How could I let this week go past without celebrating an enduring cultural event? The National Eisteddfod of Wales is on this week, and is a bastion of traditional expression, preservation of a culture and language, and an opportunity to experience dramatic theatrical ceremony.
From 12th Century origins (some would say earlier), the modern Eisteddfod was galvanised by the creation of the Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain (The Gorsedd of Bards of the Island of Britain) in the late 18th/early 19th Century. Its purpose was to celebrate and award poetry, prose and song performed and presided over in the Welsh language. These days it has become a much wider festival of the arts and innovation, and although the ceremonial aspects are still conducted in Welsh much of the festival is bilingual to encourage English speakers to attend.
The ceremony of the Eisteddfod is (thanks to its creator, the colourful and highly influential Iolo Morganwg) based around antiquarian druidic ideals. The Bard was, depending on who you read, either a type of druid or a stage on the path to becoming a druid. Thus the ceremonies take on a religious, reverential tone and structure. The power of prose and poetry to move people to wisdom and action is central to this expression of Welsh identity, and is treated accordingly.
I have two videos for you this week, one a snippet of the Chairing of the Bard ceremony from the Eisteddfod of 1927 and another of the same ceremony from last year’s Eisteddfod.
Actually, I have two more, can’t resist a bit of fun from The Goodies 😉