Ross Nichols (1902-1975)
Written and compiled by George Knowles
Philip Peter Ross Nichols was a teacher, poet, artist, author and naturist who founded The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (OBOD) in 1964. While not entirely a new Order, the OBOD was a breakaway faction and modern version of the Ancient Druid Order (ADO), which has a history dating back to 1717.
Nichols was born in Norfolk on the 28th June 1902 and was one of four children. At the start of World War I (1914) his family moved to Cornwall and then Somerset, and then after the end of World War I (1918) he was sent to Bloxham School in Oxford, a boarding school for boys where he developed a passion for poetry. In 1921 he entered St Johns College in Cambridge, graduating with a Masters degree in History in 1924.
While studying at Cambridge the leading anthropologist and folklorist Sir James George Frazer (1854-1941) author of the classic “Golden Bough: a Study in Magic and Religion” (1890) was teaching there, his work along with the likes of Robert Graves (1895-1985), Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) and Jessie Laidlay Weston (1850-1928), another folklorist working mainly on mediaeval Arthurian texts, inspired Nichols’ life long interests in mythology, psychology, magic and religion.
James George Frazer -
After leaving Cambridge, Nichols worked as a journalist and private teacher. His poetry and other writings were published in many of the leading magazines, journals and periodicals of the day, including: the Horizon, the Poetry Quarterly, the New Saxon and the New English Weekly. He also received reviews in the Times Literary Supplement, the International Times, The Listener, The Birmingham Post, Scrutiny, the Yorkshire Post and the Manchester Evening News.
Nichols was a devout Christian and regularly attended his local Anglican churches, and for a number of years was actively involved with the Scout Movement before turning his attention to socialist and pacifist causes. He was also a vegetarian and naturist, and in the early 1930’s joined one of Britain’s first nudist colonies: the Spielplatz located in Bricket Wood near St. Albans, Hertfordshire. It was here that Nichols first became acquainted with fellow naturist Gerald Gardner, owner of another nudist colony nearby, The Five Acres Country Club.
In 1939 at the outbreak of World War II, Nichols was appointed Headmaster of Carlisle & Gregson Ltd, a private college in London (known as Jimmy’s), a school noted for teaching Winston Churchill who during 1893 was “swotted” at Jimmy’s to pass the entrance exams for Sandhurst Military Academy. The headmaster at that time said of Churchill: “he was able enough, but his mind strayed to other interests, he was brilliant at history but sluggish in mathematics and science”. The French master apparently wanted Churchill thrown out, but he was allowed to stay on and passed his examinations. Situated in an austere building Kensington House at 5 Lexham Gardens in Cromwell Road, London, Nichols worked there during the week and spent his weekends at Spielplatz.
Throughout the war years of the 1940’s, Nichols concentrated on his poetry, and within a short time-span had four books of poetry published: Sassenach Stray (1940), Prose Chants Poems (1941), The Cosmic Shape (1946) and Seasons at War (1947). As well as writing, Nichols was an accomplished watercolour painter, and even had some of his work exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1948 Robert Graves published The White Goddess, his study of the myths and folklore of religion, which proved an influential book for Nichols.
watercolour painting by Ross Nichols
As a teaching academic, his position as Headmaster of a private Collage with its long end-of-term vacations, afforded Nichols the opportunity to indulge his passion for travel, during which he visited Egypt, Morocco, Bulgaria, Malta and Greece, and was a regular visitor to Wales, Ireland and Scotland, being particularly fond of Iona and the Hebridean islands. He loved to explore historical and archaeological sites, taking photos and sketching ancient monuments.
Later in 1949, Nichols became the assistant editor of The Occult Observer, a quarterly publication covering Occult, Art & Philosophical subjects published by Michael Houghton the owner of the now famous Atlantis Bookshop in Convent Garden, London. The publication only ran for one year however, during which time Nichols wrote about Druidry for the first time. That same year Houghton published Gerald Gardner’s first book High Magic’s Aid, which while fictional contained his basic ideas for what was later to become “Gardnerian Wicca”. Already good friends with Gardner by this time, Nichols left the Spielplatz club in favour of Gardner’s Five Acres Country Club.
In 1952 Nichols revised, edited and published a two-volume
edition of The History and Practice of Magic by Paul Christian, a
nineteenth-century French work translated by two friends James Kirkup and Julian
Shaw, to which he added supplementary articles and notes from other friends
among London’s occult intelligentsia. In
1954 he then helped Gerald Gardner produce Witchcraft
first non-fiction book on witchcraft. Margaret
A. Murray the eminent anthropologist wrote the introduction for the book, which
when released became an immediate success.
As a result of it, covens began forming up and down the country, each
practicing its dictates, and so the Gardnerian tradition of witchcraft was born.
Gerald Gardner (third from left with bagpipes) at Stonehenge in 1951. Taken from a Festival Souvenir Brochure produced for the Festival of Britain in 1951.
That same year in 1954 Nichols joined the Ancient Druid Order (ADO), no doubt at the suggestion of Gerald Gardner who had joined the same Order years earlier. As an active member of the ADO, Nichols took on the office of Scribe, a position that suited his academic and literary abilities. Later he became Chairman of the Order, in which capacity he frequently lectured on Druidry around the country, and in 1962 travelled to Ireland to lecture at the Theosophical Society in Dublin.
In 1963 together with his druidic mentor the Chosen Chief of the ADO Robert MacGregor Reid, they travelled to a Breton Gorsedd in Brittany were Nichols was ordained as the Archdeacon of the Ancient Celtic Church by Archbishop Tugdual. In the following year 1964, his friend Gerald Gardner, his mentor Robert MacGregor Reid and Archbishop Tugdual all died.
Robert MacGregor Reid
As had happened several times in the past history of the ADO, the death of the chosen Chief caused a rift among senior members of the Order, and as a result the ADO split into two groups. When one group chose to elect Dr Thomas Maughan as the new Chosen Chief of the ADO, the other group disagreed. The second group then decided to form a new reconstructed Order focusing on the three grades of Bard, Ovate and Druid. Nichols became its first Chosen Chief, and so The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (OBOD) was born. Nichols was given the druidic name of Nuinn (the Irish word for the Ash Tree).
After the death of Gerald Gardner, the Five Acres Country Club change into new hands and Nichols discontinued his membership. Still in need of a nature retreat and a place to relax away from his hectic life, he bought himself a few acres of woodland in Hambleden, South Buckinghamshire. There he built two wooden huts and furnished them with camp beds and stoves. As a retreat he could retire there alone or with friends and live a simple life in touch with nature, chopping wood for the stove, fetching water, walking in the woods, reading, writing and painting.
As the chosen Chief of the new OBOD, Nichols reorganised the ADO’s teaching structure and introduced the three grades of Bard, Ovate and Druid, conforming to the Celtic grades still practiced in Brittany, France and Wales. The Bard grade teachings focused on the power of song and poetry, the Ovate grade teachings included medical knowledge and healing, while the Druid grade was centred on spiritual and religious teachings connected with the land.
Nichols also reintroduced the practice of publicly celebrating the solstices and equinoxes that make up the eight main festivals of the Pagan Year. Organized rituals and ceremonies were regularly held at Parliament Hill in London and at Glastonbury Tor in Summerset. There attending Druid Companions could be identified by their grade colours, Bards dressed in blue tunics, Ovates in Green and Druids in white.
In the final decade of his life Nichols travelled widely
promoting Druidism and visiting such places as: Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in 1967. In 1970 he visited Ireland and toured the Boyne Valley in
County Kildare, before paying a visit to Olivia Robertson at Huntington
Castle, Clonegal, County Wicklow.
Then in 1973 he visited Paul Bouchet, Chief Druid of the College
des Gaules in France.
- Huntington Castle
All during this time Nichols had continued with his writing and had been working on a history of Druidry, which he finally completed as: The Book of Druidry in 1974. However, on the 30th April 1975 and before it could be published, Nichols died of a heart attack while staying at a friends house in London.
Surprisingly, but so sudden was his death, there was no one ready to take over as his successor and next Chosen Chief of the OBOD, as such the Order went into a decline. After a hiatus of 13 years, one of his early students Philip Carr-Gomm became ready to take on his role, and in 1988 was asked to re-form the Order as its Chosen Chief. Under his leadership the OBOD once again flourished. Later while searching through his mentors writings, Carr-Gomm came across the original manuscript of The Book of Druidry, which in 1990 was finally and posthumously published.
Nichols had been an accomplished teacher, writer, poet and artist, but the legacy he will be best be known for is the Order he founded and reconstructed, and which today under his successor the Chosen Chief Philip Carr-Gomm, has grown into the largest Druidic Order in the world with an international reputation.
Site Contents - Links to all Pages
A Universal Message:
Let there be peace in the world - Where have all the flowers gone?
Wicca & Witchcraft
Wiccan Rede / Charge of the Goddess / Charge of the God / The Three-Fold Law (includes The Law of Power and The Four Powers of the Magus) / The Witches Chant / The Witches Creed / Descent of the Goddess / Drawing Down the Moon / The Great Rite Invocation / Invocation of the Horned God / The 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief / The Witches Rede of Chivalry / A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality
Traditions Part 1 - Alexandrian Wicca / Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC) / Ár Ndraíocht Féin (ADF) / Blue Star Wicca / British Traditional (Druidic Witchcraft) / Celtic Wicca / Ceremonial Magic / Chaos Magic / Church and School of Wicca / Circle Sanctuary / Covenant of the Goddess (COG) / Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS) / Cyber Wicca / Dianic Wicca / Eclectic Wicca / Feri Wicca /
Traditions Part 2 - Gardnerian Wicca / Georgian Tradition / Henge of Keltria / Hereditary Witchcraft / Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (H.O.G.D.) / Kitchen Witch (Hedge Witch) / Minoan Brotherhood and Minoan Sisterhood Tradition / Nordic Paganism / Pagan Federation / Pectic-Wita / Seax-Wica / Shamanism / Solitary / Strega / Sylvan Tradition / Vodoun or Voodoo / Witches League of Public Awareness (WLPA) /
Other things of interest:
Gods and Goddesses (Greek
Mythology) / Esbats &
Full Moons / Links
to Personal Friends & Resources / Wicca/Witchcraft
Resources / What's a spell? /
Circle Casting and
Sacred Space / Pentagram
- Pentacle / Marks
of a Witch / The Witches
Power / The Witches Hat
esoteric guide to visiting London / Satanism
Unitarian Universalist Association / Numerology: Part 1
/ Part 2 / Part
3 / A
history of the Malleus Maleficarum: includes: Pope
Innocent VIII /
papal Bull /
Malleus Maleficarum /
An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum
/ The letter of approbation
Nider’s Formicarius /
Heinrich Kramer /
/ Montague Summers /
/ The Albigenses
The Hussites / The
/ Shielding (Occult
and Psychic Protection) /
Sabbats and Rituals:
Sabbats in History and Mythology / Samhain (October 31st) / Yule (December 21st) / Imbolc (February 2nd) / Ostara (March 21st) / Beltane (April 30th) / Litha (June 21st) / Lughnasadh (August 1st) / Mabon (September 21st)
Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar) / Antelope / Bats / Crow / Fox / Frog and Toads / Goat / Honeybee / Kangaroo / Lion / Owl / Phoenix / Rabbits and Hares / Raven / Robin Redbreast / Sheep / Spider / Squirrel / Swans / Wild Boar / Wolf / Serpent / Pig / Stag / Horse / Mouse / Cat
In Worship of Trees - Myths, Lore and the Celtic Tree Calendar. For descriptions and correspondences of the thirteen sacred trees of Wicca/Witchcraft see the following: Birch / Rowan / Ash / Alder / Willow / Hawthorn / Oak / Holly / Hazel / Vine / Ivy / Reed / Elder. Also see: The Willow Tree (Folk Music)
Rocks and Stones:
Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin: / Apophyllite / Amber / Amethyst / Aquamarine / Aragonite / Aventurine / Black Tourmaline / Bloodstone / Calcite / Carnelian / Celestite / Citrine / Chrysanthemum Stone / Diamond / Emerald / Fluorite / Garnet / Hematite / Herkimer Diamond / Labradorite / Lapis Lazuli / Malachite / Moonstone / Obsidian / Opal / Pyrite / Quartz (Rock Crystal) / Rose Quartz / Ruby / Selenite / Seraphinite / Silver and Gold / Smoky Quartz / Sodalite / Sunstone / Thunderegg / Tree Agate / Zebra Marble
Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:
Murder by Witchcraft / The Fairy Witch of Clonmel / A Battleship, U-boat, and a Witch / The Troll-Tear (A story for Children) / Goody Hawkins - The Wise Goodwife / The Story of Jack-O-Lantern / The Murder of the Hammersmith Ghost / Josephine Gray (The Infamous Black Widow) / The Two Brothers - Light and Dark
Old Masters of Academia:
(Ancient, Past and Present)
(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders and Elders)
Abramelin the Mage / Agrippa / Aidan A. Kelly / Albertus Magnus “Albert the Great” / Aleister Crowley “The Great Beast” / Alex Sanders "the King of the Witches” / Alison Harlow / Amber K / Anna Franklin / Anodea Judith / Anton Szandor LaVey / Arnold Crowther / Arthur Edward Waite / Austin Osman Spare / Biddy Early / Bridget Cleary / Carl Llewellyn Weschcke / Cecil Hugh Williamson / Charles Godfrey Leland / Charles Walton / Christina Oakley Harrington / Damh the Bard (Dave Smith) / Dion Fortune / Dolores Aschroft-Nowicki / Dorothy Morrison / Doreen Valiente / Edward Fitch / Eleanor Ray Bone “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” / Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelly / Dr. Leo Louis Martello / Eliphas Levi / Ernest Thompson Seton / Ernest Westlake and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry / Fiona Horne / Friedrich von Spee / Francis Barrett / Gerald B. Gardner / Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca / Gwydion Pendderwen / Hans Holzer / Helen Duncan / Herman Slater "Horrible Herman" / Israel Regardie / James "Cunning" Murrell / Janet Farrar & Gavin Bone / Jessie Wicker Bell “Lady Sheba” / John Belham-Payne / John George Hohman / John Gerard / John Gordon Hargrave (the White Fox) / John Michael Greer / John Score / Johannes Junius the Burgomaster of Bamberg / Karl von Eckartshausen / Laurie Cabot "the Official Witch of Salem" / Lewis Spence / Margaret Alice Murray / Margot Adler / Marie Laveau the " Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" / Marion Weinstein / Matthew Hopkins “The Witch-Finder General” / Max Ehrmann and the Desiderata / Monique Wilson the “Queen of the Witches” / Montague Summers / Nicholas Culpeper / Nicholas Remy / M. R. Sellers / Mrs. Grieve "A Modern Herbal" / Oberon and Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart / Old Dorothy Clutterbuck / Old George Pickingill / Paddy Slade / Pamela Colman-Smith / Paracelsus / Patricia Crowther / Patricia Monaghan / Patricia “Trish” Telesco / Philip Emmons Isaac Bonewits / Philip Heselton / Raymond Buckland / Reginald Scot / Robert Cochrane / Robert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and "The White Goddess" /Rudolf Steiner / Rosaleen Norton “The Witch of Kings Cross” / Ross Nichols and The Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids / Sabrina - The Ink Witch / Scott Cunningham / Selena Fox / Silver Ravenwolf / Sir Francis Dashwood / Sir James George Frazer / S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” / Starhawk / Stewart Farrar / Sybil Leek / Ted Andrews / The Mather Family - includes: Richard Mather, Increase Mather, Cotton Mather / Thomas Ady / Vera Chapman / Victor Henry Anderson / Vivianne Crowley / Walter Brown Gibson / William Butler Yeats / Zsuzsanna Budapest
Many of the above biographies are brief and far from complete. If you know about any of these individuals and can help with aditional information, please cantact me privately at my email address below. Many thanks for reading :-)
"FAIR USE NOTICE"
While I have taken due care and dilligence to credit all sources where possible, this website may contain copyrighted material which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. My use of making such material available here is done so in my efforts to advance our understanding of religious discrimination, the environmental and social justice issues etc. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the information for research and educational purposes. For more information about 'fair use' see: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this wedsite for purposes of your own that goes beyond this 'fair use' statement, you must obtain permission from the relevant copyright owner yourself.
My online email discussion group:
Dove of Peace
Help send a message of peace around the world! The Dove of Peace flies from site to site, through as many countries as possible. It does not belong to ANY belief system. Please help make a line around the globe by taking it with you to your site, by giving it to someone for their site, by passing it on to another continent or to the conflict areas of the world. May trouble and strife be vanquished in it's path.
Please take time to sign my Guest Book.