Anderida Gorsedd Spoils of Annwn camp

The theme of this year’s Anderida Gorsedd Autumn camp was the Taliesin poem The Spoils of Annwn.

From Friday night through to Sunday midday around 80 people worked with the powers and hidden mysteries of this poem that has been attributed as the origin of the Arthurian Grail Quest. On Saturday night the people at the camp boarded Arthur’s ship Prydwen that has been built in the field, and crossed the Waters of the West to walk through the Spiral Castle of Caer Siddi and travel to the Seven Caers – to look deep into the Cauldron of Annwn.

The following short film was taken during Saturday night with sensitivity to the magic of the moment, and I’m so glad it was as it captures the magic of the Anderida camps beautifully.


Spirit of Albion the Movie – First Trailer

Here’s the first little trailer for the forthcoming movie, enjoy!

In an alternate Universe, yes…

Last Sunday, after the Anderida Gorsedd open ritual at the Long Man of Wilmington, many of the people stayed behind to be extras in the Spirit of Albion movie. It was an amazing day, and here is a short interview conducted by my friend Greg while I had a little time out of filming, and had the opportunity to watch a scene from the film develop.

The One Tree

After a lovely concert at the New Horizons moot in Stockport I drove the next day to the Shri Venkateswara (Balaji) Temple of UK, Tividale, for the One Tree Gathering, a convention of Druids and Hindus organised between the International Centre for Cultural Studies and the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. I had been asked to organise the Druid section of the musical ‘cultural exchange’ that was due to take place in the afternoon so asked my good friends Claire Hamilton to tell a harp-accompanied story, and Kate and Corwen to play some music and song. I’d join them as the third act.

My TomTom guided me into the middle of a housing area, and then told me I had reached my destination. I looked around and thought, it must be in one of these houses. But I stopped in a local garage and they told me to head back into some roadworks, then turn right. I followed his directions and found the Temple. It was a massive area of land, I’d say around 12 acres, upon which a number of Hindu temples had been built. Some additional building was still going on. My next quest was to find out where within this complex the One Tree Gathering was taking place. There  were hundreds of people walking around, taking photos, heading off to ritual, taking in the vibe of the place. I eventually found the reception who vaguely told me to “go outside and turn right”. I did, nobody there. Eventually I asked another person and they pointed me to one of the temple buildings, and when I got inside I saw the One Tree Gathering logo. I was in the right place but everyone had gone to lunch, so I just hung out and had a tea, and eventually I was joined by the others, returning from lunch.

The cultural exchange was due to start at 5pm, so I had arrived early enough to take part in the afternoon’s activities. The first of which was to watch Satish Kumar’s Earth Pilgrim film. I remember watching this on the BBC and blogging about it a couple of years ago. If you’ve never heard of Satish, head to his website, he is an amazing man. Earth Pilgrim really set me up for the next activity which was for the Druids to take part in some Hindu ceremonies, and the Hindus to go off with Philip Carr-Gomm and Thea Worthington who would lead them through a Samhain Druid ritual. We did a Hindu tree blessing, a birthday blessings, and a Puja in honour of Ganesh. What quickly became apparent is that their religious ceremonies are still a vital part of their everyday life. There was no separation between their spirituality, their family life, and their culture. This is something I think our society has sadly lost. Much of the time our traditional folklore is practiced as a tip of the hat to older ways, as a curiosity from days past rather than as a valuable continuation of a ancient custom. But here the rituals were still relevant, still an active part of everyday life, and I found that very inspiring. It was deeply moving to have been a part of these rituals, and I’m sure they will influence my own practice and dedication to my Druid ways.

5pm arrived and all of the attendees gathered for the Eisteddfod. The first act was Claire Hamilton, a renowned harper and storyteller. If we were to present the Bardic Arts to another religion what better way to begin. I explained that the harp is the only instrument that can trace its origins to the bow – a weapon became the source of an instrument of peace – and my feeling that the Faerie had given that inspiration, and that whenever we play the harp, they listen. Claire did a marvellous version of the tale of Taliesin and Ceridwen, beginning with the forming of Morfran in the womb, with images of him ‘wrapping swirling mists of darkness around himself’, wonderful. Next up was Kate and Corwen, two people who are currently dedicating their lives to the rediscovery of ancient festivals and songs, trying to re-introduce us to our own history. Their set, as ever, was a journey through time, and emotion. I joined them on backing vocals for their rendition of the classic song Lowlands.

Then it was time for the first Hindu performance. A carpet was placed on the stage and about 7 people sat down, cross-legged ready to sing and play. They invited Kate and Corwen to join them on shruti box and drum. For the next 20 minutes we were treated to Hindu chant and song, each one sung by a different person, yet also joined by the audience in a ‘call and response’ pattern. The words were all in Sanskrit so I found it hard to sing along, but that didn’t matter, the Hindus sung with gusto! It was raucous in places, magical in others, and all the time I knew that this was their way of worship – celebratory and inclusive. I thought of the magic of language, and that when my friends in the Czech Republic call to the Quarters in their mother tongue it also holds such magic. I wondered what ‘We all come from the Goddess’ sounded like to someone who couldn’t understand the words – whether or not they also felt the magic within? Or do we need more celebratory chants in our modern Pagan movement, rather than the three note chants we currently hear around our campfires? But that’s a topic for another blog post.

This was followed by an energetic performance of music with drum and chanter. I was next on stage, and time had moved on – we were running a little late. It seems that there is not just Druid Mean Time, but Hindu Mean Time too! We were never going to keep to the time plan! So I thought I’d just cut my set to three songs. I started with Song of Awen (surprise, surprise…). As I played this song I realised again how universal the lyrics are, and it was lovely to see the Hindu people in the audience nodding, smiling, then joining in as they listened. I followed that with The Wheel, and finally Kate and Corwen joined me on Hal an Tow. I thought that would be it, but the final presentation from the Hindus was a sacred dance, and the dancer was still getting ready, so the three of us burst into on final song, Child of the Universe, a cover of the old Heathens All song – a perfect lyric that summed up the unity that I had felt there all day. It was after this that a dancer, dressed in beautiful traditional costume, took the stage. It was the perfect gift with which to finish the day. Graceful, sensuous, sacred, a blessing.

After we all retired for a meal together in the temple (complete with the best lime pickle I have ever tasted!), and after much hugging and exchanging of contact details, I headed back home.

I love being around open people of Faith. That open exchange of beliefs, practices, respect, and peace is something I dearly cherish. Strange then that the next day at our Anderida Gorsedd open samhain ritual at the Long Man of Wilmington, where around 85 people had gathered to celebrate together, to speak the names of loved ones who had passed into the Otherworld, to share a symbolic feast with them, to meet in circle in open friendship with people of many Paths just as I had done the day before, that an elderly gentleman approached us. He asked me and Cerri what was going on and Cerri said it was an open Druid ritual for Samhain, and that he was very welcome to join us. “Oh no!”, he replied. “I follow Jesus” And then shouted “Jesus is Lord!” across the circle. Cerri said, “That’s very nice, but we are in a ceremony and we would respect your ceremony.” So he moved away for a while, before approaching a couple of relatives of people in the ritual, continuing his research. When they explained, he began muttering under his breath, praying and chanting. On the way back he approached a number of the participants, trying to call them to his God. From tolerance and acceptance of belief  from one faith, to the fear and judgment of another in less than 24 hours. I just wish that sometimes these people would really read the New Testament, of the love Jesus showed, of the way he taught to turn the other cheek, to love your enemies and neighbours, rather than the fire and brimstone of the Old Testament.

So much love to all of my new Hindu friends, and love also to our visiting Christian, and all brothers and sisters from other spiritual paths, faiths and religions. We are all branches of The One Tree.

AnderidaFest 2010 – The Goddess and the Green Man

Me and Cerri have been hosting the Anderida camps in Sussex since September 2003. They are small magical weekend camps, limited to 60/70 people, that have a theme that we all explore during the weekend. The size of the camps means that we can all go very deeply into the theme, and in the past we have worked with the Lore of Faerie, the story of Ceridwen, two wickermen, a Dragon camp where we all walked on fire, and many more. The camps are now so popular that they sell out in less than 24 hours.

For the last two years we have also been hosting the Anderida Gorsedd conference at Southwick Community Centre, but this year we thought we’d try something different – AnderidaFest. We hired our usual camping field, and thought we’d have a go at a larger camp that still attempted to hold the same energy as our smaller events. Of course, the mere fact of having more people, and Saturday day visitors, would change things, but we thought we’d have a go. Our other camps are self-catering, but with day visitors we needed a cafe on site, so we hired Paul of the Chai cafe with his more than suitable ‘yurt’ cooking space, and massive tipi lodge. More toilets were needed, and a ritual that could hold the attention of up to 150 people. I have to say that AnderidaFest was the most stressful event me and Cerri have hosted, but the end result was absolutely worth it.

We were due to set up on Thursday, for people to start arriving on Friday around 1pm. But Thursday was a stormy day with very gusting, high winds. The weather report said that Thursday night woul be really bad with gusts of up to 70mph, but sitting around the small campfire with the people who had volunteered to help with set up, a beautiful clear sky at around 10pm, we did wonder if we should have ignored the weather reports and put up the structures anyway. But we were glad we didn’t. At around 1am the storm hit. It felt like the caravan was being driven along the ground by the sheer force of the gusts, and my thoughts were with the others who were in their tents! We all made it through, but there is no doubt that, if we had have put up the marquees, they would have been seen flying through the air above Brighton that night.

The Friday was still very windy and it was a challenge to get the structures up, but with the help of many on site, we managed to get two large marquess, and two smaller ‘temples’ put up. Over the course of the day people began to arrive and gradually the wind eased off. The opening ritual was followed by an evening of music with me and Paul Newman, Sol Carroll, Bardacious T, Paul Mitchell and Kate and Corwen. Then it was back outside to continue the music, storytelling and poetry around the fire. But me and Cerri were exhausted, so had an early night. As I lay there I could hear the songs and voices from the fireside, all singing, and laughing together, and I smiled to myself, because here, in this amazingly creative group of people, I was expendable! That felt good.

The morning arrived and started with the Dance of Life. A Native American chant/dance brought here by Ivan MacBeth, and a sound that always makes me happy. So gentle, it sets the day up, even if you don’t take part. Then after that gentle start to the day, the Pentacle Drummers arrived, walking around the camp playing tribal rhythms, letting people know that the day had begun. They ended their parade back at the central fire, bringing with them hoards of campers, like tatter-wearing, tribal drumming, Pied Pipers. We were ready for the day!

We put out a call to gather everyone in the marquee to work through the rhythm of the day. The ritual really stated now, as everyone from camp tried to squeeze into the marquees. We shared some Awens and asked that the Spirits of Place would bless our day. After the gathering we were all treated to a workshop/presentation by Barry Patterson on aspects of our Green Man. He was talking for nearly 2 hours but it literally flew past, and by the end everyone had developed a closer relationship with that Face in the Trees.

Dinner was served up to the sound and vision of the Mythago Morris who entertained us with their story of Herne the Hunter. They are really an exceptional Morris side who combine storytelling, dance, and music. Awesome.

After lunch it was back in the Marquee for another workshop/presentation, this time from Cerri and a team of other women who would take us on a journey through aspects of the Goddess. Now our friend Roland Rotherham calls the speaker spot just after lunch the ‘Graveyard Shift’. Where everyone has just eaten and if we were lions we’d be sleeping under a tree in the sunshine. So with hindsight we probably should have put Barry on in the afternoon to wake people up again, with Cerri and the girls on in the morning, as theirs was a far gentler experience. Cerri spoke of the historical and mythical aspects of the Goddess, then the Goddesses spoke with the voices of other women around the marquee. We chanted their names and invited them into our space. It was poetic, beautiful, gentle, sometimes harsh, sometimes deeply sad, as were heard their stories. The two talks, each one offering energies from the Green Man and the Goddess, were brilliant, and really set the scene for the evening’s ritual.

We were due to go into a sacred poetry workshop but time was against us. So we moved that to the opening of the evening’s ritual, which worked out to be perfect. So we ended the day with more from the Pentacle Drummers and people had an hour or so to chill and prepare. Then at around 7pm we gathered by the two temples and split into two groups. The women sat by the Goddess temple, and the men sat by the one dedicated to the Green Man. There we worked through a poetry writing process that has never failed, by the end of which everyone would have written a poem without even realising they had, and there would also be three or four poems that had been created through the ‘group mind’. The men wrote of the Goddess, and the women wrote of the Green Man. We would hear the poems as offerings during the ritual.

I then taught the men a Green Man chant, and also an Earth Healing chant we had learned during our trip to the USA. At the same time Kate Fletcher taught the women a Goddess chant and the same Earth Healing chant. I had written the Goddess and Green Man chants to ‘weave’ with one another, but didn’t know if it would work for the whole ritual. In the USA we had also been given a candle that had been lit from the Flame of Brigit in Kildare, and also relit by the Dalai Lama. From this candle we had lit two pillar candles, one in each temple, and while we were weaving our chants each person took a nightlight and lit their own candle that they could keep. Then the women walked moonwise around the field as the men walked sunwise, still chanting. When we all met up again outside the circle I was amazed  (and pleased!) that the chants were still in time, and were still weaving their web. We formed a circle and the chanting stopped as four women stepped forward and spoke the poems they had written as groups. They were beautiful. Then three men stepped forward and offered our words to the Goddess.

So we had honoured both. But what of the physical Green Men and Goddesses in the field? The men stepped forward and formed a smaller inner circle, facing outward. The women then stepped forward and formed a circle around us, facing us, facing each other. The men then began to circle clockwise and the women circled anticlockwise. We looked into each others’ eyes as we passed by, and spoke the words we felt. Yes, it was fluffy, but it was also wonderfully life affirming. We must have circled about 5 times before we stopped, many laughing. Then we turned both circles out into the night. We looked outward, thought of the Earth, our Mother. Thought of the oil leak off the Gulf, thought of the pain She is suffering at our hands. And we began the chant:

Oh Mother, hear our calling, your Children we send healing.

Over and over again. There were tears, there was a wave of emotion that spread around the circles and out into the world. We reached down and touched the Earth, made our commitments to walk a little more gently upon her back.

And then we let it go, out, with a resounding HENGWAH!

On Sunday the Goblin market really showed how, over the course of a day, we had come together as a tribe, as a community. But we keep our camps to just a weekend, so soon that community was returning to the outside world. But that feeling will always be there inside, and will be there again in September, when we explore Shamanism, and the Bull’s Hide Trance.