Getting to the Gossip, or, Splitters!

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Sometimes you learn more by reporting the gossip than you do by merely stating the facts. For instance, last week a story appeared about a British Druid demanding the reburial of a 4000-year-old skeleton on religious grounds. What that article didn’t tell you was that Paul Davies, the man supposedly speaking for The Council of British Druid Orders, is actually leading a small splinter group calling itself CoBDO West.

The ‘row’ concerns a small breakaway group of druids (known to some as COBDO West) who’ve requested the museum release the remains so they can rebury them where they came from. King Arthur and mainstream COBDO want the same thing — but are upset that COBDO West have taken matters into their own hands. ‘COBDO West are just a joke — three men and a dog, without even the dog,’ splutters King Arthur.

Further sniping between CoBDO and CoBDO West can be seen in the comments section of this article. And yes, I too instantly thought of the “splitters” scene from Life of Brian. Needless to say, other British Pagan and Druid groups are increasingly embarrassed by the public fighting.

‘A lot of people are embarrassed by it all — very embarrassed,’ says Emma Restall Orr, a druidic teacher and priestess from Warwick-shire. ‘They’re feisty, burly lads who are very much on the edge of druidism but are rowing in public and giving druids a bad name.’

It should also be noted that neither CoBDO nor CoBDO West speak for all British Pagans or Druids on the issue of reburial and archeology. PEBBLE (The Public Bodies Liaison Committee for British Paganism), and the related group HAD (Honouring the Ancient Dead), are pursuing a more nuanced course that acknowledges the need and importance of archaeological study.

HAD is not declaring one policy in terms of action. HAD’s focus is to ensure that there is discussion, consultation and shared decision-making around ancient human remains. In this way, all interested parties, including local communities and Pagans, will be heard when it comes to human remains (ancestors) exhumed within their landscape, ensuring that the spiritual, religious and social value of these remains is presented alongside any scientific, monetary or political value discerned by those funding or carrying out that excavation.

One important voice of dissent on the reburial issue  is fellow Pagan blogger Yewtree, who is a member of Pagans For Archeology. Check out the article “Finding a Compromise – Keeping Places” for some of her views on the subject (an article by Jenny Blain and RJ Wallis is also worth a look). As for the warring CoBDO’s, they may soon find themselves left behind by a modern Druidry that doesn’t want to be associated with punch-ups at the pub and media stunts.

Terry Dobney has been a druid for 50 years and has been Chief Druid and Keeper of the Stones at Avebury for the past 11. He wears long white robes and an antler on his belt, clasps a hazel staff and has a rook’s feather in his cap. ‘Druids are supposed to have a balanced view and see both sides of the argument,’ he explains. ‘But there are some strong egotistical characters who need keeping in check. We’re drawing up a code of conduct for being a druid.’

Looks like some “egotistical characters” better watch out before they are seen in the same light as Kevin Carlyon, and become leaders of nothing more than a fancy acronym.