BDO Druidry Goes Global in the Paralympics Closing Ceremony

Master of ceremonies: soldier Rory MacKenzie introduced the procession of 'Mad Max' characters. MacKenzie had his leg blown off by a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq


Click the photo to view a short (5 mins) video of the Druid speeches and other beautiful highlights of the closing ceremony.

We were sworn to secrecy beforehand, but Emma Restall Orr and I were approached by the organisers of the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony with a surprising request. They wanted our permission to use parts of the gorsedd ritual we wrote in 1997. So, about 21 minutes into the ceremony, these words went out to 750 million people around the world, spoken by Rory Mackenzie on behalf of Help For Heroes:

I call upon the spirit of Autumn. The spirit of water, of the ebb and flow of emotion; of open seas and running streams, of cleansing rain; spirit of the evening sun, of twilight and of Autumn.
I call upon the spirit of Winter. The spirit of earth, of the womb of creation; of the night and the snows of winter, deep roots and ancient stones.
I call upon the spirit of Spring. The spirit of air, the breath of life; of sunrise, and of new life and of new growth.
I call upon the Spirit of Summer. The spirit of fire, of energy of passion; spirit of the noonday sun, the heat of summer, vitality and abundance.
My friends, let the festival commence!

And then, about 30 minutes in, Rory spoke these words:

The circle is unbroken,
The ancestors awoken.
May the songs of the Earth
and of her people ring true.
Hail to the Festival of the flame
of root and branch, tooth and claw,
fur and feather, of earth and sea and sky.

When the original gorsedd ceremony was composed in 1993, it was designed to bring together people of many faiths, cultures and backgrounds at a multi-faith conference in Avebury. Its use in the Paralympics closing ceremony seems perfectly in keeping with this original intention, and Emma and I were happy to agree to the request. Plus the Paralympics have been very effective in changing attitudes towards disability, which is no bad thing.

We like to think that the inclusion of words from a modern Pagan rite in such a high profile context, seen by so many people around the world, may herald a new appreciation of the creative and inspirational role played by paganism, both historically and in the present, and a return of Druidry to the mainstream of our culture.

Blessings to all,

Greywolf /|\

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7 Responses to BDO Druidry Goes Global in the Paralympics Closing Ceremony

  1. Walter Lamont says:

    That was absolutely excellent in a number of ways!

  2. Helen says:

    Sorry but I am going to be a downbringer.
    Yes – it is wonderful that the words have been used in the closing ceremony of the paralympics.
    Loads of people are born with disabilities or acquire them without trying. We should support them fully.
    Help for Heroes?
    Yes – they should be supported too – but they are not heroes – they are victims of the aggressive world we have constructed.

    • Avatar of Greywolf Greywolf says:

      No need to apologise, Helen,
      I agree that the use of the term ‘heroes’ for those wounded in war is problematic for many reasons, not least because when asked if they are heroes, the people concerned invariably say they’re not. Beyond that, I recall the millions who took to the streets before the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to protest against the UK’s involvement in these acts of war and of dubious legality. As a lifelong pacifist, I was very much on the side of the protestors and still am. War is an obscenity, and the vast majority of its victims over the last hundred years have not been members of the armed forces, but innocent civilians left dead or crippled by the very people we are now asked to call ‘heroes.’
      Having said that, it’s hard not to admire folk who have overcome immense physical and psychological barriers (however caused) to reach a point where they can compete so successfully in an event such as the Paralympics, one that has the effect of bringing people together, nation to nation, spirit to spirit, in friendship. That’s the aspect of this event that Emma and I felt able to support, and to which we hope our words spoke. Rory McKenzie, who spoke them on the night, is a medic whose injuries occurred while he was trying to help others, and who, since he was injured, continues to devote his time and energy to helping others. And yes, I completely agree that soldiers wounded in war are victims of the human stupidity that sent them to war in the first place. War has no heroes.
      Many blessings,
      Greywolf /|\

  3. h.kerr says:

    How it saddened me to read that … soldiers injured in the line of duty are not heroes. Heroism is defined by an act of great bravery. It takes a great act of bravery to risk your life for others. Yes, we live in an aggressive world and I am grateful for the service men and women who are defending us . Help the heroes did not deserve such a negative comment.

    • Avatar of Greywolf Greywolf says:

      As a lifelong pacifist, I am conflicted. War seems to me the greatest idiocy in which humanity engages. If no one signed up to fight wars, there would be no wars. Then again, if you get a fascist dictator bent on imposing his dictatorship on the world or a neighbouring nation, what is one to do? My vote, of course, would be for non-violent resistance. Ghandi and his followers proved how effective that could be. And yet, it’s hard to doubt the courage of people who, for example, carry wounded comrades to safety under heavy fire. Should they be there in the first place? In the case of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, I would answer with a resounding NO! Once they are there, if they are seriously injured performing a selfless act in the face of great personal danger, will I deny them respect for having carried out such an act? No.
      However, I have long maintained that the best way to ensure a swift and irrevocable end to war is to make the politicians who create them be the ones who have to fight them. War would vanish from the world overnight.

  4. peter s says:

    It just doesn’t make sense to suggest that there are no heroes in war simply because war is not a pleasant thing. A hero is someone who behaves selflessly, courageously and for the benefit of another. The fact that this happens in unpleasant circumstances cannot negate this. A person who joins the army for financial gain and who gets blown up while sitting in a cafe is not necessarily a hero, rather he or she is a victim. A soldier who puts himself purposefully in harms way to rescue the victim, when they could leave it to someone else, whether he or she is injured in the process, is in my estimation a hero.

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