Here is OBOD member John Beckett’s fabulous interview of OBODie, author and founder and head of the Anglesey Druid Order, Kristoffer Hughes.
John’s wonderful Blog, Under the Ancient Oaks – musings of a Pagan, Druid and Unitarian Universalist can be found here.
Kristoffer Hughes is a native Welsh speaker, born to a Welsh family in the mountains of Snowdonia. He lives on the Island of Anglesey, Wales, the ancestral seat of the British Druids. His love of Celtic literature and traditions guided his path into the exploration and practice of Celtic Paganism. He is the founder and Head of the Anglesey Druid Order and studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.
He has worked professionally as a Anatomical Pathology Technologist at public mortuaries throughout the UK for the past 25 years. He is a semi-professional funeral celebrant, officiator and funeral advisor, having written and officiated 25 funerals.
Kris has published five books, including From the Cauldron Born: Exploring the Magic of Welsh Legend & Lore and The Journey Into Spirit: A Pagan’s Perspective On Death, Dying & Bereavement, which was just released in the US.
John: What attracted you to Druidry?
Kristoffer Hughes: It may sound like a cliché, but the concept of Druidry has always been a part of my life. Welsh children are generally brought up to embrace and also participate in the National Eisteddfod of Wales, which is presided over by an Archdruid and a Gorsedd of Druids, ranked into the three traditional divisions of bards, ovates and Druids. However, this is very much a cultural celebration that embraces language, music, the arts and above all, bardic prowess and skill. Ceremony and ritual are a rich aspect of the National Eisteddfod and the Gorsedd, albeit it is not conducted with any religious allegiance to any single tradition. It is Druidry without the spirituality.
Something about the pageantry and drama of it caught my imagination from an early age. It is something I am very much in love with to this day. But more than that, it captured my imagination and caused me to want to peer into the past and discover more about these Druids, who they were and what they did. I had always been in love with the mythologies of this land, many of which contain references to Druids. It was all of this that caused me to step onto the path of spiritual exploration. My initial exploration into Christianity did little to quench my thirst for the spiritual, and I eventually discovered that what I actually sought, what would nourish my spirit, was right here, right beneath my feet.
I didn’t necessarily identify it as ‘Druidry’ per se, and I was oblivious to the rise of Druidry in England and the rest of the Western World. The Eisteddfod seeks to express the Awen, it was all about the Awen for me, I took to a path that we refer to in Wales as ‘Awenyddiaeth’ or the language of Awen – this in turn was to lead me to the worldwide explosion in the interest of Druidry.
What is the heart of your Druidry?
I believe the answer to that question lies in one word – service. With my upbringing influenced by the National Eisteddfod the concept of service was taught to me from an early age. The bards, ovates, Druids and all other participants of the Eisteddfod serve the Awen, they become mouthpieces for the Awen itself. The Druidry that I practice is fundamentally based on the foundation of service – to the wider Druid community and to our local community. The Anglesey Druid Order works with our secular community to serve the island and its population, to promote the island’s rich heritage and ancestry, to educate and inform. It also serves the wider Druid community by offering workshops, ceremonies and teaching. By proxy of all this we serve the gods of this land, what we do is in honour of them and the ancestors, but I fear that subject would fill another book!
What connections to the land, to Celtic culture, and to the Gods and Goddesses, have you been able to make better or more easily because of your life-long connection to Wales?
The gods, goddesses and mythological archetypes that now form a central aspect of my spiritual practice have always been a part of life. They were there before I was able to articulate them in a spiritual manner. Listening to the old tales of these lands in school was always like hearing news from home; it all tasted and felt so familiar.
I used to make games with Pwyll and Pryderi in the woods at the back of my Grandmothers house; I would battle on a little bridge with the mystical Hafgan pretending that I was Pwyll in Arawn’s form. I would embark on great adventures into the mountains in search of the Twrch Trwyth boar from the legend of Culhwch ac Olwen, although I probably never veered more than a mile from home! I spoke with Math and Gwydion in the woods and with them I would stir a cauldron (well actually an old tin bath!) and summon the maiden of flowers. It was child’s play, sheer imagination and the wonder of invisible friends. I never once considered that these things did not exist – of course they existed, I used to play with them.
The mythical, sacred landscape that the legends sprang from is still my home, it sings of this place, of a connection between a people and its land. One can hear the song of the valleys, the mountains and the forests in the native myths of Wales; they are the history of the heart, the voice of a people that have inhabited this land for millennia. The Druidry that I practice is mytho-centric, wherever I go in my homeland the gods and archetypes are there, written in the landscape, and falling from the lips of our bards. My relationship with the old Celtic gods has only changed slightly; deep down, I am still that same child who would summon them and make games with them in the woods – I genuinely hope that that will never ever change.
Sometimes people speak of the Celts in the past tense, as if referring to something that has been and gone, but we haven’t gone anywhere – we are still here. All of this inspires and strengthens my connection to the land. I am man in love with a place.
What let you know you needed to found a new Druid order?
In 1990 I was one of a handful of individuals who established a small group to explore our native spirituality; we called it Cylch Awenydd – The Circle of Those Who Are Inspired. Whilst we generally just stumbled along an ill-defined track, we actually did learn an awful lot about the significance of Anglesey to the ancient Druids and the richness of culture and spiritual expression that lay just beyond the mists of time.
And then, one blustery winter day I stumbled across the records of the Anglesey Druidical Society who were formed in 1717. This charitable company of wealthy men sought to give something back to the island’s populace, and they did some pretty amazing things, and all under the guise of Druids, albeit in the image of those created by the Romantic Movement. But they did something remarkable: they sought to honor the island’s druidic past.
Suddenly other members of Cylch Awenydd started voicing that perhaps we should establish something that sought to rekindle that spirit, to re-establish a seat of learning. So in 1999 we changed the group’s name and started to formulate our mission for the future – the Urdd Derwyddon Môn (Anglesey Druid Order) was born…(read more)