I have been walking the path of the Awenydd for just over a year. In contrast to other ‘Pagan’ and Druidic paths (some Awenyddion identify as Druids as they share roots in the Awen) there is less information about it and it is less well explored. I have found much guidance and inspiration in articles and stories written by Heron on the websites ‘Gorsedd Arberth’ and ‘The Fern Law of Faery.’ Recently he has brought them together on a new site called ‘The Path of the Awenydd’. This site aims to further its exploration and continue the dissemination of Bardic, Brythonic and Faerie Lore. Heron’s working definition is below.
The Path of the Awenydd by Heron
The use of the word ‘awen’ by druids is well known. While its literal meaning in Welsh is ‘inspiration’, usually indicating the gift of the muse to a poet, its related meaning of ‘divine inspiration’ , that which is given to the seeker, and the source of druidic wisdom, is the use adopted by druids. So an ‘awenydd’ is one who is inspired, or seeks inspiration, through the bardic arts. The term was applied in the 12th century by Giraldus Cambrensis to those who went into a trance and returned to utter prophecy in verse. It has continued to be used to describe those who pursue the deeper mysteries of the bardic arts.
So the path of the awenydd is the path of the seeker who follows the lure of the hidden paths that lead to the Otherworld. These ways are elusive as is the source of inspiration. Why is it that the bardic role is particularly prominent? If the awen is the source, it is in the inspiration (that which is ‘breathed into’ the bard) that opens the vistas of the seer. Those who make a place in their hearts, in their thoughts and in the way they live open themselves to inspiration. Of the nine songs that are sung to shape words skilfully in the craft, to speak of the wonder of life or to profess wisdom, these are but preparation for the tenth song sung where the silent harp is strung. So there is skill that must be cultivated; so there is a gift which may be bestowed; so there is learning that may be gained. These are needed though even together are not quite enough. But to remain ever prepared, never forcing the song that will not come, always treading the path lightly in anticipation, but always ready and practised in the necessary arts to take the chance that may come, the path that may be opened. When deep waters well up into the shallow world of sense, then the awenydd is prepared to go with the flow. It is a vocation shared with legendary bards of the past like Taliesin, Myrddin and True Thomas. The works attributed to these poets, prophets and path walkers may or may not have all been written by the original bearers of those names, for they became the personae for those who would follow in their footsteps, who would take on their mantle and inhabit their world. Though it is a lonely path, it is one for which there are waymarks for those who can see them, left by those who have gone before.
What is this ‘inspiration’? Consider the account of Henry Vaughan in the 17th century of one who had inspiration breathed into him:
As to the later Bards, you shall have a most curious Account of them.This vein of poetrie they called Awen, which in their language signifies rapture, or a poetic furore & (in truth) as many of them as I have conversed with are (as I may say) gifted or inspired with it. I was told by a very sober, knowing person (now dead) that in his time, there was a young lad fatherless & motherless, soe very poor that he was forced to beg; butt att last was taken up by a rich man, that kept a great stock of sheep upon the mountains not far from the place where I now dwell who cloathed him & sent him into the mountains to keep his sheep. There in Summer time following the sheep & looking to their lambs, he fell into a deep sleep in which he dreamt, that he saw a beautifull young man with a garland of green leafs upon his head, & an hawk uon his fist: with a quiver full of Arrows att his back, coming towards him (whistling several measures or tunes all the way) att last lett the hawk fly att him, which (he dreamt) gott into his mouth & inward parts, & suddenly awaked in a great fear & consternation: butt possessed with such a vein, or gift of poetrie, that he left the sheep & went about the Countrey, making songs upon all occasions, and came to be the most famous Bard in all the Countrey in his time.
(contained in a letter to the antiquary John Aubrey)
The awenydd collects, assimilates and re-imagines such stories as keys to hidden doors that open onto the paths of Faery and finds them in folklore, faërie lore, tales that once were remembered and told and have since been written down and still provide clues, hints, glimpses through the shifting mists of the liminal domains. The awenydd also studies the bardic arts of wielding words that are given and discovering significances in the way the words may be shaped into speech.
Because it is a Brythonic path there is much to be sought in the lore contained in the early Welsh tales and the work of the early bards. But not exclusively, for much of the Goidelic and the Norse lore overlaps, reinforces and illuminates what is to be found there. And of the tales that have come down to us in English many have grown out of the landscape of England as experienced from Angle and Saxon perspectives and those of later inhabitants. The relationship between the land and the people who live on it has always changed and different layers of lore reflect this. Though it is a path of the study of lore, the ways to Faery are twisted into the weave of the landscape and are revealed through close relationship with particular places and the natural world. It is here that lore becomes more than words on the page and the gods of the land are immanent. So the path of the awenydd is a path through the trees and along the streams and over the fields and the hills of this land. A path which leads to the Nemeton, or sacred grove, where portals to the Otherworld may open and inspiration fill the seeker with knowledge for which it is difficult to find words, though seeking for the words that form patterns of significance is also a path of discovery for the awenydd.
‘The Path of the Awenydd’ website can be found here: https://barddos.wordpress.com/
This version of the article was first published on The Druid Network http://druidnetwork.org/what-is-druidry/bardic-expression/bardic-articles/