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Keltria Journal

Issue 30 - Beltaine/Summer 1996

Extract of An Interview With Emma Restall Orr

by Ellen Evert Hopman

Emma Restall Orr is joint Chief of the British Druid Order - organizing camps and workshops (etc), encouraging the joyful expression of the ancient songs of our sacred land, and through which the Gorsedd of Free Bards of Caer Abiri was founded. She is also a Druid of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, for whom she is a tutor of the Ovate Grage, Inter-faith Officer and facillitator of the Nemeton Grove. Better known as Bobcat, she sends blessings of the English Wildwood.

Interviewed June 20,1995 Woodcote, Reading, England

eh When did you first discover that you were a Druid?

eo I think it was when I first came across Asterix and Getafix. Asterix is a Roman Gaul in a French cartoon strip and Getafix is the Druid. That was when I was about five years old. At that moment I knew I was a Druid, I think he was my first childhood hero.

In adult life, or semi adult life, after the catastrophes of a wayward adolescence, I found Witchcraft but I couldn't find a coven that I could align with in terms of energy. At that point in my life, I suppose I couldn't even align with the human race very well. So there wasn't much hope for me to be in a cohesive magical state with anyone.

Studying Craft, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and practicing Yoga brought me to a point where I was able to come into the world without being confrontational. At the moment when I could get back to the world without being angry, I realized that the spiritual person inside me was Druidic. It took me back to that childhood archetype because Getafix seemed to be completely in control, always at peace.

eh So how did you find OBOD? How did that happen?

eo After working on my own healing and coming to a point where I could live in the world, getting married, working on my physical body, and having a child, I was looking at a magazine - I can't remember which one it was - and I saw a little ad. This was in 1988, just after OBOD had reformed after it's period of quiescence after the death of the last Chosen Chief, Ross Nichols.

Philip Carr Gomm, the present Chosen Chief put the group back together again on February 14, 1988. I saw the ad and I immediately wrote off; I knew that was exactly what I had to do. And very quickly I found that place of belonging. The running stopped and I started to root.

eh What is it about OBOD that is so important for you?

eo Druidry allows me to find a state of union with the manifest form of the world as it is, and with the laws of nature. At the same time it helps me to understand myself as spirit. It doesn't detach spirit from form. It doesn't transcend the one in order to find the other.

eh You have told me in the past that you were once very interested in Wicca. What is the difference between Wicca and Druidism?

eo My answer to that might seem contentious, so I have to say that I am telling you this from my experience and not necessarily my observation of other people. I find that Druidry is non- confrontational whereas Wicca is still confrontational. It still has to fight to be whereas Druidry is standing up tall and straight to reclaim itsself in society.

I think Wicca has a problem becasuse of the word "Witch" which has such negative connotations, but it is also partly because of the nature of Wicca. In coven Craft you tend to get small groups of people who are strong as a unit in a world which is antagonistic towards them. It's not an easy place to be. Solitary Witches have an easier task.

Witches that come together from traditional Gardnerian or Alexandrian covencraft are working from an occult, secret background. Druidry needs an element of secrecy as well in that it's mysticism is secret until you experience it but in terms of practice we practice openly and without fear in society. If there is too much defensiveness about something, it creates antagonism. I don't believe that Druidry does that. In England anyway.

eh What was it about OBOD in particular that drew you?

eo I didn't know of any other Druid order. In fact, there were very few six years ago in England. Now there are many, they seem to be appearing one a week. Many are coming from people who are leaving the larger Druid orders to set up their own Druid order because they don't like what is going on in the bigger ones.

There are some orders that have only two or three members or ten or twenty if they are lucky. They are a part of what we call COBDO, the Council of British Druid Orders. OBOD is one of the largest Druid groups in Europe. We have had about three thousand members go through the books. We have about seven hundred members currently doing the correspondence course. That means seven hundred paid members at this moment.

On top of that, we have associate members who subscribe to the order and receive the newsletter which comes out twelve times a year. And on top of that, we have people who have completed the course.

I continue to be an active member of OBOD and to run a seed group in central southern England because I feel that it is a wonderful structure to be in while it allows each member to continue their own specific search to their own Gods and their own faith.

There are members of OBOD who are Christian, not only Culdee or Celtic Christian, but modern Christians who consider themselves to be Druid.

eh How can you be a Christian and a Druid at the same time?

eo To be honest this is a question I have asked myself and I have discussed with Christians within the order. The sanctity of nature, finding spirit within everything, basically what as Pagans we would call Animism, is accessible to Christians through Druidry. They don't need to call it Animism, and yet, it allows them to see nature as an expression of the Creator, of the Christian God.

eh If nature is sacred doesn't that make us sacred?

eo You mean the human race? Absolutely.

eh Doesn't that bring you awfully close to the idea of immanent Deity? I thought the whole Christian myth was based on transcendent Deity?

eo I was recently at a Pagan - Christian conference which had wonderful workshops. It had everything from Quakers to Catholics to Protestants and everything in between. The Pagans were almost exclusively coven Wiccans with the odd solitary. I was the Druid. I was very disappointed that the Druids didn't want to focus more on the interfaith work. I had advertised it through the Council of British Druid Orders.

I was talking with various people at the conference and asking them what the problem with Druidry was. In England it seems that Witches are feared and Druids are ridiculed. Druids are just thought to be strange, eccentric people but they are not thought of necessarily as Satanists as Witches are.

I found myself walking the middle way between the Christians and the Witches. And I do consider myself to be fully Pagan, Animistic in every sense. I think it was the exact issue of immanence and transcendence. For me the two join in Druidry. We transcend parts of ourselves in order to find the immanence. We let go of our earthly burdens to fly with the birds.

eh Do you work with any pantheon, any Deities?

eo Personally I tend to work with the Irish or the Welsh Gods and Goddesses. If I am working with something where I want an energy to be backed fully I will work with a specific Deity. My personal understanding of Deity is more Animistic through nature.

eh How does OBOD work it?

To Learn how OBOD works it, get the entire article.

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