Follow the Way of Awen
The skills and wisdom of the Bard are as relevant today as they have ever been, in fact, in a world of communication breakdown and collective amnesia – where we fail to honour our geo-cultural heritage, and forget again and again the lessons of the past – possibly more so. The Bard was far more than ‘just’ a teller of tales or singer of songs: he or she was the remembrancer and chronicler for the tribe – of ancient lore, bloodlines, land rites, battles, geasa, great events, important details… In short, their living memory. And furthermore, a celebrant, in an official or unofficial capacity – whose tales and tunes would mark the cycles of life within the circle of the community: the wooings, the weddings, the nativities, comings-of-age, and other thresholds of change. With their words they could bless or blight. Warriors would vie for the honour of being immortalised through their elegies, kings and chiefs would take care to avoid their satire, lords and enemies feared their curses. The system of patronage may no longer be viable, but that also means the Bard is no longer at the behest of a liege. In a world where most forms of communication are monitored, perhaps only the Bard is truly free to speak his or her mind without having to kowtow to so-called ‘political correctness’, corporate values or media fads. In the age of spin, we need more than ever a re-enchantment of language, where people actually mean what they say, free of Post-Modern irony, and a man is as good as his word. It is not a return to spurious ‘old values’ but a re-imagining and renewing of what those values are, by learning from the lessons of the past and acknowledging the perspective which history affords. The wisdom of the past is ever-present, if we but listen. It is an insult to our collective ancestors to do otherwise, for it is their countless sacrifices which have enabled us to have come thus far: to be in this relatively privileged, but precarious, position on the cusp of a new millennia.
In an age of Climate Change and global turmoil, the importance of community, of common people helping one another, having a voice, being heard, validating personal ‘narratives’ outside the hegemony of a grander one, drawing upon their own resources and talents, wealth of experience and motherwit, could never be more imperative. The Bard’s ability to express the inexpressible, to celebrate the lives of all that live and have lived, and preserve for posterity the little epiphanies, personal triumphs and tragedies, heroics and hard-won wisdom from extinction, or from being drowned out in the white noise of endless trivia, enables excellence of expression and freedom of information at a grassroots level beyond webs and nets, dishes and boxes. It offers a folk democracy of the tongue and the limitless possibilities of the imagination.The Bard helps us to celebrate being human and enables us to appreciate other cultures, other perspectives, at the same time as being more fully in our own. It praises the universal through the particular: the local and microcosmic, the parts that make up the whole, which make something bigger than their sum – the biodiversity of humanity.
So, I have devised a 3 year training programme in the belief that everyone can benefit from Bardic skills: either as a listener or performer, whether you only wish to improve your public speaking, entertain your family and friends, or aspire to be a fully-fledged professional Bard, with ‘harp on back’, fire in the head and hundreds of stories at your fingertips. I can claim with complete conviction that you will benefit, however far down the path of the Bard you wish to go, because I certainly have. It has transformed my life: improving not just my communication skills (I never had the ‘gift of the gab’, although I always had a good imagination), but social ones as well (at school I was the introvert wallflower and now, it seems, I can keep most audiences entertained, although everyone has bad days). Becoming a Bard has given me, and is still giving me, so much: it has given me a community and a role to play in it and, perhaps most importantly of all, it has given me a way to live – a true and reliable guide for life.
To summarise: the overall aim of the Silver Branch Bardic Training programme is to empower people to find and use their true voice for the good of all. Its objectives are to:
- offer initiation for the budding Bard
- provide a practical 36 month training programme
- teach the art of storytelling
- teach techniques of poetic inspiration, composition and performance
- develop the power of the memory
- widen understanding of Awen
- develop awareness of the Bardic Tradition
- explore what it means to be a Bard in the 21st Century
- provide resources, such as a reading list, contacts, etc.
- connect with the wider community
- encourage respect for diverse global traditions and cultures
- foster ‘mythic literacy’ and an understanding of mythic levels in modern life
- act as a catalyst for new Bardic circles and the re-establishing of Bardic Chairs
- facilitate deep study on a myth, legend, fairy tale, or song cycle of one’s choice with critical support & appraisal.
- provide critical and creative support for a final project – performance, publication, public event.
An edited extract of the introduction to The Bardic Handbook: the complete manual for the 21st Century bard (Gothic Image, 2006).
The Bardic Study series
Silver Branch Bardic Training
A 3 Year Bardic Development Programme
with Dr Kevan Manwaring, (aka the ‘Bardic Academic’), lecturer, author of The Bardic Handbook, and founder of the Silver Branch Bardic Network.
Awaken the Bard within on this intensive 3 year training programme. Each module can be taken individually, at one’s own speed, and is customised to your unique Bardic path. Silver Branch Bardic Training is not a one-size-fits-all course that is set in stone, but is ‘bespoke’: tailor-made to your individual needs and interests. It is delivered by one-to-one mentoring with an experienced, published Bard.
Learn directly from an acknowledged expert in the field: ‘Kevan is a senior Bard in the UK and world landscape and author of the famous Bardic Handbook.‘ (Dr Thomas Daffern)
Dr Kevan Manwaring, the ‘Bardic Academic’
Programme of Study
Year 1 – Anruth to Bard (for beginners – no experience necessary)
During this year you shall work through the Bardic Handbook, which sets out a 12 month study programme that will take you from Anruth (apprentice stage) to declaring yourself as a Bard in a dedication and naming ceremony – with direct mentoring from the author himself. Your growing bardic skills will be honed through private study and participation in an online bardic circle.
Year 2 – Bardic Deep Study (Intermediate – for students who have completed Year 1)
With a theoretical focus, this year you will use The Way of Awen: journey of a bard as a guide – which explores the Welsh legend of Taliesin in great detail – but you will be asked to self-select a myth, legend, or song-circle to work on intensively. The fruits of this deep study will be manifold, but will include an extended non-fiction essay reflecting upon the themes of the selected tale/s in a critical way.
Year 3 – Bardic Practical Project (Advanced – for students who have completed Years 1 and 2)
With a practical focus, this final year the Silver Branch: bardic poems will be used as a guide as an example of an approach to an original creative project with a community/ecological aspect. You will conceive and complete a Bardic project of your choice: a spoken word performance, a collection of poems or short stories, an audio recording, a film, a stage play, etc. This final project will be the culmination of your study, which will be launched during an end-of-study celebration, which you will design and organise. This is when you fully step into your role as public Bard, serving your community. Your project will be assessed on not only its originality, skill, and vision, but also how it responds to the challenges of modern life, engages with multimodality or emergent technology, and serves and celebrates community and biodiversity.
- Weekly online bardic circle: a chance to raise the awen, connect with fellow bards, and share one’s latest poem, song, or story.
- Fortnightly lecture: a talk and connected activity designed to get the awen flowing.
- Monthly mentoring session: a chance to ask questions, receive feedback and advice, set one’s goals, reflect upon the previous month, and plan future activities.
- Quarterly review: an indepth review to assess progress and plan the next phase of study.
- Bardic declaration ceremony: when you received your bardic name and dedicate yourself to the path of the Bard.
- Critiques: of your creative and critical projects.
- Celebration: for the launch of your graduation project.
Year 2: Intensive support and feedback on one’s special study project. Critical appraisal on completion.
Year 3: Editorial support and feedback on one’s special bardic project. Launch celebration.
Monthly instalments of £250, or quarterly of £750 by standing order, BACS, or paypal. A discount for full-time students, Senior Citizens, or those in receipt of other benefits is available on application.
Applications open. New term starts in September.
For enquiries: contact Kevan – firstname.lastname@example.org
21 June 2020