The Voice of the Ovates

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The third order was the Ovydd, or Ovate, to which the candidate could be immediately admitted without being obliged to pass through the regular disciplines. The requisite qualifications were, in general, an acquaintance with discoveries in science, the use of letters, medicine, language, and the like. On particular occasions, in consideration of other gifts, even the knowledge of, and a genius for, poetry might be dispensed with. The Ovydd was, however, enjoined to acquaint himself with the Bardic Institutes and traditions. For it might occur that the order of Ovates should alone continue, which in its original purity could not be done, unless they were acquainted with its true principles, nature and intention. The Ovydd could perform all the functions of Bardism; and by some particular performance he became entitled to other degrees, on the confirmation of a Gorsedd.
Welsh Sketches, Ernest Silvanus Appleyard, 1852

it is incumbent upon an Ovate to endeavour and seek after learning, as far as he can, by means of the hearing and voice of the world, of sight and contingency, and of attempt, awen, and imagination
Barddas: The Triads of Privilege and Usage

As we have seen, the role of the Bard in Welsh Druidry is to channel the Awen in the promulgation of culture and values. The responsibility of the Bard is to maintain the culture of the tribe by establishing the knowledge of poetry in the people, by passing remembrance from generation to generation, and to strengthen bonds of peace between tribes and nations. In this duty, the Bard is the child and ward of Arianrhod.

The Ovate has a different role, and different protectors. The Ovate, like the Bard, must be connected to the Awen, but they apply it in a different manner: they seek insight into the underlying patterns and properties of nature, and the applications that humanity can derive from it. This is well-described in two quotes attributed to Albert Einstein:

I believe in Spinoza’s god, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of all that exists, not in the god who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings

and

After a certain high level of technical skill is achieved, science and art tend to coalesce in esthetics, plasticity, and form. The greatest scientists are artists as well.

Source.

Science is at the core of Welsh Druidry. Our tradition is not one that separates spirit and matter; we know that they are the same, merely different states on one spectrum. The Ovate seeks to understand the properties of water, and the meaning of the movements of the stars. She seeks to learn the language of the trees, and the nature of the animal world. He investigates the minerals of the Earth, and the interests of the Elementals. The tribe is part of the wider world of nature; all are parts of the eternal flow of creation, the steam and boiling droplets emitted from the roiling cauldron of Annwn.

The trees, and the beasts, and the elemental forms, have their own concerns and their own protectors, however. The Bards, the Ovates and the Druids are concerned with humanity: its prosperity, its protection, and its relationship with the Gods.

Ovates therefore are also concerned with making nature more fruitful through agriculture with the blessings of Amaethon; more helpful through the development and application of technology, with the guidance of Gofannon; more malleable through the study of magic, with the instructions of Gwydion. The Ovate may study divination, or the ways of the forest and wilderness, and the boundaries of Annwn; here, Gwyn ap Nudd may be her guide. He may study architecture, to reflect the harmony of the universe in the lived environment of the people. She may study medicine, learning the power of plants to heal us, as our manure feeds them in return.

As we see all too well in our own times, the way of science can be a perilous one: the gods of the Welsh are powerful, but they are not human. They have their own concerns; they leave matters of human morality to humans. It is dangerously easy to see only what can be done with their wisdom, and to lose sight of what should be done… or what should not be done.

The role of the Ovate therefore contains the role of a scientist, but it is greater. The Ovate need not be a Bard as well, but it is better if they are: the Bardic command of language, of metaphor and analogy, of framing images, strengthens their own understanding, and their ability to convey and explain the magical complexity of the world of which we humans are such a small part. We thus promote and nurture the cross-pollination of the mind. The Ovate is inspired by the Awen to see pattern and harmony in the world; balance, and unity in the ten thousand things. In this way, the fruits of learning are used for benefit of all, and not for harm.

Image credits: Ray of hope by shrinivasa sharma on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

2 comments

  1. Thank you so very much for this – for me there is so much synchronicity within this piece and instantly brought to mind Bill Hicks:
    ‘Today a young man on acid realised all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration; that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively; there is no death; life is just a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves’
    And correlates with a small book I am reading this morning from Tom Hirons of Hedgespoken Press – Black Hat.
    Again thank you for adding another piece to today’s synchronicity.
    Blessings /|\

    Like

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