Some of you may have seen the news from this weekend’s Summer Gathering, but just in case you missed it, the link to the news is here. What a blessing to have such a moment handled with so much thought, care, and grace. An honour to be a part of this Druid Order.
But as promised this article finishes the Tales from the Road series from my recent mini tour with our trip to the OBOD International Camp in the Netherlands. I organise the two OBOD Gatherings in Glastonbury and have done for well over a decade, so it’s a real blessing when I can get to go to an OBOD event where I have nothing to do with the organising team. I can just turn up, and be an OBOD member, and our trip to the Netherlands was one of those rare times. I’d been to two OBOD International Camps in Germany, but this was my first in the Netherlands. We hopped onto a plane at Vienna airport – just in time for the captain of the flight to let us know that the fuelling system for the “entire airport had just broken down”, and that “he had no idea how long it’ll take to get it back up and running”, and “by then there would probably be a backlog of flights to re-fuel”. So we sat on the plane and waited. In the end it was only about an hour before we were sorted and on our way to the runway, so not too bad I guess.
Soon we had landed in Amsterdam and easily found Gerard who had volunteered to pick us up and get us to the campsite. As we drove across the land of the Netherlands we were told on many occasions that the land we were driving upon was under the sea just 50 years ago, and had been reclaimed. The fields now full of arable crops, and almost countless wind turbines. So green, lush, with no hills. A landscape very different to the one I’m used to seeing. I think I need hills. I even find East Anglia and parts of Lincolnshire just too flat, but it was a nice change. The campsite was an island on a large lake, land once again reclaimed from the sea barely 50 years ago. We arrived at the site late and only a little while before the opening ritual that we were a part of, so were shown to our ‘Grasshopper’ – our accommodation in what looked like a converted horse box – very snug and comfortable, then straight back for a run-through of the ritual. It was a bit of a rush, but I knew things would calm down pretty quickly after that.
It was lovely to see OBOD friends from the UK there too. Penny, author and editor of the Order’s Journal Touchstone, the Pagan bluesman Arthur ZZ Birm, Adrian, JJ, and Mel. We were the opening ritual crew and the ritual had been written by JJ. Because of the plane delay and the rush I had a little bit of an ‘albatross landing’. That’s what me and Cerri call it. When you arrive at a spiritual event and seem completely out of sync with the vibe, just for a couple of hours, then you safely land, and slip into the flow.
The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids is a Mystery School the backbone of which is still the Bard, Ovate and Druid courses. Membership is linked to those courses and that means that no matter which OBOD gathering you attend, anywhere in the world, there is that shared experience. This means that whether it’s the Glastonbury gatherings, the Australian camp, the East Coast or Gulf Coast Gatherings in the USA, it always feels like coming home, and I felt that once again at the International Camp. Because anyone can do the course, ego just doesn’t get in the way – we are all OBOD members, sharing the Journey. I love that so much. So after I had spread my wings, judged the distance from the water, stretched out my legs and ran for just a little while, I gently came to rest on the calm surface of the water, and allowed the flow of the current to guide me from that moment, and it felt good.
The camp was really well organised, and I was so thankful that they had invited a fresh coffee merchant to the event. To me he was the Merlin whom I sought out each morning for his sacred elixir. Me and Cerri ran our workshop over the course of two days, with one session of preparation, and the next the ritual itself. Based on work done by our Druid Grove and inspired by words written by Dion Fortune it worked wonderfully, but I think I will leave the magic back in that field and say little more about the process. Sometimes these things need to remain mysteries.
My concert was on the Saturday night and although my finger injury was nearly two weeks old, I still couldn’t play that pesky Dm chord, so once more I played some of my songs transposed up the fretboard. I also didn’t know until I arrived that the gig would be completely acoustic. It was ok. The problems I’d had in the Czech Republic and Vienna with my chest had lessened a great deal. The gig was great. Lots of singing and laughter. I played the same set as I’d played in Vienna and it worked beautifully again.
As the sun set on the final day we gathered around the central fire for an Eisteddfod. Time and again we were entertained by people who had come to camp. Just as with the Bardic evening at the BMWC a week before I sat there stunned by the amount of talent there is within the Druid and wider Pagan community. The power of the Bard is alive and well, and thriving.
But soon it was time to leave. We said our goodbyes and were taken to the airport by one of the people at the camp. He went out of his way to get us there, and once more I was struck by the generosity I had felt throughout this two week trip.
I’m back in the UK again now for the rest of the year. My next overseas venture is to Paganicon in Minnesota next March, and then a few weeks later we’ll be returning to Australia. But I promise we will be back to BMWC and Vienna soon – it won’t be so long this time, and we are already booked to go to the next OBOD International Camp next June in Germany.