In Welsh Druidry, we believe in reincarnation, and the gradual journey of the soul from Annwn, through untold incarnations in our own world of Abred, until it has become sufficiently wise to leave material incarnation behind and progress to Gwynfyd, the existence of purely spiritual life:
Iolo Morganwg was known in his own day as ‘The Bard of Liberty’. There were very good reasons for this, and I want to explore some of those reasons because they will help us to understand why he and his system are so important to us today.
I wrote this as a contribution to a discussion that’s ongoing in the members’ forums of the Druid Network. Those are private, so I thought I might post it here so that a broader audience can read it and contribute their thoughts.
Green is the colour of the Ovate, and under the sign of this colour are placed all the sciences of awen and reason and cogency, as distinct from what belongs to the principal sciences of Bardism, and all the improvement of sciences of whatever kind they may be, so that they are good. That is to say, they are assimilated to the green vegetation of the growth of earth, woods, and fields, which delights the heart and eye of those who behold them.
Barddas: The Triads of Privilege and Usage.
Iolo Morganwg was a stonemason. Most people who know anything about him could tell you that – but I suspect very few of them could tell you what it meant. Indeed, I suspect that, if pressed, people would guess it meant something like a bricklayer – a relatively unskilled manual job, of low social status.
Periodically, the OBOD forums I participate in see discussions arise about cultural appropriation.
I’ve already made my position clear on this: it annoys the heck out of me, and I get really angry at people who take elements of Welsh language and culture and casually try to redefine them turn them into something they are not – which most often seems to be a rebranded version of common pagan themes. For example, there are currently a number of people trying to treat Gwyn ap Nudd as a rebranded, touchy-feely, Cernunnos, when the extant body of myth clearly depicts him as quite different.
I’ve been thinking recently about humans and our capacity for evil, provoked in part by a post by Nimue Brown: What Does It Mean to Unpeel a Monster?
There are, perhaps, two kinds of evil people. There are those who are driven by their animal nature; this is the evil caused by lust, anger, desire, and the like. Then there are those whose higher nature has become corrupt. They have come to believe that they know how to make the world perfect. Unfortunately, this usually means eliminating those of their fellow humans – and elements of nature – who fail to be perfect.
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
The photo shows two letters from the Coelbren y Beirdd alphabet: ‘d’, and ‘dd’. The first is pronounced in the same way as in English; the second is pronounced like the English ‘th’ in ‘this’, ‘that’, or ‘there’.
The three principal sciences of man: sciences respecting God; to know what he is himself; and to know the tendency of species and nature. From these three all other laudable sciences inevitably spring.
Barddas: The Triads of St. Paul.
Druidry in the Welsh tradition is not incompatible with science; indeed, the support and furthering of science is a fundamental part of our tradition.
The three first points, which a Bard ought to teach and consider: to believe every thing; to disbelieve every thing; and to believe it matters not what.
Barddas: The Triads of Privilege and Usage.
There are three things that most people think they know about Edward Williams, better known by his Bardic Name: Iolo Morganwg. The first is that he was a literary forger, presenting his own work as that of poets of the past. The second is that he was a bankrupt. The third is that he was a drug-fuelled eccentric.