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The Taliesin Tradition

Online course: February 2021 TBC

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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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:


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

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:

Where did Ceridwen Chase Gwion Bach?

Hope you’re well during these difficult times. If you’re self-isolating, perhaps this video can pass the time a little for you. We can at least imagine the land, even if we can’t necessarily walk on it.

The different versions of Taliesin’s folk tale give us clues as to where the animal-transformation chase scene may have taken place. Following some interesting clues in the Welsh landscape, here’s one possible location . . .​

Celtic Magical Elixirs

Outlining the similarities between the Welsh Tale of Taliesin and the Irish story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, in particular the very ancient concept of a magical elixir.

Awen, symbol and cauldron

In this talk, I take a look at the role of awen in creating symbolic reality and give an outline of some of the symbolic meanings that can be found in the great mythic cauldron of the Celts.