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The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg Vol. I

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Majir
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« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2009, 01:14:46 am »

the two that constituted the only members of the Bardic institution, when it was revived at the close of the last century. 1 But though they are thus in his handwriting, if we set aside some brief and unimportant notices, which, whether original or otherwise, may have been couched in his own language, there is every reason to believe that they are transcripts of older manuscripts. In the first place we may remark, that they are interspersed, without method or order of any kind, among the private and casual entries of the Bard, which he made on loose scraps of old letters, bills, and placards--bound together only after his death, and that they were thus evidently not intended to be published. This fact of itself would remove the notion of any design on his part to impose upon the credulity of his countrymen. Moreover, we have had an opportunity of examining fully and carefully those papers, and thus seen the Bard, as it were, in his most private and unguarded moments, and can, as the result of our observation, unhesitatingly pronounce him to be incapable of perpetrating literary deceit or forgery, particularly with the view of upholding a theory. Integrity of purpose is apparent throughout all his works. Strong feelings, indeed, he had, amounting almost to prejudice, but they were founded in jealous concern for the due preservation of the traditions of the country, and never displayed, except when he beheld a disposition to oppugn or disparage what he considered ancient and national. It was on this ground, for instance, that he so strenuously advocated the claims of Dosparth


p. xvii

[paragraph continues] Morganwg, or the Glamorgan system of versification, in preference to the twenty-four new canons of poetry, which were sanctioned at the famous Eisteddvod, held at Caermarthen, under the patronage of Gruffydd ab Nicholas, in the 15th century. Secondly, the style is in general too archaic for the 18th century, exhibiting occasionally terms of such an obsolete character as to baffle the skill of the etymologist. Nor must it be asserted that they were fabricated for a purpose, with a view of imparting to the documents the appearance of antiquity, for even Iolo Morganwg himself professes not to fully understand some of them. Thus, in reference to a Triad entitled, "Tri phrif anaw Beirdd Ynys Prydain," he remarks, "the meaning of this word (anaw) has not hitherto been satisfactorily given," and proposes the query, "whether it may not signify an original genius?" and soon after, "whether anaw may not signify a philosopher?" Again, after an extract, to which the name of Llywelyn Sion is attached, relative to "Cadair Tarannon," he asks, "Tarannon and Teyrnon--were they one and the same thing? Qu. whether Cadair Teyrnon in Taliesin be not one and the same thing, and also the same thing as gorsedd gwlad ac arlwydd?" The word obryn is not to be met with in the Dictionaries; it may, and probably does, signify a state in Abred corresponding with man's turpitude at the time of his death, which is the meaning given to it by Iolo Morganwg; but assuredly if he had been driven to coin for himself a compound which should express the above idea, instead of the very unusual prefix ob, he would naturally have adopted cyf, cyd, or cyn, as

p. xviii

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« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2009, 01:15:02 am »

in the case of cydfil, which occurs in the same Triad. Sometimes, when the language is not obscure, he seems to misunderstand the import of a word, and to suggest an interpretation, which, on due examination of the Bardic doctrine, appears to be erroneous. Thus when, referring to light in the Triad--"There are three cognates: man; liberty; and light," he observes, "intellectual light is here probably meant," he forgets that it is distinctly stated in other documents that man sprang into existence simultaneously with the resplendent appearance of the triple form of God's Name, which was the first manifestation of material light. These facts clearly prove that Iolo Morganwg had no hand in forging the documents in question. Thirdly, the different readings, which abound in them, demonstrate that the Bard had frequently even more than one manuscript before him, when he made his transcripts--a fact, which shows, moreover, that their contents were then better known than they are in our own day. Fourthly, whilst the general subject is the same, there is a want of uniformity in some of the details, as in the directions given for constructing a Peithynen, and the formation of a Gorsedd--the explanation of the Divine epithet IAU--and the enumeration and names of the elements. This circumstance, whilst it indicates a variety of sources, whence the different expressions of opinion must have been derived, at the same time excludes the idea of a collusion. Had Iolo and some of his friends entered into a conspiracy to palm upon the public, as an ancient system, a theory of their own invention, they would doubtless have taken care that there should exist an exact agreement

p. xix

between the several parts of their joint production. It is of the essence of forgery to endeavour to avoid varieties in matters of detail--whilst truth, and integrity of purpose, having a greater regard for the main subject, are generally indifferent to these particulars. Lastly, Iolo Morganwg refers to the actual existence of some of the documents, which he alleges to have copied, and gives, with very great minuteness, the address of the owner. Thus, in relation to certain extracts which he made from "Trioedd Barddas," "Trioedd Braint a Defod," "Trioedd Doethineb," and "Trioedd Pawl," which contain the very essence of Bardism, as exhibited in our pages, he remarks;--"The Triades that are here selected are from a manuscript collection, by Llywelyn Sion, a Bard of Glamorgan, about the year 1560. Of this manuscript I have a transcript; the original is in the possession of Mr. Richard Bradford, of Bettws, near Bridgend, in Glamorgan;" and as if this were not sufficiently particular, he adds in a note, "son of the late Mr. John Bradford, who, for skill in ancient British Bardism, left not his equal behind." Nor does this statement occur among the private papers of the Bard, but appears in his published work--his "Poems Lyric and Pastoral," where also the selections alluded to are printed. 1 If the reference had been untrue, it could easily have been refuted, nor would his enemies, of whom he had several, have been slow to take advantage of the circumstance to expose the whole as a tissue of falsehood and deceit. But nothing of the kind took place. It is fair, however,


p. xx

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« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2009, 01:15:14 am »

to observe that the existence of the manuscript in question at the present moment is open to doubt--the prize offered at the Eisteddvod failed to bring it forth. Still we are in hopes that it is not irretrievably lost, and it may be in the possession of some person who "careth for none of these things."

We trust that these reasons are sufficient to justify us in our conclusion, that Iolo Morganwg had nothing whatever to do with the original compilation of the main documents, which form the present collection, and that he merely transcribed older materials, which from some sources or other had fallen into his hands.

Failing the attempt to convict Iolo Morganwg as a literary impostor, the sceptics of the present day profess to discover the sources in question in the Eisteddvodau, which were held subsequently to the beginning of the 15th century, more especially those of 1570, 1580, and 1681. A body of curious matter is found to exist, purporting to have come down to us, through the medium of the Chair of Glamorgan, as genuine remains of the theology and usages of the Bards. This is an incontrovertible fact. Again, history notes with equal sternness the authorization, at the above mentioned Congresses successively, of what was likewise called Bardism: and the not unnatural inference is, that they are one and the same. But, apparently for no other reason than that the code thus promulgated was not formally committed to writing before, a higher origin is denied to it, and of course the Bards of those periods, Ieuan ab Hywel Swrdwal, Gwilym Tew, Lewys Morganwg, Meurig Davydd, Davydd Benwyn, Llywelyn Sion, Davydd Llwyd Mathew, Edward Davydd, and others, are

p. xxi

boldly charged with being its sole inventors. As they were not all contemporaries, and as they held various positions in life, and were also members of different religious communions, it would be difficult to account for the unanimity with which they adopted the strange and curious system, which these volumes present to our view. To accuse them of being under the influence of that spirit, which led to the overthrow of the monarchy, and to the establishment of the commonwealth on its ruins, merely because their system represents the three orders of Bard, Druid, and Ovate, as co-equal in rank and privilege, is, to say the least, not warranted by facts. History does not point out a single Bard of those times as mixing in any political intrigue. On the contrary they, one and all of whom we have any knowledge, appear to have led quiet lives, paying due and just homage of loyalty to the existing government of the day, without opposition, and without complaint. Besides, it may be interesting to know, why the Bards in question should have selected this particular form, whether as the embodiment of their own creed, or as the representation of ancient Druidism? There was nothing in the prevailing philosophy of the day to suggest it; and to say that they derived it from the traditions of the Brahmins, would be to give them credit for a greater extent of knowledge than their positions in life would warrant. Could they, then, have compiled the whole system--ingenious, complex, and yet harmonious and symmetrical as it was, out of the mere allusions to it, which are contained in the works of the earlier Poets? The Rev. Edward Davies observes,--"It does not appear, from their

p. xxii

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« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2009, 01:15:30 am »

own profession, nor from the research of Llwyd, and other antiquaries, that this society possessed a single copy of the works of the ancient Bards, previous to the eighteenth century." 1 If the inference, evidently intended to be drawn from this guarded form of expression, be well founded, of course a direct negative must be returned to our inquiry. But we are not prepared to endorse the opinion, favourable as it may be to our present argument. We believe that the Bards of the 15th and 16th centuries were, to some extent, acquainted with the poetical productions of their predecessors, but at the same time we boldly maintain that it was next to impossible they should agree upon any system drawn from those sources. And in proof of our assertion, we need only refer to those who are known to have made the trial. What two persons have been found to agree in their views of the mystic allusions of the Bards? What an interminable distance there is between the respective theories of Davies and Nash!

Whilst, however, we deny that the contents of these volumes could have been derived immediately from the metrical compositions of the medieval and early Poets, we believe that they can be abundantly proved by them. There are numerous allusions, which, otherwise obscure and unintelligible, become by means of the light thrown upon them from Bardism, as clear as day. As an example; Rhys Brydydd, between 1450 and 1490, has the following lines on Hu the Mighty:--


p. xxiii


The smallest of the small
Is Hu the Mighty, as the world judges;
And the greatest, and a Lord to us,
Let us well believe, and our mysterious God;
Light His course, and active,
An atom of glowing heat is His car;
Great on land and on the seas,
The greatest that I manifestly can have,
Greater than the worlds--Let us beware
Of mean indignity to him who deals in bounty. 1

Even supposing Hu the Mighty to signify the Supreme Being, it would be difficult to explain how He can be "the smallest of the small," and at the same time "the greatest," or to show how His chariot is composed of "an atom of glowing heat." Accordingly, the interpretations given by Davies, Archdeacon Williams, and Nash, varied though they be, are extremely vague and unsatisfactory, leaving us in a greater state of bewilderment than if we had never received them. And yet how simple is the illustration which Bardism affords--"Hu the Mighty--Jesus the Son of God,--the least in respect of His worldly greatness whilst in the flesh, and the greatest in heaven of all visible majesties." Or, which also explains the nature of His car;--"the particles of light are the smallest of all small things; and yet one particle of light is the greatest of all great things, being no less than material for all materiality that can be understood and perceived as within the grasp of the power of God. And in every particle there is a place wholly commensurate with God, for there is not, and cannot be less than God in every particle of


p. xxiv

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« Reply #19 on: April 26, 2009, 01:15:46 am »

light, and God in every particle; nevertheless God is only one in number."

In like manner, there are various allusions to annwn, abred, manred, byd mawr, byd bach, pair Ceridwen, the Coelbren, and many other particulars of a similar kind, which, while they are in themselves insufficient to constitute an intelligible groundwork on which to raise a superstructure such as our pages contain, bear strong testimony to the fact of its existence from the 16th up to the 6th century. The transmigration related by Taliesin is not identical in detail with that of Bardism, for in the latter the soul is not supposed to enter inanimate objects, such as a sword, a star, a word, a book, a boat, a shield, a tree, an axe, and a grain of wheat, which form some of the gradations in "Cad Goddeu" and "Angar Cyvyndawd;" and we infer from this discrepancy that the Bardic doctrine was not directly founded on the poet's language. Still we may regard it as a valuable testimony to the actual existence among the Cymry, at the time when the poems were written, of a doctrine of metempsychosis, whether believed in, or preserved merely as a matter of curiosity. To notice in detail all the passages, which might be culled out of the works of the Poets, as referring to the principal tenets and usages of Bardism, would swell our Preface to an unnecessary length, especially since many of them are inserted in the body of the work as footnotes; to then, then, we would beg to direct the attention of our readers.

Further, the philosophical features of Bardism may be traced even in the language of the Cymry, and the testimony, which it thus affords, is the more valuable,

p. xxv

because it is indirect and unexpected. If we allow it possible that the Bards of the 15th and 16th centuries should have actually drawn their system directly from the works of their predecessors, no one can for a moment entertain the thought that they were capable of drawing it from the language, whether solely, or in conjunction with the poetry of different times. Independently of Bardism, it would be difficult to explain why advyd, a term signifying re-world, or a beginning of the world over again, should in common use stand for adversity, but "Rhol Cof a Chyfrif" informs us that it was originally applied to the state of retraversing abred, which, being a punishment for sin, was of course a state of hardship and adversity. Again, we find that the word gwydd means both wood and knowledge, which cannot be accounted for except on the supposition of a common origin, or that there was a mutual connection between the one and the other from the earliest times. This affinity is explained by the Coelbren. In like manner, the doctrine of eneidvaddeu alone can satisfactorily account for the double meaning of maddeu, and show us how a word, which properly means to liberate, or to dismiss, came also to signify to forgive, which is its common import at the present day. Angau, aberth, huan, nefoedd, and a host of other words might be enumerated, which clearly refer to the mythology of the ancient Cymry; hence it is manifest that no Welsh philologist can effectually succeed in his investigations, unless in the first instance he makes himself acquainted with Bardism.

What, then, shall we say? Did the Bards in question model their system according to the description, which Julius Cæsar, and other foreign

p. xxvi

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« Reply #20 on: April 26, 2009, 01:16:00 am »

writers, have given of Druidism? There is prima facie a wide difference between the two systems. Cæsar speaks of a plurality of gods, of an archdruid, who had superior authority over the others, and also of the immolation of human sacrifices; whereas the unity of the Godhead is the very soul and centre of Bardism, which also strongly insists upon the co-equality of its orders, and seems to discountenance altogether the notion of the sacrifice of living beings, in the strict acceptation of the term, whether they were men or beasts. This circumstance, therefore, is fatal to the hypothesis which would regard classical Druidism as the groundwork on which the fabric of Bardism has been raised. Still, if the latter is, as it professes to be, the genuine remains of the primitive worship and philosophy of Britain, there must be a possibility of harmonizing the two systems--they must in principle be identical. To this subject we will now address ourselves.


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Footnotes
xiii:1 The other adjudicators were the Rev. T. James, Netherlong, Huddersfield, and the Rev. Silvan Evans, Llangian, Pwllheli.

xv:1 The adjudication was originally written in Welsh, in which language it was also read at the meeting.

xvi:1 The other was the Rev. Edward Evan, of Aberdare.

xix:1 see Vol. ii.

xxii:1 The Mythology and Rites of the British Druids, p. 34.

xxiii:1 Dr. O. Pughe's Dict., sub voce mymryn.



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« Reply #21 on: April 26, 2009, 01:17:05 am »

JULIUS CÆSAR, B.C. 99-44.
It is necessary that we should, at the outset, bear in mind the following observation made by Cæsar, as to the comparative merits of the Continental and British systems:

"The institution is thought to have originated in Britain, and to have been thence introduced into Gaul; and even now those who wish to become more accurately acquainted with it, generally repair thither, for the sake of learning it."

It is clear from this statement that Druidism, in Cæsar's time, was not considered as pure and as well understood on the Continent as it was in the British isle, its genuine home; an hypothesis, moreover,

p. xxvii

exactly in accordance with the traditions of the Bards:--"Bardism originated in the Isle of Britain--no other country ever obtained a proper comprehension of Bardism. Three nations corrupted what they had learned of the Bardism of the Isle of Britain, blending with it heterogeneous principles, by which means they lost it: the Irish; the Cymry of Armorica; and the Germans." 1

According to this view, we must not expect that the two systems should agree in all matters of detail, but only in principle and substance.

Cæsar's description refers solely to the Druidism of Gaul. How he acquired his information, he does not tell us; it might have been in part from personal observation, and in part, if not wholly, from his friend Divitiacus, who was a Druid among the Ædui. It is possible that his narrative in this respect is correct; still his general character for veracity does not bind us to believe implicitly every word that he says. Suetonius tells us, that Asinius Pollio, who was a contemporary of Cæsar, was of opinion that his assertions are not altogether worthy of credit;--"Asinius Pollio," he remarks, "thinks that they [the works of Cæsar] were composed with but little accuracy, and little truth, since Cæsar used to believe rashly respecting the deeds of other men, and also to relate erroneously the things done by himself, either of set purpose, or through failure of memory, and he is of opinion that he intended to re-write and correct them." 2 We shall not, however, take the benefit of



p. xxviii

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« Reply #22 on: April 26, 2009, 01:17:22 am »

this opinion, but proceed at once to notice the principal points of Druidism, as actually related by Cæsar himself, and to compare them with the views of the Bards, in order to see how far they may be reconciled one with the other. The whole account, as given by Cæsar of the Continental Druids, is as follows:

"They preside over sacred things, have the charge of public and private sacrifices, and explain their religion. To them a great number of youths have recourse for the sake of acquiring instruction, and they are in great honour among them. For they generally settle all their disputes, both public and private; and if there is any transgression perpetrated, any murder committed, or any dispute about inheritance or boundaries, they decide in respect of them; they appoint rewards and penalties; and if any private or public person abides not by their decree, they restrain him from the sacrifices. This with them is the most severe punishment. Whoever are so interdicted, are ranked in the number of the impious and wicked; all forsake them, and shun their company and conversation, lest they should suffer disadvantage from contagion with them: nor is legal right rendered to them when they sue it, nor any honour conferred upon them. But one presides over all these Druids, who possesses the supreme authority among them. At his death, if any one of the others excels in dignity, the same succeeds him: but if several have equal pretensions, the president is elected by the votes of the Druids, sometimes even they contend about the supreme dignity by force of arms. At a certain time of the year, they assemble in session on a consecrated spot in the confines of the Carnutes, which is considered the central region of the whole of Gaul. Thither all, who have any disputes, come together from every side, and acquiesce in their judgments and decisions. The institution is thought to have originated in Britain, and to have been thence introduced into Gaul, and even now, those who wish to become more accurately acquainted with it, generally repair thither for the sake of learning it.

"The Druids usually abstain from war, nor do they pay taxes together with the others; they have exemption from warfare, and the free use of all things. Instigated by such advantages, many resort to their school even of their own accord, whilst others are sent by their parents and relations. There they are said to learn thoroughly a great number of verses. On that account, some continue at their education for twenty years. Nor do they deem it lawful to commit those things to writing; though, generally, in other cases, and in their public and private accounts, they use Greek letters. They appear

p. xxix

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« Reply #23 on: April 26, 2009, 01:17:44 am »

to me to have established this custom for two reasons; because they would not have their tenets published, and because they would not have those, who learn them, by trusting to letters, neglect the exercise of memory; since it generally happens, that, owing to the safeguard of letters, they relax their diligence in learning, as well as their memory. In particular they wish to inculcate this idea, that souls do not die, but pass after death from one body to another; and they think that by this means men are very much instigated to the exercise of bravery, the fear of death being despised. They also dispute largely concerning the stars and their motion, the magnitude of the world and the earth, the nature of things, the force and power of the immortal gods, and instruct the youth in their principles.

"The whole nation of the Gauls is very much given to religious observances, and on that account, those who are afflicted with grievous diseases, and those who are engaged in battles and perils, either immolate men as sacrifices, or vow that they will immolate themselves, and they employ the Druids as ministers of those sacrifices; because they think that, if the life of man is not given for the life of man, the immortal gods cannot be appeased; they have also instituted public sacrifices of the same kind. Some have images of immense size, the limbs of which, interwoven with twigs, they fill with living men, and the same being set on fire, the men, surrounded by the flames, are put to death. They think that the punishment of those who are caught in theft or pillage, or in any other wicked act, is more acceptable to the immortal gods; but when there is a deficiency of such evil doers, they have recourse even to the punishment of the innocent.

"They chiefly worship the god Mercury; of him they have many images, him they consider as the inventor of all arts, as the guide of ways and journeys, and as possessing the greatest power for obtaining money and merchandise. After him, they worship Apollo, Mars, Jupiter, and Minerva. Concerning them they have almost the same opinion as other nations, namely: that Apollo wards off diseases; that Minerva instructs them in the principles of works and arts; that Jupiter holds the empire of heaven; and that Mars rules wars. To him, when they have determined to engage in battle, they generally vow those things which they shall have captured in war. When they are victorious, they sacrifice the captured animals; and pile up the other things in one place.

"The Gauls declare that they have all sprung from their father Pluto, and this they say was delivered to them by the Druids." 1


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« Reply #24 on: April 26, 2009, 01:18:02 am »

The principal topics, which demand our attention in this extract, are:

1. The religious function of the Druids. The two systems are perfectly agreed in this respect, that the priestly office belonged to the Druidic order. Cæsar, indeed, does not mention either of the other two orders, but his silence is no proof that they did not exist in Gaul as well as in Britain. It is very probable that the Druids were, in respect of their office, the most conspicuous among the Gauls, and that Cæsar's attention was especially drawn to their deeds, so as to overlook the Bards and Ovates, or that he considered the functions of these as absorbed in that of the Druids. We have the evidence of Diodorus Siculus and Strabo that there were Bards in Gaul, and the latter says there were Ovates (Οὐάτεις) also.

2. The respect in which they were held. The Druids of Britain were, likewise, highly esteemed by the people. According to the laws of Dyvnwal Moelmud, "the Gorsedd of Bards" was "the oldest in its origin" of "the three privileged Gorsedds of the Isle of Britain." Its different functionaries had a right each to five free acres of land in virtue of their office--were entitled to maintenance wherever they went--had freedom from taxes--no person was to bear a naked weapon in their presence--and their word was always paramount. These privileges, as well as others, to which they had a right, are distinctly specified in the present volumes, and they show the great respect and honour in which they at all times stood in the community. The consequence was that many persons were usually candidates for the office, not only among the nobility and gentry, but also

p. xxxi

among those of low rank, for the bondsman became free on his assuming the profession of Bardism, though he could not learn it "without the permission of his proprietary lord, and the lord of the territory." Cæsar regards the Druids and Knights as of a higher rank than the common people, and as being distinct from them, and though he does not say that the former could have arisen, and gained their nobility by means of their office, yet it is not improbable that the teachers of Gaul were, in this respect, similar to the Bards of the Isle of Britain. At any rate, every Bard among the Cymry was according to his office a free and honourable man, whatever his position might have been previously. In this matter, therefore, we perceive no substantial difference between the Druidism of Britain and the Druidism of Gaul.

3. The arbitration and settlement of disputes. It appears from the Laws of Dyvnwal Moelmud that there were "three Gorsedds according to the privilege of the country and nation of the Cymry," having their respective duties and functions with a view to the improvement of society.

"The first is the Gorsedd of the Bards of the Isle of Britain, and their foundation and privilege rest upon reason, nature, and cogency; or, according to other teachers and wise men, upon reason, nature, and circumstance. And the privilege and office of those protected by the Gorsedd of Bards are to maintain and preserve and diffuse authorized instruction in the sciences of piety, wisdom, and courtesy; and to preserve memorial and record of every thing commendable respecting individuals and kindred; and every event of times; and every natural phenomenon; and wars; and regulations of country and nation; and punishments; and commendable victories; and to preserve a warranted record of genealogies, marriages, nobility, privileges, and customs of the nation of the Cymry; and to attend to the exigencies of other Gorsedds in announcing what shall be achieved, and what shall be requisite, under lawful proclamation and warning: and further

p. xxxii

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« Reply #25 on: April 26, 2009, 01:18:19 am »

than this there is nothing either of office or of privilege attached to a Gorsedd of Bards.......Second, the Gorsedd of the country and common weal; or the Gorsedd of judicature and decision of law, for the right and protection of the country and nation, their refugees, and their aliens. These Gorsedds act severally; that is to say, the Gorsedd of federate support makes a law, where an occasion requires, and confirms it in a country and federate country; and that is not allowed to a country distinct from a federate country. The Gorsedd of judgment and judicature decides upon such as shall transgress the law, and punishes him. And the Gorsedd of the Bards teaches commend-able sciences, and decides respecting them, and methodically preserves all the memorials of the nation to insure their authenticity. And it is not right for any one of these Gorsedds to intermeddle with the deliberation of either of the other two, but to confirm them, and to support them regularly. The third Gorsedd, or that of federate support, in its original and determinate purpose, is to effect what may be necessary as to any thing new, and as to the improvement of the laws of a country and federate country, by a federate jury of chiefs of kindreds, wise men, and sovereign ruler. A sovereign prince, or ruler of paramount right, is the oldest in possessive title of the kings and the princes of a federate community: and he is to raise the mighty agitation; and his word is superior to every other word in the agitation of the country."

According to the tenor of this extract, it was "the Gorsedd of judgment and judicature" that possessed the special right of determining national and social disputes, in conformity with the law that was enacted in a "Gorsedd of federate support." They were matters of a literary character mainly that came under the supervision of the Bards. Nevertheless, there was some connection between the three institutions--they were "to confirm, and support" each other "regularly." The Bards were required more particularly to register the events that occurred in country and nation, to preserve the records of genealogies, marriages, nobility, privileges and customs, of the nation of the Cymry, and to attend to the exigencies of other Gorsedds in announcing what shall be

p. xxxiii

achieved, and what shall be requisite, under lawful proclamation and warning. So far, then, it might be said that they settled matters appertaining to inheritances and boundaries, as the Druids of Gaul did in the time of Cæsar. The Roman captain might easily be mistaken with respect to the extent of the authority and power of the Druids, attributing to them more than in reality they possessed. After all, he does not admit that the entire authority was in their hands--his observation is, "they generally settle all their disputes, both public and private." And even if things were exactly as he relates them, it is not difficult to suppose that this was a natural corruption of the primitive custom. Inasmuch as the Druids generally were possessed of more learning and knowledge than any other class of people in the country, it was quite natural that they should increase in political and social authority, especially where the other establishments were not as orderly and well defined as they were in Britain. We see this principle at work in relation to the Church, during what is called "the dark ages," when more than necessary of temporal and political authority fell into the hands of ecclesiastics.

Cæsar says of the Druids of Gaul that the greatest punishment which was inflicted upon evil doers was, to keep them from the sacrifices. It must be admitted that there was nothing, as far as we know, in the institute of Britain, which altogether answered to this interdict. Perhaps the nearest approach to it was the refusal of the protection of the Gorsedd to any member of the community, who, for some fault or other, was announced to be exposed to a "naked

p. xxxiv

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« Reply #26 on: April 26, 2009, 01:18:38 am »

weapon." The Bards, however, had a peculiar mode of degrading their convicted brethren. It took place at a Gorsedd, and the act was called "to bring the assault of warfare against" him who was to be thus disfranchised. After the Bards had agreed in their decision, they covered their heads, and one of them unsheathed the sword, named the person aloud three times, with the sword lifted in his hand, adding when he was last named, "the sword is naked against him." He could never after be re-admitted; and was called "a man deprived of privilege and exposed to warfare." There is some resemblance in this custom to what Cæsar says of the excommunicated, "that no legal right was rendered to them, nor any honour conferred upon them;" and the resemblance is sufficient to show that the usages of the two countries had sprung from the same root.

4. The Archdruid. Among the Cymry the three orders, Bard, Druid, and Ovate, were co-equal, one with the other, in point of privilege and dignity, whilst they were different in regard to duties. For thus it is stated in "Trioedd Braint a Defod:"--

 

"The three branches of Bardism: Poetry; Ovatism; and Druidism; that is to say, these three branches are adjudged to be of equal privilege, and equal importance, for there can be no superiority to one of them over another--though they are distinct in purpose, they are not distinct in privilege."

"There are three Bards of equal importance, that is, the three worthy primitive Bards, namely: a licensed native Bard, or a Poet according to privilege and usage; an Ovate-bard, devoted to genial learning; and a Druid-bard, devoted to theology and morality;--and they are said to be of equal importance, because one cannot be better than another, or supreme over the rest;--though one is distinct from another in respect of office and movement, still they are equal and of like dignity in respect of obligation, effort, and object, which are, learning, truth, and peace."

p. xxxv

In this sense, then, it may be said that the system of the Cymry varied from that of the Gauls. Nevertheless, occasionally, that is, when they met in Gorsedd, "one presided," even among the British Bards. He was called chief-Bard, or Gorsedd Bard; and if he were of the Druidic order, he might be easily regarded as an Arch-druid, not only because he presided, but because in doing so he stood on the "maen arch," in the centre of the sacred circle. Every chief-Bard had a right to preside at a Gorsedd, but still nothing could be decided without the consent of the majority of Gorsedd Bards--the former was merely a kind of chairman primus inter pares, for the time.

Cæsar seems to imply that one only presided during life, and when he died, that another was elected in his stead. This is not altogether in unison with the custom of the Cymry. Nevertheless, if such in truth was the usage of Gaul, it might easily have been derived from our own country. Whilst the people of the Continent did not properly understand Bardism, there was nothing to prevent them from falling into a mistake as to the nature of the authority, which the Bard president possessed, deeming it to be personal, and intended to continue for life, whereas it was official only--belonging to several, and to be exercised as occasions required. The Cymry never had recourse to the sword in order to settle the question of supremacy, as we learn from Cæsar was the case sometimes on the Continent. This was quite an abuse--and thoroughly inconsistent with the spirit of Bardism.

5. The place of meeting. According to Cæsar, the Druids of Gaul had a fixed place and time for meeting;

p. xxxvi

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« Reply #27 on: April 26, 2009, 01:19:18 am »

he mentions not the time, but the place he says was on the confines of the Carnutes, in the middle of the country, as was supposed. "Thither," he says, "all, who have any disputes, come together from every side, and acquiesce in their judgments and decisions." In like manner, the Bards or Druids of Britain had their appointed times and places for meeting in Gorsedd. Their times were the Albans, namely, Alban Eilir, Alban Hevin, Alban Elved, and Alban Arthan, that is, the equinoxes and solstices, or the commencement of the four seasons of the year. The principal places are recorded in the following Triads:--

"The three principal Gorsedds of the Bards of the Isle of Britain: the Gorsedd of Bryn Gwyddon at Caerleon-upon-Usk; the Gorsedd of Moel Evwr; and the Gorsedd of Beiscawen.

"The three Gorsedds of entire song of the Isle of Britain: the Gorsedd of Beiscawen in Dyvnwal; the Gorsedd of Caer Caradog in Lloegria; and the Gorsedd of Bryn Gwyddon in Cymru."

There was thus one special Gorsedd in each of the three principal provinces, where the native mind chiefly predominated. The Gorsedd was a sort of national temple, to which the majority of persons within the province resorted at the appointed times, in order to worship God, and to receive instruction. All were invited, except such as were "deprived of privilege, and exposed to warfare," and no impediments were allowed to be put on their way, as they travelled "under the protection and peace of God."

"Three common rights of federate country and border country: a principal river; a high road; and a resort of worship; and those are under the protection of God and His peace; since a weapon is not to he unsheathed by such as frequent them against those they may meet;

p. xxxvii

and whoever shall do so, whether a native or a stranger, a claim of galanas against him arises on the plaint of the lord of the territory." 1

6. The derivation of the Druidic system. We have already noticed the coincidence between the notion which prevailed in Gaul on this head and the drift of the Cymric traditions.

7. Memorials. "They are said," observes Cæsar, "to learn thoroughly a great number of verses; and on that account, some continue at their education for twenty years." One of "the three memorials of the Bards of the Isle of Britain," was "the memorial of song." This was one of the oldest vehicles in which events and sciences were handed down among the Bards, and it is supposed that the particular form which they used was the metre called "Triban Milwr," or the Warrior's Triplet. The name of Tydain, the father of Awen, is especially associated with the memorial of song; and "the poem of Tydain" is prominently alluded to in the account of the establishment of Bardism. He was a contemporary of Prydain.

As time rolled on, accumulating events and sciences, we may easily suppose that "twenty years" would not be more than sufficient to enable a man to treasure in his memory the "great number of verses" necessary to contain and embody them. Generally, however, nine years was the time during which a pupil was required to be under discipline previous to his being graduated as a Chief Bard.


p. xxxviii

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« Reply #28 on: April 26, 2009, 01:19:36 am »

"They do not deem it lawful (fas) to commit those things to writing," i.e. the things appertaining to the system. Neither did the British Bards countenance the habit of writing their traditions. On the contrary, it was their custom to recite them publicly in every Gorsedd, until they became deeply rooted in the memory of the people. This is what they called the "voice of Gorsedd," and it was in this manner that their traditions have come down to us. Cæsar's opinion respecting such a practice coincides exactly with the reason which influenced the Bards of Cymru. "They appear to me to have established this custom for two reasons; because they would not have their tenets published, and because they would not have those, who learn then, by trusting to letters, neglect the exercise of memory." The Bards had a "Cyvrinach," or Secret, which they did not consider it lawful for any one to know out of their own order; such were the Name of God, and the Ten Letters. All this secrecy related especially to the institute, and the candidate for admission into it took an awful vow that he would not divulge the cyvrinach to any one, who was not a regular Bard. They likewise considered that the use of writing tended to weaken the memory, not only in respect of the disciples, but also of the people generally; or rather, with regard to the latter, they considered that the voice of Gorsedd was the easiest mode of teaching them, and the most effectual for preventing every kind of falsehood and corruption.

With respect to the voice of Gorsedd, and its connection with the discipline of the Bards themselves, we have it thus stated in " the Book of Lewys Morganwg,

p. xxxix

which he compiled from many of the old Books:"

"There is no other than the memorial, voice, and usage of Gorsedd belonging to the privileges and usages of the primitive Bards, for they spring from primary and original right, before there was any Book knowledge; therefore, they were submitted only to the memorial of the voice, and usage of Gorsedd; or, as others say, to the memorial of song, voice, and usage. And they have no permanent privilege and authority, but what we know by these means."

Nevertheless, the Bards had a knowledge of letters from the beginning. It is said that Einigan, the first man, "beheld three pillars of light, having on them all demonstrable sciences, that ever were, or ever will be," and that "he took three rods of the quicken tree, and placed on them the forms and signs of all sciences, so as to be remembered." People misunderstood these, and "regarded the rods as a God, whereas they only bore His Name. When Einigan saw this, he was greatly annoyed, and in the intensity of his grief he broke the three rods, nor were others found that contained accurate sciences. He was so distressed on that account that from the intensity he burst asunder, and with his [parting] breath he prayed God that there should be accurate sciences among men in the flesh, and there should be a correct understanding for the proper discernment thereof. And at the end of a year and a day, after the decease of Einigan, Menw, son of the Three Shouts, beheld three rods growing out of the mouth of Einigan, which exhibited the sciences of the Ten Letters, and the mode in which all the sciences of language and speech were arranged by them, and in language and speech all distinguishable sciences. He then took

p. xl

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« Reply #29 on: April 26, 2009, 01:20:31 am »

the rods, and taught from them the sciences--all, except the Name of God, which he made a secret, lest the Name should be falsely discerned; and hence arose the Secret of the Bardism of the Bards of the Isle of Britain." 1

The first ten letters were derived from the creative Name of God, , and represented a, p, c, e, t, i, 1, r, o, s; and "they had been a secret from the age of ages among the Bards of the Isle of Britain, for the preservation of memorials of country and nation. Beli the Great made them into sixteen, and divulged that arrangement, and appointed that there should never after be a concealment of the sciences of letters, in respect of the arrangement which he made; but he left the ten cuttings a secret." 2

According to some authorities, the alphabet of the sixteen letters was formed, and divulged in the time of Dyvnwal Moelmud. The original Abcedilros, or alphabet of the ten letters, was quite different to that of the sixteen and its augmentations; and whilst these were known to the public, the former was known only to the Bards.

The Druids of Gaul had a knowledge of letters, though they did not commit to writing the things that pertained to their institute. "Generally," says our author, "in other cases, and in their public and private accounts, they use Greek letters." The alphabet of the sixteen was at this time open to the public in Britain; could it have been the one which the Continental Druids used, mistaken by Cæsar for Greek letters?



p. xli

The Druids of Gaul had letters of their own, which were similar to the letters of Greece; it is, therefore, not impossible that Cæsar confounded one series with the other. Mr. Astle, who is well skilled in ancient letters, gives a series of Gaulish characters, which are somewhat similar to those of Greece. They were taken from the monumental inscription of Gordian, the messenger of the Gauls, who suffered martyrdom, in the third century, with all his family. "These characters," he says, "were generally used by the people, before the conquest of Gaul by Cæsar." 1

Another author remarks:--"There are those who think the Druids had ancient characters, which were both elegant, and similar to those of the Greeks. For according to the testimony of Xenophon, and Archilochus, the figures of those letters, which Cadmus brought out of Phoenicia into Greece, resembled Gaulish, rather than Punic, or Phœnician characters." 2

He who compares the ancient Greek Alphabet with the Bardic Coelbren, will find a remarkable similarity between them, so that a stranger might easily mistake the one for the other.

The Druids of Britain as well as those of Gaul, made use of letters under many circumstances. The "memorial of letters," or the "memorial of Coelbren," was one of their "three memorials." This is clearly seen in the Laws of Dyvnwal Moelmud. It would, therefore, not be difficult to harmonize Cæsar's narrative respecting the "memorial of voice" and the "memorial of letters" of the Gauls, with what we



p. xlii

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