Search terms: is OBOD too Wiccan?

I can’t actually answer this question, because I’d need to know: too Wiccan for what? Too Wiccan for the tastes of the searcher, perhaps. There’s a certain amount of judgement implied in the way that this enquiry has been worded.

A question I can address, though, is: how Wiccan is OBOD (the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids)? My answer is ‘a bit but not very’. Whether being slightly Wiccan is ‘too’ Wiccan for your purposes I will have to leave as an exercise for the reader. Disclaimer: I am a member of OBOD currently working on the Ovate course, but not a member of any Wiccan group.

How Wiccan is OBOD?

OBOD and Wicca have some common roots. Accepting that Gerald Gardner was the driving force behind the movement we now know as Wicca, and that Ross Nichols is the founder of OBOD, we know that there is commonality in the founding of OBOD and Wicca. Nichols and Gardner were operating against the same cultural background, in England in the mid twentieth century, they were interested in similar things, and they knew one another. Later on, there are more connections: Philip Carr-Gomm, who re-energised OBOD and created the correspondence course, also has a background in Wicca (and in psychology and Paneurhythmy, both of which are arguably influences on the teachings of OBOD).

Some points are very close. A friend of mine who is a Gardnerian read Carr-Gomm’s book Druidcraft, which deals with Druid magic, and says that the only differences between Druid magic and Wiccan magic are minor externals, trappings. (You can read an extract or buy a copy of the book via OBOD.) On the other hand, I’m not sure that magic – this kind of magic, anyway – is at the core of the teachings of OBOD. (I’m not sure it’s actually at the core of Wicca, either, for all that it is a big feature in many introductory books.)

There are also points which are included in Druid teachings – dealing with the elements, for example – which are shared by Wicca and many other neo-pagan groups; it can be argued that this have developed from Wicca, and certainly Wiccans have been heavily involved in popularising them, but they were also present in the pre-Gardner Western Mystery Tradition and ultimately derived from Greek philosophy, so it could also be said that this is simply part of our common heritage.

So if Wicca and OBOD are that close, what are the differences? Most Wiccan traditions are oath-bound, with secret teachings. (Many of these oaths have been broken by someone or other, but the principle stands.) OBOD asks people not to share spoilers about what’s in the correspondence course, valuing the slow reveal as part of the experience, but isn’t closed in the same way. (Druids do also have a vow but this is of quite a different kind.) There are other practical differences – OBOD functions mainly as a correspondence community, with optional gatherings sometimes, while, although there are solitary and correspondence Wiccans, a traditional Gardnerian coven makes extensive use of in-person meetings.

Rituals are notably different. Public Druid ceremonies and OBOD ritual scripts often have more emphasis on music and poetry than Wiccan-derived rituals; for example, the time of Eisteddfod at the end is fairly standard among Druids, but absent from Wiccan ceremony as far as I know. The emphasis of prayers can differ, too; Druids frequently pray for peace throughout the world, not something I’ve heard in Wiccan-inspired settings (which is not to say that Wiccans don’t want world peace, only that it isn’t a common prayer in their rituals). This list of differences could go on: Wiccans don’t chant Awen, they don’t use prayers written by Iolo Morganwg, etc.

Attitudes to deity are also different. OBOD includes people with a wide range of beliefs, but does not have the emphasis on duotheism, Goddess and God, found in Wicca. It does have an emphasis on nature – and when it comes to trees specifically, Druidry goes further than anything I know of in Wiccan teaching. There are many views on this but I think it’s safe to say that Druids are generally tree-huggers and find rich sources of spiritual nurture among trees.

Is OBOD Wiccan? No, not really. Do OBOD and Wicca have things in common? Yes, but there are also significant differences. Is OBOD ‘too Wiccan’? Not for me. Is OBOD too Wiccan for you?

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