Gwilmor, Author at celticsource.online

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Were the Welsh bards shamans?

A question that often arises on courses is whether or not the medieval Welsh bards — those that gave us the Taliesin myth as we understand it today — were shamans in any way? As always, the answer is more complex than a simple yes or no.

The Taliesin Tradition

Online course: September 13th – October 18th, 2020

The Taliesin myth is one of Britain’s oldest surviving traditions. With its roots in the Celtic Iron Age it continues to flourish to this day as a central part of Welsh language culture, modern Paganism and Druidry. The main sources for this tradition include some of the oldest, most mystical and intriguing poems of the Welsh bardic tradition, as well as some of the better known folk stories of Wales. By examining these sources in detail, this course explores the evolution of this venerable mythology; what is essentially the oldest surviving evocation of a native British priesthood.

If you would like to book your place on this online course, please follow the instructions in the course information document:

Week 1 (13.9). From Druids to Bards

Beginning in the Celtic Iron Age, this session follows the evolution of the Brythonic priest class through the Roman period, into the Early and High Middle Ages. Along the way we will follow the development of the Welsh bardic tradition, beginning with the historical Taliesin in the 6th century and ending with the bardic nobility of 12th century Wales.

Week 2 (20.9). The Chief Bards: Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr and Prydydd y Moch

From the 11th century onwards, we see the chief bards of Wales not only serving the Welsh aristocracy, but also evoking the Taliesin mythology in poetry and performance, as suggested in the poem Angar Kyfundawt.

Week 3 and 4 (27.9 – 4.10). Poems from The Book of Taliesin

The Book of Taliesin gives a rare glimpse of the esoteric culture of the medieval Welsh bards. Week 3 and 4 are dedicated to interpreting the more important poems from the book, including Prif Gyuarch Geluyd, Buarth Beird, Kat Godeu, Mabgyfreu Taliessin, Mydwyf Merweryd, Kadeir Teÿrnon, Kadeir Kerrituen, Preideu Annwfyn.

Week 5 (11.10). The Later Tradition: Poetry 1300 – 1600

The Late Middle Ages saw the slow transformation of the Welsh bardic guilds. As Welsh society changed under English occupation, so too did Welsh bardic culture. During this period the Taliesin myth was taken up by a new generations of bards.  

Week 6 (18.10). The Later Tradition: Folklore 1500 – 1900

The Taliesin mythology persists into the modern era as part of Welsh folk culture. The story of Taliesin and Ceridwen was once common throughout Wales. By comparing the different versions of the story with the earlier material from the course, this session looks at the shape of the tradition as it’s passed onto us today.

If you would like to book your place on this online course, please follow the instructions in the course information document:

Awen

A quick look at how this old Welsh word was used in its earliest contexts.

Remaking Myth in Welsh Storytelling

The story of Owain ab Urien travelled far in medieval Europe, mainly through Chretian de Troyes Old French classic Yvain (12th century), which although popular seems to have been stripped of its older more mythic elements. Yet on the story’s return to Wales in the 13th century, the Welsh storytellers appear to have reinvested the text with myth, renovating and remaking the story as they claimed it back.

Who wrote The Book of Taliesin?

The Book of Taliesin is one of the great treasures of Welsh culture, but who wrote it? In truth, it’s an impossible question to answer, but there are some very interesting theories about who composed some of the most famous poems in the manuscript . . .

Was Taliesin a druid?

Most Celtic scholars would rightly point out that the correct answer to this question is an emphatic no. Yet there is a more nuanced story that can be told:

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