This weekend the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids celebrated 50 years of their organisation, founded by Ross Nichols (Nuinn). The weekend ran from Friday 6 to Monday 9 June, with fringe events and a spectacular evening of arts and entertainment on the Saturday, all held within Glastonbury town centre.
I had been asked by chosen chief, Philip Carr-Gomm if I would be available for an interview on the Friday afternoon of the event, as well as be a part of the author’s table on the Sunday. It was an honour and a pleasure to be able to do so, and to attend the variety of other things happening all over the weekend.
After a 7.5 hour drive from where I live on the coast of the North Sea in Suffolk, we arrived with 10 minutes to spare before my interview with Phillip (which will be available on the OBOD podcast, Druidcast at a later date alongside other authors and figures within Druidry and OBOD). I hobbled into the venue (having pinched a nerve in my hip the day before) and was greeting warmly by Jo, who was working in the Avalon Foundation office, Kris Hughes (one of the most lovely, witty and funny Druids you will ever meet – do check out his books and the Anglesey Druid Order) and then by Philip himself, whom I’d only ever known via email correspondence. Philip has a wonderful way of making you feel at ease, ensuring that things will run smoothly without having to say a word. He is one of those people who is utterly devoted to his passions in life, and be completely un-egotistical about it all, considering his position within the Order and in modern Druidry itself. The cult of celebrity exists even in the modern pagan world, but it has not and I highly doubt will ever influence this genuine and endearing soul.
As the interview began, Philip set me at ease straight away – it was like talking to an old friend. The people attending the interview as audience members were absolutely lovely as well – it was nice to be able to connect with them and honour their support.
After the interview I headed to the Goddess Temple, to decompress and honour this very sacred time and place. We then had supper and went back to our B&B, which was about 4 miles out of town, as when I tried to book three months earlier the town had already been overrun by Druids seeking lodging!
The following morning we attended the official opening of the weekend event. Caitlin Matthews made the first speech, talking about what it means to be a Druid today, and how those who follow the path of Druidry can proudly call themselves Druid. Professor Ronald Hutton then gave an endearing roast and toast speech about the OBOD and Philip himself, which had us all in stitches, particularly when he likened Philip’s personal appearance to a dandelion puff and fighting the urge to blow on this head to release the seeds into the world. Phillip then spoke about the Order, and a powerful dramatic interpretation of the trees of the ogham was enacted. The most beautiful aspect of the entire morning’s event, however, was the cascading chant of Awens that Damh organised. Four hundred voices raised in celebration and joy chanted the sacred sound that sent beautiful rays into the heavens even as it shook the grounds of the Abbey wherein we were situated.
Later that day was a very special ceremony on the top of Glastonbury Tor that honoured the Druidry of the past, present and future. A moving sight was seeing those that were in the different schools of learning (Bards, Ovates and Druids) coming forward and standing in three lines before the tower of St Michael, looking like three rays of awen in their tabards of blue, green and white.
In the evening the Eisteddfod was absolutely superb, with offerings from a Dutch opera singer, as well as brilliant drumming and poetry. Afterwards the chairs were cleared away and the evening’s bands came on – the dance floor was heaving and the energy was amazing. Fifteen minutes before the scheduled end of the evening, Damh jumped offstage and ran out the tent to lead us to a very special surprise in the Abbey grounds – a spectacular fireworks display that lit up the whole town. As the last of the light and noise faded into the night, the awen chant seemed to flow from the very ground itself, as hundreds of Druids honoured the peace, love, passion and more in their souls in the darkness as it sounded from their voices one last time.
The following morning I sat at the author’s table with fellow Druid authors such as Cat Treadwell, Robin Herne, Kris Hughes and more. It was a lovely chance to connect with people and offer signed copies of our work, sharing in the very special energy that Druids seem to have when it comes to learning, reading, and always questing the awen.
After that I headed to the Red Spring for some quiet, personal time – sadly the White Spring was not open. I honoured this most sacred place in England and then it was time to leave, back to my home on the other side of the country.
All in all, this weekend was filled with lovely, beautiful people who had a deep love of Druidry and the land upon which they lived. It made me proud to call myself Druid, to make me really feel part of a tribe of people who have created a lasting tradition built upon the wisdom of the ancestors of the past and holding a deep and abiding bond for our ancestors of the future that will follow in our footsteps. Long may it continue.