Strange images float into the human mind, creating fear and pleasure. When I was young, I thought of druids (always men) as persons who cast off white cloaks to dance naked at midnight, sacrificing virgins to the gods on a stone alter amongst trees with massive trunks. And then my good friend, Hedd Bleddyn became top druid in Powys, and my mind simply refuses to accept him into this image, no matter how hard I try. Apart from anything else, I've never seen him dance. Anyway, druids are on my mind tonight for two separate reasons.
Firstly, today's Telegraph (and BBC) report that Druidry has just been recognised as an official religion. The Druid Network has won charitable status, which means grants and tax breaks. The Charity Commission has accepted that Druids worship nature, in particular the sun and the earth, but also believe in the spirits of places such as mountains and rivers as well as 'divine guides' such as Brighid and Bran. Don't really think Hedd fits into this image either, though a few of us do worship the mountains I suppose. Anyway I wondered whether we can recruit the druids to oppose wind farms! A few ritual sacrifices amongst the turbines above Llandinam should do the trick.
Second reason druids are on my mind is that this afternoon I attended the official proclamation of the 2011 Powys Eisteddfod at Penybontfawr in the Tanat Valley. There were dozens of druids there, wearing gold, white, blue and green gowns. The eisteddfod is to be held next July at nearby Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant. Llanrhaeadr is best known for the waterfalls, Pistyll Rhaeadr, and as the place where Bishop William Morgan published the first Welsh Language version of the Holy Bible in 1588, which meant that the people of Wales,who at that time spoke only Welsh could read it. He'd moved to Llanrhaeadr in 1878, from Welshpool where he had arrived in 1575. And Owain Glyndwr was born close by as well, and I can well imagine him as a swashbuckling druid. If I could come back as another, it would be as Owain - and I wouldn't have turned back at Worcester. And the 'Queen of the Harp', Nansi Richards was born in Penybontfawr. We marched in a place today upon which she could have gazed from the sitting room in which she sat until her death in 1979. Put next July in your diary.