All About Membership & the Course
Come let us build the ship of the future
In an ancient pattern that journeys far.
Robin Williamson, 'Seasons They Change'
The practice of Druidry used to be confined to those who could learn by visiting a Grove or Druid in person. But over the years the Order has developed an experience-based course which can be followed wherever you live. Thousands of people of all ages and educational backgrounds have taken this course, which works with the ideas and practices of Druidry in a thoroughly practical, yet also deeply spiritual way.
You can either join the Order and start the training course right away or you can receive an introductory package. If you find this introduction answers an inner call, then you will be welcome to start the full course and begin a journey we hope you will find exciting and rewarding. Whether you want to start right away or receive the introduction first, read on!
The introductory package contains a CD, 2 Introductory Gwersi (lessons), 2 booklets - Wild Wisdom and The Sacred Grove, a mini-poster, and an invitation to join the Order.
If you join the Order right away you receive the Introductory package described above PLUS the full training course. The course is mailed monthly over 12 months, and by the end of the year you will have received 51 Gwersi (lessons) as booklets, The Bardic Companion, The Book of Ritual, 8 festival ritual booklets, an Index, a Meditation and Pronunciation Guide CD, the monthly magazine Touchstone, access to private web forums and a personal mentor. If you would like the whole course in Audio CDs you can get these too. If after studying the introductory package you feel it is not right for you, you can send it back, and we will return your payment in full.
MORE INFORMATION ON MEMBERSHIP & THE COURSE
The course, which is published for the Order by the Oak Tree Press, includes membership of the Order and is divided into three stages or grades that correspond to the three traditional divisions of the Druids: those of the Bards, Ovates and Druids. Each grade has its own initiation which can be performed alone at home, or with others in a Grove.
The Bardic grade takes you on a journey through the cycle of the year, and introduces all the basic concepts of Druidry - showing you how it is a living Way that can be practised in the modern world, bringing a greater sense of connection with all of nature, and with the ancient heritage of the Druid wisdom-tradition.
The aim of the Bardic course is to help your life flourish and blossom - to help your Soul express itself fully in the world. It does this by helping you discover the sources of your creative power, so that their gifts can flow fully in your life. In addition, it teaches the fundamental skills and techniques of Druid spirituality: the use of ritual, of sacred space, of the circle, the directions and elements. During the first year you are taught thirteen rituals in addition to the eight Druid seasonal ceremonies. These rituals help to attune you to the natural world, to the rhythms of the earth and moon, the sun and stars. And as they do this, they help you to access your Deep Self, your Soul - that part of you which feels at one with all life.
The audio version of the course has contributions of music, storytelling and song from Loreena McKennitt, Robin Williamson, Mara Freeman, Fiona Davidson, Claire Hamilton, Myrddhin and Zil, Damh the Bard, Jim Faupel, Corvi Ridentes, Aine Furey, Philip Shallcrass and Philip Carr-Gomm.
Here’s what Frank MacEowen, author of The Mist-Filled Path says about it:
"As with most other streams of indigenous wisdom, the Druidic tradition has always been predominantly an oral tradition. Whether in a forest grove or sitting in front of a crackling hearth, the Druid tradition is a mouth-to-ear transmission of an ancient 'practical mysticism' that can guide and inspire us to live with the earth in harmony. With the OBOD teachings on audio, students of Druidry - new and seasoned alike - now have the opportunity to work with the ways of the Druid tradition in a fresh, relevant, but also traditional manner. Imagine standing in an expansive forest, or even sitting in your private garden, with a CD player or an iPod, being guided deeply into a communion with the old Druid spirit, your spiritual senses awash with spoken-word teachings, practices, poetic meditations, and heart-stirring soundscapes. This is what awaits you."
The course is presented in the form of Gwersi - a Welsh word meaning lessons. Each month you receive four Gwersi, together with a copy of the monthly magazine Touchstone, and supplementary material. The Gwersi can be sent to you in an audio version on CD, in a printed version as booklets, or you can choose to receive both the CDs and the printed texts.
The Gwersi combine seed-thoughts, exercises, poetry and teaching material, all designed to help you to truly walk the path of Druidry, rather than simply read about it. The course begins with an initiation ceremony, and you then start to follow a path laid down, initially probably thousands of years ago, and which has been encoded in an old story about a young child who becomes the finest Bard in the land.
To help you on this journey you are offered a mentor who you can consult whenever you wish, by mail or email. Some members consult their mentor often, others hardly at all. You are also sent a full index, The Book of Ritual, the eight seasonal ceremonies, and The Bardic Companion, a resource book for the course, and a CD to help you with pronunciation and meditation. Supplementary Gwersi deal with such topics as the Art of Storytelling, and the Relationship of Druidry to Wicca, Shamanism and Magic.
Because the course is experiential rather than academic, members from a wide range of educational backgrounds find the course helpful and inspiring. If you are under eighteen years of age, you must send us a letter of permission to follow the course from your parent/s or guardian when you enrol. You cannot join if you are under 16.
You can start the course at any time and take as long as you like to complete it. The course is available in six language versions: English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, and Portuguese.
The course is self-directed, and at any time you may suspend your studies, either completely or for a time. At the beginning of the course you are offered a mentor to whom you can write or not as appropriate. Most mentors are on email.
Online Forums & Groups
There are many online forums in which you can discuss Druidry, the course and related subjects. Membership allows you access to the members-only Discussion Forums where you can post your bio and interests, view and post photos and articles, and connect with members around the world.
To join the Order you need to enrol on the course. Once you enrol you become a member of a worldwide community - a Fellowship of Druids (Cairdeas Mor Shaoghal nan Druidh in Gaelic) and over the years this fellowship has grown to include groups and individuals in fifty countries on all four continents. How you choose to relate to this community is entirely up to you. Many members say that they are not the 'joining type' - they don't belong to clubs or associations, and prefer studying on their own. But if they do come to a meeting - a camp or workshop for example - they are often amazed to find themselves amongst a group of people who feel the same way as they do, and who are relaxed and friendly, and interested in the same things.
Groves and Seed-Groups
There are over 200 groves and seed-groups around the world that meet to celebrate the festivals, and at other times, and a list of these is sent with the first course package. You can start a seed-group whenever you like and you can find out how to do this here.
Gatherings, Retreats and Workshops
In Britain we hold a Gathering twice a year at Glastonbury. We meet together and hold separate grove meetings and ceremonies for each of the grades. We hold a colourful ceremony atop the Tor, and have a big supper party and Eisteddfod on the Saturday evening. For the Winter Solstice we hold a ritual in Chalice Well garden, for the Summer Solstice we travel the next morning to Stonehenge to hold a ritual amongst the stones.
In the USA, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Sweden gatherings are organised regularly - with rituals, workshops, meditations, feasting and Eistedfoddau. They are organised with the initiative of local members, and any member can offer to organise one.
In addition to grove and seed-group meetings and gatherings, retreats have been held in Snowdonia in Wales, at Chalice Well in Glastonbury and on Iona (Isla na Druidneach - the Isle of the Druids) in Scotland, and workshops and other events are offered by members and announced in the Events section of the website and Touchstone.
To help members get the best out of the course, we have also developed a number of one-day workshops, on subjects such as Ritual and Meditation, which are held in different locations. Members of the Druid Grade can learn how to give these workshops, to offer them in their locality.
Celebrancy is the art of being able to design and lead Weddings/Handfastings, Funerals, Baby Namings & other Rites of Passage. We have developed two online training courses which are open to members and non-members alike, which together constitute a well-rounded grounding in the art of celebrancy. Details here.
Over the years Druid camps have become an exciting and vital part of the Order - giving us an opportunity to truly live the teachings and the philosophy of Druidry out in Nature. Some Groves arrange weekend camps for their members, and there have been longer camps held in California, upstate New York, Germany and New Zealand.
In Britain, we hold up to four camps a year, usually near the White Horse of Uffington in Oxfordshire. We have our own yurts, benders and equipment - including a hot shower, sauna, and giant 'mega-bender' - and an enthusiastic crew who help to make each camp a magical experience for everyone.Young and old, single people and families all contribute to make the camps a success. We put on plays, have storytelling and music-making around the fire, hold ceremonies and create magical adventures. We've developed a way of exploring and 'entering into' the old stories and myths, so that they become exciting and educational games that take place across two fields and in the woods. We hold Druid sweathouse rituals and initiations, and big communal ceremonies under the stars.
What Others Say
Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at the University of Bristol, says in his book The Druids:
Since then the course has been developed, revised and expanded for the 21st century. Here are some reactions to the course from members:
"The greatest value of the OBOD postal course is this: it exists. It is available. Precious insights are being passed along. The mysteries are being shared. Thanks to all who have made this course possible!" V.C. Oregon
"A great gift from Druidry is that when I am in a natural place, meadow, forest, sea side or desert, I am aware of the spirits that share this place with me. Until Druidry had given me the language for this, I had felt some terrible yearning, a frustration with no means for communication. Now I acknowledge spirit wherever I am. I see and hear, able to participate in the language of trees, plants, stones, earth and breezes. I know the hawk and when he will circle above me in the sky.
I have come to realize it is the connection between humans and land that speaks to my heart. I love the stone walls that ramble through meadows and woodlands. They are lines of poetry that tell of the people whose hands carried these stones and the energy of the earth that was marked in this ancient way, first by the Indians, and later by white farmers. once again I can see some of those old people as when I was a child. I remember the dark woman in the plum coloured dress who I watched, as she wandered in the ferns near a stream in back of my house. Now I am that woman who can travel between the worlds of the living and the dead. The work of the course is so well designed that while studying trees, I meet the ancestors of the land and while meditating on ancestors, I realise I am descended from trees and stones and stars." S.F.Boston
"How is it that every time a question is in my mind, I turn the page of the Gwers and the answer is before me? It is as if whoever compiled these teachings anticipates the logical mind and then also its inner workings. I am nearing the end of the Bardic grade, and I can honestly say that never in my life have I needed such guidance as in the last few months. I feel there is hope for us all if we continue to strive for harmony with Mother Earth." P.B. Sussex
"The last five months have been ones of tremendous growth and change. I have realised at least two life ambitions; my intellect along with my creativity has become sharper and clearer and more productive than ever before, and I feel more at peace with myself as my mind has become more balanced with my emotions." L.N. Reading
"Many of the changes in me I believe are due to a sense of peace and of purpose given to me by working through the studies of the Bardic grade. These inner changes have in turn provoked more visible external changes. This course has most definitely answered a call which has been with me for as long as I can remember." D.L. Manchester
"What the training seems to do is invite the inclusion of the whole personality onto the path, as opposed to remaking the personality to conform to a specific model destined to make you transcend the world in a burst of enlightenment. Each personality is a unique gift, and thus we arrive at a garden of diverse Druids. The diversity is strength, not confusion: not one answer, but a multitude of pathways grounded in a renewed sense of wonder and friendship with the world." G.W. New York
"I love all the different resources the Order provides like Touchstone, a beautiful and informative website, Druidcast (the monthly podcast), Tea with A Druid (weekly Facebook Live video meetings), the Discussion Forums, international gatherings, and of course the mentoring system and a perfectly well organised office sending the right gwersi at the right time!” G.B.Zurich
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. In 2020 he is handing on the role to Eimear Burke from Ireland.
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 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. It is important to note that this policy refers only and specifically to a diagnosis of schizophrenia or a psychotic condition. We have found that members who have received other diagnoses can benefit from the course. If you are thinking of enrolling for the course but are not sure if it is for you, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 £50. 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, at this time the Druid grade is text only. 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.
Do you have a Privacy & Data Protection Policy?
Yes - You can read it here.
And 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, and German language editions. See links to their websites here. A Spanish language edition is in preparation. The audio version is only available in English.
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.