What are Druids, Fili and Bards?

The American Heritage Dictionary fifth edition s.v. druid offers:

druid n.

A member of an order of priests in ancient Gaul and Britain who appear in Welsh and Irish legend as prophets and sorcerers.
[From Latin druidēs, druids, of Celtic origin; see deru- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]

The druids were members of a priestly social class in ancient Celtic Gaul (now much of the continent of Europe, especially France) Ireland, and Britain. The word “druid,” or rather druides, is first attested in Latin and Greek, though it is of Celtic origin. Irish forms of drui (singular) and druid occur fairly frequently in Medieval Irish literature, though mostly as references made in passing, and much more often than the Welsh cognate drywoccurs in early Welsh texts.

What is the Etymology of Druid?

In Indo-European terms, according to the 2015 Fifth Edition of The American Heritage Dictionary IE Appendix edited by Calvert Watkins, the proto-Celtic form *dru-wid or strong seeing, is formed from the Proto I. E. root *deru “strong” and *ˆwid- “to see.” Druid then literally means “strong see-er.”

Early etymologies sometimes translate *dru-wid/druid as “oak seeing.” This is a reasonable error; I. E *dru also gives us the word oak because oak is a strong wood, known even now for its durability. Modern English “tree,” “trencher” and “trough” are all also derived from I. E. *deru because they are made out of wood, a strong substance. *Weid– “to see” also gives us modern English “video” and “wise.”

What Did Druids Do?

There are a number of other words associated with the functions performed by members of the druid class and with the social roles of the druid class in the various languages associated with the Celts. Irish fili, plural filid is usually translated as “poet,” which is not unreasonable, though the fili also had other functions. Filid comes from the same Celtic root as the Welsh word gweled “see,” and it seems that one of the functions of the filid was that they were seers (Williams and Ford 1992, 21). Fáith Irish for prophet (plural fátha) is often used interchangeably with filid.

The Uraichech Becc a medieval Irish law tract, describes fáithsine or “prophecy” as the function of the fili. The general interpretation made by most Celticists is that the fili and the fáith were originally a single class, and one that was closely related to the druid class (Williams and Ford 1992, 22). The Irish fili and the fáith would an Irish equivalent of the class called ovate by Greek authors, and vates by the Romans (most notably, Strabo); the words are etymologically related.

Vates is cognate with Welsh gwawd, a word that used to mean “song” but gradually evolved to mean “satire.” It seems reasonable then to conclude that the vates would be present as “seers” at a sacrifice at which the druids would officiate as priests; this would explain some of the contradictory confusion between the druides and vates in Classical authors (Williams and Ford 1992, 22).

According to Uraichech Becc the fili was of a higher social status than the druid. The filid are classed with the lords, while the druids are classed with craftsmen like smiths and other artisans. This may well reflect a later state of affairs; I think it does, after the decline of the druid class with the introduction of Christianity. It appears that the filid began to take over some of the druid functions and social prestige as the druids declined in power. I would even argue that the Irish jurist, the brithem (the brehon) was also part of the fili class.

The lowest of the three groups in social status are the baird, a lower order of poets, called by the Greeks (via reference to the Gaulish varieties) bardoi and by the Romans bardi. The bards too may have suffered from the increasing stature of the filid(Williams and Ford 1992, 23). The bards have a lower honor price in the law tracts (half that of the filid).

We see the Morrígan functioning as a fátha in the medieval Irish epic The Táin. She predicts the future, and delivers her prediction in the form of poetry.

Works Cited

Williams, J. F. Caerwyn. Irish Literary History. Trans. Patrick K. Ford. University of Wales Press, Cardiff, Wales, and Ford and Bailie, Belmont, Massachusetts. Welsh edition 1958, English translation 1992.

Original article:
https://www.digitalmedievalist.co/opinionated-celtic-faqs/druids/

Fire in the Head – 4

The Song of Wandering Aengus
By William Butler Yeats

I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Fire in the Head – 3

Awen – Part III – Fionn Mac Cumhaill

In this part of my little Awen series well go over the story from Irish legend, the tale of Fionn Mac Cumhaill. He was the greatest leader of the Fianna, the ancient warrior band of old Ireland.
This folktale is another important piece in Celtic mythology that is steeped in druidic lore.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fionn was the son of Cumhall, leader of the ancient Fianna, and Muirne, daughter of the Druid Tadg mac Nuadat who lived on the hill of Almu in County Kildare (Ireland).

The Fianna never owned any lands but were famous for their generosity. It was said that they travelled every road of Ireland, visiting every place and knew the entrances to the Otherworld.

Cumhall abducted Muirne after her father refused him her hand, so Tadg appealed to the High King, Conn of the Hundred Battles, who outlawed Cumhall. The Battle of Cnucha was fought between Conn and Cumhall, and Cumhall was killed by Goll mac Morna, who took over leadership of the Fianna.

Muirne was already pregnant; her father rejected her and ordered his people to burn her, but Conn would not allow it and put her under the protection of Fiacal mac Conchinn, whose wife, Bodhmall the Druid, was Cumhall’s sister. In Fiacal’s house Muirne gave birth to a son.

Muirne left the boy in the care of Bodhmall and a fighting woman, Liath Luachra, and they brought him up in secret in the forest of Sliabh Bladma, teaching him the arts of war and hunting.

The young Fionn met the Druid and poet Finn Eces, or Finnegas, near the river Boyne and studied under him. Finnegas had spent seven years trying to catch the Salmon of Knowledge, which lived in a pool on the Boyne and became all-knowing through its diets of hazelnuts from a holy tree: whoever ate the salmon would gain all the knowledge in the world. Eventually the old man caught it and told the boy to cook it for him. While cooking it Fionn burned his thumb, and instinctively put his thumb in his mouth. This imbued him with the salmon’s wisdom, and when Finn Eces saw that he had gained wisdom, he gave young Fionn the whole salmon to eat. Fionn then knew how to gain revenge against Goll, and in subsequent stories was able to call on the knowledge of the salmon by putting his thumb to the tooth that had first tasted the salmon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like in the Welch tale of Taliesin, both boys burn they thump on the Awen and gain instant knowledge.

Fire in the Head – 2

Awen – Part II – Taliesin

Let us take a closer look into some Celtic mythology for references to the Awen. We will find two main tales, one is the Welch tale of Taliesin, the other its Irish counterpart – the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill.
In this second part of this little Awen series I will go over the story of Taliesin first.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ceridwen was a well-known enchantress, sorceress in Welch legends. Her husband was Tegid Foel (“Tacitus the Bald”). Together they lived near Lake Bala (Llyn Tegid) in north Wales.
Ceridwen is the mother of two children, an extremely beautiful daughter named Creirwy and a son of a totally opposite character to her, Morfran, who was since birth portrait as hideousness and ugly.

No magic that Ceridwen tried could cure Morfran, nor give him any comfort or wisdom. One day though, she gathered her cauldron to make a potion to make him both handsome and wise. The mixture had to be boiled for a year and a day, which is a very long and deliberate task and magic.

To help her Ceridwen employed the help of two servants, Morda, a blind man, who tend to the fire beneath the cauldron, and a young boy, Gwion Bach, to stir the brew from time to time as well as not letting the concoction to boil over. Ceridwen knew that only the first three drops of the brew were effective when finished, while the rest would turn poisonous.

The time of the one year and one day approached and young Gwion accidently let the brew boil over the rim of the cauldron and the first three drops landed on his thump. Gwion immediately put his scorched thump into his mouth to stem the pain and burning. He received instantly, like a bolt of lightning, the wisdom and knowledge of Awen, which had been brewing in the cauldron.

Obviously Ceridwen wasn’t very happy when she found out about what had happened. Gwion ran away, terrified of Ceridwen’s temper, and turned himself into a rabbit; but Ceridwen followed and transformed herself into a dog. The boy changed himself into a fish and jumped into the river, swiftly followed by the otter formerly known as, Ceridwen. Gwion changed from fish to bird and Ceridwen turned her otter self into a hawk and continued the chase. Finally, the bird became a grain of corn; the hawk became a hen – and swallowed him up.

After that chase, when Ceridwen finally returned to her normal self, she discovered that she was pregnant and knew instantly that the baby she carried was Gwion. In anger Ceridwen planned to kill him as soon as he was born, but the baby was far too beautiful when he was born. His eye brows where radiating with light and wisdom.

She just eventually put him into a large leather bag and cast him into the sea. The bag was found in the nets of a fisher of the annual salmon catch on the Dovey River. Not knowing what to do which the leader bag he handed it over to his patron Prince Elffin.

On opening the bag, Elffin discovered the baby boy – Gwion, who had been reborn as Taliesin. This foundling was something of a child prodigy, because no sooner had poor Elffin placed the baby in front of him on his saddle than Taliesin, (which means ‘radiant brow’), started first speaking, then reciting, poetry and then making predictions about how Elffin would now defeat all his enemies. How could he do otherwise now he had Taliesin’s help?
Elffin’s luck changed from that moment and Taliesin, through his poems and his prophecy, became the most famous bard in Britain, inspiring the Celtic warriors against their Saxon invaders.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This are pretty much the bare-bones of the Tale of Taliesin and the inspiration of the Awen which transformed him into the Greatest Bard of Britain.

I would highly recommend the book ‘from the Cauldron Born‘ – by Kristoffer Hughes, which delves deeply into this subject and de-codes its hidden mysteries and many secrets. A truly fascinating read!

 

Fire in the Head

Awen – Part I – Basic Introduction

The word Awen comes from the Welch (Cornish and Breton), one surviving Celtic language amongst Irish, Gealic, Scottish, Manx, Cornish. Depending what Welch dictionary, one consults the English translation is “(poetic) inspiration”, “flowing (spirit)”, “fluid “or “muse”.

The Awen symbol emerged in the Druid revival (from the 18th century) and is attributed to Iolo Morganwg. Most often called in Druidry “the Three Rays of Light”.

In modern Druidry there is a whole bunch interpretation of this symbol. Most often referred as the Triad of the Sunrises, the point at which the sun rises on the two Equinoxes and the Summer Solstice.
Yet many modern Druid Orders like to see those Three Rays as the tree Druid Grades of Bard, Ovate and Druid. Or the triple aspect of the Goddess (Maiden, Mother & Crown).

“The quest for Awen is a quest for the spirit of Druidry itself, and, as such, it brings together many paths.” (#1)

To find your Awen is truly a noble quest. This Spirit of flowing inspiration. We need find it everywhere along our path. As a Bard it becomes our muse, our essence, our creative inspiration that we put into words or songs, or draw on a canvas, the journey of our stories. While as an Ovate, this fluid inspiration becomes our guides and inspiration in the divination arts, and the magical works, as well as in the healing arts. The love of learning the high mysteries of nature, herb and plant lore is another aspect of the Ovate and the influence of Awen. As Druids the Awen sparks our philosophy and understanding, our love of studies and the joy of ceremony.

Not finding our Awen is something like the typical “Writers Block”, the stagnation of ideas.
#1 – http://www.druidry.co.uk/what-is-druidry/awen-the-holy-spirit-of-druidry/

Lughnasadh / Lughnasa / Lammas

Lughnasadh marked the first of the festival of the harvest season, followed by the Mabon (the Autumn Equinox) and end’s with Samhain (Halloween).

Lammas is the time of fresh root vegetables from the gardens, wheat, oat, barley and corn from the fields. Mabon is full of fruits and berries, while Samhain fills nuts and fruits into our basket’s.

Lammas is the celebration of this first, Grain Harvest, a time for gathering in and giving thanks for abundance.

In our stories Lugh, the Sun god aspect, transform’s into the legend of John Barleycorn, who is cut down every year doing this celebrations to bring life and abundance to the next year’s harvest.

Another famous folk costume is obviously the Lammas Loaf, as well as the Corn Dolly.

The first sheaf would often be ceremonially cut at dawn, winnowed, ground and baked into the Harvest Bread which was then shared by the community in thanks.

The last sheaf was also ceremonially cut, often made into a ‘corn dolly’, carried to the village with festivity and was central to the Harvest Supper

Blessings of the harvest season and celebration’s

Lugh – part 1

Before I will make a post about the old Celtic festival of Lughnasadh, one on the harvest festivals on the Wheel of the Year, lets us look first at the character that this celebration is named from.

Lugh or Lug is an important for within the Irish mythology. Lleu Llaw Gyffes (“The Bright One with the Strong Hand”) is the Welch counterpart of the Irish Lugh.

Lugh is a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann (usually translated as “people (s) / tribe(s) of the goddess Dana or Danu” also know by the much earlier name Tuatha Dé (“tribe of the gods”)).

He is very often associated with skill, crazy or craftsmanship, the arts, oath, truth and also the law. His portrayal is usually of a youthful warrior hero or king. Lugh is also knows as a Sun god, a Storm god, or even a Sky god. Lughnasadh obviously draws of this Sun God aspects..