BDO Courses - Your Pathway to Becoming a Bard, Ovate or Druid
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“… the most intelligent and erudite sequential introduction to modern Druidry available.” Professor Ronald HuttonOpens in a new window, author of Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles, The Triumph of the Moon, The Druids, Blood & Mistletoe, Pagan Britain, &c..
“… real nuts and bolts Druidry.” One of our students.
Our courses are built around the traditional threefold division of Druidry into the equal and complementary roles of Bard, Ovate and Druid, focusing strongly on the skills ascribed to them by classical writers: Bards are creative artists, performers and keepers of tradition; Ovates are seers, healers and natural philosophers; Druids are teachers, ritualists and walkers between worlds. Within each course, we aim to provide all the tools needed to actively pursue the path and become a skilled practitioner. We achieve this by weaving together all the available threads of information about Druidry, from archaeology, classical writers, the Medieval literature of Britain and Ireland, folk lore and folk custom, previous generations of Druid revivalists, contemporary Druid practice and our own intuition and inspiration.
Courses are written by a team of bards, ovates and Druids with a couple of centuries of practical experience between them. They are edited by Greywolf (Philip Shallcrass), who is also a major contributor, drawing on his own 40 years as a Druid. Speaking of drawing, our courses include hundreds of full-colour illustrations. They are designed to be accessible to an intelligent teenager coming to Druidry for the first time whilst containing enough depth and originality to appeal to those who already have extensive knowledge and experience. Students with 30 or more years’ experience in Pagan traditions have said they are gaining fresh insight and inspiration from our courses. The Bardic, Ovate and Druid courses each offer their own path to enlightenment, while the three together provide a comprehensive guide to all aspects of the Druid path. Students may take as much time as they need to complete each course. Learning support is offered by our trusty group of volunteer tutors via e-mail or surface post. Transition between the three is by rite of passage. We trust that they will prove a valuable resource for the Druid community worldwide.
Each course consists of six packages, each containing four booklets, available bi-monthly via the Paypal payment system. Courses are offered in the form of downloadable pdf files. This format allows for interactive content to be included in the course booklets while reducing administration, printing and postage costs.
We are frequently asked how our courses differ from those of other groups such as OBOD (The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids). People who are familiar with other courses tell us that ours differ greatly from any of them. Our approach to Druidry has been described as visionary and ‘shamanic,’ viewing it very much as a native European spirituality akin to other indigenous traditions, closely linking us with the spirits of land and ancestry, though open to folk of any land seeking ways of relating spiritually to the world around us. Originating in Europe, Druidry naturally appeals to folk of European origins seeking such a way of relating without the necessity of adopting local ways that may not be culturally appropriate. So, for example, we work with Native American friends without in any sense becoming ‘Wannabee Indians.’ OBOD’s Chosen Chief, Philip Carr-Gomm has been complimentary about our courses. Ronald Hutton has said that students could usefully take OBOD’s courses and then move on to ours, which are compatible whilst taking a very different approach, going into greater detail in many areas and placing more emphasis on others.
Our courses are intensive, demanding, and deal with unusual areas of experience. They are, therefore, not suitable for everyone and we reserve the right to withhold or withdraw admission to them where we deem this to be necessary to safeguard the well-being of the individual and/or the BDO and its membership.
“… properly bardic,” Andy Letcher (singer-songwriter with Telling the Bees, author of Shroom).
“I have completed the Bardic course and loved every life enriching word of it. Thank you for a wonderful experience. It is one I will continue to go back to time and again and learn even more from. I would highly recommend the Bardic course to anyone,” UK-based Bardic student.
Our courses are the most comprehensive available, drawing on archaeology, classical authors, the medieval literature of Britain and Ireland, folk lore and folk custom, as well as centuries of Druid scholarship and practice. Our aim is to re-create a Druidry that honours the long history of our tradition while revealing it in ways that are deeply relevant to our lives today.
Our Bardic course encourages creativity through accessing the inspiring spirit known as awen. We show how this creative spirit may be invoked to inspire ourselves so that we may in turn inspire others, thus maintaining the flow of awen through the ages. The bardic path is expressed largely through sound, so its cornerstones are story-telling, poetry and music, though now broadened to include all the ways in which inspiration may be expressed.
The firm foundation on which our courses are built is the body of work left to us by bards, ovates and Druids of earlier generations. Foremost among these are the four ancient books of Wales, The Black Book of Carmarthen, The Book of Taliesin, The White Book of Rhydderch, and The Red Book of Hergest. Compiled in the 13th and 14th centuries, they contain material that is centuries older. They include stories and verses that reveal the nature of pagan deities such as Math (‘Bear’), Dôn (‘Flowing’), Gwydion (‘Wild One’), Arianrhod (‘Silver Wheel’), Lleu Llaw Gyffes (‘Light of the Sure Hand’) and Blodeuwedd (‘Flower Face’). We also draw on Irish texts such as Lebor Gabala Erinn (‘The Book of the Taking of Ireland’), Cath Magh Tuireadh (‘The Battle of Moytura’), Tain bo Cuailgne (‘The Cattle Raid of Cooley’), ancient law codes, bardic manuals, etc..
Of equal importance is The Story of Taliesin, recorded in a 16th century manuscript but probably dating from the 12th century. This tells of the relationship between the legendary bard, Taliesin (‘Shining Brow’), and the powerful, witch-like goddess, Ceridwen (‘White Craft’). Ceridwen is patroness of the bardic order and brews the cauldron of inspiration (awen) from which the enlightened bard must drink. The series of initiatory ordeals through which Taliesin passes in the story, and the central symbol of the cauldron, form the backbone of all our courses.
To interact with these old gods of our lands, we first need to know who they are, and these ancient manuscripts tell us. Our courses benefit hugely from brilliant new English translations of the most important texts, often made specially for us.
Each step along the path includes practical exercises through which students are encouraged to engage with the material offered on all levels. The idea is to change lives and, through changing our lives, to change the world. Such is the power of awen.
Our Bardic course lays essential foundations for the Ovate and Druid courses that follow. Whilst covering all the basics required by beginners on the path, the depth and breadth of material offered, and our unique interpretation of it, means that even those with decades of experience will find plenty to inspire them. Our course differs significantly from any other, so much so that students who have completed other courses have found their understanding of the tradition greatly enhanced by working with our course material.
Course contributors include BDO founder, Greywolf (Philip Shallcrass); Welsh bard and archaeologist, Derwydd Newydd; Pagan poet and scholar, Robin Skelton; Celtic scholar, Sioned Davies; IT wizard and storyteller, Adam Sargant; the mysterious Blue Fox; troubadour and teacher, Andy Letcher; chief bard of Britain, Robin Williamson; and Pagan author and former BDO joint chief, Bobcat (Emma Restall Orr).
The course is delivered in six packages, available every two months as downloadable pdf files. Each package consists of four beautifully illustrated booklets averaging 52 pages in length. The entire course runs to over half a million words and booklets contain active links to additional sources of information, online suppliers, etc. Students may take as much time as needed to complete each package and the course as a whole. Tutorial support is available via a dedicated e-mail address or via surface mail. A certificate is awarded based on successful completion of a final task. Successful graduation enables admission to our ovate course.
To register for the Bardic course please click the “Sign Up” button at the top of this page.
Bardic Course Outline
Package 1: Introduction to Druidry; Sources of Inspiration; Basic Beliefs; the Ethics of BDO Druidry; Bard, Ovate & Druid; Story-telling; Bardic Memory; Why Medieval Literature?; The Story of Taliesin; Bardic Schools; The Seven Degrees of Wisdom; Spirituality; Ritual; Creating an Altar; The Sacred Circle; The Four Directions & the Airts; The Three Worlds; Working with the Sacred Circle; A Simple Bardic Ritual; Meditation, Druidry & the Gods; Awen’ the Holy Spirit of Druidry; The Universal Druid Prayer; The Sources of BDO Druidry; Robe-Making; Bards Under the Laws of Hywel Dda; Making a Branch of Peace; Making a Crane Bag; The 13 Treasures of Britain; Gwyddbwyll, ‘Wooden Wisdom’; Paganism in Medieval Britain & Ireland; and more.
Package 2: The Quest for Awen; Ceridwen & Taliesin: the Goddess & the Bard; Cauldron, Womb & Tomb; The Coracle of Change; The Song of the Mead; Ogyrwen & the Fair Folk; ‘The Awen I Sing’; The Goddess of Bardcraft; ‘Fire in the Head’; On Sensing & Seeing Awen; Awen Women; A 12th century Bardic Princess; A 15th century Female Bard; Becoming the Awen; Bardic Gods, Clerical Demons; Why Poetry?; On Writing Poetry; The Structure of Poetry; The Early Bards; Cynghanedd, ‘Harmony’; Eight Poetic Exercises; The Twenty-four Metres; When the awen starts to flow; vivid new translations of Taliesin poems including; Buarth Beirdd, ‘The Meeting-Place of Bards’; Angar Kyfundawt, ‘The Hostile Confederacy’; Cad Goddau, ‘The Battle of the Trees’; Cadair Taliesin, ‘The Chair of Taliesin’; Cadair Ceridwen, ‘The Chair of Ceridwen’; Canu y Gwynt, ‘The Song of the Wind’; extensive footnotes and commentaries reveal the significance of these mystical verses in the context of the 12th century survival and revival of paganism in the bardic schools and for us as modern Druid bards; Becoming Taliesin; The Eisteddfod; and more.
Package 3: Inspiration & Orientation; Definitions & Contested Identities 1. ‘Celtic’; Definitions & Contested Identities 2. ‘Indigenous’; Definitions & Contested Identities 3. ‘Persons’ or ‘Spirits’; Honouring our Ancestors: Why?; Ancestors of Blood; an Ancestral Quest; DNA & Descent; Respect & Reburial; Respect & Reburial in Action; The Stonehenge Cremations; Thoughts from A Pagan Archaeologist; A Rite for Reburial of our Ancestors; Family History; Our Nearest Ancestors; Ancestors of Spirit; A Hymn to Yama; The Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd & Gwyddno Garanhir; Introducing the Mabinogi; The Mabinogi of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed; Gods of Nature & the Nature of Gods; The Hero’s Journey; The Stories that Make Us Who We Are; Your Hero Journey; Further Taliesin poems including; Canu y Medd (‘The Song of the Mead’); Canu y Cwrw (‘The Song of Ale’); Canu y Meirch (‘The Song of the Horses’); Preiddiau Annwfn (‘The Spoils of Annwfn’); Entrancing Through Storytelling; and more.
Package 4: The ‘Three Chief Crafts’ of Music; The ‘Crafts of the Tongue’; Getting the Beat; The Three ‘Crafts of Wind’; ‘Crafts of the String’; the Harp of the Dagda; The Three Noble Strains; the Power of Music; On the Beneficial Effects of Music; ‘When Modes of Music Change’; the Harp of Cnoc I Chosgair; Ogham as a Musical Notation; Harp Hints & Tips; the Bardic Guitar; Amairgen’s Song of the Three Cauldrons; The Lore of the Three Cauldrons; The Nine Gifts of the Cauldron; The Tao that can be spoken of; Cauldrons, Wells & the World Tree; Boand, River Mother; Activating the Cauldrons; The Spoils of Annwn; The Cauldron of Devotion; The Cauldron of Motion; The Cauldron of Wisdom; Establishing the Cauldrons; Filling the Cauldrons; the Breath of Nine Maidens; Stirring the Cauldron of Devotion; Devotion & Deity; The Second Branch of the Mabinogi, that of Brân the Blessed, Son of Llyr; further Taliesin verses. The ‘Three Cauldrons’ material reveals the existence of a kind of native yoga taught in the medieval bardic schools and presumably inherited from the Druid schools that were their predecessors.
Package 5: The Wheel of the Year; Midwinter; Candlemas; Spring Equinox; May Day; Midsummer; Lammas; Autumn Equinox; Hallowe’en; Walking the Wheel; The Gorsedd of Bards of the Isles of Britain; What is a Gorsedd; the Gorsedd & the Druid Revival; the New English Gorseddau; the Avebury Gorsedd; What do Gorseddau do?; Gorseddau Far & Wide; the Gorsedd Rite; Opening the Circle; Calling the Quarters; Handfasting; Blessing for Children; a Bardic Initiation; Celebration of the Season; Honouring the Departed; the Isles of the Blest; the Sharing; Closing; Why History?; the Druid Within; Origins; Pagan Pilgrimage; Song at Wodnesbeorg; Druids & Megaliths; The Age of the Tomb-Shrines, c. 4500-1000 BCE; ; Circles of Earth, Wood and Stone, c. 3300-1200 BCE; Circles & Standing Stones; The Third Branch of the Mabinogi, that of Manawyddan the son of Llyr.
Package 6: Urns and Bronze, c. 1500-1000 BCE; Plant a Tree; Iron and Water, c. 1000 BCE-43 CE; Water Offerings; Druids & Romans, c. 43 CE-410 CE; a Clash of Faiths; Light in the Dark Ages, c. 410-1200; Survival & Revival, c. 1200-1900; Going Deeper; Modern Druidry, c. 1900-Date; the Future; Finding More; The Bardic Tradition and the Song of the Land; The Songs of Amergin; Channellers of the Unknown; Stanzas of the Graves; the Great Lady & the Gorsedd; Gaia, Mother of All; the Green Man; Waking the Song of the Land; The Banks of Caer Abiri; The Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, that of Math the son of Mathonwy; the Cell of Song; The Sources; The Symbolism; a Bardic Vision; Into the Cell of Song; The Battle of the Trees; Incubation, Composition & Submission; What Next?
BDO Bardic Course Sampler Click to open a 786 kB PDF file containing sample texts and graphics from our Bardic Course.
“…another remarkable achievement, of a unique level of sophistication and erudition for a Druidic correspondence course, even at this level…”Professor Ronald Hutton, Head of the Department of Humanities at the University of Bristol, author of Pagan BritainOpens in a new window, Blood & Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in BritainOpens in a new window, The DruidsOpens in a new window, Pagan Religions of the Ancient British IslesOpens in a new window, & etc..
“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.”Ovate student, Minnesota, USA.
Watchwords of the Ovate journey are: The Wheel of the Year; Seership; Divination; Trees; Herbs; Natural Philosophy; Healing; Rites of Passage. Our Ovate course follows the journey of human existence around the wheel of life from birth to death, tracing the parallel journeys of sun and moon through the seasons of the year. Each phase of being is related to our growing understanding of ourselves, the universe and our developing interactions with it. Delving deep into classical and little-known medieval sources, we’ve discovered extraordinary ‘lost’ native healing techniques as well as offering a fresh interpretation of the Ogham alphabet and a variety of ways of working with it in divination, magic and spiritual exercises. These are supported by the inclusion of a free set of Ogham cards, smaller cousins of those available from our webshopOpens in a new window. Also included are a guide to Druidic star lore and astrology, a complete Druid herbal, and complete sets of fully scripted rites of passage and ceremonies for the eight festivals of the Wheel of the Year. The course is challenging on many levels, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically. The training wheels are off, so strap in tight, it’s quite a ride!
NB. To access our Ovate course, you will need to have completed the BardicOpens in a new window first as each course builds on the preceding one(s). Courses can be paid for via Paypal using any credit or debit card.
Our Ovate Course, like the Bardic, is delivered in pdf format in six packages of four booklets each, available every two months. Each booklet is illustrated in full colour and averages 50 pages in length, the total word-count of the course as a whole being around 550,000.
Ovate Course Outline
- Package 1: Creation; Birth; Blessing the Newborn; Beginnings; Cosmology; Divination as communing with, and attempting to understand, the divine. Developing sensitivity and reason. Ogham history, meaning, use in divination and magic, card oracles, etc. Rites of the Moon, rites of Midwinter and early Spring, rites of passage for birth and childhood.
- Package 2: Seership, the Second Sight, the Faery Folk, augury, the awenyddion, the two Merlins, Seidr; Star lore, astrology; Learning and Growth; Adolescence; Sexual Awakening; Puberty rites of passage; Rites of Spring; the Book of the Taking of Ireland; the Prophecies of Merlin.
- Package 3: The Healing Arts. Dian Cecht, the Irish healer god; Healing waters, their goddesses and gods, herbalism, meditation, massage, spirit healing, sound healing, hymns, offerings and incantations. The Twelve Doorways of the Soul. Sacred and magical trees. Rites of Summer, marriage rite, Full Moon rites.
- Package 4: A Druid Herbal. Ogham tree exercises. Spirits of Trees. Incenses. The Waning Moon. Rites of full Summer, harvest, maturity; opening to a deeper understanding of spirit, how it moves through our lives and the universe and how we interact with it. Handfasting.
- Package 5: The Ways of the Gods; Age; Pagan Theology. Insanity and Inspiration. Spirits of Place. Wisewoman rite. Meditations to deepen understanding and enhance practice. The Power of Three. The Cauldron of Motion. Serpent Power. Prayer.
- Package 6: Hallowe’en. Dealing with death and dying. What happens to us when we die? Funeral rites. The dark of the Moon. The power of eclipses. The Soul Friend. Spirit guides and guardians. A night vigil and a vision quest.
Druid Course Outline
Our Druid course goes online in April 2019. The following gives an idea of the range of topics covered. This page last revised in March 2019.
- Package 1: ‘Shamanic’ Druidry in history and practice, key to the current ‘re-wilding’ of Druidry. Real democracy, magical thinking and reclaiming personal power. Ancestral ways of working with animals in spirit and otherwise across 40,000 years of history and prehistory, including hunting, sacrifice, shape-shifting and learning to fly. The Master or Mistress of Animals. Making and using drums in ceremony. Ceremony for awakening the drum. Otherworld journeying to gain wisdom and healing, encountering spirit guides and other spirit beings.
- Package 2: Wolf people as companions to gods and humans, ancestors, teachers, hunters, guides and protectors, including a Wolf-inspired Winter Healing Ceremony. Wolf warrior societies around the world. Traditional Wolf stories. Bear people as companions to gods and humans, ancestors, teachers, guides and protectors, including a Midwinter Bear Feast Ceremony as created by the Bear Tribe. Traditional Bear stories.
- Package 3: Dragons, Underworld or underwater spirits, or winged messengers, including Serpents, Wyrms and Water-horses, who may ‘kill or cure,’ with a Serpent Ceremony. Horses, from prey animals for hunters to companions and friends of riders, focusing on the Uffington White Horse and the widespread horse goddess known as Epona and by many other names, a teacher and guide to our ancestors across Europe. The Bull of the Heavens and the Great Cow Mother. Bovine beings as divine messengers, companions of gods, sacrificial animals, symbols of power and courage and of nurturing and fertility. Working with the spirits of Eagle, including healing charms. Eagles in the lore and legend of Britain and the wider world.
- Package 4: Working with Deer people, their sacred connections, related deities, nature, lore and legends. Working with Ravens, Crows, Rooks and other Corvids, their sacred connections, related deities, nature, lore and legends. A radical approach to ritual, creating ceremonies closer in spirit to those of our ancestors. Mask-making, costume and adornment. Conducting ritual. Organising and coordinating group ceremonies, whether open celebrations of one of the major festivals, or rites of passage for individuals. Setting up and running local Groves. Sweat houses in Britain, their history and practice. Archetypal Druids in native literature and what we can learn from them.
- Package 5: Additonal techniques for altering consciousness, reasons for undertaking them, their benefits and potential pitfalls. Included is an encyclopaedia of Otherworlds and their inhabitants who we might encounter during our spirit journeys. Moral philosophy. How we live in relation to other human and non-human people. Pacifism, dietary choices, gender politics, sexual relationships, etc. Bringing disparate groups together, building bridges, negotiating disputes, peace-making, mediation and arbitration.
- Package 6: Spirituality in a capitalist culture. Teaching. Taking responsibility for ourselves, we begin to work with others. Leading workshops, lecturing, teaching by example, etc. This may entail further courses of study in fields such as healing, forest-craft, art, agriculture, conservation, etc. Bringing the Druidic commitment to community and service into daily life. Traditional Druid roles as judges, advocates, lawgivers. The ethics of the way we live and making changes to align with our spirituality, through running Groves, or community action, promoting recycling schemes, voluntary work, etc. Enhancing the world. Living Druidry in your community. Gender and spirituality. Building an Iron Age roundhouse. The Cauldron of Wisdom and the merging of Sun and Moon that leads to wisdom, bliss and oneness with the universe… (this is a tricky one, but we’ll do our best )
NB. Our Druid course turned out to be a lot longer than anticipated. We underestimated how much remained to be said about Druidry. Given how much is in our bardic and ovate courses, we thought the Druid course would be quite short. In fact it is at least as long as the ovate, which runs to around half a million words. The first half of the Druid course runs to over a quarter of a million. So, apologies to our ovate graduates for the long wait. We promise it’ll be worth it!