For the past five days, I have been in a field in the middle of nowhere (actually a lovely spot overlooking the River Severn) with about 300 Druids for Druid Camp 2016!
It was a first time going there for my wife and I and we had no idea what to expect. The ever-brilliant Kris Hughes of the Anglesey Druid Order had told us about the camp via Facebook, and encouraged us to give it a go.
While I have been hovering around the periphery of Druidry for several years now, I had not up to this point ever been to a Druid gathering or experienced Druidry in community, and honestly (as an introvert at the best of times) I was pretty nervous.
But it was amazing! I was originally planning on breaking things down into a blog post per day, because there was simply far too much on to cover in any detail, but I couldn’t do it justice by simply listing events.
There were insightful, erudite and often incredibly funny talks each day from Penny Billington, who spoke about divination ancient and modern (with a bonus Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference), Philip Shallcrass, who utterly skewered the myths about the Ogham being a tree alphabet or calendar, before concluding that it really doesn’t matter, because Druids have been using Ogham that way for centuries and it works, and Kris Hughes who gave a talk that was part timeless wisdom, part comedy stand-up and had the audience in turns of laughter and deep contemplation. I regret having to leave early for a train on Sunday and missing Graham Harvey‘s talk on divination, elephants and elbows, because I had some great chats with him over the camp and would have loved to hear what he had to say.
Each day also had workshops on everything from divination via “found objects” to the music of plants (literally putting electrodes on a plant and feeding the current through a synthesiser so the plant can “sing”), and practical skills such as knitting, leatherwork, baking and my personal favourite, mead-making!
There were Druid rituals every evening, including a beautiful Lammas ritual (which was helpful seeing as I forgot to do a Lammas rite beforehand…bad Druid) with Kris resplendent in a voluminous black cloak in the role of the Reaper. On the first evening, everyone present was given a gift from the Green Man of an Ogham stave from one of the sacred trees of the Druid tradition (I got Gorse, and have already learned quite a bit from the prickly little shrub)…little did we know this was also a way of determining our group in the Community Ritual on the Saturday! Each group took on the role of a different tree and created a mini-drama that came together to tell the journey of the Ogham.
Having only ever experienced Druid ritual in my back garden before, holding hands in circle with lots of other Druids and intoning the Awen was an experience that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. It felt primal and real in a way I haven’t known before.
Evenings then transitioned into entertainment, music, poetry, an Eisteddfod, and the hilarious “Just a Druid Minute” which I can say without hesitation, and which bears repetition, was a very amusing deviation from the usual proceedings. Graham Harvey’s tactic of challenging himself to gain points was inspired, and Penny Billington brought the snark brilliantly!
But above all, what made Druid Camp such a memorable experience, and already makes me look forward to next year, were the people. Going there knowing nobody very well was daunting, but after a day or so, I felt very welcomed and like I was part of an exciting and vibrant community. It was especially wonderful to be able to sit in the cafe or by the campfire and talk to people whose names I only knew from books, and it turns out that Druids are generally a pretty lovely bunch!
So after that, I definitely feel more confident in my own Druidry, and want to get more involved in the Druid world in whatever way I can. When being a solitary Druid can feel isolated, and the Druid/Pagan internet can seem hostile, it’s great that places like Druid Camp exist to remind me that Druidry is about community, friendship and fun. Many thanks to Mark Graham and all the camp organisers and volunteers for their incredible hard work to create such a wonderful space. If you get the chance, I heartily recommend going to Druid Camp next year…I’ll be there!
Note: I totally didn’t take enough photos, mostly because I was too engrossed in what was going on but also because I didn’t want to be the guy snapping pics during a talk or a sacred ritual, so images in this post come from the official Rainbow Druid Camp Facebook page and are used in good faith.