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A Little History of the BDO

2019: The flags were out all over the world as our Druid course finally reached completion in April. This marked the end of 13 years' work for Greywolf as its editor, publisher and main contributor, beginning in 2006 when work started on or bardic course. This went online in 2011. It was followed by our ovate course, the first half of which went online in 2012, the second half in 2013. Well, OK, not quite the end, since we're now beginning a major revision of our bardic course. Between them, our courses currently run to over 1.7 million words, equivalent to seventeen 200-page books! They are also very good, so good that Pagan historian, Professor Ronald Hutton, has called our bardic course "... the most intelligent and erudite sequential introduction to modern Druidry available," praised our ovate course as “...another remarkable achievement, of a unique level of sophistication and erudition for a Druidic correspondence course," and our Druid course as "intelligent, and [handling] the data with a sophistication rare in the world of Paganism, Druidry and ritual magic."

2018: More ceremonies in the roundhouse, more work with White Horse Camps, more ceremonies at Tewkesbury Medieval Festival, the Shamanic gathering in Norway and elsewhere. At a series of meetings of our newly-reformed Circle of Elders throughout 2018 we discussed many things, including re-writing our constitution with a view to applying for charitable status. Since The Druid Network became the first UK-based Druid group to attain charitable status in 2010, the legislation has been updated and it is now possible to apply for charitable status under several headings. We felt that our main one should be education, since it's pretty easy to establish the educational value of our courses simply by submitting them to the charity commissioners. It is now also possible to register as a spiritual group rather than a religious one, since some Druids have a problem with attaching the word 'religion' to what we do but don't have the same problem with 'spiritual.' Due to our strong emphasis on the bardic tradition, we also felt we should apply under cultural and heritage headings. Also throughout the year, work continued on our Druid course with the first half going online in June.

2017: This summer saw the first BDO presence at the annual Sjamanistisk Forbund (Shamanic Foundation) gathering in Sweden. This came about through the connections we'd made back in 2008 when we hosted The World Drum for the first time. It was a great gathering, full of interesting people, workshops and ceremonies. Read about them on Greywolf's blog. It's now a regular part of the BDO calendar. At Tewkesbury for our annual blessing ceremony, we had just finished setting up the BDO stall when a guy came into the marquee and set up a stall opposite ours selling reconstructions of ancient lyres, including the Breton Iron Age Lyre de Paule. Greywolf had been trying to get hold of one of these for about 30 years. The maker, Koth na Fiach, takes orders via his website, Dark Age Crafts. This year, we also began a series of trials of the healing technique known as the Twelve Doorways of the Soul which Greywolf discovered while researching our ovate course. They proved quite remarkable, the technique resulting in, among other things, a marked lowering of blood pressure and increased blood oxygen levels.

2016: As part of the White Horse Beltaine camp, we held a particularly fine animal spirit ceremony in the roundhouse at Wild Ways. You can read about it here. Greywolf also had a go at making some Bronze Age clay drums and shared some thoughts on the process on his Greywolf's Lair blog. In 2016, we created another ceremony in our roundhouse in support of the stand against the 'Black Snake' oil pipeline being taken by the Lakota nation and many supporters at Standing Rock in North Dakota, a beacon of resistance in a world seemingly bent on self-destruction. You can read about it here. And, of course, work continued on the Druid Course.

2015: BDO life goes on with Greywolf and Joe making more drums, visits to Avebury, our regular annual blessing ceremony and BDO stall at the Tewkesbury Medieval fair and, naturally, more work on the Druid course. One of the highlights of a busy year was a Druid Network conference in Birmingham, organised by long-time BDO stalwart, Geoff Boswell. Another was the White Horse summer camp, the last to be held at its old location in the Vale of the White Horse. This led Greywolf to rediscover some lost connections to Rhiannon, the White Horse Woman of southwest Britain. 2015 also saw the publication of a rather wonderful book called This Ancient Heart: Landscape, Ancestor, Self, edited by Paul Davies and Cailtin Matthews and containing chapters from a host of the Pagan great and good, including Greywolf, Bobcat (Emma Restall Orr), Graham Harvey, Jenny Blain, Penny Billington and others.

2014: January 31st-February 2nd: Greywolf (aka Philip Shallcrass), Geoff Boswell, Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm, Phil Ryder, Graham Harvey, Andy Norfolk and other prominent Druids and Pagans attend an Interfaith conference, Celebrating Planet Earth, organised by Christians at the Ammerdown Centre in Somerset. In February, Greywolf was interviewed by Gary Colcombe for the popular Celtic Myth Podshow (eps. 39 & 40). Here's a link to Part One. This wide-ranging interview covers Greywolf's personal journey as a Druid for forty years, the development of the BDO, what Druidry is about and where it might be going. Early March saw Greywolf addressing the Pagan Federation at Penstowe Manor in Cornwall on the subject of 'Druidry on the Edge.' In May, we welcomed our Norwegian shamanic friends back to Wildways for a wonderful weekend of workshops and ritual, plus the return of the Wildways min-Folk Festival. Over the weekend of July 12th-13th, we were back at the Tewkesbury Medieval Festival where we have offered a blessing ceremony for the reenactors and stall-holders for the last nine years. This year, we also had a stall which was a great success and featured the launch of our new edition of The Druid Tarot. In August, Greywolf was back in the USA, teaching a weekend of workshops at La Push on the Pacific Northwest coast, a healing workshop and a well-attended talk in Seattle. On his return, he began serious work on our forthcoming Druid course, including recruiting other writers to focus on specific areas within it.

Chaga Team at the Roundhouse Morten2013: March-April saw our second hosting of The World Drum, with ceremonies attended by hundreds at Avebury, Stonehenge, Glastonbury Tor, Cae Mabon and Anglesey, and several venues in Shropshire, made possible by the sterling work of Elaine Gregory and many other BDO members and friends mentioned elsewhere on this page and some who aren't, notably Gillian Kavanagh in Wales. Many thanks to each and every one, and indeed to all who attended these events and made them so incredibly magical. For the final weekend, we were joined by World Drum Project founders, White Cougar and Morten Wolf Storeide, and by Lena Paalviig Johnsen and Will Rubach of the shamanic band, Baalfolket. Greywolf and Blue Fox joined them in creating an amazing ceremony for 45 people in our roundhouse. The following night, we were treated to a wonderful concert from Greywolf, Robin Williamson, Andy Letcher, our Norwegian friends performing as The Northern Lights Shamanic Band, and Jake Thomas. Greywolf and Steve Rumelhart brought out the Druid Ogham Oracle card deck in June. October 10th saw the completion of the final booklets of our Ovate course.

Rory MacKenzie speaks a BDO Druid prayer at the London 2012 Paralympics
Rory MacKenzie speaks a BDO Druid prayer at the London 2012 Paralympics

2012: August 12th, Druid Hedge Schools proposal put out on Facebook. Within a few days, three admins in place, offers from teachers and of venues coming in. August 23rd, BDO Constitution amended by founder and Circle of Elders with agreement of all members who stated a preference. Early September, new website launched with far greater interactivity. September 9th, BDO Druidry goes global when parts of our gorsedd rite are used in the closing ceremony for the 2012 Paralympics, seen by a global audience of 750 million! See the Druidical highlights on this short YouTube video. September also saw the first few booklets of our Ovate course go online.

Robin Williamson harping
Britain's finest bard, Robin Williamson, plays in our roundhouse!

2011: June 6th, the BDO Bardic course complete and online. Yay! August, first workshop weekend with Robin Williamson, relaunch ceremony for the BDO at the newly completed Borle Brook stone circle in Shropshire. November, new BDO constitution drawn up setting out our status as a not-for-profit unincorporated association.

2010: Roundhouse completed and opened for use as a venue for ritual, meditation, workshops and performances. First full draft of Bardic course completed.

2009: Iron Age Roundhouse build continues, assisted by numerous members of the BDO, OBOD and other friends. Work on the distance learning courses also continues. We learn to thatch, courtesy of medieval thatching specialist, John Letts, a great teacher.

Joint BDO/OBOD ceremony with the World Drum on Dragon Hill, 2008

2008: World Drum rites at Dragon Hill and Avebury. BDO/Cornovii roundhouse being built on land and with resources kindly offered by Elaine Gregory and Garth Reynolds of the Wild Ways on the Borle retreat centre in Shropshire. New distance learning course being written. New vision for the Order. New adventures, new beginnings! Paul Davies, now Reburial Officer for the Council of British Druid Orders, lodges a formal request for the reburial of the ancient human remains held in the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury. This high-profile tactic kicks the reburial issue in Britain onto front pages and TV news. It also leads to a consultation process initiated by English Heritage and the National Trust that was subsequently widely criticised as being biased in favour of retaining remains in museum collections. The Honouring the Ancient Dead website has a page with links to all the relevant documents, including the BDO's own response to the consultation process.

2006: In a letter to English Heritage and the National Trust in June, Paul Davies registers a reburial request for ancient human remains held in the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury, notably those of a young girl nick-named Charlie, whose bones are on public display in the Museum. For a good summary of the request and its consequences and of the whole development of the reburial debate in Britain, see Jenny Blain and Rob Wallis' article, 'From Respect to Reburial ... the Avebury Consultation.'

2004: Drum ceremony with the Quileute people of the US North-West Pacific coast, a tribe descended from wolves, one of whose elders has a vision of Greywolf a few days before his arrival. Greywolf sings his wolf chant in ceremony following a potlatch feast with the Quileute, as a result of which Greywolf and his sons, Joe and Mike, are made members of the Quileute Drum Circle.

2003: BDO Council of Elders formed. Following on from the work we began together in the BDO, Emma Restall Orr forms Honouring the Ancient Dead (HAD) to further peaceful negotiations with museum curators, the archaeological community and others aimed at bringing about the respectful reburial of ancient human remains held in collections in Britain.

2002: Third, revised and expanded edition of A Druid Directory published, edited by Greywolf and Bobcat, featuring 38 Druid groups from around the world. Third edition of Druidry: Rekindling the Sacred Fire published by the BDO, edited by Greywolf and Bobcat with contributions from Ronald Hutton, Brian Bates, Graham Harvey and others. After seven years as joint chief of the BDO, Emma Restall Orr steps down to found The Druid Network.


2000: May: Greywolf's wife, Ellie, dies of leukaemia. Ellie was an Occupational Therapist with the NHS for 22 years, latterly working with disabled children. Greywolf's book, A Guide to Druidry, published by Piatkus Books. August: Steve Rumelhart organises a BDO camp in Gloucestershire.

1999: Second, revised edition of Druidry: Rekindling the Sacred Fire published by the BDO, edited by Greywolf and Bobcat with contributions from Ronald Hutton, Brian Bates, Graham Harvey and others.

1998: Paul Davies' second article on the reburial of ancient human remains in Britain, 'Speaking for the Ancestors: The Reburial Issue in Britain and Ireland,' appears in issue 9 of The Druids' Voice (available from our webshop for £3 plus p&p). For extracts from this article and other related statements from the BDO, see Jenny Blain and Rob Wallis' article, 'A British Reburial Issue.'

Blessing the mead at Cor Gawr
Blessing the mead at Cor Gawr

1997: First US Gorsedd, Caer Pugetia, founded in Seattle during Philip and Emma's first visit to America. As in the UK, the first rite is attended by folk of many traditions. Stemming from our peaceful, cordial discussions with English Heritage, the Gorsedd of Bards of Cor Gawr is founded at Stonehenge as part of BDO work to extend ritual access to the site. The ceremony used was based on that composed for the Avebury Gorsedd four years earlier, though altered for the different setting. The Gorsedd of Cor Gawr continues to this day, now as an independent group, still offering peaceful ceremonial access to the henge at festival times. Contact them via the link above. Greywolf and Bobcat also introduced the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and the Pagan Federation to the Stonehenge access talks. Paul Davies publishes an article on 'Respect and Reburial' in issue 8 of The Druids' Voice, representing the first public call for the reburial of ancient human remains in Britain. For the best brief summary of this and subsequent events up until 2006, see Jenny Blain and Rob Wallis' article on Reburial. This year also saw the return of Lakota Chief, Long Wolf, and the little girl, Star Ghost Dog, from London to their ancestral home in the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

1996: The British Druid Order, the Ancient Druid Order, and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids all leave the Council of British Druid Orders in protest at the unreasonable and belligerent behaviour of some of its officers. Second, revised edition of A Druid Directory published by the BDO, edited by Greywolf and Bobcat. First edition of Druidry: Rekindling the Sacred Fire published by the BDO, edited by Greywolf and Bobcat with contributions from Ronald Hutton, Brian Bates, Graham Harvey and others.

Long Wolf
Long Wolf

1995: First BDO camp held near Avebury. 350 attend. Caer Abiri celebrations now attracting several hundreds, representing many faiths and coming from as far afield as Australia. Emma Restall Orr (aka Bobcat) becomes BDO joint chief. Later that year, Greywolf and Bobcat join negotiations with English Heritage, the National Trust and others discussing ceremonial access to Stonehenge. Newspaper reports of a campaign to return the remains of two Native Americans, a Lakota chief, Long Wolf and a baby girl named Star, buried in London's Brompton Cemetery, to their native land lead Greywolf and Bobcat to begin talks on the reburial of ancient human remains in Britain. Greywolf raises the issue with archaeologists working for English Heritage and the National Trust at the Stonehenge access talks. He finds them surprisingly sympathetic to the idea. The BDO were the first UK-based Pagan group to raise the reburial issue. First edition of A Druid Directory published by the BDO, edited by Greywolf and Bobcat. First edition of the BDO in-house magazine, Tooth & Claw, published.

1994: February: Philip and Ellie's second son, Mike, born. July: Philip's first sweat lodge, and the vision that gave him the name, Greywolf, take place during the first OBOD summer camp. The lodge was coordinated by a remarkable Dutch woman, Georgien Wybenga, a pioneer of shamanic sound-healing.

The first gathering of the Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri, Autumn Equinox, September 1993.
The Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri, Autumn Equinox 1993.

1993: During a multi-faith conference organised by Tim Sebastion of the Secular Order of Druids (SOD), the Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri is founded at Avebury, based on ritual composed by Philip Shallcrass. The full text of the ceremony was included in the first issue of the Caer Abiri Gorsedd Newsletter published after the event. While composing the rite, Philip learned that the remains of a very short woman had been lain to rest in a foetal position in a circle of sarsen boulders in the ditch next to the causeway by the southern entrance to the Avebury henge. Intuitively sensing that she had once sat in the natural 'throne' in the face of one of the massive entrance stones to greet pilgrims approaching along the West Kennet Avenue, he wrote a role for a woman to sit in her place at the beginning of the Gorsedd rite, a role taken in the first ceremony by Ellie, Philip's wife. Among others taking part were anarchist and Earth Mysteries pioneer, John Michell, OBOD chiefs, Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm, the chiefs of several other Druid Orders, Pagan historian, Ronald Hutton, Pagan animist, Graham Harvey, Rev. Gordon Strachan, author of Jesus, the Master Builder, Shan Jayran of the House of the Goddess, two Church of England clergymen, two Reichian therapists and an astronomer from the Royal Observatory. The remains of the 'Avebury woman,' excavated in 1908, have subsequently been lost and are currently being sought by both archaeologists and Pagans. It was she who first got Philip thinking about the issue of the respectful reburial of ancient human remains in Britain. The Avebury Gorsedd continues to meet at noon on the nearest Sunday to most of the festivals of the eightfold Wheel of the Year, its ceremonies coordinated by Morgan Adams.

Cover of The Druids' Voice #1, June 1992
Cover of The Druids' Voice #1, June 1992

1992: May: Philip and Ellie's son, Joe, born. June: First issue of The Druids' Voice magazine published, edited by Philip. Beginning life as the Journal of the Council of British Druid Orders, when the BDO, OBOD and the Ancient Order of Druids left the Council, the Voice became the Magazine of Contemporary Druidry. It has featured articles by Professor Ronald Hutton, Graham Harvey, Philip Carr-Gomm, Emma Restall-Orr and many others. Launched following the 200th anniversary celebration of Iolo Morgannwg's formation of the Gorsedd of Bards of the Isles of Britain on Primrose Hill in London in 1792.

1991: Second wave of BDO publications, designed to build into a distance learning course, partly printed, collated and stapled at the Carr-Gomm's house in Lewes.

1990: Philip and his wife, Ellie, meet Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm and join the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD).

1989: First BDO publications released, hand-written and photocopied, based on material written for the Grove of the Badger.

1985: Philip marries Eleanor Jane Kilpatrick, an Occupational Therapist working with adults with learning disabilities. Ellie's ancestors were Scots-Irish, entitling her to wear the Colquhoun tartan.

1981: First BDO pilgrimage undertaken along the Ridgeway to Avebury on April 30th when snow was still on the ground.

1979: BDO Mother Grove, the Grove of the Badger, formed in Hastings, England from the core of an Alexandrian Wiccan coven Philip had been initiated into the previous year.

1978: Philip edits and writes an introduction for an edition of William Wynn Westcott's An Introduction to the Study of the Kabalah, published by the Society of Metaphysicians, Ltd.

1977: Philip founds the Society for the Revival of Druidism while running 'Solstice,' an occult bookshop in St. Leonards-on-Sea, Sussex. Response is minimal: wrong time, wrong place. Alex 'King of the Witches' Sanders, visits the bookshop. Philip starts writing for the anarchist magazine, Poison Pen, under the nom de plume, The Druid. Philip and Mike Bloxham edit an edition of Aleister Crowley's 777 for publication by the Society of Metaphysicians Ltd.

1974: Inspired by Robert Graves' book, The White Goddess, and Mircea Eliade's Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, BDO founder, Philip Shallcrass, begins his study of Druidry during a year-long magical retirement in which he also studied ritual magic, the kabalah and divination. Begins work for the Society of Metaphysicians, Ltd. in Hastings, Sussex, writing book reviews, compiling catalogues, designing and writing booklets on dowsing, etc.