Glastonbury's Bardic College


Gorsedh Circle 2007Gorsedh Ynys Witrin is a Bardic College based in Glastonbury. Our primary focus is to support, promote and honour Pan-Celtic culture, spirituality and creativity within the local community. To this end, we hold a yearly competition to decide the next Bard of Glastonbury and an annual Open Gorsedh ceremony at which the new Bards are publicly invested. We also facilitate irregular Bardic Circle meetings and poetry / music / storytelling evenings where members and guests can share their creativity and offer workshops and performances at various local festivals and events.

In the Celtic Tradition, the term Bard describes a wordsmith or linguist with particular skill in poetry, songwriting or storytelling. The original bards were Iron Age poet-mystics who kept the lore and history of their tribes, held high status and fulfilled an important cultural role. Glastonbury is one of a number of towns in England, which, according to tradition, can elect their own Bard to represent the local arts scene. The use of the word has continued through to modern times, Robert Burns, for example, is referred to as The Bard of ScotlandWilliam Shakespeare, who dramatised the lives of King Lear and Cymbeline is known as The Bard of AvonRobin Williamson has been honoured as the Chief Bard of OBOD and Billy Bragg is sometimes called The Bard of BarkingMore on the history of Bardism …

The Bardic Chair of Ynys Witrin

The Bardic Chair of Ynys WitrinEvery year we hold a  competition to choose the next Bard of Glastonbury and hold an Open Gorsedh ceremony to celebrate creativity and bring new Bards into the College.

Each chaired Bard holds the post for one year and a day, before setting up a competition to elect a successor. The Chair refers to the position but, in some cases, as in Glastonbury and Bath, there is a physical ceremonial chair which is passed down from bard to bard. We also have a blue ceremonial robe and the ceremonial Silver Branch of Ynys Witrin, which are passed on with the title. Each Bardic Chair has its own Celticised name and is frequently associated with a specific location which is often, but not always, a natural or man-made mound or stone circle. Of course in Glastonbury the natural focus is the Tor.

The Rhapsody
Taliesin’s Rhapsody is read to the newly chaired bard.

The contest is open to Poets, Storytellers and Songwriters who compose on a given theme each year. We meet up over the third week in May to celebrate local arts & culture and share in creativity, performances & ceremony. The new Bard is Chaired at the Finals, which are held on St Dunstan’s Day (May 19th) every year.

The Institution of the Bardic Chair of Glastonbury is independent and belongs first and foremost to the people of Glastonbury, regardless of faith, background or politics. The position of Bard of Glastonbury is open to anyone who lives within walking distance of the Tor. We trust that anyone wishing to join us will be sympathetic to the Celtic Tradition from which it claims its heritage. See Rules of the Bardic Trials

Some previous years’ entries can be read in our Poetry archive.

Performers who wish to enter the contest for the Bardic Chair of Ynys Witrin this year must fill in an Official Entry Form, which is usually available from the Library of Avalon, Glastonbury High Street, Somerset. This year’s Open Gorsedh is being organised by the Gorsedh Committee of the Bardic Council of Ynys Witrin. Contact us here for further information.

Previous Winners

Year Theme Chair Crown TSMT
2006 Gwyn ap Nudd: King of the Faeries Tim Hawthorn
2007 The Nine Maidens Dearbhaile Bradley Merlin of the Woods Steve Potier
2008 The Spirit of Trees Ash David Reakes Theo Simon
2009 All that Glisters is not Gold David Reakes Tony Atkinson Jo Waterworth
2010 Flight Tony Atkinson Phil Stretch Kat Brown
2011 Twelve Giants: The Glastonbury Zodiac Kali Roberts Tim Hawthorn Oshia Drury
2012 The Initiation Gerry Barnett Harmony Davies
2013 The legend of Prometheus Lisa Goodwin Hugh le Provost and Harmony Davies Graham Coles
2014 The Waters of Avalon Therèse Liddy Stephen Cole Tim Hall
2015 The Twilight of the Gods Wes White Lisa Ceneri Steve Leighton
2016 Tarot theme (The Magician) Sarah Mooney Bruce Garrard
2017 Silence Billy the Celt Silver Pen Michelle Diaz
2018 The Virtues of Humility Becki Nagle Michelle Diaz Jon Cousins
2019 (to 2021) Change Pok Nathan Lewis Williams

The Bardic Crown was retired in 2016 as the function of Deputy could satisfactorily be covered by other Elders or prizewinners. A prize for written contributions, The Silver Pen, was subsequently proposed by Tony Atkinson and first awarded to Michelle Diaz at the 2018 Open Gorsedh.

In loving memory

For their tutelage, inspiration and guidance.

Tim Woodman Sebastion
(1947 – 2007) Chosen Chief of the Secular Order of Druids, Archdruid of Wiltshire, then Bath and a founding member of the Gorsedd of Bards of Caer Abiri. Tim was chairman of both the Antiquarian Picnic Society and the Stonehenge Cricket Club.
Ray Kerley
Archdruid of Glastonbury. Ray was a jeweller and Gnostic Christian, whose family had long been Welsh Druids.
Ritchie Bond
(1947 – 2004) Artist and constructor of our fabulous Bardic Chair.
Alison Collyer
Alison came to Glastonbury in 1979 to run a Christian community farm and to help animals.
Jacqueline Memory Patterson
(1945 – 2004) Co-founder of the Glastonbury Order of Druids and the author of “Tree Wisdom: The definitive guidebook to the myth, folklore and healing power of Trees”.
John Michell
(1933 – 2009) British antiquarian and writer. Author of “The View Over Atlantis”, probably the most influential book in the history of the hippy/underground movement, which put ley lines on the map and made Glastonbury the capital of the New Age. More about John …
Graham Coles
Glastonbury Town Crier 2006 – 2013. Graham G0BKU was a Ham Radio enthusiast and counsellor for Alcoholics Anonymous. He was a fine ambassador for Glastonbury.
Denny Michell
Bard, Elder Ovate and founding Elder Druid of Gorsedh Ynys Witrin. Seamstress, Faerie Queen and Mayor of Glastonbury.
Sheena Johnstone
Artist and Dancer with Silver on the Tree.

One thought on “About”

  1. hallo, I used to live in Street and while there I designed an Ynys Witrin T shirt.
    It was not popular in the Abbey shop whereas the Glastonbury T Shirt was so I still have these T shirts, research gave me a spelling of Yhyswytrin. The T shirt is on my etsy shop and that is
    I would be pleased to discuss a price for them if you are interested.

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