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An invitation to a very special day

The Glories of Mount Haemus - An Invitation to the fourth Mount Haemus Day – 3rd September 2016

“Hark! Haemus resounds with the Bacchanals’ cries.” (Alexander Pope)

Where on earth is Mount Haemus?  In the past The Balkan Mountains were known as Haemus Mons but for Druidic associations we need to go to Ross Nichols. In The Book of Druidry, he recounts how organised groups of Druids were in existence from 800CE.  In this year, Nichols claims, a network of alchemists founded Cor Emrys, an organisation that was suppressed in the eleventh century. However, secret Druid cells survived and came together in 1245 as the Mount Haemus Grove.  Nichols attributed this information to the  secret teachings of the Ancient Druid Order.

In the First Mount Haemus Lecture Ronald Hutton states he can find no academic work supporting this history. However, William Stukeley, in the mid 18th Century wrote letters describing himself as 'a Druid of the Grove of Mount Haemus'. This refers to Stukeley’s house on Highgate Hill where he met with a group of friends.  In Greek mythology, a cave on Mount Haemus is one of the homes of Boreas, god of the destructive north wind. Perhaps his house, on windy Highgate Hill, was a draughty one.

The Bibliotheca (Pseudo-Apollodirus) from the 1st/2nd Century recounts a story of  Zeus fighting the dragon Typhon at Mount Haemus in Thrace. The mountain gained its name from the blood that gushed from the dragon, and splashed its slopes when Zeus hurled back the mountain peaks the dragon had launched at the god.

What can I expect from the Mt Haemus day? It sounds potentially alarming!  Every year a researcher is given a scholarship by OBOD (thanks to the generosity of the Order’s patroness Dwina Murphy-Gibb) to write a paper on a topic of interest to Druids. The paper is published online at druidry.org, and every four years the Mount Haemus scholars come together to share the fruits of their research with OBOD members and friends. This makes each Mount Haemus Day unique, and you can see brief films of the 2004 and 2012 events on the Mt Haemus page here.

Since the last gathering in 2012, the following papers have been published:

·      Magical Transformation in the Book of Taliesin by Kristoffer Hughes of the Anglesey Druid Order 

·      An Approach to the work of E. Graham Howe – The Druid of Harley Street by Dr. Ian Rees, a psycho-spiritual psychotherapist

·      Music and the Celtic Otherworld by Dr Karen Ralls

·      Druidry and Archaeologists in the later 20th Century by Dr. Julia Farley, Curator of the European Iron Age Collections at the British Museum


Karen Ralls unfortunately can't be with us on 3rd September, but the other three Mt Haemus scholars will be, and in addition to their presentations, poet and teacher Liz Cruse will present her research, entitled 'Shakespeare’s Druid Grove'.

In addition to this collection of intellectual delights, OBOD Bards including Andy Letcher, will sing, play and speak poetry for you. There will be an exhibition of original Tarot art, including Linda Sutton’s exotic Opera Tarot, Cilla Conway’s exquisite Byzantine Tarot, and Rex Van Ryn and Steve Dooley's extraordinary English Magic Tarot. The ticket price of £37.80 (concessions £32.70) includes all this, refreshments throughout the day and a delicious organic farmhouse lunch. As ever with OBOD events, there will be the pleasure of meeting old friends and making new ones. If you have never been to a Mt Haemus day, or will be coming on your own to an OBOD event for the first-time, rest assured the atmosphere is warm and convivial.

So do I have to go to the Balkans? Or Highgate?  No, the 2016 Mount Haemus gathering will take place at Sheepdrove Organic Farm and Eco Conference Centre. This is in Berkshire close to the M4. Sheepdrove is a working farm. It also has some accommodation for bed and breakfast so you may wish to make a weekend of it. However, accommodation is not covered by the ticket price. This is a new venue for us and one we feel is entirely in keeping with the principles of OBOD. See their site at www.sheepdrove.com. The day will begin at 9.30 with coffee and refreshments and end at 5.15p.m.

My opening quotation from Alexander Pope suggests a Bacchanalian day. This is not strictly accurate. Frenzied dancing across the fields is not on the programme. But I can assure you it will not be draughty, nor will there be gods and dragons fighting. Instead, the Fourth Mount Haemus Gathering will offer a day of interest, enchantment and many pleasures! We look forward to seeing you there.

How do I find out more and book? Go to www.wegottickets.com/event/348549

Liz Cruse