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Greywolf with 900-year-old yew treeGreetings and blessings of Calan Mai! I'm writing this on May 1st, here at my home in Wiltshire. For the first day of the year's Summer half, it's a little chilly and overcast, though no rain and the trees have recently burst with bright new greenery. If you look down the left side of this page, you'll see that we've added many new events to the site this year, beginning with our bardic storytelling weekend offering a precious opportunity to learn from one of the greatest masters of the art, Robin Williamson, co-founder of the Incredible String Band and Primary Chief Bard of Britain.
Next comes the Druid Network Conference, this year featuring both a talk and an evening music session from yours truly, as well as talks from Graham Harvey, Gordon 'The Toad' Maclellan, Nimue Brown and others, plus entertainment from our very own Adam Sargant.
Then there's the ever-magical WildWays Folk Festival in the heart of rural Shropshire, this year featuring music from Jake Thomas, Andy (Telling the Bees) Letcher, Greywolf (i.e. me), Norwegian shamanic band, Balfolket, plus special guests. All for a mere tenner, with a special offer of overnight accommodation for only an additional £10. Staying overnight would make it easy for you to attend the Midsummer Night's Dreaming concert at the nearby Severn Centre the following night, featuring Andy, Greywolf and Balfolket performing different sets at a great indoor venue with seating for 100.
Balfolket2015bx600The following weekend there's an opportunity to both learn and experience a wide range of shamanic healing techniques, guided by Norwegian practitioners, Kyrre Franck White Cougar, LeNa Paalviig Johnsen, Bobby Kure and Anita Dreyer, four of the nicest and most spiritually attuned people we know. Rural setting, 40 acres of woodland, sauna, and a Norgwegian chef!
On the weekend prior to Midsummer (Northern hemisphere) we're promoting events for World Peace & Prayer Day. And that's only the next two months! We do like to keep busy 🙂
Blessings to one and all for a summer blessed with beauty and strength,
Greywolf /|\

The Druid TarotIt's been a while ... well, 15 years, so quite a long while really, but we're delighted to announce that The Druid Tarot, designed by Greywolf back in the early 1990s, is now back in print and available via our wonderful webshop. Do check it out by clicking here. We love it!

In other news, BDO head honcho, Greywolf, will shortly be zooming off to the USA for the first time in a decade, revisiting old friends in the Pacific Northwest, attending a gathering of the BDO-founded Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Pugetia in Seattle, and offering talks and workshops in the magical setting of LaPush, coastal home of the Quileute people who LaPush Shorelineare descended from shape-shifting wolves. Check out details of happenings at LaPush by clicking: LaPush 2014 flyer. For further details and booking, please telephone Seattle-based Pagan priest, great friend and long-time BDO member, Leon Reed on 206-329-6260.

Due to Greywolf's absence, there may not be many new posts here for a while as he tends to write most of them ... So, see you in a little while and don't forget, as another of our Seattle friends, guitar-maker, Denis Merrill, taught us to say, "Be the Awen!"

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All at the BDO bid you a Merry Midwinter, wherever and however you may be celebrating it, whether at some Yulepicancient sacred site, in the silent heart of a forest, at home with your family and friends or in gaol. Celebrations at this time take many forms, from group ritual to a shared special meal. Most of us decorate our houses with greenery and sparkly things, most of us exchange presents with our nearest and dearest. Many of us give in to the temptation to eat and drink too much. All of these things have the blessing of antiquity, having been common among our European ancestors throughout recorded history, while many are common to cultures well beyond Europe. In Britain, we know that our prehistoric ancestors celebrated Midwinter. The remains of great Midwinter feasts have recently come to light in the great Neolithic enclosure at Durrington Walls, while the nearby temple of Stonehenge is aligned on both the Midsummer sunrise and the Midwinter sunset. Other Neolithic Midwinter alignments are found as far North as the Orkney Islands off the North coast of Scotland and at the Brugh na Boinne (Newgrange) tomb-shrine in Ireland. Clearly, this time of year has been important to us for a long time.

Lochmaben_StoneIn the historic period, we find a number of Midwinter celebrations devoted to a range of deities. The Roman Empire combined a number of them into a festival celebrating the birth of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, a deity designed to incorporate several gods of the sun or of light that existed in various parts of the Empire. In Britain, our local god reborn each Midwinter was most widely known as Mabon ap Modron, which simply means Child, son of Mother. The picture here shows the Lochmaben Stone on the Scottish borders, ancient focus of local gatherings, perhaps dedicated to the Mabon. Under this name, he seems to have been an avatar of our god of light, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, whose name means Light of the Steady Hand, noted for, among other things, making an impossible bow-shot at a wren when still a small child. The wren has strong associations with both Midwinter and with Druids, as well as being the folkloric King of the Birds. Lleu's mother is Arianrhod, whose name means Silver Wheel, leading to speculation that she represents the Milky Way, though there is a constellation bearing her name; Caer Arianrhod, aka Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. For the full story of Lleu's birth, life, death and rebirth, see the Mabinogi story of Math, son of Mathonwy (scroll down to section II).

Another notable association between Druids and Midwinter centres on the plant, mistletoe. Pliny the Elder famously refers to a ceremony in which Druids cut mistletoe from an oak tree using a golden sickle. Midwinter seems an obvious time to do this as mistletoe is much easier to locate on its host trees after the leaves have fallen from them. Incidentally, a goldsmith friend assures me that, contrary to popular belief, it is quite possible to harden gold to produce an edge capable of cutting misteltoe.

It's worth noting that recorded pagan celebrations of Midwinter take place not on the day of the solar standstill, i.e. the winter solstice, but a few days later, on December 25th, the first day on which the sun's rising place on the horizon is seen to move again after the solstice. Celebrating the birth of a god-child on December 25th may sit uneasily with some modern Pagans for obvious reasons, yet the fact is, it's yet another celebration that Christians copied from us! We should not, therefore, feel in the least bit awkward about claiming it back. His rebirth, of course, is a symbolic acknowledgement of the time when the sun's rising position begins to move again, giving the first indication of the forthcoming return of life and light to the land in spring and summer. In the depths of the Northern hemisphere's Midwinter cold and damp and the darkness of the period around the solstice's longest night, that longed for return of light is, indeed, something to celebrate.

Blessings to one and all,

Greywolf and all at the BDO /|\

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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 /|\

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BDO Ogham Oracle readingYep, we finally made it! Our new, 25-card Ogham Oracle deck is now on sale on the webshop. Originally designed as a tie-in with our Ovate Course, the set was then redesigned and the booklet re-edited as a stand-alone set. Our hope is that it will encourage more people to use the Ogham system which is presently not widely used, even amongst Druids. Please check them out. We rather like 'em, but then we would, wouldn't we? Incidentally, the illustration here shows a sample reading that Greywolf did while our friend, Elaine Wildways, took some publicity shots for us. The reading was for the BDO and what it might achieve. This was not a fix, but an actual reading just as the cards came out. The layout is a pentagram, laid out clockwise, and the keynote meanings of the cards are: 'Love, beauty & healing,' 'Giving something back,' 'Enchantment,' 'Inspiration,' and 'Tenacity.' Not bad, huh?

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 /|\