The Bards and the Techniques of the Ecstasy

di Andrea Romanazzi

When we speaks about Bards, immediately comes to mind the training for becoming Druids. Many people does not give too much importance to this figure as only a “passage” of degree. It’s really like this?

The term “Bard” derive directly from the proto-Celtic bardos which means: “raise your voice, praise“. It appears for the first time in an official act of 1449 in Scottish Gaelic language, to indicate an itinerant musician, often used with a contemptuous attitude. For the scholars the bards were the guardian of the people’s knowledge, so they were instructed to memorize all the traditions and myths of the people. In many case Bard was also called Filid. Also in this case the term is ” posthumous”. Filid were associated with irish poets during the period of the Irish Renaissance. The term derives from the proto-Celtic “widluios“, which means “seer, he who sees”, “see”. This word might suggest that filid were originally prophetic poets, who predicted the future in the form of verses or riddles, rather than simple poets.  Could the power of the “satire” in the Bard and Filid’s poetics hide something else?According to many stories, Filid’s songs were able to tame the wild beasts, appease the warriors in the battle, move the gods of the sky up to force them to shed tears of rain, ensure good crops and fertile livestock, give serenity in the assemblies, making young people fall in love.They were therefore the holders of the power of the word. One of the best known custodians of the word was Amergin mac Míled, also known as Aimhirghin. He led the invasion of the Milesi of Ireland. The story tells that the priests of the Tuatha De Danann, unleashed a magical storm to not invader their island. Aimhirghin, invokes, through the Word the “spirit of Ireland”, thus breaking the magic barrier and allowing the landing of ships. This song will later be known as the “Song of Amergin”. Song and Magic then. Even in Italian, the term “enchantment” used to indicate the “formulas” used in magical practice, derives from in – canto.  We do not think of something complex, the songs can be really simple. Tom Cowan recounts his experience with an Eskimo shaman who told him “… without any reason I felt a great, inexplicable joy, a joy so strong that I could not restrain it, but that I had to express with a song, an open song, in which ‘It was a place for one word: Joy! Joy! “.According to Erynn Rowan Laurie, a founding member of the Celtic rehabilitation movement, the Filid were poets of the Ecstasy.  Nora K. Chadwick, of the University of Oxford, have the same. In the papers Scottish Gaelic Studies, She  speaks about Tenm Láida and/or Imbas Forosnai, as techniques to achieve enlightenment through poetry. The Celtic poems, in fact, had, among other things, the purpose of “inspiring” those who listened. Using their poetic instruments, songs and words, they in fact induced visions. Imbas means “inspiration”, and in particular refers to the sacred poetic inspiration. Forosnai instead means “enlightened” or “what illuminates”.  The term is found for the first time in the Glossary of Cormac, around 830-910 b.C. and containing the etymologies and explanations of over 1400 Irish words. These practice was then immediately banned by St. Patrick and the Christian priests because they would have favored the contact with the supernatural pagan gods, so today we have received very little information. Hovewer we can find some traces of this practice in some Irish mythological text, as in the Fenian cycle. Here Fionn, during his youth, learned the technique of Imbas Forosnai. Moreover, in a subsequent story, when he finds the decapitated body of a man in his house, he is able to identify him as Lomna, intoning the Tenm Láida. But Fionn was not the only one to use these techniques to access the “second sight”. Irish mythology is littered with references to the use of divination and prophecy in song. I think Tenm Laida and Imbas Forosnai is not the same thing.Hilda Roderick and Ellis Davidson, in their Myths and Symbols in Pagan Europe: Early Scandinavian and Celtic Religions, put in relationship with special meal to help the vision.The traditional ritual has been lost, however, some traces remained.According to Chadwick, when the client asked for an answer to the question, the poet, munched meat and bones of his totemic animal, often boar, dog, cat and then, through song and sleep, had the vision. An interpretation.  I believe there are not many differences with the rituals of Eastern. Repetitiveness and rhythm are find in Indian Buddhism, which uses the sound of vajra-ghanta bells or the repetitive use of sound, the mantra, the western equivalent of prayer or the magic formula. They are composed of monosyllables, or bijia, which often do not have a precise meaning, but are simply vibrations associated with particular natural forces. The best known is the famous aum or om, the primordial sound of the Universe. It is not a coincidence that magical traditions linked to oriental culture are often recalled in the Gwersu of the OBOD. The “song” allows you to look at things with another look, beyond their forms but focusing on the phenomena. In fact, if everything around us is an expression of the divine or part of it, the song can resonate with these dormant aspects of reality. It is no coincidence that the neodruidic ceremonies are open and closed by the intonation of the AWEN (AAH-oo-en, or AAH-oo Wen), a real mantra and, i think, a reminiscence of Tenm Laida and Imbas Forosnai.It is the request of the sacred inspiration, an expression of divine energy, that makes vibrate what surrounds the druid. The matra, or the song, can allow to deeply transform the way in which the natural world is lived, allowing to move in another space, in another nature, in another light of the experience of the a common man, opening man to the “magical sensation” of the world, even as only a presentiment, an anticipation of a truth that will soon reveal itself to us. Therefore, the Bard’s power of betrayal is revealed.


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