It is interesting that many modern druid orders thrash the BARDDAS while simultaneously adopting many of its teachings, even if inadvertently. The Sign of Awen frequently used to distinguish Druidry as well as the lore of the Druid’s Cabala (and it’s terminology) mainly originate with the “Barddas.” The Coelbren of the Bards, the Alban calendar and hundreds of triad teachings are also translated from this work for contemporary use.
Originally published as the “Barddas of Iolo Morganwg: A Collection of Original Documents, Illustrative of Theology, Wisdom and the Usages of the Bardo-Druidic System of the Isle of Britain.” It first appeared in 1862, edited by J. William ab Iithel and presented as a translation of an earlier Welsh manuscript penned by Llewellyn Sion, a Bard of Glamorgan. This claim is still under dispute.
THE BARDDAS is perhaps the most controversial facet appearing in neodruidism as are all of the revival traditions that stemmed from it. Regardless, it is a unique and impressive work.
Several versions are examined here for the benefit of the seeker.
Version One: The Prayer of Gwyddonaid
[Book of Margam]
God impart thy strength;
And in strength, the power to suffer;
And to suffer for the Truth;
And in the Truth, all light;
And in all Light, all Gwynedd;
And in Gwynedd, love;
And in love, God;
And in God, all goodness.
Version Two: The Gorsedd Prayer
[Book of Trahaiarn]
Grant, God, thy protection,
And in protection, reason;
And in reason, light;
And in light, Truth;
And in Truth, justice;
And in justice, love;
And in love, the love of God;
And in that love of God, all Gwynedd,
God and all goodness.
Version Three: Gorsedd Prayer
[common Welsh version]
Dyro Dduw dy nawdd;
Ag yn nawdd, nerth;
Ag yn nerth, deall;
Ag yn neall, gwybod;
Ac yngwybod, gwybod y cyflawn;
Ag yngwybod y cyflawn, ei garu;
Ag of garu, caru pob hanfod;
Ag ymhod hanfod, caru Duw,
Duw a phob daioni.
Version Four: Gorsedd Prayer
[common version translated]
Grant, O God, thy protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of
God, God and all goodness.
Another example of philosophy relayed in the BARDDAS is that humans are composed from eight elements, facets or dimensions illustrated in the following verse:
From the Earth, the flesh;
From the water, the blood;
From the air, the breath;
From the calas, the bones;
From the salt, the feeling;
From the Sun, the fire of his agitation;
From the Truth, his understanding (knowledge)
From the Awen, his spirit, soul or life.
The Druids were historically a learned group of men and women made popular during the “ancient” Celtic times. They formed their own communities in Keltia, what we more commonly know as Ireland, Britain and Gaul (now France). Their counsel and wisdom was sought out by many different groups of people and societies, particularly when some mediation was required.
With much unhappiness I can easily say that the majority of the public texts involving the ancient Druids was documented or based on documents of the ancient Romans, who were notoriously the archenemy of the Druids. With this in mind, there is not much we can take for granted (or at the very least, unbiased) from these Roman accounts. After all, if we were responsible for preserving the memory of our enemies, how might we go about coloring this with our attitudes?
It is well known that the Druids held the Oak Tree as sacred, as well as the herb referred to as “mistletoe.” Both herbs make frequent appearances in Druidic rituals. It has become fairly well propagated knowledge, as well, that human sacrifices played some prominent role in their tradition as well. With the coming of Christianity, Druidism faced its final days with the ‘fall of the elves’ and the donation of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine to the establishment of the “Vatican” Catholic Church. The ‘End of Days’ for the Druids appeared to have come about in the sixth century, when it disappeared for a time…
…but here we are now in the 20th century, going into the 21st [We are, of course, now in the 21st century at the time of printing. -Ed.] Druidism and neopaganism has begun to once again play a significant role in modern culture. It appears to have made a reappearance in the public’s eye sometime in the 1400’s and 1500’s, when Druidism was being studied by medieval historians and the first ‘books’ were written on the topic (post-Romana) explaining what was found from these studies. Lost manuscripts were being discovered in obscure places and many ancient writings were being deciphered by ‘antiquarians’.
In the 1600’s and 1700’s, colleges and universities in Europe were beginning to study this revived interest in the Druids more academically. Lost books containing ceremonies and rituals in varying European languages became the subject of interpretation among people from all walks of life. By the late 1800’s and beginning of the 1900’s, the word was spreading quickly about the revivalist traditions and systems of Druidry – and looking back we can see the period where the majority of what we academically learned about the Druids became solidified in public consciousness was during this time. What had begun as the uncovering of a myth was developing into a historical natural living religion.
English, Welsh and Irish nationalist founded a new order of Druids for modern times, calling themselves the “Ancient Order of Druids.” They set our to revive their own practical interpretation of the ancient Druid tradition – even reclaiming Stonehenge in the name of the Druids and observing public ceremonies there as often as possible. Soon after, because of tourism, Stonehenge began to show increasing signs of damage and the landowners decided to begin charging an entrance fee in order to offset maintenance costs. When the AOD showed up and refuse to pay, they were arrested accordingly for misconduct.
In the 1930’s the name of the revival changed to the “Ancient Order of Druid Hermeticists” – a membership that was composed of ex-AOD members by eighty percent. The AODH devised their own newsletter magazine titled Pendragon. By 1955 only one of the original five chapters of the AODH still existed – they even claimed to be the sole survivors practicing of the original Ancient Order of Druids (AOD)…