Glastonbury is a nightmare Avalon is a dream The mirror mists with magic and myth and tales of kings and queens. Some say this is the planet's heart, a chakra, one of only seven Some say a temple of the stars The land reflects a map of heaven Here, so they say, King Arthur lay beside his Guinevere. Here they say a blossom bloomed That came from Arimathea. Glastonbury is a nightmare Avalon is a dream The mirror mists with magic and myth and tales of kings and queens. Before the Abbey was a church not made by human hand Twelve hermits met to mark the mass The first church in this land. An Abbey raised to the glory of God torn down by lust and greed Is now a sanctuary of peace For a small entrance fee Glastonbury is a nightmare The holy thorn defaced By those who do not understand the magic of this place. Glastonbury is a nightmare where juggernauts hold sway The people squeezed against the wall Out on the Chilkwell way to where we see St Michael's tower, a church by dragon's power struck down. A pulse that beats across the Earth, draws people in from miles around. They come to dance, they come to pray They come to hear the music play Some come in search of mystic treasures Some are pilgrims, some seek pleasure. You can spot the wizards, they have pointy beards You can spot the pixie people, they have pointy ears Some come seeking arcane knowledge Some seek an invisible college And often those who come are changed Some are blessed and some deranged Where starlings murmur and bitterns boom You may find a grail to sooth your wounds Find nature's magic in this place where myths and magic interlace. Where dragons dance, the white and red where Bridie spins a delicate thread And maybe we're not all believers but in this tapestry we're all weavers And yes, there is much here to treasure Right here, this room, these bards, our friends. Mystic or not we share our breathing Inspired by mysteries again. If Glastonbury is a nightmare and Avalon a dream The mirror reflects our magic power We all are kings and queens. You all are Gods and Goddesses (like everybody else) I'm blessed enough to have some mead I'll raise it now to your good health. MAY GLASTONBURY FLOURISH! © Stephen Radford 2022
Linking us to Bards of old, may their spirit our words sustain.
My job it is to tell a tale, to conjure from the flames
Of our flickering fire great heroes with glory to their names.
Our theme this night, the chaired Bard’s choice of test,
Is the legend of the immortal who loved us mortals best,
Who made of us makers, thinkers, creators in his image,
With fiery ingenuity our future to manage.
Our breath a flame, our very gaze an horizon,
We stride like giants this earth our mighty footprint lies on.
I would illuminate tonight with beams of verse
The titanic struggle between the best of man and worst.
Our elemental being was shaped by that fond incendiary,
Whose tricks on the gods landed him in quandary.
But while they would have had us four-footed, snuffling in the mire,
Legend says that twice he gifted us with fire.
Our culture, science and arts all arise from there,
From burning particles which like us feed on air.
We stared in cave or camp at white, yellow, orange, red.
The flame bit our brains, like visions, like horses in the head.
From cooking and a hearth rose human sensuality
Such comfort perhaps cut us off from animality
With time to sit and use the captious brain
Human inventiveness and a world of ideas were set in train.
So man became maker of marks, urging to pursue his line,
His tracks he left by wheel and forge, the metal and the mine.
Outgrowth and carapace now covered the Promethean clay
Of Iron John who feared his own tenderness, you might say.
Somehow we all got robbed of our birthright in nature to dwell,
The commons stolen from under us and work sent to hell.
The iron grip of industry ripped us from the land,
Into the maw of commerce we were pitched by Mammon’s hand.
To animate and generate, transform mere natural matter,
The glamour of such alchemy is a spell that didn’t shatter.
The march of progress on an anvil beats out time
Bronze age, Iron age, through to Nuclear age, heart of this rhyme.
For whereto has it brought us, this civilisation?
A knife-edge, a cliff-edge, from our own annihilation,
Where all that is beautiful in the human world
Seems to have a shadow around it cankerously curled.
Maths, music, medicine, astronomy and art,
Architecture, navigation, and of science the dark heart,
To what ends have these been twisted, sating artificial need?
Humankind’s bright, bold abilities made void by yawning greed.
Power-hungry leaders, of economies and armies flick the switches.
Under concrete, under shelling, the seed of hope scarce twitches.
Against this barrage, the world in oil, arms and money remade,
We consumers flick switches too, on battalions of gadgets arrayed.
Only the technological fix can ease our woes.
Natural, renewable, self-sufficient, small-scale? None of those.
And here in Somerset, Hinkley Point’s the way to doom.
By the holy carrot of jobs we’re driven its miasma to consume.
EDF ONR DCO EPR, an alphabet soup of toxicity,
Letters which brand us like cattle and fence us in with electricity.
Dead in the water of Bridgwater Bay the notion of public utility
Sold off and then subsidised, guess who foots the bill for so-called profitability.
They say, ‘We’re all about low carbon, we make the world cleaner and greener.
Our inspiration gives you a future, we’re as pure as the breath of Athena.’
Sweeteners and backhanders, energy bosses at the government table.
Consultation’s for the birds, their PR twitter a new Tower of Babel.
The pressure is on in a company town to take their radiant shilling,
Sucking crumbs from corporate finger, as subcontractors aim to make a killing.
While Ukippers winge about windfarms, the nuclear behemoth circles our boat.
And Hinkley buzzes and blazes like some nightmare carnival float.
Denatured, disenchanted, the sacred elements in there they fix,
Splitting, rearranging, rewriting nature’s old wise tricks.
Infecting, injecting the body of the land with radiation,
Laying waste docile populus, sick from vaccination.
To keep the lights on in Britain, have we put out our own?
To blight our grandchildren’s lives with dangers well-known.
Our faith is in Atomic Rod, not Church or Earth, intuition, spirit divine.
On flat-screen TV, The Blue Planet HD. Gone Fission says the sign.
Against nature we have bent our wits, oh! hubris improper.
Did even Pandora imagine what we might un-stopper?
Can the nuclear genie be put back in the steel and concrete jar?
Human paradigms remade, earthly paradise regained, by seeing far?
Corporations and their scientists life’s divinity blaspheme.
Economic necessity the wheel on which they break our dream.
Fire would be our attribute, so thought our benefactor,
But not even the gods saw the anti-worlds within the reactor.
Forces beyond our control, as thunder is heard to mutter.
Five miles down, they carve hell’s chamber and death in there they shutter.
What monstrous betrayal of the love our Mother Gaia bore,
Human folly punched in deep by iron fist to her core.
A fog of lies they spew, media mockery they orchestrate.
We’re naysayers, nimbys, tree-huggers, we hold hands, sing and demonstrate.
Effete vicars, bloodless twerps, dim nostalgics, kith of Ludd,
They say we want the world dragged back to primeval dark and mud.
Life’s tremulous sacred flame we act now to defend,
A task greater than that of our champion and fire-stealing friend.
Prometheus, you’ve been dishonoured by the race who won your trust.
Elemental you made us, out of sparks and rain and dust.
We are the stuff of cosmos and the heroes of the hour!
We shall stand tall and not before presumed consensus cower.
No man is god for all his power, that’s the moral of this tale.
Let’s remember our maker’s gentle hands, who loved us human-scale.
Flesh of clay, soul of fire, our perfection he built in.
Scientific improvement not required, just to see the light within.
May human clay give body to the spirit of the earth,
And sweet energy, of natural source, speak not death but birth.
Dear Bards of Ynys Witrin,
As a recently ‘Elder-ed’ Bard of Ynys Witrin I’d like to make an open invitation for Bards to compose on the theme of ‘The Fruits of the Land’ to perform for this year’s Harvest Show on Saturday 14th September in Glastonbury.
Admittedly this is well in advance, but it means we will have time to incubate some good ideas…
As you know, The Harvest Show is an important community event bringing people together of all ages, from all sections of the local community who have a passion for growing, baking, brewing and preserving.
However, last year, numbers were a bit sparse when it came to the produce auction so we need some performer in song, story and/or verse to give the day a boost!
What better event to honour by putting our Bardic pens to paper?
Please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
This year’s contest for the Bardic Chair of Ynys Witrin was won by Lisa Goodwin. The crown was awarded jointly to Harmony Davies and Hugh le Provost; Richard Field won the fool’s prize for the second year running and the Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy was awarded posthumously to Graham Coles. The standard of entries was higher than ever and the atmosphere for the Finals was electric.
We had a gorgeous Gorsedh ceremony on Sunday afternoon – the weather held off ominously overhead. It is with great sadness we remember the passing this year of Graham Coles, Glastonbury’s Town Crier and Honorary Bard and Nikki Dorakis, who provided valuable magical support in the initial setting up of the Gorsedh. Gerry performed her duties admirably, initiating seven new Bards and graduating to Elder herself. We would like to welcome Thalia Brown – *Lady of Avalon, Senga Skylark, Duncan Batey, Steve Astronaut, Lisa Goodwin, Jeremy Bull and Hugh le Provost as new members of the college. It was lovely to have the Mayor attending this year and it was a profoundly moving experience to welcome Geoffrey Ashe as an Honorary Bard. I shall treasure the look on his face for years to come! Thanks to Lydia Lyte (Swordbearer), Denise Michell (Elder Druid) and Shamus Joy (Herald) for holding the energy of the ceremony so gracefully. It was great to be able to chill out at the Buddleia Bar afterwards and ground the energy with some mouth-watering cheesecake!
All watch Violet in the lane,
Kissing Mister Toad again,
Does she think that we don’t know
Of how they carry on…?
Violet doesn’t understand –
The rumours, now, are out of hand,
Does she think that we don’t know
The secret of Mister Toad…?
And whispers there –
Violet shrinks ‘cause the Toad don’t care,
Does she think that we don’t know
She’s at his every whim…?
Now Violet comes to understand
This Toad plays only underhand,
Yet, still she thinks that we don’t know
The secret of Mister Toad…
He has warts upon his skin
And no one knows quite where he’s been,
And we don’t like him,
We dislike him,
We don’t like him very much at all…
You could be my bride –
Stand for ever
Right here, by my side.
You could hold my hand,
But I know that you wouldn’t understand…
See a girl who lost her dreams –
Through the holes ripped in her seams,
Watch her pine her life away,
Since Mister Toad hopped away.
‘cause Mister Toad didn’t want to play –
Mister Toad just hopped away…
And, just for a moment,
The world paused from turning,
Lost in the depths
Of a dark diamond sky,
Black August velvet –
And no one else saw them;
Just you there, and I…
I looked up for hope,
An end to the sorrow,
And a bright star came falling –
From Heavens on high,
I held your hand
And knew you were smiling,
No words broke that silence –
No sound, save your sigh…
And yet, still another,
Came down, silent, sailing,
A second wish granted
To send upon high,
And I still remember
The peace that we sought there,
Beneath russet Moon
And glittering sky…
So cherish these memories,
Burned now for ever,
Let them live in your heart –
There, never to die,
And remember the joy
Of those stars which came falling,
And those moments of magic,
For you, and for I.
And once again soft scented breezes
Caressed the perfection of morning,
Sighing from nowhere,
Heading anywhere – everywhere.
Rustling restless motions
Searching amidst the wild growth
Of the roadside
And in far flung fields and around
An astounding blaze –
Yellow and gold
Snatched my breath,
Left me for a moment without.
What towering giants stood there,
Heads upturned towards azure sky,
And the blazing eye,
So tall and fair these massed ranks –
Swayed by sweet breath of summer,
Lost in a whispered conversation –
Hushed to all but themselves
They nodded and smiled
A mutual agreement
To silent sentiments
Only they could comprehend.
And then far away a sudden burst
Of birdsong, carrying down the breeze;
As though her very heart might break
If that melody were to stop
Before it reached Heaven above.
And I thought I understood
The nodding of those flowers
Growing all around.
And for an instant
I thought I knew
There was a God
And the world
Was at peace,
Dazed and bewildered
Standing ‘pon stygian shores
Of midnight’s deepest myre,
Drowned in darkness,
There exists no sight;
No sound –
Seems no sense at all.
Nothing is fresh.
There is no life;
No breath –
Of welcome death.
Feels no sense at all.
Nothing thrives or grows – Under realm and reign
Of Nocturne’s fallen Darkling Prince.
Stillness of smothersome silence encroaches
‘pon everything around,
Leaving naught but slow fade
of human memory.
Wracked and ruined rubble –
Fallen; falling still,
From vaulten gilded firmaments filled
With beautiful, fire-fretted dreams of an ancient world –
Paradise long lost,
Where soft spreadling wings
Once bore a fool aloft –
With laughter, light,
All that went before –
A Tower for to build.
So look you…!
And cast your eyes not down.
Gaze thee ‘pon a tragic, benighted fool.
Look now –
And see him very well.
One who hoped – oft-times ventured
That his tower might reach the Moon,
’til he smote at its foundations,
Laying waste to all around
Paralysed and useless –
Fool’s tower hit the ground …
Now ’tis very dark here –
And I can’t find my way
The Trollimoste- Gumbell dids’t lumberode forth
To espy, whereupon he coulds’t fathom.
He perused a course of Westerly-North
’til he chanced on the Uppermost Lathom.
“Oh dearest Lathom“, the Trollimoste said,
Pray what is the secret of greatness…?
And the Lathom replied –
In the Trollimoste’s head –
“Sliced bread, and a penchant for lateness“.
The Trollimoste-Gumbell dids’t whiffle away
With a dose of Great-Ego-Inflatus,
And he said to himself
“Therefore, to be great
I’ll eat bread and be known for me lateness“.
Several years passed –
Neither slowly nor fast,
And the Trollimoste kept to his vigil.
But no greatness became,
Nor fortune, nor fame,
Though he dids’t meets a Trollimoste-Girgil.
So once more our drear Trollimoste lumberade forth –
Great riddle forto unrathom,
He perused that old course –
One of Westerly-North
’til he chanced upon said Lathom.
“Oh dearest Lathom“, the Trollimoste sighed,
“Pray, why’m I not great, just like you…?”
And the Lathom replied
“That’s b’cause I lied,
But you took silly words at face value“.
And the moral to this sordiest tale…?
Don’t be like the Trollimoste-Gumbell.
When conversing whith Lathoms
– By word OR by tail –
Don’t try to be great
They asked me “was I ready?”
I, who have been beyond the nine keyless doors
beyond nine gates, nine veils,
beyond the mirthless, shining eye,
crept through the constricting labyrinths of earth,
gazed fearless through the skrying-cup of rebirth…
And now they hang me up
by one foot
from the dread and battling tree.
the hook of the heavens stretches me to the distant stars and
Hertha, below, reaches tenderly towards my skull.
No sister, I am not yours yet.
Alone I hang,
A shuddering bait for the Gods
and now the
Queen is arriving.
Made of fracturing ice and the
still-coursing blood of her
Bring her on!
She is riding
and gaining behind me swinging her furs
hooves ricochet rock and thunder the howl of her dogs, her court
and company full-tilt screech and rage, stench of rotting pelts, thunder louder,
my empty stomach contracts
yellow-eyed wall of deafening dogs and hooves towards my hanging form in an impossibly straight line,
white their skin
and steel their teeth,
to rip me apart and
my soul and
straight through me,
racing on to the white horizon,
a hunting horn shrills
and they vanish.
in my cocoon.
Swung and twisted by the winds of form.
Washed free by the rains of my heart,
Stung by the sunlight of shame.
Numb, the roar of rooks above.
As bait, I hang
a hollowed fruit impaled
by a black winter branch
As bait for the Gods,
my dead boy’s face.
As bait, I hang
the scent of bluebells and tears.
As bait for the Gods,
a golden crown.
As bait, I hang
my own heart beating, held in someone’s bloodied hands.
Myself to myself.
Forms and forms take shape into
So many riches…
They cut me down
and birthed me back into the world
they asked me ‘was I ready?’
I said for what?
The true initiation,
was merely the trial.
be worthy of your gifts.
We’re thrilled to announce that Gerry Barnett won the 2012 contest for the Bardic Chair to become the 7th Bard of Ynys Witrin. The Crown went to Harmony and the Fool’s Hat was presented to Richard Field. The Judges decided to award the Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy to Nathan Lewis Williams for his work in “the elevation of the word” and Tara was accepted as Younger Bard of Ynys Witrin for 2012.
10 new Bards were initiated at the Open Gorsedh ceremony, so we welcome Richard Field, Denise Michell, Gerry Barnett, Lokabandu, Carol, Stuart Packer, Morag of he Moor, David Muir, Andy and Daygan into the fold. Honorary Bardships were also awarded to Pok and Graham Coles (The Town Crier of Glastonbury) in recognition of their unique contributions to the community.
With 14 contenders in the Trials, this was the biggest contest we’ve held so far and the standard of the entries was phenomenal. Thank you to everyone who took part and contributed to making it happen!
A short video showing the announcement of rules and the timing of the next Bardic competition in 2012.
The Mayor of Glastonbury was present, along with the town crier.