For the last ten and a half years I have been honoured and privileged to lead and organise the Gorsedd of Cor Gawr; or to give it its more linguistically correct name, Gorsedd Côr y Cewri. Every solstice, both summer and winter, we have gathered at Stonehenge to honour the season and the spirits of place. Cor Gawr – as it is almost always abbreviated by everyone who knows it and attends – is, I think, unique. It requires no membership of any Order, Grove, or any other organisation you can think of; it requires no adherence to a particular spiritual path, or indeed to any path at all. The only restriction it has is on numbers, and that is set by English Heritage. Where Open Access is totally open in terms of numbers, the Gorsedd of Cor Gawr is only allowed a maximum of 100 folk at midsummer, and 80 at midwinter. Open Access is important and wonderful as a free celebration, secular or spiritual; but because of that English Heritage restriction on numbers the Gorsedd is able to offer a more focused and spiritual experience than otherwise would be the case. We meet at dawn on traditional Midsummers Day, a day celebrated still in many countries – and, no, it isn’t the same day as the solstice (confusing I know).
Cor Gawr also meets again on a date near the winter solstice, at dusk; which may well be much closer to the season and the time of day that was recognised and honoured at the Stones by our deep ancestors than some would imagine.
I was deeply honoured and not a little surprised to be asked to take over leading and organising Cor Gawr in 2005, by Emma Restall Orr, who was then the Head of The Druid Network. It was around Samhain that year when she asked if I would take on the responsibility and after a few days of deep consideration and contemplation, not to mention a few long talks with Emma, I accepted. Part of the agreement was that there would be a dedicated team of priests working alongside and with me, and that arrangement continues to this day. A few of the original team have left and a few have joined, but the team remains the backbone of the Gorsedd and the ceremonies that take place at each solstice. Without them I doubt there would still be a Cor Gawr.
Over the years things change and evolve. It’s said that one thing that never changes is there is always change; that is certainly the case with Cor Gawr. There have been considerable changes at English Heritage and relationships that had been built up over many years ended; the departure of Peter Carson from the management of Stonehenge was a huge blow to me personally. Others have quickly come and gone, though the Gorsedd has always managed to agree access on its traditional dates and times. Of course the move to the new visitor centre some mile and a half from the Temple proved a significant challenge as access is outside normal hours – pre dawn near to the summer solstice is early! Still, agreement was reached, and Cor Gawr continues to enjoy excellent relations with English Heritage.
Throughout the more than ten years I’ve been organising the Gorsedd I’ve really enjoyed my time leading Cor Gawr; there have been challenges and there have been a few (mostly minor) battles fought and won. But times change. I am now in my 66th year, and I confess to having one or two health issues; my energy levels are not what they were.
But perhaps most of all there are things I want to do while I still can, and there are times when I’ve been unable to do some of the, because of my commitment to Cor Gawr. My spiritual path continues to evolve, as our paths always do, and it no longer feels appropriate for me to act as the lead for Cor Gawr, or to continue as the organiser. The facts are that I am much more of an introvert than perhaps I may appear; I have never felt comfortable being in the public eye, and have tried to remain in the background as much as its possible to while leading a public ritual! While I’ve done one or two with journalists I admire and trust, I’ve declined many an interview and a number of opportunities to speak on radio and TV. That simply isn’t me. I have never been one to seek publicity, preferring what I do to speak for itself. So, it is time for others to step forward and take Cor Gawr on into the future with fresh vision and fresh ideas. For now the remaining priests will work as a collective, organising the Gorsedd, and they will decide what direction Côr y Cewri takes, how it evolves, and how it is run.
I have had a wonderful ten years, and I thank each and every person who has ever attended the Gorsedd while I have been organising it; I am deeply in your debt. For, as was once said in a Cor Gawr ceremony, without you there is no Gorsedd.
I wish you health and prosperity. May you all walk your onward paths in beauty, honour, love and peace.