A six week course from April 20th to May 25th, 2021
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.
Week 1 (20.4). 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 (27.4). The Chief Bards: Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr and Prydydd y Moch
From the 11th century onwards, we see high ranking chief bards evoking the Taliesin mythology in poetry and performance, as suggested in the poem Angar Kyfundawt. But what did this type of poetry and performance mean?
Week 3 and 4 (4.5 – 11.5). Poems from The Book of Taliesin
The Book of Taliesin gives a rare glimpse into 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 (18.5). 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 (25.5). The Later Tradition: Folklore 1500 – 1900
The Taliesin mythology persists into the early modern period, when the story of Taliesin and Ceridwen was a common folktale 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 was passed onto us today.
Some testimonials . . .
“Gwilym has an extraordinary academic command of this material, yet allows space to imagine into the unknown spaces beyond the texts, resulting in learning experiences which are rigorous as well as meditative. A valuable teacher.”
Ilka Tampke, Author and Lecturer
“Equally academically solid and inspired by turns, Gwilym’s work is fascinating, highly detailed and easily accessible at the same time. . . . I am so delighted to have found this wellspring of ancient literature, lore and insight.”
Danu Forest, Author and Teacher
“. . . an ocean of inspiration that has enriched and informed various elements of my poetry in subsequent years. Gwilym is a friendly, supportive tutor and both courses offered invaluable, unique insight into many aspects of Welsh myth and poetry.”
Sophie Mckeand, Poet, teacher and Traveller
The course will be held on a Tuesday evenings, beginning at 7:30pm and aiming to finish by 8:50pm. We’ll be using Zoom, so please download the software from zoom.us and get it up and running if you haven’t already. There will also be additional materials provided on a private web-page. This includes supplemental video material (no more than 15 minutes) to watch before each session, mainly readings of the original Welsh texts as well as notes on their form and structure.
All of the materials needed for this course will be provided. It’s not necessary to buy any books, but if you do want to buy one of the main texts please get yourself a copy of Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin (CMCS 2015) edited by Marged Haycock. It’s currently out of print so only second hand copies are available.