskele and awen. This was made by Charlie Carr Gomm. A replica of it will be on display in the Witches Museum in Boscastle with photos of the ceremony. It was wonderful for me to have my family present. While they are aware of my Druidry in Ireland, it was special for them to see me as a Druid with the Order in Glastonbury. I want to make a special tribute to Jennifer O’Neill-Kaan who wrote a very moving song specially for the ceremony, ‘Breacadh an Lae’, which means ‘A New Dawn’s Light’. Her singing as always was magical. We had our celebration of the Summer ceremony on the Tor in the afternoon. Thanks to Gabby and Paddy for holding everything. What a joy it is to stand together on the Tor and experience the magic of ceremony! Listening to the chant taught by Jennifer in the morning, ‘Tús Ré Nua’ meaning ‘Beginning of a New Era’, was so moving.  Saturday ended with the Eisteddfod with wonderful performances from all the artists.

Sunday began with ceremonies at Stonehenge and Avebury. The morning session in the marquee began with a very interesting and informative conversation between Philip and Dr. Rosalind Watts entitled “The Healing Powers of Mushrooms and Trees – where Psychology meets Druidry’. Members gathered in their Groves for the afternoon.  Another highlight was the Céilí held on Sunday night. It proved to be very popular despite the early start to the day. Thanks to Ursula Billington and her band. I really loved the dance taught to us by Penny Billington.

Just as we did for the 50th anniversary, we had Fringe events on the Monday and Tuesday. These were very well attended, and accounts of the various presentations have been published in Touchstone. One event I’d like to mention is the ‘Sing-along-Wickerman’, which was presented by David Bramwell on the Thursday before the Gathering. It was wonderful to see people coming up the High Street wearing animal masks lending to the atmosphere.

In July Kristoffer Hughes and I went to the International Camp in Germany. Our hosts Bettina and Egbert kindly invited us to come a few days earlier so that they could show us around their landscape. They live near Nuremburg – a beautiful city. One magical place we visited, called Druidenhain meaning Druid Grove, contains large boulders with trees growing through and around them. The camp was held in the north of Germany in an area called the Eiffel. On the way there we stopped at a Celtic site called Glauberg, where there is a large barrow from the 5th century BC where bodies of three people of high status were found with amazing jewellery. There is a statue on display of a Celtic prince wearing a very interesting headdress believed to be a representation of mistletoe. He is also wearing a torc which looks very much like the Awen symbol.

In June I gave a presentation for the Doreen Valiente Foundation entitled Powerful Women in Irish Mythology – Bioróg.

Dragon Oak OBOD Retreat (DOOR) in the USA held their gathering in September. Due to COVID restrictions I was not able to attend in person. However, I held a workshop via zoom. Many thanks to Kristoffer Hughes, who was there physically, for his help with the logistics.

Philip took a break from Tea with A Druid at the beginning of the year. He was sadly missed and there was great excitement when he returned to host the Teas in May. He distils his wisdom and insights on Monday nights at 8pm(UK). I have continued with the Fireside Chats, having taken a break over the summer, on Thursday nights at 8pm (UK). For those who cannot watch them live recordings can be viewed the Order’s YouTube channel.

Although we are now able to meet physically, it is still very important for many of our members to hold the Wheel of the Year ceremonies online. Many thanks to all those who held the ceremonies so beautifully and creatively with images of their landscape, videos, and music. At Alban Arthan: White Horse Camps (UK); Imbolc: Chinook Hills Grove (Canada); Alban Eiler: South Devon and Dartmoor Grove (UK); Bealtaine: Highland Oak Nemeton (Baton Rouge USA); Alban Hefin: Ash Grove (UK);  Lughnasadh: The Border Grove (UK); Alban Elfed: Eldermas Seed Group (Worldwide); Samhain: Cornovii Grove (UK). A very special thanks to Penny and Arthur Billington for creating the beautiful Ceremony invites and thanks. This year the theme has been the Ogham Trees.

As the Order continues to grow in size, the sense of community is getting stronger. Our online events have brought so many people together, through the Tea with a Druid, Fireside Chats, Zoom meet-ups. Members have formed online seed groups at a rate of at least one per week.

Members Activities

Éigse Spiorad Cheilteach organised by Paul Corcoran, Anna Coote and myself was held in August in Ireland with very interesting presentations: Staring at Ring Forts by Justin Moffatt; The Eternal Path: Fairies, Sacred Landscape, and the Song of the Numinous by David Halpin; Envisioning Rebirth: The Role of Healers and Seers in Restoring the Wasteland by OBOD member Cáit Branigan; Finding your Imbas by Sherrie Scott.

Marc Meier has created an amazing Inner Journey to Dinas Affaraon meditation to find the answer to our most important questions. What is interesting about this meditation is that it is accompanied by music specially composed for the journey. I found this very powerful and evocative. For further information: www.epic-inner-journey.com

This year Liv Torc was commissioned to write a piece which was filmed on how climate change is communicated for an exhibition at East Quay Gallery in Watchett Somerset. Liv interviewed scientists, environmental activists, including myself, on their thoughts and feelings on humanity, the planet, their work and the tricky job of communicating climate change science. From these interviews Liv created a satirical piece “Meta Than This”: https://youtu.be/p4WlD3ULEzY

The OBOD Online Climate Listening Circle has changed its name to Building Resilience for Hard Times to better reflect people’s experiences. A big thanks to the listening volunteers for their commitment and service. The Listening circles are held on the first Wednesday of the month at 7pm UK time via zoom. Contact Harriet at harrietlock@gmail.com

Following a Fireside Chat with Fleur Camille the idea was born to create a community cloak and send it around to the world to members to sew or embroider prayers or wishes onto it. Thanks to Marcella Dillon-Walsh and Fleur for dreaming this up. Fb group: Global Community Fireside Chat Cloak Embroidery Project – Cloak of many threads linking the Global Community of Druidry through ritual alchemy of sewing and embroidery – weaving a story through land, place and space.

The OBOD Inner Journeying and Ritual weekends run by Penny Billington and Matt McCabe are still very well attended.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, some members held a New Moon Ritual for Peace online.

We also had our first online Healing Ritual on November 23rd. The OBOD Healer’s circle meets every month online, and holds a healing ritual twice a year: https://facebook.com/events/s/obod-healers-circle-first-publ/1802599376768368/

This year’s Mt Haemus award went to Bill Frankham for his most interesting paper, which can be found on the Order’s website: Fallen Branches: Reconstructing the Lost Saga of Caswallawn ap Beli Mawr.

Members and friends of the Order have contributed some wonderful books on Druidry and related subjects this year. Another new phenomenon is the quantity of audio books now being created. Let’s start with a list of these:

Nine Ways to Charm a Dryad: A Magical Adventure to Connect with the Spirit of Trees Audiobook ~ ~Penny Billington

The Druid Path: A Modern Tradition of Nature Spirituality
~ Hardback and Audiobook by John Michael Greer
The Book of Hedge Druidry: A Complete Guide for the Solitary Seeker Audiobook
~ Joanna van der Hoeven
The Path of Paganism: An Experience-Based Guide to Modern Pagan Practice Audiobook
~ John Becket
Easing into Druidry: Audiobook
~ Kimberly Beyer
~ Christian Friedrich Bruner
Secrets from a Herbalist’s Garden
Jo Dunbar
Nine Ways to Charm a Dryad
~ Penny Billington
Ancient Faerie
Melanie Godfrey
Ogham and The Wood Wide Web
Sandy Coombs, Diane, Maxey, Wendy Trevennor
To Sing with Bards and Angels
~ Iona Jenkins
The Alchemy of Avalon
Jenna Paulden

The Order worked with the Sony award-winning presenter Dr David Bramwell to produce a new podcast: Adventures in Nutopia. The podcast is a fascinating ‘documentary-style series exploring radical ideas, new myths and social movements for a positive future shaped by community, re-enchantment, sustainability, ecology, creativity, magic and compassion’, and we are incredibly proud to sponsor such a great series.You can find the series here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/adventures-in-nutopia/id1649333497

May the coming year bring peace and deeper understanding and with these a greater sense of  interconnectedness with each other, with the earth and with her beings.

Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding.
~ Albert Einstein