In ancient Keltia, the Druid Order consisted of learned men, those educated in Bardic Arts: cosmology, native history, legendary history of heroes and spirituality, penal laws and punishments, geography, healing, botanical medicine, astronomy, astrology and magic…
–Joshua Free explains in the preface to Pheryllt.
It is no wonder the Bardd is viewed as transmitter or catalyst of awen, the essence, divine spark or spirit of inspiration that the Greeks termed gnosis. It is to the ‘ebb and flow’ of the ‘awen field‘ that the poetic genius of Bards is attributed.
Diverse facets of knowledge, from practical magic, to the Bardic Arts, to Celtic history or even philosophies assimilated from cultures that Druids encountered throughout Europe, all appear in Douglas Monroe‘s works under the premise of being referenced from the Book of Pheryllt – or more accurately the Books of Fferyllt, a collective body of knowledge (what is literally called the Body of the Dragon in his preface to the 21 Lessons of Merlyn).
Following the lead of Monroe‘s citations, other cycles of Welsh material are also incorporated into the Book of Pheryllt, namely the Cad Goddeu (or Battle of the Trees) and the Gorchan of Maeldrew and both are contained in Volume I of the Books of Pheryllt. The three do not overlap or necessarily pertain to practical methodology in the sense the Seeker is left with when examining the “grimoire” portions of Douglas Monroe’s Lost Books of Merlyn. The “cantos” depicted on page 252 from that text are actually derived from a cycle of Norse mythology titled: Fridthjof’s Saga.
“The Druids believed in books more ancient than the flood. They styled them the ‘Books of Pheryllt’ and the writings of Hu.”
– Ignatius Donnelly, ‘Atlantis’
“Oxford is old, even in England… its foundations date from Alfred, and even from Arthur, if, as is alleged, the Pheryllt of the Druids had a seminary there.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits
According to Douglas Monroe a manuscript known as the ‘Book of Pheryllt‘ from the 16th century collection is attributed to a modern antiquarian Bard: Llywelyn Sion of Glamorgan, Wales. It is purportedly moved from the library of Owen Morgan “Morian” to the private collection of the Albion Lodge of the ‘United Ancient Order of Druids of Oxford‘ before coming into Monroe’s possession. Barddas, also by Llywelyn Sion, strongly influenced work of Douglas Monroe, neodruidism and the National Welsh Eisteddfod. In addition to Monroe‘s work, Barddas is highly recommended as a companion to the Pheryllt.
“It became rapidly clear that to give the ‘Body of the Dragon’ its true justice, given the many diverse subjects and scattered references from Douglas Monroe’s trilogy and the mysterious manner which Bards conceal knowledge, that my facsimile of the Pheryllt material required more than one volume to be complete.”
— Joshua Free
ADDITIONAL EDITOR’S NOTES: The reader will quickly find that much of the herbal lore, formulas and Ogham knowledge is held back from the first volume in order to establish proper roots of doctrine and tradition. As a debut volume it was important for it to carry integrity of authentic Welsh Bardism; not simply one more ‘book of shadows‘ on the market overrun by incense blends and notes for self-guided visualizations. How long it will take to bring this venture to its completion is another matter altogether. It has already taken years to muster the spiritual courage and mental fortitude to even consider such a feat, even though I am well versed in Douglas Monroe‘s specific brand of Druidry and have written extensively on the topic in previous books…
“–Ac yna yr ordeinodd hi drwy gelfyddydd llyfrau Pheryllt I ferwi pair o Awen.”
“–So she (Ceridwen) took to the crafts of the Book of Pheryllt to boil a cauldron of Awen.”
– from the ‘Hanes Taliesen’, Peniarth MS
We have been given little in classical literature or even antiquarian druidism to satisfy hunger for Pheryllt (pronounced FAIR-ee-llt or VAIR-ult) research, and even less to support an in-depth critique of their founder, a figure named Pharaon (FAR-ah-on), and translated by some scholars to mean ‘higher powers‘. Perhaps it is ‘Druid Craft’ to call down ‘higher powers’ to conjure inspiration and magic – perhaps that is what Ceridwen is doing in the famous reference above. In either case, it has spawned an entire branch of modern druid methodology and a natural universalist philosophy even if only in spirit…
Where the Druids are concerned, hundreds of years of diverse academic and philosophical debate await the Seeker on their look back. It is now even more controversial to speak of the Pheryllt in neodruid circles – supposed rings of open minds that remain closed in reality…
JOSHUA FREE explains in the preface to the newly released volume: PHERYLLT.
For two decades a modern movement of neodruids
influenced by modern Pheryllt Druidism have become bystanders amidst the unbreakable schism. Alleged authorities on Druidry raise one hand screaming how these documents supporting an ancient Welsh Bardic Druid (and Pheryllt) tradition are a hoax, but with the other hand they borrow from these same sources for their own purposes.
It is by no surprise to many that I find myself tackling the venture of compiling a readable and accessible version of the Books of Pheryllt. My metaphysical and spiritual involvement in the modern New Age consists primarily in the cultural genres of Druidism and Mesopotamia. That being said, my presentation generally is in favor of ancient writings, often collected in the style of an infamous book that is notoriously considered pseudoepigrapha in the literary and underground communities.
These tomes in question are thought not to exist, or entirely the subject of fantasy or fiction. Those who are at all familiar with my historical presentation of the Mesopotamian tradition using the Necronomicon paradigm understand this. In spite of this, the Necronomicon Anunnaki Legacy (Silver Edition),currently available via the Mardukite Research Organization, is the only “version” of a ‘Necronomicon’ on the market today that even begins to meet the vast and fantastic descriptions lent to the book’s existence in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.
The banner of the National Welsh Eisteddfodd continues to read to this day: Y GWIR YN ERBYN BYD, meaning: Truth Against The World. It is in this light that I have worked over the past twenty years in my modern Pheryllt Druidry and other efforts – both privately in practice and publicly in my literary contributions to the Spirit of the Times. In such, I take the matter of presenting the Books of Pheryllt quite seriously. They exist as a ‘body’ of much misunderstood literary work solidified from ancient oral traditions preserved by the Bardic Druids – bridging prehistory with modern times!
Many antiquated scholarly references to Books of Pheryllt and the Pheryllt themselves may be found by a diligent seeker – some of which are included or paraphrased within this very book. It is, however, Douglas Monroe‘s modern work that brings the Pheryllt to debate among the tables and councils of neodruid Orders. He has used the unpublished Books of Pheryllt in his writings as a paradigm to present a uniquely eclectic form of modern Druidry.
Douglas Monroe undertakes a remarkable feat spanning a trilogy of intensive writings, most famously his debut and bestselling 21 Lessons of Merlyn in 1992, in relaying the 3 memories of the Bard: the history, the poetry and the lineage of the tradition as survived by the hands of Bardic Druids. The authentic premise guiding the modern Pheryllt Druid tradition is the remaining works that do exist from the Welsh MS. Society and the continuing efforts of the National Welsh Eisteddfodd in preserving the Bardic tradition…
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.
Neodruids… Modern druidism emerged with (and essentially as the answer to) the development of an urban-oriented industrialization of society in human civilization. The revival far predates both the modern New Age Movement and contemporary Wicca as an underground counter-cultural movement or secret society — both public and private.
Explore this and hundreds of other facets of new age, metaphysical and occult mysteries in Joshua Free’s underground masterpiece: ARCANUM, the perfect compliment to THE DRUID COMPLEAT curriculum of Merlyn’s School of Druidry & Magick.
The early 18th Century revival in England coincides with the rebirth of the Freemasonic tradition. The Freemasons began to allow “Accepted Masons,” those who were not masons by trade, into their ranks. [Many founding figures of the early neodruid organizations were Masons and Rosicrucians.] Neodruidic revival occurred during the Anti-Witchcraft and Magick Acts (see Book of Elven Faerie or The Druid Compleat), so members were cautious not to be interpreted as “sorcerers” or “witches.” This forced many of the organizations to operate as ecological, charitable and social rotary clubs.
The sacred sites of the Celts and antiquarian interest in the Druids promoted a renaissance of “Celtic Reconstructionism” and neo-druidism. The interpretation of this revival, the differing beliefs and personal inclinations of individuals caused the first of many underground neodruidic schisms. [This entire blog/lesson is excerpted officially from ARCANUM by Joshua Free.]
John Toland originally sought to unify the antiquarian movement in 1717 when he founded the (British) Druid Circle of the Universal Bond [“An Druidh Uileach Braithreaches” (ADUB)]. It maintained international membership from the start and was rooted in Toland’s personal researches into the Druid Histories. [Toland’s secret society also went by the name of the “Ancient Druid Order” (ADO).]
Some “mesopagan” Druids, like Henry Hurle, saw neo-druidism as an extension, if not a purely Celtic equivalent, to Eurasian Freemasonry, which was revived in England in the same year and place [“The Apple Tree Tavern”] as John Toland’s ADO in 1717. Hurle led the formation of the “Ancient Order of Druids” (AOD) in 1781 emphasizing his background in Masonry, Rosicrucianism and the Kabbalah. Some members disliked the occult focus, preferring participation in the social-charitable organizations.
These members formed their own branch or offshoot called the “United Ancient Order of Druids” (UAOD) in 1833, which retained the “rotary club” ideals. Other Masonic-Druids joined the “Ancient Archaeological Order of Druids” (AAOD), which was formed by Robert Wentworth Little in 1874, later changing its name to the “Ancient Masonic Order of Druids” (AMOD) in 1886. These Masonic and Rosicrucian-oriented Druids went onto evolve the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn (GD). Other Hermetic and Kabbalistic organizations of neodruids continued to form.
Once the revival had been organized it immediately became a public and national identity. Sacred sites such as Stonehenge and Woodhenge would entertain guests by the thousands during neodruidic activities. Large media events were planned around the dramatic reenactments and ceremonies performed by neodruids in full wizard’s attire. The more publicized displays coincided with the autumn equinox and summer solstice festivals. The full eight-fold wheel of the year, now common in the New Age, was not yet a part of the revival. [See ARCANUM for further information regarding this.]
In the 19th Century, when Quasi-Masonic neodruidry was developing, a separate nationalist movement was growing alongside. These “reconstructionists” sought to reinvestigate the Bardic Tradition as a national custom in Wales. Figures such as Iolo Morganwg (compiler of the Barddas), William Blake and Edward Davies all desired to preservation of the language and Druidism of Wales. This led to a revival of the “Gorsedd of Bards” and a “National Eisteddfodd” held annually in public to celebrate the Welsh tradition. With some offbeat claims of “authenticity,” the Welsh revival (and the more recent neo-Pheryllt system) has been subject to historical and mystical controversy in relation to other organizations and revival efforts.
Organized neodruidism did not reach America until the early 1900s as an extension of AAOD/AMOD. Though originally a more Masonic-based secret society, the “Ancient Order of Druids in America” (AODA), as they called themselves, evolved into a standard green magick system under the direction of John Michael Greer, including neo-paganism and sacred geometry. The 1960s displayed a more publicly visible forum for “reformed” neodruidism, evident by the Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA), founded by Minnesota college students: first as a rebellion to the religious requirements of Carleton College, but it became a widespread modern contemporary avenue toward New Age ideals.
Ross Nichols had been a member of ADO for a decade when Arch Druid Robert MacGregor Reid passed away in 1963. The election for a new Chosen Chief produced a schism in the organization. Nichols felt that the Rosicrucian-Theosophical approach to neodruidism did not “feel” truly “druidic,” so he formed the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). The order still incorporated some Eastern philosophies but remained primarily Celtic. After his death, OBOD was passed down to Philip Carr-Gomm who jump-started the organization again in 1988. Most of the modern revival traditions of the 1990s-to-present seem heavily dependent on the OBOD materials and social networking. Most major contemporary neodruidic figures/authors have some connection to OBOD in England (or to COBOD, the Council of British Orders of the Druids).
Back in America, the RDNA tradition gave rise to an only slightly more solemn practice in the early 1980s under the direction of Isaac Bonewits. The new order, A Druid Fellowship (ADF) sought to provide for America what OBOD does for Europe. Both organizations eventually became an international success. But then, as is common in neo-druidism, another schism erupted. In 1986, some members broke away from ADF to form the Henge of Keltria (HK), which justifiably sought to remove the wiccan influence that overran the ADF materials.
The neodruidism of the 21st Century really belongs to the youth of society, the young and middle-aged seekers. At one time it seemed to be a social organization aimed at the older and more established working class. Today, the ecological responsibility proposed by the “Druid Way” speaks to those that fear the near-future state of the Earth Planet. It is the younger generations that are feeling the effects and fearing the future as they work to solidify their own lives on an ever-changing canvas. The long-term effects of crude oil use, chlorine-based refrigerants, freshwater pollution and air quality are beginning to take affect, though it seems the elder mongers with cash interests in these products simply don’t care about those of us that will still be alive in the oncoming decades. The world of neodruidism has come into existence among the common classes because of the calling felt to aid in the restoration and balance of Nature… —Joshua Free
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