Frequently Asked Questions
Click on the questions below to toggle the answers.
A search on Google or Amazon for “books about Druidry” is likely to return a staggering array of publications, old and new, and it can feel quite daunting to figure out which books are most relevant.
Fortunately, we have complied a list of books we feel are most suited to those choosing to follow the path of the BDO. [INSERT LINK] The books have been chosen to provide, when read in order, something as close as you can get to a full course in BDO-compatible Druidry outside of the BDO Courses themselves. These books may also be used to supplement the course, offering different perspectives on some things, and more detailed information on others.
The easiest way to join the BDO is to visit our JOIN THE BDO page. This will open a short form for you to fill in. You will then receive TWO automated e-mail responses, one containing our most recent occasional mailout, and the other requesting confirmation that you wish to signup to our mailing list, and you will be added to our database and will receive the next e-mail newsletter when it is sent out. This is entirely free and we guarantee that your information will be treated in strictest confidence and you will never receive any third-party mailings or adverts EVER!
The most obvious and complete form of membership is signing up for the new BDO distance learning courses. The Bardic course went online in 2011, followed by the Ovate course in 2012. The Druid course is finally due for completion in June 2019. See the BDO Courses page for details and links to further details about each of the three courses. The courses are aimed at those who want to become Bards, Ovates or Druids.
We realise that there are many who like to join Druid rites and events, but who don’t necessarily want to be Bards, Ovates or Druids themselves. For them, there are various other ways to be part of the BDO:
Come along to one of our open Gorsedd celebrations, where bardic initiations are offered at which thousands of people have taken their first steps on the Druid road. See the Gorsedd page for details.
Join, by invitation, one of our local Groves. See the Groves page for details.
Come along to any of our events. See the (you guessed) Events page for details.
Yes, you’ll find those that are open to new members listed on our Groves page with contact details.
The list of current groves is being updated for 2019 so keep checking the Groves page or our News page for updates.
The Groves page also features in-depth information on how to start your own grove if you’re feeling intrepid!
There are many Druid groups, some similar to the BDO in belief and practice (e.g. OBOD and The Druid Network), others very different (e.g. the Ancient Order of Druids). As with other groups, our understanding of Druidry derives partly from our founder, Greywolf (Philip Shallcrass), a musician, artist, writer, roundhouse-builder, thatcher and drum-maker.
Pagan historian, Ronald Hutton, has described Greywolf as “a shaman quite convincingly disguised as a Druid.” This suggests, accurately, that our version of Druidry has a more ‘shamanic’ flavour than most, by which we mean that it is focused on learning to work directly with the spirits that inhabit this world and others alongside it. We are animists, that is we see the world and everything in it as imbued with spirits who it is possible for us to connect, converse and commune with. These spirits manifest in earth, stone, water, fire, sky, clouds, rain, storm, sun, moon and stars, hills and valleys, rivers, streams and lakes, mountains, forests, trees, plants and animals. Some manifest as the Faery Folk, as our ancestors or as the old gods of our lands. We are Pagan, by which we mean that we accept the reality and validity of many gods. Because of this, we are inclusive and tolerant of other faiths.
Professor Hutton has suggested that one thing differentiating BDO Druidry from some others is that we place more emphasis on our ancestors, both those of our direct blood line and those whom we see as having walked similar spiritual paths before us. These we refer to as our ancestors of blood and of spirit. We see them as teachers and guides. As part of honouring our ancestors, we promote an accurate understanding of the true history of our tradition, avoiding the fantasies that some groups engage in.
We place a strong emphasis on practical accomplishment among our students, who are expected to attain a genuine level of competence in the areas of study they undertake with us. At the heart of our vision of Druidry is the awen, the sacred ‘flowing spirit’ of inspiration and creativity that flows through all things. Learning to connect with and successfully work with awen is the key to everything we do.
Since there are several Druid courses around these days, it’s impossible to briefly compare all of them. When most people ask this question, what they mean is “How do your courses differ from OBOD’s?” Having about double the word count, ours are certainly longer. Those who are familiar with both suggest that ours are more clearly rooted in the history of Druidry, more overtly Pagan and more distinctly ‘shamanic.’ This, of course, is a very simplistic summary.
More than most other courses, ours emphasise practical attainment in areas traditionally associated with being a bard, ovate or Druid. These include, for a bard, story-telling, poetry, music, history and genealogy; for an ovate, divination, seership, healing, herbalism, astrology and natural philosophy; for a Druid, shape-shifting, Otherworld journeying, creating ritual, teaching, counselling and other forms of community engagement. We feature a good deal of original source material in our courses, including, for example, the whole of the Mabinogi.
Our course material is delivered as pdf files, OBOD’s in print or audio versions. Having much lower overheads, we are able to offer a lower price. Like OBOD, we offer tutorial support to students, though we leave it to students as to whether they take it up or not. No course will suit everyone and, in the end, it’s up to students to decide which course seems best suited to their needs. To help you make an informed choice, we offer free samples of our bardic course and ovate course
BDO Druidry is:
1) Animist, seeing all things as imbued with spirit.
2) Nature-based, regarding the cycles of life and time and the spirits of the natural world as our foremost teachers.
3) ‘Shamanic‘ in that we promote active awareness of and communion with the spirits of the natural world, our ancestors and the old gods of our lands, seeing in them potent sources of strength and wisdom. See also our ‘Shamanic’ Druid page.
4) Ancestral in that we work with our ancestors of blood and of spirit, those of our direct bloodline and those who have walked similar spiritual paths before us.
5) Pagan, accepting the reality and validity of many gods.
6) Centred on awen, the holy ‘flowing spirit’ of inspiration and creativity, both in ourselves and in the universe. Learning to understand and work with awen is the heart of all our belief and practice of Druidry.
For more on our beliefs, go to BARD, OVATE & DRUID on the “About Druidry” menu and explore the sub-menus, especially those on OVATE PHILOSOPHY and DRUID PHILOSOPHY
1) First stop is this website. There’s a lot to explore, but a good place to start is the sub menu item BARD, OVATE & DRUID then open each of the pages on the sub-menus in turn. We are also compiling a library of resources, so check our News page for updates.
2) Our founder, Philip Shallcrass, published a book called Druidry: A Practical and Inspirational Guide (Piatkus Books, 2000). This has been out of print for a while, but copies can still be found at reasonable prices on Amazon or Abe Books (clicking the links should take you to the book’s listing on each website). It’s one of the best short introductory books available on modern Druidry especially, of course, as we know it in the BDO. It contains numerous exercises.
3) An alternative printed source is our own publication, Druidry: Rekindling the Sacred Fire, edited by Greywolf and Bobcat (Emma Restall Orr), the most recent edition of which was published in 2002 and is available via our webshop. It contains articles by the editors and by Ronald Hutton, Graham Harvey, Andy Letcher, Brian Bates and Alan Tickhill covering many aspects of the history and practice of Druidry.
4) You can also learn about BDO Druidry by attending camps and workshops, information on which can be found via our Events page.
If your relative was a member of a lodge or was a member of a Druid group anywhere in the UK at any time prior to 1909, it is very likely that he was a member of the Ancient Order of Druids. I say ‘he’ because AOD usually had men-only lodges, often meeting in rooms in public houses. They have, however, had some women-only lodges too.
Unfortunately,the AOD web site now seems to be defunct but you may be able to find help from our friends on Facebook or Twitter – head over to our social media pages to enquire (links at the bottom of this page).
You might also like to try some of the excellent genealogy web sites such as Ancestry.com.
If you have a Druid medal, pendant, lapel badge, plate, wall plaque, embroidered sash, apron or tie, there is a 95% chance that it was produced by the Ancient Order of Druids. They or their offshoots have produced more such regalia for their members than any other group. Their web site now seems to be defunct, so you could try asking around on social media (lots of helpful people on our Twitter and Facebook pages).
The only other group to have produced such items at all are the Welsh Gorsedd of Bards, whose items are always well-marked, usually in Welsh.
No, it doesn’t. American member Leon Reed is a contributor to our courses and co-founder of the Bards of Turtle Island. The BDO is open to all people of good will, wherever you come from and whatever your cultural background.
The Order’s name is almost an historical accident. Greywolf, our founder, had long sought a spiritual path indigenous to Britain, the land of his birth and the place where he lived, and still lives. In the late 1960s, there was a European and American cultural trend to adopt Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism or Taoism. To Greywolf, this didn’t feel quite right. While they are wonderful traditions, they carry with them cultural under-currents of which most Europeans lack awareness or understanding. This feeling set him on the path that led to Druidry as the earliest named spiritual tradition indigenous to Britain.
The idea for the Order began in 1974, but it was unnamed until 1979 when a friend asked what it was called. Without conscious thought, Greywolf plucked the name ‘British Druid Order’ out of the air. It stuck and, for better or worse, it’s what we’re now known by. It decidedly does not mean we are nationalistic flag-wavers. We are not. On the contrary, we welcome all who come to us, and to the lands in whose heritage our tradition is rooted, of whatever nationality, creed or colour. Anyone who knows history knows that Britain is, and always has been, a ‘mongrel’ nation, from the first hunter-gatherers arriving from Continental Europe after the last Ice Age, through to present-day migrants. Many folk have made Britain their home over many millennia and we honour, respect and welcome them all.
Druidry is a broken tradition, and has been since a succession of Roman emperors outlawed it 2,000 years ago. Being suppressed by Christianity since 1,500 years ago hasn’t helped either. Add the fact that classical Druids left no records of what they believed and did and we are presented with considerable difficulty when attempting to revive it. We turn to archaeology and to the medieval literature of Wales and Ireland, but even when we add folklore, folk customs and previous generations of Druid revivalists, we are still left with a tapestry full of holes. To fill them and complete our picture, we sometimes turn to other traditions, especially where those traditions share common roots.
Knowing that the Celts lived in close proximity to the Greeks, we feel justified in looking to Greek medical and philosophical traditions to shed light on the few enigmatic fragments that survive in Celtic contexts. Similarly, since the Celts are inheritors of an ancient Indo-European culture, we feel justified in looking to related Indo-European traditions such as the Hindu or Germanic. From about 35,000 years ago until 2,000 years ago, most Europeans and Northern Asians shared a common group of spiritual beliefs and practices with First Nations Americans. This shared culture has been designated ‘sub-Arctic shamanism’ and we see it as the bedrock upon which Druidry, and many other traditions, was built. Since it survived more intact and for longer in Northern Scandinavia, Nepal, Mongolia, Siberia and the Americas, we sometimes quote from teachers from those lands.
Quotations are always from people who were, or are, happy to share their words. They appear in our courses because they have something relevant to say to us as Druids, helping us to better understand and more fully live our own tradition. Bird-shamans, for example, are found across the whole of the ‘sub-Arctic shaman’ zone, from 17,000 year old cave paintings in Lascaux, through cave art of 2,000 years ago in Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet and Norway, to medieval legends in Ireland and modern-day First Nations Americans.
Yes, which is why we don’t do it. A principle aim of the British Druid Order is to reconstruct, and reconnect to, an indigenous spirituality rooted in the pre-Christian traditions of the Islands of Britain. Wherever possible, we draw upon material directly culturally related to the traditions and peoples (of many cultures) that have inhabited those Isles over millennia. In doing so, we are re-establishing Druidry as a living, vibrant spirituality that co-exists alongside other indigenous traditions elsewhere in the world in a spirit of mutual respect, trust and support.
As animists (see above, # 6. ‘What are your basic beliefs?’), we engage with the spirits of land and ancestors. In Britain, it is impossible not to be aware that these spirits include those of other traditions that succeeded classical Druidry. These include Graeco-Roman paganism, Isis-worship, Judaism, Germanic paganism(s) and Christianity among others. The alternative to engaging with these ancestral spirits and traditions that have left such profound imprints on our land and culture is to ignore them and pretend that our cultural development ended when the Romans arrived in 43 CE. Since we live in the 21st century, we do not see this as a viable option.
Likewise, as animists, when we travel to, or live in, other lands, it is impossible (or at best ill-advised) to ignore the fact that those lands have been home to traditions and peoples other than our own. Again, we can choose to blinker ourselves to this simple fact and revert to some imagined past of racial and spiritual purity (a deeply dubious project), or we can respectfully engage with the spirits of the place where we are, which inevitably includes spirits of other traditions that inhabited those lands before our arrival. We do so, however, not as Wannabee Indians (or Wannabee anything else), but as Druids, i.e. followers of a spirituality rooted in Britain and formerly prevalent across much of Europe.
Being rooted in British traditions does not mean we are ‘little Englanders’ or, Gods forbid, racists. What we do is open to all, of whatever nationality or cultural background. Just as our courses are open to all, so our open ceremonies, talks, workshops and camps are open to, and attended by, people of many faiths and many cultures. (See above: # 10. Why the British Druid Order? Does this mean I have to be British to join?)
As said, the aim of the BDO has always been to re-create a native British and European spiritual tradition. While we draw inspiration from other peoples, we do so only to help us renew our own tradition. Indigenous peoples elsewhere are doing the same. For example, Siberian people have called in teachers from Michael Harner’s California-based school of global shamanism to help them restore their own lost heritage. First Nations Americans are supportive of the BDO’s efforts to renew our ancient ways, realising that we are fulfilling a spiritual need that might otherwise lead people of European origins to become what are disparagingly known as Wannabee Indians.
While there are similarities between what we believe and do and what other indigenous peoples believe and do, this is not a result of cultural theft but because BDO Druidry is animistic, polytheistic and ritualistic, because we honour our ancestors and seek direct communication with their spirits and those of the natural world and the old gods of our people. This creates a broad area of common ground and shared understanding between us and other indigenous peoples.
We at the British Druid Order hold that the integrity and self-determination of the indigenous peoples of this planet are paramount, not just as a matter of respect and restitution for the colonial oppression that has threatened their existence, but because we see indigenous spiritualities as of prime importance for the survival of the human species. As one First Nations American friend, John Two-Birds, said at a Druid camp 20 years ago, “Grandmother Earth and Grandfather Sky are getting pissed off. If we don’t get our act together, pretty soon they’re going to start smudging cities.” By ‘smudging’ he meant sending earthquakes, fires and floods. He felt this would happen in response to the environmental destruction our species is wreaking on the planet. He was travelling the world encouraging spirit folk of all indigenous traditions to come together and work for beneficial change. Exactly the same feeling inspired our Norwegian friends, Kyrre Franck White Cougar and Morten Wolf Storeide, to send The World Drum on its travels around the world, crossing continents and uniting cultures. We in the BDO share the same sense that it is up to the spirit workers of the world to combine our energies and our efforts in order to bring about the changes in consciousness necessary to put an end to ecological degradation and create a better world for the generations who come after us.