Druid Liturgy in Paralympics Closing Ceremony

The London 2012 Paralympic Games closed on Sunday, featuring a performance by Jay-Z, Rihanna and Coldplay. Artistic director Kim Gavin, Music Director David Arnold and Designer Misty Buckley showcased a seasonal theme for the closing ceremony which “took the audience on a journey through Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer.”

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIRHMmM2z7c

Part of the seasonal-themed closing ceremony, spoken by Rory Mackenzie, a representative from Help For Heroes, was in fact written by Druids from the British Druid Order (BDO).

“We were sworn to secrecy beforehand, but Emma Restall Orr and I [Greywolf] were approached by the organisers of the 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony with a surprising request. They wanted our permission to use parts of the gorsedd ritual we wrote in 1997. So, about 20 minutes into the ceremony, these words went out to 750 million people around the world,”

Philip Shallcrass (aka Greywolf), Chief of the British Druid Order, says that the original ritual was written to bring people from different backgrounds and faiths together, so “its use in the Paralympics closing ceremony seems perfectly in keeping with this original intention.” While the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony featured brief hints of Britain’s pre-Christian past, it featured no explicit contribution from the vital Pagan threads that exist in the United Kingdom, a nation that has played a huge role in the revival of Pagan religions. So it seems fitting that the last closing ceremony in London, for the Paralympic games, would explicitly reference modern Pagan contributions to British culture. Here’s a brief excerpt of the Druid liturgy used during the closing ceremony.

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

Lance Corporal Rory Mackenzie at the Paralympics closing ceremony.

The circle is unbroken,
The ancestors awoken.
May the songs of the Earth
and of her people ring true.
Hail to the Festival of the flame
of root and branch, tooth and claw,
fur and feather, of earth and sea and sky.

You can read all of the words used in the ceremony at the British Druid Order’s website.

Emma Restall Orr, author of “Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics”, in addition to co-authoring the ritual used by the Paralympics also founded The Druid Network which recently won religious charity status in the UK, the first Druid group to do so. So it seems fitting that she would also have a hand in this groundbreaking moment for British Druids as well. With this celebration, if you take the Olympics opening and the Paralympics closing ceremonies as one long thematic sweep, it tells the tale of Britain from its earliest days through its progress and challenges, and back to the basics of acknowledging that land’s spirit and the contributions of its reborn Pagans.  A fitting tribute to the amazing athletes at the Paralympics, the pagan origins of the Olympic games, and a pluralistic future where we all have a hand in shaping what is to come.

My thanks to Thorn for tipping me off to this story.

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • http://twitter.com/BarefootAnth Jonathan Woolley

    I’m a British druid, and I was utterly flabbergasted to hear the words of our rites being used to mark the conclusion of the Paralympics. The presence of the “sun king” during a rendition by one of my favourite bands was something to behold.

    I think things of this nature reflect the very different situation of Earth spirituality in the United Kingdom compaired to how things are in the U.S. Over here, Paganism and Druidry are accepted as part and parcel of Britain’s cultural (and especially rural) life; despite the activities of a vocal and dwindling Christian minority, the majority of the British people are resoundingly positive about pre-Christian themes – in fact, frequently more so than they are about Christianity. Paganism is becoming increasingly mainstream here – and the significance of this remains to be seen.

    • http://www.facebook.com/natalie.green.71 Natalie Green

      You are a Faun

      • http://twitter.com/BarefootAnth Jonathan Woolley

        Hag.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Some of the most famous ‘Druids’ in Britain are not Pagan, are they?

      Dr. Rowan Williams (Arch Bishop of Canterbury), for example, is an honorary Druid (and has been since 2002). Another, more recent example would be Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales, who was granted ‘honorary’ Druid status at the recent Eisteddfod.

      • Mia

        There’s more than one order of Druid, and not all of them are strictly religious orders. OBOD is one off the top of my head that allows non-pagans like Christians to join.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I know. These ‘honorary Druid-ships’ are conferred by the annual Gorsedd that happens at the Eisteddfod.

          My point, therefore, would be that the term ‘Druid’ does not exclusively mean ‘Pagan’, in a contemporary sense.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Right. But non-Druid Pagans are still allowed to feel a little tingle at this news, no?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Everyone is allowed to feel a little ‘tingle’.

            I was just inserting a little ‘British’ perspective.

          • http://twitter.com/BarefootAnth Jonathan Woolley

            @Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I think there’s been some confusion here!

            There *are* secular Druid orders in Britain – namely, the Welsh Gorsedd, which celebrates Welsh literature, language and art and is strictly non-spiritual. Here, titles such as “Druid” and “Ovate” are awarded in recognition of contributions to Welsh society. A great many public figures in Wales – including Rowan Williams (the former Archbishop of Wales) and the Queen, even – have been honoured in this way.

            Then there are the spiritual Druid orders, including OBOD, the BDO and the Druid Network. The authors of these words (Greywolf and Emma Restall-Orr) are the leaders of the the BDO and the Druid Network respectively. Although OBOD does allow Christians to join, this reflects the ecumenical nature of our beliefs and practices, rather than a secular attitude.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I’m not confused, I know the distinctions.

            I am merely pointing out that, in England, Druids are often considered the ‘least offensive’ arm of Paganism due to their usual portrayal as harmless white-robed folk that hang around stone circles. (We can, in part, blame the Asterix comics for this.)

            The fact that the current Arch Bishop of Canterbury is also a known Druid does have a effect on the popular perception of Druids in Britain, which blurs the lines between the secular and spiritual Druids.

            In relevance to the closing ceremony, I am suggesting that, perhaps, a lot of people will fail to even see a Pagan element.

            I certainly haven’t heard the Daily Mail bemoaning it, yet.

          • http://entdinglichung.wordpress.com Entdinglichung

            the Mail’s “expert” on these issues, Melanie Phillips, is probably on holiday :-)

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            If it wasn’t for the fact that I refuse to even click on a Daily Mail website link, I’d keep an eye out for any editorial.

            Mind you, the DM may not consider it newsworthy since it was ‘only’ the Paralympics.

  • http://www.facebook.com/j.agathokles Jonathan Agathokles

    Ideally that should have been a Hellenic rite, as the Hellenic religion brought forth the Olympic Games originally, but this is still amazing to know :-)

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Yeah, but that would have been about as British as having a bunch of Americans play at the ceremony.

      Oh, wait… ;)

      (Disclaimer – this is my attempt at humour as a way of agreeing with the statement.)

    • Ashley Yakeley

      They did a very pagan Hellenic rite to light the torch, it’s on YouTube somewhere. I think it’s appropriate to do a local ritual for wherever the games are held.

      • http://www.facebook.com/j.agathokles Jonathan Agathokles

        A Hellenic ritual? Then were was the hekatomb (literal or symbolic)? The Flame is also not an ancient tradition, though one might connect it to the sacrificial fire. Were the people performing it Hellenic polytheists? Was the ceremony dedicated to Zeus Olympios?
        And didn’t the Flame *die* and had to be re-kindled with a reserve-flame? Which – if that flame actually had any significance religiously – would be considered an extremely ill omen.
        I think you can tell by my reaction that I’m not really fond of what the Olympics are made into in modern times…

        • Ashley Yakeley

          Well, it was “Hellenic” in the same way that the London ceremony was “druidic”…

  • Chris

    Suh-weet! I’m a graduate member of OBOD. Always feels good to read about things like this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

    Now I know why this wasn’t available to watch anywhere on American TV in any real sense. It’s the perfect example of what Modern Paganism can do for society and how beautiful it is. This was utterly heart-breakinglly beautiful!

    Just goes to show, kill us, force convert us, burn us to the ground–but Paganism, liken unto Life from whence we came, shall always return again!

  • Brandi S.

    I was watching the ceremony on Youtube (on the channel ParalympicSportTV, the only place where Americans COULD watch the whole events, live or otherwise) when I saw this and couldn’t believe it. When he started calling Quarters, my jaw dropped. Thanks for the details of who wrote the liturgy! :D

  • Cathryn Meer Bauer

    This is such a great story. First, I’m really glad to see that the Paralympics were a big event, seen as warranted fanfare and elaborate opening and closing ritual. Second, what a wonderful example of inclusiveness. Yes, we’re here; Pagans exist! I am a happy member of OBOD, well aware of the beauty and good sense that Druidry has to give to the world. I am glad that some of that happened here.


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