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Shakespeare’s Horns

Tonight is called Nos Galan Gaeaf in Wales, and is an ysbrydnos, or ‘spirit night’ when the dead walk abroad under the starry skies. Halloween is the most recent tradition associated with this night, known at one time as ‘All Hallows Eve’, but there were traditions that came before it, such as the old CelticContinue reading “Shakespeare’s Horns”

St. David and Taliesin: brothers in myth.

The 1st of March is as good a day as any to consider Dewi Sant, ‘Y Dyfrwr’, known beyond Wales as St. David, ‘The Waterman’. Apparently born around the turn of the 6th century, as a historical figure he is possibly older than Taliesin by a generation or two, and is arguably the better known. But inContinue reading “St. David and Taliesin: brothers in myth.”

Roland Barthes’ definition of myth

If, as many scholars have pointed out, The Four Branches of the Mabinogi are derived from an earlier mythology, it’s probably best to begin with the question: what exactly is a myth? In the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the first meaning given to a myth is . . . a traditional narrative usually involving supernatural orContinue reading “Roland Barthes’ definition of myth”

Taliesin’s Power at Court

The legendary poems from The Book of Taliesin give us a little window onto the less formal activities of Welsh medieval court bards. Most of these poems are dramatic pieces that were very likely performed by bards and declaimers adopting the dramatic persona of the legendary Taliesin. The differing ages of some of these poemsContinue reading “Taliesin’s Power at Court”

What does Annwfn mean?

In the Beirdd y Tywysogion series, the editors have interpreted a line by Cynddelw in the following way: In Annwfn, in the world, in the sea – . . . This doesn’t really make much sense, which leads me to consider alternative readings. It’s probably worth considering how court bards such as Cynddelw thought aboutContinue reading “What does Annwfn mean?”

Iolo Morganwg and Welsh mythology.

Today, we have far more accurate editions of old Welsh poetry and prose than ever, largely due to the growth of Welsh language university departments, sometimes with whole teams of post-graduate editors and researchers devoted to editing and understanding medieval texts. Even greats such as Dafydd ap Gwilym have found themselves caught up in theContinue reading “Iolo Morganwg and Welsh mythology.”

Taliesin and bardic learning

This audio clip is from a course on The Welsh Bardic Tradition, held at Aberystwyth University; I haven’t included the course notes as some of them are scans from a published books. This excerpt summarises some of the initial features of the Taliesin persona as found in The Book of Taliesin, and takes a quickContinue reading “Taliesin and bardic learning”

The ideal of bardic truth

This audio clip is from a course on The Welsh Bardic Tradition, held at Aberystwyth University, alongside an excerpt from the course notes. It looks at the life and early work of the greatest of the Gogynfeirdd, Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr during the time of the fall of the Kingdom of Powys. The Welsh Bardic Tradition weekContinue reading “The ideal of bardic truth”

Bardic meditation

This audio clip is from a course on The Welsh Bardic Tradition, held at Aberystwyth University, alongside an excerpt from the course notes. It summarises a discussion on a sequence of anonymous medieval gnomic stanzas from around 1100. Mountain Snow Excerpt text

To praise a noble bard

This audio clip is from a course on The Welsh Bardic Tradition, held at Aberystwyth University, alongside an excerpt from the course notes. It covers a medieval praise poem written around 1100 to Cuhelyn Fardd, a powerful nobleman and bard from West Wales. The poem itself reveals much about bardic culture and custom in medievalContinue reading “To praise a noble bard”