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" A good traveller has no fixed plans,

and is not intent on arriving "

Lao Tzu

Tasting Druidry

January 15th, 2011

Last year we asked ourselves the question: Would it be possible to capture on film some of the magic that we experience as members of a Druid group? I wasn’t sure we could do it, but an old friend and film-maker, Kevin Redpath, came along to our summer solstice celebration in Glastonbury and then to our Lughnasadh camp near the White Horse in July, and he has created an 8 minute film that I think really does capture the essence of what we are about. Have a look and see what you think! A big thank you to Kevin and all those who participated in the film – it makes me feel so proud to be associated with such fantastic people! We’ll be putting up a Vimeo version of this on soon, meanwhile here’s the Youtube version:

Jesus and the Druids

May 26th, 2010



A showing of the film ‘And Did Those Feet?’

Based on the book by Gordon Strachan  ‘Jesus the Master Builder’

This new film looks at the links between Palestine and Druidry in Britain at the time of Jesus and considers the story that Jesus actually visited Britain. In the absence of Gordon Strachan due to illness, the film will be introduced by Tim Firth of the Horsham Interfaith Forum and will be followed by discussion. tea and coffee. Tim Firth is a former lecturer in theology and a student of Gordon Strachan’s work

Rev Dr Gordon Strachan is a Church of Scotland minister and a former lecturer on architecture and adult education at Edinburgh University.  He has lectured on subjects including the ancient wisdoms, art, numerology and sacred geometry.  He is an artist and a well-known author.  Among his books are Christ and the Cosmos, The Bible’s Hidden Cosmology, The Return of Merlin and Chartres: Sacred Geometry and Sacred Space.

MONDAY JULY 5th 7.00 pm   at



Admission free

Partridge Green is five miles south of Horsham, three miles east of the A24 and two miles south of the A272. Further information from: Tim Firth on 01403 790 038 or

Jesus and the Druids

November 26th, 2009

in 1996 an essay ‘And Did Those feet?’ by Dr Gordon Strachan was published in a collection of essays on Druidic topics that I edited for Thorsons/HarperCollins entitled ‘The Druid Renaissance’. (The book was re-published, with additions, as ‘The Rebirth of Druidry’ in 2003). In his essay, Gordon explored the idea that Jesus may have visited Britain and trained with the Druids. He then developed this idea in a book ‘Jesus the Master Builder: Druid Mysteries and the Dawn of Christianity’ (Floris 2000).

Now, thirteen years after publishing his original essay, a film on the subject is due to be released entitled ‘And Did Those Feet?’ It premieres tomorrow at the British Film Institute. This is how the BBC announced it on their website:


Glastonbury Tor

Could Jesus Christ have visited Glastonbury?

Jesus Christ could have come to Britain to further his education, according to a Scottish academic.

Church of Scotland minister Dr Gordon Strachan makes the claim in a new film entitled And Did Those Feet.

The film examines the story of Jesus’ supposed visit, which survives in the popular hymn Jerusalem.

Dr Strachan believes it is “plausible” Jesus came to England for his studies, as it was the forefront of learning 2,000 years ago.

“Coming this far wasn’t in fact that far in the olden days,” Dr Strachan told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One. “The Romans came here at the same time and they found it quite easy.”

Dr Strachan added that Jesus had “plenty of time” to do the journey, as little was known about his life before the age of 30.

The legend that Jesus Christ came to Britain was popularised in a poem written by William Blake in the early 19th Century and made famous as a hymn 100 years later.

Poet William Blake

William Blake’s “Jerusalem” spread the idea Jesus came to England

Now the first words of the hymn – “And did those feet” – are the title of a new film based on a book researched by Dr Strachan, who lectures on the history of architecture at Edinburgh University.

“It is generally suggested that he came to the west of England with his uncle, Joseph of Arimathea, who was here for tin,” said the academic.

Dr Strachan claimed Jesus Christ could have come to England to further his education.

“He needed to go around to learn to learn bits and pieces about ancient wisdom, and the druids in Britain went back hundreds if not thousands of years. He probably came here to meet the druids, to share his wisdom and gain theirs.”

Among the places Jesus is said to have visited are Penzance, Falmouth, St-Just-in-Roseland and Looe, which are all in Cornwall, as well as Glastonbury in Somerset – which has particular legends about Jesus.

“St Augustine wrote to the Pope to say he’d discovered a church in Glastonbury built by followers of Jesus. But St Gildas (a 6th-Century British cleric) said it was built by Jesus himself. It’s a very very ancient church which went back perhaps to AD37.”

The film And Did Those Feet is launched at the British Film Institute on Friday 26 November.

Breton Magic

November 6th, 2009

The accomplished writer Elizabeth Cruse set off a few weeks ago to find out what a mysterious order of Druids gets up to on ‘The Continent’ – as that vast expanse of territory that lies beyond the safety of our shores is known. This is her report:

OBOD Retreat in the Forest of Broceliande – 22nd – 25th October 2009

Ozegan plays in Le Val Sans Retour

Ozegan plays the bombard in the Val Sans Retour

In Le Val Sans Retour (The Valley of No Return), in the magical forest of Broceliande, the great enchantress, Morgaine le Fay, entertained her many lovers. But her beauty and enticements were a trap for mortal men. Once in her enchanted valley, they were unable to escape, held prisoner forever. Only one man sat down to feast with Morgaine and left the valley unharmed. This was Sir Lancelot whose heart was so entirely given to Arthur’s queen, Guinevere, that he was impervious to Morgaine le Fay’s charms and quit the valley without a backward glance. In so doing he broke the spell forever and all her other lovers were set free.

This story was one of many told to a group of us in Brittany by the extraordinary Breton musician and storyteller, Ozegan. (Many of you will remember his stirring Breton pipe music and flamboyant jester’s costume at the Summer Assembly in 2008.)  He it was who had organised the first ever OBOD retreat in Brocéliande this October.  I had long wanted to visit the forest where some say Merlin was tricked into an enchanted slumber by the fairy woman Vivien (or Nimue) and had booked as soon as I saw the announcement in Touchstone. Trois jours en Brocéliande sur les traces du grand cerf blanc. Who could resist? So, taking my courage and rusty French by the scruff of their necks, I had caught the night boat to St Malo, setting foot on the land of Brittany as the tattered cloud flags of dawn were flying in front of a fiery sky.  Now, here I was up on a hillside above the tarn called the Mirror of Morgaine listening to the harsh notes of Ozegan’s bombard (an early version of the oboe) echoing across the valley.  Mist cloaked the hills in the distance but near at hand sun sparked rainbows off cobwebs and warmed the grey rocks of Merlin’s throne.

Falling into my mind, like the gold and crimson autumn leaves that embellished the Breton woods and countryside come a succession of pictures and sounds:

The first night – a ceremony at the scared well of St Onenn, who is the patron saint of the little church in Trehorenteuc where we were staying.
Cold brilliant stars, frosty Milky Way arcing overhead, candles flickering and wavering cries of owls alternately far away and near at hand.  A scary descent to the healing waters (good for dropsy and eye problems) down at the bottom of crumbling steps. A spiritual entry into the other world and a return to the gentle welcome of my companions for the week.

On the following murky misty morning we gathered around the fire that burned in the salon of the gîte where we were staying. Ozegan played his psaltery, a medieval stringed instrument, plucked with quills of goose and crow or played with a bow. The alternate sounds of harp and wild violin. With only the fire for light we were translated to the Middle Ages.

A talk delivered by Phillip with his customary grace and clarity (and in French) under the ancient beams of La Maison des Sources next door to the gite. A large audience of druids and others including some mysterious men in black. Afterwards a Samhuinn ceremony infused with Gallic vigour and unpredictability. The original Samhuinn ceremony was given to OBOD by Breton druids so it was a special privilege to be part of this ritual in Brittany.  The Druid prayer was recited in Breton, French, English and German. This nicely expressed the international nature of Druidry. A chill mystery manifested  with the sudden appearance of the Caillach and her chaudron vorace ready to take away what was no longer needed from the passing year. Walnuts were passed around. Walnuts? No nutcrackers? Dear reader, your guess would have been as good as mine. A zen koan for Samhain.

At the fountain of Barenton we watched the water that wells up into a rectangular chamber bubble from time to time. Chrétien de Troyes mentions this spring in the romance of Yvain describing it as “the spring which boils though its water is colder than marble.”  A hidden frog croaked sweetly along with Ozegan’s recounting of the local legend: that if a woman will look into the water at midnight on a full moon she may see the face of  her soul mate (who may, but will not necessarily turn out to be, her husband). Here it was, according to the story that Calogrenant was defeated by the Black Knight who  “came on swifter than an eagle, looking as fierce as a lion” and later Yvain came to avenge his cousin’s disgrace. Walking the long twisting path through the woods up to this fountain it was easy to imagine a knight on a charger picking his way delicately between the trees.

The Arthurian legends were never far from our minds.  The local church restored in the 1940s and 50s by the Abbé Henri Gillard has stained glass windows depicting aspects of the Grail mysteries and there is a modern mosaic of the great white hart surrounded by crimson snarling lions.


Photo by Daniel Michaut

Did we visit Merlin’s tomb and the house of Vivien? Or were they ancient Neolithic burial chambers, their once proud stones reduced to jagged teeth of rock by five thousand years of quiet endurance? It was close to Samhain and we were in Broceliande. The veils between the worlds were thin. So we slipped easily between them.

It being France food was an important part of the retreat – a torte of caramelised onions, honey and raisins remains in my memory. One day the  soup was accompanied by the wild skirling of the cornemuse (Breton bagpipe).  The grace and generosity of Michel, Marilyn and Roger of La Maison des Sources are alone worthy of a medieval ballad.

Merlin said that the most wonderful thing in the world is the scent of approaching events. Like an unseen garden full of herbs, roses and compost, the savours of a visit to Broceliande with my Breton brothers and sisters in Druidry had been drifting towards me on the wind of time for several months.  Now those three days, the new friends, and the enchantment are woven into my being.  My thanks to all who made it possible, not least, Merlin himself, elusive and ubiquitous.  As they say, with a French accent, awen, awen, awen.

(You can find the image of the mosaic  here and more information about the church at Trehorenteuc here)

Elizabeth Cruse

Nuinn’s Wood

October 14th, 2009

Like most people, I have a list of ‘Things I’d love to do’ that always takes second place to the other lists: ‘Things I must do’  and ‘Things I should do’. After my father died I decided that I really ought to allow myself to do some of those things on that first list. It’s so easy to put them off, year after year. So, driving back from the retreat at Cae Mabon in Wales, through glorious countryside in bright sunshine, I made my way to Hambleden in Oxfordshire to visit ‘Nuinn’s Wood’ – the ten acres of woodland that my old druid teacher Ross Nichols (also known as Nuinn) had bought after the war, and which he used as a place of retreat. He already had a retreat chalet at Spielplatz in Hertfordshire, but that was in a naturist community. There were plenty of trees there, but still there were other people around. So this woodland was his ‘inner’ retreat place. What a luxury! Some people might want to have a second car or home, but Nuinn opted for a second place of retreat! He put up a few wooden huts there, and that was it. No trace of the huts remained but there was such peace in that woodland and in the gentle valleys to either side of it! Great soaring beeches rose from the forest floor and here and there was a yew or hazel…

Nuinn's Wood

Nuinn's Wood

Nuinn's Wood

Nuinn's Wood

Druids, Hippies and the Economy

October 5th, 2009

The Finance editor of the Economist, Henry Tricks, popped in to Lewes in the summer to film for a documentary on alternative economics. He ended up on our sofa and he and I chatted about Druidry, hippies, the 1930s, and economics. He was a delight to talk with and I wish we had been able to talk for longer…

Blood and Mistletoe

August 23rd, 2009

Ronald Hutton’s latest book, ‘Blood & Mistletoe’, is reviewed here by Penny Billington, editor of The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids monthly journal ‘Touchstone’ and of the ‘Gwion Dubh’ druid detective books. Details here.

Essential reading for druids and scholars

This long-awaited book is, quite simply, a tour de force. Interpretations of Druidry through the ages, treated to scrupulous scholarly dissection, in a masterly fashion. The first chapter, the raw material, should be required reading for all who have ever given credence to the impeccability of original sources…but given their suspect nature, how has Ronald Hutton extracted the truth from any, and given coherence to this book?

From Caesar, a truly machiavellian author, onwards, a succession of agenda-laden activists, scholars and authors have fashioned an image of druids for the popular imagination to suit the political and cultural points they are making. By examining all these written sources in the context of the social, economic, political standpoint of the various authors, a magnificent tapestry is gradually woven of English history and the men who have affected it, with always the misty figure of the druid just glimpsed to colour the narrative. This book is fascinating. It is huge. It is really beyond the scope of a short review to convey the breadth and sweep of the narrative.

In the end analysis, all that can be held onto is that the word `druid’ has, at significant times in our history, rung with such resonance that men have annexed it, with all its associations, to manipulate or to stir others to their causes. And so through the chapters we run – through the ages, and the gamut of emotional responses to the term druid; from disgust and vilification for a blood-soaked and savage priesthood to awe and wonder at the disseminators of the mystical wisdom of nature, pausing in admiration for them as radical freedom fighters along the way.

The scope is given in the tantalising chapter headings: The raw material; The Druids take shape; the Druids take over; the Druids take flesh; Iolo Morganwg; Interlude: a pair of Williams; the Apogee of the English Druids; Iolo’s children; The Downfall of the Druids; Druidic afterglow; The Universal Bond; Druids and archaeologists; Conclusion. And, along the way, the Hutton style ensures that the reader is engaged and intrigued by his obvious delight in the minutia of his source material and vivid descriptive capacity.

Which poet vilified the druids for, amongst other things, halitosis? Which seminal figure was characterised by `truculent radicalism?’ Whose companions `strenuously ruminated’? What place does unlikely Dudley hold in Druidry’s history, and which Order opened a `Druid school’ before being ridiculed with an expose of a ritual involving sulphur and groans to signify hell and an arch druid with a battle axe threatening death to the candidate? Which poet beloved of modern druids actually associated our spiritual forefathers with `howling, wailing, chaos, weeping, torture and bloodshed’? These examples are not intended to tease, but to give a sense in a short review of the journey of adventure one embarks upon with this book.

The matter is dense, the scholarship impeccable, but the effect of Hutton’s light touch and engaging style is to draw the reader through a series of druidically-inspired tableaux exposing the manners and mores of bygone times. But be warned; it is best enjoyed in short bursts. This is not English ale, but a fine liqueur, to be savoured and enjoyed, with a respect for the artistry that went into its composition and made it so palatable to the reader.

The truth about the druids, as Prof Hutton regularly points out, will never be known. That they have been the raw material of every social and political dreamer since the advent of written history is the basis of this book. `In the last analysis… this book is about neither archaeology nor druidry, but about the British, and the way in which they have seen themselves, their island, their species and their world.’
And a great book it makes.

Penny Billington

Glastonbury Solstice Gathering

June 14th, 2009

Just back from the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids Summer Gathering at Glastonbury. About 240 of us gathered in the town on Friday evening: 40 Druids from Italy, 10 from Germany, 2 from Holland, 2 from Belgium, 2 from the USA, one from Canada and the rest of us from Britain. The weather forecast was for rain all weekend, but instead we were bathed in glorious sunshine.

On Saturday night the Eistedfodd was one of the best ever. The photo below of Blues singer ZZ Birmingham in shamanic Blues Trance captures some of the magic of the night. Glastonbury Tor in the afternoon and Stonehenge the next morning just after dawn were perfect settings for our ceremonies.

ZZ Birmingham

A New Documentary on the Druids

June 12th, 2009

The Holistic TV Channel has just produced a new documentary on the Druids which they hope will be screened on television. Meanwhile its trailer is up on Youtube, and I’ll paste it in here. Lots of friends are in here: Robald Hutton, Emma Restall Orr, Afric, Celtic Chris, and more and the music is by Damh the Bard. My only caution would be to note for those who are more contemplative and less attracted to ritual that Druidry doesn’t necessarily involve being robed and engaging in group ceremonies. Some Druids prefer attuning to Nature and the Great Mystery by themselves or in simple group celebrations that don’t necessarily involve ritual or robes.

As soon as I hear when it will be broadcast from Holistic TV I’ll let you know!