Boscawen-Un, Cornish Bards, and the ‘Arwen’

The modern Cornish Gorsedh of bards was established 83 years ago within the ancient stone circle at Boscawen-Un, near St Buryan in Penwith (west Cornwall).

On Sunday 26 June 2011, which was the nearest Sunday to mid-summer this year, Cornish Bards again assembled to celebrate a new observance, the mid-summer Awen ceremony.

In ancient British Celtic society the bards were the chief holders of the history, laws and genealogies of the tribes and nations, reciting tales which glorified (or ridiculed) the recognised leaders!

There were three (3) gathering places for the bards in Britain in known texts; one is thought to be Boscawen Un in Cornwall!

The Awen is the symbol for the Cornish Gorsedh, as it is for the Welsh and Breton Gorseddhau and represents three rays descending to the earth.

Since that first gathering in 1928 at Boscawen Un, 1300 or so Cornish people have been so honoured for their services to Celtic Cornwall, within the country and throughout the disapora.

The ‘Open’ Gorsedh of all Bards worldwide is held on the first Saturday in September each year rotated to a different site within Cornwall and attracting up to 500 Bards and is now so large it is held in easily accessible locations. This year it will be in Helston.

In the Cornish bardic ceremonial the leader is called the Grand Bard, and all bards wear ceremonial blue robes.

The Gorsedh exists to maintain the national Celtic spirit of Cornwall and to give expression to such spirit; to encourage the study of Cornish history and the Celtic Cornish language; to foster other cornish literature, art and music; to link Cornwall with the other Celtic countries. It strives promotes a spirit of peace and cooperation amongst those who work for the honour of Cornwall.

Forty-two Bards of Cornwall and a similar number of supporters travelled to Boscawen-Un, an ancient site of the Cornish, to celebrate this new Bardic ceremony with a 3-fold aim

  1. to return to our ancient roots,

  2. to demonstrate the position of Gorsedh Kernow in fostering and promoting Cornish Culture,

  3. and to reinforce the links of the ‘awen’ through mankind (represented by body, heart and spirit), our planet Earth (land, sea and air), and the interaction between the two (wisdom, truth and love).

Merv Davey, piped in the Gorsedd banner, depicting the Awen, and it was solemnly taken around the stone circle where the Bards had taken up positions.

An gewer o Splann! The weather was splendid!

Grand Bard, Mick Paynter (Skogynn Pryv), spoke profoundly in Cornish, calling for peace (Cres) and reciting the Gorsedh Prayer with the Bards, which reinforces the importance of love, nature and goodness.

Next, invoking the ‘voices’ of our forefathers, he summoned those present to be true to Cornwall.

Then, two elders and two youngsters (8, and 10) from the local community entered the stone circle – and the spirit of the Awen was invoked, as a carved wooden ‘book of life’ was passed from the elders to the young, symbolising the passing on of wisdom and knowledge.

The Gorsedh Hymn, Bro Goth Agan Tasow (Old Land of Our Fathers), was sung by all – and again calls went up from Bardh Meur for peace; before the Bards then processed from the circle.

In keeping with the spirit of the day Bards, friends and community later met at the St Buryan Village Hall for traditional pasty and tea.

All agreed that this new ceremony had been a great success and will be continued annually at Mid Summer.

The resonance of the ceremonial language was due to the input of language poets, on invitation from Bardh Meur. Howard Curnow (Kernow) was acknowledged for having the inspiration for creating the ceremony and organising the event. Also Rod Lyon (Tewennow) for shaping the ceremony and Bardh Meur for conducting it with such dignity.

Each year it is planned to move the ceremony to special places around Cornwall, as with the main Gorsedd Ceremony.

However this first one had to be back where it started 83 years ago – at Boscawen-Un.

Cornish web site is at:  Gorsedh Kernow

Prepared by

Colin Roberts (Mab Sen Kolomm) and Chris Dunkerley (Kevrenor)