Tag Archives: gorsedd

Prayer and meditation

There can be a fine line between prayer and meditation, if you are inclined to work that way. One of the things I do is to contemplatively deconstruct The Gorsedd prayer in times of difficulty. The reflective process clears my thoughts and generally improves things. I have never been sure whether there was anything coming towards me as a consequence of working with the prayer, but it works, regardless.

Grant, oh spirits, thy protection. I reflect on why I am feeling vulnerable and what I might need protecting from, and how that protection might manifest. Courage is often key.

And in protection, strength, but what do I need to be strong for? What kind of strength, and how should it manifest? What do I need the strength to do?

And in strength, understanding. What do I need to understand in this situation? What might I better understand if I was feeling more sheltered, and thus feeling able to be more generous? Can I do that anyway?

And in understanding, knowledge. Knowledge is always good. Where are the holes in my knowledge? What might I have overlooked?

And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice. What would justice look like in this situation? What do I have to do to make that happen?

And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it, well, yes, and then we get into the love of gods and goddesses, of all existence, and all goodness. This causes the most pondering, because I don’t actually believe that unconditional love for all things is any kind of good idea. I reflect on where my heart is in the situation, what I love and what I do not, and why.

As I go through each line and reflect, my mind inevitably wanders around a lot. I have a nomadic mind, but the structure of the prayer pulls me back, over and over, to working through a deliberate series of thoughts. It calms me, and it improves my clarity. It reminds me that there is a sacred aspect to everything I do. It helps me to be more generous and less judgemental.

More about the Gorsedd Prayer here – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-gorsedd-prayer/

More about working with prayer here – http://www.moon-books.net/books/when-pagan-prays

The Gorsedd Prayer

There is a prayer commonly used at druid gatherings. When I first encountered it, I had no idea where it came from or how it might fit in the history of druidry. I learned it, and intoned it, although I found that people vary the endings and some of the words. Deity, and spirit words are often interchanged to fit the nature of the gathering, and at Bards of the Lost Forest, we never quite agreed on what order the end came in. But the gist of it is something like…

Grant, oh spirits, thy protection

And in protection, strength,

And in strength, understanding

And in understanding, knowledge

And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice

And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it,

And in the love of it, the love of the gods and goddesses

And in the love of the gods and goddesses the love of all existence, and all goodness.


I’ve done a lot of deep contemplative work with this prayer, both before knowing that it’s probably Iolo Morganwg’s work, and after. I’ve meditated on the connections between ideas and the implications of each line. In short, I have tried very hard to come to a proper understanding of its significance, and I’ve never got there. For some months now I’ve been entertaining the idea that I should re-write it, taking the form of the original as inspiration, but coming up with a line of progress that makes more sense to me. Yesterday, I woke up with a fire I my head, and what happened, was this…

Grant, oh spirits, thy protection,

And in protection, insight,

And in insight, understanding,

And in understanding, compassion

And in compassion, rightful action,

And in rightful action, the love of it,

And in the love of it, the love of all existence,

And in the love of all existence, a sense of the sacred

And in that sense of sacredness, peace.


I feel I’ve focused more on engagement and action than the original does, not imagining a flow that entirely comes in from the outside, but a space in which we can be opened to opportunities for our own development. The causality in this works better for me, and I’ve tested it on my bloke and child to good effect.

I’m a huge believer in evolving tradition, in taking what we have and doing it over so that it suits us better and makes sense for where we are. On the folk side it’s called ‘folk process’. If anyone likes what I’ve done and wants to make off with it, then please do so. Or if you like some bits of it and not others, take those and folk process them until you get what you need, or write your own from scratch and send that out into the world. Or keep the original, because I’m guessing there are people who do understand the deeper currents within it  and for whom the language works perfectly.

The naming of Druid groups

This week over at Cat’s Druidy blog, she talked about names for pagans. http://druidcat.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/whats-in-a-name/ – it’s an excellent and rather funny post. It got me thinking about a parallel issue – how we name groups. When pagans cluster themselves together to do things, they tend to go for names, but finding the right name to muster under is not the easiest job in the world. So, how do you name a Druid gathering?

Many groups include a tag that says something of what they are, so here’s a quick rundown of those and what they mean, or might mean.

Order – in theory this is a big group with its own way of doing Druidry, likely to have member groves, formal membership. Think The British Druid Order, ADF, OBOD. Every so often someone with big ideas and a small following will call themselves an order too, even if technically they look more like a grove. This can cause confusion. In an Gorder, the founding grove may be called the mother grove.

Grove – a closed Druid group, usually has a defined membership, celebrates the cycles of the year and may meet at other times to study and socialise. May belong to an order, may be independent.

Seed Group – especially in OBOD, a group that aspires to be a grove but dooesn’t feel qualified yet.

Gorsedd – a ritual group meeting to celebrate, it may well not have a formal membership or gather outside of ritual. Again, may be part of something else, may not. Sometimes groves run gorsedd as part of their service.

Moot – a social gathering.

Learning circle – a study group, with a degree of equality and sharing, not formally led teaching.

Clan, tribe, circle – this kind of naming tends to denote a group with a definite identity who for whatever reason don’t feel the word ‘grove’ suits – they may be slightly eclectic, invite extended family, not want to seem to formal

There are other names out there, and they tend to reflect what the group is or does. It might use Bards, Ovates or Druids to designate it as Druidic.

Attached to your title, needs to be something to make the group individual. A significant number of groups will take the name of the geographical area they work in. They might name poetically, based on that, they might use a Celtic tribe name from their area, or something else that connects them to a place. Calling an old place ‘Caer’ is a tradition that certainly goes back to early revivalist Druids, so Avebury becomes Caer Abiri, Bath is Caer Badon – people in the know will know, it creates a dash of secrecy and mysticism.

Other groups draw on nature for their name, finding an emblem that resonates for them. These can be as simple, poetic or pretentious as anyone likes. Combining the two, gives you names like Clan of the Dancing Bears, Whispering Pine Grove, The Ancient and Very Serious Order of the Extremely Floppy Hats, (I may have made those up…).

Naming gives group identity, which is a great help when you’re trying to establish a group and give it a sense of self. It gives people a clue as to whether this might be the place for them. Equally, misnaming can create the wrong connotations, and draw the wrong people. A friend once described her first grove, named in a way that made people feel like it was a safe space that would hold them and mother them, which turned out to not be what she had wanted at all. If you invoke a deity, a creature or any kind of concept in your naming, that will inform the vibe of the group in entirely pragmatic ways, and you might also want to think about the kind of spiritual attention it could get you. Don’t invite other entities along unless you are sure you want them present.

Names matter. They create identity, and we pin a lot to them. It’s well worth taking the time to get them right.