Photo by charlie terrell photography. Click on photo for source
Rabbie Burns meets the Goddess Brighid, sounds like one of those bad sci films that just tries somehow to to squeeze it all in, like Godzilla meets the Simpsons.
Growing up in Scotland Rabbie Burns was some long dead guy who wrote a poem aboot a wee moose (the reason never being completely clear as to why). The next bit of information to be added to my lack of facts was he had many, many children. So many in fact, this based on a documentary my sister and I watched, that if we were unable to keep up with the documentary to their numbers, well then what hope did he?
Ayr, where Burns was born and lived, and was a far away place. It was over the Clyde River, and a skirt round the coast, then on a bit more, a wee bitty more and then you were there. Definitely in the scopes of a day trip but somehow our childhood day trips were north, the family all packed up in ‘Nessie’ the green Ford estate and an obligatory stop at the rest and be Thankful outside of Arrochar for poor old Bengie, the dog, to be sick.
Well anyway back to burns. The next I ever remember being in Ayr was on a journey to find the amazing Ballochmyle Rocks carvings in east Ayrshire. Hundreds of cup and ring marks carved into the side of a sandstone rock face. Those whirls and spirals came back to me in many a dream.
Ask anyone in Scotland who Burns is and the title of Bard goes hand in hand with the description. A Bard is both poet, storyteller and musician. Druidic bards were the keepers of tradition, they kept the memory of the people alive, their teachings alive within their stories. Here’s William Blake describing a bard in his poem ‘First song of Experience’:
Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who Present, Past, & Future sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk’d among the ancient trees.
To me Druid bards spoke the language of the earth. They read patterns in the clouds, the understood the whispers between trees and could hear the first stirrings of the season from the chatterings of organisms in the soil. Burns is my Bard, he wrote passionately about the landscape in which he lived, his family and neighbors, his animal community as much as the human and those daily and political struggles. He had a passion for Scotland, the land, it’s stories, the sense of history and a sense of it’s future. He wrote of a driving sense of purpose that at times made him despair and sometimes question what he was doing. Yet his messages are still relevant today in the struggles we face, and the very wonder of being rooted into this amazing thing called life!
To me Burns was a prophetic bard and one of my favourite poems “The Vision’ in which he’s pretty melancholy mood…
All in this mottie, misty clime, I backward mus’d on wasted time, How I had spent my youthfu’ prime, An’ done nae thing, But stringing blethers up in rhyme, For fools to sing.
His muse Coila, with Pictish roots appears to him and he doubts that even she can teach him or can he learn from her. But it’s his description of her I love
‘Green, slender, leaf-clad holly-boughs Were twisted, gracefu’, round her brows; I took her for some Scottish Muse, By that same token; And come to stop those reckless vows, Would soon been broken. Her mantle large, of greenish hue, My gazing wonder chiefly drew: Deep lights and shades, bold-mingling, threw A lustre grand; And seem’d, to my astonish’d view, A well-known land.
To me this is a description of the great goddess Brighid, Breejah. She who has always been patron to the bards. It is she who they invoke, it is she who inspires. She appears wearing a headdress of greenery and her green mantle of the earth wrapped around her shoulders.
The Druid Bards were the ones who would sing their songs, weaving magic as they enthralled crowds gathered at Chieftains gatherings. As they traveled the land they would be warmly welcomed as it was quite the occasion to host a bard. The 1609 laws of the Statutes of Iona in the Highlands of Scotland effectively eroded their poetic power with repressive laws which eroded the Bard’s role in maintaining cultural and ecological awareness which eventually was replaced by the values of power of money which drastically changed the world.
The bard still has a role in society, Philip Carr-Gomm addresses what bardism really is as, ‘understood in its widest sense as the development of the artistic and creative Self, and its importance as a foundation for our lives and character and spiritual development is no less significant than it was thousands of years ago, and it could be argued that it is even more essential today than it was then. The clue to understanding why this should be so lies in the realisation that the historical Bards worked with Record and with Inspiration. One of the prime reasons for modern humanity’s sense of alienation lies in the fact that we have cut ourselves adrift from both the natural world and from the roots of our past’ from Druid Mysteries by Philip Carr-Gomm from the website: http://www.druidry.org
Burns wrote about what mattered in life and the forces he faced in life have bred into the faceless monster of capitalism. We can learn great things from the man and the tradition of the bard in digging into our roots and drawing strength and information from where we stand. Breejah offers us the flame, a fire which can transforms us, yet never burns, a fire which ignites our heads to dream new dreams, burns in our heart as compassion and warms our hands in the work we carry out.
* Much inspiration in this article stems from the writings and conversations with Alastair McIntosh