Some brief thoughts.
John Michael Greer has an open thread post up on his blog this week. One of the topics, driven by recent tragic events, is violence – and, specifically, male violence. This overlaps with some of the themes of this blog, which spurs me to write something quickly – both to capture my thought processes, and to be able to put a link in a comment over there before his blog rolls over to a new week’s discussion. Since I’m writing quickly, I won’t be putting in as many links to supporting material as usual, and I want to emphasise that this is me thinking aloud and trying to form some understanding of the topic: it should not be read as my definitive views on the topic. My thinking begins with a famous broken femur.
I don’t have much to add to this, but I’m delighted to see that a documentary has been made about Wilf Davies, the Welsh farmer whom I’ve written about here and here. It will be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York later this year, after being selected from more than 7,000 submissions. As I wrote in my first post, something about Wilf’s serene simplicity and rootedness in his community and natural environment has made an impact, reminding us of fundamentals, and that there is another way of living that is healthier than our (post-)modern busyness and confusion. I hope he’s ready to be famous, and that this will have only positive effects on his life.
In my last period of paid employment – “last” in the sense of “most recent”, but also possibly meaning “final” – I frequently stayed in high-end hotels whilst travelling for business. There was always a small map on the back of the room door, showing the evacuation route to be taken in the event of a fire or other emergency. Of course, I rarely looked – I didn’t really ever imagine there would be any need and, if there was, I would be able to work out how to reach safety.
Well, the time has come. Not just for me, but for all of us in the global West, because we are in a high Tower and it is falling. Gwyn ap Nudd has provided no map and no evacuation route: each of us will have to find our own way to safety.
I’ve been thinking about climate change: there have been several articles recently about the areas of Wales that will be lost to rising seas over coming decades. This is going to cause major social and economic upheaval. It’s going to demand that our society direct huge amounts of resources to defending ourselves from the sea – which means that those resources won’t be available for other social programmes that many people depend on. Large numbers of people may be forced to leave their homes and communities for ever. This is inevitably going to be traumatic. This is where we will need our bards. In Wales, the figure of Gwyddno Garanhir tells us that this has happened before, and we survived. If we did it before, we can do it again. Gwyddno connects the tales of Taliesin and of Gwyn ap Nudd: the tales of poetic inspiration, and of deadly challenges.
I’ve recently been working on a project covering how language and culture emerge, and their relationship with the brain. It’s led me to understand, in a new way, the brilliance of Iolo Morganwg, and just how much he was ahead of his time. Here, I want to briefly discuss how Barddas anticipates the work of Alfred Korzybski, whose dictum “the map is not the territory” is pretty well-known these days.
As I’ve made clear, this blog is my process of exploring the writings of Iolo Morganwg in Barddas, the source of contemporary Revival Druidry, and trying to put it into modern terms as a system firmly rooted in the authentic Welsh cultural tradition.
That means going beyond Barddas itself: recognising that the Four Branches of the Mabinogi contain a pantheon of ancient Brythonic deities, for example. My experience is that they exist; they are real, and represent real powers. Barddas, however, comes from Iolo’s spiritual insights, rooted in a Christian background, and his writings are full of references to God. Can these things be reconciled? I believe that they can.
As today is the first day of the year, I decided to follow John Beckett’s example, and conduct a divination for 2022 using the question “What does the new year hold for me and mine?”. As he says, the closer you are to me, the more this will apply to you and, since you are reading this, there is at least a weak connection.
It’s New Year’s Day, and I haven’t written anything here for months. The key word there is “here”: I’ve been writing a lot elsewhere. I would like to say “I have been writing a book”, but that isn’t how it’s been working out. Rather, I can only say “A book has been using me to get itself written”.