An Ovate’s Journey Through the Forest By Diane Worthington

I am an OBOD druid (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) who is currently studying the Druid grade of their course. This is a personal account I wrote about my journey through the Ovate grade and I thought I would share it here.Image

It seemed as if the whole world was still asleep as I prepared for this very important milestone. It was dark outside and a cold winter’s chill had even crept into the house while it slumbered. All my ceremonies and rituals are usually performed outside, but this one was to be different, it would be in the centre of my own home, making it somehow, even more special. More than just another step along the path, but the beginning of a much deeper experience of the road less travelled.

As I entered my circle, I felt a certain apprehension, knowing that from this point on, my life would change forever, maybe subtly, but significantly. When the Gatekeeper asked me to pass through to the Ovate Grove the immediate sense of community was overwhelming, a feeling of coming home and of truly belonging. Deep connection is a rare and beautiful thing, and I knew then that I was exactly where I needed to be and where I wanted to be.

As I stood in the centre of the circle, I could see many robed figures who stood waiting …………. For what? After a moment I was guided over to the Druid who stood in the East, and as I approached, he spoke. “You have come in the light of vision. How will you proceed upon your path?” I thought for a moment before answering, “with clarity of thought”. “What does the purity of the element of Air mean to you?” he asked. “Knowledge, wisdom, insight” I replied. “Will you strive to uphold this purity?” Sensing this was his last question, I thought again, and answered “I will, with my whole mind”. I was then given a blessing before moving on.

I was the guided to the Druid in the South, who began questioning me as the previous one had. “You have come in the light of purpose. How will you proceed upon the path?” My answer, “with passion”. “What does the purity of the element of fire mean to you?” “The Divine spark” Lastly, he asked “will you strive to uphold the purity of this element?” and I replied, “I will, with all my spirit”. Once again, I received a blessing and headed for the Druidess in the West.

As I walked towards the figure stood at the West of the circle I saw it was a woman and this Druidess began the same routine as before. “You have come in the light of wisdom. How will you proceed upon the path?” and I responded “by following my heart”. Then again, “What does the purity of the element of water mean to you?” My answer, “Life”. “Will you strive to uphold this purity?” “I will, with all my heart”.  The Druidess then blessed me as the others had.

I approached the Druidess in the North and she spoke, “You have come in the light of faith. How will you proceed upon the path?” I answered “with determination”. “What does the purity of the element of earth mean to you? “Deep connection with the ancestors”. Finally she asked, “Will you strive to uphold this purity?” I responded with “I will, with my whole body”. I the received the final blessing.

The ceremony continued in a sort of magical haze. Later, when the initiation was complete, I was amazed at how powerful it had been, and what I feeling of transformation I was left with. The path winds on, and I feel prepared and ready to follow it.

I take my leave and walk  away from the Grove and continue down the forest path. The daylight is growing now and the birds are greeting the Sun with their song. As I head into the heart of the woodland I sense a change ahead, another clearing. In the clearing I see a small cottage or hut that looks so old, it seems to grow from the forest floor as do the trees. Smoke is rising from the chimney and as I near, I can see an old, bearded man sitting outside on a small stool, he seems to be whittling a small piece of wood. He looks up and beckons me over, “I have been waiting for you” he says. He has a very kindly face and an unmistakable aura of goodness and wisdom. I tell him my name and he introduces himself as Ethwas. I ask if he is to be my guide through the forest and he replies that if that is what I want, he is willing to show me the way. He explains that he will not be with me in body every step of the way, but he is only a thought away. I ask how will I contact him if I need to. “Come here to my cottage or hold your staff high and think of me, and I will be there”. To my surprise, he has an identical staff to my own, Oak with a Merlin Hawk carved on the top. I sit beside Ethwas and we talk. He tells me the story of Airmid and says that I too am a healer and will learn even more of this art as I continue through the forest and he teaches me a herbal prayer. He also advised me that I should visit the Grove of the Ovates as there was much to learn there. After a long time talking, I thank Ethwas and take my leave, and he reminds me to use the staff if I need him.

Further down the forest path I come to a small patch of sunlight flooding in through a gap in the treetops and feel the urge to dance. It seems to me that there is a strong connection between the body, the mind and the spirit. This sacred dance rejuvenates me for the next part of the journey.

My experience in the Ovates’ Grove was surprising and not as I had expected. I had thought it would be a very quiet and calm place with a few old men sitting around and meditating, but it turned out to be very different. It was a very large space and very busy. There were different areas with various activities going on such teaching, healing, divination and discussion. On this my first visit there I spoke to no one but I have since returned many times, in search of healing, inspiration, information and comfort.

This journey means many things to me, growth, knowledge, wisdom, healing, insight and a sense of purpose. Along the way there are many things I have done, hand sewing my crane bag from pieces of leather, the making of an ogham set from the various trees that each stave represents and the making of a tree journal containing facts, insights and leaf pressings from the trees I meet.

Wandering along the path I have encountered many sacred sites, stone circles, single standing stones, ancient Yew groves, holy wells and springs and old churches. In all these places I have found it much easier now to sense the flow of earth energy, to trace the ‘dragon lines’ than I used to. This has led me also to begin a study of the Ley lines that criss-cross the land.

My connection to trees has become so much stronger and I often find myself communication with Oak, Yew or Beech and have a very special relationship with an old Silver Birch tree in my own garden. I have gained much, in particular, from singing to them, and in turn listening to their songs also. My knowledge of herbs too has increased, even though I have previously studied herbalism, I now feel I can use them intuitively instead of only using ‘book learning’.

I have also rekindled an interest in tracing my family tree. About 12 years ago my father and I did extensive research on my paternal line and went back to an ancestor born in the Midlands in 1592, but since beginning this journey I have now begun tracing my maternal line back after doing the visualisation in the gwersu, and to my surprise, much of the impressions I got from that exercise seem to be quite accurate.

My experience of ritual has increased greatly and I have done many solo rituals, but also I have celebrated each one of the festivals by doing a full seasonal ritual with my family in our grove in the garden. We have been able to watch the wheel turning and it has brought us all closer together, and closer to nature too.

Watching the seasons pass, seeing the new buds of Spring, the bright green leaves and vibrant flowers of summer, the fiery colours of autumn and the stark black branches of winter, and working with the materials in the gwersu, has helped me to learn to live ‘in the moment’. To be able to focus on and enjoy the ‘here and now’. In addition to this I feel I have learned how to step outside of time and view things from a different perspective when needed, which I have found very helpful in many situations, especially at work which has been particularly stressful lately, and by viewing it from a future position, it certainly makes it seem less important.

I do not feel that this journey has ended, only I have reached another milestone along the path, and I am eager to continue onwards.

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