Definitions

Gorsedd

Gorsedd

A gorsedd plural gorseddau, is a community of bards. The word means "throne" in Welsh. It is occasionally spelled gorseth (especially in Cornwall ), or Goursez in Brittany

When the term is used without qualification, it usually means the national gorsedd of Wales, Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain (Welsh: "the Gorsedd of Bards of the Island of Britain"). However, other gorseddau exist, such as the Cornish Gorseth Kernow and the Breton Goursez Breizh.

Purpose

Gorseddau exist to promote literary scholarship and the creation of poetry and music. As part of this, their most visible activity is often the organising of Eisteddfodau.

History

Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain was founded in 1792 by Edward Williams, often known as Iolo Morganwg, who also invented much of its ritual, supposedly based on the activities of the ancient Druids (although much of its modern ritual also has Christian influence; the rituals were given further embellishment in the 1930s by archdruid Cynan). The Gorsedd of Bards (Gorsedd y Beirdd) made its first appearance at the Eisteddfod at the Ivy Bush Inn in Carmarthen in 1819, and its close association with the Festival has remained. It is an association of poets, writers, musicians, artists and individuals who have made a significant and distinguished contribution to Welsh language, literature, and culture.

The fictitious nature of these ceremonies was established by Professor G.J.Williams in works touching on Iolo Morgannwg

Ranks

There are three ranks of membership in the Welsh gorsedd. In ascending order of honour, they are:

  • ovates, who wear green robes,
  • bards, who wear blue robes, and
  • druids, who wear white robes.

The head of a gorsedd is known as an Archdruid, and often wears a purple robe; the Archdruid is elected for a term of three years, and is responsible for conducting the Gorsedd ceremonies during Eisteddfod week. These Ceremonies are held to honour literary achievements amongst Welsh poets and prose writers.

  • The ranks within the Breton gorsedd are the same.
  • In the Cornish gorsedd there is only one rank, that of bard, and all robes are blue .

Admission

In the Welsh gorsedd, a person may become an ovate or a bard by passing an examination in the Welsh language. Druids may only be nominated by existing druids. People are occasionally made ovates or druids as an honour to reward their contributions to Welsh culture. In recent years, Ron Davies, Rowan Williams, Matthew Rhys, and Ioan Gruffudd have been honoured in this way. Often a new inductee will take a pseudonym, called a "bardic name." To become an Archdruid, an individual must have won one of the main two eisteddfodau awards: the Crown and the Chair.

Ceremony

Three Gorsedd ceremonies are held during the Eisteddfod week:

  • the Crowning (Coroni) of the Bard (awarded to the poet judged best in the competitions in free meter)
  • the Awarding of the Prose Medal (for the winner of the Prose competitions)
  • the Chairing (Cadeirio) of the Bard (for the best long poem).

During these ceremonies the Archdruid and the members of the Gorsedd of Bards gather on the Eisteddfod stage in their ceremonial robes. When the Archdruid reveals the identity of the winning poet, the 'Corn Gwlad' (a trumpet) calls the people together and the Gorsedd Prayer is chanted. The Archdruid withdraws a sword from its sheath three times. He cries 'Is there peace?', to which the assembly reply 'Peace'. Then the Horn of Plenty is presented to the Archdruid by a young local married woman, who urges him to drink the 'wine of welcome'. A young girl presents him with a basket of 'flowers from the land and soil of Wales' and a floral dance is performed, based on a pattern of flower gathering from the fields.

Symbology

The symbol commonly used to represent a gorsedd is a triple line, the middle line upright and the outer two slanted towards the top of the centre, thus: /|. This symbol, called "awen", is often explained as representing the sun.

See also

References

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