Druid Clan of Dana - A Personal Experience
Photo courtesy of Caroline Wise
Caroline Wise after the Council of British Druid Orders Summer Solstice Ceremony on Primrose Hill, London in 1994.
The Druid Clan of Dana Initiation: A Personal Experience
Caroline Wise, AU, ArchDrs.
Isis of the Thames Lyceum
Grove of the Four Elements
I had been privileged to witness a Summer Solstice Druid observance at Stonehenge in the 1970s. It was spine-tingling to watch the white clad druids make their solemn and stately procession to the stones. It was very unlike the free-for all it is now. Yet I had no intention of becoming a Druid. Druids, like Morris Dancers, conjured up a certain image in British popular culture - rather silly, a bit eccentric, and self-consciously ‘olde worlde’ English. Our traditions are generally treated with light-hearted affection. The kit, although splendid on the (all male) celebrants at that evocative mist-enshrouded sunrise, was not for me. When the sun had risen and the mist evaporated, thoughts of Druids dissipated too.
So when the Druid Clan of Dana was inaugurated in 1992, I was interested to hear Olivia’s fascinating account of how it came about, as told in the Rite of Dana. From a mystical perspective, I could easily imagine the Druidic current running through the Irish countryside, animating the trees, the old standing stones, the barrows and the trout jumping in the rivers. I guessed that if Olivia and Derry had received that current, they would manifest it in a wholly authentic, original and active way, as real channels for a living, magical force. After all, nothing in the Fellowship is a re-enactment of inert museum-piece tableau. But Druidry was not for me. I was not a Druid, or anything else that had a label.
Some Months later, I visited Clonegal Castle with several colleagues to take photographs for the ‘Call of Isis’, Olivia Robertson’s spiritual autobiography that I was publishing for Olivia. When we appeared for breakfast one morning, Olivia said that she and Derry wondered if John Merron and I would like to become Druids in the Druid Clan of Dana. I remember saying it wasn’t really for me.
Olivia reminded us that the work John and myself had been doing since the 70s was Druidy, if not by name. This took me aback. It was like a light going on. She was right. We had been involved in the late 70s and 80s with the Dragon Project. This prestigious multi-disciplined scheme was founded by Paul Devereux of ‘The Ley Hunter’ journal to investigate the possibility of mysterious properties at ancient sacred sites. The project had included physicists, biologists, engineers, archaeologists, dowsers, psychics, paranormal researchers, and folklorists. We’d even, on behalf of the Dragon Project, monitored the then often neglected megalithic sites in Ireland, and by extension of that, assisted Martin Brennan in his brilliant book ‘The Stars and the Stones’.
Another druidic connection was that our old friend John Michell, author of the seminal ‘The View Over Atlantis’ had campaigned to have the Druids and the festivals back at Stonehenge. It was reading The View Over Atlantis in 1970 that put me firmly on to the Old Straight Track that led to me being at this Castle anyway. This man had introduced me to the sacred wisdom encoded in our ancient myths and monuments, and its relevance and message to the future.
One of the most profound elements in my own FOI journey is the Oracle. I train priestesses (and on occasion priests) to bring through the Oracle of the Goddess. The Oracle is fundamental to the FOI and is our route to the Goddess wisdom of the ancient world that is relevant today. I hadn’t researched it then, but I had an intuition that the druids used oracles. They also used auguries, my 20th century version being synchronicities, and they utilised divination and dream interpretation. I had since teenage years researched plants and their healing properties. So the Druid connections were there.
I wasn’t sure about the need to be initiated as a Druid, though. Olivia and Derry said to think about it during the day. We discussed it. Initiation was not something to be taken lightly, and has a very different frequency to ordination. Aligning to this current could only focus and enhance our Earth Mysteries work, and our connections to the inner wisdom of the earth and nature. Another good point was that as it was within the Fellowship, it would not be patriarchal like our 70s druids, and it would aid and develop our priesthood work – as it all came form the same well. We both also had a strong connection with the goddess Brigid, John especially, and Brigid is associated with Druids in legend. After much contemplation, we decided to enter the Clan.
Olivia asked us to meditate and choose some totems for the Druid Clan of Dana. There would be a tree, a gemstone, a metal, a flower, a herb, an animal, a bird, a fish and a star. We let these surface from within us. This is an interesting exercise, as often the totem revealed is not what one would consciously choose. Further investigation and synchronicities, which will start almost immediately and unfold over many years, will confirm that the totem is ‘right’, and reveal many layers of meaning to it.
As with all initiations, one can never imagine what will be experienced. It is not quantifiable. It is always interesting how one seems to be observing as if from outside the ceremony, and how one can feel the gears shifting as the initiation moves to a deeper level.
We started the ceremony outside, by the dolman altar in the abbey ruins, surrounded by trees and grass and plants and birds. Time seemed to be moving at a more languid pace to the outside world, as if we had stepped into fairyland. The blue sky and the nature around us felt enhanced. As the rite got underway, it was dawning on me what a force this current was. It felt both ancient, like the yew trees nearby, yet fresh, like the new blooms awakening around the lawns. I ‘felt’ the vastness of the universe pulsate down through starry space, and its electrical current find a conduit to the earth through candidate and priest. I saw the Earth receive the energy through them, and then flow out in glistening streams along the sacred tracks of the land, animating and quickening Dana’s silver paths, Elen’s sacred ways. The presence of the ancestors, in the realms of the crow-goddess of the Ancient British Isles, anchored this exhilarating stream of energy beneath us.
Then it was my turn to face the Guardian of the Grove. The guardian role was taken by one of my oldest friends, whom I will call Diana. Diana belongs to one of those old-school private occult lodges, exacting and disciplined and little changed from the days of the Golden Dawn. It was at this point on my initiatory journey that I had, without realising it, stepped into the guise of the Fool on his journey. For as the Guardian questioned me at some length about my credentials to enter the Clan, I kept thinking “But this is Diana, and its me, she’s known me for ever – what is she playing at?” Diana ‘scanned me’ and scrutinised me, all but prodded me with her staff – and suddenly the penny dropped: I realised that she was not just acting out a role, going through the motions. She was the Guardian for real. I became convinced that she was not going to let me in. Finally she let me pass. Once more the gears shifted, and the rite became even more profound. I saw us as if from above, standing on the green gem isle of Eire, surrounded by blue sea. It was outside of time. Part of me was soaring as a bird, and I could also see the Island of Great Britain and the small islands off the coasts. I saw how we can tune into the magical streams of the universe all over the world, in our own lands, in other lands. The silver/mercurial threads I was seeing connected us up around the globe like a chain of fairy lights. The Goddess appears one way here, another way there. The druid current pops up as a holy well here, a sacred grove there. The well sends out streams underground and people all over the world are drawn to drink where the streams surface as springs.
What happened after that, I remember in a swirl of sensations – entry into the Temple, music, incense, water from Brigid’s well, a trance journey to the Land of Heart’s Desire, and a sense that many strands of my magical and professional life – the Earth Mysteries, paranormal research, spiritualism, shamanism, animals, trees, books, folklore, mythology, and healing had been spun together to become a golden thread.
I spoke to Diana afterwards, and she confirmed that as she had been entrusted to be the Guardian, then she had to step into that magical job. As far as she was concerned, she had a duty to the integrity of the Rite to be absolutely sure that the person to be admitted was right and also ready. She wasn’t going to let someone in just because they were a close friend, and anyway, she hadn’t been ‘Diana’ then, she had invoked the Guardian.
I am very grateful to Olivia and Derry. My Druid initiation is still unfolding.
I have been writing a series of articles for The Mirror of Isis about my experiences of the Liturgy and rites in the Fellowship of Isis. I would be interested to hear others’ experiences.
About the Author: Caroline Wise has been a member of the Fellowship of Isis for 21 years. She is Priestess, Hierophant, ArchDruidess, Grand Dame Commander, Solar Alchemist and ArchPriestess within the FOI, and a priestess in the Temple of Isis, Geyserville, California. She helped to found several lyceums, groves and priories within the Fellowship. Caroline organized the first FOI Convention which took place in London in September of 1990. She has been active in the esoteric community for many years. Her research on the Goddess Elen is due to come out in book form later this year. Caroline is a regularly featured contributor in the Mirror of Isis. She is a member of the Circle of Isis Advisory Board and a founding member of the Muses Symposium.
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Originally published in the Mirror of Isis, Volume III, Issue No. 1, Beltane, 2008