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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.

The following is the result of discussion amongst the BDO Circle of Elders and is intended to clarify the Order's position on racism, adding our voice to the growing number that stand firm in saying that it has no place in our spirituality.

Following recent events, publicity surrounding neo-Nazi and ‘alt-right’ groups in the US, and concerns among Pagan organisations and individuals regarding the position of various groups in relation to racist, fascist and neo-Nazi ideologies, the BDO wants to add its voice in condemning all manifestations of racism and to clearly state that as an organisation it does not and will not tolerate any form of racism or racial abuse within its membership or affiliates. We stand with all groups, even where we may disagree with them on other issues, that are targeted by racist, fascist and neo-Nazi organisations, whether inside and outside of Paganism.

Because we are called the 'British' Druid Order, a few misguided souls have leapt to the mistaken conclusion that we have some sort of nationalist agenda. The gods forbid. From our origins in the 1970s, our primary aim has been to rekindle the sacred fires of Druidry as a pagan, animistic spirituality that, according to Druids of the 1st century BCE, originated in Britain. By offering access to this richly diverse, ancient native European spirituality we hope, among other things, to lessen the need felt by some folk of European origin to appropriate native spiritual traditions from other cultures, often misrepresenting them as well as angering those whose ancestors maintained them, often in the face of extreme repression by earlier generations of Europeans.

As Druids, we work with folk of many traditions and cultures and have shared ceremony with Native Americans, Aboriginal Australians, Sami, Shinto, Asatru, Heathens, Wiccans, Christians, Buddhists, Bah'ai and many others.

Those who come to us in search of narrow-minded nationalism are quickly disabused of the idea. Most leave equally quickly. If they don't, and attempt to spread hatred, we remove them. A few stick around and have their ideas radically changed by association with us. To abandon long-held predjudices and adopt new ways of looking at the world is neither easy or comfortable and we applaud their courage.

For the record, we also vehemently oppose any and all discrimination, abuse or hatred based on a person’s gender or sexual preferences, mode of dress, hairstyle or religious affiliation.

“Ignorance and prejudice are the handmaidens of propaganda. Our mission, therefore, is to confront ignorance with knowledge, bigotry with tolerance, and isolation with the outstretched hand of generosity. Racism can, will, and must be defeated.” ― Kofi Annan.

Greywolf at DRUID 2013
Greywolf in full flow at DRUID 2013

Having spent so much of the last seven years locked away in my home office researching, writing and editing our brilliant courses, I'm looking forward to getting out and about and seeing people this year, and there are some wonderful opportunities coming up 🙂

First, there's the Devon and Cornwall Pagan Federation Conference where I'll be speaking on the subject, 'Druidry On the Edge.' That's on March 8th at Penstowe Manor near Bude. Admission for the whole day and the evening's entertainment is only £25 on the door and accommodation is available at the venue. See HERE for details.

April sees the Druid Shaman's 'Call of the Wild' retreat at the Cae Mabon Centre in North Wales, led by BDO friend, Gillian Kavanagh with other BDO and OBOD members. See the poster here for details.

Then there's the return of our amazing shamanic friends from Norway in May for one full weekend (May 9th-11th) and one very full day and evening (May 17th) of ceremonies, teaching and music on the theme of connecting with primordial power through sound and the soul of nature. With five great teachers and musicians and two fabulous venues in Shropshire and Worcestershire, these will be very special. For more details and booking, use the links on the side menu or on this page.

Transformation through Body Art
Transformation through Body Art

From May 30th to June 1st, there's a Spirit Body Painting weekend at Wild Ways in Shropshire. These are truly transformative events in which you have the opportunity to choose whatever it is you most want to be, or to manifest in your life and then be body-painted as that. Animal, bird, element, tree, sky, the possibilities are endless. Project photographers then capture your transformation in beautiful natural settings so you can have a permanent record of what always proves to be an extraordinary healing and inspirational journey for participants. For more details, see the Wild Ways on the Borle website.

On then to July, which sees a Druid Remembrance Ceremony for peace held at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire on the 5th, organised by our friend, Geoff Boswell, who staged last year's wonderful DRUID 2013 Conference. Many groups and individuals will be in attendance for this specially created ritual with music. Members of BDO, OBOD, TDN and others will be taking part and all are welcome to attend.

Tewkesbury Morris DancerNext it's Tewkesbury Medieval Festival over the weekend of the 12th and 13th of July. This year, not only will the BDO and friends be providing a Druid blessing rite for the festival, as we have done for the last decade or so, we'll also be running a stall there, laden with Druidical goodies. I'll be running the stall with my sons, Joe and Mike, and Elaine Gregory will be there with a stall for crafts made at the Wild Ways retreat centre. It's a fantastic family day out and one of the best shopping opportunities of the year for any historical period from the Stone Age upwards. For details of the event, visit the Tewkesbury Festival homepage. We'll post times for our ceremony and a location for our stall as soon as we have them.

August sees me back in the USA for the first time in a decade, giving talks and workshops at venues in and around Seattle and, I hope revisiting the Quileute tribal lands on the Pacific Ocean coast to play once more with the drum circle who made me a member on my first visit there. Details of venues and booking will be posted here as soon as we have them.

All in all then, it looks like being a brilliant, if busy, year and I very much hope to see a lot of BDO members at these events. Oh yes, alongside all this, we shall also be re-thatching the roundhouse and continuing to work on the third and last of our courses, the Druid course, which we're hoping to complete somewhere around September 2015. I'll say one thing for Druidry; it keeps me busy 🙂

Many blessings,

Greywolf /|\