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Celtic Source

Celtic Source

By Celtic Source
Dr Gwilym Morus-Baird discusses various aspects of Celtic myth and culture, with a particular focus on Welsh and Irish source texts.
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37. The Mabinogi Challenge: Day 1 Recording

Celtic Source

40. The Well of Sovereignty in Celtic Myth
Comparing Irish, Norse and Welsh medieval sources sheds light on the meaning of the otherworldly well that appears to be closely connected to both divine inspiration and the sovereignty figure.  Courses on Celtic myth and folklore:
May 13, 2022
39. The Sovereignty Goddess Transformed
In some variations of the myth, the way the sovereignty goddess engages with the king causes her to transform. What does this tell us about their relationship?   Courses on Celtic myth and folklore:
May 07, 2022
38. The Drink of Sovereignty
The first in a series looking at the Celtic myth of the sovereignty goddess. The story 'Baile in Scáil' contains one of the earliest explicit examples of a sovereignty figure in Irish literature, and features the intriguing concept of a ceremonial drink.  Courses on Celtic myth and folklore:
April 29, 2022
37. The Mabinogi Challenge: Day 1 Recording
A recording of the first day of the Mabinogi Challenge.   Over the course of 5 days we're working through a simple process by which you can begin to interpret and understand a short folk-tale from the Mabinogi tradition.    0:00 The Welsh storytelling tradition.  17:06 The Story of Llyn Barfog.  32:35 Q&A.  40:45 Challenge questions.   If you want to take part, please join the Celtic Source Facebook Group at   Courses on Celtic myth and folklore:
March 07, 2022
36. The Dark Side of the hero Myth pt 2
In this second talk on Canu Llywarch Hen, the 9th century Welsh poems that tell the story of Llywarch the Old and his 24 sons, we talk through Llywarch's lament for his son, the fallen warrior Gwên. This second poem confirm's much of what was suggested in the previous episode, especially the notion that the heroic ideal isn't all it's cracked up to be.   Courses on Celtic myth and folklore:
February 14, 2022
35. The Dark Side of the Hero Myth pt 1
Canu Llywarch Hen, the sequence of 9th century Welsh poems about the tragedy of Llywarch the Old and his 24 sons, is one of the most important works in Welsh literature. But far from joining in with the pomp and pageantry of traditional praise poetry, instead it reveals a darker side of the hero myth so beloved by the nobility.   Courses on Celtic myth and folklore:
February 08, 2022
34. The Song of Heledd pt 2
In this second video on Canu Heledd ('The Song of Heledd') we look at what could have led to such a tragedy. There are suggestions in the poems that Heledd considers herself to be to blame for the death of her brother and the fall of his territory.   If you’re intending to follow the Ystoria Taliesin course but need an in-depth understanding of the Taliesin myth, I’d suggest subscribing now and following The Taliesin Tradition before we begin on February 6th. It’s not a requirement, but it will give you lots of background on the myth and how it has developed. All of the courses are now accessible with the new flexible subscription, where you can choose your own monthly payment.
January 31, 2022
33. The Song of Heledd pt 1
Canu Heledd ('The Song of Heledd') is a sequence of 9th century Welsh poems commemorating the loss of territory to Saxons when they invaded the kingdom of Powys. The main character in these dramatic verses is Heledd, sister of Cynddylan, one of the noblemen who died defending against the attack. But Heledd is more than a voice of grief in the poetry, she also embodies the land of Powys itself.
December 21, 2021
32. Did a woman write the Mabinogi?
Who wrote The Four Branches of the Mabinogi? That's a question numerous Celtic scholars have attempted to answer over the years, but none have been able to provide definitive proof to support their claims. This lack of evidence has prompted others to venture beyond the usual suspects of monks and clerics and instead consider more uncommon candidates such as Gwenllian, warrior princess of Wales . . .
December 06, 2021
31. 'The Battle of the Trees' and The White Goddess
Robert Graves' White Goddess is one of the most popular books ever written on modern Celtic mysticism, but as well as entrancing countless modern readers it has also enraged many Celtic scholars. Perhaps one of its greatest successes was introducing Kat Godeu ('The Battle of the Trees') to an English audience. Few had ever heard of this obscure medieval Welsh poem from the 14th century Book of Taliesin. But Graves' version has done little to clarify what the poem actually means. In this podcast I talk through the main problems with Graves' version and suggest another way of understanding this ambiguous Welsh text.
November 29, 2021
30. Ritual Masks and Channeling
What can the almost universal practice of ritual mask wearing tell us about the Welsh bardic tradition? As far as we know, the medieval Welsh bards didn't use masks in performance, but they did take on archetypal personas such as that of the legendary Taliesin, and there are suggestions that some of these performances were considered a type of ancestral channeling. Anthropologists have studied countless examples of how ancestral spirits are brought alive in public performance, and some of these accounts can help us think through what the old Welsh bards were doing in their performances. If you're interested in following The Native Tales of the Mabinogion or The Taliesin Tradition, you can find these courses (and several others) here.
November 23, 2021
29. Why interpret myths?
In answer to a question that comes up every now and again: Why focus on interpretation? Shouldn’t we just cover the historical facts and let people decide for themselves what something means? Unfortunately, sometimes the facts just aren't enough . . . If you're intending to follow the new course starting tonight (8pm UK Time), please log in and take a look at the first chapter of The Native Tales of the Mabinogion, where you will find the Zoom link. If you can't make it, I'll also be going live on the Celtic Source Facebook page at 9pm Uk Time, to answer another humdinger of a question: What’s the function of channeling when it comes to poetry? What does it mean that the bard is essentially pretending to talk in another voice? What creative purpose does this serve?
November 16, 2021
28. Bardic Craft and Animal Transformation
This video is in answer to two questions sent in from The Taliesin Tradition course:  - what is the bardic craft of classical Welsh poetry?  - what evidence is there for human to animal transformations in Celtic art?   You can follow The Taliesin Tradition course (as well as several others) with a subscription to the website:  Next Tuesday (16th) is the beginning of The Native Tales course, also available with the same subscription.
November 09, 2021
27. Who is the gatekeeper?
Concluding this short series on Welsh Arthurian poems we take a look at the broader use of the 'enchanted fortress' motif and see how it's used to evoke several different themes, both sociological and mythological.
November 09, 2021
26. The Spoils of Annwfn
Continuing with this short series on Welsh Arthurian poems, this talk takes a look at Preideu Annwfyn (The Spoils of Annwfn), one of the better known poems from the medieval Book of Taliesin. Like many other Taliesin poems from this period, it is a strange, ambiguous and multilayered text, and although many commentators have attempted to pin its ultimate meaning down, it remains a largely mysterious poem. In this talk we touch on at least some of the more definite things that can be said about it, and dwell in the mystery of all the things that can't!  Correction: the Historia Brittonum was written down in the 8 hundreds not the eighth century! 828 is the general consensus.
November 09, 2021
25. The Discourse of Arthur and the Eagle.
'The Discourse of Arthur and the Eagle' is a 12th century Welsh poem that was very popular in the Welsh oral and written tradition. Even though it's a poem about Christian learning, it also draws on a far more pagan mythology.
November 09, 2021
24. A Welsh Cailleach?
When we compare Welsh folktales about giant witches and their stone cairns to stories about the Cailleach of Ireland and Scotland, we find some very interesting similarities.
November 09, 2021
23. Are Welsh scholars misrepresenting historical paganism?
In recent decades, several authors on Celtic myth and spirituality have been  accused of misrepresented the cultural history of Wales. But what of Welsh scholars? Are they also misrepresenting Welsh history, intentionally obscuring pagan influences?
November 09, 2021
22. The Giant's Beard
In this last in the series on Welsh folklore, we look at the peculiar phenomena of the Giant's Beard and what it could have stood for in the ancient past.
November 09, 2021
21. Iolo Morganwg and Fake Myths
A very frequently asked question amongst modern druids is what (if anything), can be taken from the work of Iolo Morganwg, the founding father of modern druidry and notorious forger of ‘ancient’ texts? The answer may surprise you.
May 13, 2021
20. Barclodiad y Gawres (The Giantess' Apronful)
This neolithic tomb on Ynys Môn isn't the only cairn to be named after a giant witch . . .
May 03, 2021
19. From Celtic Gods to Celtic Spirits
What happened to the Celtic gods of Iron Age Europe? Where are they in later Celtic folklore?
April 29, 2021
18. Witches, Giants and Arthur
Peniarth 118, a Welsh manuscript written in 1600, describes many of the traditional giants and witches of Wales. It also confirms that King Arthur and his knights had a very long relationship with these monstrous, otherworldly figures.
April 29, 2021
17. The Witch of Death
The Witch can often be a cartoonish character in folklore, not just in Wales but across the world. But there is also a mythological quality to the witch as an embodiment of death.
April 24, 2021
16. The Witch, the Hare and the Saint
The witch transformed into a hare is an old folk tale found across many parts of Europe. In Wales, the story appears to have a connection to Saint Melangell, the protector of ŵyn Melangell ('Melangell's lambs'), the traditional Welsh name for hares.
April 10, 2021
15. Were the Welsh bards shamans?
This is a question that arises quite often on the courses, and in this last episode of Series 2 I've compiled two answers I gave recently to this quite complex question.
February 09, 2021
14. A Celtic Wisdom Tradition?
Celtic myths are symbolic, so we need to interpret them to draw out their wisdom. As a result, it's probably worth asking if interpretation was ever a part of the Celtic storytelling tradition?
June 04, 2020
13. The incarnations of Brigid
Connecting the different incarnations of Brigid, from Iron Age goddess to early Christian saint.
May 22, 2020
12. Where did Ceridwen chase Gwion Bach?
The different versions of Taliesin's folk tale give us clues as to where the animal-transformation chase scene may have taken place. Following some interesting clues in the Welsh landscape, here's one possible location . . .​
May 22, 2020
11. Who wrote The Book of Taliesin?
The Book of Taliesin is one of the great treasures of Welsh culture, but who wrote it? In truth, it's an impossible question to answer, but there are some very interesting theories about who composed some of the most famous poems in the manuscript . . .
May 22, 2020
10. What is The Book of Taliesin
The Book of Taliesin is one of the primary medieval sources for the Taliesin myth. But what does it actually contain?
May 22, 2020
9. The Welsh bardic triads
The Welsh Bardic Triads ('Trioedd Ynys Prydein') provide an index to the oral storytelling tradition of medieval Wales. They were used by bards across the centuries not only to help them remember the vast network of traditional myth and lore, but also to present a distinct vision of the ancient past.​
May 22, 2020
8. Was Taliesin a druid?
Most Celtic scholars would rightly point out that the correct answer to this question is an emphatic no. Yet there is a more nuanced story that can be told.
May 22, 2020
7. The bardic power of myth
How did Taliesin transform his patron through the bardic power of myth?
May 22, 2020
6. Fionn mac Cumhail
There are some distinct similarities between the Welsh Tale of Taliesin and the Irish story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, in particular the very ancient concept of a magical elixir.
May 22, 2020
5. Awen, symbol and cauldron
In the Taliesin myth, awen plays a central role in creating symbolic reality. This leads naturally on to an  outline of some of the symbolic meanings that can be found in the great mythic cauldron of the Celts.
May 22, 2020
4. The Celtic otherworld?
 'Otherworld' is probably a misleading term when thinking of the Irish sidh or Welsh Annwfn, as there is a subtle but important difference between these ancient concepts.
May 22, 2020
3. The roots of Celtic myth
Tracing the Celtic myth of water, divine birth and inspiration back to its Indo-European roots.
May 22, 2020
2. Y Fari Lwyd - a Welsh winter custom
An overview of the Mari Lwyd folk custom and a discussion of the meaning of some of the Welsh folk verses sung during the winter ritual.
May 21, 2020
1. Is Celtic spirituality cultural appropriation?
This is an old issue when it comes to Celtic culture and our historical source texts. In this episode Dr Gwilym Morus-Baird, a first-language Welsh speaker, tries to unpick the state of English language culture's adoption and use of Celtic source texts, and explains why he's not necessarily taking the usual route with the study of Celtic myth.
May 21, 2020