The bards were poets, musicians and singers in the Celtic world. They were required to master hundreds of verses or develop new one, without the use of writing. The bards passed their poems or songs, as oral tradition, to their apprentices, from generation to generation. Like the druids, the bards enjoyed special treatment in the normally warrior society.

Again, like the druids, they had special powers, other than inspiration, eloquence and poetry. Some of the powers are magical in nature, while others acquired the gift of divination or insight. In the Book of Invasions, the Milesian bard, Amairgin had the power to calm storm with his music, just like the Orpheus in the Jason-Argonaut myth.

Some kings and champions (like Finn Mac Cumhaill), as well as druids were all required to learn poetry and verses, as part of their training. Because the druids, seers and bards have the same powers, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between them. Some heroes in the Irish myths have many skills, which include in poetry and music, like Dagda, Lugh and Finn Mac Cumhaill, but they are listed elsewhere, instead of here.

Below, I have listed some famous poets and musicians.

 
Ireland
Coirpre Mac Etaíne (Cairbre)
Amairgin (Amergin)
Sencha Mac Ailella
Cnu Deireóil
Mongán
 
Wales
Taliesin
Heinen Fardd
Myrddin, see Merlin

  Other Bards      


Related Pages:
     Druids






Coirpre Mac Etaíne (Cairbre)
 

A very important Danann poet or satirist. Coirpre Mac Etaine (or Cairbre mac Ethne) was the son of Etan, daughter of Dian Cécht. His father was possibly Ogma. Coirpre was the father of Cerna or Cerniam.

Coirpre was part of the envoy to the Firbolg king, in the First Battle of Mag Tuired. Coirpre was responsible for the first satire in Ireland, when he used satire against Bres. It was his satire that made red blotches marring Bres' face. Such disfigurement would cause him to abdicate the crown.

His satire was also powerful enough to cause the Fomorians to lose their courage and morale during the Second Battle of Mag Tuired.

Later, Coirpre gained shield from Finn Mac Cumhaill, in exchange for a poem. This shield was made from the head of Balor.

 
Related Information
Name
Coirpre, Corpre, Cairbre.

Coirpre Mac Etaíne, Corpre Mac Etoine, Cairbre Mac Ethne.

Related Articles
Ogma, Dian Cécht, Bres.



Amairgin (Amergin)
 

A Milesian bard and druid. Amairgin (Amergin) was the son of Míl Espáine and the Egyptian princess, Scota. Amairgin was the brother of Eber Finn, Eremon and a number of other brothers, and half-brother of Eber Donn and Erech Febria.

Amairgin led his people to Ireland, during the Milesian invasion to Ireland. Amairgin was powerful enough to counter any magic and illusions from the Tuatha De Danann, that would have led them astray in the sea.

After the Milesians defeated the Tuatha De Danann, Eber Finn and Eremon asked Amairgin to judge who should be king of Ireland. After performing a divination, he told them Eremon should rule. Eber was not happy with his verdict, and forced them divided the land into two, each brother ruling one part of Ireland. However, Eber was still not satisfy with just half, and started a war against Eremon. Eber was killed, and Eremon became the first Milesian high king of Ireland, as Amergin had predicted.

 
Related Information
Name
Amairgin, Amairgen, Amergin, Amorgin, Amhairghin.

Related Articles
Míl Espáine, Eremon, Eber Finn, Eber Donn.

Milesian Invasion.




Sencha Mac Ailella
 

One of the chief advisers of Conchobar Mac Nessa. Sencha Mac Ailella was a poet and perhaps a judge in Conchobar's court. Sencha was known for his wisdom and his role as a peacemaker, almost like Nestor, king of Pylos, in the Trojan War.

Sencha appeared frequently in many Irish tales. Sencha was one of men, who volunteer to become foster father of the hero Cú Chulainn, and was responsible for teaching the hero in eloquence.

 
Related Information
Name
Sencha Mac Ailella.

Related Articles
Conchobar Mac Nessa, Cú Chulainn.



Cnu Deireóil
 

Harper of Finn Mac Cumhaill. Cnu Deireóil was said to be the son of Lugh Lamfada. There are many references to Cnu Deireóil in the tales of Fenian Cycle.

Cnu Deireóil was a dwarf with golden hair. Cnu Deireóil's harp and his music can induce enchanted sleep.

 
Related Information
Name
Cnu Deireóil – "Little Nut".

Related Articles
Lugh, Finn Mac Cumhaill.



Mongán
 

Poet and leader of the Dál nAraide. Mongán (Mongan) was said to be a historical figure, who died in c. AD 624.

Mongán (Mongan) was said to be the son the sea god Manannán Mac Lir and Caíntigern. Caíntigern was the wife of Fiachna Mac Báetáin. Fiachna Mac Báetáin was the king of Dál nAraide, a petty kingdom within Ulster.

There are three different versions of how Manannán conceived Mongan upon Caíntigern. In all three cases, Manannán would only helped Fiachna in battle, only if he was allowed to sleep with Caíntigern.

Mongán lived in Tir Tairngire (the Land of Promise) with his father Manannán, until he was twelve before returning. At Tir Tairngire, he learned all the knowledge of the Tuatha De Danann, as well as having the ability to change his shape, as a deer, salmon, seal, swan or wolf.

As a young boy, Mongán foretold his own death, as he walked along the beach with his mother. When Caíntigern heard that the beautiful stone she picked up from the sand would be the one that would kill him. Caíntigern threw the stone as far as she could into the sea, but later that day, the wave brought the stone back to the beach.

Mongán had been married three times.

Mongán and his wife Fintigernd had sought refuge from hailstorm in a house with bronze roof. The host gave him ale from the seven vats that made him forget the world outside. Mongán sang and entertain his host with story after story. A whole year passed, without him leaving the house.

At Ráth Mór, with a different wife named Breóthigernd, he got into a quarrel with a poet, named Forgoll. Forgoll claimed that he had seen Fothad Airgthech killed. Mongán dispute Forgoll's claim of where and how Fothad had died. Forgoll threatened to satirise him and take his wife for his pleasure, if Mongán couldn't prove his own claim about Fothad's death after three days. The matter was settled on the third day, when Cailte arrived, and testified Fothad's death in favour of Mongán's claim.

Fiachna Mac Báetáin known as Fiachna Finn, which means Fiachna the Fair. Fiachna Finn was a rival of Fiachna Dub (Fiachna the Dark). The two Fiachnas were engaged in a war, but Mongán had fallen in love with Dub Lacha, the beautiful daughter of Fiachna Dub. Dub Lacha was also in love with the son of her father's enemy. She exposed her breasts to young Mongán, and he took her as his wife.

Fiachna Finn (mac Báetáin) have been winning all the battles against his enemy, Fiachna Dub, because he had a kinsman St Comgall, who always prayed to his God for Fiachna Finn's victory. However, when Fiachna Dub called upon Comgall's favour, it left the saint in a dilemna. So Comgall asked Fiachna Finn if he prefer victories in battle but damnation in hell, or defeat in battle but eternal life in heaven. Fiachna Finn chose the second option, and was immediately defeated and killed in battle.

Mongán sought to avenge his father's death, with the help of Brandub, king of Leinster. But Brandub exacted heavy price for his help. The king wanted Dub Lacha as his price for his help. So Dub Lacha moved into Brandub's palace, but the king could not have sex with her until a year of separation from her husband.

Mongán secretly visited his wife, in various guise and continued to sleep with his wife. Brandub discovered Mongán's deception. Fearing that he would lose his wife, Mongán asked help from an ugly witch named Cuimne. The hag using her powerful to change her shape so she looked like a beautiful princess from Munster. Mongán bargained with Brandub that he could have Cuimne in exchange for his wife's return. Brandub agreed, and gave Dub Lacha back to Mongán. Brandub was shocked when Cuimne resumed her original shape of a hag.

A few sources say that he had children, but one text say that he died childless. Mongán had another confrontation with another poet, named Eochaid Éigeas. Eochaid had served as chief poet of Ulster. Mongán foolishly challenged Eochaid into a contest, which Eochaid lost. Eochaid Éigeas angrily cursed Mongán that he would be sterile.

In the battle against the Britons, Mongán had decisively defeated the invaders, but Artur ap Bicior, picked up a coloured stone and hurled it at Mongán's head. As he foretold earlier to his mother, he was killed with the same stone that his mother had found and discarded.

 
Related Information
Name
Mongán, Mongan.

Sources
Toruigheacht Duibhe Lacha Laimh-ghile (The Pursuit of Dubh Lacha of the White Arms).

Immram Brain (The Voyage of Bran).

Annals of the Four Masters was written in 1636.

Related Articles
Manannán Mac Lir, Cailte.



Taliesin
 

Taliesin is the name that appeared frequently in Welsh myth and legend, as a master bard. Yet Taliesin could also possibly be a historical figure who lived in sixth century AD, as mentioned by Nennius, a 9th century historian. Here, you will find the mythical Taliesin as well some note about the historical Taliesin.

According to Hanes Taliesin (Tale of Taliesin), an additional tale in the Mabinogion, Taliesin was a reincarnation of Gwyon Bach (or Gwion Bach), a servant of the goddess Ceridwen. Gwyon Bach had accidentally tasted three drops from the cauldron of Inspiration, which was meant for Ceridwen's son. Fearing punishment from the goddess, he fled transforming himself into various animal forms. But when Gwyon Bach transformed himself into a grain, Ceridwen turned herself into a hen and swallowed Gwyon Bach (grain). Ceridwen became pregnant and gave birth to Taliesin.

Instead of killing the baby, Ceridwen threw the infant into the sea, which was rescued by Elffin (Elphin), who became Taliesin's foster father. At thirteen, Taliesin won renown as par excellence bard, when he rescued his foster-parents from Maelgwn Gwynedd, king of Wales, challenging Maelgwn's court bards, with his skills in poetry, wisdom and foreknowledge.

You will find the full legend of Taliesin in the Mabinogion.

Taliesin the Hero
The Real Taliesin?



Taliesin the Hero

Taliesin appeared in other Welsh poems in the Mabinogion. In the tale of Branwen, Taliesin was one of seven survivors, including Manawyddan and Pryderi, in the war against Ireland. They took head of Bran the Blessed to a castle at Gwales, where they lived for eighty years.

In another tale, called Culhwch and Olwen, Taliesin was listed as one of companions of Arthur, who helped Culhwch in his quest. There are no other descriptions of Taliesin's participation in the story.

In the tale of the Dream of Rhonabwy, Taliesin had a son named Afaon (Avaon), who appeared twice in the Rhonabwy's dream.

Taliesin had also sailed in a ship called Prydwen with Arthur and Arthur's companions (including Pryderi), in a tale called Preiddiau Annwfn (Spoils of Annwfn). Once again, Taliesin was one of seven survivors, who tried to steal a magic cauldron in Caer Siddi, an Annwfn or Otherworld.

Taliesin was sometimes confused with Myrddin or Merddin (the Welsh spelling of Merlin). However, Myrddin was a purely fictional character, who was said to have gone mad after the battle of Arfderydd. Though sometimes writers distinguished them as two separate persons, where the two appeared in a dialogue. Merlin may have been a successor of Taliesin, who was also skill in prophecy.

According to Geoffrey of Monmouth's Vita Merlini (c. 1150), Merlin had recently recovered from his madness, lived in a large house with 70 doors and windows, built by his sister, Ganieda. Taliesin was also said to have joined Merlin. They debated over issues and prophecies that were to come. Before arriving, Taliesin had brought the dying Arthur, after the battle of Camlann, to the isle of Avalon, for nine sisters to heal the king.

See Merlin, The Wild Man of the Woods.


The Real Taliesin?

According to Nennius, a Welsh historian of the 8th century, who wrote the Historia Brittonum, say that Taliesin was listed as one of five great Welsh bards, known as the cynfeirdd (oldest Welsh poet), during the sixth century. The other poets were Talhaiarn Cataguen, Aneirin (Neirin), Bluchbard and Cian (Guenith Guaut). No other details were given. Taliesin was considered to be the bard of bards. Nothing is really known about the real Taliesin.

The Book of Taliesin was supposed to contain a collection of poems composed by Taliesin. However, those poems that had survived, were preserved in a manuscript in the 13th century, seven hundred years after Taliesin. Of the sixty poems found in this manuscript, no more than twelve can be said to be genuine, but even these were dated no less than the 9th century.

Among these genuine poems, there is a poem or eulogy of Urien, king of the ancient Welsh territory of Rheged (Lowland Scotland), who mourned over the loss of his son, Owain (Yvain), who had fallen in the battle against the Germanic Angles.

Urien and Owain would later reappeared in the Arthurian legend, as Urien of Moray (Scotland) or Urien of Gorre, and his son as Owein was known by his French and English name: Yvain or Ywain. Yvain was a first cousin of Gawain and became one of Arthur's prominent knights of the Round Table. (Though, if we are talking about historical Arthur and Urien. According to the Welsh Annals, Urien had lived a generation or two after Arthur's time, but the Arthurian legend made the two kings contemporaries, and related by marriage.)


Taliesin was believed to be contemporary of Urien Rhegd and Owain. In some works, there was version about the life of Taliesin, which was different from his miraculous birth to Ceridwen.

Taliesin was the son of Saint Henwg of Caerlleon (Caerleon) upon Usk. Taliesin served Urien Rhegd as chief bard in Aberllychwr, and became tutor of Elffin, a son of Urien Rhegd.

One day, pirates from Ireland had captured Taliesin. Taliesin escaped in a skin coracle. Gwyddno Garanhir rescued Taliesin, when his coracle got stuck on Gwyddno's weir. Gwyddno, who also had a son named Elffin, asked the bard to be his son's tutor.

Gwyddno Garanhir was lord of Lowland Cantred, and his territory became swamped by sea. Taliesin left Gwyddno and served as Arthur's chief bard, but retired to his estate when Arthur died.

There were other similar accounts to this, with slightly different variation about his life.

Whether Taliesin had actually existed, he played a role in some of the Welsh literature, as the divine bard.

 
Related Information
Name
Taliesin, Talyessin, Thaliesin – "Radiant Brow".

Gwyon Bach, Gwion Bach (in the previous life).

Merddin? (Myrddin, Merlin)?

Sources
The following works belong to the Mabinogion:
   Taliesin (or Hanes Taliesn)
   Branwen Daughter of Llyr
   Culwch and Olwen.

Book of Taliesin was written in c. 1275.

Historia Brittonum was written by Nennius (c. 796).

Contents
Taliesin the Hero
The Real Taliesin?

Related Articles
Ceridwen, Bran the Blessed, Manawyddan, King Arthur, Merlin.

Urien, Yvain.

See also Legend of Taliesin, Branwen Daughter of Llyr, Culhwch and Olwen, and Spoils of Annwfn.

Genealogy: Family of Ceridwen and Taliesin.



Heinen Fardd
 

Heinen Fardd appeared in Hanes Taliesin, as the chief bard or poet of Maelgwn Gwynedd.

Young Taliesin challenged Maelgwn's court bards, including Heinen Fardd, to save his foster father Elffin, who was imprisoned for boasting about his wife's beauty. Heinen Fardd was disgraced, when he couldn't even speak, because he was spellbound by Taliesin's voice and poetry.

 
Related Information
Name
Heinen Fardd.

Related Articles
Taliesin.

See also Hanes Taliesin.



Other Bards
 

Below are the list of minor bards, poets and satirists who appeared in Celtic myths and legends.

I have even included a couple of fools or jesters here.

 
 


 
Name Myth Description
Morfesa of Falias Irish Danann druid and poet of the Tuatha De Danann. See Druids, Druids of Danu.
Esras of Gorias Irish Danann druid and poet of the Tuatha De Danann. See Druids, Druids of Danu.
Semias of Murias Irish Danann druid and poet of the Tuatha De Danann. See Druids, Druids of Danu.
Uiscias of Findias Irish Danann druid and poet of the Tuatha De Danann. See Druids, Druids of Danu.
Abcan Mac Bicelmois Irish Danann harper.
Cridenbél (Crichinpél) Irish Danann satirist.
Loch Lethglas Irish Fomorian poet of King Indech.
Ferches Irish Poet-warrior of Ailill Aulomm. Slayer of Eogabal, father of Aine.
Do Dera Irish The fool of Lugaid Mac Con, whom he resembled. Impersonated the Lugaid in the Battle of Cenn Abrat, so his master (Lugaid) could escape.
Eochaid Éigeas Irish A cheif poet of Fiachna Mac Baetain of Ulster. A rival of Mongan.
Forgoll Irish A poet and rival of Mongan.
Aneirin Welsh One of the five early bards (cynfeirdd), listed alongside Taliesin. Was said to have written Y Goddinn.
Blwchbardd Welsh One of the five early bards (cynfeirdd), listed alongside Taliesin. Nothing is known about him.
Cian
(or Gwenith Gwawd)
Welsh One of the five early bards (cynfeirdd), listed alongside Taliesin. Nothing is known about him.
Talhearn Tad Awen Welsh One of the five early bards (cynfeirdd), listed alongside Taliesin. Nothing is known about him.








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