The general consensus among Celtic scholars used to be that Rhiannon, the otherworldly queen of the Mabinogi, was originally a horse goddess. But in more recent decades this idea has been viewed with scepticism. So is she or isn’t she? The answer is both yes and no.
Fifteen hundred years ago, northern Britain was home to many cultures, perhaps the most important being the Gaels and the Picts, two originally distinct peoples that came together to lay the foundations of modern day Scotland. But who were they and what finally united them?
Here’s an excerpt from the discussion we had last week on the role of the awenydd and awen, at this point in the conversation from the perspective of The Book of Taliesin poem ‘Angar Kyfundawt’.
My translation of the beginning of the poem is below. As I explained in this series of blog posts a few years back, it’s a bit different to Marged Haycock’s translation in Legendary Poems from The Book of Taliesin.
Angar Kyfundawt, lines 1 – 39:
The poet — here he is!
I’ve [already] sung what he may sing.
Let him sing [only] when
the sage has drawn to a close wherever he may be.
A generous one who refuses me
will never get anything to give.
Through the language of Taliesin
[will come] the profit of manna.
When Cian died
his retinue was numerous.
Until death it shall be obscure
skilfully he brought forth
speech in metre.
[and a] deep one will come;
he [Gwion] would bring the dead to life,
and [yet] he is poor.
They [Afagddu and Gwion] would make their cauldrons
that were boiling without fire;
they would work their materials
for ever and ever.
Passionately will song be brought fourth
by the deep, profound speaker.
Hostile is the confederacy [of opposing bards];
what is its custom?
[Since] such a great amount of the nation’s poetry
was on your tongues
why don’t you declaim a declamation,
a flow above the shining drink?
When everyone’s separated out
I’ll come with a song,
[I’m] a deep one who became flesh:
there has come a conqueror,
one of the three judges in readiness.
For sixty years
I endured solitude
in the water gathered in a band [around the earth],
Preiddiau Annwfn is one of the better known poems from The Book of Taliesin, and it’s also one of the most mysterious. Nobody really knows what it’s about, but there are a few clues as to what it could mean.
Taken from the Gafael Tir tour 2018, a show I perform with my good friend Owen Shiers. Gafael Tir is a history of land-rights and protest in Wales, telling a thousand years of the common folks’ history through folk song, story and verse. Mwynhewch: