One of the books I’ve been reading is Nigel Pennick‘s The Celtic Sacred Landscape. Near the beginning it had this quote from the British Triads that struck me and stuck me about the three principle endeavours of a Bard:
“The Three Principle Endeavours of a A Bard: One is to learn and collect sciences; the second is to teach; and the third is to make peace and put an end to all injury; for to do contrary to these things is usual or becoming to a Bard.”
I feel this is such a powerful statement of what a Bard should do and be, and what a person setting out to embody the way of the Bard should aspire to, that it would make a good subject for meditation. So I meditated on each in turn, using the discursive method of meditation.
A Bard is to learn and collect sciences. I started by contemplating some of the sciences I am collecting myself. I thought about each of the seven liberal arts and how they are useful not only to a Bard, but to the community a Bard is in service to. I also felt, while meditating, that learning discursive meditation will help my public speaking skills -public speaking in turn being affected by knowledge of rhetoric and grammar. Ecology, permaculture, and design-science will also be useful in my Bardic toolkit. I thought of Magic as one of the main sciences of the Bard.
A Bard is a teacher. In my meditation on the Bard as a teacher, I mused on how a Bard must not only be a keeper of sacred memory and lore, but a transmitter of it as well. Knowledge is not to be hoarded, but used and shared. Stories, songs and poems all can be used as containers for sacred knowledge, and can affect a person on many levels. They are also one of the best ways to teach people, because a good story, song, or poem engages a person on all levels of being. It can effect them emotionally, intellectually, spiritually which in turn can have physical effects on the body. By encoding the keys to the Inner worlds in the artifacts of culture, these keys will be preserved forever, opening the doorways to those worlds for successive generations. It’s strange to think of SF author and digital activist Cory Doctorow in terms of Bardism, but I do love his storytelling. One of the things I enjoy the most about reading Cory’s fiction books, is how much I learn about a whole plethora of subjects by reading a wonderful story. Those of us storytellers who are also occultists and practitioners of magic can do the same thing: teach people about magic in the guise of a grand story.
A Bard makes peace and puts an end to all injury. One of the thing Bard’s used to do -in societies and cultures that still upheld this role- was to commemorate the good deeds of leaders and satirize the failings of those who did wrong to clan and troth. We see the satirists at work today as comedians who often have some of the most insightful views on politics. I don’t keep up too much with stand up comedy, but the late George Carlin and Bill Hicks are prime examples of this in action. I’m not sure if they created peace per se, but with precision they pointed out the glaring hypocrisies at work in our industrial culture. This needs to be done, and humor is one tool to combat the darkness. By bringing levity in to ourselves, and sharing it with others, we give ourselves strength to face the many injustices of the world. A Bard, through her or his eloquence, can also be a peacekeeper through the magical act of goodly speech. Through words they can act as mediators between two hostile camps -whether they be political parties, fundamentalist religious groups, gangs, or a married couple in the heat of a dispute. These are some of the areas a contemporary may be called upon to work in as a peace maker and mediator.
A Bard is very much a mediator in many ways, transferring energy from the Innerworlds to this Worlds-Realm as needed, working in unconditional service.