This is a brief introduction to an online course I will be running in April, 2013; it may be of interest and of use to many users of this forum. All the details are available at the website (address found bellow). Please feel free to ask any more questions here if you feel it appropriate. I'm new to this forum so apologies if this notice is in the wrong place.
Are you interested in Celtic mythology? Have you ever wondered what these powerful myths were for and how they were used by bards and storytellers? The Mabinogi is one of the most important branches of Celtic mythology – a medieval collection of Welsh myths that have their roots in an ancient Celtic oral tradition – and this course offers you a rare opportunity to explore them in depth, to learn about the Welsh bardic tradition and the symbols hidden within these fantastical tales.
This course has developed from a simple insight I had several years ago, an insight which has guided my research ever since. As has been noted many times these last few centuries, there is much more to the Welsh myths than first meets the eye. The Mabinogi, the medieval collection of earlier Celtic British material, is clearly a dense, multilayered text always hinting at deeper layers of meaning. I see it as a landscape inhabited by powerful symbolic figures who, faced with challenging situations, find themselves performing symbolic acts.
My original insight was that most of the deeper, less obvious themes of the Mabinogi could only be unlocked when considered from the perspective of the tradition that gave birth to the tales, that is the Welsh bardic tradition. The poetry of medieval Wales is inextricably intertwined with the Mabinogi, both drawing on and feeding into native folklore and myth.
It is clear that the bards were also storytellers, and likewise the storytellers were probably mostly bards of some sort or another. The bardic schools were steeped in the myths and legends of their people, which they preserved, renewed and retold. In doing so, successive generations refined the motifs of the oral tradition they inherited, reducing the ancient materials to more potent and condensed forms. As a result, the texts themselves have developed many levels of meaning, as each generation’s collective meditation upon these ancient motifs has been slowly fossilised in the strata of the myths’ geology.
To understand how to unlock these deeper levels we must first find the symbolic keys that give access to them, and once we have found these keys, we must know how to use them to open the deeper meanings and themes of the texts. To truly understand the Mabinogi, we must first have at least a basic understanding of the Welsh bardic tradition and an appreciation of its subtler motives.
Dr Gwilym Morus