on Feb 13, 2015
Alright alright. So. Taliesin. Where to start. First, I guess it would be best to explain the diversity of the name Taliesin. You see, there is not one Taliesin, for there are two. One Taliesin lives in the myth of men, and the other is equally as mythical in the sense of a 6th century poet whom resided Wales. So when you say "Taliesin" you really must specify which one you are talking about. Taliesin!: Twice Born. or Taliesin!: The Cynnfeirdd.
The strange part about this mythological and historical differentiation is that they seem inseparable. Tied together by the sharing of a name. This happens though, because the historical knowledge we have of Taliesin (Cynnfeirdd) is far, far, far from complete. There for we know him only by the name 'Taliesin'. The figure spoken of in myth, as well, is only known as 'Taliesin' (save for his first existence, known as Gwion Bach).
So first I shall present to you Cynnfeirdd, Taliesin. Recorded in the text titled Historia Brittonum, Taliesin is named with Aneirin as the two extant poets of early Wales. In the Historia Brittonum there are five poets names, Aneirin, Taliesin, Talhaearn tad Awen, Blwchbardd, and Cian. Of these five, only Aneirin and Taliesin have had their names linked to historically verified poetry that survived from early Wales. (That I am aware of). The first work I'm going to list is the 'Llyfr Taliesin' or "Book of Taliesin' (more commonly known to scholars as Peniarth 2). Peniarth 2 is a 7x5 inch vellum manuscript, which is thought to have been written sometime in the middle or latter half of the 14th century. Peniarth 2 belongs to a set of manuscripts, aptly titled 'The Peniarth Manuscripts'. These texts were gathered by a man named Robert Vaughn who lived from 1592 to 1667.
In the text Peniarth 2 there are about sixty Welsh poems, and of these sixty poems twelve of them are attributed to the historical Taliesin. Of these sixty Welsh poems, fifteen of them are attributed to the legendary Taliesin (Twice-Born). But that is another story for another time, to be had further down this page.
The second text that historically references Taliesin, the court poet, is vaguely known as the 'chwedl Taliesin', more widely known as 'Hanes Taliesin', and altogether much much more popularly and correctly called the "Ystoria Taliesin". This book is a mixture of Welsh prose and poetry, which all seem to be about Taliesin or his accomplisments/adventures. The Ystoria Taliesin is where we derive all we know of the legendary Taliesin, along with the Mabinogion. Many of the texts found within this manuscript are fragmented, and so as with all we know of Taliesin caution is advised as it is based on cross referencing and culture studies done on a culture that was greatly damaged.
The Ystoria Taliesin is the text in which we find the tale of Gwion Bach and how he came to ingest the three drops of inspiration from Cerridwens cauldron. It is also in this work that we find the story of how the cast out infant of Cerridwen came to be adopted by a child prince named Elphin. It is recounted that as Elphin came to check the gathering vessels by the stream of his fathers estate, he found a bundle of leather and cloth in the container. Taking this bundle out and uncovering it the first thing he saw was a shining brow, and which he then found to be belonging to a baby boy. It was at this moment that Elphin named the child Taliesin, or 'shining brow'. Taking the child back to his father, the king, he was scolded for having brought back a worthless child. At this, Taliesin informed the king that as long as he lived in his castle his land would prosper, and no rival would be able to conquer. Surprised at the infant speaking, the king was taken aback. Taliesin proceeded to inform him that he would be the greatest of poets, and with his help, he would bring culture and art, wisdom and power to his caste. And so it was in this way that Taliesin the Twice Born came to rise in popularity with the ranks of sovereignty.
There are many tales of the poet not only winning disputes with guile and wisdom, but as well as riding into battle. Often seen as having a circlet of flame around his brow, this has been called his 'third eye'. Said to have able to enter an 'inspired' frenzy, he was as fierce on the field in battle as he was in the courts with his words. I find this very akin to the concept of altered states of mind, in which one may experience a sense of enlightenment. In this sense however, one must define the way they view 'enlightenment'. The transcendence of material woes, or earthly worries or perhaps it is the attuning to of the flow around you. The flow of words, falling from your mouth steeped in wisdom, or the circulation of blood throughout our body. You become undivided with the state of existence you perceive. Attuning to the flow. We see Taliesin the Twice Born embodying this as he fled from Cerridwen. As a rabbit in the forest, a salmon in the stream, a bird upon the winds, or a kernel of corn to be eaten.
Now for the correlation between the two. It is possible that the Ystoria Taliesin was written about Taliesin Cynnfeirdd. It is also highly possible that Taliesin Cynnfeirdd took his name after the character depicted in the Ystoria Taliesin. Regardless of who came first, both give us a peek into the Celtic mindset of poetry as a whole. The power of words, and the wisdom to hone them. One could argue that the ancient Celts saw poetry as an expression of the connection between being and reality, as well as way to send reality far away. This two sided coin mirrors the cycle of existence. For instance, one who enjoy summer is at home in the season, connected to the reality of the matter. Warm, pleasant, thriving and bright. However the same person who enjoys summer, may find themselves trying to disassociate from the reality of harsh cold winters - and vise versa. Through poetry one may imbibe in the splendors of life, and send the worries far away. So while it is the art of words, it is far more than just words, it is the art of kindling spirits or gracefully exposing the truth.
With that in mind, it is no wonder that a boy who ran amongst the land, swam within the waters, and soared upon the winds only to be reborn and renamed is the symbol of inspiration. To face the reality, go with the blows, and come out clean and new. Truly inspiring indeed. (cue the cheese).
And, there you are. Taliesin.
I will now give you some links, for the lols and the edumacation.