This time last year I took a train to suburban London to go hang out with a load of druids. The main thing I learned was that druids today are mostly semi-bald forestry workers, therapists, and lonely vets. I had to meet them all the night before Halloween to be briefed on the rites and for a little "get to know you" session before I could be included in the ceremonies.
At the pub, where we met, the leader of the group was wearing a witch's hat. Another guy seemed to be dressed as a pirate. Either he was misled, or a retard. The "moot" (that's what druids call having a few shandies) consisted of me sitting through an hour while they prattled about internet connections and one woman's efforts to baby-proof her kitchen.
The next night i arrived at the pub and was ferried in a Land Rover to the woods nearby. We walked into the near pitch darkness of an old hill fort and took position around a metal picnic table, or "altar." Then the rite began. I hadn't told anyone that I worked for a
magazine, so I had to take photos secretly without flash, which is why they look so shitty.
It was not the unspoiled mystic setting I had envisioned. The table was covered with crappy graffiti, but they covered it with a black satin sheet and placed on it candles, a ceremonial dagger, a bread knife, a pretty cool loaf of bread with a pentagram on it, and a tacky mini cauldron full of lighter fluid.
They placed lanterns at the four compass points and we formed a circle around the "altar." The Ring’s leader then "sealed" the circle by wandering around it while talking about forest spirits. One big problem was that I'd hoped the voice of a pagan ritual leader would be less Pat Butcher, more Christopher Lee. It sounds snobbish, but that really fucked with my efforts to get into the mood.
We focused the ritual on the apples we'd brought. The druids cut them in half with the bread knife, and we were all told to "think" the spirits of our recently deceased loved ones, or even pets, into them. We carefully put them in a basket that still had a label on it. With our spirit-imbued apples safely nestled, we did some Awen chanting. This involves chanting "Awen" very slowly for a few minutes. Once the chanting died down the ring’s leader said, "I don’t know about you guys, but I really felt that. It was very powerful." I didn't think so, but as I said, I had totally failed to get in the swing of it all.
With the ritual nearly over we all moved away from the altar to a pre-dug pit in an even darker corner of the picnic site. We stood around this gravely hole and listened to another speech about reverence for the forest before the apple halves were dumped into the pit. Then it was time to fill the pit. The dude shoveling the dirt was wearing one of those puffy shirts that lace up at the chest—like the old Man U shirts from the 90s.
Anyway, that is what druids do. It's pretty boring, like a slightly occult PTA meeting. Cool bread though...