The word “Awen” has Welsh and Irish roots that mean “breeze” and “(poetic) inspiration”, but the literal meaning does not limit the power of Awen to creative means; it is said that Awen is the inspiration of truth itself, and that without Awen one an not proclaim the truth. The foundations of Awen are the understanding of truth, the love of truth and the maintaining of truth. Energies within acts of forgiveness, selflessness, kindness, love and mercy flow through Awen.
Within Druidry Awen is the essence of creativity, a flow of inspirational energy that guides and motivates us to our highest potential.
Awen is interpreted in many ways by various people who identify with Druidry. Awen can be felt as the energies of the Muses, or as inspiration from Nature; some feel the Awen flow from ancestors or Spirit. Awen empowers our Higher Selves, encouraging us to believe in ourselves, guiding pure intentions and truthful hearts. Awen flows from the Source of All That Is and empowers our passions, our hopes, our dreams and our expressions.
The emblem of Awen was created by Welsh Bard Iolo Morganwg (10 March 1747 – 18 December 1826). The Order of the Bards, Ovates & Druids explains the three lines as rays emanating from three points of light, with the points representing the triple aspect of deity, and also the points at which the sun rises on the equinoxes and solstices – known as the Triad of the Sunrises. The emblem as used by the OBOD is surrounded by three circles representing the three circles of creation(“Approaching The Forest”, Oak Tree Press 2001). Some link the three rays to mind, body and spirit, or Air, Sea and Fire, or the aspects of Bard, Ovate and Druid.
Some who feel a lack of motivation or inspiration may be experiencing interferences or disturbances that can affect focus, drive and creativity; in this case it is not that Awen has deserted us, but more likely that Awen is directing our focuses to other priorities and aspects within our lives that we may need to progress with. A great way to refresh our connections to Awen is to spend time within Nature, helping our mind, body and spirit to become more attuned and receptive.
Bard, Ovate & Druid
It is widely believed that the three roles were first recorded by the Ancient Greek historian and geographer Strabo who wrote his findings in “Geograhica” written around 20 CE. Strabo stated that amongst those who practised Druidry were thee types that were honoured for their particular skills, knowledge and experience; the singers and poets of “bardoi” (Bards), the diviners and specialists of the natural world “o’vateis” (Ovates), and the “druidai” (Druids) who studied moral philosophy.
The roles of Bard, Ovate and Druid can be seen as three grades or three branches of the path of Druidry- each is a part of a whole, and whole in it’s part. In some modern teachings of Druidry today, one is invited along the Bardic path during the first year, then Ovate in the second year and in the third year as Druid. Practicing Druidry includes individual growth and progression through a balance of personal experience, guidance from others and learning through our mistakes.
My own personal thoughts about the three roles of Druidry are to view the parts of Bard, Ovate and Druid as guidelines of natural growth within our own paths; each has its own energy directives and focuses and serves a special purpose, and all should be honoured and respected equally. The grades can be seen as layers of Druidry and less like levels. One could also consider that by exploring first Bard, followed by Ovate and then Druid is to help guide those who are seeking into first learning of history and the ancestors through the legends and poetry, and then to learn of how to utilise and connect with the energies within nature, and after exploring the Druid path, will have the experience to reflect and pass on what they have learned, supporting others along their journey.
The Bards are those who would traditionally perform music and poetry, often using acoustic stringed instruments like the guitar and the clarsach, as well as other instruments such as the bodhran, bagpipe, rattle, flute and whistle; however, the vast variety of creative arts available today opens up many opportunities for expressionism and exploration. Drumming, chanting, painting, sculpting, story-telling, craft-making and pretty much anything that has a creative element within it resonates with energies of the Bard. The spirit of the Bard is that of discovery, expression and play- when enjoying a creative activity we feel more child-like, innocent, curious and excited as we learn about ourselves and discover our hidden talents and natural gifts, as well as celebrating and appreciating the work of others.
Bards draw a great deal of inspirational energy from the natural world, composing sonnets and lyrics in honour of nature, deity and the ancestors. The ancient Celts and early Druids passed knowledge on from generation to generation via stories and legends of the gods and cultural history through sonnets and myths. In performing and presenting their arts, the Bards reflected back what they had learned, sharing their experiences, guidance and philosophies with others.
The art of story-telling carries legends and myths of the past forward with wisdom and philosophies interwoven within metaphorical characters and symbolic plots which is why many look for inspiration in traditional lore from many different cultures. Consider how popular and well known fairy tales are, and how many parts of the world each have their own version of the core of the tale, how relatively easy it is to recall a story, how enjoyable it is to both listen to and tell the tale and how most fairy tales often carried guidance or cautions in the form of morales, such as the widely recognised Aesop’s tales.
In the past, knowledge was traditionally passed on through the generations by word of mouth, before it became commonplace to read and write. Those with experience would demonstrate their skills to others who would in turn build upon the teachings during their learning of it, who would in turn pass the skills on to another, and so on. When reading and writing became more widely accessible and practiced, this of course enabled people to record their teachings and studies, however much- if not, all- of these original writings have been lost throughout history during times of persecution of pagans, such as the Burning Times and Witch trials. There are countless of writers, artists, musicians, crafts folk and Bards from many walks of life and periods within time who have contributed many creative workings which each carry a unique perspective of experience and cultural influence, surviving through darker times through the guise of expressive creations which have inspired individuals and communities throughout history.
Those following the Ovate path study healing and esoteric arts of divination, further exploring new concepts, expanding their knowledge and experience gradually and diligently along their path. Today there are many recognised forms of divination originating from a wide variety of cultures throughout history including Runes, Tarot cards, numerology, astrology, palmistry, tea-leaf reading, scrying using a mirror, flame or water, Ogham and dowsing (this is by no means an exhaustive list!). Each method has its own unique history and origins, theories, practices, boundaries and interpretations. It is common to feel drawn to one or two methods of divination, and Ovates are encouraged to follow their natural instincts to discover which method of divination suits them best. Divination is not regarded as a mystical gimmick to foretell the future, it is a way to reflect internally at ourselves and externally about the choices around us, giving new perspective and insight on situations and circumstances.
Ovates also explore methods of healing practices, recognising the importance of holistic health in particular, learning how to care for our minds, bodies and souls. Quite often in the path of learning how to heal and care for others, we also discover ways in which we can support and nurture ourselves. It is also important as Ovates to recognise when we ourselves need to reach out to others at times for support. In recent times the importance of physical, mental and emotional health have been brought more into the general awareness of society, and there is a huge variety of alternative therapies to explore including meditation, yoga, herbs, aromatherapy, crystal healing, and Reiki (again, this is not an exhaustive list!). Alternative therapies are often not a substitute for conventional medicine which is why these services are occasionally listed as “complimentary therapies” as these practices are intended to support- not replace- prescriptions and therapies a person may be already be receiving as given by their doctor or therapist.
Druids are ideally positive role models to others, seeking to help, support and guide those in need. Druids have usually spent a few years following their path, gaining experience and knowledge, and also remaining humble. Druids are looked upon as the seers or teachers within the Druidic circles, giving encouragement and guidance within their paths. Druids may often take part in voluntary work that benefits the wider community and the environment. They may lead seasonal rituals or celebratory ceremonies, and ultimately teach and inspire the next generation in order to preserve traditions as well as creating more modern customs.