Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It has always fascinated me how the telling of stories was held in high regard in Irish culture. Here is a little history:

In medieval Ireland, bards were one of two distinct groups of poets, the other being the fili. According to the Early Irish law text on status, Uraicecht Becc, bards were a lesser class of poets, not eligible for higher poetic roles as described above. However, it has also been argued that the distinction between filid (pl. of fili) and bards was a creation of Christian Ireland, and that the filid are were more associated with the church.[3]

Irish bards formed a professional hereditary caste of highly trained, learned poets. The bards were steeped in the history and traditions of clan and country, as well as in the technical requirements of a verse technique that was syllabic and used assonance, half rhyme and alliteration, among other conventions. As officials of the court of king or chieftain, they performed a number of official roles. They were chroniclers and satirists whose job it was to praise their employers and damn those who crossed them. It was believed that a well-aimed bardic satire, glam dicenn, could raise boils on the face of its target.

The bardic schools were extinct by the mid 17th century in Ireland and by the early 18th century in Scotland.

The bards played an important role in preserving the traditions and legends of the Irish people, as well as their genealogical connections. Stories were passed on through poems, songs, ballads and the loricas. According to one article:

Bards are found in Celtic cultures (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Manx and Brittany) and a rough equivalent can be found in Norse culture, too, where they were known as "scops."

There is no real equivalent to the Celtic Bard in Anglo-Saxon England, however.

In Ireland and Scotland, the use of the word "Bard" apparently fell into some disrepute, as the records we have show that the Bard was simply a minor poet, while the "filidh" (seer) or the "ollave" (master poet) occupied the former status and functions of the Bard....

The word "Bard," in Wales, denoted a master-poet. In Ireland it meant a poet who was not an Ollave, one who had not taken all the formal training. Apparently even the lower-status Irish Bard was on a level with the Welsh Bard in knowledge and poetic education, however, and these were what I have termed "hedge-bards," above.

In the Celtic cultures, the Bard/Filidh/Ollave was inviolate. He could travel anywhere, say anything, and perform when and where he pleased. The reason for this was, of course, that he was the bearer of news and the carrier of messages, and, if he was harmed, then nobody found out what was happening over the next hill. In addition, he carried the Custom of the country as memorized verses...he could be consulted in cases of Customary (Common) Law. He was, therefore, quite a valuble repository of cultural information, news, and entertainment.



Julygirl said...

There must the be blood of some ancestral Irish Bard running through your veins.

Alexandra said...

I read somewhere that if you failed to tip the bards they could orate some pretty saucy stuff about you....not sure if this is fiction or not.