Lost Bards

When I first became involved in the local pagan scene, a group called Hedd Wyn’s Grove ran open rituals in the Birmingham area – solstices and equinoxes. For a time I was a member of the grove, but moved on because it didn’t quite suit me. Some years ago, Hedd Wyn’s Grove stopped offering open ritual, as its founder moved away and those remaining had different plans. I was asked if I would consider taking on the responsibility of providing open druid ritual.

At that point I had some ritual experience and had led a small eclectic group for a few years. It seemed like an onerous responsibility. However, I wasn’t alone. Within a very short time frame we’d collected a number of former Hedd Wyn’s people, and others who had frequented the open rituals. We set up an egroup and started talking. Most of us at the outset had a sense of we didn’t want, but it took a while to find a shape and purpose. What was most important was the time taken to share ideas and explore intentions, until we were able to find common ground and direction. We’re a diverse bunch – OBOD students, TDN folk, bards, philosophers, shamanic druids, and others – our beliefs have very different shapes such that we are never going to have coherent dogma – which is excellent. We share a love of forest and a preference for improvising.

The name evolved because the more simple options didn’t work. Thanks to my accent, with its long vowels, I cannot say ‘Arden Bards’ much less ‘Bards of Arden’ without lapsing into full on Gloucestershire and making people giggle. The Forest of Arden used to be huge, and was (I am told be more learned friends) the inspiration for Tolkien’s Mirkwood. The forest is no longer here, but we meet in a landscape that would have been wooded and part of it. Out of that line of thought came Bards of the Lost Forest. Finding that name defined us. We work in bardic ways, with performance, creativity, inspiration and sharing that at the heart of our rituals. We are dedicated to a forest that isn’t really there any more, to the spirit of a lost, romantic past, to the idea that forests can be replanted and that the spirit of it lives on. The name gave us identity and direction. It was pointed out that we would be abbreviated to Lost Bards. That’s fine. We are, as Carol once said ‘pixie led’, we are all very good at getting lost, and we embrace that confusion. We live in strange times, where the folks with the clearest sense of direction are often the ones it is easiest to be sure are wrong. ‘Lost’ implies the possibility of ‘found’ and we are all questing, in our own ways.

We settled on being an open Gorsedd – a celebratory ritual group requiring no commitment. Anyone who wishes to attend out gatherings, can. We do the eight festivals, and other things – picnics, and workshops, as the fancy takes us. We initiate people as bards, and perform handfastings, child blessings and so forth as required. People make the level of commitment they wish to, which has resulted in a layered group, where influence is entirely about responsibility taken. Three of us hold the centre at present – myself, Caz, and Gary. Around us is a core of people who have made a deep soul commitment, and who attend most rituals, take active part and share ownership. There are those who come occasionally, who are less active, and those we only see once. That’s all fine. It gives people opportunity to explore both ritual and druidry without having to commit.

Bards of the Lost Forest has given me friendship, inspiration, community and a sense of purpose. I’ve learned to be more confident in ritual, I’ve shared hard times and good, watched others growing and learning alongside me. Bards of the Lost Forest is a blessing in my life, in more ways than I know how to express. It’s a group I am very proud to be part of and to have had a hand in shaping. We can be found online at http://groups.yahoo.com/druids-web

 Lost Bards and Dreamers

 We are a song tribe,

Music sharing, story speaking

Breakfast cooked at festivals

Nights starwatching on hills.

We celebrate as a clan

With cake and laughter

Our rites of passage mark,

Fair times and foul.

A vast, adopted family,

Care giving, life affirming

Spirit brother, heart sister

With age irrelevant.

We come together in circles,

In spaces held

To create and delight,

Nurturing each other.

Community of ideals,

Brewing and plotting

Lovers, friends, companions,

Earth people, green souls.

Always space at the fire

For one who comes to give,

Who loves as we do,

And cherishes connection.

At table, in ritual,

Session, dance or journey,

Welcome kindred spirit

If you want this, it is yours.

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