So as you may know, I’m currently (re)working my way through the Bardic Grade with OBOD, which is the first stage of OBOD’s three-grade Druidry training programme.
As the name suggests, the Bardic course focuses on cultivating creative and artistic expression, often seen through the traditional Bardic arts of poetry, song, storytelling, music etc.
I am not naturally talented in these areas. I am trying to get into a regular practice of learning guitar, and I have occasionally scrawled some poetry, but a Bard I ain’t. Shakespeare, he was a Bard. The Bard in fact. John Keats, William Blake, Tuomas Holopainen, Damh the Bard (clue’s in the name there), these are Bards.
Faced with the disconnect between what it is to be a Bard and my own limitations, I have on more than one occasion got deeply frustrated, thrown my Gwersi across the room and given up.
But…what if being a “Bard” was about more than being a poet or minstrel? What if it was about finding your own creativity, in whatever way that expresses itself? Suddenly, it opens up possibilities.
And I’ve realised something. For me, that creativity is food.
I’ve always loved cooking (apart from one dire period where I got into calorie-counting and food became a dull maths problem, but less said about that the better), but since Druid Camp, I’ve really loved cooking. The food at the cafe there was amazing. Simple, hearty, vegetarian cooking, but so rich and complex at the same time.
I’ve been making a real effort to do more home cooking since then, from scratch with fresh ingredients and it’s been wonderful. From home baked bread to crumbles made from foraged blackberries, to curries, chillis and stir frys, to garlicky scrambled eggs, to courgette gratin with my very own home-grown courgette, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying experimenting with new recipes, trying out new ideas, and having fun creating something new.
In the film Ratatouille (which is wonderful, watch it), chef Gusteau says that cooking is “like music you can taste, like colours you can smell”. Remy, the main character (who is a rat…srsly just watch the film), discovers the wonderful world of combining different flavours to create a whole new symphony of taste.
Watching that film made me think that cooking can be a Bardic pursuit. What is cooking after all but an expression of creative imagination? In the story of Taliesin, the archetypal Bard, the goddess Ceridwen brews a potion to create the Awen, the three drops of inspiration sacred to Druids.
In brewing this potion, Ceridwen follows a recipe she got from the Pheryllt, gathers herbs and ingredients, mixes them in a cauldron (essentially just a large cooking pot) and hires Gwion, a local lad, to stir the broth. Well, this is cooking!
And if something as simple as cooking can bring about the Awen, then surely cooking can be every bit as Bardic, as Druidic, as any other creative art? Perhaps I’ve been too literal, looking just at what the ancient Bards did and trying to follow them instead of looking for the spirit of Bardism, that opening to creativity. I’m no professional chef, but I find being in the kitchen very inspiring.
The Awen flows in different ways for different people I guess. I hope that this helps me get my head around the Bardic course a bit more, and maybe the idea of finding your own Bardic art might be useful for other people who just don’t resonate with the whole poetry and song thing. Whether it’s art, music, gardening, cooking, science, running, theoretical mathematics, whatever you find brings out your creative self, follow that.
By the way, the recipe for the courgette gratin in the picture is from BBC Good Food, and can be found online HERE.