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.
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.
A Celt and a Saxon would agree that of the colour of the sea, the colour of ivy leaves, and the colour of an Ovate’s robe, two belong together and one is different. They would, however, disagree on what the two are.
I’ve been following the writing of pagan writer Rhyd Wildermuth for a while, having originally seen his name mentioned by other bloggers. Of late, Rhyd seems to have been undergoing a shift in his thinking, and one of his recent posts – The Fires of Meaning – struck a chord, and helped me to clarify a train of thought about culture, faith, and why contemporary Druidry is seemingly so ineffective in responding to the catastrophe that is facing our society.
Since I expect pushback against some of the ideas I explore here, let’s be very clear from the outset: this is an exploration of how faith in general, and Druidry in particular, can help people cope during the collapse of Western society which is indicated by the scientific evidence available to us. If you believe that Western society is in fact likely to continue much as it is today, you don’t need to read this.
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.
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:
It will come as a surprise to many people to learn that Iolo Morganwg was a farmer; and not just a farmer but a competent one.
The myth that has grown up around Iolo, slanted and misleading, reflects his poetic and antiquarian talents. It over-emphasises his literary forgeries, misunderstanding and misrepresenting what he was doing. It pays lip service to his career as a stonemason, while not recognising that this undermines the myth itself: as we saw in the last post, no drug-addled dreamer could have cut and carved stone as well as Iolo Morganwg.
But a farmer? Who knew about that? In fact, this is an important aspect of Iolo’s life, and one which would have informed his vision of the world.
I was recently reading a Substack article by Rod Dreher, a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which led me to this piece by David Bentley Hart. Hart talks about a man called Reuben, who he met many years ago in Lancaster, England. I haven’t read anything by Hart before; Dreher, though devout in his Christian faith, has a mystic aspect to his faith which often overlaps the Druidic worldview. Hart has this to say of Reuben:
I first read The Crow Goddess decades ago, when I was an undergraduate. I must have found it in a second-hand bookshop somewhere – I have no recollection of where – because I’m pretty sure that it was long out of print even then. Still, if you can find a copy, it’s very much worth snapping it up as it’s the best work I’ve read of life in the ancient world of the Celts.