Past Presiders of the Order
On its founding, The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids continued the tradition, started by the group out of which it emerged, The Ancient Druid Order, of having an honorary position, known as 'Presider' which represented the Order's links with the literary and artistic world.
Lewis Spence, author of The Mysteries of Britain and Charles Cammell, the editor of Connoisseur magazine, had both been Presiders of the ADO. In OBOD, the first Presider was Robert Armstrong, Vice-President of The Poetry Society. Then in 1988 John & Caitlin Matthews, the popular writers on Celtic spirituality, held the position jointly, later handing it on to John Michell, author of The View over Atlantis. Later, a founding member of OBOD, Melita Denning, the author of many esoteric books, took over the position.
In 1998 we changed this position and instead crowned Honorary Bards - in recognition of the contributions poets, musicians, artists and story-tellers are now making to the contemporary cultural scene. On this page we honour the Past Presiders of the Order and their contribution to the world of Druidry.
Caitlin & John Matthews
In 1988 John and Caitlín Matthews were appointed Joint Presiders in recognition of their outstanding achievements in researching Celtic spirituality, and Arthurian and Grail lore, and in recognition of their contribution to the teachings of the Order. Caitlin is the author of over 50 books including Sophia: Goddess of Wisdom, a study of Divine Feminine in Gnostic, Jewish and Christian thought and King Arthur’s Raid on the Underworld, a new translation and study of the Welsh poet Taliesin’s extraordinary poem. John Matthews has produced over ninety books on the Arthurian Legends and Grail Studies, as well as short stories and a volume of poetry. See their website.
John Michell 1933 - 2010
Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge, John wrote more than a dozen books and contributed for over a decade to The Oldie magazine.
Continuing in the great tradition of Aubrey and Stukeley, he captivated the readers of his books on the sacred landscape of Britain. In 1969, his View Over Atlantis became a cult classic, popularising the notion that Britain was criss-crossed with lines of magical earth-energy that our ancestors understood, but which we have forgotten.
Blending Alfred Watkins’ ideas about the ‘Old Straight Track’ with cabbalistic numerology, sacred geometry and theories drawn from the Chinese geomancy of Feng Shui, View Over Atlantis suggested that Stonehenge and the other great prehistoric monuments of the English landscape are laid out in accordance with sacred geometry to fulfil a magical purpose: bringing harmony to the land.
John had a great love of Druidry, writing: It is often said - usually by those who have not studied the subject - that the world-view and philosophy of the old Druids is lost beyond recall... [but] it is by no means impossible to regain in the present age the spirit of original Druid philosophy. It is essential indeed to do so; for a revival of the old Druidic way of thought, acknowledging the sanctity of the living earth and all its creatures, seems the only alternative to planetary dissolution. In 1992 he was ceremonially appointed Presider on London's Primrose Hill at the Bicentennial celebrations of Iolo Morganwg's first Eisteddfod in 1792.
The Order's last Presider, up until her death in 1997, Melita Denning was the pen-name of Vivian Godfrey, who had been one of the founding members of the Order in the 1960s. She then emigrated to the USA and with her partner Leon Barcynski (writing as Osborne Phillips) authored many books in the early days of Llewellyn Publications. From 1976 they led a magical Order, The Aurum Solis, and wrote a number of books about its philosophy and praxis, including The Magical Philosophy. On their return to Britain in the 90s we invited her to succeed John Michell as Presider of the Order she had belonged to thirty or so years previously.
The videos below feature Christine Rhone talking about John Michell's and her work; Song of the Exile: original song by Caitlín Matthews, as sung by Vanora (Dawn Bradfield) in Jerry Bruckheimer's 2004 film King Arthur; and John Michell talking about the 'Bard of Stratford' William Shakespeare.