Frequently Asked Questions About the Course
Where do the teachings that make up the course come from?
Many people believe that the teachings of the Druids were lost with the coming of Christianity, and that we couldn't possibly be teaching authentic Druid wisdom. But we believe that we are. The teachings given in the course are derived from five strands:
The first, and most important, comes - surprisingly to many - from very far back in time, and almost certainly to the teachings of the Druids before the coming of Christianity. We believe these teachings were entrusted to future generations by being encoded in certain ancient stories. Within these stories we can find embedded entire programmes of Druidic training, which form the core of the teachings that we present in the training of the Order. In addition to this material, we draw on the wisdom of the Druidic triads, which were recorded by Christian clerics but which reflect much of the wisdom of their pre-Christian ancestors.
The second strand has its source in the much later period of the Druid Revival, which began over three hundred years ago, at the end of the seventeenth century. Our Order traces its lineage to this period, and from this source of teachings we have inherited certain ritual forms and teachings. Some of these we have discarded as inappropriate to the modern age, but others have been kept, not only for their beauty and relevance, but because they too might well derive from earlier sources, or draw their inspiration from them.
The third strand comes from a more recent time, about forty years ago, when the previous Chief of the Order, Philip Ross Nichols, together with a group of fellow-druid members of the Ancient Druid Order, formed The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, still honouring its connections through the Ancient Druid Order back to its founding in the time of the Druid Revival, but taking the decision to incorporate more study of Celtic source material, and to include a celebration of the four Celtic fire festivals. Ross Nichols was a friend of Gerald Gardner, the founder of the modern Wicca movement, and the evidence of the intellectual cross-fertilisation that occurred between them can now be seen in both Wiccan and Druid teachings. Nichols edited Gardner's first book on Wicca, and contributed material to his second book.
The fourth strand comes from the contribution of the present Chief of the Order, Philip Carr-Gomm, to the teachings. Having trained with Ross Nichols, and having trained in psychology and psychotherapy, (in particular Jungian analytical therapy and Psychosynthesis) Philip was asked to lead the Order in 1988.
The fifth strand comes from the contributions of many contemporary scholars and specialists in Druidry and Celtic spirituality, who have offered their insights and writings to the world, and in some cases specifically to the Order, to help build a body of teachings that are truly relevant and helpful to students of Druidry in the modern world. Their contributions are referenced in detail in the bibliographies and indexes provided at each stage in the Order's training.
Do I have to complete the Bardic course in a year?
Not at all. Many members find a year is sufficient time for them to follow the course, but many also take longer - 18 months to two years or more. There is no pressure to complete the course, and each student is encouraged to follow the course at their own pace.
How can I become a Druid in such a short time when the classical authors said it took nearly twenty years to become a Druid?
In ancient times it took nineteen years to become a Druid, but this course of training included many of those subjects that we learn today at school. And nineteen years is also a symbolic length of time: it represents a Metonic cycle: a calculation of the time between two almost identical eclipses, and a calculation which also succeeded in uniting the solar and lunar calendars. And so nineteen years symbolises the time it might take for someone to unite the sun and moon, the Masculine and the Feminine, within their beings.
Today it still takes a long time to achieve this union in the depths of our souls, and the study of Druidry is a lifetime pursuit for many. But we no longer need to train for nineteen years before we can call ourselves a Druid. In fact the term Druid has now come to denote, for many, the type of spirituality they follow. And as for training, we have found that most members taking the course reach the Druid level of training in about three years, although it is possible to achieve this in just over two years.
Is there a lot of course work - will I be able to manage?
Although we do mail you quite a lot of material, we believe you will find it easy to work with. Over the years we have received hundreds of letters from members saying how they have found following the course feels like 'coming home' to them, and how it has changed their lives. They find the Gwersi simple and yet at the same time profound and inspiring. Even with a busy life, most people find the time to work with all the material we send them. And your tutor is always available to help you. You do not need to write essays to follow the course - it is not a conventional 'correspondence course'.
Is the Course suitable for me if I have had mental health issues?
Many people go through difficult times in their life, and the course can be very helpful and supportive at such times. But you should not enrol on the course if you have ever been diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia or a psychotic condition.The reason for this is that while much of the course material can be instructive and helpful to anyone, the course does offer meditations, visualizations and rituals which are designed to 'open people up' to their unconscious states and potentially other levels of perception. For those who haven't suffered from such a condition this process can be helpful, but if you have, these exercises have the potential to be counter-productive. If the training was undertaken in a face-to-face situation the exercises could be paced and adjusted to suit the individual, but since the course is administered from a distance, such adjustment and monitoring just isn't possible.
Although the distance learning programme is not suitable if you have had these challenges, Druidry can still be followed as a spiritual way/philosophy/religion by making use of the many resources available on the web and in books.
Can a friend or partner follow the course with me?
Yes - but we do ask that they write to advise us that they are working with your material and that they send a registration fee of £25. By registering on the course they will be entitled to their own tutor, and will be able to progress through the Grades, provided they fulfil the criteria as laid out in the course.
Is there an age limit for the course?
To join the Order and take the course you must be at least 18 years of age. In exceptional circumstances we can accept enrolments from students who are 16 or 17, but their enrolment must be accompanied by a letter from a parent or guardian confirming that they are happy for them to be taking the course. We appreciate that many younger people would like to take the course, but over the years we have found that the material presented simply cannot be assimilated by those under 16.
How does the course work and how much does it cost?
You can either enrol on the course right away or you can start off by sending for an introductory package, which gives the first month's work of the course, together with details of the Order's Sacred Grove Planting Programme and Campaign for Ecological Responsibility. This costs £15 in the UK. Higher fees apply in other countries to cover airmail postage and currency conversion costs (£17 Europe, £18 US & Rest of World). You also receive the first CD of the audio version of the course in this package, to help you choose whether you would like to follow the audio + text version, or whether you would like to receive just the text only.
After sampling all this material, if you feel it isn't right for you, you can either keep the materials, or send them back to us and we will refund your money. But if you decide you would like to enrol on the course, we will send you a package each month for the next twelve months. Each package contains four Gwersi to study (in audio or text format or both), and a copy of Touchstone - a monthly magazine which contains articles and poetry, and gives details of Groves and Seed-Groups, Members' Notices and news of forthcoming events, workshops and other items of interest.
In addition to the monthly Gwersi, through the year we also send you the Bardic Companion, a CD of the Sacred Grove and Light-Body exercises, and of Gaelic Pronunciation, and the Book of Ritual plus the full ceremonies for each of the eight seasonal festivals.
In addition to the material that you receive, you may correspond about your experiences with the course with a tutor who is personally allocated to you, and we provide you with the passwords to gain access to the private members' website and forums.
If you're in the UK the cost of the text course works out at £3.75 a week, and the text + audio course £6.15 a week. Higher fees apply in other countries to cover airmail postage and currency conversion costs. But Paypal and staged payment plans are available to help you, and if you enrol on the full course online now, we include the Introductory package for free. Click on the Join button on the right-hand side of this page to view details of fees, and full descriptions and photos of the materials you will receive.
We do not want financial hardship to prevent people following the course, so if you really find that even with the easier payment methods, you still cannot afford the fees, please write to us explaining your circumstances. Concessions are also often available for camps, retreats and workshops in the event of financial difficulties.
If I enrol on the text version of the course can I decide to receive the CDs too at a later stage?
Yes! At any time you can contact us and ask to receive the CDs too, for a supplement.
How much does it cost to complete the other Grades?
The fee structure is calculated in the same way as the Bardic Grade, and a similar amount of material is sent during the Ovate and Druid Grades. The Ovate course is available in text and audio versons, and we hope to have the audio version of the Druid grade ready in 2013. Each Grade is complete in itself and takes about a year to complete. You must start with the Bardic Grade.
It is not necessary to progress from one to the other, and some members choose to remain as Bards or Ovates.
How come it costs this much to receive the course?
We send you a great deal of material and it all costs money to produce, and everything is sent airmail to prevent delays. If we could find a way of reducing these costs we would, but in the meanwhile offices, computers, postage, printing and so on all need to be paid.
The photographs shown in the 'More Information' windows that you can access if you click on the 'Join & Enrol' button will give you an idea of how much we actually send you, and in addition to what we mail there are many benefits of membership that cannot be presented in this way, including mentoring, gatherings, camps, retreats, private website and forums. We believe the amount requested is very fair considering all the benefits of membership and the amount of material we send, and that you will agree with this when you see all that we send you in the introductory package. But if you don't, or if you feel it isn't right for you, just send it all back to us and we will refund your payment in full.
What is your Environmental Policy?
We aim to produce and distribute the course with as little environmental impact as possible. Storage cases for the course are made from 100% recycled cardboard and whenever we can we use 100% recycled paper, with chlorine-free paper from managed forests as a second choice. We also allocate a proportion of the course fees to tree planting. This money is donated directly to Trees for Life to help reforest the Caledonian Forest in Scotland, and The Woodland Trust to create new woodlands and to help preserve woodland in the UK. We are also working with Maori friends in Aotearoa, New Zealand, to help preserve and maintain a sacred site in the wilderness, and with Tree Aid to fund tree planting and management in Dogon country in Mali. In addition we have initiated two projects to help protect and preserve the environment: The Campaign for Ecological Responsibility and The Sacred Grove Planting Project. Full details are sent to all members on joining.
Is the course available in other languages?
The course is also available in text versions in French, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese, Czech and German language editions. See www.druidry.eu for more information. The audio version is only available in English.
Is the course available in a downloadable format?
We create the course materials with as much care and attention to detail as possible. They are sent in the 'old-fashioned' way through the mail to you. Druidry is a spirituality that celebrates the physical world, and as our lives become increasingly dominated by the internet and electronic devices, we believe it is important to balance the speed and ease these offer, with interaction with physical rather than virtual objects. For our psychological and physical health we need to be grounded in the embodied world, and we hope that the way the course is designed will encourage this balance.
Both virtual and physical delivery create environmental impacts. Our reliance on the virtual world creates disposal problems for old computers, monitors, printers, and cartridges that end up in landfill. Computers and servers consume vast amounts of energy. Printing and mailing also carries impacts, but we offset the number of trees cut down to produce the paper we use. In addition to using recycled or managed forest paper, and running our own Sacred Grove Planting Programme and Campaign for Ecological Responsibility, we support three tree-planting charities: Trees for Life, Tree Aid and The Woodland Trust. The cardboard we use comes from a local factory that has won environmental awards, and uses only recyled cardboard, in addition to running a duck rescue project on the land beside the factory.
The writer Hakim Bey offers other reasons why posting the course is the best method: ‘Mail-order mysticism’ may sound like a joke to the serious, orthodox, traditional, or academic ‘expert’ in religion, and to the professional gurus whose ‘Work’ consists of personality-monopoly and psychological authoritarianism, but… there's something magical about the mail - voices from the Unseen, documents as amulets - and something very American, democratic and self-reliant… ancient spirits-of-places intersecting with modern communications networks that are placeless, spooky, and abstract. And the mail itself now seems antique - a lost modernity, 19th century, sepia, violet ink - a fitting medium for the transmission of secrets.'
Can I become a member without enrolling on the course?
Enrolling on the course is necessary if you would like to join the Order. The reason for this is that the Order is at heart a Mystery School, an Initiatic Order, that works by offering three levels of initiation (into the Bardic, Ovate and Druid 'schools'). You are always free to leave should you ever wish - there are no oaths that you have to make - but by making a commitment and following the course you are joining a community of people all over the world who are working with the same teaching materials, meditatons, exercises and ceremonies. This gives a wonderful feeling of harmony and connection that makes Order gatherings and events special and magical.
I have studied spiritual subjects for years. I am not a beginner - why should I start at the beginning of the OBOD course?
The course works on many levels, but it is primarily experiential rather than academic. It takes you on a journey of the heart and soul with meditations, rituals, exercises, poetry and teaching material that has nothing to do with how much you have previously studied, or how much you know. For this reason people with no prior experience of a spiritual path feel as much at home with the material as those who have followed other paths over many years. You are also welcome to return the materials undamaged we send you at any time within the first three months if you find that they are not for you, and we will refund the course fees to you in full.
How do I apply to join and receive the course?
If you would like to receive the introductory package which includes a CD, the booklet Wild Wisdom - introducing the Order and Druidry, a booklet entitled The Sacred Grove, sample lessons of the course, and details of the Campaign for Ecological Responsibility, you can do this online - click on the Join button on the right-hand side of this page. Full details on how to enrol on the full course come with the Introductory package. If you are absolutely sure you want to enrol on the full course you can also do this, and receive the introductory package too.