In ancient Keltia, the Druid Order consisted of learned men, those educated in Bardic Arts: cosmology, native history, legendary history of heroes and spirituality, penal laws and punishments, geography, healing, botanical medicine, astronomy, astrology and magic…
–Joshua Free explains in the preface to Pheryllt.
It is no wonder the Bardd is viewed as transmitter or catalyst of awen, the essence, divine spark or spirit of inspiration that the Greeks termed gnosis. It is to the ‘ebb and flow’ of the ‘awen field‘ that the poetic genius of Bards is attributed.
Diverse facets of knowledge, from practical magic, to the Bardic Arts, to Celtic history or even philosophies assimilated from cultures that Druids encountered throughout Europe, all appear in Douglas Monroe‘s works under the premise of being referenced from the Book of Pheryllt – or more accurately the Books of Fferyllt, a collective body of knowledge (what is literally called the Body of the Dragon in his preface to the 21 Lessons of Merlyn).
Following the lead of Monroe‘s citations, other cycles of Welsh material are also incorporated into the Book of Pheryllt, namely the Cad Goddeu (or Battle of the Trees) and the Gorchan of Maeldrew and both are contained in Volume I of the Books of Pheryllt. The three do not overlap or necessarily pertain to practical methodology in the sense the Seeker is left with when examining the “grimoire” portions of Douglas Monroe’s Lost Books of Merlyn. The “cantos” depicted on page 252 from that text are actually derived from a cycle of Norse mythology titled: Fridthjof’s Saga.
“The Druids believed in books more ancient than the flood. They styled them the ‘Books of Pheryllt’ and the writings of Hu.”
– Ignatius Donnelly, ‘Atlantis’
“Oxford is old, even in England… its foundations date from Alfred, and even from Arthur, if, as is alleged, the Pheryllt of the Druids had a seminary there.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits
According to Douglas Monroe a manuscript known as the ‘Book of Pheryllt‘ from the 16th century collection is attributed to a modern antiquarian Bard: Llywelyn Sion of Glamorgan, Wales. It is purportedly moved from the library of Owen Morgan “Morian” to the private collection of the Albion Lodge of the ‘United Ancient Order of Druids of Oxford‘ before coming into Monroe’s possession. Barddas, also by Llywelyn Sion, strongly influenced work of Douglas Monroe, neodruidism and the National Welsh Eisteddfod. In addition to Monroe‘s work, Barddas is highly recommended as a companion to the Pheryllt.
“It became rapidly clear that to give the ‘Body of the Dragon’ its true justice, given the many diverse subjects and scattered references from Douglas Monroe’s trilogy and the mysterious manner which Bards conceal knowledge, that my facsimile of the Pheryllt material required more than one volume to be complete.”
— Joshua Free
ADDITIONAL EDITOR’S NOTES: The reader will quickly find that much of the herbal lore, formulas and Ogham knowledge is held back from the first volume in order to establish proper roots of doctrine and tradition. As a debut volume it was important for it to carry integrity of authentic Welsh Bardism; not simply one more ‘book of shadows‘ on the market overrun by incense blends and notes for self-guided visualizations. How long it will take to bring this venture to its completion is another matter altogether. It has already taken years to muster the spiritual courage and mental fortitude to even consider such a feat, even though I am well versed in Douglas Monroe‘s specific brand of Druidry and have written extensively on the topic in previous books…
“–Ac yna yr ordeinodd hi drwy gelfyddydd llyfrau Pheryllt I ferwi pair o Awen.”
“–So she (Ceridwen) took to the crafts of the Book of Pheryllt to boil a cauldron of Awen.”
– from the ‘Hanes Taliesen’, Peniarth MS
We have been given little in classical literature or even antiquarian druidism to satisfy hunger for Pheryllt (pronounced FAIR-ee-llt or VAIR-ult) research, and even less to support an in-depth critique of their founder, a figure named Pharaon (FAR-ah-on), and translated by some scholars to mean ‘higher powers‘. Perhaps it is ‘Druid Craft’ to call down ‘higher powers’ to conjure inspiration and magic – perhaps that is what Ceridwen is doing in the famous reference above. In either case, it has spawned an entire branch of modern druid methodology and a natural universalist philosophy even if only in spirit…
Neodruids… Modern druidism emerged with (and essentially as the answer to) the development of an urban-oriented industrialization of society in human civilization. The revival far predates both the modern New Age Movement and contemporary Wicca as an underground counter-cultural movement or secret society — both public and private.
Explore this and hundreds of other facets of new age, metaphysical and occult mysteries in Joshua Free’s underground masterpiece: ARCANUM, the perfect compliment to THE DRUID COMPLEAT curriculum of Merlyn’s School of Druidry & Magick.
The early 18th Century revival in England coincides with the rebirth of the Freemasonic tradition. The Freemasons began to allow “Accepted Masons,” those who were not masons by trade, into their ranks. [Many founding figures of the early neodruid organizations were Masons and Rosicrucians.] Neodruidic revival occurred during the Anti-Witchcraft and Magick Acts (see Book of Elven Faerie or The Druid Compleat), so members were cautious not to be interpreted as “sorcerers” or “witches.” This forced many of the organizations to operate as ecological, charitable and social rotary clubs.
The sacred sites of the Celts and antiquarian interest in the Druids promoted a renaissance of “Celtic Reconstructionism” and neo-druidism. The interpretation of this revival, the differing beliefs and personal inclinations of individuals caused the first of many underground neodruidic schisms. [This entire blog/lesson is excerpted officially from ARCANUM by Joshua Free.]
John Toland originally sought to unify the antiquarian movement in 1717 when he founded the (British) Druid Circle of the Universal Bond [“An Druidh Uileach Braithreaches” (ADUB)]. It maintained international membership from the start and was rooted in Toland’s personal researches into the Druid Histories. [Toland’s secret society also went by the name of the “Ancient Druid Order” (ADO).]
Some “mesopagan” Druids, like Henry Hurle, saw neo-druidism as an extension, if not a purely Celtic equivalent, to Eurasian Freemasonry, which was revived in England in the same year and place [“The Apple Tree Tavern”] as John Toland’s ADO in 1717. Hurle led the formation of the “Ancient Order of Druids” (AOD) in 1781 emphasizing his background in Masonry, Rosicrucianism and the Kabbalah. Some members disliked the occult focus, preferring participation in the social-charitable organizations.
These members formed their own branch or offshoot called the “United Ancient Order of Druids” (UAOD) in 1833, which retained the “rotary club” ideals. Other Masonic-Druids joined the “Ancient Archaeological Order of Druids” (AAOD), which was formed by Robert Wentworth Little in 1874, later changing its name to the “Ancient Masonic Order of Druids” (AMOD) in 1886. These Masonic and Rosicrucian-oriented Druids went onto evolve the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (GD). Other Hermetic and Kabbalistic organizations of neodruids continued to form.
Once the revival had been organized it immediately became a public and national identity. Sacred sites such as Stonehenge and Woodhenge would entertain guests by the thousands during neodruidic activities. Large media events were planned around the dramatic reenactments and ceremonies performed by neodruids in full wizard’s attire. The more publicized displays coincided with the autumn equinox and summer solstice festivals. The full eight-fold wheel of the year, now common in the New Age, was not yet a part of the revival. [See ARCANUM for further information regarding this.]
In the 19th Century, when Quasi-Masonic neodruidry was developing, a separate nationalist movement was growing alongside. These “reconstructionists” sought to reinvestigate the Bardic Tradition as a national custom in Wales. Figures such as Iolo Morganwg (compiler of the Barddas), William Blake and Edward Davies all desired to preservation of the language and Druidism of Wales. This led to a revival of the “Gorsedd of Bards” and a “National Eisteddfodd” held annually in public to celebrate the Welsh tradition. With some offbeat claims of “authenticity,” the Welsh revival (and the more recent neo-Pheryllt system) has been subject to historical and mystical controversy in relation to other organizations and revival efforts.
Organized neodruidism did not reach America until the early 1900s as an extension of AAOD/AMOD. Though originally a more Masonic-based secret society, the “Ancient Order of Druids in America” (AODA), as they called themselves, evolved into a standard green magick system under the direction of John Michael Greer, including neo-paganism and sacred geometry. The 1960s displayed a more publicly visible forum for “reformed” neodruidism, evident by the Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA), founded by Minnesota college students: first as a rebellion to the religious requirements of Carleton College, but it became a widespread modern contemporary avenue toward New Age ideals.
Ross Nichols had been a member of ADO for a decade when Arch Druid Robert MacGregor Reid passed away in 1963. The election for a new Chosen Chief produced a schism in the organization. Nichols felt that the Rosicrucian-Theosophical approach to neodruidism did not “feel” truly “druidic,” so he formed the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). The order still incorporated some Eastern philosophies but remained primarily Celtic. After his death, OBOD was passed down to Philip Carr-Gomm who jump-started the organization again in 1988. Most of the modern revival traditions of the 1990s-to-present seem heavily dependent on the OBOD materials and social networking. Most major contemporary neodruidic figures/authors have some connection to OBOD in England (or to COBOD, the Council of British Orders of the Druids).
Back in America, the RDNA tradition gave rise to an only slightly more solemn practice in the early 1980s under the direction of Isaac Bonewits. The new order, A Druid Fellowship (ADF) sought to provide for America what OBOD does for Europe. Both organizations eventually became an international success. But then, as is common in neo-druidism, another schism erupted. In 1986, some members broke away from ADF to form the Henge of Keltria (HK), which justifiably sought to remove the wiccan influence that overran the ADF materials.
The neodruidism of the 21st Century really belongs to the youth of society, the young and middle-aged seekers. At one time it seemed to be a social organization aimed at the older and more established working class. Today, the ecological responsibility proposed by the “Druid Way” speaks to those that fear the near-future state of the Earth Planet. It is the younger generations that are feeling the effects and fearing the future as they work to solidify their own lives on an ever-changing canvas. The long-term effects of crude oil use, chlorine-based refrigerants, freshwater pollution and air quality are beginning to take affect, though it seems the elder mongers with cash interests in these products simply don’t care about those of us that will still be alive in the oncoming decades. The world of neodruidism has come into existence among the common classes because of the calling felt to aid in the restoration and balance of Nature… —Joshua Free
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