Like any other anniversary, the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids offers an opportunity to glance back over the past and sum up a few of its lessons. While the history of OBOD itself has much to interest the scholar as well as the practicing Druid, I propose to look back a little further in the history of the Druid Revival, and note some of the factors that have made our modern Druidry what it is. Any such asessment needs to start by noting the sheer improbability of the Druid Revival itself. A handful of scrappy documentary references to an all but forgotten ancient priesthood – none of them written by members of that priesthood and half of them contradicting the other half in almost every particular – have managed somehow to inspire three hundred years of efforts to turn a bare rumor of archaic wisdom into a living spiritual tradition relevant to contemporary concerns.
Of course no two of these efforts have had the same results. Jacquetta Hawkes once famously remarked that every age has the Stonehenge it desires – or deserves;1 the same could be said with at least as much justice about the Druids. Yet the attention paid to the ancient Druids has too often been paired with a remarkable lack of curiosity about those Druids whose lives and teachings are many centuries closer to us. For many people, images such as the much-reprinted photo of the young Winston Churchill blinking owlishly amid a throng of elderly Druids in false beards seems to have defined the entire Druid movement before 1970 or thereabouts. Yet behind the false beards, some remarkably strange things took place, and at least some of them have lessons of value for scholars as well as practitioners of Druidry today.
Third Mount Haemus Lecture: Phallic Religion in the Druid Revival
John Michael Greer, an established author who specialises in Western Magical traditions, is researching, again amongst a variety of topics, the connections between contemporary Druidry and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.