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The Ancient Druid Order
by The British Circle of the Universal Bond
An Druidh Uileach Braithrearchas
Copyright © The Druid Order (B.C.U.B.)
[Minor edits and layout by Isaac Bonewits]

 The Mother Grove or Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient Order of Druids known as [The Druid Order and] An Druidh Uileach Braithrearchas,  was inaugurated in the year 1717 and announced by the Herald in accordance with ancient usage on Primrose Hill, London at the Autumnal Equinox of the sun. This Mother Grove was named Gairdeachas  and its outward exoteric or public manifestation was called An Tigh Geatha  -- the lodge-gate or reception centre, the Outer Order where beginners receive their preparatory training.

 The inaugural assembly was held in the Apple Tree Tavern, Charles St., Covent Garden, London and the plan of The Unity, first suggested by John Aubrey of Old Mount Haemus to John Toland when they met at Oxford was accepted at this inaugural gathering.

 The work of organizing the assembly was undertaken by John Toland who was chosen by delegates from the Druid centres of York, London, Oxford, the Isles of Man and Anglesey,. Cornwall, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Britlany; and elected Chief of the newly reconstituted Order.

 The Druid Order was declared to be the Unifying Centre of the Druid Unity; independent of but allied to all other Druid Groves, and a Supreme Grand Council was formed having the status, not of regal authority, but of duty and obligation. A duty to maintain the unity of Druidic activity and an obligation to ensure that the Groves selflessly observed their pledge to further the cultivation of the noblest and best in man and thus work for the restoration of the Golden Age.

 The Supreme Grand Council guides The Druid Order A.D.U.B.; it holds and issues the Warrents, Charters, Parchments etc. so necessary to the preservation of true succession in these days of pseudo movements and fraudulent imitation. It preserves the Ancient Wisdom found in Druid Traditions and Teachings that have been handed down from generation to generation and provides instruction thereon for the use of Groves.

 The Unity is organized in three sections -- the Outer Order, in contact with the public; the Inner Order, which guides and works through the Outer; and the Sanctum of which nothing is said in public.

 The Outer Order has three Grades known as: The Gatehouse, where anyone may seek admission to the Order through Initiation.  Only those who have received the appropriate training in the relevant Grade of the Inner Order, and have qualified therein, are able to give effect to an initiation ceremony. Without the Hierophant the ceremony is no more than a mere charade.

 The Seven Kings, wherein the aspirant begins to study and tackle the forces at work within himself which the Hierophant has quickened during his second initiation. The aspirant should have been properly prepared for this in The Gatehouse.

 The Ovate Og or Ovydd Og, ...Ovydd,  a sapling or unformed plant: ov,  raw. A young shoot having the promise of growth (which must be realised at least in part before qualifying in this Grade). It is here that man shows his worth, the balance of his wish and will, the quality of his integrity. It is here that he chooses between the life of selfless service and that of self agrandisement.

 Part of the aspirant's task in this Grade is to meet and clear up his obligations to the past; he is not yet obligated to the future, hence the point of balance; O - O, zero - zero. Not until he has caught up with himself can he even approach the portal of the Order proper -- until he measures up to the required standard, he must remain in the seed-bed or nursery.

 The Inner Order is divided into Three Orders each having its own sphere of activity and its own series of Grades. Until the aspirant attains the required standard of character and integrity, he can not even be considered as a candidate for the Inner Order where the Druid training proper begins, and this training can take quite a long time. There is no short cut to the balanced development of man's latent forces, faculties and powers.

 The Druid teaching is an outward manifestation of the inner light. Its practices induce the development of man's transcendent powers, those which come from, and are in constant contact with, the Central Sun of the Cosmos. They may themselves be called the inner sun, or divine light.

The Three Bars of Light, known as The Awen,  [Welsh for "inspiration"] form a symbol of the Divine Name. It is said that upon its three columns all knowledge is inscribed, for from its angled lines and by their combination was shaped the Bardic Alphabet. "The days for holding the Gorsedd are the Four Albans,  when the rays of the Orient Sun, converging to the maen llog,  delineate the creative Name of God; and the Druid standing thus in the face of the son and in the eye of light  speaks in the Name of the Lord".

 The three rays of The Awen  concentre upon the stone of speech as do the rays of the summer solstice and of the spring and autumn equinoxes upon the altar stone at Stonehenge. The Awen  symbolizes the Source of Light in the cosmos and in man whence come the Druidic virtues of courage, brotherhood, and selfless service; and also the Druidic wisdom much of which has been handed down in the form of triads:

  • God is of necessity three things: the greatest part of life, the greatest part of science and the greatest part of force; and of each thing there can be but one greatest part.
  • Three things are continually increasing: fire or light, intelligence or truth, and spirit or life; and these things will end by predominating over all others. Abred  (the plane of material life and cyclic incarnation) will be destroyed.
  • The three gifts of music: sleep, laughter, tears.
  • Courses of instruction are given in the Groves of the Outer Order to prepare students for the Druidic Teachings which are given in the Groves of the Inner Order. Understanding is cultivated by ritual and wisdom by triads increasingly appreciated, mastery of the body and brain by exercises and meditations.
  • The three intentions of Druid instruction: The training of the mind, the cultivation of the heart, and the making of true manliness.
The Druid Order is an association pursuing cultural aims, to preserve, defend and enrich our heritage. Many of its members are writers, artists and poets, so much so that it appears to be an academy of people of learning. It is this -- and much more; for such an association alone would not justify annual gatherings in a megalithic circle of people dressed in archaic robes and performing unusual ceremonies.

 The Druid Order considers itself a traditional society in the largest sense of the word, carrying on the teaching and example of the ancient Druids of whom it claims to be the successor.

 The Druids, Ovates and Bards were the backbone of the peoples of the west in olden times, and stand as the inspirers of the people today. It is not a matter of mere sentiment, nor a wish to return to the past, but of a living tradition touching a living people. A tradition that goes back to a past remote indeed, far back beyond any record of civilization itself.

 There are links with the Aryan and early Hindu cultures and what is now the witch cult; reverence for both sun and moon, fivefold and threefold bases of teaching, ritual circular dancing, burning of the dead, the existence of a priest-ruler caste, transmission of teaching by lengthy memorized poems.

 A cult within the Jain community, the Draus  or Druis  have striking similarities to the Druids of the west (Latin drus:  possibly cognate with drau).  Amongst them are found Stone circles around upright stone altars.

 The builders of Stonehenge and Avebury gave reverence to sun and moon; and at Stonehenge the sun's movements became a calendar for the seasons. Circular and processional movements, a cult of the dead (setting sun) as well as a life cult (rising sun), male and female elements, instruction on the forces and faculties of man and their fields of activity are clearly, implied in the structures.

 To this remote time, long before anything was known of Celtic invasions, tradition ascribes the first planting of the Druid System by Hu Gadarn, leader of the Cymry  or Brotherhood colony.

 After Hu Gadarn, Aed Mawr is said to have set up The Druid Order about 1,000 B.C., with three Archdruidic sees and thirty-one other centres of learning. Classical tradition, however unreliable, agrees with this in speaking of the reception of the founder-philosopher of Greece, Pythagoras, into The Druid Order in Marseilles in about 529 B. C.

 It has also a legend, already old to Herodotus, who disbelieved it, that visiting Pythagoras came one Abaris, from the land of the Hyperboreans he being a priest of Apollo, speaking perfect Greek and "fit for the reception of wisdom".

 Passing over these more doubtful figures which approximate to myth, more sober traditions and records agree in attributing to the Druids an elaborate and lengthy wisdom teaching with several grades, and an influence over princes and Celtic tribal peoples alike.
 
 

"The Druids," says Ceasar (Gallic Wars, Bk. 6 )  "preside in matters of religion, have the care of sacrifice and interpret the will of the Gods. They have the direction and education of youth... In almost all controversies... the decision is left to them .. The Druids never go to war, are exempted from taxes and military service".

 The young "are taught to repeat a great number of verses by heart and often spend twenty years upon this institution... They (the Druids) teach likewise many things relating to the stars and their motions, the magnitude of the world and our earth, the nature of things and the power and prerogatives of the immortal gods".

Britain not Gaul, was the centre or holy land of this formidable body and although Bardism compromised, disastrously for itself, with the Roman power in Gaul, here Druidism fought the invaders tooth and nail.

 How far it was really driven out one cannot tell; it remained strong in Scotland, Wales and above all Ireland, whence the Christianised Druids returned as the missionaries known as Culdees and probably formed the background of great missionaries such as St. Columba (Columcille) who founded the Celtic Church in Britain.

 The Arthurian traditions are clearly Druidic in their earlier forms, being part of a mystery teaching which includes the Welsh mythology.

 The Celtic reconquest, commonly and wrongly known as the final Wessex period of the Heptarchy (Saxons had little to do with it), clearly spread Arthurian ideas, whilst Henry II and his Queen encouraged their elaboration and fusion with French and other elements in the great Romances of the Holy Graal.

 There is thus evidence of a large body of tradition in England, whilst Wales had been elaborating the poetic wisdom of the great bards of the sixth and later centuries. Scotland continued full of the traditional wisdom until a very late date, and still has a good deal of it.

 The English Druids of the Universal Bond (An Druidh Uileach Braithreachas,  or A.D.U.B.) have always claimed continuity with the earlier Druidism and there seems no particular reason to doubt it. Before the foundation of Oxford University there was a Druidic confraternity there with the same name as, and probably a branch of, the specialised Druids known in Wales as Pheryllt,  translated sometimes as metal-workers or alchemists, the word indicating skill with fire and metal (Cymric ffer  -- "what is solid").

 Cor Emrys  (City of Ambrose) seems to have been the name of this "Grove" or Lodge; it was both on the Penmaen ridge of Snowdon (Eryr)  and in the south Snowdon range at Dinas Affaraon,  with its legend of watery dragons. The cult guarded the Mysteries of Ceridwen.

 Persecution followed and before 1066 the Oxford Grove perished. The tradition, nevertheless, seems to have gone on, for Haymo of Faversham revived the Druidic idea in England and on his death Philip Brydodd founded and named the present Mount Haemus Grove in 1245; Companions of the Bond (CAW) came from many parts and conferred, agreeing on a common programme.

 The 17th century saw the emergence of the Order into its more modern shape. In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a complex of mystical societies, Hermetes, Rosicrucians, Freemasons and Druids, who often had members in common.

 It seems that disturbances in Scotland had caused many of its Druids, such as John Aubrey, to come south. John Toland of Londonderry had been sent to Scotland and there educated, and, as the custom was in education, he was sent abroad. On his return he linked with Scots Druids, then with those of York and finally with Aubrey's Mount Haemus Grove in Oxford, and thus achieving the union of five sections of Druids in 1717 which Aubrey had aimed at.

 Toland thus became the first of the modern Chosen Chiefs (see note on the inauguration given at the beginning). He set forth the philosophical principles and he gives a full acount of the Druids in his 1726 book. These, like other groups of philosophical inquirers, began meetings in London, this one at a Cheapside tavern; their meetings had royal approval and contacted similar-minded groups.

 Boyle called the movement the Invisible College. Certainly an immense amount of learning was generated. It may have been John Aubrey's enthusiasm over Stonehenge as an 'observatory' that led Charles I to found Greenwich. From this background and influence Sir Isaac Newton developed his speculation, his inquiries being typically in the Druid tradition. Newton's mystical interests have been rather hushed up, but some indications are seen in the published correspondence with the Rev. William Law.

 Newton was a deist, not a Christian, and, like Kepler and Swedenborg, he was much influenced by the mystic Jacob Boehme. Dr. Stukeley, rector of a church, a famous antiquarian of his day who wrote books on Stonehenge, the third Chief, was a close friend. The King and Locke may be added to the students of Boehme; indeed, the later Royal Society had a strong Boehme influenced group.

 Halley the astronomer and Sir Christopher Wren being amongst those who proposed the membership of Newton. Wren founded the Philosopher's Lodge about 1674 and presided over the Mecca Lodge 1675. About now the Autumn Equinox ceremony took its modern form, the first celebration of the revised version having taken place on Primrose Hill in 1717.

 There was a period of unhappy disputes between Welsh and English Druids, largely over the language question. Helping to pull the English Druids together after it, was William Blake, although he was an "original" rather than a leader or even member of any of the contending factions in an exclusive sense.

 He worked with the Druids of Poland Street, the Ancient Order, which was an offshoot of the Royal Order of Bucks. He was influenced by Swedenborg, who again had been influenced by Boehme. Echoes of the Druidism of his day abound in his work; in "Jerusalem" is a drawing of Albion as Adam Cadmon and Prajapati, giving the universalism which is a true hallmark of the mysteries. "Man anciently contained in his mighty limbs all things in heaven and earth". Although Blake made intellect his demon, he drew a beautiful "spiritual form" of Newton. Later on, the Friendly Societies Act sifted out most of the groups many of which retained only an economic side.

 Robert Owen, the English parent of Socialism, was of Cymric stock and had a Celtic following; he was promoting essentially Druidic ideas of cooperation. His ideal was the self-supporting community. Grant Allen, who was very interested in Druidry, has pointed out how ideas kept alive amongst lowly natives reduced to serfdom and driven out by medieval overlords in earlier times did in fact return with the Industrial Revolution's influx from country to town and spread community ideas.

 His work in a sense still continues in the United States where the Oneida Community has carried out the concept. Other figures whom there is a strong reason to believe were Druids, or at least closely acquainted with Druidic teachings, include besides those already mentioned, Dr. [John] Dee, famous 'wizard' of Elizabethan times, the poets Vaughan and James Thompson, Elias Ashmole the supposed founder of Freemasonry; more recently, Bulwer Lytton and Charles Kingsley, novelists; Sir Edwin Arnold the Asiatic scholar and poet, the late John Soul and Lewis Spence.

 The Druids appear to have exercised throughout a fostering or founding influence in many institutions. The laws of Molmutius appear to be Druidic, and it was upon them that King Alfred based his code, a foundation of later English law. The apparently Saxon council of wise men, the Witan, derives its name and perhaps itself from the Welsh Gwyddan or Gwyddon.

 Druids were, as we have seen, at the beginnings of Oxford, also a King Alfred interest; the same is true of Paris. They were prominent in the Royal Society and influential as we have seen in the beginnings of English Socialism; there was a link also with the Fabian Society. All this demonstrates their essential character, which is not that of mystagogues but of pioneer thinkers and experimenters.

 The special link which London has with the later Druids is interesting if the site of the Druid Temple as shown on maps of Roman London is more than guesswork. A pillar base from it is shown at All Hallows, Barking.

 The roll-call of Chosen Chiefs is distinguished, see the list given at the end of this booklet. The present Chief is Dr. T. L. Maughan D. Sc. [which dates this booklet to pre-1977].

 Amongst the Welsh, the Archdruid Morien (the successor to Myfyr) stirred much controversy over his propaganda for the Eisteddfod of Wales about 1896. In 1874 Dr. Wentworth Little gathered together members of the Masonic Order and developed an interest in comparative studies, sought for points in common, and founded a Druid Society which he called the Ancient and Archaeological Order of Druids. In 1956 the Ceremony of the Spring Equinox was renewed at the Bryn Gwyn or Tower of London.

 The higher wisdom is essentially one. This the ancients well knew -- and the more perceptive of the moderns. Dr. Inge's studies in Christian mysticism show this as clearly as do the experiences of nonChristian occultists. Clement of Alexandria testifies clearly that the venerable wisdom systems of his world were all giving the same doctrines, whatever the local variety of the rite: Orphic, Thracian, Osiriac, Isaic, Bacchic, Cabiric, Eleusinian, Adonaic, Mithraic, Essene -- or Druidic.

 Of this great tradition the Druidic is what is mediated for the west, and in it our foundations of thought have been laid in the past. In this essentially Celtic system is always a sense of revelation, of ascension and manifestation that is imminent. Life is a tentative thing, a probation between the several worlds:
 
 

Three phases necessary for every existence in the development of life: the beginning in Annwn  (the creative abyss), the transmigration in Abred,  and the plenitude in heaven or the circle of Gwynfyd  (white or pure life); and without each of these three things no one can have a complete existence except God who transcends them.

 From three things man is compelled into Abred,  although in all other things he may turn to good: by pride (he falls) down into Annwn,  by untruthfulness he goes further down still, by lack of charity he descends to the farthest darkness and must strive towards manhood once again.

 (Triads)

Over the scheme of things presides the deity, the 'Vast and Mighty One whom nature hath not formed'; this Being both indwells through all forms and also as God Transcendent fills the realm of Ceugant, unapproachable to created beings. The Druid Prayer, common to Druids of all peoples, gives the typical sense of uplift and enlargment in unforgettable form:
 
 

The Druid Prayer

Grant Oh God Thy protection

 And in protection -- strength:

 And in strength -- understanding:

 And in understanding -- knowledge:

 And in knowledge -- the knowledge of justice:

 And in the knowledge of justice -- the love of it:

 And in the love of it -- the love of all existences:

 And in the love of all existences -- the love of God and of all goodness.

Within such a philosophy death is seen as both a liberation and a renewal. The graded organisation of the Druids is generally speaking an association for investigation, experimental, creative and often curative.

 The Druidic type of wisdom is, it is suggested, the native and more assimilable wisdom for us. The various admirable oriental philosophies which in the general absence of a more intelligent Christian mysticism, have understandably captured a wide allegiance in the west from the middle of the last century onwards, are alien to our culture in their expression, although their spiritual content is universal. In Druidism and its allied studies in Gaelic and British wisdom literatures may be found a system perhaps not so completely expounded, but expressed the better for our comprehension.

 To put it more vividly, the Enlightened One entered into both the Sacred Bull and the White Elephant (see O'Brien "The Round Towers"):  wisdom has made a parallel entry into west and east, the White Bull of Britain (known in antiquity as the Enclosure of the White Bull) and the White Elephant of India.

 As by many in India Christianity can be accepted as another manifestation of Vishnu the Creator, so in Britain Christianity could be taken as another form of Druidism, which Druidism itself appeared to recognise by in fact passing over wholesale into Christianity in Ireland, thus clearly indicating that there was nothing incompatible in the two systems of thought. The Druidic tradition dating from before the credal era is necessarily non-credal.

 Finally, it is interesting to note that the dress and decoration shown on certain Roman period reliefs from Autun in France appear to derive from the same authority as the known robes and some ornaments of the Druids.
 
 

Chosen Chiefs of The Most Ancient Order since 1717

John Toland 1717 -1722
William Stukely 1722 - 1765
 Edward Finch Hatton 1765 - 1771
 David Samway 1771 - 1799
 William Blake 1799 - 1827
 Geoffrey Higgins 1827 - 1833
 William Carpenter 1833 - 1874
 Edward Vaughan Kenealy 1874 - IX80
 Gerald Massey 1880 - 1906
 John Barry O'Callaghan 19Q6 - 1909
 G. W. MacGregor-Reid 1909 - 1946
 Robt. A. F. MacGregor-Reid I946 - 1964
 Thomas L. Maughan 1964 - 1976
 Christopher Sullivan 1976 - [handwritten note]
 
Copyright © 1998
The House of Reflecting Shadows

Copyright © 1984,1997 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. This text file may be freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done, the version number (if any) is retained and this notice is included. If you would like to be on the author's personal mailing/phone list for upcoming publications, lectures, song albums, and appearances, send your snailmail and/or your email address to him at PO Box 1021, Nyack, NY, USA 10960-1021 or via email to "ibonewits@neopagan.net"


 
 
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