1. Indo-European Culture: Discuss in general terms the bardic arts prevalent within a single (preferably ancient) Indo-European culture; explain how those bardic arts fit into that culture and religion. (300-600 words)
The bardic arts play an important role in our knowledge of the ancient Greek culture. Through poetry, stories, and art we have learned about their practices, religion, and society. One work that gives us a glimpse into the history of Greece is the Odyssey, which is an epic poem written between 700 and 800 BC, attributed to a poet named Homer
poem explores the journey of Telemachus while he tries to find his father,
Odysseus, and bring him home. It is captivating story with successes and
failures, intervention from the deities, revenge, giants, monsters, chases,
escapes, and even some true love. By
looking deeper into the writing in the Odyssey we can see recurring themes that
tell us about ancient Greek life.
One frequent theme throughout the Odyssey is the idea of hospitality. In the story of the defeat of Polyphemos, the Cyclops, we see an example of what happens when the rules of hospitality were not followed. Odysseus and his men enter the cave of Polyphemos, bearing gifts, and wait for him to return home. He returns to his cave and finds the men waiting and Odysseus says, “We have found you, and come to your knees to pray if you will give us the stranger’s due or anything you may think proper to give a stranger. Respect the gods, noble sir; see, we are your suppliants”
(Homer 105). However, instead of treating them as guests,
he eats several of the men. In order to
escape, the men blind the Cyclops.
Additionally, within the Odyssey we can begin to understand the ancient Greek views on their relationship with the Gods. Throughout this poem we see the gods aid or punish the humans, depending on the actions of the people themselves. Athena repeatedly comes to the aid of Telemachus, while Poseidon repeatedly punishes Odysseus for role in the Trojan War, and for harming his son, Polyphemus (Homer 105). There are also several different sections of the poem where sacrifices are made to the Gods to ask for favor, such as the sacrifice to Poseidon made at Pylos
(Homer 27). Each of these stories gives us a glimpse into
the reciprocal relationship that the Greeks believed to have with the deities. They gave gifts and lived pious lives in
order to build positive relationships with the world around them. This short story gives us a lot of insight
into the expectations of people in Greek society, as do many other bardic works.
The ancient Greeks were the inventors of epic and lyric poetry, and played a large role in the invention of drama
Additionally, if we look at the
mythology of the Nine Muses we can see evidence of several other types of
bardic arts. The muses were the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne and presided
over the arts, each with their own specialty:
Calliope was the muse of epic poetry, while Clio covered history, Euterpe
specialized in lyric poetry, Melpomene mastered tragedy, Terpsichore oversaw
choral singing and dance, Erato focused on love poetry, Polyhymnia presided
over sacred poetry, Urania was dedicated to astronomy, and Thalia covered
comedy (World Almanac Education Group, Inc.). Each Muse was said to bring inspiration to
those they worked with, while also giving knowledge and remembering all the
things that have come to pass (Theoi.com).
The description of the muses shows us
just how diverse the bardic arts were within ancient Greek culture. It is through these arts that mythology,
customs, and traditions were passed between groups and from generation to
2. Genres: Describe four "genres" of bardic arts, at least one of which must be poetry. For each genre, compare and contrast its appearance and/or use in two single (preferably ancient) Indo-European cultures. The two cultures need not be the same for all four genres. (300 words each)
Poetry is defined as “writing that formulates a concentrated imaginative awareness of experience in language chosen and arranged to create a specific emotional response through meaning, sound, and rhythm”
This is one genre of the bardic arts that is found in many different
ancient Indo-European societies, including both Norse and Greek cultures.
The Poetic Eddas are an important source for the knowledge we currently have about ancient Norse religious beliefs. The Eddas were originally shared orally, and were finally written down between 1000 and 1300 BC
(Hare). It is a collection of over thirty poems and
short stories that tell the tales of the gods and heroes of Norse culture. These poems are grouped into four line
stanzas and frequently contain alliteration (Hollander XXV).
Included throughout these poems are descriptions of the morals, ethics,
and codes of conduct within ancient Norse society. One example of this is in stanza 115 of the
poem Hovamol where we see a caution
I rede thee, Loddfafnir! | and hear thou my rede,--
Profit thou hast if thou hearest,
Great thy gain if thou learnest:
Seek never to win | the wife of another,
Or long for her secret love
Ancient Greek society had numerous poets who wrote a wide variety of poetry, ranging from epigrams to hymns to deities and epic poems. However, Homer is probably the most well known Greek poet in modern society. Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey, which were incredibly long poems. These poems were written in dactylic hexameter, which is “a line of verse consisting of six metrical feet”
These poems also told the tales of heroes, as well as the standard
practices and expectations of ancient Greek culture, including hospitality, and
sacrifices to different deities.
After reviewing poetry in these two cultures, I was surprised to see some strong similarities. While the tales included in the poetry were quite different, the purpose and use of them was very much the same. Through the poetry of both the ancient Norse and Greek cultures we are able to explore the morals and expectations of people within their societies. These poems use mythology and heroes to explain roles and rules in society and the importance of following them, and often the consequences if you do not. Additionally, both the Greek and Norse poems were originally passed around orally between groups and generations before eventually being written down.
However, there are some drastic differences in the form of the poetry itself. The Eddas were written in shorter poems that were made up of four stanzas with strong alliteration, while Homer’s poems were written as long epics several thousand lines long with hexameter and rare alliteration.
Prose is defined as “a literary medium distinguished from poetry especially by its greater irregularity and variety of rhythm and its closer correspondence to the patterns of everyday speech”
Essentially, this means that prose is any writing that is done without
an intentional rhyme scheme or format that would traditionally be found in
poetry. With a definition that generic,
it is easy to believe that there are examples of prose in nearly every ancient
Indo-European culture that had a form of writing. I will be discussing prose in the Norse and
While poetry plays an important role in our knowledge of ancient Norse culture, prose was also used to disseminate information and tell stories. The Prose Edda is an Old Norse text that was written around 1200 by Snorri Sturlson
(Hare, The Prose Edda). This work includes numerous myths and tales
from this ancient culture, including the creation of the world, Thor’s
adventures, and Ragnarok. This work
acts as a textbook for apprentice poets, which gave the mythological and
legendary background, along with rules of composition (Brodeur XVI-XVII).
Within the Vedic culture, we see another example of prose writing in the Satapatha Brahmana. The Brahmana is a sacred text that describes Vedic rituals, philosophy, and mythology. It was written into a text around 300 BCE after being passed from group to group for an unknown amount of time
(Hare, The Satapatha Brahmana). Similar to the Prose Eddas, you can find a
creation story in this text.
Additionally, there are tales of the earth mother and other deities, and
myths such the flood of Manu.
Both the Prose Eddas and the Satapatha Brahmana appear to be written as textbooks to pass information on the mythology, philosophy, and social norms of their culture. Both of these works of prose are also broken into separate books or chapters, each with its own tale or purpose. However, while the Prose Eddas describe their religion only through the tales and mythology, the Satapatha Brahmana gives detailed descriptions of the religious practices of the culture, specifically describing new and full moon sacrifices, altar setups, and the construction of ceremonial space used in specific rituals.
Drama is defined very simply as “a piece of writing that tells a story and is performed on a stage”
Drama is something that I have typically thought of as a bardic art from
the Medieval or Renaissance time periods.
However, drama has existed for much longer than this. In fact, ancient Indian and Greek cultures
present us with examples of early plays and dramas from over 1000 years before
William Shakespeare was born.
Theater played an important role in Greek festivals. They were used as a form of both ritual and entertainment for the people, often acting out the myths that the festival was dedicated to. Tragedies were some of the earliest dramas ever written, dating as far back as 500 BC. Three of the most well-known playwrights from ancient Greece are Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus
(Robinson). Sophocles wrote numerous dramas, including
Oedipus Rex, which initially used only three actors and 15 members of the
chorus to tell the tale. These
limitations made the dramas very stripped down and personal. Additionally, most Greek tragedies were based
on either mythology or historical events, often exploring their psychological
motivations and search for the meaning of life (Robinson).
Theater also had an early start in ancient India with the oldest fragments of Sanskrit plays date to the first century AD
(Richmond, Zarrilli and Swann 27). There are several different plays and dramas,
but some of the most popular are the romantic dramas written by Kalidasa. Kalidasa was a Sanskrit poet and dramatist
that lived between the 4th and 5th century AD. There are
three plays that are attributed to Kalidasa:
Malavikka and Agnimitra, Urvashii Won Through Valor, and Shakuntalaa
Recognized (Malaiya). Each of these plays is several acts long and
includes a hero and heroine, along with the entertaining tale. There is little social commentary, and these
plays seem to be aimed at entertainment over education.
Dramas played an important role in both ancient Greek and Vedic societies, providing entertainment during festivals and other important events. Dramas within both of these cultures were broken into several acts and often included both heroes and heroines. However, many of the Greek dramas focused on mythology and historical events, while several of the Vedic plays were more relaxed romantic dramas with little social or historical commentary. There are exceptions on both sides of that though, with some Greek dramas with little historical narratives, and Vedic plays, such as Mahabhaṣya, which was a commentary on Sanskrit grammar rules
(Meyer, Burn and Cotton).
Music is defined as “the science or art of ordering tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity”
(Merriam-Webster). However, a definition like this cannot
adequately describe music. Music holds a
spirituality all its own that can evoke change and growth. It is through music that we can give praise,
celebrate, or even mourn. This was true
even in ancient Indo-European societies.
In ancient Greece, music was an important part of the bardic arts. They used music in several different ways, including music for the Gods through hymns, music in theater for entertainment, and music for the people themselves to sing and enjoy. One type of music in the latter category was called “skolion.” This term was used to describe different types of songs that were performed of symposia, including singing guests and accompaniment on a lyre
A single person sang these songs with no concept of harmony. Ancient Greece also had a type of music
called “threnody.” These songs were used
for lamentation, and were intended to “praise the deceased and provide a
release for intense emotions of the bereaved” (Mathiesen 132). These are only two of the many different
types of music that were present in ancient Greece, but I believe they show
just how diversely music was utilized throughout their culture.
Unlike the Greek culture, music was not thought to be an essential part of education in the Roman Republic
(Kelsey Museum of Archaeology). However, this does not mean that the Romans
discarded the use of music completely.
In fact, music held great importance in religious practices of the Roman
society. Musicians, such as flute or
lyre players were often part of religious processions and sacrifices. (Rupke 249).
These musicians had specific duties
assigned to them, so some played specifically at military events, while others
played at funeral rituals. They were
organized into “collegia” similar to priesthood. These “collegia cult musicians” also
generally had a high reputation in society (Rupke 252).
While the ancient Greek and Roman cultures are very similar in many ways, their approaches to music are blatantly different. Greeks seemed to have utilized music as a part of every day life, using it for entertainment as well as ritual. Romans instead seemed to focus their music more as a tool for ritual. However, both cultures did believe that music was an important part of ritual practices.
3. Forms/styles: Describe four forms or styles of bardic arts in either ancient or modern times or a combination of each. Include examples of each form. At least one such description should be for a poetic form; the remainder can be for any bardic form or style. (100 words each [examples not to be included in word count])
A lyric poem is defined as “a short poem with one speaker who expresses thought and feeling”
(Melani). These poems are often quite short and direct,
and focus on personal feelings instead of historical or mythological
events. Originally, lyric poems were
written with the intention of being accompanied by a lyre. They first became
popular in ancient Greece during the 7th century BC (Damen).
There are several sub-genres within
lyrical poetry as well including odes, which dealt with serious subjects, and
elegies, which were intended to be accompanied by a flute instead of a
lyre. One of the most well known lyrical
poets from ancient Greece is a woman named Sappho. She lived in the 6th century BC on
the island of Lesbos. Numerous fragments
of her work have been found, along with a single completed poem titled “Hymn to
Hymn to Aphrodite by Sappho
Shimmering-throned immortal Aphrodite,
Daughter of Zeus, Enchantress, I implore thee,
Spare me, O queen, this agony and anguish,
Crush not my spirit
Whenever before thou has hearkened to me--
To my voice calling to thee in the distance,
And heeding, thou hast come, leaving thy father's
With chariot yoked to thy fleet-winged coursers,
Fluttering swift pinions over earth's darkness,
And bringing thee through the infinite, gliding
Downwards from heaven,
Then, soon they arrived and thou, blessed goddess,
With divine countenance smiling, didst ask me
What new woe had befallen me now and why,
Thus I had called thee.
What in my mad heart was my greatest desire,
Who was it now that must feel my allurements,
Who was the fair one that must be persuaded,
Who wronged thee Sappho?
For if now she flees, quickly she shall follow
And if she spurns gifts, soon shall she offer them
Yea, if she knows not love, soon shall she feel it
Come then, I pray, grant me surcease from sorrow,
Drive away care, I beseech thee, O goddess
Fulfil for me what I yearn to accomplish,
Be thou my ally.
Epic poems are longer, narrative poems intended to tell a story. They were the preferred method of poetry writing in early ancient Greece, prior to the adoption of lyrical poetry. Epic poems were traditionally written in dactylic hexameter, which means that each line was made up of six metrical feet
(Mastin). This form was intended to make the poems
easier to remember and present orally.
These poems often focus on heroic deeds or events in mythology. The most popular epic poet in ancient Greece
was Homer. Homer’s poems were written
versions of stories that had been told and retold orally for many years. They included many similes and epithets to
help the poem flow.
A Section of the Odyssey by Homer
Now from his breast into the eyes the ache
of longing mounted, and he wept at last,
his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms,
longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer
spent in rough water where his ship went down
under Poseidon's blows, gale winds and tons of sea.
Few men can keep alive through a big serf
to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches
in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind:
and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband,
her white arms round him pressed as though forever.
Bucolic poetry is another popular style of poetry found in ancient Greek writing. Bucolic poetry is focuses on pastoral traditions and the idealization of rural life and landscapes. For this reason, it is often referred to as “pastoral poetry”
(Acadamey of American Poets). The poems themselves vary greatly in length
and form, while instead the theme remains consistent. The pastoral poetry style started with
Hesiod’s most famous poem “Works and Days” which acts as a farmer’s almanac (Acadamey of American Poets). Theocritus was a Greek bucolic poet who lived
in the third century BC (Atsma). Much of his writing focused on pastoral life,
and often romanticized the life of herdsmen and farmers in ancient Greece.
Section of Idylls 1 by Theocritus
 Something sweet is the whisper of the pine that makes her music by yonder springs, and sweet no less, master Goatherd, the melody of your pipe. Pan only shall take place and prize afore you; and if they give him a horny he-goat, then a she shall be yours; and if a she be for him, why, you shall have her kid; and kid’s meat’s good eating till your kids be milch-goatds.
 As sweetly, good Shepherd, falls your music as the resounding water that gushes down from the top o’ yonder rock. If the Muses get the ewe-lamb to their meed, you shall carry off the cosset,1 the ewe-lamb come to you.
 ‘Fore the Nymphs I pray you, master Goatherd, come now and sit ye down here by this shelving bank and these brush tamarisks and play me a tune. I’ll keep your goats the while
A fable is defined as “a short story that is usually about animals and is intended to teach a lesson”
Fables have been passed from generation to generation for centuries, and
many of the fables that we know today have existed since the sixth century BC,
or earlier. The purpose of a fable is to
be told for the sake of a moral and not simply for the entertainment of the
reader (Carlson). The most popular fables were created Aesop, a
Greek storyteller who lived during the 6th century BC. He wrote numerous stories, including The Boy
who Cried Wolf, The Ant and the Grasshopper, and The Lion and the Mouse, each
including obvious cautionary morals.
The Lion and the Mouse by Aesop
Some field-mice were playing in the woods where a lion was sleeping when one of the mice accidentally ran over the lion. The lion woke up and immediately grabbed the wretched little mouse with his paw. The mouse begged for mercy, since he had not meant to do the lion any harm. The lion decided that to kill such a tiny creature would be a cause for reproach rather than glory, so he forgave the mouse and let him go. A few days later, the lion fell into a pit and was trapped. He started to roar, and when the mouse heard him, he came running. Recognizing the lion in the trap, the mouse said to him, 'I have not forgotten the kindness that you showed me!' The mouse then began to gnaw at the cords binding the lion, cutting through the strands and undoing the clever ingenuity of the hunter's art. The mouse was thus able to restore the lion to the woods, setting him free from his captivity.
Let no one dare to harm even the smallest among us
4. Bardic Figure: Describe the life, fame and general techniques of a historical or mythical bardic figure in an (preferably ancient) Indo-European culture. (minimum 300 words)
Hesiod is an admired poet from ancient Greece, who lived in the eighth century BC. He is most well known for his writing of Theogony and Works and Days. He is also thought to be the creator of didactic, or instructional poetry
Very little information is actually
known about Hesiod’s life, but there have been many conjectures based upon his
writings. Based upon his writing in Works and Days, it is believed that
Hesiod’s father was a wealthy merchant who settled in Boiotia (Mair). In this poem he also writes of a disagreement
with Perses, in which he says “Even as thy father and mine” which leads us to
believe that Perses was his brother (Hesiod).
There are also a few sources that write about Hesiod that give us some additional details about his life. A Byzantine poet named John Tzetzes wrote about Hesiod. He states that Hesiod and his brother were the children of Dios and Pykimede. Tzetzes also says that Hesiod worked as a shepherd in order to help his family. Later, he describes Hesiod’s death. He says that Hesiod he was killed at Oinoe in Lokris by Amphiphanes and Ganyktor, the sons of Phegeus, and cast into the sea. Three days later, Hesiod’s body was carried ashore by dolphins between Lokris and Euboia
Hesiod’s most complete existing works are Works and Days and Theogony. Works and Days is a collection of poems broken into five ages: Golden, Silver, Bronze, Heroic, and Iron. It explores Greek mythology from the rule of Cronos to the time of man. It also discusses ethics, hard work, and the lucky days to undertake different activities. Theogony is one of the most important sources of Greek mythology. It describes the Greek creation myth while also discussing hundreds of deities and heroes
Works of Hesiod). Hesiod’s writing is largely important to our
knowledge of Greek mythology. The
lessons we learned from his writing are still being taught today.
5. Role of the Modern Bard: Describe the role of the modern-day, Neopagan bard in the context of ritual (100 words), Ar nDraiocht Fein (100 words) and the greater Neopagan community (100 words).
In modern-day Neopagan rituals, bards can have a variety of roles. Traditionally, bards were the historians and lore keepers of their tribe, as well as the musicians, poets, and storytellers. In modern rituals, each of these roles can still be utilized. Through stories, lore, and poetry, bards can create or perform invocations for rituals. Bards can help to bring music to the ritual. Simple singing, playing, or drumming can be helpful in rituals to raise energy, focus intent, and build community. The bard can also bring inspiration to the group by calling upon the muses or deity of inspiration. Additionally, the bard can bring beauty and theatrics to a ritual, which can make it more enjoyable for all who participate.
The bard within ADF is quite similar to the bard in modern-day Neopagan rituals. They work to create songs, chants, poetry, and lore for all ADF members, which can be utilized both in and outside of ritual. Additionally, I expect that the bards will continue to take on the roles as historians and lore keepers as ADF grows through time. Even as a young organization, I have already started to see this role beginning to form with the creation of songs such as “Bonewits Wake” written by Emerald in memory of Isaac Bonewits, the founder of ADF
(Egelhoff). Even though this song is light-hearted and
silly, it gives a glimpse into who Bonewits was and helps his memory live
Bards within the greater Neopagan community play a role similar to those in ADF. They create music, chants, and poetry, but instead of distributing it only to a small group of people, they provide it to the entire community and help build the religion as a whole. By creating songs and poems that can be shared across the population, bards help to build community. The performances of bards can help to build a positive image of Neopagans to those outside the community while also showing the beauty of our religion to those who may not understand it in other ways.
6. Practical Bardry: Compose or find a bardic piece suitable for ADF ritual. Describe the process you used for discovery and/or composition of the piece and how it was used effectively in a ritual context. (100 words)
Demeter Harvest Prayer of Praise
Daughter of Cronus and Rhea,
Goddess of grain, fruits and bread,
Like a mother, you give us the gift of life.
You who made fruit to spring from the lands
So the rich land was filled with leaves and flowers.
You who fill the barns with foods through your joy.
Thank you for the blessings you have given mankind,
For teaching the art of harvest, and that all must end.
For providing us the many foods that sustain us.
Divine, delightful, and lovely Goddess
For all these things and more,
We thank you!
To write this poem, I utilized several different sources. I began by looking back at the Hellenic Spring Equinox ritual my protogrove performed, which was dedicated to Persephone and Demeter. This ritual was one that we did to welcome Persephone back from the underworld, and to celebrate with Demeter as her joy returns. The prayer that I have written would have been used as a prayer after a successful harvest season, possibly before Persephone once again returns to the underworld and the world begins to grow cold once more.
After I knew what I wanted to write about, I began looking at the mythology of Demeter to find phases and descriptions that were fitting. I read the poems of Demeter written by Ceisiwr Serith and found his description of her at the spring, asking for her to “plant the seeds that will grow all summer until the harvest, when your full power will be known”
which guided me to want to honor the strength of the harvest, instead of
focusing on the loss of her daughter to the underworld once again. The writings
of Hesiod provided lines such as “Demeter richly crowned may love you and fill
your barn with food” (Hesiod),
while Plato described her as “Demeter is e didousa meter, who gives food like a
mother” (Plato). I also looked at the Homeric hymns and the
way that Demeter is described in them.
After writing out the many different descriptions of the goddess, I
wrote out a rough draft of my poem using that imagery. After writing the first stanza, I realized
that the poem was shaped as a half circle. I tried to make the second stanza
similar in shape so the poem itself appears round, like the cycles of the year
that Demeter often represents.
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