The OBOD Summer Gathering 2017

Jun 13th, 2017 | By | Category: Articles, Pagan People

Moon Books author and mentor for The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids Brendan Howlin reflects on the recent midsummer gathering…

Never drive to Glastonbury in the UK on a Friday morning down the A303 past Stonehenge. The traffic is often nose to tail, so what should be a less than 2 hour journey from urban Surrey can take twice that long. Having said that the suffering is worth it, to go to the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) summer gathering. The gatherings of the Order take place twice a year, roughly 2 weeks before the summer and winter solstice. Non-Druids whom I have spoken to, query why we are missing the solstices and the reason is that most OBODies prefer to meet with their local groves or seed groups on the actual solstice dates. If you add to this that there can be upwards of 12,000 people at Stonehenge on the actual solstice, this doesn’t make for a close community time.


I didn’t read the tickets this year, so missed a special drumming event on Glastonbury Tor on the Friday evening. I mean, the tickets are always the same, right? So if you want to know about this you will have to ask someone else, I was in the pub! OBOD is the largest Druid organisation in the world but Glastonbury Town Hall only takes 200 people, so places get booked up pretty quickly. The weekend had three firsts and as Druids particularly like things in threes, this was propitious. On the Saturday morning we meet in the groves of our grades and discuss what we are going to do in the afternoon ceremony. For the first time this year we had more Druid grade attendees than Ovate grade ones, so we had to swap meeting rooms. We struggled up the Tor in the afternoon at 3:30pm (I swear that path gets steeper every year!) with persistent rain and wind in our faces and it miraculously cleared for the ceremony. It is the job of the ceremony organiser to choose loud voiced (loud mouthed?) participants for the spoken roles in the ceremony as they often have to compete with the blessings of the elements in an open space with a circle of 200 people plus extras. I met a lady on the Tor who wanted to join in, this is perfectly acceptable as the public ceremonies are open to all. As I was taking the role of one of 4 druids who guide the ceremony my lecturing training came in useful. In fact afterwards about 6 people came up to me to say that they could hear every word, which is pleasing as there is nothing worse than trying to follow a ceremony that you can’t hear. We also had our second first, with the fastest closing of a circle in history as the heavens opened and everyone beat a hasty retreat down the Tor.

brendan oak

Sunday morning was much more pleasant weather wise and I always enjoy standing in the car park next to the Town Hall at 3:30am watching the white robed figures appear magically from the mists of Avalon. This was our third first, in that it was our first time back in Stonehenge, after a gap of 2 years owing to interactions with English Heritage. I took the role of the Oak King for the ceremony. The Oak King grows in strength until the summer solstice and at the height of his power he starts to decline and the Holly King takes over. Until the winter solstice, when he too declines and the Oak King takes over. This is the cycle of life. People traditionally make New Year’s resolutions in January when they are naturally feeling a bit low and less than positive. The Oak King invites people to make vows at the time of his strength, which is the best time to do it. We used to do this by passing around the oak leaved crown that the Oak King wears but in a circle of 100 people, with English Heritage watching the clock, it takes too long, so I held it up and invited people to make their vows (should they desire to) en masse as it were. Incidentally holding up the crown was not entirely voluntary as it was made for a King with a much larger head than mine so dropped down onto my neck when I put it on. This provided the spectacle of seeing a scientist without a big head for the assembled crowd.

So we came, met and left as happier and calmer people. The sheer buzz of being amongst people who are actively trying to be nice and do good is always a cathartic experience for me and a welcome change from the pressures of work. Roll on the winter gathering!

Find out more about Brendan’s books here –

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Comment