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We started work on the first of our courses in the spring of 2006, anticipating that we would have all three courses up and running in three years. Thirteen years later, I'm delighted to announce that the last few booklets of our Druid course went online in April 2019, completing the series that began with the bardic course (2011), followed by the ovate (2013).

The reason it took so long is simply that, as Tolkien said of Lord of the Rings, it's a tale that grew in the telling. By the time we'd finished putting the bardic course together, it ran to over a quarter of a million words. The ovate course is double that length, the Druid 100,000 words longer than the ovate. Together, the three courses are equivalent to sixteen 200-page books. As you'll appreciate, even with contributions from Elen Hawke, Leon Reed, Andy Letcher, Elaine Gregory, Robin Williamson and a host of others, that still took a considerable amount of research, writing and editing on my part.

Over the last thirteen years, I have worked an average of 40 hours a week for the BDO, most of it on these courses. Why? Quite simply because I believe in them. That belief has been justified by feedback from students whose lives have been changed by engaging with our courses, from a Welsh bard whose work with our bardic course brought him to within a hair's breadth of winning the crown at last year's National Eisteddfod, to an American student who, inspired by our ovate course, persuaded the company she works for to introduce a whole raft of measures to reduce their ecological impact. They put her in charge of the project and gave her the staff she needed to make it work. These are just two of many examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of our courses. We make magic happen, which is, after all, what Druidry is about, at least the way we do it.

Despite which, a few folk who don't know what's in our courses still ask why we put so much time and effort into creating them when other courses already exist. The simple answer is that none of the others present Druidry in the way I envisage it. I have always seen Druids as the 'shamans' of the ancient culture of the British Isles and a fair-sized chunk of Europe and Druidry as a native spirituality akin to those of, for example, the Sami, or the indigenous peoples of Siberia, Central Asia and the Americas. When I first encountered Druidry in 1974, it seemed to me that this aspect of it had been overwhelmed by the 18th century revival image of Druids as white-robed, bearded priests of a patriarchal religion of sun-worshippers. I felt a strong calling to get past that and re-connect with the deep roots of Druidry as a spirituality that engages directly with the spirits of the land, our ancestors and the old gods. This is the Druidry presented in our courses.

I'll admit to being a little nervous about having suggested that our Druid course would end in oneness with the universe. In the end, however, awen and the gods came through. Within five minutes of waking up one morning, the outlines of three different yet related paths to enlightenment had been given to me, a fitting conclusion to what Pagan historian, Professor Ronald Hutton, has described as "... the most intelligent and erudite sequential introduction to modern Druidry available."

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 /|\

Rattles & BeatersWe'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.