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Bardic Tales

White Book of Rhydderch
A page from the 14th century White Book of Rhydderch that contains the earliest more-or-less complete version of the Mabinogion, held in the National Library of Wales

To see and hear a good storyteller in full flow is to be transported to other worlds and to experience other lives. And when the tale is accompanied by music, as many bardic tellings are, then, for me, the magic is complete and I surrender to the journey. There is, indeed, an aspect of traditional bardic storytelling specifically designed to take the listener on a spirit journey. In Ireland, such tellings are called imramma. While telling of magical, otherworld journeys, they can take the audience to the places described. This is where the bardic arts achieve something akin to the intensity of a shamanic experience.

All cultures have their traditional tales and those of your own land are as good a place as any, and better than most, to look for inspiration for your own tellings. As with the dreamtime tales of Australian aboriginal tradition, the old tales of our own lands can awaken the spirits of the land and of our ancestors, brough to fresh and vivid life through the storyteller's art. In taking up and retelling these old tales, we also link into the chain of previous tellers, perhaps feeling their hands patting our shoulders in encouragement as the tale unfurls before our audience. And so the awen is passed on.

The old bardic colleges of Britain and Ireland laid down how many hundreds of tales and poems bards were to learn by heart. Books and television having dulled our memories and our minds, few modern bards are capable of such feats, but most will have a tale or two they can spin around the flickering fire of an evening.

Robin Williamson
Robin Williamson

As a member of the British Druid Order, you will be expected to be familiar with the Story of Taliesin and the four branches of the Mabinogion at the very least. Here are links to three truly marvellous websites where you will find them and a whole lot more:

Sacred Texts: Celtic
The Celtic Literature Collective
The Corpus of Electronic Texts (Irish)

For a great bardic storyteller, check out our good friend, Robin Williamson (right), worthy holder of the title, Primary Chief Bard of Britain. Robin has a fund of stories, mainly drawn from traditional British and Irish sources, which he tells to his own exquisite harp accompaniment. Check out his website through which you can find tour dates or arrange for him to come and perform for you. Robin also offers bardic teaching weekends. For details and booking call Pig's Whisker Music on 02920 231 739.

Robin Williamson's Website

Kevan Manwaring
Kevan Manwaring

And check out Robin's recorded work on Amazon, especially the following CDs that showcase his superb storytelling:
A Glint at the Kindling/Five Bardic Mysteries
Songs of Love and Parting/Selected Writings 1980-1983
The Celtic Bard (a brilliant compilation CD)

And here's a link to the website of another good friend and great bardic storyteller, Kevan Manwaring (lower left):

Kevan Manwaring's Website

Based in Bath, UK, Kevan runs storytelling workshops, performs as a storyteller himself and has written a number of excellent books, including The Bardic Handbook (Gothic Image, 2005) and The Way of Awen (O Books, 2010), both highly recommended guides for budding BDO bards. See his website for full details. Oh, Kevan's a poet and novelist as well. And a really nice guy