PBP: B is for Bardic Grade

When I first came to Druidry round about 2005, and was a brand spanking new Druidic seeker, within the space of a two months I had joined AODA, OBOD, and ADF. Mainly I wanted to get a good feeling of each flavor of Druidry that was open to me. Looking back, taking on all 3 systems of learning was WAY too ambitious, but it did have the effect of exposing me to three completely different Druidic structures.

I very quickly learned I’m not an ADF type. I know and respect tons of individuals who flourish in ADF (never met one I didn’t like!), but it just never “clicked” with me. Over the years I’ve renewed my membership a few times to give it another try (thinking that like Sushi was for me, it might be an acquired taste), but it still hasn’t worked for me up to this day (though one never knows what the future has in store). It’s the Druid revival, with all of it’s own admitted problems and limitations, that seems to fire up my soul for whatever reason. I’m a Druid, and I’m pagan, but I’m not really a Pagan Druid. Actually my Druidry style seems more focused on animism than paganism.

So while fully recognizing ADF is filled with wonderful people who I consider brothers and sisters under the “Druid umbrella”, it was one style of Druidry that I decided was not for me. This is actually something I like about Druidry, how there are many different branches for different personality types yet we’re all Druids in the end somehow. This makes me happy (It makes me very sad, however to see the “My kind of Druidry is the only REAL kind” arguments I see erupting over the net from time to time. That’s all I’ll say about that for now, I could go into full blown rant mode here).

I decided to stick with the AODA and OBOD and decided to focus on Revival Druidry solely those first few years. Both orders had their beginnings in the same movement, yet each have vastly different approach and feel to them. In the end I focused on OBOD first because really it was OBOD that I felt most comfortable with. In OBOD (and now the AODA too!), the phases of Druid study are divided up into Bard, Ovate, and Druid. I knew right away that my “calling” as it where lay in the Ovate grade. I wanted nothing else but to hurry up and get there, but to do so I had to go through the Bardic grade. So I gritted my teeth and did it. Of course it took me 5 years of many false starts and stops (about two of those years I gave up spirituality again all together). I’d say 90% of my work in the bardic grade was done in the last 2 years when I really got serious about it, and Druidry in general.

I’m not going to pretend that I absolutely loved the bardic grade either though. It’s very geared toward “Paganism 101”. I’ve heard a lot of criticism about this from others actually, considering the price involved.  However, whereas the AODA felt very ceremonial to me, OBOD felt more shamanic (Now I honestly like both approaches and is why I like combining the two). Besides I liked it’s ritual structure, which I still use in my daily rites for it’s simplicity and down to Earth feeling.

The Bardic grade introduces you to the 5 elements, making you spend time with each one, which I’d done many times before. It also can be very vague at times, giving you a seed thought and expecting you to do your own follow up and research. I don’t think using the bardic grade material as your sole material would get you very far, you are really expected to do your own leg work and encouraged to explore beyond it’s bounds. I will fully admit that it’s not for everyone (nor should it be, how boring would that be?).

I wanted to do this right though dammit (time to be a real Druid! For those Hyperbole and a Half fans out there).) So I gave it my full undivided focus, taking one Gwersi about every two weeks to work through it’s contents, study it, and meditate on it. In short, incorporate it into my Sphere.  It’s interesting that at this time in my life all I wanted was to study Druidry, nothing else. I wasn’t even very much into magic, I just wanted the spiritual aspects. I’ve heard that the bardic grade is designed to plumb the very depths of your soul and do some sort of inner-alchemy on you to prepare you for the work ahead. It seems to be very effective in that result. Despite finding some of the work to be a bit tedious, it “did something” behind the scenes to me.

In retrospect I think the bardic course was kind of like having Mr.Miyagi standing over me.

Any connection to Phillip Carr-Gomm I wonder?

All that time spent doing stuff I thought I already knew how to do, stuff I thought I had mastered years ago all came together at the end and somehow made me better. It didn’t necessarily make me a Druid, but it did make me a better one.

What? I have to walk to Earth with awareness again? I did that years ago Grumble Grumble! (Wax on, Wax Off). You mean I have to go contemplate a body of water. Pfffft I did that as a teenager! (Here’s your paint brush, now get started!).

Somehow by the end it did perform some sort of spiritual alchemy on me behind the scenes. It also gave me a very solid foundation in Revival Druidry to serve as my further launching pad. Very shortly after finishing the course, my “magic side” got unlocked hard, and I’ve been hungry for it ever since. I attribute this to that alchemy process and the final lessons of the course where the key. This led me on a journey that has taken me away from Druidry many times, yet always called me back home. The bardic grade also opened me up to new ideas such as the idea of actually being a bard. It helped me develop and nurture artistic side that is very valuable to me I pursue my work further. The bard is not the Druidic archetype I’m most suited for,  but now somewhere inside of me a bard does exist now. In short, I don’t think everyone would like the course, especially if you’ve been Pagan for a long time, but it was extremely useful and a large stepping block for me. I’m very glad I stuck it out and finished it.

I eventually joined the Ovate grade, the place I’d been chomping at the bit to get to in the first place, and promptly got stuck. Not just a little stuck, but good and stuck. Apparently it’s not uncommon at all to have multiple re-starts in the Ovate grade. I fully intend to finish it one day, but it may take me another 5 years. That’s ok though, I have plenty of time and am not in a hurry. I’ll get there when I get there.

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29 Responses to PBP: B is for Bardic Grade

  1. meadmuse says:

    Enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing. Meadmuse

  2. Just Bren says:

    I didn’t know that Druidry was so involved, I mean the different paths within. I’ve been reading the Path to Druidry and must not have gotten that far yet. Very interesting post. Now I’m going to google ADF, AODA, and OBOD. 🙂 Thank you for this. I’m subscribing to your blog now! 🙂

    • Seillean says:

      The Path to Druidry is a great book! I’m hoping to write a review of it it this month actually. It goes into the different branches (Bard, Ovate, Druid) kinda near the end of the book. The book mainly highlights OBOD style Druidry. Oh, and there are links to AODA and OBOD in my side bar if it helps. Thanks for the comment, my best to you on your path!

  3. Harzgeist says:

    Interesting read! I was always debating whether to join one of the groups you mentioned; now with a bit more background knowledge I can make a more informed decision. Thanks!

  4. Erik says:

    I had a very similar experience of ADF and OBOD to yours – I belonged to ADF for five years and even got to do a little traveling and check out a couple different Groves (Stone Creed does *awesome* rituals!), but it never really felt like home. OBOD felt much more home-like, but the cost has been a prohibiting factor up to now; I worked with a seed grove for a while, but haven’t had a chance yet to work through the gwersu beyond those in the introductory packet… I really want to do the audio course, actually.

    I haven’t done anything with AODA; although I have corresponded with JMG off and on for several years and read his Druidry Handbook, and discovered that a number of my favorite druid bloggers are or were members, I’ve never felt called to it at all. Maybe it’s that JMG is heavily involved in fraternal orders, not sure, but it just has a very different *feel* from OBOD despite, as you point out, being equally rooted in the Revival.

    Like you, I am definitely a Revival Druidry kind of guy -but as a musician and writer I fall naturally into the Bardic archestereotype (new word! :)… I suspect, given my near-complete lack of interest in doing any sort of magic or divination, that the Ovate grade would present some fascinating challenges!

    • Seillean says:

      Hi Erik! Yeah the only reason I was able to join OBOD in the first place was because it was before the recession and before I got married and had kid, when I only had myself to spend money on (Seems like a lifetime ago!). The cost is a big hurdle for a lot of people I think. I honestly wish I had gotten the audio course too. I think there’s a lot to be said for the listening experience.

      I kinda have a love/hate thing going on with the AODA. I prefer the OBOD ritual style MUCH greater than AODA, and your right it does have a very “fraternal” feel. I like their focus on learning about your bio-region and personal eco-action. I enjoy the fellowship there and now that I’m studying Hermetics I can see it dovetailing with the AODA nicely given their more ceremonial style. JMG is pretty awesome too I’d say from my own interactions with him. The man is practically a walking library! I have to say I have a soft spot in my heart for OBOD though.

      I hope I didn’t come off as too hard on the bardic course. There was tons in it that I found enjoyable and worthwhile. I think I was trying to address the criticisms I’ve seen leveled at it. It’s not perfect, but I’d still say it was worth every Penney for what I got out of it. If you do end up taking it, I wish you luck. Have you checked out the Druid network? They seem very similar to OBOD in terms of “style” and offer a few free courses.

      • Erik says:

        I haven’t checked out Druid Network, actually; for some reason I thought they were only active in the UK? Maybe I’m wrong…

      • Seillean says:

        Erik, actually their international but I think your right in that their mainly active in the UK. The US groups are few and far between from what I can find. Still I’ve found affiliating with them to “feel” right (I’m pretty solitary as it is anyway). Their style of Druidry comes closest to my own in my opinion.

  5. Aubs Tea says:

    I think I might be a little jealous. In Kemeticism, you either go it alone or go KO. It’s very disheartening for those of us that feel like we’re floundering. It would be nice to have so many choice groups to help you.

    • Seillean says:

      Yeah I remember that. I was KO in the late 90’s and in the end didn’t like it any more than ADF. I guess i just not a recon kind of guy! I think what the Nisuit has done with KO is great and it’s come a long way. It’s good to have that oasis in the chaos people can find and work with. But if your not a KO kind of person, I remember the frustration of going at it alone. I wish you the best on it.

  6. ladyimbrium says:

    Interesting perspective. I’m a growing enthusiast of Revival Druidry myself, primarily because it allows for such varied interpretation. I blame JMG for everything of course, since it was the eloquent and intelligent prose on his blog that first made me take a look at Druidry as a spiritual path. However- and you just knew that with me there HAD to be a however- I’m not convinced that the budding hierarchical structure of such orders as the OBOD or the AODA is the best thing for a path that has built its numbers on the idea of freedom of interpretation. That’s just my 2.5 cents of course.

    • Seillean says:

      Oh I totally agree with you! 100%. I think that is the limitation of these groups. That’s why ultimately I define myself as “Hedge Druid”. My goal is to define my own Druidry independent of orders. I think orders are great to belong to for shaping and guidance, but I don’t think of myself as a OBOD druid or an AODA druid. I’m just a hermit crab that takes what he needs from both and anchors it on his shell (I’ve considered changing my screen name to some variation of Hermit crab, lol). That freedom of interpretation is what I love about Druidry to begin with!

  7. aynfean says:

    Like Erik mentioned, the cost of joining OBOD is a bit prohibitive. I keep coming back to it over the last few years wondering if I can scrape together the money to join. After hearing you say they have a more shamanistic feel (my other strong pull) I’m even more determined.to figure out how to afford it sooner rather than later.

    • Seillean says:


      It’s definitely more shamanic in flavor I think, though it kind of has it’s own style. It’s hard to explain. Have you tried the introductory packets? They give a good feel as to what the rest of the course is like. I think their good to try before putting down that kind of cash personally.

  8. Iolair says:

    I really wish that I had the time and money to look into the different Druid organizations. It is something that I have dreamed of doing. Once I am done with school, I will definitely start into it. I feel strongly attracted to druidry, and I want to learn a lot more than what I have been reading in books. Thank you for sharing this with us. I enjoyed reading your experiences with the various organizations.
    Also, that is a great picture. It makes me smile.

    • Seillean says:

      Hi Iolair! I think Druidry would suit you quite well. I think the orgs are good guides, but certainly not necessary! I think JMG said it best:

      “In the final analysis, Druidry isn’t about orders, teachers, and books. It’s about each person’s experience of living nature, and if the orders and books and teachers get in the way of that, set them aside, go out beneath the open sky, and find the Druidry that works for you. Ultimately, that’s what matters.” -John Michael Greer

      • Iolair says:

        I do love and agree with that quote. I have learned as much as I have thus far through sitting under the tree in the yard and walking the paths. Listening.

        I agree that it is not necessary to join an org and take courses, but I would like to. If for nothing other than the experience and to learn other takes on druidry. I don’t know. Maybe i feel compelled to just to “keep up” so to speak. Something for me to meditate on

      • Seillean says:

        I can well understand! I’m so the same way, if something piques my curiosity its hard to not go explore it (so says the guy who’s taking 3 separate spiritual courses right now!). If it suits your path I hope you find the right one, and the means to pursue it.

      • Iolair says:

        I am glad that someone gets it! See, I would be excited about taking part in that many spiritual courses. I’m just very impatient when it comes to things like this. I should, and probably will wait until I am done with vet school, but I really want to take a couple now. We will chalk this up to an exercise in patience. right?

  9. Pingback: Magickal Media Blog » Blog Archive » News for Pagans, Saturday, 1-28-12

  10. Elayne says:

    Thank you for sharing your journey thus far. I was adopted into a Welsh Druid grove several years ago and I loved working with and learning from its members. The Chief Druidess had gone through the OBOD training after she had been a memeber of Welsh order years before. It was an amazing experience. Blessings on your continued journey.

  11. jenny gee says:

    Thanks for your blog post (and honesty!) I’ve been stuttering my way through the Bardic grade of the OBOD course for… probably more than five years now. In fact, I have a gwers booklet sitting beside me now. I think I’ve run into a lot of things that have made me go “Uhm, what?” for exactly the reason you mentioned – I’ve been pagan for a long time. It’s nice to know I’m not the only person to have that problem. I’m also happy to hear that people do make it through after that long. 🙂

  12. Skye says:

    Glad to hear it worked out for you!

    My problem with a lot of the courses is that I feel most in tune with the bardic current, yet it is always the first tier and therefore rather shallow I find. So as somebody who would be interested in a bardic path I have to do it all myself. Not that I’m against or a stranger to that kind of thing. I kinda wish It was set up different though. But what can you do? I was always better at doing things myself anyway. 😀

  13. The brilliant artist who painted that “bard”…


    He’s one of my favorite artists.

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