1. What books on Druidry would you recommend?
2. How do I join the BDO?
3. Are there local groves I can join?
4. How is the BDO different from other Druid groups?
5. How do the BDO distance learning courses differ from other Druid courses?
6. What are your basic beliefs?
7. Where can I find more information on BDO Druidry?
8. Can you help me trace my relative who was a member of a Druid group?
9. I have an item of Druid regalia. Can you help me identify it?
10. Why the British Druid Order? Does this mean I have to be British to join?
11. Why do BDO courses include quotations from non-Celtic sources?
12. Are you aware of issues around cultural theft?
What books on Druidry would you recommend?
Glad you asked. BDO chief, Greywolf (Philip Shallcrass) compiled a Listmania list on amazon.co.uk called 'Best Druid Books.' Since amazon make it nigh on impossible to locate a search window for Listmania, here's a link: Best Druid Books The 17 books have been chosen to provide, when read in order, something as close as you can get to a full course in BDO-compatible Druidry outside of the BDO courses themselves. These books may also be used to supplement the course, offering different perspectives on some things, and more detailed information on others. At the time of writing, the total cost for all 17 books is 115 pounds. If that's too much for your budget, titles 1, 2, 4 & 14 from the list (current price 23.53) will give you a good, practical, experiential idea of what BDO-style Druidry is all about.
How do I join the BDO?
The easiest way to join the BDO is to click 'Join the BDO' on our JOIN THE BDO page. This will open a short form for you to fill in. You will then receive TWO automated e-mail responses, one containing our most recent occasional mailout, and the other requesting confirmation that you wish to signup to our mailing list, and you will be added to our database and will receive the next e-mail newsletter when it is sent out. This is entirely free and we guarantee that your information will be treated in strictest confidence and you will never receive any third-party mailings or adverts EVER! For other types of membership and more information, go to our MEMBERSHIP PAGE. Other types of membership include signing up for our distance learning courses, joining a local grove, attending workshops, camps and other gatherings or being initiated at a Gorsedd.
Are there local groves I can join?
Yes, you'll find those that are open to new members listed on our GROVES page with contact details.
How does the BDO differ from other Druid groups?
There are many Druid groups, some similar to the BDO in belief and practice (e.g. OBOD and The Druid Network), others very different (e.g. the Ancient Order of Druids). As with other groups, our understanding of Druidry derives partly from our founder, Greywolf (Philip Shallcrass), a musician, artist, writer, roundhouse-builder, thatcher and drum-maker. Pagan historian, Ronald Hutton, has described Greywolf as “a shaman quite convincingly disguised as a Druid.” This suggests, accurately, that our version of Druidry has a more 'shamanic' flavour than most, by which we mean that it is focused on learning to work directly with the spirits that inhabit this world and others alongside it. We are animists, that is we see the world and everything in it as imbued with spirits who it is possible for us to connect, converse and commune with. These spirits manifest in earth, stone, water, fire, sky, clouds, rain, storm, sun, moon and stars, hills and valleys, rivers, streams and lakes, mountains, forests, trees, plants and animals. Some manifest as the Faery Folk, as our ancestors or as the old gods of our lands. We are Pagan, by which we mean that we accept the reality and validity of many gods. Because of this, we are inclusive and tolerant of other faiths. Professor Hutton has suggested that one thing differentiating BDO Druidry from some others is that we place more emphasis on our ancestors, both those of our direct blood line and those whom we see as having walked similar spiritual paths before us. These we refer to as our ancestors of blood and of spirit. We see them as teachers and guides. As part of honouring our ancestors, we promote an accurate understanding of the true history of our tradition, avoiding the fantasies that some groups engage in. We place a strong emphasis on practical accomplishment among our students, who are expected to attain a genuine level of competence in the areas of study they undertake with us. At the heart of our vision of Druidry is the awen, the sacred 'flowing spirit' of inspiration and creativity that flows through all things. Learning to connect with and successfully work with awen is the key to everything we do.
How do the BDO's distance learning courses differ from other Druid courses?
Since there are several Druid courses around these days, it's impossible to briefly compare all of them. When most people ask this question, what they mean is “How do your courses differ from OBOD's?” Having about double the word count, ours are certainly longer. Those who are familiar with both suggest that ours are more clearly rooted in the history of Druidry, more overtly Pagan and more distinctly 'shamanic.' This, of course, is a very simplistic summary. More than most other courses, ours emphasise practical attainment in areas traditionally associated with being a bard, ovate or Druid. These include, for a bard, story-telling, poetry, music, history and genealogy; for an ovate, divination, seership, healing, herbalism, astrology and natural philosophy; for a Druid, shape-shifting, Otherworld journeying, creating ritual, teaching, counselling and other forms of community engagement. We feature a good deal of original source material in our courses, including, for example, the whole of the Mabinogi. Our course material is delivered as pdf files, OBOD's in print or audio versions. Having much lower overheads, we are able to offer a lower price. Like OBOD, we offer tutorial support to students, though we leave it to students as to whether they take it up or not. No course will suit everyone and, in the end, it's up to students to decide which course seems best suited to their needs. To help you make an informed choice, we offer free samples of our bardic course and ovate course.
What are your basic beliefs?
BDO Druidry is:
1) Animist, seeing all things as imbued with spirit.
2) Nature-based, regarding the cycles of life and time and the spirits of the natural world as our foremost teachers.
3) 'Shamanic' in that we promote active awareness of and communion with the spirits of the natural world, our ancestors and the old gods of our lands, seeing in them potent sources of strength and wisdom. See also our 'Shamanic' Druid page.
4) Ancestral in that we work with our ancestors of blood and of spirit, those of our direct bloodline and those who have walked similar spiritual paths before us.
5) Pagan, accepting the reality and validity of many gods.
6) Centred on awen, the holy 'flowing spirit' of inspiration and creativity, both in ourselves and in the universe. Learning to understand and work with awen is the heart of all our belief and practice of Druidry.
For more on our beliefs, go to BARD, OVATE & DRUID on the side menu and explore the sub-menus, especially those on OVATE PHILOSOPHY and DRUID PHILOSOPHY.
Where can I find more information on BDO Druidry?
1) First stop is this website. There's a lot to explore, but a good place to start is the side menu item BARD, OVATE & DRUID then open each of the pages on the sub-menus in turn.
2) Our founder, Philip Shallcrass, published a book called Druidry: A Practical and Inspirational Guide (Piatkus Books, 2000). This has been out of print for a while, but copies can still be found at reasonable prices on Amazon or Abe Books (clicking the links hould take you to the book's listing on each website). It's one of the best short introductory books available on modern Druidry especially, of course, as we know it in the BDO. It contains numerous exercises.
3) An alternative printed source is our own publication, Druidry: Rekindling the Sacred Fire, edited by Greywolf and Bobcat (Emma Restall Orr), the most recent edition of which was published in 2002 and is available via our webshop. It contains articles by the editors and by Ronald Hutton, Graham Harvey, Andy Letcher, Brian Bates and Alan Tickhill covering many aspects of the history and practice of Druidry.
4) You can also learn about BDO Druidry by attending camps and workshops, information on which can be found via our Events page.
5) In February 2014, Greywolf recorded a wide-ranging interview with Gary and Ruthie Colcombe for the Celtic Myth Podshow. The first part can be found HERE and the second part HERE.
Can you help me trace my relative who was a member of a Druid group?
If your relative was a member of a lodge or was a member of a Druid group anywhere in the UK at any time prior to 1909, it is very likely that he was a member of the Ancient Order of Druids. I say 'he' because AOD usually had men-only lodges, often meeting in rooms in public houses. They have, however, had some women-only lodges too. They can be contacted via their website at: http://aod-uk.org.uk/home.htm
I have an item of Druid regalia. Can you help me identify it?
If you have a Druid medal, pendant, lapel badge, plate, wall plaque, embroidered sash, apron or tie, there is a 95% chance that it was produced by the Ancient Order of Druids. They or their offshoots have produced more such regalia for their members than any other group. They have a contacts page on their website at: http://aod-uk.org.uk/home.htm The only other group to have produced such items at all are the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards, whose items are always well-marked, usually in Welsh.
Why the British Druid Order? Does this mean I have to be British to join?
No, it doesn't. That's American member, Leon Reed, on the right, a contributor to our courses and co-founder of the Bards of Turtle Island. The BDO is open to all people of good will, wherever you come from and whatever your cultural background. The Order's name is almost an historical accident. Greywolf, our founder, had long sought a spiritual path indigenous to Britain, the land of his birth and the place where he lived, and still lives. In the late 1960s, there was a European and American cultural trend to adopt Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism or Taoism. To Greywolf, this didn't feel quite right. While they are wonderful traditions, they carry with them cultural under-currents of which most Europeans lack awareness or understanding. This feeling set him on the path that led to Druidry as the earliest named spiritual tradition indigenous to Britain. The idea for the Order began in 1974, but it was unnamed until 1979 when a friend asked what it was called. Without conscious thought, Greywolf plucked the name 'British Druid Order' out of the air. It stuck and, for better or worse, it's what we're now known by. It decidedly does not mean we are nationalistic flag-wavers. We are not. On the contrary, we welcome all who come to us, and to the lands in whose heritage our tradition is rooted, of whatever nationality, creed or colour. Anyone who knows history knows that Britain is, and always has been, a 'mongrel' nation, from the first hunter-gatherers arriving from Continental Europe after the last Ice Age, through to present-day migrants. Many folk have made Britain their home over many millennia and we honour, respect and welcome them all.
Why do BDO courses include quotations from non-Celtic sources?
Druidry is a broken tradition, and has been since a succession of Roman emperors outlawed it 2,000 years ago. Being suppressed by Christianity since 1,500 years ago hasn't helped either. Add the fact that classical Druids left no records of what they believed and did and we are presented with considerable difficulty when attempting to revive it. We turn to archaeology and to the medieval literature of Wales and Ireland, but even when we add folklore, folk customs and previous generations of Druid revivalists, we are still left with a tapestry full of holes. To fill them and complete our picture, we sometimes turn to other traditions, especially where those traditions share common roots. Knowing that the Celts lived in close proximity to the Greeks, we feel justified in looking to Greek medical and philosophical traditions to shed light on the few enigmatic fragments that survive in Celtic contexts. Similarly, since the Celts are inheritors of an ancient Indo-European culture, we feel justified in looking to related Indo-European traditions such as the Hindu or Germanic. From about 35,000 years ago until 2,000 years ago, most Europeans and Northern Asians shared a common group of spiritual beliefs and practices with First Nations Americans. This shared culture has been designated 'sub-Arctic shamanism' and we see it as the bedrock upon which Druidry, and many other traditions, was built. Since it survived more intact and for longer in Northern Scandinavia, Nepal, Mongolia, Siberia and the Americas, we sometimes quote from teachers from those lands. Quotations are always from people who were, or are, happy to share their words. They appear in our courses because they have something relevant to say to us as Druids, helping us to better understand and more fully live our own tradition. Bird-shamans like the one in Greywolf's drawing (above left) are found across the whole of the 'sub-Arctic shaman' zone, from 17,000 year old cave paintings in Lascaux, through cave art of 2,000 years ago in Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet and Norway, to medieval legends in Ireland and modern-day First Nations Americans.
Are you aware of issues around cultural theft?
Yes, which is why we don't do it. A principle aim of the British Druid Order is to reconstruct, and reconnect to, an indigenous spirituality rooted in the pre-Christian traditions of the Islands of Britain. Wherever possible, we draw upon material directly culturally related to the traditions and peoples (of many cultures) that have inhabited those Isles over millennia. In doing so, we are re-establishing Druidry as a living, vibrant spirituality that co-exists alongside other indigenous traditions elsewhere in the world in a spirit of mutual respect, trust and support.
As animists (see above, # 6. 'What are your basic beliefs?'), we engage with the spirits of land and ancestors. In Britain, it is impossible not to be aware that these spirits include those of other traditions that succeeded classical Druidry. These include Graeco-Roman paganism, Isis-worship, Judaism, Germanic paganism(s) and Christianity among others. The alternative to engaging with these ancestral spirits and traditions that have left such profound imprints on our land and culture is to ignore them and pretend that our cultural development ended when the Romans arrived in 43 CE. Since we live in the 21st century, we do not see this as a viable option.
Likewise, as animists, when we travel to, or live in, other lands, it is impossible (or at best ill-advised) to ignore the fact that those lands have been home to traditions and peoples other than our own. Again, we can choose to blinker ourselves to this simple fact and revert to some imagined past of racial and spiritual purity (a deeply dubious project), or we can respectfully engage with the spirits of the place where we are, which inevitably includes spirits of other traditions that inhabited those lands before our arrival. We do so, however, not as Wannabee Indians (or Wannabee anything else), but as Druids, i.e. followers of a spirituality rooted in Britain and formerly prevalent across much of Europe. Our picture shows Greywolf communing with the spirits by the roots of a massive tree on First Beach on the Quileute reservation in Washington State.
Being rooted in British traditions does not mean we are 'little Englanders' or, Gods forbid, racists. What we do is open to all, of whatever nationality or cultural background. Just as our courses are open to all, so our open ceremonies, talks, workshops and camps are open to, and attended by, people of many faiths and many cultures. (See above: # 10. Why the British Druid Order? Does this mean I have to be British to join?)
As said, the aim of the BDO has always been to re-create a native British and European spiritual tradition. While we draw inspiration from other peoples, we do so only to help us renew our own tradition. Indigenous peoples elsewhere are doing the same. For example, Siberian people have called in teachers from Michael Harner's California-based school of global shamanism to help them restore their own lost heritage. First Nations Americans are supportive of the BDO's efforts to renew our ancient ways, realising that we are fulfilling a spiritual need that might otherwise lead people of European origins to become what are disparagingly known as Wannabee Indians. While there are similarities between what we believe and do and what other indigenous peoples believe and do, this is not a result of cultural theft but because BDO Druidry is animistic, polytheistic and ritualistic, because we honour our ancestors and seek direct communication with their spirits and those of the natural world and the old gods of our people. This creates a broad area of common ground and shared understanding between us and other indigenous peoples.
We at the British Druid Order hold that the integrity and self-determination of the indigenous peoples of this planet are paramount, not just as a matter of respect and restitution for the colonial oppression that has threatened their existence, but because we see indigenous spiritualities as of prime importance for the survival of the human species. As one First Nations American friend, John Two-Birds, said at a Druid camp 20 years ago, “Grandmother Earth and Grandfather Sky are getting pissed off. If we don't get our act together, pretty soon they're going to start smudging cities.” By 'smudging' he meant sending earthquakes, fires and floods. He felt this would happen in response to the environmental destruction our species is wreaking on the planet. He was travelling the world encouraging spirit folk of all indigenous traditions to come together and work for beneficial change. Exactly the same feeling inspired our Norwegian friends, Kyrre Franck White Cougar and Morten Wolf Storeide, to send The World Drum on its travels around the world, crossing continents and uniting cultures. We in the BDO share the same sense that it is up to the spirit workers of the world to combine our energies and our efforts in order to bring about the changes in consciousness necessary to put an end to ecological degradation and create a better world for the generations who come after us.