With Libya now so much on our minds I thought I would share with you a historical curiosity: a link between Druids of the early twentieth century and the cause of the Senussi people of Libya. George Watson MacGregor Reid, the founder of the Ancient Druid Order championed their cause when they were being attacked by the Italians and British. (Quick historical background: Libya was taken from the Ottomans by Italy in the Italo-Turkish War of 1911. In 1922, Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini launched his infamous “Riconquista” of Libya — the Roman Empire having done the original conquering 2000 years before. The Senussi led the resistance and Italians closed Senussi lodges, arrested sheikhs, and confiscated mosque land. Libyans fought the Italians until 1943, with between 250 000 and 300 000 of them dying in the process. More in the Senussi entry in Wikipedia).
MacGregor Reid felt so passionate about defending their right to be left alone he even claimed that the headquarters of his group, The Universal Bond, was actually in Senussiland – in the desert many of us will know from that wonderful film The English Patient (the cave where the wounded pilot shelters is there). He even provides a photograph in his 1913 ‘The New Life’ journal, reproduced here, and claims that ‘Within the Sacred Desert Home lie the bones of … John Findlay MacGregor-Reid, Arthur Higgins, Tiumothy O’Callaghan and twelve English members of the Bond.’ If this is true, then a group of modern Druids lies buried in the Libyan desert. If anyone would like to research this detail, and has the ability to do this, please get in touch!
The old Druid Chief then goes on to say in his journal that he ‘has been appointed the chief representative of the Senoussi in Europe, and will henceforth devote himself to the task of ventilating the grievances of the Senoussi… the Italian dead now stretch far back into the hinterland of Beghazi, and the Senoussi will stand with their backs to the wall, demanding the liberty of free men to live their own life, within their own dear native land…’
And the struggle for this basic freedom continues to this day in that very same place.
To read more about this, see Dr Adam Stout’s paper on MacGregor Reid’s life for the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids Mount Haemus Award here.