“Four Celtic Voices” focus on the historical Land of the Celts, the Four Celtic Voices show is a spellbinding journey of large ensemble numbers and solo performances.
This singular band features traditional Celtic instruments: bowed psaltery, harmonium, flute and Celtic harp. The outstanding and subtlel vocals of this lassies convey a perfect evocative experience into the magic of our ancient celtic melodies and misty regions and groves.
Celeste is a singer and composer who plays piano, bowed psaltery and harmonium. Her artistry has been widely acclaimed receiving very good critics such as the one of “One of Celeste’s distinctive calling cards is her skill with the bowed psaltery…the sound is at once fresh and other-worldly.” -by Los Angeles Times.
She has performed at Carnegie Hall under the direction of famed composer John Rutter; at WESAK festivals in California; at Government House in Brisbane, Australia; live on ABC (Australian Broadcast Radio) and recently as a guest artist for Pete Seeger in New York City.
“Psalteries are among the oldest of stringed instruments. It is generally accepted that thepsaltery mentioned in the Bible was a tenstringed rectangular zither. The fretted dulcimer, the hammered dulcimer, and the autoharp are also in the zither family of stringed instruments. During the Renaissance, the psaltery’s simple design made it an ideal instrument for teaching music and musical theory to children. The bowed psaltery dates back to Ireland about 300-400 years ago.“
“I started performing the Bowed Psaltery back in 1997 -when I first heard the instrument on an eclectic folk recording and became enchanted with the sound and simplicity of the instrument.”
“I traveled all over Celtic Lands playing the instrument and wrote songs like: Cliffs of Tintagel at the birthplace of King Arthur and Psaltery Dances No. 1, 2, 3 and 4.”
“I visited Glastonbury, Stonehenge, St. Finnagen’s Sacred Well (Ireland) and Castlerig in northern England. Also several other sacred standing stone areas in Scotland and Ireland.
When I returned from my travels I composed 14 songs in only 2 months – so inspired by the landscape and cosmology…”
In 1925 a German patent was issued to the Clemens Neuber Company for a bowed psaltery which also included a set of strings arranged in chords, so that one could play the melody on the bowed psaltery strings, and strum accompaniment with the other hand. These are usually called violin zithers.
Today, the conventional bowed psaltery is most often produced without chord accompaniment strings (though some modern players retune the chromatic side to produce chords, and play it in the manner of the violin zither).
After the Second World War, Walter Mittman, a primary school teacher in Westphalia, popularized the conventional triangular bowed psaltery, which had earlier been advocated for use in education by Edgar Stahmer (1911-1996).
It is a psaltery in the traditional sense of a wooden soundbox with unstopped strings over the soundboard. It significantly differs from the Mediæval plucked psaltery only in that its strings are arranged to permit bowing. The soundboard has a soundhole or rose in the center. It is normally played with a small bow, often made in the earlier semicircular style, rather than a modern concave violin bow.
The construction style is often influenced by the looks of Mediæval psalteries, as well as Gothic architecture.
Performance styles vary, but the instrument may be played either one note at a time, with the instrument held with one hand and bowed with the other, as in instruments of the violin family, or it may be laid down and played with a bow in each hand, in a style reminiscent of the closely-related hammered dulcimer. Besides bowing, the instrument may also be strummed or struck for additional tone colors. The strings are often too closely spaced for conventional finger picking, but may be plucked at the bowing end.Some players will also hold two bows in one hand to facilitate double-stopping. You should hold the Bowed Psaltery with your hand across the back supporting it, the point directed away from your body. It’s good to start out sitting down, then you can rest the bottom edge of the Psaltery against your leg. When you’re standing you can rest the bottom edge against your hip or stomach. An full detailed technique on playing and tuning can be found here.
You can find soprano to baritone models , raging from 24 to 30 strings. It has the beautiful sound of a violin without any of the difficult fingering. It is played with a bow, and the strings are set up similar to a piano keyboard. All of the natural notes (white piano keys) are on the right side while all of the sharps and flats (black piano keys) are on the left side. It is very easy to play any piece of music on this instrument.
Hereby a cute video featuring Celeste Ray on Bowed Psaltery… the tune: is an Appalachian reel known as “Old Molly Hare”… there is a similar nice welsh version called “The Fairy’s Reel”…Enjoy!
And the two first were virgin of body. And the third was chaste, for only once had he committed bodily sin; and that, through temptation, at the time when he won . . . daughter of King Brangor, who was Empress in Constantinople, and from whom was descended the greatest race in the world. All three were sprung of the race of Joseph of Arimathea, and of the lineage of the Prophet David, as the History of the Graal testifies.
“Stanzas of the Graves” (aka The Graves of the Warriors of Britain) are found in a number of Welsh manuscripts. The earliest and most important collection is in the”Black Book of Carmarthen” containing seventy-three stanzas; sixty-nine of which were copied in the second quarter of the thirteenth century and the other four (numbers 70 to 73) in the second half of the same century. Five such stanzas occur amongst the Llywarch verses in the “Red Book of Hergest” and it is known that these five were once in the earlier (fourteenth century) “White Book of Rhydderch.”
The stanzas themselves may well date to the ninth or tenth century. Certainly later court poets of the princes appear to have drawn on this information.
a grave for Gwgawn Red-sword;
the world’s wonder a grave for Arthur.
Literally “I have been,” is found in the Black Book of Carmarthen (Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin) which dates to 1250 but the poem itself is earlier, dating to the tenth or eleventh century. Four of the stanza commence: “I have been where ___ was slain”
This is an incomplete poem, usually dated to the eleventh century. It begins as a dialogue between Arthur and Glewlwyd, the porter or gate-keeper, but develops into a list of Arthur’s men and their exploits. Many of the names and references are similar to those in Culhwch ac Olwen.
The Battle of the Trees, from Preidu Annwn, is one of the transformation/prophecy poems of the legendary Taliesin.
lively and rightful;
And Gwythur’s horse;
And Gwawrddur’s horse;
And Arthur’s horse,
boldly bestowing pain;
And Taliesin’s horse;
Preserved in the thirteenth century, Llyfr Aneirin, Y Gododdin has a claim to be one of the earliest Welsh poems (or sequence of poems). It contains one reference to Arthur, which may or may not be a later interpolation; if it is original it is the earliest of all references to Arthur:
He cut down both centre and wing,
He excelled in the forefront of the noblest host,
He gave gifts of horses from the herd in winter.
He fed black ravens on the rampart of a fortress
Though he was no Arthur.
Among the powerful ones in battle,
In the front rank, Gwawrddur was a palisade.
These are “The Triads of the Island of Britain” previously discussed on latter posts. It is believed that the triads evolved as mnemonic devices to assist the recollection of narrative material and that they were used in the bardic schools, with pupil bards learning triad sequences by heart. In all there are some 96 Triads contained in various Welsh manuscripts. Many of the Triads have Arthurian references (particularly in the later versions):
- Three Red Ravagers of the Island of Britain:
and Rhun son of Beli,
and Morgant the Wealthy.
- Three Generous Men of the Island of Britain:
- Nudd the Generous, son of Senyllt,
Mordaf the Generous, son of Serwan,
Rhydderch the Generous, son of Tudwal Tudglyd.
And Arthur himself was more generous than the three.
- Three Well-Endowed Men of the Island of Britain:
- Gwalchmai son of Gwyar,
and Llachau son of Arthur,
and Rhiwallawn Broom-Hair.
- Three Chieftains of Arthur’s Court:
- Gobrwy son of Echel Mighty-Thigh,
Cadr(i)eth (‘Fine-Speech’) son of Porthawr Gadw,
and Fleudur Fflam (‘Flame’).
- Three Frivolous (some say “scurrilous”) Bards of the Island of Britain:
and Cadwallawn son of Cadfan,
and Rahawd son of Morgant.
- Three Powerful Swineherds of the Island of Britain:
- Drystan son of Tallwch, who guarded the swine of March son of Meirchiawn, while the swineherd went to ask Essyllt to come to a meeting with him. And Arthur was seeking (to obtain)one pig from among them, either by deceit or by force, but he did not get it;
- And Pryderi son of Pwyll, Lord of Annwfn, who guarded the swine of Pendaran Dyfed in Glyn Cuch in Emlyn;
- And Coll son of Collfrewy, who guarded Henwen, the sow of Dallwyr Dallben, who went (when) about to bring forth(?), to Penrhyn Awstin in Cornwall, (and there she went into the sea). And at Aber Tarogi in Gwent Is Coed she came to land. And Coll son of Collfrewy with his hand on her bristles wherever she went, whether by sea or by land. And in the Wheat Field in Gwent she brought forth a grain of wheat and a bee; and therefore that place is the best for wheat and bees. And from there she went to Llonion in Pembroke, and there she brought forth a grain of barley and a bee. From thence she made for the Hill of Cyferthwch in Eryri; there she brought forth a wolf-cub and a young eagle. And Coll son of Collfrewy gave the eagle to Bre(r)nnach the Irishman of the North, and the wolf he gave to Me(n)waedd son of … Arllechwedd; and these were (the Wolf of) Me(n)waedd and the Eagle of Brennach. And from thence she went to the Black Stone in Llanfair in Arfon, and there she brought forth a kitten; and Coll son of Collfrewy threw that kitten into Menai. And she was afterwards Palug’s Cat.
- Three Unfortuate Counsels of the Island of Britain:
- To give place for their horse’s fore-feet on the land to Julius Caesar and the men of Rome, in requital for Meinlas;
- and the second: to allow Horse and Hengist and Rhonwen into this Island;
- and the third: the three-fold dividing by Arthur of his men with Medrawd at Camlann.
- Three Unrestricted Guests of the Arthur’s Court, and Three Wanderers:
- Llywarch the Old,
- Arthur’s Three Great Queens:
- Gwenhwyfar daughter of (Cywryd) Gwent,
and Gwenhwyfar daughter of (Gwythyr) son of Greidiawl,
and Gwenhwyfar daughter of (G)ogfran the Giant.
- And his Three Mistresses were these:
- Indeg daughter of Garwy the Tall,
and Garwen (“Fair Leg”) daughter of Henin the Old,
and Gwyl (“Modest”) daughter of Gendawd (“Big Chin”).
- The Arthur of the Welsh: Arthurian Legend in Mediaeval Welsh Literature (University of Wales Press – Writers of Wales) (Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages) by Rachel Bromwich
- English, e.g. ‘The Hengwrt Chaucer’ Peniarth MS 392
- Latin, e.g. ‘The Law of Hywel Dda’ Peniarth MS 28
- Cornish, e.g. ‘Beunans Meriasek’ Peniarth MS105
However Vaughan’s main interest was the Welsh language. He collected in Hengwrt a great number of our most significant Welsh language manuscripts, including
- The Black Book of Carmarthen (Peniarth MS 1), the earliest manuscript in the Welsh language
- The Book of Taliesin (Peniarth MS 2), which includes the oldest Welsh verse
- The White Book of Rhydderch (Peniarth MS 4), which includes the earliest version of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi
- The Chronicle of the Princes (Peniarth MS 20), the earliest chronicle of Welsh history
The manuscripts were preserved at Hengwrt for generations, and some other volumes were added to them over the years. When Sir Robert Williames Vaughan of Hengwrt died in 1859, without an heir, he left the collection to his friend W W E Wynne, who moved the manuscripts to the Peniarth Library, Meirioneth.
The whole collection was bought by Sir John Williams (1840-1926) in 1904. When W R M Wynne, the eldest son of W W E Wynne died in 1909, the manuscripts were transferred from Peniarth to the new National Library at Aberystwyth.
1. Three tribal thrones of the Island of Prydain. Arthur the Chief Lord at Menevia, and David the chief bishop, and Maelgwyn Gwyned the chief elder. Arthur the chief lord at Kelliwic in Cornwall, and Bishop Betwini the chief bishop, and Caradawg Vreichvras the chief elder. Arthur the chief lord in Penrionyd in the north, and Cyndeyrn Garthwys the cheif bishop, and Gurthmwl Guledic the chief elder.
2. Three generous ones of the Island of Prydain. Nudd Hael, son of Senyllt; Mordaf Hael, son of Servan; Rhydderch Hael, son of Tutwal Tudelyt.
3. Three fair lords of the Island of Prydain. Run son of Maelgwyn; Owen son of Urien; Ruawn Pefyr son of Deorath Guledig.
4. Three naturalists of the Island of Prydain. Gwalchmei son of Gwyar; and Llachau son of Arthur; and Rhiwallawn Gwallt Banadlen.
5. Three pillars of battle of the Island of Prydain. Dunawd son of Pabo pillar of Britain; and Gwallawc son of Lleenawc; and Cynfelyn Drwsgl.
6. Three bulls of battle of the Island of Prydain. Kynvarch Cat Caduc son of Kynnwyt Kynwytyon; and Gwenddoleu son of Coidyaw; and Uryen son of Kynvarch.
7. Three bull-princes of the Island of Prydain. Elmwr son of Cadeir; and Cynhafal son of Argat; and Afaon son of Taliessin. Three sons of bards were these.
8. Three Humble Princes of the Island of Prydain. Llywarch Hen son of Elidyr Lydanwyn; and Manawydan son of Llyr Lledyeith; and Gwgawn Gwrawn son of Peredur son of Eliffer Gosgordvaur.
9. Three princes of the Court of Arthur. Goronwy son of Echell Fordwyten; and Cadreith son of Porthfaurgaddu; and Fleidur Fflam.
10. Three princes of Deira and Bernicia. Gall son of Desgyfedawdt and Ysgafnell son of Disgyfedawt; and Diffydell son of Disgyfedawt. Three sons of bards were these three.
11. Three ruddy-speared bards of the Island of Prydain. Tristvardd bard of Urien; and Dygynelw bard of Owen; and Mainferdic, bard of Cadwallawn, son of Catfan; and they were sons of Morgant.
12. Three supreme servants of the Island of Prydain. Caradawc son of Bran; and Caurdaf son of Caradawc; and Owen son of Maxen Guledic.
13. Three fleet owners of the Island of Prydain. Gereint son of Erbin; and Gwenwywnwyn son of Naf; and March son of Meirchiaun.
14. Three strong-crutched ones of the Island of Prydain. Rineri son of Tangwn; and Tinwaed faglaw; and Pryder son of Dolor of Deira and Bernicia.
15. Three fettered ones of the Island of Prydain. Cadwaladyr the blessed; and Run son of Maelgwyn; and Rhiwallawn wallt Banadlen.
16. Three cavaliers of battle of the Island of Prydain. Caradawg freichfras; Menwaed of Arllechwedd; and Llyr Lluydauc.
17. Three hostile ovates of the Island of Prydain. Greidiawl Galovyd, son of Enfael Adran; and Gweyr of great manliness; and Trystan son of Tallwch.
18. Three red-spotted ones of the Island of Prydain. Arthur; and Run son of Beli; and Morgant Mwynfawr.
19. Three front leaders of battle of the Island of Prydain. Trystan son of Tallwch; and Huil son of Caw; and Cei son of Cynyr Cynfarfawc and one person was supreme over these three: Bedwyr son of Pedrawt was that one.
20. Three heroes of the Island of Prydain. Th three sons of Hayarnwed the treacherous: Grudnei and Henpen and Edenawc.
21. Three arrogant ones of the Island of Prydain. Sawyl penuchel; and Pasgen son of Uryen; and Run son of Einiaun.
22. Three obstructers of slaughter of the Island of Prydain. Gilbert son of Catgyffro; and Morfran son of Tegid; and Gwgun of the ruddy sword.
23. Three powerful swineherds of the Islad of Prydain. Trystan son of Tallwch, who kept the swine of March, son of Meirchiawn, while the swineherd went on a message to Essyllt to desire a meeting with her, and Arthur desired one pig by deceit or by theft, and could not get it; and Pryderi son of Pwyll, who kept the swine of Pendaran Dyfed in Glencuwch in Emlyn; And Coll son of Collfrewy, who kept the ancient sow of Dallweir Dalben, who went burrowing as far as Penryn Awstin in Cornwall, and there going to the sea, landed at Abertorogi in Gwent Iscoed, and Coll son of Collfrewy having his hand on her bristles, wherever she went on the sea or on the land, and at Maes Gwenith in Gwent she dropped wheat and bees, and from henceforth there is the best wheat there, and from thence she went to Lonwen in Penbro, and there she dropped barley and bees, and from thence there is the best barley in Lonwen, and from thence she proceeded to the Riw Cyferthwch in Eryri, and there she dropped a wolf-cub and an eagle, and Coll son of Collfreuy gave the eagle to Brynach Gwyddel of the north, and the wolf he gave to Menwaed fo Arllechwedd, and these are the wolf of Menwaed and the eagle of Brynach, and thence going to Maendu in Llanfare, in Arvon, and there she dropped a kitten, and Coll son of Collfrewy threw the kitten in the Menai, and she became afterwards the Paluc cat.
24. Three chief-gleaming ones of the Island of Prydain. Coll son of Collfrewy; and Meniw son of Teirgwaed; and Drych son of Kiwdar.
25. Three primary illusions of the Island of Prydain. The illusion of Math son of Mathonwy; and the illusion of Uthyr Pendragon; and the illusion of Gwydelen Gor.
26. Three loyal households of the Island of Prydain. The household of Catwallaun son of Cadfan, who were seven years in Ywerdon with him, and in that time demanded no pay nor compensation from him; and the household of Gafran son of Aedan, who went to sea with their lord; and the third the household of Gwendoleu son of Ceidyaw at Arderyd, who maintained the contest forty-six days after their lord was slain. The number of the households each one of their warriors one hundred men and a score.
27. Three disloyal households of the Island of Prydain. The household of Goronw Pebyr of Penllyn who refused to stand in place of their lord to recieve the poisoned darts from Lew Law Gyffes in Lech Goronwy in Blaen Cynfael; and the household of Gwrgi and Peredur, who deserted their lords at Caer Greu, when there was appointment for battle next morning against Eda Glinmaur, and they were both slain; and the third, the household of Alan Fyrgan, who returned back by stealth from their lord, on the road at night with his servants at Camlan, and there he was slain.
28. Three pass retinues of the Island of Prydain. The retinue of Mynydawg of Eidyn; the retinue of Melyn son of Cynvelyn; and the retinue of Dryan son of Nudd.
29. Three warriors who made the three good assassinations of the Island of Prydain. Gall son of Dysgyfedawt, who slew the two birds of Gwendoleu, who had a yoke of gold about them, and devoured two bodies of the Cymry at their dinner and two at their supper; and Ysgafnell son of Dysgyfedawt, who slew Edelfled king of Lloegyr; and Diffedel son of Dysgyfedawt, who slew Gwrgi Garwlwyt, and this Gwrgi a male and female of the Cymry, and two on Saturday that he might not kill on Sunday.
30. Three atrocious assassinations of the Island of Prydain. Eidyn son of Einygan, who slew Aneiryn Gwawdrud, the supreme of bards; and Llawgat Trumbargawt, who slew Afaon son of Taliessin; and Llovan Llawdino, who slew Urien son of Kynvarch.
31. Three atrocious axe-strokes of the island of Prydain. The axe-stroke of Eidyn on the Head of Aneiryn; and the axe-stroke on the head of Godlan the bard; and the axe-stroke on the head of Iago son of Beli.
32. Three combined expeditions that went from this island and never returned. One went with Helen Luydawg and Cynan her brother. Another went with Yrp Luydawc, in the time of Cadyal son of Erynt, he came to ask assistance, and he asked not from each city, but the same number he should bring with him and there came with him to the first only one youth, and he obtained one given him. He was the greatest levier fo an expedition that went from this island, and none of the warriors returned. They went on an invasive expedition, these warriors, to two islands in the sea of Greece. These are teh two islands, Gals and Avena. The third host went with Caswallaun son of Beli, and Gwenwynwyn, and Gwanar sons of Lliaws son of Nwyure, and Aranrot daughter of Beli, was their mother, and from Arllechwed were these wariors, and they went with Caswallawn, their uncle, against the Cesariot over the sea, and these warriors are now in Gwasgwyn. There went with each of these hosts one thousand and twenty. These are the three silver hosts. They were thus called, for they took the gold and silver of the island with them, as much as they could.
33. Three oppressions came to this Island, and did not go out of it. The nation of the Coranyeit, who came in the time of Llud son of Beli, and did not go out of it; the Oppression of the Gwyddyl Fichti, and they did not again go out of it. The third, the oppression was the Saxons, and they did not again go out of it.
34. Three closures and three disclosures of the Island of Prydain. The blessed head of Bran son of Llyr, which was buried in the Gwynfryn in London, and while the head remained in that state, no invasion would ever come to this island. The second, the bones of Gwerthefyr the blessed, which are buried in the principle ports of this island; and the third, the dragons which Llud son of Beli buried in Dinas Emreis in Eryri.
The Four Ancient Books of Wales. ed. by William F. Skene. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1868.
A Large Compilation of Welsh Triads can be found on Celtic-Twilight
To find out more about the history of the Hengwrt-Peniarth manuscripts, see
* Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales (Aberystwyth, 1940-2003), vol. I, pp. iii-xxiii
For descriptions of individual manuscripts, see
* MSS 1-327 and 533-9 (the collection’s Welsh language manuscripts): J Gwenogvryn Evans’ catalogue, Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language (London, 1898-1910), volume. I, pp. 297-1126
* MSS 328-532 (manuscripts mainly in languages other than Welsh): descriptions in Handlist of Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales (1943-2003), vol. I, pp. 1-22, other than a small number of manuscripts that did not come to the Library in 1909
* MSS 540-61 and the ‘Ancient Peniarth Manuscripts’ (all the manuscripts that did not come to the Library in 1909): typescript catalogue Peniarth MSS: A Catalogue of Additional Manuscripts (1990)
The triads are both a source of pride for the British people and are a semi-reliable source of historical information on the British Isles. The three-line writing form is thought to have been a mnemonic device for Bards; the prevalent heraldic tradition required a better method for recall.
The earliest triads date from pre-Saxon invasion literature.
The earliest surviving collection of the Welsh Triads is bound in the manuscript Peniarth 16, now at the National Library of Wales, which has been dated to the third quarter of the 13th century and containing 46 of the 86 triads edited by Rachel Bromwich.
Other important manuscripts include Peniarth 45 (written about 1275), and the pair White Book of Rhydderch (Welsh: Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) and Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest), which share a common version of the Mabinogion clearly different from the version behind the collections in the Peniarth manuscripts.
The White Book of Rhydderch (Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) and the Red Book of Hergest hold the most complete and elaborate selection of the Welsh Triads. Further, it is widely held to be the earliest grouping of Welsh prose texts. The text today is divided into three texts: Peniarth MS 4- known as The Mabinogion, and an incomplete one in the White Book of Rhydderch, ca. 1325. The Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest) Paramount Welsh manuscript that dates from about 1382-1410. The work currently resides in the Bodleian Library. The manuscript is ultimately divided in twain: The initial is dominated by prose (which includes the Mabinogion and other myths) and the ever-present triads, and the latter portion is poetic. Also, the story of Culhwch and Olwen exists in its entirety in the manuscript. I will discuss about these books on detailed further posts
A range of characters, mythic and historical, appear in the Triads:
Mythic figures such as Bran the Blessed, undeniably historical personages such as Alan IV, Duke of Brittany (who is called Alan Fyrgan) and even Iron Age characters like Caswallawn (Cassivellaunus) and Caradoc (Caratacus). The Medieval Welsh tale Culhwch and Olwen, see below, has many triads embedded in its narrative.
These are the oldest written tales concerning King Arthur. “On the evidence of the orthography and certain linguistic features of the text, it has been estimated that the tale took more or less its present shape sometime shortly before the eleventh century. It is therefore perhaps the earliest extant vernacular prose text from Wales.” Arthurian legend is very primitive in the triads. Further, he is glossed as a lesser hero. For example, it is suggested that rather than chivalrous battles Arthur engaged in guerilla warfare or solo missions against adversaries. “He is seldom portrayed as a mighty war leader against the Saxons”.That fact aside, the heroic age is still prevalent and well-connected with its’ pre-Roman roots. In one legend, Julius Caesar’s opponent Cassivellaunus surfaces as does the god Beli – the purported father of Arthur.The round table knight Tristan (dubbed Drystan), is introduced as a noble pig-herder in the Arthurian tales.
The Dream of Rhonabwy is considered another great source of Arthurian legend. Culwch and Olwen and Rhonabwy date back earlier than the 11th century but were not added to the White Book of Rhydderch until the 14th century.
Culhwch and Olwen, an important Welsh Arthurian tale, is extant in two manuscripts: a complete copy in the Red Book of Hergest, ca. 1400, and an incomplete one in the White Book of Rhydderch, ca. 1325. On the evidence of the orthography and certain linguistic features of the text, it has been estimated that the tale took more or less its present shape sometime shortly before the eleventh century. It is therefore perhaps the earliest extant vernacular prose text from Wales. It contains the oldest written form of Arthur. Culhwch and Olwen, an important Welsh Arthurian tale extant in two manuscripts: a complete copy in the red book of hergest, ca. 1400 Culhwch and Olwen is the oldest Welsh literature and shows the most primal form of Arthurian legend. The story is about the knight Culhwch who is cursed by his step mother to woo Olwen, the daughter of a giant. Culhwch finds his way to the court of Arthur and we get the first view of the classic Arthurian court hospitality. There Arthur and his knights set out on a series of adventures. There is a huge separation between the language used in Culhwch and Olwen and the language found in the more formal Mabinogion. Culhwch and Olwen is a prime example of Old Welsh language while the Mabinogion displaces Middle Welsh.
The Mabinogion: ‘The Four Branches of the Mabinogi’, ‘Culhwch and Olwen’, ‘The Dream of Macsen Wledig’, ‘Lludd and Llefelys’, ‘Peredur’, ‘Owain’, and ‘Geraint and Enid’. The Mabinogion is a collection of eleven Welsh “tales of youth”. It was translated by Lady Charlotte Guest (1838–1839) and contains four tales from The Red Book of Hergest as well as fragments from the White Book of Rydderch. The tales were composed during the 11th and 12th centuries, and began full compilation by 1200. () Mabinogi refers to a group of four of the tales known as “Pedair Cainc y Mabinogoni”. The word is derived from the Welsh mab meaning ‘boy’ or ‘youth’. In addition to these four tales, the Mabinogion contains the texts of Culhwch and Olwen, the Dream of Maxen, Lludd and Llevelys, The Dream of Rhonabwy, The Lady of the Fountain, Son of Evrawg, and Gereint and Enid. Arthur appears in many of these tales. The four main branches of the tale include the tales of Pwyll, Branwen, Manawydan, and Math. All of these are stories on Celtic myths. The tales take place in a pre-Norman past, creating a strong sense of 11th century Welsh society and early Norman influence on the material life of the nobility. Within these four branches are other loosely-related stories, which adhere to Norman history. These serve as important histories as they were written before Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae, thus they are novus originae of Arthurian Legend tradition. For example, Culhwch ac Olwen, antedates the Norman Conquest. This story takes place in King Arthur’s court, and it describes a sequence of challenges in which Culhwch must accomplish to win the daughter of the gaint Ysbaddaden. These Welsh romances correspond to 12th century French Romances of Yvain, Perceval, Erec and Enide leading scholars to believe that these French or Breton tales derive from Welsh materials. The Mabinogion also inspired several modern English texts such as The Virgin and the Swine by Evangaline Walton.
Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams), the 18th century Welsh antiquarian, compiled a collection of triads, which he claimed to have taken from his own collection of manuscripts. Some of his triads are similar to those found in the medieval manuscripts, but some are unique to Morganwg, and are widely believed to have been of his own invention. “Writers like Morganwg in the late 18th and early 19th centuries created a ‘pedigree’ of bardic activity”. One example of Morganwg’s contributions is the story of Dwynwen: the 5th or 6th century Welsh patron saint of lovers. Her story is depicted in three Latin prayers originally though, Morganwg conjured a fanciful tale to enrich the triad and make the story more mystical. Among his many contributions to Welsh culture, he also founded the Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain, “The Gorsedd of Bards of the Island of Britain”. A group that celebrates Welsh culture and still exists today.
For a complete edition, translation and commentary, see Rachel Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein. The Welsh Triads. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1961. A second edition appeared in 1978, and the third edition has just appeared; click here to read about this new edition on the University of Wales Press site.
See Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch (the White Book of Rhydderch) online at the National Library of Wales
See Llyfr Coch Hergest (the Red Book of Hergest) online from the Early Manuscripts at Oxford project
See Mary Jones’s Welsh Texts site, with translations of the Triads from both the White and Red books
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism
Regarding it’s standing stones I am pleased to share with you this interesting review written byJos van Geffen who also took the pictures included here. All rights reserved by the author and re-posted by his kind permission.
Scotland still has a large number of pre-historic sites: stone circles, brochs, houses, tombs, rock carvings, etc. The precise origin and function of most of these sites is a mystery because the peoples that build them left no written history. On this page you find three stone circles in the area west of Aberdeen, but there are more much more examples of pre-historic sites, some of which I visited myself. Undoubtably the most impressive were Standing Stones of Callanish (on Lewis), but also the Kilmartin Glen and Orkney show a wonderful collection of pre-historic sites.
===> a page with some more pre-historic sites: an earth house and the Stones of Stenness.
Recumbent stone circles, such as this, are only found in north-east Scotland. The are characterised by a large slab placed horizontally between two flanking uprights on the circumference of the circle and a low burial cairn in the centre. These stone circles were made or used probably about 1800-1600 B.C.
Recumbent stone circle at Midmar Kirk
The recumbent is 4.5 metres long and can be seen in the background at the centre.
The text on the information sign at this site tells more about recumbent stone circles in general and this one in particular. I have translated that text also in Dutch (in het Nederlands dus).
Cullerlie: a circle of eight undressed boulder encloses an area consecrated by fires on which eight small cairns ringed by stones were built, probably about 2000 B.C. Two of the cairns contain pits and two other cists. Because the site has been disturbed before, excavations in 1934 revealed only burnt bones, charcoal, and part of a flat knife.
Some more information in English and that text translated in Dutch (Nederlands).
This map (17 kb) shows with a red square where these three photos were taken; date: 28 September 1996.
Source: Jos van Geffen Home Page- All rights reserved by the author – last modified: March 2000