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.
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.
Celtic thinking, and the practices of Bards and Druids, are based on threes. This also applies to the system of divination using the Coelbren y Beirdd.
History is a jigsaw puzzle. To gain a view of the past, we need to put together pieces gleaned from archaeology and from surviving records. Increasingly, it seems clear that we can also learn from myths, passed down through generations via the oral tradition to the point when they were recorded in writing.
There has been a flurry of articles recently about a paper published by Professor Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues from a number of British Universities: The original Stonehenge? A dismantled stone circle in the Preseli Hills of west Wales:
I recently met up with a friend, another Welsh Druid, in a local pub. Over the course of a few beers, many topics came up in conversation, but one has stuck with me. We noted that before the year 2000, the Mari Lwyd was not at all well-known, even in Wales. Since then, though, she has become, not exactly mainstream, but quite recognisable and a definite part of contemporary Welsh culture, with new Maris and new groups popping up all over the place. A video which I watched recently shows dozens of Mari Lwyds gathering in one place, and there will of course have been others which didn’t attend. It’s very striking how this element of traditional culture rose from obscurity to a new prominence and vitality. Clearly the Mari is speaking to something in our collective psyche, even if I’m not sure what that is.
In the tradition of Welsh Druidry that I am exploring in this blog, we believe in the reality of the Gods. I’ve explored something of their nature in, for example my series on the Three Great Families, and on Gwyn ap Nudd.
In our tradition, the Otherworld exists, and there are beings – the Tylwyth Teg, or the Fair Folk – who exist both in that world and in ours. There is a world of spirit, overlapping with our world, where dwell spirits which once were incarnate in flesh, and others which have never been incarnate.
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
Created fully formed,
Fair of face,
Like a flower, they said.
Created with a pleasing figure,
And tawny hair,
And skin that smelled of blossom.
The Cad Goddeu, in English The Battle of the Trees, is a prophetic poem amongst the works of Taliesin.
Prophecy in poetry is like divination with the I Ching: it does not have one definitive meaning and application. It is a reflection in the great Cauldron of Annwn: its obscure text and poetic imagery hold meaning, but that meaning only emerges when we interpret the poem’s symbolism in the context of our own time and our own situation.
The Cad Goddeu tells us of a war between the Great Families of Welsh myth.
This method of divination uses six letters. It’s the one that I find myself using the most.
The Council of Voices draws its inspiration from the I Ching, which I have used for many years.