A One Tent View of Druid Camp 2017, by Syre Byrd
I only decided to attend this years camp a week or so before the start on 25th July. I had been in a state of prevarication because I was just not sure this particular “Druid” camp was for me. I attended two previous ones and felt I wanted something more in tune, a greater focus upon, the Druidic studies available (BDO, OBOD et alia)). Yet I also knew the one great asset of this druid camp is its openness, its ability to take all strands of todays new age and pagan world and offer the opportunity to meld, mix, stir, create, meet and share. So this year once I had decided: I purposively set my intentions of learning new things, of attempting to make new things in the craft tent, try to be an open hearted man, and ask the Goddess to be my guide….
I don’t reside in UK. I come home for my holidays. So I don’t have a car, and actually, am quite glad of that fact. This is not to much of an issue as getting to Westbury on Severn is quite straightforward. From Cambridgeshire 2 train journeys, a bus, and a walk. It just means I cannot carry with me things that make druid camp that much more pleasant i.e. a folding chair, anything to do with food or cooking. I was not worried, however, because along with the price of the camp itself I also budgeted to use the on site canteen for all my nutrition. The canteen food is great! Breakfast however is a bit of a nightmare to wait for and means morning activities are lost. Mornings, before the ‘morning meeting’ need to be more focussed so that an activity ( the intensely moving Circle Dancing for example) and a breakfast are both perfectly possible for those reliant upon the on site facilities.
This year’s theme of animals, sacred animals, connecting with the animal world, proved to be an Awen led choice. From the opening ritual, I felt inspired to be relaxed, open, inviting the ‘Spirits of the Land’ to indeed share our sacred space. I find Mark Grahams facilitation of ritual to be exactly what I need. A person who takes the initial steps, focuses, and then holds that space for the community to interact, partake, witness, experience and intuit what the spirits intend. I appreciate the leadership without ego at ritual.
At Druid Camp there is an opening ritual on the Wednesday afternoon; a daily ritual in the evenings, and the “Great Rite” on a Saturday afternoon and a closing ritual on the Sunday afternoon. As I experience and practice Druidry largely on my own, communal ritual is vitally important and one of the reasons I attend. It is for me, like feeling the batteries of my life being recharged to their fullest capacity and overflowing perhaps! Hurrah!!
The Saturday “Great Rite” is a culmination of the Druid Camp teaching, experiences, feelings, spirit. This ritual is where all are invited to actively participate to create a ‘Rite’ that is in tune with the camp theme. People are put into groups that each has its own theme, idea, stimulus. So this years was on the theme of a journey to the ‘council of all animals’. The details, are for readers to imagine and preferably come and experience for themselves. I will say that what I witnessed was clearly a sacred yearning by this Earth and her creatures for humanity to consciously takes its part and be connected as one, with the rest, in dramatic form!
I choose to miss the Sunday closing ritual as I preferred the guarantee of getting a bus from Westbury on Severn and getting connected to trains at Gloucester. It would be nice when booking being invited to stay the Sunday night. Thus enabled to attend closing ritual as well without ‘travel’ anxiety. As a Monday morning start is a whole lot easier and reliable for those using public transport.
Each morning at 10 am there is a morning meeting. It is the time to listen to the facilitators explain their workshops that are being offered that day and next morning.The workshops are paced throughout the day in sessions so that each day has a regular heartbeat. There is a plethora of choices! There are craft activities; there are treatments that you can book for example aromatherapy, massage. There are the shamanic workshops where you can explore journeying with animals (and this year there were horses on site and a great workshop with Birds of Prey!),or chanting in the Teepee by firelight. There are guided Yoga sessions each morning, Circle dancing sessions, Stav sessions. You can explore tarot and readings or engage in a Constellation workshop. There are those talented with plants and herbs sharing their skills with essences. Of course, a highlight for many is the Mead tasting and making workshops. Well, mainly the tasting!
In fact, you have to make choices and be selective. As I came with clear intentions this year, I found that part of the day easier. I kind of had in my mind what I wanted to do and participate in and experience. For example I have never used a drum. Never journeyed. This camp I did both on the opening evening with horses present and listening in the paddock next to our marquee! The Spirit of the horse connected and I felt ready for the journey through the Druid camp upcoming and unfolding events, on the back of a gentle spirit horse who explained he might gallop as well, so hold on!
Each afternoon after lunch there is a guest speaker. This year I relished the opportunity to listen to Penny Billington explain the background to her latest book “The Keys to the Temple”. As I do not personally have any background in the literature, songs, practices of wider paganism it is a revelation to hear of the works of Dion Fortune, and wonder. Another guest speaker I enjoyed was Gordon the Toad. His talk on walking and working with animal spirits was just so down to earth, intuitional, that I was inspired! Catching GreyWolf around camp, speaking, playing, sitting around a campfire is a joy. Though I could never tell him.
In the evenings, after all workshops have done, and dinner eaten, the main tent has entertainment. This is pre booked by organisers and you can encounter all kinds of musics. On the Saturday evening there is an open Eisteddfod. Followed by the weeks headline acts. This year I heard Inkkubus Sukkubus and then followed by excellent fusion music of Kangaroo Moon. It is not often that I dance. This year I did nearly 3 hours solid! I’m a Druid, at Druid Camp, and I let what hair I have left, down!
The weather. I’m British. Weather is weather. This year lots of rain. Did not impact upon my enjoyment. Though I missed having the bonfires every evening and I think one of the tents should be used on rainy evenings for those who want to chat/converse who don’t want music/entertainment at the same time i.e the ‘dark tent’. More chairs required. These issues are more focussed due to the rain.
The children that are on site have a very good programme the whole time. I love the fact that children are a part of our community. They sometimes joined in with the circle dancing, singing and performing. Although I must admit, the evening that they were not present at the circle dance was so powerful. Or was it just the the power of that circle dance?
Could I offer a workshop? Well see. I will let the Awen inspire my heart and mind and, who knows?! I enjoyed my stay this year. Like a few others I spoke too, I also yearn for more depth and challenge relating to being , for want of a better phrase, a practising Druid. Its just a feeling, an Awen itch, that Druid Camp is for me the gateway to deeper community ‘get togethers’. If such a deeper Druid communal camp exists, I’m not sure. This Druid Camp, embraced and hugged by the Severn Goddess Sabrina, has started something. That, in itself, is why it is worth attending. A summer camp that offers beginnings.
I was struck with the realisation that all the different Druid orders and groups have such a different approach, each putting an emphasis on different aspects of Druidry, that an outsider could be forgiven for struggling to see the connection. Greywolf’s/BDO’s shamanism and shape shifting, OBOD’s emphasis on the bardic arts, scholarship and psychology, the ADO’s mytho-centric, devotional polytheism… [Kristal]
This poem is based on a family story that I had almost forgotten, but was reminded of when I saw the horses in the closing ritual at this year’s Rainbow Druid Camp. My Grandad had a small riding stable, just outside High Wycombe and had this pure white Arab stallion survived the night he was to have been mine, I was just three at the time. However I was about ten when my Dad told me the story, and I was immediately struck by a very real sense of loss and grief, but also as if I had just been given the missing piece of a jigsaw. I don’t know the detail of what happened that night but this is how I like to think it could have been.
Waiting in the house, waiting for news,
There’s nothing you can do here they said, wait in the house,
I could see the lights in the stable from my window,
I knew that my horse was fighting, fighting for his life,
Fighting with all of the strength of his great Arab ancestors,
I imagined his pure white coat heavy with the sheen of his efforts,
I prayed that night, prayed as hard as my little heart would let me,
But how can one little heart change the world, change what is meant to be?
My little horse passed, before that night was done.
But do not be sad for me, he is still with me, just out of reach, but always there,
In spirit, no longer a horse, but a man,
Watching over me, waiting for me,
We will be together again.