Category Archives: Poetry

The Great Global Gowk-Hunt

This was my 2009 entry for the Open Gorsedd on the theme “All that Glisters is Not Gold”. I almost certainly pronounced quite a few of these names quite wrongly, so apologies for any wincing this might have provoked at the time. In particular I was glad to think I was the only one who’d remember my attempt to get my mouth round the name of the Sidhichean when David Muir made effortless mention of them in his story in the trials this year.

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The Great Global Gowk-Hunt

When people talk about “fool’s gold”, they don’t just mean gold. It means anything that we can desire, and it means anything that can seduce us into believing it is that thing which we desire.

So a chair can be a kind of fool’s gold. So can bread rolls. So can a bird.

The cuckoo is a bird that first hatches in a nest that was built by birds that are not cuckoos and who are not its own parents. They then fool their adoptive parents into raising them as their own, and systematically dispose of each and every one of their would-be siblings by pushing the other chicks, one by one, out of the nest to their doom.

They are chirping changelings.

In Scotland, one name they have for the cuckoo is a “gowk”, and there’s an April Fool’s tradition up there called “hunting the gowk”. The game is that you give the person you want to fool a message, written down and folded over on a piece of paper, and you ask them to deliver it to a friend of yours but not to read. Your messenger is “the gowk”. When the message gets there, your friend opens up the paper and reads it and the message on it reads,

“Never laugh, never smile, Hunt the gowk another mile”.

Then he knows to get a new piece of paper, write the same message on that one, fold it over, and give it back to the poor fool with instructions to take this message on to yet another friend – and so on, until the gowk’s been hunted all over town.

There’s also traditionally a second day of foolish festivities in Scotland, on April 2nd. This one involves ‘rear-related jokes’, such as pinning messages onto people’s bottoms.

There is a group of fairies in Scotland called the Sidhichean (SHEE-ichan). And there’s a restaurant in Melbourne, Australia called The Cuckoo. And there’s reason to think that the Sidhichean might have played a great big game of Hunt the Gowk with all of the world’s divine tricksters, and chaos gods, and great wise fools, which resulted in the events that took place outside that restaurant in Melbourne on April 1st 2007.

It’s hard not to think, that on April 1st 2007, a little Scottish fairy Sidhichean might have wanted to have a little tricksy fun, and might just have decided on that day to flit over the North Sea to Scandinavia, and whisper in the Norse god Loki’s ear, “hunt the gowk”!

And it’s hard not to think that Loki, getting the game and wanting as ever to play, might have turned himself into a mare, and galloped down through North-Eastern Europe to the Slavic lands where he found mighty Veles and whinnied in Veles’ ear, “hunt the gowk”!

And that Veles went down to North Caucasia to whisper to Sosruko “hunt the gowk”!, and that Sosruko crossed the Black Sea to Greece and found powerful Eris and whispered in her ear “hunt the gowk”!, and that she must have gone West across Europe, spreading strife wherever she went, and whispered it to San Martin Txiki in the Basque woods, and that he travelled down through every woodland in Spain and in Morroco, and that on the West African coast he told little spider Anansi “hunt the gowk’!

And then – because we’re only halfway there – it’s hard not to think that Anansi might have spun his web halfway across Africa on April 1st 2007 to tell the Yoruban trickster Eshu “hunt the gowk’!, or that Eshu could have made his way along his roads and over his crossroads, with his hat black on one side and red on the other side, the rest of the way across Africa to Egypt, and told the mighty Egyptian Set, with his strange finny ears “hunt the gowk’!

And Set must then have found Yam in Syria making Chaos in a river, who flowed upstream to Old Persia where he babbled ‘hunt the gowk’ to the Arabian wise fool Nasreddin, who rode backwards on his donkey to India and told laughing Krishna, who bent down and boomed it at the Chinese monkey-king Sun Wukong, who bound a thousand miles South to the Philippines in a single somersault and told lazy Juan Tamad “hunt the gowk’!, who just about bothered to tell the little Indonesian mouse-deer Kantjil “hunt the gowk’!, who scurried all the way finally to the North coast of Australia, and there told the old Aboriginal trickster Bamapana “hunt the gowk’! who took him at his word, and made his way South to Melbourne, to the restaurant I told you about earlier.

The Cuckoo was Australia’s first Smorgasbord restaurant and is home to the world’s largest free-standing cuckoo clock. They have yodelling there as often as possible, and Father Christmas visits in June and July.

But in the reason it’s hard not to think that the trickster gods might have been involved in the events which took place at the Cuckoo Restaurant on April 1st 2007, and that Bamapana wasn’t there infesting things with his chaotic magic, is that the events that took place at the Cuckoo restaurant on April 1st 2007 were as follows – and this, my friends – is a true story.

On April 1st 2007, the Cuckoo restaurant in Melbourne was approached by a pair of people with the intention of robbing it. One of the robbers was called Donna Hayes and the other was Benjamin Jorgensen. Benjamin had a sawn-off shotgun.

As Benjamin and Donna approached the restaurant, so they saw the manager of the Cuckoo emerge with the takings – about $30,000 worth of cash. And they apprehended him and told him to hand it over.

But what the manager of the Cuckoo knew, and they didn’t, was that the bag was not, in fact, full of notes and coins, but $5 worth of bread rolls. And knowing this, and knowing the significance of the calendar date, the manager of the Cuckoo assumed that the man brandishing the sawn-off shotgun at him and demanding that he hand his bag of bread rolls over was joking, and he laughed it off.

Donna and Benjamin, meanwhile believing the bag to be full of huge amounts of cash, insisted, and duly the bread rolls were handed over, in the course of which Benjamin accidentally shot Donna in the arse.

They then ran as best they could, but in their confusion and stress, they picked out a car that was not their getaway car, a car which they frantically failed to open until such time as they were apprehended by what may well have been laughing policemen.

Now you can’t tell me that at a place called the Cuckoo, on April Fool’s Day, that a pair of robbers running to the wrong car with a bag of bread rolls and one shooting each other in the bum in the process is just a coincidence – and that someone with a bit of magic in them wasn’t hunting the gowk that day.

But it’s important to remember that for all the fools we’ve seen, we’re the biggest fools of all if we laugh too hard at the hapless gowks with the shotgun, because a bread roll at the right time is a wonderful thing – and no matter how much gold you’ve got in your pocket, it won’t do you any good to eat it.

All that glitters is not gold

Have you heard of the tales of ‘glamourie’?

Long since practiced by ‘the sidhe’ and still practiced by ‘he’ or ‘she’

In this fair town of Glastonbury?

 

Beware the ‘glamourie’!

Gwynn up Nudd invited a Christian monk to see

His faerie halls and banquets of great revelry

But holy water he did throw upon Gwynns parade of pomp and show,

Left Gwynn abandoned on the Tor through wind and snow.

 

Strange masked face at the ball,

For nothing is ever at all what you think you see,

Watch out for ‘pixie trickery!’

 

Glastonbury draws ‘cosmic cadets,’

‘kaleidoscopic travellers,’

pagan princesses’ and ‘psychadelic faeries ‘(to name but a few).

 

Let us not forget to live in honour by stone,sea,leaf and tree..

What glitters most dances upon the sea,

In a droplet of dew lives aworld of endless possibility,

What glitters most are the waves of your soul,

Beating against your heart-shore to make you whole…

 

So do not be bought by these trinkets of a false spirituality,

Watch the mindless beaurocracy fall,

Replace it with something more beautiful,more natural,more magical.……

 

Share the ‘nectar of inspiration,’

Smoke that ‘pipe of peace,’

May the greed and destruction come to cease!

For you see all that glitters isn’t truly gold…

 

Be warned of ‘the glamourie’,

Don’t get burnt like the moth travelling to the light,

Be ,instead in your gold of pure delight..

Reach, ever-reaching back to stone, sea, leaf and tree..

Go beyond, far beyond ‘the glamourie’.

 

Dive into this moment, it’s already here!

Live a life of freedom, without the fear,

(Say the wise ones of today and yesteryear.)

 

Fill yourself with that golden light of you

In your own golden light be true.

To be me is far beyond ‘the glamourie’.

 

For we are the harmony, the harmony  is us,

It lives in the lovers first and last embrace,

In our most silent ‘heart space’.

For you do not need ‘the glamourie,’

just ….

b r e a t h e ….

For the gold…

the real gold….

the true gold is …..

to have a heart of gold…..

 

(Finalist  poem in 2009 Bardic Finals of Ynys Witrin)

9° = 2° Magus

one of eleven pieces from my entry for the 2009 gorsedh (deputy bard year!) double acrostic in golden triads of olde english bang-bang-bang-crash style

9° = 2° Magus

THE CATACLYSMIC CROW’S ORIGINS
OUTLAST OLDER, OUTMODED NONPAREIL
NATURAL NESTLINGS’ NECROMANTIC TREMBLE

YAWNINGLY YOUTHFUL, THEY YEARN FOR AMORE
AS SYMMETRICAL SWAN SWEETHEARTS TRIP
THE LIGHT LAMPTASTIC, LUMINATING, YELLOW

KINGFISHER, KITSCH KIPPERTIE, IGUANA
INTIMATE INCANDESCENCE, ILLUMINATORY NAVEL
NOW PEACOCKS’ PATTERN PUZZLE’S GIVEN A KICK

SINCE UNIONS, AS UNICORNS, ARE UNIQUE IN EACH OUTCOME
OR CO-ADEPTS CAN CRYSTALLISE NONGENDER
NEEDLINGS, THOUGH, MUST NURTURE THE NUANCES OF THE SCARAB

CRIMSONLY, THE CONCUBUS CLIMBS DOWN FROM HIS REGALIA
REAUDITING THE AURICLE, THE AUGURAL ”HE ART” AND ”E AR”
AS PELICANS PLUNDER THEIR OWN PLUMAGE FOR THEIR CHILD

BE A PHAROS TO THE PHAOROAH OF REPHOENIXED EGO
EMBRYO ENHALOES THE ERSTWHILE ALOOF
AS SHAPESHIFTERS SHUN RETRIBU-SHUN! BEAMINGLY

RECALCITRANT CERRIDWEN’S CAULDRON FOR TALIESIN
TWINNED TEMERITY TO THE TWICEBORN’S HUMILITY
HOW THE SHININGBROW SHIMMERS AS SHOWTIME RESOUNDS

MY OWN MONKEY MISCHIEF IN ITS OVERFLOW
OUTWHEELS THE OUROBORUS, AS ONENESS TO ALL NUCLEI –
NON-SEQUITURS’ NONSENSICAL NON-ENTITY IS MISS-MAINTENANT

KEY TO THE KINGDOM OF KINDOM IS THE ELIXIR
EACH GOLDHAWK IS GOADING HOW GOLDEN’S THEIR YOGI
YIELDING FROM THE YOKING OF YINYANG, BECAME! (KNOWN)

© Tony Atkinson

Open Gorsedh 2009

All that glisters posterThe Bardic Chair was contested in 2009 by several local poets, storytellers and musicians, with opening heats at Glastonbury Assembly Rooms, each contestant performing for up to 15 minutes on the given theme, chosen by the outgoing Bard.

Dearbhaile BradleyDearbhaile calling upon the Awen to open proceedings.

All that glisters is not gold

The Open Gorsedd attracted many outstanding performers and entertainers as well as visiting Bards and Druids from other orders. Entries were based on the theme – “All that glisters is not gold”.


The Contenders

Amanda GazidisAmanda made a powerful debut

Daru McAleeceDaru shocked and cajoled us with his poetic storytelling

David ReakesDavid warmed our hearts with his piece Little Golden Children EstebanEsteban sang a selection of exquisite songs Tony AtkinsonTony defied the laws of grammarye with 9° = 2° Magus Wes WhiteWes entertained us with his “The Great Global Gowk-Hunt”


The Entertainment

Bryan

Badly Housebound Girl Badly Housebound Girl

Nathan Nathan Lewis Williams

Pete Pete

Stevie P Steve Potier

and Willow Willow Seeger

New Members and Initiates of the Bardic College:

  • Wes White
  • Johanna van Fessem
  • Sheena Johnstone :: Lady of Avalon (2008)
  • Seano

Deliberations and Prizes

Judges deliberateThe panel deliberates …

TheoTheo announces the judges’ decision

Jo Waterworth receiving the TSMTDearbhaile and TSMTJo Waterworth wins the Tim Sebastion trophy


The Chairing

Tim and Silver BranchDavid ReakesTim explains the origins of Glastonbury’s Silver Branch

After a long and difficult discussion, the judges chose to chair David Reakes as the new Bard of Ynyswitrin and install Tony Atkinson as his deputy.

Photos: Barnaby J Hodges

The Gorsedh Circle

2009

I entered two poems in 2009 on the theme of “All that glisters is not gold”. Here they both are:

Crystallization

 

Now don’t get me wrong, I love where I live,

But something about it has started to give.

I’m not one for biting the hand that feeds me,

But I think this town’s got a little bit greedy.

Something is rotten in Glastonburg, something is rank and smelly,

Or, to put it another way, there’s a dark Glast-underbelly.

And at the risk of getting all down on yo’ asses:

Mammon stalks Avalon with backstage passes

To all the emporia on the High Street,

Putting everything sacred through a till and a spread sheet.

Plastic effigies of the Green Man,

Piles of ceramic camper vans,

Shamanic talismans (made in Bristol),

Sandals and candles and crystals and crystals!

Yes I know, we’re the good guys, and we have to keep earning,

There’s no shame asking folk to mix spending with learning.

But there comes a point when enough is enough,

Do we need thirty shops selling all the same stuff?

Our High Street is still the best in the land

With the useful, the quirky the grubby and the grand

All rubbing shoulders in the huge melting pot

That is Glastonbury High Street. But it’s losing the plot.

Avalon shoes, Theo Ginn’s menswear,

Stationers, florists, Millers hardware:

All of these shops have lately been lost,

And if we’re not careful we’ll soon count the cost

Of our very own brand of homogenisation,

Where shop after shop offers no variation,

Not through Globalisation  –

But Crystallization!

I’ve seen a future, dismal and dark,

Where this whole town’s one big Crystallized Theme Park,

With no Starbucks, Gap or KFC,

Just Glastucky Fried Ethnicity.

Will the pet shop or Dickets join the ranks of the dead?

Or, heaven forfend, Burns the Bread?

(Though you can stuff the Banks, the greedy barbarians,

And the Butchers too cos I’m vegetarian.)

None will be spared, all are devoured,

As the town is re-branded Alton(ative) Towers.

And no single shop deserves any blame

Cos they’re all fantastic… but they’re all just the same!

Diversity is the spice of life,

So let’s keep our shopping as free from strife

As choosing our food at a picnic al fresco.

Oh, and one other thing: say “No” to Tesco’s!

So don’t get me wrong, I love where I live,

But something about it has started to give.

And I’ll end with a warning, if I may be so bold,

And say: All that Glasto’s may not be gold.

Little Golden Children

 

I am life, I am laughter,

I am breath and warmth and youth.

I am princess, I am daughter,

I am strength and love and truth.

I am running through the garden,

Past the fountains, past the vines,

Running headlong to my father

Brimming joy in heart and mind.

I ignore the court and courtiers,

With their business grand and great,

I am princess, I am daughter

And my father king awaits.

Never once have I awoken

Without greeting him like this,

Nothing uttered, nothing spoken

Just a celebration kiss.

As I near I see him standing,

Staring at his outstretched hands,

Mouth agape and eyes demanding

To be told. To understand.

But it’s such a glorious morning,

And I’m young and fleet and bold!

I ignore these tiny warnings,

I ignore the gleam of gold.

Golden food on golden table,

Golden bough on golden tree

Should have stopped me were they able

But momentum carries me

To my father’s warm embraces

And I’m there before he knows,

But there’s horror on the faces

Of the courtiers as we close.

And I hear a cry of anguish,

And I see my father’s pain

Showing torment beyond language,

Even as I start to change.

Time slows

Fingers tingle

Flesh glows

Blood mingles

Thickens

Sickens

This deadly

Alchemy

Re-arranging me

Feeling strange in me

Claiming me

Staining me

Stealing through me

Metal surges

Metal urges

Purges all feeling and thought

I am tempered and taught

Solid and wrought

Modified, commodified

Sold and bought

My heart beat broken, stolen,

One last metallic breath.

Silence is golden,

And so is death.

I am lifeless, I am slaughter,

I am breathless, cold and old.

I was princess, I was daughter,

Now I’m priceless, worthless gold.

Open Gorsedh 2008

The theme for 2008 was “The Spirit of Trees”.

New members:

  • Stella Joy
  • Moyra Lynch
  • Amanda Gazidis
  • Daru McAleece :: Bard of the Borders.
  • Karen Smith
  • Nathan Lewis Williams :: Nathan has been one of the main organisers of Gorsedh events since the Order’s inception in 2005.

Theo Simon was awarded the Tim Sebastian Memorial Trophy, David Reakes won the Crown and Ash the Rhymer snatched the chair with a dazzling performance.

Open Gorsedh 2007

2007′s Open Gorsedd was organised in conjunction with the “Megalithomania” conference, which was also being held on the same weekend at the Assembly Rooms. Our thanks go to the Megalithomania team for helping to promote the Open Gorsedd along with the conference. It was with the greatest of sadness that this year’s proceedings had to be conducted without the presence of Tim Sebastion, former Archdruid of Caer Baddon and prime catalyst in the re-establishment of the Bardic Chairs of Albion, who died earlier in the year. This event became quite a moving memorial to his vision.

Nine Maidens

Tim HallWith the theme having been announced by Tim Hall , residing Bard of Glastonbury 05-07, as “Nine Maidens”, the competition was opened to ten contestants each performing for up to fifteen minutes and being judged on the following qualities : Inspiration; originality; working with the audience; presence; emotive appeal; spontaneity; artistry/craft; wisdom and/or foolishness and of course, relevance to the theme.

Judging the ContestThese qualities certainly were in evidence on Tuesday night, creating quite a task for the five judges, Tony Thomson, Denny Michell, Oshia Drury, Thalia Brown and Taruna Das, who had to choose six finalists from amongst them for the final on Saturday night.

Merlin of the WoodsFirst to take the stage was Merlin of the Woods, with his beautiful nine part symphony of the Tale of Nine Maidens. As he spoke his story unfolded, he sang his words and played his lute, and the magic of the evening immediately came to life. A true minstrel and storyteller in our midst, really, one thought the evening couldn’t get much better.

Ezmerelda SangerEzmerelda Sanger, an artist who entered the competition as a result of a broken arm, came up with a wonderful performance, the story beginning with the virgin Mary, who gives birth to hope, and then wended her magical way, to bring us up to date with the birth of her own daughter. Her impersonation of Margaret Thatcher being a particularly funny and unexpected note in this gem of a piece.

CraigCraig presented a forthright interpretation of the nine-fold theme with his own brand of high performance poetry.

Marco CoppenhagenMarco Koppenhagen gave us a whimsical, bittersweet folksong and a rather humorous treatment of the theme.

Dearbhaile BradleyDearbhaile Bradley,who originally had thought the theme to be the number nine, had clearly researched her subject thoroughly and as a result brought to the Gorsedd a most thoughtful piece of poetry, “The Power of Nine,” full of power, stunningly written, and delivered with a passion that had the entire audience hooked.

David ReakesDavid Reakes, the Fiddler; told his tale in the style of the Pied Piper, disturbing, original, brilliant. The tale of a wedding, the guests transfixed by a spell, they danced till they became stone. Unfinished was his tale on Tuesday, but still remarkable enough to get him through to the final, we had to wait in anticipation to hear the end of his story.

Tony AtkinsonTony Atkinson took the theme of Nine Maidens to a genuinely Bardic level, creating his poem “999” with nine verses, nine lines to each verse and nine syllables to each line. His tale of classical allusion was a remarkable structural achievement.

MichaelaMichaela, a true Bard in the making, has clearly worked really hard on her performing skills since entering last year, and brought us a ballad of the maidens, alluringly sung and accompanied by Merlin, a beguiling performance.

John JohnsonJohn Johnson’s contribution seemed a little ill-prepared, although pleasant enough, it didn’t really touch on the given theme.

Rohini 2007The evening of profound entertainment was wonderfully wrapped up for us by Rohini, who unfortunately had not realized there was a theme for the competition , but was still kind enough to entertain us with his talking drum and his beautiful words. He began with a Sanskrit invocation which then led into a song of three parts. The first part tells us how the sound of nature inspires the song writer, the second of the appreciation of mother earth and the nurturing and shelter she gives us, and finally in the third part talks of the spiritual world, that as we roam the physical world we are each making our personal journey to our spiritual world. This piece was possibly not quite what the judges were asking for, but nevertheless a fine reminder of what we were doing there and a fitting end to the evening.

Tony ThompsonWe were back to the Assembly Rooms on Thursday for open mike night where artists who did not wish to enter the competition were invited to take to the stage. We were treated to a wealth of talent which included more from the fabulous Tim Hall, still the chaired Bard,performing alone as well as with the uber talented Oshia Drury, who also performed solo this evening. Beautiful guitar playing from Tony Thompson, bespoke guitar maker and chair of judges, the deeply haunting sounds of Brian’s vocal improvisation. Kevan, the third Bard of Bath, treated us to his version of the story if Taliesin’s birth. A memorable experience and an honour to be present.


Gorsedh Circle 2007The traditional open air Gorsedd ceremony was held at the Fairfields on Glastonbury Tor and four new Bards: Merlin of the Woods; Ezmerelda Sanger; Craig and Bryan Holder were given the Awen initiation and admitted to the order. We remembered Tim Sebastion and gave thanks for his life and closed with the cry for peace, then the newly initiated bards along with the Elder Bards and the judges made their way back to the Assembly Rooms for the final heat.


We were again treated to the six finalists performing their entries, starting off with more wonderful songs from Tim on this, his final evening as chaired bard.

Guest performances included:

Ash MandrakeAsh Mandrake, Bard of Caer Baddon (Bath);

Kevan Manwaring reading the Brown BookKevan Manwaring;

MarkMark Lindsey Earley, Bard of Caer Wyse (Exeter);

and Bryan Holder, demonstrating the art of the Awenyddion.

After much deliberation the judges returned with the verdict being eloquently pronounced by the leader of the panel, Tony Thompson.

Nathan TSMT 2007The Tim Sebastian Memorial Trophy was awarded to Stevie P. and received by Nathan Williams in his absence.

Merlin receives the crownThe Deputy Bard’s Crown was awarded to Merlin.

Dearbhaile Bradleyand Dearbhaile Bradley won the Chair
All hail the Bard!

Story: Jo Raphael
Photos: Barnaby J Hodges & Jo Raphael

The Ravens

I am the white hawk of the May;
I am the son of a distant host.
Keeping the lighthouse in my sights
on the horizon, I circle lowest;
making my way from the coast.

I was with the most high
where the harmonies collide;
I have heard the perpetual song
that springs up from deep inside;

I have seen the crystal tower
and flown it round about;
I have danced with pixie folks
therein, so have no doubt;

I have studied nineteen cycles
of Gwydion’s castle turning;
I have learned, if I’ve learned anything at all,
that nothing isn’t worth the learning;

I have been known to have dreams
so strong they wake me up;
I have thought of so many reasonable schemes
that it overfills my cup;

My laugh is like a gravel path
and my work for the ministry of the patently bleedin’ daft
has become worse than a blessing in blank verse
so I’ll try to keep it terse:

With clever words and cunning hand
I contrive to harmonise the verses bland,
but I am just a placeholder for someone greater matched,
for I have much to study before I am fully hatched.

I guess it’s up to you,
dear Judges and Contenders too.
You shall sit on a chair of gold
if you would boldly bare your soul
and contend this seat with your words bewitching
to become the Bard of Ynyswitrin.


For the winter now has passed away,
we greet the growing green beneath our feet
and the silver shining moon above, grins upon thy street.
For the summer sun has vanquished
greyness, pain and thawed the sleet
and the Ravens of the battlefield still scream over meat.

More yellow is her hair than the flower of broom
and her skin it is whiter than foam;
Grander than an anenome are her hands
and swifter than hawk’s eyes her glance;
Snowier than the breast of a white swan her glands
and redder than roses her cheek;
She sucks on her fingers and wriggles her toes
and trefoils spring green up beneath her feet
and the Ravens of the battlefield still scream after their meat.

White owl of wisdom, O where have you been?
The dappled light shines on your jewellry so fine,
did you ride out to visit the Queen?
White owl of wisdom, O what have you done?
Enveloped by green, soft we fade so serene,
have you hidden the land from the sun?

For the boys they have been out fighting again.
Every year it happens, exactly the same,
for they glory in the crash of the breaking of spears,
with no sense of fear, it’s clear
that for them it’s only a game.

Well …

Frankly I’m afraid that this frequent fraternal feuding
for the feminine favours of our faerie flower maiden
is confessedly fairly futile but features fully in the
fantasy folk format that we fervently profess to follow.

Furthermore …

How shall we find the freedom to love as we choose?
Without the essence of the story loose the plot cracks
appear that it never got us nowhere near the muse
and probably only serves to confuse … quite a lot,
for the Ravens care not for the reds or for the blues.

Meanwhile …

Another supermarket goes up on the edge of town,
brownfield development more trees go down.
I’ve heard all the lines in this production,
leeches hanging on by suction,
nepotism, bribery and corruption,
and the sound of the Raven’s war cry erupts.

Shopkeepers shake their heads,
blame the junkies, blame the dreads.
Blame anyone but the real cause,
councillors twisting up the laws.
Quick! Better get an injunction!
Nepotism! Bribery! Corruption!
The Ravens of war shred the corpse with their claws.

Kids hanging out with nothing to do,
brought up on the promise of packing shoes
and renting out a room with no view. Well,
they’re all leaving town once they’ve finished school.

And the local wannabe tory wife is flaunting Foxy’s locks
and Turkey Lurkey, half alive, is banging up his lonely works.
You’d better run, run Reynard run. You’d better run for your life,
for there’s a sky full of Ravens all screaming for blood and for strife.


Three and twenty members of staff
browned their noses in the dark.
Four and twenty minus one,
who climbed right to the topmost
Silver Branch and sung out his heart
in praise of the rising sun,
and hoped that it would return
and that lighter times would come.

How can you be so small?
when the world needs you to give your all?
How can we be so small?
when the world needs us to give our all?

What happened to the socialists
who made so great a boast?
And all you new-age tories
and you hungry hippy ghosts?
For the red and blue shall fade away,
leaving only green upon the cold, wan hillside,
it may seem like waking from a dream,
but it’s going to happen, there and here,
you reckless loon, have faith not fear,
for the light will surely come.

Nightwing, nightwing,
I heard you sing till morning light.
Nightwing, nightwing,
guide us safely through the night.

Join the free discussion and share the ritual ration
while we’re waiting for the light to return
I’m calling on the Big Walkers, calling on the Standing Stoners,
waiting for the light to return.


The new moon
slithers in the sky;
blinking of an eye.

High above the trees
he sits and reads;
turning over new leaves.

Check the spiral pattern
as it cycles through the year;
Ain’t it funny how heart-drops
are shaped exactly like a tear?

Little joy; rising through the bark.
Precious boy; hiding from the dark.
Cover me with your gentle leaves,
wrap your branches round me as I breathe
around my heart and on my sleeve,
until it’s time, I do believe,
that the light has come.

/|\

Copyright 2006 Tim Hall
License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.5/

Open Gorsedh 2006

The Open Gorsedd of the Bards of Ynys Wytrin was held on Saint Dunstan’s Day, the 19th of May, with a preliminary round on the 17th. Entrants were invited to contest for the Chair with its current incumbent, Tim Hall. The theme specified was ‘Gwyn ap Nudd, the King of the Fairies’.

A panel of judges was recruited from the Glastonbury cultural Establishment, consisting of Jo Waterworth, Sonia Guinnessy, Oshia Drury, Tony Thompson and Matt Tweed. The Bardic Council is deeply obliged to the judges, who took on this onerous task generously and, in some cases, at short notice.

The Bardic Trials

Tim HallThe preliminary round was held at the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms, which provided both their usual high standard of informal comfort and two of their permanent staff, Paul Perry and Liz Gilbert, as MCs.

After an introductory song from Tim, the twelve candidates were invited to perform. Each was allowed fifteen minutes, at the end of which a timekeeper would, if necessary, sound a gong. The order of performance was determined by drawing names from a hat.

Jamuna, a well-known local bard, delivered a complex and carefully-timed recitation on the specified theme, its quietly hypnotic verse-forms accentuated by the accompaniment of his Mbira, a small Central African instrument resembling a hand-played musical box.

Tony AtkinsonTony Atkinson, new to the Gorsedd, introduced a note of classical rigour by reciting four sonnets of his own composition upon the theme, being one for each of the four Seasons, and, as a technical tour-de-force, each representing one of four classical sonnet forms (Tony adds the Wordsworthian form to the usual three).

Bryan HolderBryan Holder performed a most unusual (and untitled) work which he describes only as ‘sound and motion’; essentially a vocal tone-poem or song without words, in which his voice, interacting with the room acoustic as he moved slowly around the whole venue, produced quite unprecedented effects.

David ReakesDavid Reakes recited a finely-crafted satirical ballad, using a carefully-chosen verse-form and contriving not only to follow the prescribed traditional theme but also to send up the whole Glastonbury magickal scene; his line ‘It makes all the people wear crystals, and purple’ reduced some of the audience to tears of laughter.

MichaelaMichaela, by far the most gorgeously-attired bard of the evening, accompanied herself on a Native American medicine-drum and performed two quite different chant-sequences, demonstrating the potentials of her instrument, her voice and the dramatic language in which she works.

Brian Conquer, a bard of long standing, firmly maintained tradition by avoiding modern, experimental forms and delivering a ‘proper’ acoustic-guitar-accompanied, singer-songwriter’s ballad, his kindly voice and gently humorous lyrics providing a fine start to the proceedings.

Dearbhaile BradleyDearbhaile Bradley performed an impassioned poem on the theme of the banishing of Gwyn ap Nudd and his courtiers from a hilltop by former Abbot of Glastonbury, St Collen. This poet did a fine job of showing how with early Christian myths like this there are ‘two sides to every story’.

Willow SeegerWillow, a bard of great experience, delivered an intense and demanding dramatic recitation in a free-verse form, its force and power greatly enhanced by his voice, upon the theme; he then returned to a lighter note with a ballad, accompanying himself on the octave mandola.

John JohnsonJohn Johnson, possibly the youngest candidate, stuck to traditional ways and delivered a fine ballad, accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar, his style being refreshingly light and informal.

At this point the judges retired, to consider a short-list of six candidates who would proceed to the final. During their absence, a number of fine entertainers who, for various reasons, were unable to contest the Chair, generously gave of their time and talent.

PokPok, the Bard of the Loyal Arthurian Warband, delivered an exquisite recitation in which he combined what seemed to be the verse-forms of Chaucerian Middle English with word-forms and phonetic values reminiscent of Anglo-Saxon or even Old Norse, without sacrificing for a moment the comprehensibility of the modern English in which, in fact, he works. This spectacular piece, which few but he could deliver, remains unpublished, though there are hopes that the artist may in the future allow publication.

Haylee, who is 10, and who had not, it seems, arrived with the intention of taking part, confidently took the floor to declaim a poem in eight parts, relating to the eight major Celtic festivals, which she had written entirely during the course of the evening. This impressive standard of creativity and drive surprised many older and more experienced bards.

Emma Harper, widely-known singer/songwriter, was able to find time in her busy schedule to perform several of her impassioned and heartfelt songs. Kev the Poet, of the LAW, and Singing Horse, who recites in the Lakota language and had travelled all the way from Oregon, also provided excellent entertainment.

On the judges’ return, it was announced that Willow, Dearbhaile Bradley, Michaela, David Reakes, Tony Atkinson and Jamuna were to be the six finalists.

The Open Gorsedd

The final round was held at the White Spring, the Guardians of which most generously allowed the use of this unique, and only recently restored, sacred space for this purpose. The Bardic Council, somewhat surprised at the numbers of people who attended, would like to thank the Guardians for their patience with and tolerance of a much larger audience than was expected, and to confirm that next year’s final will, in the light of this, be held at the Assembly Rooms in order to accommodate more people comfortably.

Before proceeding to the White Spring, a Gorsedd circle was held in the Fairfield (beneath the Tor). All of the candidate Bards, members of the Bardic Council and many of the audience attended. Dignitaries present included the Maenarch of Avalon, the Faerie Queene of the Glastonbury Outer Order of Druids, and Mr. Tim Sebastian, Archdruid of the Secular Order of Druids, present in his capacity of Elder Bard of Caer Badon. As part of this ceremony fourteen of the candidates and the Council accepted formal initiation by the Chaired Bard of Ynys Wytrin.

  • Dearbhaile Bradley :: Elder: Bardic Chair 2007-8. Secretary of Gorsedh Committee 2010-2013
  • Tony Thompson :: Chair of Gorseth Committee 2007-2009.
  • Chaz Heritage :: Secretary and Chief Scribe to the Gorsedd 2007-2009.
  • Petra Cook
  • Lydia Lyte :: Sword Bearer to the Gorsedh
  • Jo Waterworth :: Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy 2009 and previously acted as Judge at the Bardic Trials 2006
  • Oshia Drury :: TSMT 2011 and a regular Bardic Trials Judge.
  • Viv Andreae
  • Jamuna Jivana
  • David Reakes :: Elder: Bardic Chair 2009. Crown 2008-9.
  • Tony Atkinson :: Elder: Bardic Chair 2010; Crown 2009. Treasurer of Gorsedh Committee 2011-2014
  • Dreow Bennet :: Honorary Elder Bard. Maenarc of Avalon.
  • Theo Simon :: Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy 2008-9.
  • Sonia Guinnessy
  • Raga Richie
  • Willow Seeger
  • Brian Conquer :: ArchDruid of Hibernian Order.
  • Yanni :: Lady of Avalon. (2009)
  • Mikhaela

The artists appearing in the final did not alter their performances significantly from those given in the preliminary round, though it was clear that the latter had been substantially polished during the intervening days. Denny Price acted as MC, managing as well as did the performers the White Spring’s strongly ecclesiastical architecture and acoustic.

By the end of the finalists’ performances so many people had come to listen that there was nowhere left at the White Spring to which the judges could retire; accordingly they retired to a private house. The audience were then treated to a repetition of Pok’s fine recitation; Pixi, the famous Glastonbury singer/songwriter, arrived and, despite an unfamiliar guitar, produced a fine rendition of some of his memorable folk repertoire.

Sarah Curtis, lead singer with folk band Savernake, performed a beautiful song written specially for Mayday. Entitled ‘Bear and Swan’, the lyrics had no specific reference to the ‘King of the Faeries’, but the image of the banishing of the darkness by the light was perfect for the time of year.

Theo, from ‘Seize the Day’ sang one of the band’s more mystical numbers, ‘Child of the Universe’ and Nathan Williams, a local musician and teacher who also gave many hours of his professional time to the task of organising the Gorsedd, delivered in both Welsh and English ‘Propaganda’r Prydydd’, translated as ‘The Poet’s Propaganda’, by R.Williams Parry, a sonnet on the qualities of a true Bard, and sang ‘Woven are the Ways’, a song from Penmaenmawr; Merlin also performed a lengthy incantation to the Goddess Bridgit (or Brigit, or Bridie, or Her other names).

Eventually the judges returned, looking somewhat worn, and amid a frenzy of excitement it was announced that Tim Hall’s tenure as Chaired Bard of Ynys Wytrin was to continue; none of the candidates were judged to have exceeded the standard of Tim’s winning performance.

regaliaThe formal Chairing then took place. Denny Price and Oshia Drury robed the re-Chaired Bard then the Silver Branch was presented by Shamus Joy as Honorary Grand Bard on behalf of the late Richie Bond and representing the lineage of Bards of Ynyswitrin, Tim Sebastion then completed Tim’s formal initiation as Grand Bard with the presentation and recitation of the Qualification of the Bards, following which Tim played the winning song, The Ravens, as an encore.

The event being officially over, the informal entertainers once again took the floor, Pixi forming an impromptu duo with Helen Tucker, a fine local folk violinist; the entertainment did not stop until the venue finally closed.

The Bardic Council are deeply gratified with the response to the Open Gorsedd and once again would like to thank everyone whose time, effort and talent went into making it such a fine event. We all look forward to next year’s Gorsedd, which we hope will be even bigger and even better.