Saturday, April 14, 2012

Everything You Wanted to Know About Bards

We have been retooling and revamping Abbott’s Inn International School of Magick the last few days. Stephen is in one of his grandiose manic phases again, churning out one article, essay, blog, or discussion after another. In the past couple days he has done fourteen of them. We are going back to old groups and saying “Hi! We’re back!”

Let’s get back to basics. What is a bard? A bard is more than a poet, more than a musician. In Druid society, bards were also the genealogists and historians of their culture, tracing bloodlines back at least a thousand years. He is a music magician, who understood the magick in music. In NRDNA, Bards wear a blue robe, and are poets, musicians, shannachie, songwriters, and storytellers. The bard as a magician played a major role in Celtic mythology, such as the Dagda, also known as the “Good God,” who was a bard with a magickal harp that had a mind, so it could think. This harp could play different types of music. Each string had its own power. One string could make its listeners weep uncontrollably. One time they did, and wept so much that several people in the mead hall drowned from the flood of tears. It was called “The Lay of Sorrow.” The Lay of Joy would make people weep for joy. Then there was the “Lay of Slumber,” which put all the listeners to sleep. There was also the “Lay of Battle,” which could put blood lust into the heart of every listener. The next one was the Lay of Discovery,” which made every listener want to go adventuring.

There are many bards whom we like to talk about. There is Thomas the Rhymer, the Bard William Shakespeare, Gwydion Penderwen, Isaac Bonewits, Aigeann, Sharon Knight, the late great Leeann Hussey, Leslie Fish, Alison Harlow, Caradoc, Victor Anderson, Katherine Kurtz, Katherine Kerr, Brighde, Jen Aitch, Dylan Cook, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger,Jim Morrison the Lizard King, Gerry Rafferty, David Bowie, Donovan, Bonnie Raitt, Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), Leadbelly, Bruce Stringsteen, John Lennon, Elayne Hindle, and the two of us.

Thomas the Rhymer was a late period bard, spouting poetry and playing the instruments of the day. Google him, learn all you can, and post here about him. His poetry, songs, and tales were inspirations wherever he went. William Shakespeare: There are many who claim that he couldn’t have written the plays that bear his name, but we think he did, with some help from the actors. You see, in the theatre of the late 16th and early 17th century) actors would often either extemporaneously start orating, or he would cadge a speech from another play, and plug it in. So the famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy from “Hamlet” might well be from another play, which has not come down to us the way that Shakespeare’s plays have. Shakespeare was called “The Bard.” Stephen’s favorite Shakespearean play is “The Tempest,” and his second favorite is “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Tegwedd’s favorite play is “Macbeth,” her second favorite play is “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Which is your favorite Shakespearean play? But she wishes people would quit messing with the eras the plays are placed in. They are intended to be placed in ancient times (“Julius Caesar”) early Italian Renaissance (“Romeo and Juliet”), dark ages Scotland (“MacBeth”) or late Italian Renaissance (“Twelfth Night”). . Shakespeare’s greatest dramatic rival was Christopher “Kit” Marlowe, and only seven of his plays have come down to us, compared to Shakespeare’s 39, because Marlowe was murdered in a tavern brawl in 1593. Then there are all the great Spanish dramatists of the same period, Cervantes (Don Quixote), Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Castro (not Fidel), Mira de Amescua, Ruiz de Alarcon, Calderon, (La Vida Es Sueno “Life is a Dream”), Rojas Zorrilla, and Moreto. Okay, so Tegwedd is a Spanish literature nerd. What are ya gonna do about it? Sue her over it?

Gwydion Penderwen recorded two great albums, copies of which can still be found in Pagan and occult shops across the country, especially in Tegwedd’s and Stephen’s favorite occult shop, Ancient Ways in Oakland, CA. He had unknown stacks of unpublished music. If he hadn’t died in such an untimely manner, he probably would have had several more albums. The two albums are “Gwydion sings Songs of the Old Religion,” and “The Faery Shaman.” Stephen worked with him on two events. Gwydion was highly interested in the interlacings of Ogham, hidden notes in these lays, which conveyed hidden messages. The first event was the Witches’ Ball in the Finnish Hall which is haunted, in Oakland, CA. Because of its success, they were inspired to put on a second event. The second event they worked together on was the Midsummer Pagan Festival in the Oakland Hills, at the Meadows. Isaac Bonewits recorded one album, and Tegwedd’s favorite song on that album is “I Fell in Love with the Lady,” and she wants to write a screenplay based on that song about a Teutonic Knight who was formerly persecuting Pagans, but fell in love with the Goddess, and became a minnesinger, which is a German bard. Isaac wrote a bunch of songs, which he had planned to put in another album, if he hadn't gotten cancer and died. Aigeann integrates prose and poetry, with a great turn of phrase. Leeann Hussey used to play both others’ work such as Gwydion’s and Isaac’s songs and her own music. Leslie Fish became a staple at scifi and fantasy conventions for her hilarious and creative filk songs. A filk song is a set of original lyrics set to a familiar melody. There is “When I was a Young Man/Maid” from Peter S. Beagle’s “The Last Unicorn,” set to the Welsh folk tune “The Ash Grove”. Our own national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is a filk song, set as it was to the tune of a ribald 17th century drinking song. Tegwedd heard it once, and it was pretty lewd. But in the past twenty years or so, she has turned more and more towards spiritual subjects, towards Paganism, and penned not only lyrics, but her own original tunes as well. Victor Anderson, besides founding the Feri Tradition of Wicca, penned “Poems from the Blood Rose.”

Katherine Kurtz wrote the Deryni novels and Lammas Night, which Stephen finally finished reading,, and Katherine Kerr wrote a great series based upon a land called Deverry. Mark Twain was America’s bard. He wrote dozens of novels and stories, many of which we’re all familiar with. Leadbelly was another American bard. He recorded many Delta blues and American folk songs in the 1920s and 30s.

Thus we see that there are many different kinds of bards. For all we know, you may be some kind of bards. You must be interested in bardry, or you wouldn’t have joined this group.


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