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If I'm keeping tabs correctly, I believe it's now four years since our first ovate students completed that course. Since then, they've been waiting with admirable patience for our Druid course to appear. What's been the hold-up then?

Well, for one thing, we underestimated the length of the Druid course. Having put so much into our bardic course, and then double that amount into the ovate, we were sure the Druid course would be comparitively short. How wrong we were. It is shaping up to be at least as long as the ovate course, around 500,000 words. Then there's the fact that I found myself, as editor, main writer and researcher, contributing artist and DTP drude for all our courses putting in upwards of 60 hours a week during the last few months of putting the ovate course together and vowed to give myself an easier time with the Druid.

It is also requiring far more original research than anticipated. Much of the first half of the course deals with human relationships with animal people in general and a select group of eight species in particular. These are Bears, Wolves and other canines, Horses, Cattle, the Crow family, Eagles, Deer and Dragons.

I had thought it would be relatively easy to find a few decent books from which to draw the necessary information. Again, I was wrong. To be blunt, most books on working with animals in spirit are lightweight, recycled reductions by non-Native writers of half-understood material drawn from a few Native American, usually Lakota, sources. Leaving aside potential accusations of cultural theft, many contain text pages with big lettering but few words of little real interest facing modern illustrations of varying quality. I felt a need to go way beyond what these dubious tomes offer, delving deeply into why and how our ancestors have related spiritually to animals over many millennia in order to tease out why they remain of such vital importance in native spiritual cultures, including Druidry, to this day and how we can best work with them in our tradition. This involved tracking down books and obscure academic articles dealing with human/animal interactions over a span of 40,000 years, extracting the relevant information from them and piecing it together to render it relevant in the context of our Druid training.

Our Druid course contains two ceremonies that incorporate this material and represent recreations of seasonal festivals of a kind that our ancestors might recognise. One of these was kindly given to us by Corwen Broch and Kate Fletcher. This is their beautiful and powerful recreation of a Midwinter Bear Feast. The other is my own recreation of a late autumn Wolf Ceremony.

This then, among other things, is what's been keeping me busy for the last five years. Work on the bardic course began in 2006 and I worked out the other day that over the last 11 years I've spent something like 15,000 hours working on BDO courses. There's still more to do, but the good news is that we now anticipate having the first half of the Druid course online in the Spring of 2018, hopefully in April. This'll buy us 6 months to finish part two, which is where we explore becoming one with the universe. You can't fault us for lacking ambition!

Meanwhile, if you haven't tried our courses yet, you can check them out here.

druidrypcIt's mid-October and autumn's beginning to make its presence felt here in North Wiltshire. With the cooler weather, it's increasingly tempting to forego working in the garden and get on with the BDO Druid course. We started work on these courses almost a decade ago, and it's been a fascinating journey for me personally. First I had to review every single conclusion I'd ever reached about the nature of life, the universe and everything to see if it still made sense. As part of this, I went back over everything I'd ever written about Druidry, from when I first came to the path in 1974 through to my book, Druidry: A Practical and Inspirational Guide, published in 2000. I was surprised and pleased to find how many beliefs developed out of the experiences of my childhood and teens still held good.
The next stage lay in expanding on existing understanding and generating new material based on new research and developing practice. This has been a real joy, sometimes consisting of major revelations, more often of small insights that build, one on another, to create greater ones. I've gone back to the founding texts of our tradition, from medieval collections of myths, legends and folklore, through to the works of Druid revivalists such as Iolo Morganwg. I've also re-examined my own work as founder of the BDO and a member of OBOD and other Druid groups.
Whenever I read a book on any spiritual tradition, I always look for signs that the authors have actually experienced the things they write about. I've drawn heavily on my own experience for my contributions to these courses, including out-of-body experiences, Otherworldly visions, meetings with pagan deities, shape-shifting into animal forms, and plenty of other weirdness. All the other contributors have a similar range of strange experiences to draw on and, as with my own, these have helped shape their image of how the universe works, what our place is within it, and what we should do about it.
Robin Williamson harpingThose fellow contributors include quite a roll call of the great and the good, including legendary singer-songwriter, Robin Williamson(right), author, Flick Merauld (a.k.a. Elen Hawke), musician and author, Andy Letcher, poet and author, Robin Skelton, Wiccan High Priest, Druid and ghost-hunter, Leon Reed, and, new to the team for our Druid course, Pagan philosopher, Brendan Myers, as well as many others.
My Druidry book forms the basis on which the courses are built. The latter, however, go way beyond what's in the book. The book consists of a little over 37,000 words while the bardic and ovate courses contain over 640,000 words between them. Add the nearly 200,000 words already included in the Druid course and the 150,000 or more still to come, and by the time we're done, our courses will comprise the equivalent of more than 27 books.
BDO Druid 13 Mogh RuithPlus, of course, we offer tutorial guidance to help folk through the courses. If current feedback is anything to go by, they're working pretty well, prompting one American ovate student to write, "I find myself feeling the presence of other beings as I walk, and feel them as fellow travelers in mutual aid. And I’ve finally arrived at a place I can make offerings to the gods and spirits, and do rituals, and really feel it and mean it versus going through the motions because I think I ought to. Finally, I feel the connections I’ve heard others speak of, but found so elusive to find on my own.”
The Druid course is coming together well. Having created a list of the booklets in it by number and title, followed by the chapter headings within them, I'm using that as a guide to shift sections around and create a sequence that makes sense to me and will, with any luck, work in the context of the course.
BDO Druid 8 HorseThe package contents will vary considerably from those listed on the Druid course page here on the website. Once I've settled on a revised running order, I'll update the course page to reflect it. Meanwhile, rest assured that all the subjects referred to on the course page will be covered, just in a different order.
One major difference from the original outline is the amount of space given to animal spirits. Once serious work on the course began, it soon became apparent that working with spirit animals was going to be a far more important aspect of it than initially thought. The reason is that I started looking back to the deepest history of our tradition, tracing its origins to Central Asia around 40,000 years ago. Our ancestors in that far-off time were nomadic hunter-gatherers, and their relationship with a small range of animals was fundamental to their spirituality and their lives. I've written a little bit about the significance of seven of these animals on my Greywolf's Lair blog. I'm fairly sure I'm going to add horses as an eighth.
BDO Druid 5 BullAround half of the course deals with the Druid role of walker-between-worlds, giving advice on when, where, how and why to access Otherworlds, plus details of what you may expect to find in them. For me, the ability to enter such spirit realms is one of the defining features of Druidry.
I'm really looking forward to completing work on all three courses sometime in 2016. I intend to celebrate by travelling to visit friends in various parts of the world, including Scotland. Despite having Scottish ancestors, I've never been North of Hadrian's Wall, which is just not right... Then I'll start revising the bardic course...
Many blessings,
Greywolf /|\

Rattles & BeatersWe've been having a few problems with the software we've been using to run the BDO webshop. While our web wonder, Adam, sorts out a new software set-up we've temporarily taken the webshop offline. We expect to have it up and running again soon. Meanwhile, we apologise for any inconvenience caused. When the shop's back online, we'll be adding new items, including BDO Awen T-shirts and rattles and drum beaters made by Greywolf (left), which brings us to our next item:
Back from his trip to the USA, Greywolf has completed and posted parts two and three of his Beginner's Guide to Drum-Making on his Greywolf's Lair blog. This details how to make frame drums using traditional methods that have been used across much of the Northern hemisphere for thousands of years. Included is a truly excellent video by Salish drum-maker, Jorge Lewis as well as a video of Greywolf playing his first completed drum accompanying his wolf chant. Here are links to parts One, Two and Three.
The BDO Circle of Elders will soon be getting together to discuss how we move the Order forward. We've reached a stage in our development where we need to assign new roles that will help us provide more and better connections with members and students. There are exciting times ahead as we continue to expand and to redefine contemporary Druidry. The results of our discussions will be posted here and will also lead to changes in this website to improve accessibility to what we have to offer. At the same time, serious work is beginning on putting together the third and last of our distance learning courses, the Druid course. For an outline of some of the things that will be in it, see here.


Wild SweenyYay! As of today, the 10th day of the 10th month, the BDO ovate course is complete. The last booklet I've been working on is number 23 (24 was completed months ago), and one of the last things I did for it was the drawing reproduced here. It shows the famed early (circa 7th century) Irish 'crazy shaman,' Suibhne Geilt ('Wild Sweeny'). Suibhne's madness came upon him after witnessing the horrors of war and took a distinctly 'shamanic' (i.e. Druidic) form. He flew around the whole of Ireland, his feet barely touching the tops of the trees. As is told in Buile Suibhne ('The Frenzy of Suibhne'):

For a long time thereafter he was faring throughout Ireland, visiting and searching in hard, rocky clefts and in bushy branches of tall ivy-trees, in narrow cavities of stones, from estuary to estuary, from peak to peak, and from glen to glen, till he reached ever-delightful Glen Bolcain. It is there the madmen of Ireland used to go when their year in madness was complete, that glen being ever a place of great delight for madmen. For it is thus Glen Bolcain is: it has four gaps to the wind, likewise a wood very beautiful, very pleasant, and clean-banked wells and cool springs, and sandy, clear-water streams, and green-topped watercress and brooklime bent and long on their surface. Many likewise are its sorrels, its wood-sorrels, its herbs, its berries, and its wild garlic, its black sloes and its brown acorns.

Like many of us, Suibhne found solace, refuge and sanity in nature. This is something repeatedly emphasised in the ovate course.

I can honestly say that I am delighted with the Ovate Booklet 17way the course has turned out. Alongside building the roundhouse, it's one of the most extraordinary adventures I've ever been involved in. Click the link for a BDO Ovate Course Sampler, containing 18 pages out of a total of about 1,200, amounting to some 550,000 words. I truly believe it's the best contemporary Druidry has to offer. And yes, I'm afraid it is necessary to complete our bardic course before you can access the ovate course, otherwise you would be missing a whole lot of background information and important references. Click the link for a BDO Bardic Course Sampler ...

For myself, now that the second of our courses is complete, I am, like Suibhne, going to take refuge in nature for a while. It's previously been announced that our third and last course, exploring the path of the Druid, won't be online before September 2015. This may not be the case. I'll be working on it as and when the awen flows and we also have a group of other writers who will, I'm sure, do likewise. It may be that we will deliberately do what we were kind of forced to do with the ovate course, Bardic Booklet 3that is to put the first parts of it online before the last parts are finished. This way we might have the first group of booklets online by, say, December 2014. Well, we'll see.

First, having devoted an average of 30 hours a week to these courses for the last seven years, I need to refresh myself with other things. These will include several tasks in which my sons, Joe and Mike, will assist; decorating the house, doing the garden, recording the Taliesin poems and Mabinogi stories, and filming video versions of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi. I'll also be recording tracks for my new CD, making more bone flutes, making an Iron Age bardic costume and, I hope, a chrotta (Iron Age Celtic lyre). Oh, and making rattles and Ogham fews. Perhaps even making a drum from scratch, including felling the tree to make the frame and curing the hide for the skin. Well, that should keep me busy for a while and represent a welcome escape from the computer.

Blessings to all,

Greywolf /|\

Ovate 2 The Path of the SeerWell, it's been, as I suspected it would be, a long, strange trip, but our ovate course is now almost complete. It will run to over 1200 pages, of which there are only 60 left to fill. I'm just waiting on a couple of articles from colleagues and we're there. The first five packages, i.e. ten months' worth, are ready to go, indeed the first half of the course is already online.

Why did I suspect it would be a long, strange trip? Well, for one thing, I've known a lot of people who've worked through the OBOD Ovate course and many of them have experienced life-changing events of one kind or another during it, often of a disturbing nature. I also knew the sort of stuff we were going to be dealing with in our course, including things like illness, madness and death. OK, we were going to be presenting many ways of dealing with those things, nevertheless, they are life's great traumas. So, I plunged in singing the Boy Scout mantra, "Be Prepared."Ovate booklet 19 cover
I made sure to program into the course many things that have helped me deal with life's crises over the years, rediscovered some long lost ones and came up with some new ones. I figured I would need them. I hadn't realised quite how much I would need them, nor that I wouldn't be the only one.
At the end of August 2012, my son, Joe, was rushed into hospital with a seriously infected appendix. Two weeks later, Joe was back home, thank the gods, when I was rushed to the same hospital with chest pains. It turned out that I had contracted pleurisy and my left lung had stopped working.
Through the winter, I kept hearing from people I knew who were suffering financial crashes, illness and emotional turmoil.
Now, obviously, it wasn't the fact that I was editing an ovate course that caused these things to happen, they just coincided with awful precision. However, as is my way, I kept my head down and, as much as possible, kept working.
Birger MikkelsenI was rewarded with moments of great wonder, magic and elation, of awen's unfettered flow. One example was the re-discovery of an ancient Irish system of healing concealed in a cryptic passage in the middle of a medieval law text. I uncovered a huge amount of material to do with our ancestors approach to health and healing and how we can use the same methods today. This tallied beautifully with the Druid Herbal I'd been given by my old friend, Leon Reed, to incorporate into the course. I also came up with a new/old way of working with the spirits of trees, with assistance from friends in OBOD.
And then there were the Norwegians. As you'll see elsewhere in these bLena M. Paalvig Johnsenlogs, we had the most amazing time hosting the World Drum, created by Sami drum-maker, Birger Mikkelsen (that's him, left). In April, we had the huge joy of meeting the shaman whose vision inspired the making, White Cougar, along with the overseer of the Drum's global travels, Morten Wolf Storeide, and two fellow Norwegian shamans, Lena M. Paalvig Johnsen (that's her, right) and Will Rubach. Lena and Will are members of a band called Balfolket. Check out this video of them on Youtube. They turned out to be four of the most amazing, inspiring people I've ever met. And to cap it all, I got to sing a duet with my all-time musical hero, the great Robin Williamson, co-founder of The Incredible String Band. Wow! I was truly blissed ... ecstatic ... on another plane ... Check out Robin's website, or search on Youtube for his beautiful music.
So, yes, it has been the proverbial roller coaster ride, but it's almost done. Has it been worth it? Emphatically and absolutely, yes. I truly believe that this course represents the best that contemporary Paganism and Druidry have to offer. It should Rib Cageestablish once and for all that Druidry is a spiritual path capable of standing proudly alongside any other. You can check out samples from some of the booklets here... BDO Ovate Course Sampler ... bear in mind, however, that you will need to have successfully completed our bardic course before you can access the ovate course. The reason is simple. The bardic course lays a lot of foundations that are necessary to successfully follow the ovate course. Sorry, but there simply wasn't any other way to go about putting these courses together. However, I'm pretty sure you'll find it worthwhile. After six years of intense work, I certainly have. I've learned a lot. I've also had a lot of fun locating and creating a range of weird, wonderful, colourful illustrations for the booklets, of which this is one on the left. No, it's not what you think! It's actually a model of a rib cage and internal organs which was deposited 2,000 years ago into the healing spring that becomes the River Seine, sacred to the goddess Sequana, one of whose functions is to assist in healing and one of whose attributes is ... a duck!
Many blessings,
Greywolf /|\