A meeting of cultures: part 1
In 2008 I was asked if I would mind being interviewed for a local Wiltshire publication where I would be asked a few questions about Stonehenge and about the Druids and have my photo taken there. I will always try to help genuinely interested media enquiries and fit these around a busy working life. I believe that it is important for Druids to be open with the wider public about who we are, what we believe, and about our connection with Stonehenge.
On this occasion I was unaware that destiny was at work, and that this interview would lead to an eventual meeting between two of the worlds most mysterious spiritual cultures and a major historic bond being formed between ancient traditions separated by almost 6000 miles.
On the day arranged for the interview, an elderly English gentleman by the name of David Hathor introduced himself to me as the photographer. He explained that he was retired and living in Bolivia but standing in as a favor to the regular chap who was off work sick at the time. We did the interview and photo shoot and he took my email address offering to send to me the photo’s and a copy of his report for approval.
When David sent to me the pictures and report as promised, he told me that he had shown them to a native American people called the Aymara, whose priests the Amautas were very interested in learning more about the Druids and about Stonehenge. I looked up Amautas online to discover that they fulfilled a similar role in their ancient society as the Druids did within pre Roman cultures in Europe. At their great temple, Tiwanaku, high in the Andes they still observe celebration of the midwinter sunrise to which it aligns on June 21st.
E-mails were traded back and forth and it was clear that both the Amautas and the Druids share a considerable interest in the same things and we were eager to meet. The idea evolved that we could send Druids to Bolivia for the solstice there, and later receive the Amautas for a solstice celebration here in England. I published this idea on our web site and hoped that we might find sponsors to help both sides meet the costs.
Tiwanaku / Stonehenge
Sadly despite a lot of interest, which had soon reached the RADAR of the British foreign Office, the British Embassy in La Pas, and the Bolivian Government all of whom embraced the idea, no sponsor could be found. In recession hit Britain, I lost my income for a while so I could barely manage my mortgage payments let alone air fares half way around the world. The project was put on hold awaiting a change in the economic climate.
Earlier this year we approached the Bolivian Embassy in London and stated that we still had an interest in seeing the exchange through, with a view to putting our very best people forward and involving other credible pagan groups where possible. The Ambassador, very kindly came to meet us at Stonehenge and Amesbury.
Following this, I visited the embassy in London, twice in order to video conference with the Amautas council in La Pas.
The moment that I first came face to face with the Amautas wise men and wise women via the video link, I was impressed greatly by them. They took turns, each to introduce themselves and tell a part of their beliefs history and customs. I asked them questions, to which they would answer frankly with no attempt to impress or demure, and with an obvious depth of knowledge. They asked me many questions about the Druids and about our traditions and beliefs.
I tried my best to respond in kind for our tradition, differentiating the ancient from the modern where necessary. I was in no doubt that these people would know instantly if someone tried to lie, exaggerate or pretend to a knowledge not actually held, just as I would.
People sincerely following the Druid path today have to seek for learning within the memory of country traditions, folk lore, archaeology, the accounts of those who wished us dead, and the hard won spiritual insights granted by the Gods to guide us home. The pathway still exists, but it is overgrown and uncared for in places, deliberately hidden in others, missing patches through neglect, and the signposts have all been removed. To walk this spiritual path of our ancestors and stay true to its nature requires a deep resonance with truth and an empathy with nature.
There are few teachers.
While talking with the Amauta Council I sensed their depth of understanding and realised it was a chance to speak with elders of a spirituality and magical tradition as old and advanced as the Druids, yet still whole. I did not have to explain our concepts twice or have to justify our ancestral beliefs as one might have to when speaking with Europeans.
For our second video conference hosted at the Bolivian embassy Aes Dana Druidess Kate joined me. It is important for their to be a balance of energies, male and female, and of perspectives as represent our traditions. Following this successful meeting we arranged for a third visit to the embassy. We wanted the Amauta to meet other elders of our tradition, women as well as men, and to share and widen the connection that was already forming. We invited leading members of the most representative, knowledgable and influential Druid and Pagan groups in Britain.
These included OBOD, Pagan Federation, Fellowship of Isis (Druid Clan of Dana).
I thank them for immediately agreeing to be present in this circle and for their total support to Aes Dana. They were all very well qualified to represent our tradition on the exchange but all were noble enough to encourage Aes Dana, a very small grove, to represent us all in Bolivia.
Central to Aes Dana Grove is the town of Amesbury in Wiltshire, who’s mayor and people have recently embraced our grove and sought to reconnect with the ancient traditions and legacy of Stonehenge. With their blessing and encouragement we would be representing the people of this little town which boast one of the best fine art galleries to be found anywhere ‘the forge’.
I asked Andy and Michelle who run the Forge if they could make a unique gift for the Amautas to mark our historic meeting. Michelle presented us with a steel disc weighing around 7 Kg with an image in the centre of trilathon of Stonehenge surrounded by the three hares of the Celtic Goddess…perfect symbolism.
So it was that two Druids, myself and Kate, found ourselves at Heathrow airport about to set off into unknown territory for the Stonehenge Druids and on our way to greet the great Amauta priests of Tiwanaku. What would our two great traditions, both with our roots in the prehistoric make of one another?
Will we get along?
Will we have anything in common between our spiritualities?
Will we gain insights into the mysteries of our ancient pasts?
Will we find missing answers to questions and challenges of today?
To be continued…