“WE do not do naked rituals, paint our bodies with weird symbols or perform magic,” stresses Gordon Baron, who belongs to Bolton’s Druid community.

It might also surprise many people that those belonging to the Druid movement happily put up a Christmas tree, exchange Christmas presents and tuck into Christmas lunch with all the trimmings.

But while December 25 is the big day for most of us, druids have their celebrations a few days earlier on winter solstice, and the two days either side of it.

Gordon is one of approximately ten followers of Druidism in Bolton, which comes under the umbrella term of “paganism” – a nature-based faith.

For them, midwinter is known as Alban Arthan. On the shortest day of the year, and the longest night, the power of darkness is honoured, along with the divine mother - the womb of creation.

“During the three days, we feast and drink,” explained Gordon.

“Rituals vary from group to group, person to person. You would say thanks to the earth, to the gods and goddesses you believe in and you would make offerings to them in the same way that people leave out brandy and mince pies for Father Christmas.

“There is not one particular ritual we practise. Nothing is set in stone because Druidry is an evolving faith, it evolves as the Earth evolves.”

It was not until he was 38 that Gordon discovered Druidism.

“As a child, I was brought up in the Church of England. I was confirmed into the church and did three or four communions. After one of them, I got up from the altar and walked away because I saw it as cannibalism; you’re eating the flesh of Christ, you’re drinking the blood of Christ.

“I walked away but I knew there was still something I needed to find. I’d always been searching and was in a spiritual limbo for 24 years. I knew what I believed in but I couldn’t put a name to it.”

He finally found what he was looking for in 2003 when he got talking to a man in his local pub.

“He was up visiting from the south coast and there was something about him that stood out. It was only after about two months that I found out he was a druid so I asked him all about it.

“I found out it’s a belief in the Earth, a belief in natural powers. And I thought: ‘That’s what I want, that’s me’.

“I was all ready to ask him to be my mentor, to teach me the ways, but unfortunately he died of a big heart attack.”

However, Gordon was inspired and he entered the community that is Druidry.

First, he joined the Loyal Arthurian Warband – the warrior/political arm of the modern Druid movement. It fights for truth, honour and justice.

After that, he found the Order of Bards, Ovades and Druids. Founded in 1964, it is based in England but has an international membership.

Bards are those who specialise in poetry, music, art and creativity. Ovates are the diviners and specialists in the natural world, the healers and seers. Druids are students of moral philosophy.

“At the moment, I’m at the ovate stage,” said Gordon . “It gives me a sense of wellness.

“It usually takes about 19 years to become a full druid. You have to do a series of exercises and meditations, and then I’ve got to submit a piece to the order to be good enough to be a druid.”

His beliefs link in with his job, in fact it was because he was frustrated by the lack of availability of authentic mead he needed for his rituals that he started making mead himself.

And five years ago, he and his wife, Ann, established The Lancashire Mead Company, which is based in Horwich.

Made the traditional way - the honey is allowed to ferment – it ties in with Gordon’s ovatic responsibilities of using nature.

“It’s medicinal in a way because were using the honey which has antibacterial and antibiotic properties,” said Gordon.

“People use my mead for ritual. There’s always a sense of happiness with them. I’ve not come across anyone that gets violent off it. It tends to have the opposite effect, it calms them down, chills them out.”

Gordon uses his mead in all his rituals.

“It is passed round as a blessing in the ritual. People take a sip of it from the horn and say ‘May you never thirst’.”

The druids of Bolton don’t meet regularly.

“We’re all pretty much solo practitioners,” said Gordon. “We all have our own sacred spaces of worship. Mine is a little spot up in Rivington which I feel drawn to. But it doesn’t have to be a rural location, it can be in the town centre, it could be anywhere.”

When people find out Gordon follows Druidism, the response is always positive.

“People tend to be very interested,” he said.

But that doesn’t stop a lot of misconceptions.

“We don’t do naked rituals. It just does not happen,” said Gordon with light-hearted exasperation. “And it’s a fallacy to think we do magic.

“What we do do is to ask the spirits of place to help somebody do what they need to do. You never do it for yourself, you always ask on behalf of other people, and you always have to have that person’s permission.

“As with prayers in Christianity, we offer thoughts up for people who are ill, who are struggling to find their way. We send a silent message out.”