In September we held a gathering in Salisbury. Here is the text of the introduction I gave to that day, followed by an 11 minute film that gives a good feeling for how the day unfolded.
Welcome everyone to the third Mount Haemus Conference of the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids.
Druids find groups of three auspicious, so welcome to this auspicious occasion.
Now, in 2012, as at our last meeting in 2008, we find ourselves in the splendid surroundings of the Salisbury Medieval Hall, which was built in the first half of the 13th century when the construction of the cathedral itself commenced. When we last met here, The Medieval Hall and the Cathedral were celebrating their 750th anniversary.
We are in ancient surroundings, concerning ourselves apparently with an ancient subject – the Druids. But one of the characteristics of Druidry today is that it is extremely contemporary – it is a modern phenomenon.
The Mount Haemus project, for example, began in the 21st century: the first award was given in the year 2000. But it is a project rooted in the 17th & 18th century Druid Revival, when Druidism became a subject of fascination for many scholars. And if we follow these roots we find that they do not simply end in that period. Instead they extend back in time to the days of the ancient Druids, those ‘natural philosophers’, as the classical writers called them.
And so as we sit here today in this hall we are participating in an expression of that extraordinary lineage and tradition.
I say extraordinary because, as anyone who has studied the Druids a little will know, the field is filled with much fantasy, and both good and poor scholarship.
This is why we began the Mount Haemus Project – to encourage good scholarship and research – and today we are delighted to welcome four Mt Haemus scholars who will present their papers to us.
The classical writers’ description of the Druids as ‘natural philosophers’ provides us with a clue as to one of the great characteristics of Druidry today, which is that Druids love both the world of scholarship and of Nature, of the wild. We relish an earthy experiential approach to the spiritual as well as revelling in the world of books and the intellect.
And Druids love the arts too, and we will be making full use of the Bardic arts today to refresh us, and keep our minds alert and senses satisfied. Interspersed between our four presentations we will have food and music, and be surrounded by the beauty of this wonderful hall, and with an exhibition too of Ross Nichols’ artwork.
Ross Nichols, or Nuinn as he is called in the Order, as well as being the principal of a college, a historian and poet, was a water-colourist too and here we have framed and gathered all of his watercolours that we have been able to gather. In addition, on the table, you will find an album displaying material from the archives – photographs, drawings and letters.
And now, before we hear the first of our speakers, let’s begin with a brief meditation…