Solstice – this brings to mind two things: planting the seeds and preparing to harvest. One is impossible without the other. While one hemisphere is thinking about the lengthening days, the other is preparing to gather in the fruit of their efforts in the shortening days. Due to the fact that we have members in both hemispheres of the globe, I find it more holistic – if I may – to speak about the two halves as one, of the two events as one since they happen at the same time. It is relativity in motion.
Many years ago, I had an idea of trying to talk to our friends in other Druid communities and to seek the commonality in our ways, the likeness in our practice. It was a seed that I planted and a notion I kept watering over the years. Beginning at Pantheacon this year with some conversations with Kristoffer Hughes of the Anglesey Druid Order, and continuing with some conversations with Philip Carr-Gomm of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, I decided to approach them both to see if we could begin to describe ourselves as more generally “Druid” while celebrating our own individual paths. After all, there is strength in numbers.
This is not an attempt to convince the Anglesey Druids to become ADF members or to convert the collection of Bards, Ovates, and Druids into ADF Druids. It is a wish to explore how we are alike while celebrating that we are different. Whether we are Revival Druids, Reconstruction Druids, or Isaac’s Vision Druids, we are Druids.
When I think about what I DO as a Druid, I think about my ADF practice and how it defines how I worship, how I relate to the Earth Mother, and how I offer and acknowledge the Kindreds. After spending time with Kristoffer and reflecting on my ritual experience with OBOD at Glastonbury Tor, I realise that we are all Druids first and foremost.
There is something to be learned each step along the way. While I have been an ADF Druid for 33 years, I felt that it was important to continue my education along the way. I consumed RDNA information a number of years ago and that experience has enhanced my Druid practice, my ADF practice. My OBOD training, from Bard to Ovate to Druid was equally enlightening. For one thing, OBOD training is beautiful – it is a work of Bardic Art and it is pleasing to the eyes and the soul as well. Each lesson was beautifully written and I anxiously awaited the arrival of each new installment. There were delays but I completed my Druid Grade training in OBOD a number of years ago and I was impressed that I received a letter from Philip Carr-Gomm when I finished.
At the time, I was the Vice Archdruid of ADF. I knew from my own studies that all Druids shared some fundamental views. Let’s face it, without the revival, modern Druidry may have never existed. I wrote to Philip Carr-Gomm at the time and said “Let’s explore our commonalities.” Philip graciously invited me to OBOD’s 50th Anniversary celebration in Glastonbury and I planned on attending until my traveling companions could not make it that year.
Being a determined person, I did not give up and continued the communication with Philip and upon becoming Archdruid, I contacted him and said “Let’s explore our commonalities.” Philip once again graciously extended an invitation and again I had to wait. Earlier this year, one of our European Clergy students completed their studies and asked to be ordained. I was thrilled, of course, and when she said that she wanted to be ordained on 10 June, one week after the OBOD Summer Gathering, I knew that things were falling into place.
In ADF, Hospitality is one of our virtues and -in my opinion – the greatest of our virtues because it requires at least one other person to make it complete: we cannot be hospitable unto ourselves. From the moment I arrived at the train station and met Philip Carr-Gomm until the time we parted three days later, I was amazed and awed by this kind, hospitable, wise and gentle man. I was treated with the greatest of hospitality and warmness and am still reflecting back on my encounter with Philip, his lovely wife, and the many stories and situations we shared on the journey to Glastonbury. Is this not what pilgrimage is made of, the sharing of stories, experiences, and lives while moving rapidly (or not-so-rapidly in a traffic sense) towards our destination?
I was made most welcome by the OBOD folks. I was invited to supper by Damh the Bard and this was like a fan moment. Damh’s music is legendary and he is an amazing performer and a more amazing individual. He was so very kind to this traveler throughout the weekend. If you haven’t heard Damh the Bard or the Druidcast program, please do – you owe it to yourself to hear this great podcast and this great performer. He is a Bard and a Gentleman. I am an even bigger fan than ever.
The purpose of my meeting with Philip was to explore our commonalities. He is the Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. I am the Archdruid of ADF and a Druid Grade member of OBOD as well. Philip introduced me to the Gathering as the Archdruid of ADF and I was warmly welcomed and fielded a number of questions from interested people. The morning was opened by a wonderful ceremony around the altar in the center of the room and after opening comments by Philip, we broke into groups by Grade, and I found myself in session with the Druid Grade people. I have to admit to being a little intimidated – this being my first OBOD Gathering – but I was made to feel at home and joined right in with the meditations and work at hand. Each Grade was tasked with presenting a piece of the ritual later in the day around the theme of water.. The group I was with went right to work and it was a pleasure to see an entire room full of diverse people working together towards one end. The final result of the morning’s work was a stunning piece of ritual work that came together very beautifully and was accomplished with grace and professionalism. I was proud to be a part of this work.
Morning grew into afternoon and I decided to walk to Glastonbury Tor, robe in hand, to get ready for ritual. All pilgrimage requires journey, and this was no exception. There are two paths to the Tor: one steep, and one gradual. I, unknowing, face to the wind on the Celtic journey of discovery, chose the former. It was a less-than-gradual uphill, through a few turnstiles, finally to the road that led to the base of the Tor. The day was cool and breezy. At the entrance to the Tor was a small truck selling Sno-Cones – it surely was a commentary on the weather,
As I walked up to the path to the top of the Tor, I was amazed at how steep the pathway was, but, the determined pilgrim, I put on my robe and began the ascent. As I moved around the side of the Tor, I was impressed by the view: clouds stretched across the sky, but the land stretched into small hills or mountains in the distance, remnants, perhaps, of the old straight tracks of which I had read. When I finally reached the top and Saint Michael’s Tower, I knew that I had made it to a special place. Druids and interested people were milling about and the wind was blowing. A light rain was falling and the air was full of anticipation.
Suddenly, from across the way, I heard “Drum! Ca va?”. Paul, one of our ADF members from Wales just happened to be on hand. In a sea of new people, it was unexpected to see a familiar face. It made me think that perhaps there were more general commonalities than I expected.
The ritual was a beautiful OBOD rite, and while the weather was cool and rainy, the work that had been done by each of the grades was really appropriate to what was to be done. A raven kept circle clockwise around the tower, riding the updrafts. I took this as a favourable sign. The rite was a success and the walk down the Tor ( a much easier route ) was not a chore, but a joy.
The evening was filled with food, fun, and entertainment, with bardic performances and offerings by a number of members. At the end of this long day, I was very tired and sleep did not take long to find and embrace me. The Inn where I stayed was called The Apple Tree. What a perfect name for an Bed and Breakfast in Avalon. I slept the sleep of sweetness and delight.
The next day was to be a busy day: Philip would give his view of the next 30 years, I would be invited to speak about ADF, and then Philip and I would speak together and field questions and discuss our commonalities. I was very excited for the day, yet rueful of the thought that this glorious gathering would come to an end.
The next day, we gathered again and listened to Damh the Bard – which is exquisite in person, I must say. Philip spoke about the progress that OBOD has made in the last thirty years and talked about his vision of the future. I was then given the opportunity to speak about ADF and I talked about some of the things that I feel define ADF: our polytheism, Isaac’s vision, the Core Order of Ritual, and our focus on hospitality and making offerings. I talked about how we honour the Kindreds: the Ancestors, the Spirits of Nature and the Shining Ones. I also spoke about how I felt that we share a common link – our Druidry and our love for nature. While our rituals may be different, we still gather and worship on the High Days like all Druids do. There is a fire in our rituals and fire is honoured in theirs as well. We call to the Land, the Sea, and the Sky, and, in their own way, they do as well.
Philip and I shared a microphone and a common cable that attached us both for our question and answer session. . This was a practical electronic requirement but it was also a symbol of how we used a common link to bring us together: our Druidry. We talked about our similarities and our differences: ADF has a clergy whereas OBOD does not; ADF is neopagan and OBOD is not. We could dwell on the differences, but the similarities are much more interesting.
As the gathering ended, I was left with a profound sadness at seeing the many kind people leave for their own lives, and I for mine. Philip was kind enough to drive me to London for my rendezvous the next day with the continent. On the way to London, we drove by Stonehenge and I felt that my trip was complete. As I stood on the curb and watched Stephanie and Philip drive away, I began to miss Glastonbury and the beauty of my pilgrimage. I was already thinking about how I could return again, and hopefully soon.
After all, we are all Druids.