Saturday, April 24, 2010

Druidry: The Myth of Taliesin

The story of Taliesin seems to be the main myth that one works with in the Bardic Grade of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. It is well to keep in mind that a myth is a story that may not have happened in the way things ordinarily happen in space and time, but it is nonetheless true.

Here is an outline of the Myth of Taliesin.

  • The Goddess Ceridwen, who lived by Lake Bala, had two children - a lovely daughter named Crerwy and a misshapen son named Afagddu.
  • Ceridwen determined that, if her son, Afagddu, could not be handsome, at least he would have the gift of inspiration.
  • Ceridwen traveled to the wise Pheryllt in the mountain city of Dinas Affaraon to obtain a spell that would insure the gift of inspiration for Afaggdu.
  • Upon returning home, Ceridwen gathered the ingredients for the spell and found the young boy Gwion Bach and the old man Morda to tend the cauldron in which the spell ingredients were to brew for a year and a day, cautioning Gwion and Morda never to taste of the brew, for the first one to taste it would receive the gift of inspiration - and this was reserved for Afagddu.
  • Just before the hour when Adagddu was to taste of the brew, the cauldron began to boil over, and three drops of the brew fell on young Gwion's thumb, scalding it, so that Gwion quickly put his burned thumb in his mouth - thus becoming the first to taste the brew that should have gone to Afagddu.
  • Ceridwen, enraged, chased after Gwion, and both went through a series of shape-shifts: Gwion became a hare, Ceridwen a hound, Gwion a salmon, Ceridwen an otter, Gwion a bird, Ceridwen a hawk, Gwion a grain of wheat in a huge wheat pile, Ceridwen a hen who picked out and swallowed that very grain.
  • Gwion grew within the womb of the Goddess Ceridwen and was eventually born to the Goddess, who placed the baby Gwion in a leather bag and cast it into the sea.
  • The wood-dweller Elfin found the leather bag and the child inside, and took the child - renamed Taliesin - home to raise with his wife.
  • At age thirteen, Taliesin saved his foster father, Elfin, from the prison of King Maelgwn by out-performing all the Bards in King Maelgwn's court.
  • Taliesin became known as the finest and wisest Bard of all.

This myth is an oral tale, passed down verbally for centuries, before finally being written. As with any piece of oral literature, the Myth of Taliesin comes in various versions. Each teller of the myth told and embellished the tale in his or her own way. In oral literature, there is never "the one true original version." I like this. I can become a teller of this myth myself and make it my own - as can anyone.

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