A Little History of the BDO

in the beginning...

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.

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.

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.

BDO Early Years

Book of the Grove of the Badger

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.

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

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.

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

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

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.

The Druids' Voice

Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Druids' Voice

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.

Caer Abiri Gorsedd

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.

the bdo gathers momentum

Long Wolf

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.

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.

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.

the first usa gorsedd

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

towards the millennium


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.

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.

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.

the 21st century

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.

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.

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.

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’

new adventures, new beginnings

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.

roundhouse and workshops

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

2009Iron 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.

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

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.

druidry goes global!

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.

world drum

2013: March-April saw our second hosting of The World Drum, with ceremonies attended by hundreds at AveburyStonehengeGlastonbury TorCae 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

conferences, workshops and podcasts

2014 Summer Camp at La Push

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.