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Monday, 5 August, 2002, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Archbishop becomes druid
The next Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, in head gear at his induction as a Druid
Dr Williams described claims of paganism as "offensive"
The new Archbishop of Canterbury has been inducted as a druid in a centuries-old Celtic ceremony.

Dr Rowan Williams, the current Archbishop of Wales, said that he had been "saddened" by the misrepresentations about the ceremony, which sparked concern about pagan links.

"Some people have reached the wrong conclusion about the ceremony," he said.

"If people had actually looked at the words of the hymns and text used they would have seen a very Christian service."

What is the Gorsedd of Bards?
Created in 1792 as celebration of Welsh and Celtic heritage
Gorsedd is Welsh for high seat
Rituals look back to era when Celtic druids - religious professionals - led society
Compared to English honours system
Currently 1,300 members
Dr Williams became a member of the highest of the three orders of the Gorsedd of Bards - a 1,300-strong circle of Wales' key cultural contributors - in a ceremony at this year's National Eisteddfod celebration of Welsh culture in St Davids, Pembrokeshire.

The ceremony, which took more than an hour, started with a procession from the main Eisteddfod Pavilion to a circle of stones on the edge of the site.

Dr Williams, 52, wore a long white cloak without any headdress as he arrived at the back of the procession.

'Paganism' row

The actual ceremony started with a trumpet fanfare and the partial sheathing and unsheathing of a 6ft 6ins sword.

Hymns and poems were said in Welsh before around 50 people were made druids.


What will other people think he is doing?

Reverend Angus Macleay
Dr Williams was given the Bardic name of ap Aneuri, which he chose partly after a sixth century Welsh poet and partly after Aneurin Bevan, one of his personal heroes and the architect of the National Health Service.

Before the ceremony, some Church of England conservative evangelicals expressed concern about whether Dr Williams was doing the right thing.

Reverend Angus Macleay, who is on the steering committee of the Evangelical Reform Group, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This ceremony certainly looks pagan.

"The Archbishop of Canterbury designate needs to consider what will other people, non-Welsh members of the Anglican communion, think he is doing.

"How it will help African bishops and pastors seeking to draw people away from paganism to follow Christ, when they see him involved in this sort of activity?"

'Honours system'

But Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru MP and a member of the Gorsedd of Bards himself, said the group "clearly isn't a pagan organisation".

"It's simply a rather quaint induction... for assisting the development of Welsh language and culture.


It's simply a rather quaint induction... for assisting the development of Welsh language and culture

Elfyn Llwyd, Plaid Cymru MP

"It is in a way akin to a Welsh honours system but devoid of any patronage."

The Gorsedd's recorder Jams Nicolas said any reports of links to paganism were "nonsense".

"The Gorsedd ceremonies are entirely Christian in tone, Christian hymns are sung and the prayers are made to God," he said.

The Gorsedd first gathered at Primrose Hill, London, in 1792, after scholar Iolo Morganwg decided the Welsh should promote themselves as the direct descendants of Celtic culture and heritage.

Welsh Secretary Ron Davies after he was admitted to the ruling board of the group in 1998
Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies is also a druid

Its modern-day members number poets, writers, musicians, artists, sportsmen and women, and others who have made a distinguished contribution to Wales.

Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies, cricketer Robert Croft, opera singer Bryn Terfel and rugby star Gareth Edwards.

Dr Williams will succeed Dr George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury in October.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The Times' Chris Morgan
"The ceremony is very symbolic and allegorical but it isn't really pagan"
Alad Shawn, Eisteddfod organiser
"He's been honoured for his contribution to Welsh life"

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See also:

04 Aug 02 | Wales
28 Jun 99 | UK
07 Aug 98 | Politics
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