2023 Annual Review

"For Peace, As the fever of day calms towards twilight, May all that is strained in us come to ease. We pray for all who suffered violence today, May an unexpected serenity surprise them. For those who risk their lives each day for peace, May their hearts glimpse providence at the heart of history. That those who make riches from violence and war, Might hear in their dreams the cries of the lost. That we might see through our fear of each other, A new vision to heal our fatal attraction to aggression. That those who enjoy the privilege of peace, Might not forget their tormented brothers and sisters. That the wolf might lie down with the lamb, That our swords be beaten into ploughshares. And no hurt or harm be done, Anywhere along the holy mountain." John O'Donohue

As I’m writing this it’s Samhain and I’m looking out my window at a lake, as the river Nore, which has burst its banks, is no longer visible. While other parts of the world have been dealing with the destruction caused by wildfires and earthquakes, we in Ireland are dealing with the destruction caused by excessive rain and flooding. I wrote my first annual review in 2020, with the uncertainty that came with the COVID pandemic. And each year since, this uncertainty has grown, with the challenges brought by climate change, war and conflict. With the recent conflict and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, it is difficult not to fall into a pit of hopelessness and despair. The challenge for us as Druids is to remain grounded and centred in these unstable times, to tap into that peace within the still centre of our beings so that we may radiate it outwards.

Meanwhile, the Order remains very active, with lots of new developments and innovations. Our Winter Gathering was held online with our theme: Diversity within the Order. We had some fascinating presentations from members outside of Ireland, Britain and Europe on how they practice and express their Druidry within their own landscapes: From Aotearoa, Moira, Joanna, who sadly passed in the autumn, Richard, & Nicola spoke about their Druidry in New Zealand. From the USA, Billy Stewart, a Bard, gave a wonderful presentation on the history of American music and the banjo and how he has made playing the banjo his spiritual practice. Malea Powell who comes from a very diverse ancestral background, including American Indian and European heritages and lives in Taos New Mexico, spoke about her relationship with her landscape. From Ohio, Srini Anand, who originally comes from India and has a Hindu background, and Loam Anand gave a really interesting talk entitled: Hindruidry: A Marriage of Awen and Ohm. We also had a Zoom meet-up which was a great success.

We held our Druid Gorsedd in February, in the New Forest. The demand for places at the Gorsedd was so high it was decided to hold two Druid Gorsedds in 2024 in order to accommodate members. The European Druid Gorsedd took place in Germany in March and there will be another one in 2024.

Our first Bardic Gorsedd was held in Noddfa, a beautiful centre, run by Roman Catholic nuns, in Penmaenmawr in Wales in July, with Kristoffer Hughes as guest speaker. We had participants from North America, Europe, UK and Ireland. A big thanks to Lorraine Munn and Tom Moxon for holding the space so well. Together we created the Song of the Bard inspired by the Song of Amergin. After the Gorsedd I spent a few days with Kristoffer who showed me many magical places on Ynys Môn (Anglesey).

We held our last Summer Gathering in Glastonbury this year, as we have outgrown the capacity of the Townhall. Fortunately, we have found another venue in the Strode Theatre in Street which is only five minutes by car from Glastonbury. We had a ‘Scéalaiocht’(storytelling) session in the Town Hall on the Sunday, where we showcased 4 different storytelling styles by Heidi McNie, Lorraine Munn, Dan Goodfellow and myself. This was followed by a workshop in break-out groups on storytelling. A fringe event was held by Pamela Meekings-Stewart and Philip: Living Treefully: A workshop for Treefully Managing Change in your Life.

For the past year, the Community Cloak has been travelling to Australia, UK, Ireland, and Europe to various members who have expressed their prayers and wishes through the most beautiful and creative embroidery, appliqué, and beadwork. It arrived back in Glastonbury in time for the Summer Gathering, where Fleur Camille and Marcella Dillon-Walshe gave a very interesting presentation on the origins and process of the project. There was an opportunity for members at the Gathering to add their own prayer and creative stitching to the cloak. The Cloak continues to weave its story as it travels around the world to various members to add their creations. There is an Fb group: The OBOD Cloak Project where you can find updates.

As we headed up towards the Tor for our ceremony it was wonderful to see a newly-planted circle of 27 crab apple trees (Malus Sylvestris) which had been planted in January 2022 in the Fairfield at the foot of the Tor by the National Trust. This was thanks to the funds the Order raised at our 2022 Summer Gathering. 

Philip, Stephanie, Adrian, JJ, Pamela and I attended the Dryade camp in the Netherlands in June where we celebrated 25 years of Dryade Magazine and its 100th edition. Many thanks to Peter van den Berg who is stepping down from his role as editor. His last edition 102 is Winter 2023. Lucas, Robert and Renske are the new editorial team starting in 2024. We enjoyed wonderful weather during the camp, which was held on the seabed, that is, on land that was reclaimed from the sea about seventy years ago. We stayed in a beautiful campsite in Vierhouten which means ‘four woods’ and has its own wolf, wild boar and deer populations. Unfortunately, we did not get to see any of these animals other than the soil dug up by the boar along the roadside.

Philip and Stephanie attended the OBOD Samhain Gathering in France, where one hundred members and friends met over five days in a wonderful location in Burgundy – holding a powerful 2.5-hour Samhain ceremony – perhaps the longest in the Order’s history!

Our online ceremonies continue as we follow the Wheel of the Year, and I’d like to thank the following groves, and seed groups who have held the ceremonies so beautifully: Alban Arthan: The Well of Inspiration Grove; Imbolc: The Shining Mountains Grove of Montana; Alban Eilir: The Red Willow Grove; Bealtaine: Bärenwald Druiden Seed Group; Alban Hefin: The Well of Inspiration Grove; Lughnasadh: The Aether Grove; Alban Elfed: Nos Coryn and the Grove of the Aether; Samhain: Setantii Grove. A special thanks to Stephen Barnes for his wonderfully illustrated invitations and thanks.

Like the changing seasons, this year has seen several changes within the Order. Fi Ware is now Mentor Co-ordinator while Steve Hounsome is on sick leave. Very many thanks to Gayle Gray who has now retired from her many years of service as deputy Mentor Co-ordinator. After more than twenty years of dedicated service, Penny has retired as editor of Touchstone. Much gratitude to Penny for her enthusiasm, commitment and skills. The mantle has been handed over to  Andrew Anderson. Damh has retired from organising the Gatherings and a great big thanks to him for his hard work to make them the enjoyable and wonderful events that they are. Thanks to Lorraine Munn, Tom Moxon and Marcella Dillon-Walsh who have agreed to take on the role of organising the Gatherings.

Philip continues to hold his Tea with a Druid on Monday nights at 8pm UK. The Fireside Chats with Eimear continue on Thursday nights at 8pm UK. If you cannot watch them live, the recordings are available on the Order’s OBOD YouTube channel. Druidcast is now on episode 199. I listened to all of the episodes over the summer. I found them so informative but also calming and healing. You can find them wherever you listen to your podcasts. David Bramwell has produced the second series of his podcast, Adventures in Nutopia which is sponsored by the Order. Here David covers a range of fascinating topics from how modern entertainment has its roots in ancient shamanic journeys of the soul, dreams for healing and divination, to the healing power of sound. Adventures in Nutopia has been nominated as one of the top five UK podcasts by the Guardian newspaper.

Members Activities:

Our online events continue to grow and develop, highlighting the value and importance our online community has for our members – hence our creation of the amazing new gathering place we have created, called The Druid Hearth which we hope to launch in the Spring. A huge amount of work over the last year and more has finally come to fruition with the creation of  The Druid Hearth which going forward will be the communication hub for the Order. This is where members will be able to access their online courses, communicate with their mentors, access the Message Board and the Order magazines in different languages, and communicate with each other, join various special-interest groups called ‘Circles’, and much more. Many thanks to all members who have facilitated or initiated online events this past year, and to the team who created The Druid Hearth, which includes Matthew and Chris in the UK and Bogdan in Kyiv, Ukraine.

There have been other online innovations: the German Dutch, French, and Italian Websites have all been updated. The Ovate (English) course is now available online, and soon the foreign language Bardic courses will be available online too.

On the first Wednesday of the month, we continue to have our Building Resilience for Hard Times listening circle, and these have highlighted the importance of having a space for members to speak and to be heard with attention and respect and how the experience of being listened to can be so healing. Note that the contact email has changed to:oboddeeplisteningcircle@gmail.com

The Online Healing Rituals were held in February and November by the Order’s Healer’sGroup on Facebook. There will be more in the group’s new home in the Healers’ Circle in The Hearth in 2024.

We had our first online Death Café hosted by John King in November. As John says, “At a Death Café people, often strangers, gather to eat cake, drink tea and discuss death. Our objective is to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives, A Death Café is a group-directed discussion of death, loss, and grief with no agenda, objectives or themes. It is a discussion group rather than a grief support or counselling session. The OBOD Death Café is offered in an accessible, respectful and confidential space, with no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action.” These are held on the 3rd Wednesday of the month at 7pm UK time. You can also bring some tea and cake. To attend, contact John at oboddeathcafe@gmail.com

We have set up an online Mental Health Interest group. We had an initial meeting on Zoomwhich was attended by members who are psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, counsellors, social workers, healers, and many more, who have a wish to be able to combinetheir Druidry with their work as Mental health professionals. Over 600 members have signed up. Going forward we hope to have monthly online meetings with various speakers, and discussion groups.

In the USA there were three camps held this year: Gulf Coast Gathering in Louisiana in March where Pat Booker was an invited speaker; MAGUS in Virginia in May; and DOOR inPennsylvania in June/July.

The first physical Southern Hemisphere OBOD assembly since 2019 was held in Newcastle, NSW in November.

Éigse Spiorad Cheilteach, organised by Paul Corcoran, Anna Coote, and myself, was held in August in Ireland. We had some fascinating presentations: ‘Tar anseo chugam / C’mere to me’: on the use of the Irish language in Pagan practice by Deirdre Wadding; ‘Lašūl a labērt – Exchange of Flowers’: exploration of and making of Irish Mincéirí charms that captivate, create and cultivate’ by Oein de Bhairdúin; ‘The Divine Image of the Gaels’ – Síle-na-Gigs by Jack Roberts

Following a request to have a talk on Druidry, Stefan Kaiser gave a presentation at a Student Interfaith Conference in Freiburg, Germany. He also held Peace Ritual – It is great to see such interest in Druidry.

Members from Australia and New Zealand have produced a section about Druidry and the seasonal festivals from a Southern Hemisphere perspective. These will be accessible on The Druid Hearth once it has been launched.

The OBOD Inner Journeying and Ritual weekends with Penny Billington and Matt McCabe will be held again in 2024.

This year’s Mt. Haemus Award went to Dr Paul M White: Discovering Meaning in Ireland: Megalithic Spiritual Experience. You can read it here: https://druidry.org/resources/25th-mount-haemus-lecture-discovering-meaning-in-ireland-megalith-spiritual-experiences

Each year members and friends contribute wonderful books on Druidry and related topics and this year is no exception. I hope I have not left anyone out. If I have, please let me know.                      

Gale Park: Sacred circles: Wheels of Power and Connection 

Stefano Alessi: La Ruota a dell’Anno

Kristoffer Hughes: The Book of Druidry   ​​​​​​​​​​  Yuletide Tarot                                                                                                                                 

Ben Stimpson: Ancestral Whispers: A Guide to Building Ancestral Veneration Practices.

Mara Ede-Weaving: The Essential Book of Druidry

Thea Prothero: Pilgrimage 

Brenda Jean Rae: “The Trees speak” Ogham/Oracle of New Zealand Native Trees 

Many authors: Of Magic Fire and Fire Magic (proceeds to environmental protection projects) only available in German

Oein de Bhairdúin: Twiggy Woman​​​​​​​​​​      Weave​​​​​​​​​​​      The Slug and the Snail 

Melanie Godfrey: The Magic of the Seal: Ocean Messengers

Evelyn Bonnard Myrdhin: De la Source a l’Océan

Ahriana Platten: Rites and Rituals: Harnessing the Power of Sacred Ceremony.

Stephen Blamires: Celtic Tree Mysteries

For the coming year, I leave you with the following quotation:

“Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes–you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and knowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterwards either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone.” 

 Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark

Beannachtaí agus Síocháin (Blessings and Peace)