When I first met Arthur and his partner Kaz, they were riding up a dusty track on a motorcycle back to their caravan, a caravan that they have called home for the last year or so. The track that they were riding up is called the Drove, it runs next to the ancient monument of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England and for many years it was used to move livestock along it, to the markets at Netheravon and Salisbury but now, it marks a pothole ridden border to this ancient monument and acts as an impromptu carpark for visitors to the circle of stones who are reluctant to pay the parking fees in the official carpark a little further along the main road.
I had spent the last hour or so waiting for Arthur to return and had spent it looking at the stone circle and the many hundreds of people climbing out of buses or day trippers who were swarming around the English Heritage monument, I had read about Arthur in the papers over the previous week and about the battle that he was now embroiled in and thought that I would try and meet him and find out something of his struggle.
I should also point out that Arthur has a more formal title, a title that may, to the uninitiated, seem a little strange, he is known, legally, as King Arthur Pendragon and is, to use his full title, the Titular Head and Chosen Chief of The Loyal Arthurian Warband and Battle Chieftain of The Council of British Druid Orders.
He is, basically, the head of all the Druids. The leader of all those that follow the beliefs held sacred by this ancient order.
Druidry itself is more of a philosophical viewpoint than a religious view, although it would be fair to say that many Druids view themselves also as Pagan Priests.
There are three basic grades or types of Druids, these are….
The Bardic grade, which deals predominantly with teaching, poetic, artistic, and academic skills, the Vate grade that deals predominantly with the Intuitive and Magical skills and the Druid grade that deals also with Public ritual and Judgements.
There are many different Orders of Druids, both National and Local. Some prefer to only work within their own Sacred landscape, whilst others are equally at home in many different locations. Some Orders concentrate on the teaching side of Druidry, whilst others will concentrate on the Magical and Intuitive.
Arthur is the recognised King of all the druids.
For the last year or so King Arthur has been fighting a battle, a struggle, with English Heritage and ultimately Wiltshire Council over access to the site, he wants the removal of the perimeter fence around the ‘henge to allow druids free access to the site, to their site, their monument, so that they can once again conduct their business on free land, a land they see as a very sacred place. This battle has resulted in an eviction order being placed on him and as of last Saturday he was meant to have moved on from his make shift home, something he flatly refuses to do.
Since he set up his picket last summer, a picket that has been entirely peaceful and without any violence, over 8,000 people, including tourists from all over the world, have signed a petition supporting his cause. He wants the fences removed and to open it fully to the public, with a tunnel under the A303 and grass over the A344 roads.
His supporters all say that far from posing a nuisance, they ultimately helped English Heritage to keep the site tidy by picking up rubbish and raising awareness of the importance of this site.
Arthur and Kaz are supported at the site of their protest by fellow druids Kim and his wife Andrea, who own a well lived-in camper van next to the caravan and who provide administrative and logistical support and are equally passionate about the cause. They also receive visits from local druids to offer support as well as constant phone calls and emails from supporters the length and breadth of the country.
At the time of writing, Arthur has not left the site of his caravan and to date the local authorities have yet to enforce the eviction order placed on him.
The peace of the grove and
The sacred space between
To read more of Arthur’s struggle visit his website…