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A quick update on what's happening with the BDO: A lot. You want more? OK...

This year has seen big changes in the BDO. It's a time of growth for us as we near the close of twelve years' work creating our distance learning courses, described by Professor Ronald Hutton as "... the most intelligent and erudite sequential introduction to Druidry available," and by our students as "... real nuts'n'bolts Druidry." They are the core and ultimate expression of who we are and what we do, offering a Druidry markedly different from that of other groups and often referred to as 'shamanic.' We see them as representing the future of Druidry as a native European spiritual tradition comparable to those of indigenous peoples elsewhere in the world. We're proud of what we've achieved and what we are inspiring others to achieve.

Image may contain: one or more people and textA series of articles in Pagan Dawn throughout this year helped spread the word, plus we have a new team spreading word about the BDO on social media, via our new BDO blog, in regular posts to the 6,500 people following our facebook home page, open discussions on our group page, we twitter and tweet, and we're setting up a new BDO youtube channel aiming to provide a Druid TV station that doesn't rely on reruns of old quiz shows, baking or ballroom dancing but offers genuine insight into how we're living Druidry now and how it's inspiring our lives.

Just as I was beginning to feel my age and lose my hair, our age demographic at BDO central has dropped dramatically with a new influx of folk attracted by our particular form of weirdness and wonderment. Our Circle of Elders is rapidly becoming a Circle of Youngers.

See the source imageOh, we've also started a series of monthly talks and workshops exploring Druidry and Paganism at the Henge Shop in Avebury, a beautiful venue. Most are offered at £5 per person for two hours, equivalent to a a pint of ale or a couple of cups of coffee, in keeping with our intention to keep what we do available to all.

This winter, I'm putting the finishing touches to our Druid course, the last of three, the bardic course having gone online in 2011, the ovate in 2013. I've held off on publicising the courses until the completion of all three was in sight. Now that it is, expect to see and hear much more of us in the near future. We are spurred on by the very real belief that our Druidry can change the world. We know how much difference it is already making to individual lives, from inspiring Welsh bards to the creation of new invironmental initiatives in American companies, because our students have been telling us. Join us, and be the Awen!

Greywolf /|\

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 /|\

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 /|\