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Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Ross Nichols



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.




Sir James George Frazer     -     Robert Graves


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 B. 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.



A 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 Today, his 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 traveled 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 traveled 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.



Woodland retreat in Buckinghamshire


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 centered 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 traveled 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.




Ross Nichols with Olivia Robertson at 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.



Philip Carr-Gomm


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.



The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-paganism - By Shelley Rabinovitch

The New Encyclopedia of the Occult  -  by John Micheal Greer


Plus many more too many to mention


Written and compiled on the 21st December 2007  ©  George Knowles



Best wishes and Blessed Be



Site Contents - Links to all Pages


Home Page


A Universal Message:


Let there be peace in the world  -   Where have all the flowers gone?


About me:

My Personal PageMy Place in England / My Family Tree (Ancestry)


Wicca & Witchcraft


Wicca/Witchcraft /  What is Wicca What is Magick


Traditional Writings:


The 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 GodThe 13 Principles of Wiccan Belief /  The Witches Rede of Chivalry A Pledge to Pagan Spirituality


Correspondence Tables:


IncenseCandlesColours Magickal Days Stones and Gems Elements and Elementals




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 An esoteric guide to visiting London SatanismPow-wowThe Unitarian Universalist Association /  Numerology:  Part 1  Part 2  /  Part 3A history of the Malleus Maleficarum:  includes:  Pope Innocent VIII  /  The papal Bull  /   The Malleus Maleficarum  /  An extract from the Malleus Maleficarum  /  The letter of approbation  /  Johann Nider’s Formicarius  /  Jacob Sprenger  /  Heinrich Kramer  /  Stefano Infessura  /  Montague Summers  /  The Waldenses  /  The Albigenses  /  The Hussites /  The Native American Sun DanceShielding (Occult and Psychic Protection)  The History of ThanksgivingAuras  - Part 1 and Part 2 Doreen Valiente Witch” (A Book Review) /   


Sabbats and Festivals:


The Sabbats in History and Mythology /  Samhain (October 31st)  /  Yule (December 21st)  /  Imbolc (February 2nd)  /  Ostara (March 21st)  /  Beltane (April 30th)  /  Litha (June 21st)  /  Lammas/Lughnasadh (August 1st)  /  Mabon (September 21st)


Rituals contributed by Crone:


Samhain / Yule Imbolc Ostara /  Beltane Litha Lammas Mabon




Tools of a Witch  /  The Besom (Broom) /  Poppets and DollsPendulums / Cauldron Magick Mirror Gazing




Animals in Witchcraft (The Witches Familiar and Totem Animals) /  AntelopeBatsCrow Fox Frog and Toads Goat / HoneybeeKangarooLion OwlPhoenix Rabbits and HaresRaven Robin RedbreastSheep Spider SquirrelSwansUnicornWild Boar Wolf /  Serpent /  Pig /  Stag /  Horse /  Mouse /  Cat /  Rats /  Unicorn




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


Sacred Sites:


Mystical Sacred Sites  -  Stonehenge /  Glastonbury Tor /  Malta - The Hypogeum of Hal Saflieni /  Avebury /  Cerne Abbas - The Chalk Giant /  Ireland - Newgrange /


Rocks and Stones:


Stones - History, Myths and Lore


Articles contributed by Patricia Jean Martin:


Apophyllite  / Amber Amethyst Aquamarine Aragonite Aventurine Black Tourmaline Bloodstone Calcite Carnelian Celestite Citrine Chrysanthemum StoneDiamond  /  Emerald / Fluorite Garnet /  Hematite Herkimer Diamond Labradorite Lapis Lazuli Malachite Moonstone Obsidian Opal Pyrite Quartz (Rock Crystal) Rose Quartz Ruby Selenite Seraphinite  /  Silver and GoldSmoky QuartzSodalite Sunstone ThundereggTree AgateZebra Marble


Wisdom and Inspiration:


Knowledge vs Wisdom by Ardriana Cahill I Talk to the TreesAwakening The Witch in YouA Tale of the Woods I have a Dream by Martin Luther King /


Articles and Stories about Witchcraft:


Murdered 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:


Pliny the ElderHesiodPythagoras





A "Who's Who" of Witches, Pagans and other associated People

(Ancient, Past and Present)


Remembered at Samhain

(Departed Pagan Pioneers, Founders, Elders and Others)


Pagan Pioneers:  Founders, Elders, Leaders and Others


Abramelin the Mage /  Agrippa Aidan A KellyAlbertus Magnus - “Albert the Great” Aleister Crowley - “The Great Beast” /  Alex Sanders - “King of the Witches” /  Alison Harlow /   Allan Bennett - the Ven. Ananda MetteyyaAllan Kardec (Spiritism) /  Alphonsus de SpinaAmber KAnn Moura /  Anna FranklinAnodea JudithAnton Szandor LaVey /  Arnold CrowtherArthur Edward Waite /  Austin Osman SpareBalthasar Bekker /  Biddy EarlyBarbara Vickers /  Bridget Cleary - The Fairy Witch of Clonmel /  Carl " Llewellyn" Weschcke Cecil Hugh WilliamsonCharles Godfrey Leland /   Charles WaltonChristopher PenczakChristina Oakley Harrington Cornelius Loos /  Damh the Bard - "Dave Smith" /  Dion Fortune /  Dolores Aschroft-NowickiDonald Michael Kraig Doreen ValienteDorothy MorrisonDr. John Dee & Edward Kelly /  Dr. Leo Louis Martello /  Edain McCoy /  Edward FitchEleanor Ray Bone - “Matriarch of British Witchcraft” Eliphas Levi /  Ernest Thompson Seton /  Ernest Westlake /  Fiona Horne /   Frederick McLaren Adams - Feraferia Friedrich von Spee /  Francis Barrett /  Gavin and Yvonne Frost and the School and Church of Wicca /  Gerald B. Gardner - The father of contemporary Witchcraft /  Gwydion Pendderwen Hans HolzerHelen Duncan /   Herman Slater - Horrible Herman /  Heinrich KramerIsaac Bonewits Israel RegardieIvo Domínguez Jr. /  Jack Whiteside Parsons - Rocket Science and Magick /  James "Cunning" Murrell - The Master of Witches /  Janet Farrar and Gavin BoneJean Bodin Jessie Wicker Bell - “Lady Sheba” / Johann Weyer  / Johannes Junius - "The Burgomaster of Bamberg" /   Johann Georg Fuchs von Dornheim  -  the “Hexenbrenner” (witch burner) /  John Belham-Payne John George Hohman - "Pow-wow" /  John Gerard /  John Gordon Hargrave and the Kibbo Kith Kindred /  John Michael Greer /  John Score /  Joseph “Bearwalker” Wilson /  Joseph John Campbell /  Karl von Eckartshausen Lady Gwen Thompson - and "The Rede of the Wiccae" /   Laurie Cabot  - "the Official Witch of Salem" /  Lewis SpenceLodovico Maria Sinistrari Ludwig LavaterMadeline Montalban and the Order of the Morning Star /  Margaret Alice MurrayMargot AdlerMichael Howard and the UK "Cauldron Magazine" /  Margaret St. Clair - the “Sign of the Labrys” /  Marie Laveau - " the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans" /  Marion WeinsteinMartin Antoine Del Rio Matthew Hopkins - “The Witch-Finder General” /   Max Ehrmann and the "Desiderata" /  Michael A. Aquino - and The Temple of Set /  Monique WilsonMontague Summers /  Nicholas CulpeperNicholas RemyM. R. SellarsMrs. Maud Grieve - "A Modern Herbal" /  Oberon Zell-Ravenheart and Morning GloryOld Dorothy Clutterbuck /  Old George PickingillOlivia Durdin-Robertson - co-founder of the Fellowship of Isis /  Paddy SladePamela Colman-SmithParacelsus /  Patricia CrowtherPatricia Monaghan /  Patricia “Trish” TelescoPaul Foster Case and the “Builders of the Adytum” mystery school /  Peter Binsfeld /  Philip HeseltonRaven GrimassiRaymond Buckland /  Reginald Scot /  Richard BaxterRobert CochraneRobert ‘von Ranke’ Graves and the "The White Goddess" /  Rosaleen Norton - “The Witch of Kings Cross” /  Rossell Hope Robbins /   Ross Nichols and the " Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids" (OBOD) /  Rudolf SteinerSabrina Underwood - "The Ink Witch" /  Scott CunninghamSelena Fox - founder of "Circle Sanctuary" /  Silver RavenwolfSir Francis Dashwood /  Sir James George Frazer and the " The Golden Bough"S.L. MacGregor Mathers and the “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” /  Starhawk /  Stewart Farrar /  Sybil LeekTed Andrews The Mather Family - (includes:  Richard Mather, Increase Mather and Cotton Mather ) /   Thomas AdyT. Thorn CoyleVera ChapmanVictor & Cora Anderson and the " Feri Tradition" /  Vivianne CrowleyWalter Brown GibsonWalter Ernest ButlerWilliam Butler YeatsZsuzsanna Budapest /  



Many of the above biographies are briefs and far from complete.  If you know about any of these individuals and can help with additional information, please contact me privately at my email address below.  Many thanks for reading  :-)



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