Here are the two Introductions to the collections of Mt Haemus Award lectures of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids available here
~VOL I Introduction~
THE MOUNT HAEMUS AWARDS
Where the harsh light of too much analysis shines, poetry, inspiration and the faery folk flee from the scene. Where poor scholarship, misunderstanding and fantasy reign, the wise move to higher ground. Thirty years or so ago, when I first began to follow Druidry, its study was pretty much polarised between the dry work of a few academics who had scant regard for modern Druids, and the often poorly researched work of enthusiasts which was by turns inspiring and confusing.
As the modern Druid renaissance began in the late 1980s and early 1990s the picture started to change, as writers such as John & Caitlin Matthews began unearthing and interpreting more and more source material, and as those of us in the Druid community became more confident about questioning our own history and traditions.
One individual in particular played a key role in this increasing confidence: Ronald Hutton, Professor of History at Bristol University. Having undertaken a study of prehistoric religion in Britain and of modern Wicca, he was just beginning to turn his formidable powers towards a consideration of Druidry, and over the course of private conversations, group discussions, and through listening to many of his lectures over the coming years I – and those lucky enough to have also heard and talked with him – started to realise that we could apply the rigour of academic analysis to a study of Druidry without losing respect for our tradition, and without it diminishing its power to fascinate and inspire us.
As this process was going on, in the mid-nineties, the Order’s Patroness, Dwina Murphy-Gibb, and I had been talking about creating a book on Druidry together, and as is often the way with creative projects if we are willing to release our attachment to the outcome, the result of our discussions emerged in quite a different form to our original intention. Instead of the book being written by two people, we decided that what was needed was a ‘conference in print’: a collection of studies on Druidry from as many different perspectives as possible. The Druid Renaissance, a collection of essays from eighteen authors, was published by Thorsons in 1996, and re-published with amendments as The Rebirth of Druidry in 2003.
Having published this collection that revealed the breadth of subject-matter available for enquiry to the modern student of Druidry, we realised that what was needed was a way to encourage further and deeper enquiry. We decided to develop a scholarship that would foster original research, and Dwina Murphy-Gibb generously agreed to provide the funding.
We named the award after the apocryphal Mount Haemus Grove, which Ross Nichols, in The Book of Druidry, suggested was formed in the 13th century: “There was already the Bond or circle of Druid fellowship between them, called the Caw, and companions of these several bodies founded the present-day Mount Haemus Grove in 1245.”
Leaving aside what Ross may have meant when he refers to the ‘present-day’ grove, the suggestion that a group was formed in 1245 is backed up by no supporting evidence, and in characteristic fashion, Ronald Hutton pointed to the unlikelihood of its existence, and a plausible explanation for the origin of the ‘myth’, in his opening Mt Haemus lecture. This seems curiously fitting. Both Druidry and the Order are robust enough to survive new interpretations and grow rather than diminish as new interpretations are suggested.
We offered the first award to Ronald Hutton, as the man who had inspired so many of us to look more deeply into the historical roots of our tradition, and in the years that followed we chose scholars whose interests and abilities recommended themselves. As each completed their research, they were invited to join the company of the ‘Mount Haemus Mob’, and in 2006 I felt moved to dedicate What do Druids Believe? to them, writing: ‘This book is dedicated to the Mount Haemus Scholars – that growing band of dedicated souls who are determined to research, articulate and understand Druidry.’
In 2004 we held a Mount Haemus gathering in Appleton village hall outside Oxford. Dwina and I introduced the day, then three of the first four Mount Haemus Scholars delivered their lectures to a packed hall. John Michael Greer was unable to fly over from Seattle, so his lecture on ‘Phallic Religion in the Druid Revival’ was read with panache by Susan Henssler, and in between lectures there was music and feasting.
Since that memorable day another four papers have been submitted, and all eight lectures have now been collected in this one volume.
We hope to continue the Mount Haemus tradition – offering an annual award and publishing the resulting research papers on the internet and as monographs. We also hope that every four years we can gather the scholars together to deliver their papers, and every eight years publish another volume in what we hope will become a long and worthwhile series of books of contemporary Druid scholarship.
Philip Carr-Gomm Lewes
Alban Elfed 2007
~VOL II Introduction~
SIXTEEN YEARS OF MOUNT HAEMUS AWARDS
One of the striking characteristics of the modern Druid movement is its expansiveness. So many interests seem to find a place within it, that it is tempting to call it a culture rather than a specific spiritual path. Within Druidry today there is an engagement with magical practice and environmental activism; the Bardic arts of storytelling, music-making and poetry; an exploration of what happens when different paths or practices are combined; an interest in ecology, history, archaeology, philosophy, psycho-geography and mythology, religion, folklore and psychology.
What stops this wide range of interests diffusing the power of Druidry to enthuse and inspire increasing numbers of people? Like an old oak tree that has created a habitat for thousands of living beings, from the creatures that thrive in the soil around its roots to the insects that live on its bark and the birds that roost in its branches, Druidry provides a habitat, an environment, that is at once both open and defined. It stands in a landscape that is at the same time particular and universal. Particular, because it is rooted in the source-lands of Druidry – Ireland, the British Isles and Brittany. Universal, because its roots stretch across the world – as far as India if the Indo-European theory of origins is correct, and across the whole planet if we espouse a belief in the Perennial Wisdom Tradition.
From its beginnings at the start of the millennium, the Mount Haemus project was envisaged as one that would honour this characteristic of the modern Druid movement – that would allow scholars to submit papers on a broad range of topics that nevertheless fell within the compass of Druidic interest.
And here we are, sixteen years after the inception of the project, with a second volume of papers published, and a fourth conference convened. The Mount Haemus Award has become an established part of the Order’s work in the world, and the Mount Haemus Gathering, the conference we hold every four years, has become an important fixture in the diaries of many members, who enjoy the opportunity to engage with the findings of the Mount Haemus scholars.
In the Order we suggest three aims for a Druid: Love, Wisdom and Creativity. Our love is fostered in Druidry through community and connection – with all beings and all of nature. Our creativity is fostered through our appreciation and application of the Bardic arts. Our wisdom is fostered through cultivating our minds in tandem with ‘hand and heart’. The scholarship of the Mount Haemus Award is designed to encourage such cultivation, and at the Mount Haemus Gatherings we combine presentations of the four papers produced in the preceding years with music, poetry, art and the meeting of like minds in community.
The Gatherings are unique, this project is unique, and at the same time it is part of a wider whole – part of a great tradition of enquiry that began over three centuries ago. The work of the Mount Haemus scholars does not stand in isolation during these uncertain times of the twenty-first century. It is rooted in tradition, and continues into the future thanks to the enthusiastic support of the membership of the Order and the immense generosity of the Order’s Patroness, Dwina Gibb.
Let me conclude these brief introductory remarks to this collection of eight papers that were submitted between the years 2008 and 2016, with an anecdote that demonstrates that the influence of this work spreads beyond the Druid community itself. When I was visiting the author, television presenter and priest Peter Owen Jones recently, he began telling me about a paper he had just read which had inspired him immensely. I asked him where it had come from. He had no idea – a friend had forwarded it to him. It turned out to be the Sixteenth Mount Haemus lecture by Ian Rees.
This work inspires those of us in the Druid community, but it sows seeds of inspiration in the wider world too. Long may this continue!
Lewes, Lughnasadh 2016