The Tale Of Taliesin
By Christopher Lee
As I wrap up the grueling task of formatting and final revisions on my latest book, Bard Song, I find myself in conversation with a familiar friend, the Shining Brow of Taliesin. When asked by Mary-Anne Yarde to produce a guest post for her blog about Myths, Legends and Folklore I had no problem in discovering a suitable topic. The reconstructionist and neopagan movements have illuminated vast corners of history and mythology that were once shrouded in mystery. Taliesin and the bards of Brythonic, Irish, and Scottish lore are just a few of the mythological remnants that have survived the dark ages. The bards, sometimes called fili, were poets, keepers of history and myth, musicians, shapeshifters, and sometimes fools. Folklore remembers some of them as druids, like the fabled Merlin. In fact, there appears to be some crossover between the two famous bards.
Perhaps the most famous tale of bardic lore belongs to Taliesin. The account of his transformation from Gwion Bach a young boy in the service of the goddess Cerridwen. As is true in many of the old tales, the main character may have possibly been more than one man. Historians attribute the name to potentially two welsh poets in both the sixth and ninth centuries. Historically the bards were poets who regaled the courts of Kings with tales of great heroes and battles. Yet as time inflated the myths of these poets, they became much more than royal wordsmiths. Like the heroes they enshrined in myth, the bards themselves became mythic beings.
|Cerridwen by Christopher Williams (1910)|
Taliesin himself may have had a hand in creating the myth that has been passed down through the generations. As the tale recounts, Taliesin was a boy in the service of the crone goddess Cerridwen. His singular task was to tend a potion brewing within her hallowed cauldron. The potion he kept watch over was meant for her son, an ugly and foolish creature. The goddess wished to bestow infinite wisdom upon her son and set to brewing the potion for a year and a day. Gwion the boy was to stir the potion each day. For months he did so until one day a bursting bubble cast three drops of the potion upon his thumb. Instinctively Gwion placed his burnt thumb in his mouth. In doing so he absorbed the infinite wisdom of the brew. In seeing all, he realized that the wrath of the goddess would soon be upon him and so he fled.
Upon her return, Cerridwen took to pursuing the boy who with his new found knowledge transformed himself into a hare. The goddess then took pursuit as a greyhound. As soon as she neared him, he transformed into fish and tossed himself into the river. She saw this and pursued him as an otter. Again and again he transformed to escape her before finally transforming into a grain of wheat. The chase completed the goddess, now a hen consumed the boy, and in her belly he rested. For nine months she carried him in her womb with the intent to kill the boy upon his rebirth. However, once she bore him, his beauty astounded her so that she was moved to spare his life.
It was then that she wrapped him in a leather bag and cast him to the ocean, at the mercy of nature. He was found by the servants of Elphin and upon being seen was given the name of Taliesin, the shining brow. In this court the legendary Taliesin was a mythic being in capable of succumbing to death. or the traps of time.
Today Taliesin remains with us through the poetic works passed down generation after generation by the bards who followed him. As an author I am drawn to their words, their inspirations, and their mastery of storytelling. Tales such as Taliesin’s and other poets, writers, and wordsmiths of bygone days should be preserved not only in their original forms, but also in approachable, modern translations. The folklore of my ancestry is steeped in bardic tradition and as such I make it a point to carry them in my writing whether by poetry or by including the bards in my fiction. Their stories are stories that belong to the entire world, and as long as I draw breath they will never be forgotten.
Christopher Lee is the author of the Hallowed Veil Series, an epic fantasy series that spans the breadth of human history. Christopher is an avid history buff, mythologist, bardic poet, and keeper of the old ways. Though Nemeton is his first published release, Christopher is hard at work bringing the subsequent chapters of the Hallowed Veil Series to life.
Nemeton: The Trial of Calas (Hallowed Veil)
For millennia the Nemeta have kept the fragile truce in the antediluvian world. A peace built on an ancestral curse upon mankind's primal link to magic. After six thousand years, Man has tired of enduring subjugation. Kings and peasants clamor. Thrones tremble at whispers of war between the primeval foes of Man and the Fae.
Amidst her studies of mythical artifacts, a young Seræphym uncovers designs to reverse the hex. A scheme that implicates her own people as heretics. Faced with the apocalyptic consequences of magical war, Samsara must choose between her freedom or that of her people.
Even if it means eternal service to the order that threatens to exterminate her kind.