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grail bard

bard

Three things that make a bard:
Playing of the harp
Knowledge of ancient lore
Poetic power.

- from Celtic Bards, Celtic Druids by R.J. Stewart and Robin Williamson

WHAT WAS THE ROLE OF A BARD?
Bards, or poets, were held in very high esteem by the Celtic people. They had the power to bless or curse, praise or ridicule. High Bards were believed to have undergone initiation into their art's mysteries under the guidance of the goddess Ceridwen, who, according to legend, gave birth to the most famous bard, Taliesin. There were three levels of bards:

  • High degree bard - Prydyddiaeth
  • Family harper - Teulwriaeth
  • Travelling minstrel - Clerwriaeth

WHAT DID A BARD DO?
Most of the traditional Celtic lore has been preserved in Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Bards retained their power in these countries long after they had disappeared in England. The bardic lore has been preserved mainly in Wales in the tradition of the Triads of the Island of Britain. Bards sought a connection between things, and through their search they achieved enlightenment and understanding, and then wove their knowledge into stories and poems to share them with the rest of their world.

WHAT WAS THE BARD BELIEF SYSTEM?
They believed in The Three Worlds: Annwn - the underlying world that sustains all, Abred - the world we inhabit and Gwynwyd - the divine world we all are destined for. Bards always used a harp, which was central to the Celtic practice of spoken-word performance and inspiration. Magic and healing were also considered to be part of Celtic poetry and harp music. So to were satire and humour. Bards were advisors to the nobility and royalty and held an important role in society well into the Middle Ages.

WHAT REMAINS OF THE BARDS OF OLD?
The bardic musical and poetic traditions were not the only influence on Celtic culture. The mainstay of folk-song, dance and legend, inspired from the same source, but appearing in a less refined form, are the jewels of insight into Celtic lore that have survived and are still played today.

[back to the high court]

Painting by Miranda Gray © Arthurian Tarot Pack

You will find credits and links to the generous souls who have provided the Celtic art, music, poetry and reference material free on the Web, as well as a bibliography of the books and publications that make up a large part of my library and have been a rich resource for these pages in the Credits list.

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