5.3 The Bardic Tradition



The Bardic tradition is ancient and universal which dates back to the first stories shared around the first fires of the first tribal camps. In ancient days storytellers were magi, seers, bards and shaman. With human evolution, language development and migration the Bardic tradition has evolved in many geographical and cultural ways.

The Celtic Bardic tradition is an oral tradition: stories, folk lore, wit and wisdom passed on by word of mouth over centuries and millennia. Simply sharing a story or an event with someone else is an oral tradition in action – we all do it.

In this way the Celtic Baric tradition is a living thing by nature even in the world of high tech events and happenings broadcast as breaking news are made powerful, dramatic and dynamic by personal testimony of witnesses and/or survivors.

A Bardic tradition is the remembering and sharing of stories, songs and poems. In ancient times this would have been done by word-of-mouth as nothing was written down. Writing has its place in the modern Bardic tradition but it does not cancel out the need of Bardic memory – essential for performance on the path of a Bard.

Welsh triads can be seen as mnemonic devices to enable remembrance of lore. Many of these triads give us useful Bardic advice.

Three things that enrich the past:
poetic power;
a store of ancient verse

The Red Book of Hargest

The three Ultimate Intentions of Bardism:
to reform morals and customs;
to secure Peace;
and to celebrate the praise of all that is good and excellent.

Iolo Morgannwg


As with all the archaic Bardic lore, we must re-evaluate rather than blindly accept. Cherish that which has survived the tests of time; cultivate that which holds truth and jettison that which is no longer acceptable.

A Bard’s modus operandi is about communication. If we are not understood by our audience we cannot pass on our message. A story or poem’s enchantment is mystery but a Bard still needs to innovate and reach out.



© Gwion chan Beithe

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