An interview by Tanya for TarotCon
Please share with the readers a little about your personal/spiritual upbringing, and how you came to be involved with The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. Perhaps share a definition of the meaning of the Order’s name & members, and your position in it.
I was lucky enough to meet the founder of the Order when I was 11, and joined when I was 18. I asked to be initiated when I was 16, but I was told to wait until my eighteenth birthday. You know how long two years feels for a teenager? A lifetime! But a great lesson in patience, and I can still remember standing in the circle on Glastonbury Tor on Beltane in 1970 being welcomed into the Order.
Our group is called an ‘Order’, not after orders of monks or nuns, but after the magical orders of the Western Mystery Tradition. And at a symbolic level, being in an ‘order’ recognizes our need for discipline and direction. We need their opposites too, of course, but life provides plenty of opportunities for chaos and abandon! An order offers the possibility of containing, channeling, directing, facilitating our spiritual development.
It is called the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids because it speaks to the needs of the Singer, Shaman and Sage within each one of us. The Bards are the singers, story-tellers, musicians – each of us has a ‘Bard Within’ – the creative person within us. The Ovates are the shamans, the seers, the healers – each of us has an ‘Ovate Within’ – the magician, visionary or healer within us. The Druids are the sages, the ritualists, philosophers and teachers – and each of us has this sage or ‘inner wise person’ inside of us.
What was the first book or deck you authored?
I met the commissioning editor from Element Books at a dinner party in 1990, and she asked me to write a book that gave an overview of Druidry, but that also went into some depth into its teachings. That was published in 1991 as ‘The Elements of the Druid Tradition’, and then, ten years later I revised the book and expanded it, and it was published as ‘Druid Mysteries’ in 2002. It’s now available as an e-book as well as a paperback, and there’s a webpage for it here.
It was via your Druid Animal Oracle I first discovered OBOD, do you find that is true for many people or that they discover it from friends or online?
Up until the popularity of the internet, most people discovered the Order through books, or through the recommendation of their friends. Now people find the Order through those means, but also from browsing the web – from looking at our website, or our Message Board or Facebook page or seeing the videos on our Youtube channel. All three oracles have brought people to the Order, but I really don’t know how many have come from each one separately.
The images in The DruidCraft Tarot are so evocative of the inner grove experiences, it’s almost like a picture book of what one might encounter in the inner realm. Were they created from personal meditative experiences or from the oral story telling traditions or both?
That was Will Worthington’s genius. He had been in the Order a long time, and held the ceremonial title of Pendragon of the Order, and has been immersed for years in the old stories and legends of these islands. I think one of the reasons why the deck is so successful is he has created a set of windows into the Otherworld and you really feel as if that world exists. Some of the cards represent the same landscapes from different points of view. Try placing the King of Cups of the Queen of cups together, back to back, to see what I mean! He has even created a range of furniture in this world. Just look at all the wonderful carved chairs there are in the deck!
There seems to be an ever increasing dichotomy among people these days, as some become more technological and detached in many ways. Yet, with social media and the speed with which we are now able to communicate, new communities are also able to form and meet – creating new circles in person. Do you have any suggestions or examples in your own experience for achieving a healthy balance between the two?
On the one hand, the new technologies are creating separation: between ourselves and the green outdoor world, and between each other as we lead more isolated lives. And yet they are also responsible for the reverse: for connecting people up who otherwise may never have communicated, for learning about the world of Nature and even helping to protect it. Look at this: you and I only met briefly once a few years ago, but here we are having an exchange! So I think we just have to be vigilant, and every so often ask ourselves whether we are using the technologies to have more engagement with the world or less.
Have you been involved in specific activism personally? For spiritual rights / land rights, or other situations? Did you find it grounding or impossible to deal with?
When we began distributing the distance learning course in 1988, we wanted to stress not only the need to work on the spiritual journey – which the course represented – but also the need to be concerned with the world and others too. And so, at the same time we launched two projects: The Campaign for Ecological Responsibility and the Sacred Grove Planting Programme. Instead of explaining them here, readers can look at the projects directly through the links: http://www.druidry.org/events-projects/campaign-ecological-responsibility
More personally, in terms of activism, I have been involved in fighting to save trees from being felled and in the anti-fracking movement, and you can see a short clip of me talking about this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRndXhp0Koc
You ask if I found it grounding or impossible to deal with. I found that I needed to connect with my ‘inner warrior’ otherwise it was just too hard. I hate confrontation – I’m one of those people who automatically adopt the role of mediator in a conflict. But these experiences test our mettle and make us stronger. And I think if you can find the energy to stand up for something you feel is right, then that helps others to do so too. I remember standing under some trees they were trying to fell, and being told to move otherwise they would call the police because they couldn’t fell the tree if I was that close, and an old man came out from a house nearby and when he found out what I was doing, he told them he was going to chain himself to the tree because he looked out on it every day. So individual acts of activism can catalyse a sense of solidarity, affirming the idea that none of us are really alone.
What do you feel is the role of the mystic in modern society?
Our modern world constantly conspires to take us away from ourselves and from the truly meaningful. The capitalist society we live in is based upon the need for us to consume as much as possible, to ensure ever-increasing growth – hence the endless demands on our attention. The role of the mystic whose task is to communicate to others, is to emit one continuous signal – one message – that has been the same since the dawn of humanity, that has been expressed in a thousand different ways: ‘Know Thyself’ ‘Seek the Kingdom of Heaven within’ – go deep, go within, seek Spirit, the Goddess, Deity. You would think this is pretty straightforward and doesn’t need a continuous supply of messengers or signal transmitters through the ages, wouldn’t you? But somehow, we need continuous reminders – gentle nudges, long discourses, simple practices reinvented to suit the Spirit of the Times. And there are other mystics whose role is not to communicate this, but simply to live it. Eckhart Tolle has called these people ‘frequency holders’ – they do not necessarily write books, give talks or teach. Instead they just ‘are’ – and in ‘being’, they create pools of stillness that influence the wider environment.
Anything new on the horizon as far as books or decks?
I have just finished a novel, based on the true life story of a modern-day Nostradamus – a woman who lived in Brittany, ‘The Druidess of Brocéliande’ – and a priest who started building a grail church during the war. I hope it will be published later this year. Soon I will be turning to the next project which is a new Tarot deck: ‘The Opera Tarot’, with beautiful images painted by the artist Linda Sutton, drawing on scenes from opera to illustrate the meanings of the Arcana.
Additional info, contact, bibliography & site addresses for people to learn more about your work and OBOD
My blog, and details about books and upcoming events, and a collection of essays can be found at www.philipcarr-gomm.com
For information on Druidry and the Order: www.druidry.org
Thank you, Philip!