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.
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.