To begin with, we ask you to think of Druidry as a rich and beautiful tapestry that embraces all facets of life, and what follows as some of its key threads as interpreted by The Melbourne Grove (TMG).
Druidry is an experiential and profoundly personal path. At TMG we respect that it is the right and responsibility of every person to find their own way through life. We have found that the course offered by the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids assists this process for us, and in keeping with the Order, we encourage people to explore their own ideas about druidry and to sound the depth of their own thinking.
Druidry acknowledges the sensual aspect of life. Rather than yearning to escape from it, druids seek a close-up and personal relationship with life as experienced directly through our senses, which are far more than the usual five. At TMG we are sensitive to the beauty of the land that hosts our ceremonies and our very existence. By loving the land and the life that it makes possible, we move increasingly closer to intuiting what life and the land want from us. This has led us to some anciently sacred sites that we seek to honour, and conversely, enabled us to bring honour to places otherwise ignored. By so doing, the voice of the land finds expression in us.
Druidry has always been a bardic path. The authors of The Book of English Magic explain ‘bardic’ like this: “Bards were trained in the magic of sound, using the power of words and music to spellbind their listeners. They were the story-tellers and the genealogists of the tribe whose prodigious memories were trained to retain long lists of ancestors, and hundreds of stories of their heroic deeds.” In keeping with this bardic tradition, participants in TMG seasonal celebrations are encouraged to contribute to an Eisteddfod and if they have time, to memorize their contribution to the ritual by heart. In this, and many other ways, druidry as a bardic path strengthens the mind so that it can act as an intermediary for sophisticated states of consciousness.
Bardism and Druidry have a rich heritage to draw from. Philip Carr-Gomm writes: “Druidry is not the recent invention of Romantics, New Agers, or Hippies but stands in a long and historically linked line of magical schools that stretch back in time via the Victorian magicians of the Golden Dawn, the Cunning folk of popular magic, the alchemists and Anglo-Saxon wizards to – yes – even the ancient Druids”. At TMG we seek to understand this heritage and learn from it but we are also attentive to the way that druidry is evolving to meet the needs of the time and the place that we currently live in.
Just as the age we live in and the locality we engage with, bring diversity to our tradition, so does everything that lives in that locality influence the way that we represent and express our druidry. At TMG we adapt just as nature adapts, without compromising our integrity. By keeping faith with nature, we discover the magic of diversity as it opens us up to the greater potential of ourselves and humanity.
Druidry is magical path in the sense that Life itself is magical and that each one of us is a co-creator in this magic. At TMG such magic is treated with the respect it deserves. We know that our rituals are magical and that they not only impact on our environment but on ourselves as well. In other words, what is enacted outwardly through our rituals and our relationships, impacts on us inwardly too.
In druidry, all of life is sacred, although there are times when this is hard to accept, let alone understand. At TMG we seek to understand by observing, listening, and paying attention to the patterns inherent in life as reflected in nature.
As you can see, Druids seek a profound rather than superficial understanding of life. To this end we engage in the ritual celebration of life. As well as honouring the cycle of the seasons of the year, TMG conducts rituals that celebrate the cycle of the ‘seasons’ of life: birth and naming, commitments and renewals, death and memorials. We have a celebrant who is legally authorized to conduct weddings. We also conduct home and land blessings.
Druidry defies limitation to one mythology. In their application to the Charity Commission of England and Wales, The Druid Network put it this way: “Druidry cannot be defined by or limited to the reverence of one deity or a pantheon. Thus while most within Druidry honour what are known as the Celtic named and mythologized deities, other honour Christian, Saxon, Nordic or Classical Pagan gods. Many honour animistic and conceptual forms of deity. These differences do not divide or dilute the tradition, however, for such differences are integral parts of the tradition’s essential nature.” At TMG we respect each other’s personal mythology and seek not to change it, but to allow it to broaden and enrich our own perspective.
As a counterpoint to this, and just like nature, Druidry has an underlying structure that maintains its integrity. Ours is a flexible structure, which allows people to inject their own ideas into it. Through the ‘scaffolding’ we have in place, we can combine the best of both worlds: stability and ingenuity, predictability and surprise.
Druidry is sometimes referred to as a ‘green spirituality’ because its participants care about the environment. Universally, we are keen to do whatever we can to reduce our harmful impact on the planet and increase our beneficial impact on the world we share with a myriad of life forms. At TMG we have members who are actively engaged in weeding and planting projects, and who contribute their personal resources to a variety of ethical initiatives.
Our external activism is sustained by our internal activism. Druidry is essentially a mystical path that appreciates that the sacred, by any name, resides in all of life. At TMG we understand that as you do to nature, so you do to yourself. Reflection, contemplation, and introspection are a necessary aspect of druidry and of taking responsibility for the impact of one’s deeds, words, and thoughts.
For those who are willing to work at, druidry is a transformative path. No-one at TMG will tell you that this is easy. Druidry is not for those who would prefer to remain the metaphorical caterpillar and miss out on the ecstasy of freedom.
Druidry is unafraid to break new ground. Just so, the organization we are a part of, OBOD, could be called a ground-breaking organization. It began with lessons and notes from its founder, Ross Nichols, which were soon built on by his successor, Philip Carr-Gomm. Today it is an international organization based on a magical training program developed by Philip which is grounded in both psychological and esoteric understanding. Lessons are sent as booklets or CD’s and a team of tutors, internet forums, monthly journal, camps and other gatherings. Members are free to form seed-groups and groves, explore their own ideas, and make their own breakthroughs. In like manner, TMG has tilled fresh soil. We have an innovative vision to guide us that uses ancient mythological imagery to keep us mindful of the sacredness of what we do. Scholars don’t often agree, but on the matter of ancient druidry, they all accept that no one knows what the druids of pre-Roman times actually did. This makes our druid ancestors open game in the modern imagination. It also gives us the freedom to explore what they might have done and what they would do today if they lived in our times. For example, the Ogam is an alphabetical system used by the Celts, and so their druids might have used it to structure their rituals and so we have been experimenting with this idea. Also based on the Ogam, one of our members offers a Course in Druid Mysticism. Like everything else we do, it is hands-on and has the potential to heal wounds and promote well-being.
Above all, Druidry supports the inherent harmony of life. Some people may only see toil and woe in our existence, but the druid senses that behind the apparent arbitrariness of life, there lies an essential harmony. In nature this is experienced as the eye of the hurricane. Free will might have given people the power to create havoc and to perceive life as chaotic, yet we can also choose to ere on the side of the bigger picture and support a vision of beauty and peace. We believe that by celebrating the 8-fold wheel of life as reflected by the seasons of the year, we enhance the likelihood of peace in our world. Our seasonal celebrations provide the opportunity for busy humans to take ‘time out’ 8 times a year and celebrate Life. During these ceremonies we attune to what is going on around us, express our appreciation, and deepen our connection with the other life forms who share this planet with us. These special times in the Southern Hemisphere are:
Winter Solstice (~ June 21) – focusing on the light within
Imbolc (~August 1) – first signs of spring
Spring Equinox (~ September 21) –new growth now evident
Beltane (November 1) – high spring, peak fertility, beginning of summer
Summer Solstice (~ December 21) – light of the Sun at its strongest
Lughnasadh (~February 1) – first harvest
Autumn Equinox (~ March 21) – time of reflection
Samhuin (~May 1) – time of release
Please note that our celebrations are not ‘public’ in the way that most people understand public ritual. The Melbourne Grove was founded by members of OBOD for members of OBOD. We are serious about our chosen spiritual pathway; it is our means of personal, social, and spiritual development. However we conduct most of our celebrations on public land for the benefit of all and we respect that visitors to the site have as much right to be there as we do. Also, we have set ourselves up so that members can bring those friends who are genuinely interested in what we do. And we are happy to make new friends, especially with people who love the Earth as we do.
We’ve given you much to think about and will end thus: Druidry is a part of the Old Ways that can never die, for they are a part of the Land, and the Land is part of us.