Reflecting a particularly busy year for our esteemed guv'nor, a couple of recent blog posts on Greywolf's Lair may be of interest. One covers GW's recent adventures in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, where he offered workshops based on our course material, including the ancient healing techniques reconstructed for our ovate course. He also got the opportunity to re-connect with the Quileute tribe out on the coast of the Olympic Peninsula and take part in their drum circle. The second comes from what GW's currently engaged in, which is helping to thatch a pair of reconstructed Iron Age roundhouses for the Museum of Welsh Life at St. Fagans in South Wales. This led him to ponder roundhouse-building traditions in both Britain and America.
The in-house journal of the BDO, Tooth & Claw, is on its way back. Huzzah! Suzanne and Jake Thomas from the South Shropshire Hills will be its new editors. That's them on the right. It will be a glorious technicolour production of around 16 pages or so, sent in glorious PDF to those who buy it to download for the miniscule price of £1.50 per issue. It will be published whenever those 16 pages are full of wondrous things, stories, poetry, articles, gorgeous artwork, spectacular photos, event details and anything else which we can cram in!
This is where you come in, dear BDO member and/or friend. Please send us your bardic ramblings, tales and verses, reviews of books, camps and ceremonies, artwork, and anything else you might care to share with fellow Tooth & Claw readers to toothandclaw @ btinternet.com (removing the spaces of course).
Word doc and docx, jpegs, and equivalent will be appreciated, or simply copy and paste into the body of the email and we'll sort it this end.
We look forward to receiving and publishing your work. Full credits on all submissions of course. So, get writing, drawing, painting, snapping and earn yourself a free subscription for every substantial piece published. Woohoo!
We've been having a few problems with the software we've been using to run the BDO webshop. While our web wonder, Adam, sorts out a new software set-up we've temporarily taken the webshop offline. We expect to have it up and running again soon. Meanwhile, we apologise for any inconvenience caused. When the shop's back online, we'll be adding new items, including BDO Awen T-shirts and rattles and drum beaters made by Greywolf (left), which brings us to our next item:
Back from his trip to the USA, Greywolf has completed and posted parts two and three of his Beginner's Guide to Drum-Making on his Greywolf's Lair blog. This details how to make frame drums using traditional methods that have been used across much of the Northern hemisphere for thousands of years. Included is a truly excellent video by Salish drum-maker, Jorge Lewis as well as a video of Greywolf playing his first completed drum accompanying his wolf chant. Here are links to parts One, Two and Three.
The BDO Circle of Elders will soon be getting together to discuss how we move the Order forward. We've reached a stage in our development where we need to assign new roles that will help us provide more and better connections with members and students. There are exciting times ahead as we continue to expand and to redefine contemporary Druidry. The results of our discussions will be posted here and will also lead to changes in this website to improve accessibility to what we have to offer. At the same time, serious work is beginning on putting together the third and last of our distance learning courses, the Druid course. For an outline of some of the things that will be in it, see here.
It's been a while ... well, 15 years, so quite a long while really, but we're delighted to announce that The Druid Tarot, designed by Greywolf back in the early 1990s, is now back in print and available via our wonderful webshop. Do check it out by clicking here. We love it!
In other news, BDO head honcho, Greywolf, will shortly be zooming off to the USA for the first time in a decade, revisiting old friends in the Pacific Northwest, attending a gathering of the BDO-founded Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Pugetia in Seattle, and offering talks and workshops in the magical setting of LaPush, coastal home of the Quileute people who are descended from shape-shifting wolves. Check out details of happenings at LaPush by clicking: LaPush 2014 flyer. For further details and booking, please telephone Seattle-based Pagan priest, great friend and long-time BDO member, Leon Reed on 206-329-6260.
Due to Greywolf's absence, there may not be many new posts here for a while as he tends to write most of them ... So, see you in a little while and don't forget, as another of our Seattle friends, guitar-maker, Denis Merrill, taught us to say, "Be the Awen!"
The BDO and friends have been conducting blessing ceremonies for this event every year since 2006. This year is no exception. The ceremony takes place before it opens to the public, but if you contact Elaine Wildways on facebook, she may be able to arrange for you to join us. However, even if you can't make the ceremony at 10am Saturday morning, you can still enjoy an amazing weekend, and it's free! The BDO will have a stall there this year on which we'll be selling BDO publications and various products designed and made by Greywolf, who will be manning it along with his son, Joe, and Blue Fox. It's a fabulous family event and there's a huge field full of stalls selling all manner of fine products from every era of history. Plus there are entertainers, musicians, Morris dancers and a good range of food and drink available.
Latest BDO @ Tewkesbury News
Two new BDO products for sale! First, the brand new BDO 'Be the Awen' t-shirts, available in Medium, Large and Xtra Large. Second, the new reprint of The Druid Tarot, designed by Greywolf back in the early 1990s and out of print for the last 17 years. The new reprint contains four new cards, representing the four elements as stone (earth), spear (air), sword (fire) and cauldron (water). The accompanying booklet has also been hugely expanded. Also for sale on the stall will be rattles and drum beaters made by Greywolf. All these items will be available soon via the BDO webshop, but if you want to get yours early, come along and meet us on the stall at Tewkesbury in the big marquee near the beer tent.
For more information, visit the website: http://www.tewkesburymedievalfestival.org/
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.
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.
Next 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 🙂
Two events in May see the return of our shamanic friends from Norway, including World Drum Project founders, White Cougar and Morten Wolf Storeide plus members of the brilliant shamanic band, Baalfolket. If that's enough to get your juices flowing already, go straight to our booking pages for the events at Wild Ways in Shropshire or at the Bishop's Wood Saxon Hall in Worcestershire, or download the printable booking forms: this one for Wild Ways; this one for Bishop's Wood, or contact Elaine by e-mail or on 01746 861992. However, if you'd like to know more, read on...
In the North of Norway dwell a people, the Saami, whose way of life traditionally revolved around reindeer herding and whose spirituality in such a harsh environment involved direct and frequent contact with the spirits of the land, the elements and the animals who lived with and around them. One of the primary ways in which they communed with these spirits was through trance states entered into via drumming. Those who made spirit journeys, often for purposes of healing, were called noaidi. The drums they made, and some still make, are never circular but always oval. They are usually painted, often with a pattern that divides the centre of their playing surface into four segments representing a four-fold division of the cosmos. Other common symbols feature the sun, so vital to life in the Arctic North, birds and other animals such as reindeer, bear and wolf. The drums reflect the world-view of the Saami, one that was animistic and polytheistic, viewed certain special places as particularly sacred and regarded proper relationships with spirit beings as essential to life. In other words, it was very like our understanding of Druidry.
At the BDO, we first came in contact with Norwegian shamanic folk through linking up with The World Drum. TWD was created by a Saami drum-maker, Birger Mikkelsen, following a vision that came to Kyrre Franck White Cougar. It travels around the world, becoming the focus for ceremonies in many lands and cultures, all focused on promoting peace and harmony with our Mother Earth. These travels are overseen by Morten Wolf Storeide. In April 2013, these two, along with Lena Paalviig Johnsen and Will Rubach of the shamanic band, Baalfolket, brought us an amazing ceremony centred on a healing plant called chaga. It was one of the most powerful events I've ever taken part in and you can read my account of it HERE.
In May 2014 White Cougar, Morten and Lena will be returning to the UK to offer workshops and their wonderful music, accompanied by Bobby Kure and Anita Dreyer, the other two members of Baalfolket. The workshops are on the theme of connecting with primordial power through sound and the soul of nature, drawing on the Saami understanding of the universe and relationships with spirits for healing and transformation. At Wild Ways, the weekend of May 9th-11th will begin with a chaga ceremony and will include an evening concert on the Saturday night. At Bishop's Wood on May 17th, a full day of workshops will also end with a concert of shamanic music featuring voices, didgeridoo and, of course, those amazing Saami drums. Each event has 45 places available. For more details of the weekend, Click HERE. For more on the one-day workshop, Click HERE. As this event begins fairly early in the morning and ends quite late, you might find it handy to have a place to stay. Elaine is offering overnight stays at Wild Ways on Friday 16th and on the 17th very cheaply. Contact her on 01746 861992 or by e-mail.
Based on our previous meetings with these inspiring, joyous, deeply magical folk, we're in for a real treat and very much hope that you can join us 😀
All at the BDO bid you a Merry Midwinter, wherever and however you may be celebrating it, whether at some ancient sacred site, in the silent heart of a forest, at home with your family and friends or in gaol. Celebrations at this time take many forms, from group ritual to a shared special meal. Most of us decorate our houses with greenery and sparkly things, most of us exchange presents with our nearest and dearest. Many of us give in to the temptation to eat and drink too much. All of these things have the blessing of antiquity, having been common among our European ancestors throughout recorded history, while many are common to cultures well beyond Europe. In Britain, we know that our prehistoric ancestors celebrated Midwinter. The remains of great Midwinter feasts have recently come to light in the great Neolithic enclosure at Durrington Walls, while the nearby temple of Stonehenge is aligned on both the Midsummer sunrise and the Midwinter sunset. Other Neolithic Midwinter alignments are found as far North as the Orkney Islands off the North coast of Scotland and at the Brugh na Boinne (Newgrange) tomb-shrine in Ireland. Clearly, this time of year has been important to us for a long time.
In the historic period, we find a number of Midwinter celebrations devoted to a range of deities. The Roman Empire combined a number of them into a festival celebrating the birth of Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, a deity designed to incorporate several gods of the sun or of light that existed in various parts of the Empire. In Britain, our local god reborn each Midwinter was most widely known as Mabon ap Modron, which simply means Child, son of Mother. The picture here shows the Lochmaben Stone on the Scottish borders, ancient focus of local gatherings, perhaps dedicated to the Mabon. Under this name, he seems to have been an avatar of our god of light, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, whose name means Light of the Steady Hand, noted for, among other things, making an impossible bow-shot at a wren when still a small child. The wren has strong associations with both Midwinter and with Druids, as well as being the folkloric King of the Birds. Lleu's mother is Arianrhod, whose name means Silver Wheel, leading to speculation that she represents the Milky Way, though there is a constellation bearing her name; Caer Arianrhod, aka Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown. For the full story of Lleu's birth, life, death and rebirth, see the Mabinogi story of Math, son of Mathonwy (scroll down to section II).
Another notable association between Druids and Midwinter centres on the plant, mistletoe. Pliny the Elder famously refers to a ceremony in which Druids cut mistletoe from an oak tree using a golden sickle. Midwinter seems an obvious time to do this as mistletoe is much easier to locate on its host trees after the leaves have fallen from them. Incidentally, a goldsmith friend assures me that, contrary to popular belief, it is quite possible to harden gold to produce an edge capable of cutting misteltoe.
It's worth noting that recorded pagan celebrations of Midwinter take place not on the day of the solar standstill, i.e. the winter solstice, but a few days later, on December 25th, the first day on which the sun's rising place on the horizon is seen to move again after the solstice. Celebrating the birth of a god-child on December 25th may sit uneasily with some modern Pagans for obvious reasons, yet the fact is, it's yet another celebration that Christians copied from us! We should not, therefore, feel in the least bit awkward about claiming it back. His rebirth, of course, is a symbolic acknowledgement of the time when the sun's rising position begins to move again, giving the first indication of the forthcoming return of life and light to the land in spring and summer. In the depths of the Northern hemisphere's Midwinter cold and damp and the darkness of the period around the solstice's longest night, that longed for return of light is, indeed, something to celebrate.
Blessings to one and all,
Greywolf and all at the BDO /|\
Yay! As of today, the 10th day of the 10th month, the BDO ovate course is complete. The last booklet I've been working on is number 23 (24 was completed months ago), and one of the last things I did for it was the drawing reproduced here. It shows the famed early (circa 7th century) Irish 'crazy shaman,' Suibhne Geilt ('Wild Sweeny'). Suibhne's madness came upon him after witnessing the horrors of war and took a distinctly 'shamanic' (i.e. Druidic) form. He flew around the whole of Ireland, his feet barely touching the tops of the trees. As is told in Buile Suibhne ('The Frenzy of Suibhne'):
For a long time thereafter he was faring throughout Ireland, visiting and searching in hard, rocky clefts and in bushy branches of tall ivy-trees, in narrow cavities of stones, from estuary to estuary, from peak to peak, and from glen to glen, till he reached ever-delightful Glen Bolcain. It is there the madmen of Ireland used to go when their year in madness was complete, that glen being ever a place of great delight for madmen. For it is thus Glen Bolcain is: it has four gaps to the wind, likewise a wood very beautiful, very pleasant, and clean-banked wells and cool springs, and sandy, clear-water streams, and green-topped watercress and brooklime bent and long on their surface. Many likewise are its sorrels, its wood-sorrels, its herbs, its berries, and its wild garlic, its black sloes and its brown acorns.
Like many of us, Suibhne found solace, refuge and sanity in nature. This is something repeatedly emphasised in the ovate course.
I can honestly say that I am delighted with the way the course has turned out. Alongside building the roundhouse, it's one of the most extraordinary adventures I've ever been involved in. Click the link for a BDO Ovate Course Sampler, containing 18 pages out of a total of about 1,200, amounting to some 550,000 words. I truly believe it's the best contemporary Druidry has to offer. And yes, I'm afraid it is necessary to complete our bardic course before you can access the ovate course, otherwise you would be missing a whole lot of background information and important references. Click the link for a BDO Bardic Course Sampler ...
For myself, now that the second of our courses is complete, I am, like Suibhne, going to take refuge in nature for a while. It's previously been announced that our third and last course, exploring the path of the Druid, won't be online before September 2015. This may not be the case. I'll be working on it as and when the awen flows and we also have a group of other writers who will, I'm sure, do likewise. It may be that we will deliberately do what we were kind of forced to do with the ovate course, that is to put the first parts of it online before the last parts are finished. This way we might have the first group of booklets online by, say, December 2014. Well, we'll see.
First, having devoted an average of 30 hours a week to these courses for the last seven years, I need to refresh myself with other things. These will include several tasks in which my sons, Joe and Mike, will assist; decorating the house, doing the garden, recording the Taliesin poems and Mabinogi stories, and filming video versions of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi. I'll also be recording tracks for my new CD, making more bone flutes, making an Iron Age bardic costume and, I hope, a chrotta (Iron Age Celtic lyre). Oh, and making rattles and Ogham fews. Perhaps even making a drum from scratch, including felling the tree to make the frame and curing the hide for the skin. Well, that should keep me busy for a while and represent a welcome escape from the computer.
Blessings to all,
Yep, we finally made it! Our new, 25-card Ogham Oracle deck is now on sale on the webshop. Originally designed as a tie-in with our Ovate Course, the set was then redesigned and the booklet re-edited as a stand-alone set. Our hope is that it will encourage more people to use the Ogham system which is presently not widely used, even amongst Druids. Please check them out. We rather like 'em, but then we would, wouldn't we? Incidentally, the illustration here shows a sample reading that Greywolf did while our friend, Elaine Wildways, took some publicity shots for us. The reading was for the BDO and what it might achieve. This was not a fix, but an actual reading just as the cards came out. The layout is a pentagram, laid out clockwise, and the keynote meanings of the cards are: 'Love, beauty & healing,' 'Giving something back,' 'Enchantment,' 'Inspiration,' and 'Tenacity.' Not bad, huh?