Who Runs The Order? How Is It Structured?

ImbolcShrine, Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids.

While trying to have as little organisation as possible, we do need some structure otherwise nothing would ever get done. Whereas many Druid groups and Orders have sprung up only recently with the advent of the internet, The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids was founded over fifty years ago, and has been engaged in its distance-learning programme for over thirty years. During this time we have been able to build a solid and reliable structure that is able to respond to the needs of our worldwide membership.

Around the world, a team of over fifty mentors support members one-to-one during their journeys through the OBOD grades. Writing to a stranger can be daunting, but also quite magical. Susan Jones, who led the team who mentor students in the English version of the course for 17 years before handing over to Steve Hounsome, says: “As far as I know, OBOD’s mentoring system is unique – a spiritual companion by post or email. At London Business School I introduced a coaching system based on what I’d learnt as an OBOD tutor, and more recently introduced the same ideas into developing the UK’s only course on work-based reflective learning for students, at Manchester Metropolitan University.” Druid Grade members who have demonstrated their ability to communicate well are invited to apprentice as mentors, and over the years we have developed our own unique coaching process to train them and to monitor our work to the best standards we can.

At the office in Sussex, Annie, Kate, Matthew and Sarah send the monthly packages of the English language edition of the course to members all over the world, and supply books and audios, and the answers to hundreds of queries a week by post, email and phone. Sometimes members call by to say hello or to consult the Order’s archives – but please phone or write first to make sure it’s convenient!

Penny Billington in Wells in Somerset edits the monthly magazine Touchstone, and she would love to receive members’ articles, letters, news cuttings and any details of events being organised. So would Mandy in Australia who edits Serpentstar – the members’ magazine for Australasia – and Peter van den Berg in the Netherlands, who edits Dryade the Dutch & Belgian members’ magazine.

Members in Britain, the US and Europe maintain the websites, and members all over the world help to moderate the lively Message Board, coordinated by Kathleen Harrington in Louisiana, USA. Other members coordinate or facilitate projects such as the Gatherings, the Sacred Grove Programme, the Ecological Responsibility Campaign, camps, interfaith work, liaison with other Druid groups, and liaison with English Heritage and the National Trust.

Every few years the Order appoints an Honorary Bard – honouring a writer, poet, musician or artist for their accomplishments. In the year 2000 Mara Freeman, poet and author of Kindling the Celtic Spirit was appointed. In 1998 it was songwriter and singer Robin Williamson, of The Incredible String Band. In previous years, we used the title Presider instead, and Past Presiders of the Order include the author Melita Denning; John Michell, writer on earth mysteries, ley lines and geomancy; Caitlín and John Matthews, writers and lecturers on the Western Mystery Tradition and the Arthurian and Celtic traditions; and the poet Robert Armstrong.

The Order has a Patroness, who helps to raise funds for special projects, who is currently Dwina Murphy-Gibb, author of the druidic Cormac Trilogy and wife of the late modern-day bard Robin Gibb.

The Order also has Press and Media officer, Adrian Rooke, who helps to put journalists, and film and TV researchers, in touch with the right members, groups, and sources of information.

The head of the Order is currently Eimear Burke, a Counselling Psychologist in Ireland. The previous head was Philip Carr-Gomm, author of The Druid Mysteries and The Druid Way, co-author of The Druid Animal and Plant Oracles and editor of The Rebirth of Druidry and The Book of Druidry. Past Chiefs have included Ross Nichols, author of The Book of Druidry, and in the Ancient Druid Order, out of which OBOD evolved, George Watson MacGregor-Reid, author of The Natural Basis of Civilization.

The Pendragon is currently Damh the Bard, a musician and song-writer, who helps to administer the Order’s training programme and creates the Order’s monthly podcast, Druidcast. The previous Pendragon was Will Worthington, the artist and craftsman who illustrated The Druid Way and the cards for The Druid Animal and Plant Oracles and The DruidCraft Tarot. The Pendragon before Will was Vera Chapman, founder of The Tolkien Society, and author of the Arthurian Trilogy: The Three DamoselsThe Green Knight and King Arthur’s Daughter.

The Scribe is currently Stephanie Carr-Gomm, who is co-author of The Druid Animal and Plant Oracles and The DruidCraft Tarot.

Teams of members organize the camps in Britain and abroad, and help to run the twice-yearly gatherings in Glastonbury.

Members with experience of celebrancy, for the facilitation of Rites of Passage, such as weddings, namings and funerals, are able to announce their services on this website (see Celebrants). Teaching material on conducting these rites, and on giving talks and workshops, is given in the Druid level of the home-learning course and in the Order’s School of Celebrancy courses.

Course administration and support in other languages (currently French, Dutch, German, Italian and Portuguese) is undertaken by groups of OBOD members in other countries. See OBOD Around the World.