And if there is no hierarchy per se, why do people traditionally start as bards, then as ovates, and then as druids, why not choose the area of knowledge you want to start with?
I don't disagree at all, I just want to really grasp the logic behind it. If I say I'm an "OBOD", people just don't understand what I'm talking about.
It didn't take long: a friend of mine, who did her training in the scottish tradition long ago, who was initiated "ban-drui" in that tradition, and who is very keen on reminding me that OBOD is NEO-druidic and not druidic, responded to my calling myself "druidess" by calling me "mabinog". She wanted to remind me that I'm at the beginning of the path and probably found me arrogant to call myself "druidess". She's very watchful for that kind of thing, and is determined to make me transcend my ego because she loves me, and I'm thankful for that. But...
It was humiliating (she did it in front of fellow pagans, as she often does), and I certainly don't want to create that kind of misunderstanding in the future with her or with other people. I want to embrace my identity with humility
as part of the druidic (of neo-druidic, boy it's complicated) tradition. Without shocking people.
On another topic: we also had a discussion a few weeks ago about how much tension there is, according to her, in the druidic tradition right now. She said it is THE tradition that is the most unstable right now, because of that. She is also a rosicrucian, and apparently it happened to that tradition in the near past, and there were lots of quarrels and tensions and jibes about how things should be.
Morgane Snowy Owl
Reading your post, I am a little concerned with this friend of yours who is chastising you. What she said to you and the way she has said it (in front of other people and making you feel humiliated) borders on abusive or at least very rude behaviour in my opinion. She seems to be more focused on titles and perhaps making herself look more experienced and perhaps better than you because of her new title of Ban-Drui (which just means "female Druid", by the way. Same as "Druidess".). She might have said to you in private: "Since you are still at the start of your path, you may want to avoid calling yourself a "Druidess" and perhaps say that you are studying modern Druidry instead." I don't know the whole story, so I'll leave it at that. I'm just going on what I've read in your post and what she did rubs me the wrong way.
Also, OBOD is not exactly Neo-Druidic, even though it is modern. It is based on the Druid Revival, which Isaac Bonewits would have called "Meso-Druidism". (See here for more details: http://www.neopagan.net/Contents.html#PartTwo
) OBOD is only one of many Druid organizations around the world. All of them have their own systems of teaching. Some other Modern Druid organizations, such as ADF (http://www.adf.org
), do not even have a system that includes the titles "Bard", "Ovate" and "Druid". ADF has a pretty extensive training system for Dedicants and Clergy. In my grove, "Bard", "Ovate" and "Druid" are not grades, they are specialties. There is one course to get people started, and they can then specialize in whichever of these disciplines interests them. Someone who is interested in music, history, etc., might specialize as a Bard while someone studying medicine, psychology, divination, or who is wanting to work with various aspects of the Otherworld might be drawn to specializing as an Ovate. One is not higher nor more advanced than the other.
With regard to your two questions:
1. In OBOD, "Bard", "Ovate" and "Druid" are three grade levels with Bard being the first one. Just like in school, you start with the first grade and work your way up. It's not a hierarchy per se, but a grade system. People in the Druid grade have been through all three levels of the training course. That does not mean that everyone has to go through all three levels and it doesn't make one any less of a person if they don't go all the way to Druid. There are some limitations about starting groves and such depending on the grade, but for the most part it's not a hierarchy.
When explaining what you're doing to others, in order to prevent confusion, you might say: "I am studying Modern Druidry with an organization called the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids." or "I am beginning my studies toward becoming a Druid because I am called to the Druid path."
2. Druidry being "THE tradition that is the most unstable right now" - Really? I wouldn't say so. Modern Druidry is very diverse, that is true, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it unstable. One of the tenets of Modern Druidry is "to seek the Truth against the world", which I take to mean that each person on the Modern Druid path seeks Truth (whatever that might be) while walking that path, not just take someone else's word for it. The OBOD Bardic course is set up in a way that it is supposed to help you find that Truth for yourself, which I think is the cornerstone of any decent training as a Modern Druid. ADF is very similar as are many other groups offering training. I am actually very wary of those groups that teach things their way and that things must be done their way and only their way! One of the most beautiful things about Modern Druidry is that each Druid's search for Truth will take them in different directions. There are some similarities, which are what make us Druids and not something else entirely, but each Druid is free to think, have an opinion and develop their spirituality. Therefore, not every Druid will agree with certain things! Debate brings growth and learning, which is also a cornerstone of Modern Druidry, IMO.
I hope this helps to answer some of your questions. Wishing you all the best as you start on your journey!