Ovate Responses to the Covid-19 Coronavirus Pandemic

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      In these curious times and strange, misinformation may prove as dangerous as the virus itself, so there is an even greater need than usual to be careful what we put out into the world. Science will come up with viable solutions before long, but what can the rest of us do in the meantime? Having been calling myself a Druid for 46 years, my area of expertise is Druidry. Among many things discovered over the last 14 years of editing, researching and writing our courses were a number relating to healing derived from the medieval literature of Britain and Ireland. Having gone into lockdown a little before the rest of the country because one of my sons had what I’m pretty sure was just an ordinary cold, I decided to use some of my time recording a few of these pieces.
      The first was a possibly 8th century ‘Prayer for Long Life and a Good Old Age.’ At my age, and because the effects of the virus seem to be worse the older you are, this seemed an appropriate one to start with. Because of its early date, the accompaniment is played on my Iron Age chrotta (Celtic lyre). This was probably the instrument played by Irish bards before it was replaced by the harp in the 10th century. I first read this prayer in translation years ago and was immediately struck by how pagan it is. It’s in one of the healing booklets in our ovate course and is exactly what the title says, a prayer.
      Next was a ‘Chant for Healing and Protection,’ also from our ovate course. This is based on a poem that’s part of an early Irish story in which the healer god, Dian Cecht, saves Ireland from a plague by destroying the Serpent that embodies it, burning its body to ashes and casting them into a river. Under other circumstances I might have recorded it with a group of people in our roundhouse. As it is, I multi-tracked all the drums and vocals at home. The original recording runs for 9 and a half minutes. I then made a longer version running for an hour and 7 minutes, a better running time to really immerse yourself in it and maybe drum and chant along. Drumming is a good way to open channels into Otherworlds beyond the physical, easing communication with spirit helpers, allies and the old gods.
      The third piece is a recording of Cad Goddeu, the Battle of the Trees, probably the most famous poem from the early 14th century Book of Taliesin. This benefits greatly from the excellent new translation made for our bardic course by former archaeologist, Celtic scholar and BDO student, Derwydd Newydd. It probably dates from the 12th century, by which time the harp had replaced the lyre as the preferred instrument of the bard, so the improvised accompaniment is played on my 25-string bardic harp. The harp is another Otherworldly instrument, capable of shifting consciousness. It was while preparing to perform this poem with my harp in a May Day ceremony in our roundhouse a couple of years ago that I finally realised, after 40 years, what it’s about. The bard speaks as a healer, invoking his working tools, various powers of nature, and his spirit allies, including 35 species of healing plant. He also invokes the young god of light, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, and his bride, the goddess made from flowers, Blodeuwedd, the healer and magician god, Gwydion, and the creator god, Math. All to bring about healing which, at the end of the poem, he triumphantly does. I use the word invoking in its original sense of ‘calling in,’ because the bard actually becomes many of these beings during the course of his healing work. Working with this poem, I was struck by how similar it is to the Anglo-Saxon ‘Nine Herbs Charm’ and to rhymed charms used by Central Asian shamans while they work healing.
      I’m not, of course, offering these pieces as an alternative to medical treatment. They are intended to be used as an adjunct to medicine, not a substitute for it. Recording them and listening to them back has certainly helped me keep focused and reasonably cheerful in lockdown. If they can bring a smile to my face, with my lifelong history of depression, they have a fair chance of at least doing the same for others.
      I put the videos together using a free, open source software package called OpenShot. I’m particularly pleased with the Battle of the Trees, which I think shows that I’m starting to get the hang of the software!
      All four videos are included in a BDO YouTube playlist you can find here:
      Feel free to add your own responses to the coronavirus outbreak below. We’d love to hear from you.
      Stay safe, keep well,
      blessings to all,
      Greywolf /|\

      Sandy Buckle

        I’ve been really surprised at my personal response to the pandemic. I started by going through a serious guilt trip as I’d retired from nursing in 2019 and being asthmatic wasn’t allowed to return to duty. My brain then told me to hid away as I’m older and asthmatic. Okay I thought I can do all the projects that I’ve never had time for ….but then what followed was periods of inertia and lack of enthusiasm for doing anything!
        Thankfully i live on Dartmoor and not in a high rise block in a city but I longed to get further out into the wilds than was initially allowed and seek the solace of the moor.
        However, I have managed to slowly engage with projects including work on the Ovate course and life has taken on a new rhythm.
        My daily Druid practice and meditation has been a real support for me – not sure how the family feel about me learning to play a native flute though!!

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