In March 1994 I sent off for the introductory leaflet for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I remember receiving it in the post a few days later, opening the envelope, seeing the stone ‘trilithon’ on the cover, and then reading about the Druids, the Ovates, the Bards. As I read I realised that I’d thought this way for years. I was so excited that I immediately sent off for their introductory pack. Soon, this large brown envelope appeared through my letterbox, so I took it to Ditchling Common pond, to read it by the water. It was a beautiful hot day. I settled down and began to read…
How the price of a stamp can change your life.
16 years later I am standing in Glastonbury Town Hall with 200 other Druids. A ceremony has been prepared for two people – the Pendragon of the Order, Will Worthington, and myself – the person who will shortly step into the role he has so wonderfully fulfilled over the past 19 years. I am feeling excited, nervous, a waterfall of emotion is flooding over me as I see Will stand before the altar, and return the Order’s sword. He is honoured, he is celebrated, he is loved. Tears are filling my eyes as I know just how much he has gone through during those 19 years, and what this moment must mean to him.
Then I am brought forward.
I have been a facilitator of the Anderida Grove for 13 years. I have initiated many people into the Bardic tradition, as I was initiated as a Bard at the Spring Equinox in 1995. After completing the training courses of the Order in 2002 I asked my Grove to re-initiate me as a Bard as this is where I felt my life’s journey had led me, and it’s where I wished to stay. So I hadn’t been through a rite of passage like this for 8 years. It’s good to remember what it feels like. The unknown, the way it can feel like the Universe is watching you, seeing what you do, listening to your responses, taking note, and shifting things into alignment. There is no need to go into any detail about the ritual itself. All of those feelings returned to me, and reminded me once more of the hidden power that lies behind this modern Druidic tradition. I was given the blessed scabbard, and the Order’s sword, and proclaimed the new Pendragon of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. With it, new doors have opened. I felt as I did the day after my Bardic initiation. It’s like my eyes have opened even more to the wonders of life. It’s hard to explain how this all feels. I am so full of the excitement for life I could just explode! But there are quieter, subtle shifts too. Magic is happening.
I’m off to the USA on Saturday to play some concerts at the Pagan Spirit Gathering. It’s a week-long camp so I’ll hopefully have some time to just sit quietly and meditate, and allow this all to sink in. But I don’t think they’ll let me take the sword on the plane! I’m sure this won’t be the last post about this experience, and I thought long and hard about posting anything at all. I didn’t want it to seem like an ego driven thing, but silence can also be interpreted as ego. I take this role on humbly, with honesty, and integrity, and with the aim of service to the Order, and this tradition I love so much.
I’ve just returned home after a wonderful weekend in Glastonbury at the Pagan Federation’s Wessex conference. It was held at the Town Hall, a venue very familiar to me as that’s where I organise the two gatherings each year for members of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. I was playing in the evening, just before my mates The Dolmen took to the stage, and I was also asked to give a presentation in the morning about the modern Bardic tradition – The Creative Quest.
I don’t tend to do talks. Put me in front of a crowd of 1500 people with a guitar and I feel completely at home. 200 in a hall, minus the guitar, and I was very nervous – I thought I would feel naked, exposed, but I needn’t have worried at all. This is my passion, my life-quest, and when I sat down to write the talk, I discovered that I really had a lot to say! The challenge became more about how I fitted everything in!
In the end I got really excited about it, and the response from the audience has made me wonder whether I should organise a Bardic weekend workshop/retreat. Do get in touch if you’d be interested.
The evening concert approached, and The Dolmen arrived with their PA system. If you’ve ever seen these guys play, you’ll know that it is impossible to just sit still and listen – you just have to get up and dance. In preparation for this there was a massive gap between the stage and the audience. Now, people do occasionally get up and dance to my songs, but that is rare. More often I entertain the audience in the traditional folk concert style, with conversation, music, singalong choruses, stuff like that. I looked at that dance floor gap, and realised that I just wouldn’t be able to communicate from that far away. I took a gamble and made the decision to play the concert completely acoustically. So I set up my three instruments on the dance floor, right in front of the audience. It was the right decision.
The danger might have been that some people would talk, and I just wouldn’t have been able to compete with the noise, but I am so blessed to have such loyal audiences, and this was no exception. It was the audience themselves who asked the few remaining chatterers to quieten down, and soon I had their full attention, and the magic began.
What a night. It always feels so wonderful when you hear people singing along with the choruses of your songs. But when they also join in with the verses, you really know something is happening! At one point during Lady of the Silver Wheel I sang the wrong verse, but the audience sang the right one – so I just stopped singing, continued to strum the mandolin, and they carried on for a while singing without me! Absolute magic! It was like that throughout the whole set, the circle span with the audience feeding from my energy, I fed from theirs – the perfect night.
When I got my Ovation guitar 8 years ago, a musician friend of mine said, “You know what they say. If you can’t get an ovation, buy an Ovation!” Cheeky sod, I thought. Well, on Saturday night I got my very first standing ovation. It was a point in my musical life I will never forget. So if you are reading this, and you were there, thank you!