I’ve celebrated Samhain three times this year. Last week in Brittany, last night with friends at home, and over the weekend with friends old and new at the Hindu Balaji temple in Birmingham. Fifty followers of the Druid and Dharmic traditions gathered under the auspices of the International Centre for Cultural Studies and the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids to explore the connections between their traditions. There will be a report up on the OBOD website soon, and a participant has already blogged about the event here describing what we got up to. So here I’ll just give you some pictures. It was an inspiring, heart-warming day!
One of the great advantages of the four Celtic festivals lies in the fact that they can be celebrated several times over! Unlike the four solar festivals of the solstices and equinoxes, which are astronomical events and which – technically – occur only at specific times each year. Of course this detail doesn’t deter a determined Druid who is capable of enjoying multiple solstice or equinox feasts!
Last week I was in Broceliande in Brittany for Samhain retreat of the Order. We stayed near the church at Tréhorenteuc, built by the extraordinary Abbe Gillard, who must be one of the few people whose statue includes a reproduction of their glasses:
After the retreat I visited the church and monastery of the Orthodox Celtic Church in St.Dolay founded by Saint Tugdual, who ordained my Druid teacher Ross Nichols as an Archdeacon in 1963. In the fading light of a glorious Indian summer’s day I met 87 year-old Bishop Mael, who knew Ross as a fellow Druid in the College of Druids of Gaul. Here, out in the forest in Brittany, five monks, three nuns and the bishop are building a religious community that began as a simple wooden hut for a church in the 1960s when Ross was ordained. Now they have built a wooden church with their own hands, and a new building is almost complete to house the monks. At present they live in two yurts, while the bishop lives in a small wooden house. They have a bank of solar panels, are off the grid, and are moving towards self-sufficiency. The are part of a network of multi-faith eco-projects, and in the brief time that I spent there I could feel a sincere, deep spirituality emanating from these nine souls who follow the Franciscan rule, and celebrate a Celtic mass and the vespers every day. Bishop Mael told me that he still considers himself a Druid, and felt that this was completely compatible with his faith, pointing to the oak tree that you can see growing beside the church. They have a guest house for retreats. You can read more about their work here. The photographs are poor because the light was fading. If you double-click on them they enlarge: