What is a bard, you may ask? For my Celtic ancestors, a bard was a story teller (also known as a seanchaí in Irish, meaning “custodian of tradition, reciter of ancient lore), a magician of words (a poet) and song; an historian, chronicler and genealogist who shared the ancestral bloodlines and history of the tribe, the tuath (in Irish). In bardic traditions, this wisdom was not notated or preserved in script, but was stored within and shared orally. And it was more than that, their words and songs were imbued with their internal creative force, awen (in Welsh, meaning inspiration).
This ancient tradition is still with us — such as the Bard of Avon, who most would recognize as William Shakespeare (who chronicled the histories of kings, witches and the Good Folk (faeries) — and in contemporary times we might recognize the bards as contemporary poets and wordsmiths, as writers of song (especially those of history, culture, and change/protest). According to Druidry.org bards were (and are) the custodians of the sacredness of the Word .
Who are today’s bards? Some of the iconic songs from Peter Seeger (If I had a Hammer), Woody Guthrie (This Land is Your Land) Gordon Lightfoot (The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald) are in the bardic traditions, and there also those who step full into that tradition such as Damh the Bard. And the words of poets such as John O’Donohue, Mary Oliver, and David White are, for me at least, bardic in so many ways. In contemporary times, however, this bardic output is written down! And did you know that you can choose to become a bard, and train through organizations like Druidry.org and others?
Who are the bards that resonate with you, either ancient or contemporary?
I share with you now words from John O’Donohue — “A Blessing for One Who Holds Power” — from his book To Bless This Space Between Us. I thought this aligned well with today’s Super Full Moon in Capricorn arriving tonight at 18:38 UTC (11:38 am PDT, 2:38 pm EDT), which reminds us self-sovereignty, that we are the leader in our own life. You can read more about this moon in our previous post.
Listen to John O’Donhue read his poem in Soundcloud:
May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation, Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve. As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings, May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills. When the way is flat and dull in times of gray endurance, May your imagination continue to evoke horizon. When thirst burns in times of drought, May you be blessed to find the wells. May you have the wisdom to read time clearly And know when the seeds of change will flourish. In your heart may there be a sanctuary For the stillness where clarity is born. May your work be infused with passion and creativity And have the wisdom to balance compassion and challenge. May your soul find the graciousness To rise above the fester of small mediocrities. May your power never become a shell Wherein your heart would silently atrophy. May you welcome your own vulnerability As the ground where healing and truth join. May integrity of soul be your first ideal, The source that will guide and bless your work.