Tag Archives: ovate

Druidry and healing

This week I’ve been talking to some lovely people who run a healing space, and they had questions about healing within the druid tradition. Now, I know there are strands in the druid weave where healing is very much the focus, particularly on the ovate side, and that there are druids who work as healers. I also think that in New Age practice, there is a huge emphasis on healing work, and I wonder about this. Partly because healing is what you do after damage. Druidry, for me, is more about the day to day living, and not getting to a place of damage should be part of that.

Relationship within druidry includes relationship with self. We can’t be in good relationship with the rest of the planet if we abuse, neglect and mistreat our own minds and bodies. Lack of care for self opens the way to illness and ongoing damage while care taken will work to minimize risk, and also helps us cope with anything we couldn’t dodge. I’ve been on the wrong side of this, unable to look after my own most basic needs and conscious of the wounding that caused. Good health, bodily, mentally and spiritually, depends on self care. In order to take care of the self, you have to think that’s worth doing, you need self esteem, self respect, a sense of usefulness, some reason to value your own condition.

Druidry is also very much about creativity and inspiration, and I think this is a huge wellbeing consideration too. There’s nothing like being trapped in a situation to push you towards distress and sickness. Inspiration is the tool for escape, for re-writing the rules, reinventing the job, the relationship, the lifestyle, so that wellness can follow.

In terms of mental health, community and a sense of belonging can make a lot of difference. Emotional support and recognition can keep a marginal person sane. Being heard helps to ward off depression. The work we do in ritual, hearing and supporting each other, holding circles of community, helps to keep us well, and upholds the self esteem essential for self-care.

There’s plenty of mainstream science that says being outside is good for you. A little walk relieves stress, and is good exercise. Time in green spaces is good for mental health. A little dancing, meditating, or drumming is good for the body as well. Many of the things that we do as part of our druidry, has beneficial effects in terms of health.

I think when we make healing into an event, focusing on the action of a few hours or days, we do ourselves a disservice. Wellness is not a thing to tag on as an afterthought. It’s not something to do once a week for half an hour. A good life has wellness at its heart. Granted, there are illnesses and setbacks that won’t be triumphed over just by application of regular druidry, but there is no ailment out there that isn’t alleviated to some degree by living well. So for me, druidry is less about healing work, more about not being so vulnerable to sickness in the first place. No amount of magical or new age healing work will save a person who will not change their life. I was unwell for years because my diet was wrong, I was sleep deprived, living with things that made me anxious, and things that caused me misery. No amount of healing intervention would have done more than paper over the cracks. Only a lifestyle change, and a recognition of the need to take myself seriously could get a healing process under way, and take me into a new phase of life where I am not continually being damaged.

I think the move to seek healing can be a way of starting that process, the recognition of problems, and the recognition of self as someone who merits being cared for. But ultimately, being well is a full time job, and the implications of going after it can be enormous.

Going Ovate

Before I start reminiscing over my time as an OBOD ovate, I must point out that the course has changed since I did it, and I have no idea how much (but mean to find out when time permits!) I also think that my experience of the grade is so personal that, unlike my observations of the bard grade, it may not be very relevant for anyone else. I offer it more for the ‘how I got to here’ angle than anything else.


So, I applied to study the ovate grade, and was accepted – it’s not a huge hoop to jump through, but felt like an important transition nonetheless. I found the ovate grade really hard going. Not in a bad way though. I think, inherent in the course (and probably still there) is a journey that takes you inwards. Having learned lots of external form stuff in the bard grade, ovate work goes deeper. This is why individual experience is not going to be predictive of how anyone else finds it. It all comes down to where you are in your life, what unresolved conflicts you have, what baggage, what needs working through and what of that you are actually able to acknowledge and make a start on.


At the time of going ovate, I had more personal demons than I could shake a stick at. Some of them – the most problematic – I was still totally in denial about. I worked on other things, and I worked hard, but I know retrospectively that life would have been very different had I been able to face the big stuff then. The ovate grade took me deep into meditation work. I find scripted ritual for one person impossible. I have a pretty hefty aversion to scripts in ritual at all, I’m too drawn to improvisation. As with the bard grade, I had to find my own ways of balancing that. While my bardic tutor was an absolutely lovely person to work with, I found my ovate tutor a lot more challenging and demanding too. This also was not a bad thing, he required me to push harder, explain better, and go further, so while it didn’t feel so cosy, I do think it was a very productive experience. I’d also got to the point where I didn’t need other people’s approval quite so much, which was also a good thing to learn.


Fewer people do the ovate grade than the bard grade – it’s a natural process of self selection, but it means I have far less sense of how others fared with it. I do know I’m not the only one to have found it very demanding, in a good sort of way.


Through this process I was starting to get a sense of my own druidry. There are ways in which that puts me a bit at odds with OBOD – my script aversion for one. My experience of dedicated OBOD folk is that they tend to favour OBOD ritual forms, and often use scripts. I’m too chaotic. My other problem is robes. I just don’t do robes, there are a lot of practical reasons (a whole blog post’s worth – perhaps another time) and my understanding is that for formal gatherings, white robes and, where appropriate, the right coloured tabard, is expected. I respect OBOD, it has its own ways of doing things, and if that doesn’t suit me, fair enough. I wouldn’t turn up as my scruffy, robe-less, chaotic self and assume an OBOD event or gathering should fit in around that. But it meant a recognition that I was never going to become deeply involved with the order.


But all of that said, my most active druid membership at the moment is with an OBOD egroup, which has been ‘home’ for quite a few years now, and even though I don’t entirely fit, OBOD still has spaces for me and places where I feel welcome. I’m very glad of that.


The ovate grade gave me courage, and helped me get to grips with my past. It gave me the wherewithal to start standing on my own feet, to start recognising my own druidry and to feel able to take myself seriously. Which is as well, because at the same sort of time, other things were happening in other parts of my life. The source of open ritual in my area had gone, leaving a lot of us adrift and unfocused. So tomorrow I’ll shift gears from talking OBOD, and move across to a brief history of Bards of the Lost Forest.