The Love of the Sea and the Moon

Once, long ago, the sea was always dark and still as bath water. The moon was calm, with a gentle smile for all who dwelt below her. As the sea grew and swelled he took note of the moon, and thought how beautiful she would be if she would just turn her face completely to the earth.

When the moon was full in her power she glowed with the brilliance of a thousand, thousand stars, all bunched together in joyous dance. The sea was deeply in love with the moon; her brilliance stunned him.  He called out to her with his mightily roaring waves: a declaration of his love. He rushed up the shores, stretching up to meet her. The moon beckoned to the sea, calling him forth, for she also loved him. She adored watching his deep-blue, inky depths brighten to startling ceruleans and teals in her light. She grew even brighter trying to penetrate his depths.

The stars, in the court of the moon, called out to the sea to come join them for their mistress’s sake. The moon dimmed the specks of light around her and snuffed out their sparks in her longing for the sea; she grew ever brighter until finally she had turned to face the earth completely. She ached for the sea to be near her. And so he tried. Every night he lapped at the shores of the land, striving ever towards the sky. Striving to lift himself up to the beautiful moon so that he might join her and her consort of brilliance in their dance.

But then, with each passing day she grew less and less bright. A darkness began to overcome her as she started to lose hope that her lover, the sea, would ever reach her, though he tried desperately every night. Her consort of stars, they grew brighter each night, trying to bring her hope, but still she faded until there was but a small sliver of light left. The sea rushed up futilely against the shore, calling out with his crashing waves for her to come back to him. He pulled himself up ever higher, but still couldn’t reach the sky. Then the moon’s light went out.

The sea sank back down into his watery depths, letting his sorrows be heard in whispering cries as he left the shores of the earth. Desperately he called out one last time, barely daring to hope. The moon, hearing her love in such heartache and pain, turned her face back to him and gave just the ghost of a smile.

This glimmer of her face was enough to give the sea back his hope. With renewed energy he strove towards the shore, this time determined that he could push his waters to leap into the sky. The moon, as she looked down upon him, saw something she’d never seen before: there was her face, with its small, sad smile, resting upon the cresting waves of the sea. She brightened a bit then, and seeing her smile grow in her lover’s arms, poured her heart into her brilliance. She called out to the sea, and he saw now as she did: her love and light was reflected in his depths, and his deep, blue devotion was reflected in the skies all around her.

So now, each night, the sea rushes up the shores to meet the moon and the moon shines down on the sea. They join together in their own brilliant dance of push and pull, ebb and flow, of silver and blue across the sky and rippling waves.


Indra Wins the Waters

“Indra Wins the Waters”

This playlet was written for the children’s programming for
Three Cranes Grove 2015 Spring Equinox Ritual honoring Indra.
Lexile: 680L (late 3rd grade, early 4th grade reading level) 
OFFICIANT: The person who is doing the Return Flow portion of the Ritual
INDRA: The Vedic Storm God
VRTRA: The Dragon
CELEBRANTS: The folk at the ritual
STORM-BRINGERS: sounds of the storm (can be the same as the CELEBRANTS if needed)
Optional Cast:
DRAGONS: Vrtra’s family
SACRED COWS: to represent the Waters and Blessings
*following the Seer’s pronouncement of a positive Omen*
OFFICIANT: These are indeed good omens.
OFFICIANT: But you should know that until Indra won the Waters for us, we could not have received these blessings because Vrtra the Dragon hoarded them all for himself and his family.
OFFICIANT: Here is Vrtra now, and he is holding onto [omen], [omen], and [omen]. 
VRTRA: These gifts are mine! All mine!
OFFICIANT: But the people wanted the blessings too, and they knew only the mighty Indra could help them now.  So they called out with one voice: “Indra, Give us the Waters!”
CELEBRANTS: Indra! Give us the Waters!
OFFICIANT: Listen: Do you hear him coming?  Here comes Indra the Storm-Bringer!
*STORM-BRINGERS shake noisemakers as Indra enters the stage*
OFFICIANT: In the thundering clouds with his lightning bolt in hand, Indra demands:
INDRA: Vrtra! You have to share the blessings!
OFFICIANT: Vrtra roars mightily and retorts:
VRTRA: No! These gifts are mine! All mine!
OFFICIANT: And the people knew Vrtra was going to hold onto those gifts of [omen], [omen], and [omen] with all of his might.  So they again called out: “Indra! Give us the Waters!”
CELEBRANTS: Indra! Give us the Waters!
OFFICIANT: And Indra heard their plea and prepared to do whatever was necessary to win the waters for the people.  He again shouted to Vrtra:
INDRA: Vrtra! You have to share the blessings!
OFFICIANT: But Vrtra again roared his denial and shrieked:
VRTRA: No! These gifts are mine! All mine!
OFFICIANT: Indra grew angry that Vrtra wouldn’t share the blessings with everyone, and as his anger grew, so too did the sound of the storm.
*STORM-BRINGERS shake noisemakers*
OFFICIANT: The people knew now was the moment.  Now was the time to give Indra all their support.  And so they called out one final time: “Indra! Give us the Waters!”
CELEBRANTS: Indra! Give us the Waters!
OFFICIANT: The storm rumbled as Indra went into battle with the mighty Vrtra, his lightning bolt held high.  With a flash he struck down Vrtra with his lightning bolt.  The Dragon bellowed as he fell.
OFFICIANT: The waters, the blessings, the gifts were now free.  The mighty Indra won them away from Vrtra the Dragon and brought them to us.  
*INDRA brings Waters to OFFICIANT*
OFFICIANT: These Waters are infused with the blessings of [omen], [omen], and [omen].  “Behold! The Waters of Life!”
OFFICIANT: As these Waters are poured out for each of us, remember how they were won for us, and how we sing the praises of the Storm God who won them. 
OFFICIANT: See how the gifts of [omen], [omen], and [omen] can flow into our lives.  See how they can flow into our grove.  See how they can flow into our community.  See how you and the world can be renewed and rejuvenated by these Waters so courageously won and freely given.
OFFICIANT: Drink deep, Children of Earth, and be blessed!

General Bardic Studies for Liturgists

General Bardic Studies for Liturgists


1) Write two poems of at least 16 lines each appropriate for performance at a High Day ritual. One poem may be in free-verse form, but one must employ some form of meter and/or rhyme. Note in each case for which High Day the poem is intended.


Appropriate for any light-hearted High Day: Three Kindreds Praise Offerings:


“Come Pray With Me”


A Fire lit with piety in the center of the rite

The Druids pray around it, around the fire’s light.

They call to the Gods and Goddesses so bright.

Sing praise you joyous pagans, and come pray with me!


Sacred Waters far below, flow into our Well

And with our voices raised together our song will surely swell

Remember all our Heroes, their stories we’ll tell.

Sing praise you joyous pagans, and come pray with me!


Standing tall and strong is the all-connecting Tree

Beneath its arching branches we stand in harmony

Honoring the spirits so wild and free.

Sing praise you joyous pagans, and come pray with me!


So it’s into the Grove, and beside the Tree

Come you pious pagans, and make your offerings

Let’s honor the Kindreds of earth and sky and sea

Sing praise you joyous pagans, and come pray with me!


We pagans all together still long for the day

When all honor the Earth upon which we lay.

She holds us forever; in her arms we’ll stay.

Sing praise you joyous pagans, and come pray with me!


So it’s into the Grove, and beside the Tree

Come you pious pagans, and make your offerings

Let’s honor the Kindreds of earth and sky and sea

Sing praise you joyous pagans, and come pray with me!





Vedic Spring Equinox: poem intended to be performed for the Return Flow:


“Indra Megahavahana”


Sing to Indra the Cloud Rider!

On eagles’ wings, borne across the land,

He chases Vrtra, drawn valiantly onward,

Rushing up form the sea upon the very clouds

That bear the waters.

Like a thunderbolt striking a mighty tree,

Split asunder by the tawny-armed Thunderer.

Indra, give us the Waters!


Waters of the sea

Set free from the dark and boiling clouds.

Waters of the mountain

Set free as he cleaved the earth in two.

Flowing streams released by his bolt

As he watches from the clouds.

The cows roaring, bellowing, at the victory

As the fort-shatterer gives us the Waters

That we may drink them as

Mighty Indra consumes Soma.

As he is infused with strength

So might we too be emboldened.

Indra Megahavahana, we glory at your victory

And partake of the gifts you have won for us.






2) Compare and contrast examples from the work of three poets in one cultural tradition from at least two historical eras. (minimum 300 words of the student’s original essay material beyond the verses provided, at least one poem per poet)


India has a rich, and often overlooked, literary and poetic tradition.  While I will be examining poetry from the Early Vedic Period through the Modern Era, I would like to note that I will be examining the first two of the works in translation, and will not be diving into the complexities of the texts in the language they were initially written in.  This means some of the poetic devices that I note are likely put there by the translator, Ralph, T.H. Griffith, whose translations I am using for both of the earlier works.


The Rig Veda is the primary and most important of the Vedas, which are the foundational religious texts of ancient India.  It was composed somewhere between 1500 and 1000 BCE, and told through oral tradition.  It was eventually written down, and was likely codified by about 200 BCE. The Rig Veda contains hymns of praise to the important deities of the time, and while there are more than one thousand hymns in the ten books of the Rig Veda, two hundred of them sing the praises of Agni   (Violatti).


This is hymn comes from Book 3 of the Rig Veda:


“HYMN XXII. Agni.”

1 THIS is that Agni whence the longing Indra took the pressed Soma deep within his body.

Winner of spoils in thousands, like a courser, with praise art thou exalted, Jātavedas.

2 That light of thine in heaven and earth, O Agni, in plants, O Holy One, and in the waters,

Wherewith thou hast spread wide the air’s mid-region-bright is that splendour, wavy, man-beholding.

3 O Agni, to the sea of heaven thou goest: thou hast called hither Gods beheld in spirit.

The waters, too, come hither, those up yonder in the Sun’s realm of light, and those beneath it.

4 Let fires that dwell in mist, combined with those that have their home in floods,

Guileless accept our sacrifice, great viands free from all disease.

5 Agni, as holy food to thine invoker give wealth in cattle, lasting, rich in marvels.

To us be born a son and spreading offspring. Agni, be this thy gracious will to us-ward.

(Griffith RV 3.22)


The poetic style used in the hymns of the Rig Veda is complex, and relies heavily on epithets and metaphors.  For example, in line 2 “winner of spoils in thousands” is a phrase that is used to refer to Agni.  Agni is also called “Jātavedas,” or He who knows all things. This use of epithets is a poetic device that is carried through all three of the works I’ll be examining.


Rather than the use of rhyme or meter to give the hymn structure, this hymn, like most in the Rig Veda, relies on the use of other poetic devices such as parallel structure.  This can be seen in line 2 “…in heaven and earth…in plants…in the waters,” as well as in line 3 “those up yonder…those beneath it,” and line 4 “that dwell in mist…that have their home in floods.”  This parallel structure lends itself well to the longer, extended sentence structure that makes up the hymn.


This hymn follows a formula that can be carried out and applied when we are writing our own hymns of praise and invocation.  The first three lines tell who Agni is, and why he is worthy of praise   Then there is a shift in the 4th line when the speaker asks Agni to accept the sacrifice the speaker is offering him, and the final line asks for gifts in return for that sacrifice.  A shift can be seen in each of the pieces that I’ll be examining.


The next poem I’ll be analyzing is an excerpt from the beginning of The Birth of the War God, by Kālidāsa.  Kālidāsa is an Indian poet from the 5th century CE, who is known for being the pioneer that led the way in the Kāvya style of poetry.  This style is known for using many poetic devices, especially metaphors, similes, and hyperbole to create descriptive and emotional pieces (“Kāvya”).


Lay, Indra, lay thy threatening bolt aside,

My gentle darts shall tame the haughtiest pride,

And all that war with Heaven and thee shall know

The magic influence of thy Kama’s bow

For Woman’s curling lip shall bow them down,                5

Fainting in terror at her threatening frown.

Flowers are my arms, mine only warrior Spring,

Yet in thy favour am I strong, great King ;

What can their strength who draw the bow avail

Against my matchless power when I assail?                      10

Strong is the Trident-bearing God, yet he.

The mighty Siva, e’en, must yield to me.”


Then Indra answered with a dawning smile,

Resting his foot upon a stool the while :

” Dear God of Love, thou truly hast displayed                   15

The power unrivalled of thy promised aid

My hope is all in thee—my weapons are

The thunderbolt, and thou more mighty far

But vain, all vain the bolt of Heaven to fright

Those holy Saints whom Penance arms aright                  20

Thy power knows no bound—thou, only thou.

All-conquering Deity, canst help me now !

Full well I know thy nature, and assign

This toil to thee, which needs a strength like thine

As on that Snake alone will Krishna rest.                           25

That bears the Earth upon his haughty crest.


Our task is well-nigh done—thy boasted dart

Has power to conquer even Siva’s heart

Hear what the Gods, oppressed with woe, would fain

From mighty Siva through thine aid obtain                       30

He may beget—and none in Heaven but he

A chief to lead our hosts to victory

But all his mind with holiest lore is fraught.

Bent on the Godhead is his every thought

Thy darts, Love, alone can reach him now.                        35

And lure his spirit from the hermit vow.

Go, seek Himalaya’s Mountain-child, and aid

With all thy loveliest charms the lovely Maid,

So may she please his fancy—only she

May wed with Siva—such the fixed decree.                      40

(Kālidāsa 22-23)


In this excerpt Kama, the God of Love, is talking Indra down from his wrath.  He is agreeing to do Indra’s bidding instead of Indra going full-on angry Storm God to achieve his ends.  After all, who can resist the power of love?  Indra admits that Kama is all-conquering and agrees to send him to rile up Siva and bring him out of hiding, because Siva has become lost in thought and enthralled with magic and knowledge.  A battle is coming, and they need him ready to fight.  Indra sends Kama to fetch Uma and help her win Siva’s heart, and thus breed warriors for battle.


This translation of the poem makes use of rhyming couplets to tie the story together.  The kāvya’s use of poetic devices, such as hyperbole can be seen in line  5 and 6 of this excerpt “For Woman’s curling lip shall bow them down, / Fainting in terror at her threatening frown” as a women’s frown is unlikely to cause literal fainting.  In line 7, metaphor is used as Kama describes that “Flowers are my arms, mine only warrior Spring” and in line 35 “ when Love is described as “darts.”


One of the poetic devices that is used most extensively in this, as well at the other two poems I’m examining, is the epithet.  This can be seen here in line 10 “the trident-bearing God” referring to Siva, in line 15 “the God of Love,”  and line 22 “all-conquering deity” referring to Kama, and in line 37 “Himalaya’s Mountain-Child” referring to Uma.


There is a distinct shift in this excerpt, where Indra goes from all out assault, to sending Kama in to do his bidding through love.  The over-arching theme in this chunk refers to the idea that Love can conquer all, and is even seen in one of the epithets for Kama.  The epic continues on to tell the story of how Uma and Siva are wed, and the subsequent birth of Kumara.


The final piece I am examining is a modern epic by Sri Aurobindo.  Aurobindo was an Indian nationalist and spiritual leader.  His epic Savitri is a modern retelling of the story of Satyavan and Savitri from the Mahabharata.


This excerpt is from Book I (The Book of Beginnings), Canto I (The Symbol Dawn).


A message from the unknown immortal Light

Ablaze upon creation’s quivering edge,

Dawn built her aura of magnificent hues

And buried its seed of grandeur in the hours.

An instant’s visitor the godhead shone.                                         5

On life’s thin border awhile the Vision stood

And bent over earth’s pondering forehead curve.

Interpreting a recondite beauty and bliss

In colour’s hieroglyphs of mystic sense,

It wrote the lines of a significant myth.                                          10

Telling of a greatness of spiritual dawns,

A brilliant code penned with the sky for page.

Almost that day the epiphany was disclosed

Of which our thoughts and hopes are signal flares;

A lonely splendour from the invisible goal.                                    15

Almost was flung on the opaque Inane.

Once more a tread perturbed the vacant Vasts;

Infinity’s centre, a Face of rapturous calm

Parted the eternal lids that open heaven;

A Form from far beatitudes seemed to near.                                 20

Ambassadress twixt eternity and change,

The omniscient Goddess leaned across the breadths

That wrap the fated journeyings of the stars

And saw the spaces ready for her feet.

Once she half looked behind for her veiled sun,                           25

Then, thoughtful, went to her immortal work.

Earth felt the Imperishable’s passage close:

The waking ear of Nature heard her steps

And wideness turned to her its limitless eye,

And, scattered on sealed depths, her luminous smile.                  30

Kindled to fire the silence of the worlds.

All grew a consecration and a rite.

Air was a vibrant link between earth and heaven;

The wide-winged hymn of a great priestly wind

Arose and failed upon the altar hills;                                             35

The high boughs prayed in a revealing sky.

(Aurobindo 4)


In this excerpt we are introduced to the Dawn, who is described as she crests the horizon and brings light to he world.  It is her job to rekindle the fires of earth, and prepare the world for the day.  This whole chunk is an extended metaphor and personification describing the Dawn.  Unlike the first to texts I examined, this piece relies less on epithets and far more on other poetic devices such as alliteration, personification, and metaphor.  Some alliteration can be seen in line 17 “Vacant Vasts”, line 20 “form from far” and line 34 “wide winged…wind.”


There are many examples of personification and other metaphors through the text.  This represents the view of the gods well, since the Vedic gods in most cases literally were the things they were representing.  Aurobindo describes this epic as more than “a mere allegory, the characters are not personified qualities, but incarnations or emanations of living and conscious Forces with whom we can enter into concrete touch and they take human bodies in order to help man and show him the way from his mortal state to a divine consciousness and immortal life” (Aurobindo).  This can be seen in the ancient texts such as the Rig Veda as well.  Agni is the Fire.  Indra is the Storm.  Ushas is the Dawn.  So when Aurobindo uses personification and metaphor in his epic, it fits well in Vedic mythology.  Some examples of this can be seen in line 28 “the waking ear of Nature”, line 35 “the altar hills”, line 36 “the high boughs prayed”, and line 12 where the sky is described as an open book.  This shift in this poem can be seen between lines 20 and 25, when the Dawn finally steps out onto the Earth.


The Dawn herself is personified greatly in this excerpt.  There is an extended metaphor in lines 6-12 where the Dawn is described as a scholar who is bent over a book, and deciphering its knowledge.  Her colors are the words that must be interpreted.  In lines 17-18 she is described as treading across the horizon and having a “Face of rapturous calm.”  The whole attitude of this text is a tone of awe at the beauty of the Dawn and the work that she does.  This excerpt takes place in the 4th stanza of the whole epic, and as it focuses on the Dawn, is both a symbol for the beginning of the work, and a symbol for the beginnings to come throughout life.


In these three poetic works the rich language of India can be seen.  In the early periods the poet relied on complex sentence structure, elaborate epithets, and vivid imagery to convey the meaning of the text.  Later poets, like Kālidāsa, relied heavily on poetic devices and figurative language to convey the text.  Modern poets, such as Aurobindo, relied on extended metaphor to convey the meanings in the text, and blank verse to tie it all together.  All of the pieces made heavy use of personification and related metaphors to bring the subjects of the poems to life.






3) Compare and contrast examples from the work of two poets of the same historical era from two different cultural traditions. (minimum 300 words of the student’s original essay material beyond the verses provided at least two poems per poet)


The two poems I am analyzing are from World War I.  The first is “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian poet Lt. Col. John McCrae and was published in 1919 (McCrae).  The second is “A Shadow on the Wall” by German poet Gottfried Benn, and translated by Michael Hoffman.  Benn published this poem as part of a collection in 1912 titled Morgue und andere Gedichte (Morgue and other Poems) (“Gottfried”).



“In Flanders Fields”


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.





“A Shadow on the Wall”


A shadow on the wall

boughs stirred by the noonday wind

that’s enough earth

and for the eye

enough celestial participation.


How much further do you want to go? Refuse

the bossy insistence

of new impressions—


lie there still,

behold your own fields,

your estate,

dwelling especially

on the poppies,


because they transported the summer—


where did it go?




Both of these poems focus on themes of remembrance, and both use the imagery of a poppy to do so.  So, while the poets come from two different cultural traditions, they are focusing on similar themes and having a similar reaction to war and unrest.  Mourning the dead and wanting to remember and honor their memories is a universal desire.


The image of the poppy became the symbol for remembrance in part because of its method of germination.  The poppy seed can live in the soil for long periods of times, and then when the ground is disturbed it sprouts, grows, and blooms.  The battlefields during World War I were subject to a lot of ground disturbance, between trenches, shell holes, and marching armies.  This created a fertile ground for the poppies (“Papaver Rhoeas”).  In McCrae’s poem the stark imagery of the blood-red poppy is juxtaposed against the white crosses (McCrae ln 1-2), and is reminiscent of the men who died on the battlefield.


“In Flanders Fields” is written in the style of an English rondeau, which follows the rhyme scheme of aabba aabR aabbaR.  This structured form draws attention to the refrain (“In Flanders Fields”), as well as the ‘b’ rhymes as they contrast with the ‘a’ rhymes.  This can be seen especially in the last stanza as “die” contrasts with “grow” (McCrae ln 13-14).


“A Shadow on the Wall” is written, or at least translated, in free verse, and does not rely on rhyme or meter for emphasis, but rather on line- and stanza-breaks.  Most notably is line 14 “unforgettable” (Benn).  The very fact that that is the only word in that line makes it stand out and be unforgettable.  Also noteworthy is the stanza break between the third and fourth stanza, leaving line 16, “where did it go?” to stand alone at the end of the poem.  This draws attention to that question, and adds a note of forlorn heartbreak to the text.


The speakers of the poem “In Flanders Fields” are the dead who perished during the Second Battle of Ypres.  A metaphor that is made throughout the poem compares the graves of the soldiers to beds, telling how the soldiers now “lie / In Flanders Fields” (ln 8-9) and that they “shall not sleep” (ln 14). The speakers of the poem encourage those who are still fighting to continue on.  They have passed “the torch” (ln 12) to the new soldiers, and it is their job now to fight for their country and fellow man.  This tone of hope is likely one of the many reasons that this poem became so famous.


“A Shadow on the Wall” has a less hopeful tone that “In Flanders Fields.”  In the former the speaker references the listener’s desire to back away from analyzing anything to deeply.  Seeing a shadow and hearing the trees blow is all the nature that the listener can stand to see and hear, but the speaker is pushing for the listener to look deeper.  The speaker is demanding that the listener take responsibility for what is around them, particularly with the phrase “dwelling especially / on the poppies, / unforgettable / because they transported the summer — / where did it go?” (Benn ln 12-16).  Looking at the cultural implications through the lens of hindsight, it is possible that Benn was demanding of his countrymen, or perhaps of all those involved in the war, that they see the damage the fighting was causing, and the lives it was destroying.  The youth, the summer of our lives, was taken from those fighting in the war.


In both of the poems there is a focus on the elements of nature that are remembered.  “In Flanders Fields” draws attention to the poppies blowing across the landscape (McCrae ln 1) and the larks singing out despite the gunfire (McCrae ln 4-5).  The speakers also emphasis that they remember the dawn and the sunset (McCrae ln 7).  In “A Shadow on the Wall” the images from nature are again emphasized.  The trees are blowing in the wind (Benn ln 2) and the poppies are growing in the fields (Benn ln 10-13).


I think it is interesting to examine the works of two different poets who have experienced the same historical event, but on the different sides of the conflict.  This set is particularly interesting to me because they use similar imagery, and focus on similar themes.



4) Compare and contrast two mythological or folkloric tales from two Indo-European cultures. Include a discussion of the use of narrative point-of-view, the element of time, and any relevant issues of religious (or other) bias influencing the narrative. (minimum 600 words)


Dragons and dragon slaying are a myth and legend that many cultures have found fascinating, and as such have told stories that relate to these great beasts. These can all be classified as the Aarne-Thompson Folktale type 300: The Dragon Slayer (“Aarne–Thompson Classification System”).  Hittite mythology tells how the Sky God Teshub slays the dragon Illuyanka.  Norse mythology tells how Sigurd slays the dragon Fafnir.  Christian mythology tells how St. George slays the dragon. There are many iterations of this myth across many cultures, not just Indo-European cultures.


In Greek Mythology, one of the famous stories that tells of a hero fighting a dragon is the tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece.  King Pelias sent Jason on a quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece, which was, unfortunately, guarded by the fierce Dragon Kholkikos in the sacred grove of Ares at Kholkhis.  The dragon supposedly never slept, and hoarded the fleece in his jaws.


Some versions of the story say that Jason slew the dragon and made off with the fleece.  Pindar, in Pythian Ode 4 says “he slew that drakon of the glaring eyes and speckled back” (Atmsa).  Other versions of the story describe how Medea, the daughter of Aietes (the King who felt he owned the Fleece), put the dragon to sleep so that Jason could go in and steal the Fleece out from under him.  Apollonius Rhodius, in the Argonautica, says Jason heard Medea “in her sweet voice invoking Hypnos” and calling on Hekate to aid her.  The dragon, “enchanted by her song” relaxed except for his head and jaws.  So “Medea, chanting a spell, dipped a fresh sprig of juniper in her brew and sprinkled his eyes with her most potent drug; and as the all-pervading magic scent spread round his head, sleep fell on him” (Atmsa).  Then she called to Jason, who was able to come and steal the Fleece.


Depending on the version of the story you read, will change on the point of view you get.  Many versions tell this story from the third person limited point of view, allowing the reader to see what is going on around the main characters.  We can see the actions of the characters, and are also privy to some of the motivations behind a few of the characters.  For example, we know that King Aietes feels the Fleece belongs to him, and that he hopes to trick Jason so that he will fail in his quest.  We also know that Medea has fallen in love with Jason (thanks to a little help from Aphrodite) and plans to help him however she can.  We are not, however, given the opportunity to see inside the hero’s head and instead only learn about him through his actions and speech.  In the version told in the Argonautica by Apollonius Rhodius, there is dialogue that helps flesh out the characterization.  Because the Greeks were writing things down before other religious influences took hold, we can be reasonably sure that this text is relatively free from outside issues of religious bias.


When Jason and his Argonauts arrive at Kholkhis, there is a series of things that Jason ends up having to do before he actually confronts the dragon.  Apollonius Rhodius tells a version of this story: Jason meets with King Aietes, who feels that Fleece belongs to him.  The King agrees to give the Fleece to Jason if he can complete a few simple tasks “to test [his] courage and abilities” that prove him the equal of King Aietes.  First Jason must plow the fields with the fire-breathing bulls, and sow dragon teeth in the field.  The dragon teeth then sprout into fierce warriors, who luckily turn out to be not terribly smart, and Jason defeats them through quick wit.  This plowing and sowing, and subsequent fighting, all took place over the course of a day.  King Aietes claims that this is what he does each day, and “if you, sir, can do as well, you may carry off the fleece to your king’s palace on the very same day.’” (Atmsa).  Following this incredible feat, Jason and Medea sneak to the grove where the dragon and the Fleece are that same night, meaning that this whole ordeal takes place within the same 24 hour period.


An interesting note about the Dragon Kholkikos is his obsession with wealth. In Imagines, Pilostratus the Elder says that the dragon is supposedly “devoted to gold and whatever golden thing it sees it loves and cherishes; thus the fleece in Kholkhis and the apples of the Hesperides, since they seemed to be of gold, two drakones (serpents) that never slept guarded and claimed as their own” (Atmsa). This matches up well with the mythological theme of dragons across cultures. We always hear of dragons hoarding gold, or wealth.


This hoarding is also true of Vrtra, the dragon in the Rig Veda that Indra slays in order to free the wealth, the waters in this case, and disperse it out to the people.  This story is told in Book 1, Hymn 32 of the Rig Veda.  Vrtra, the dragon on the mountain, was hoarding the waters all for himself and his kin.  Then Indra, the Thunderer, having drank of mighty Soma, struck the mountain with his thunderbolt and slew Vrtra and his kin. Vrtra broke in to pieces, and still tried to challenge Indra, but Indra continued to remove the limbs of the dragon, until finally he slew him “with his bolt between the shoulders” (Griffith RV 1.32.7). When Indra slew Vrtra the waters flowed forth like cattle, finally free, down to the ocean.


In the story of Indra slaying Vrtra, we aren’t given as clear a time frame as we are with the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece.  We know that there were many things that Indra did, and one of them was this great deed of slaying the Vrtra, the dragon, and setting the waters free.  To do so he drank Soma, took up his lightning bolt, and went up to the mountain to confront the dragon.  He broke Vrtra into pieces, until finally with a final blow he killed the beast.  The timeline in the hymn jumps back and forth between what happened before the slaying and what happened after the slaying.  Each line seems to tell us ‘Indra slew the dragon, and here’s how’ or ‘Indra slew the dragon, and here’s what happened after’ or ‘Indra did this to prepare, and then slew the dragon.’  This keeps the reader from getting a clear sense of timing, but also lends a sense of timelessness to the hymn as well.  One thing that seems clear is that this happened a very long time ago.  This story is told from the third person point of view as well, but in this one we’re not given any indication what the characters are thinking, or even what they are saying.  The only descriptions we are given in the hymn are the actions that are taken by the characters and the results of those actions.  Additionally, like the Greek texts, the Vedas were codified and written down long before the influence of a religious bias could take hold and alter the text of the hymn.



Works Cited:


“Aarne–Thompson Classification System.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <–Thompson_classification_system#Supernatural_opponents_300.E2.80.93399>.


Atmsa, Aaron. “The Dragon Kholkikos.” The Theoi Project, 2011. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <>.


Aurobindo, Sri. “The Book of Beginnings: The Symbol Dawn.” Savitri. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1999. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <>.


Benn, Gottfried, and Michael Hoffman. “A Shadow on the Wall.” Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, 1 Mar. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <>.


“Gottfried Benn.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <>.


Griffith, Ralph T. H. “Rig Veda.” Internet Sacred Text Archive. 1896. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <>.


Kālidāsa, and Ralph T.H. Griffith. The Birth of the War-God. London: Wm. H. Allen, 1853. Print.


“Kāvya.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 1 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Feb. 2015. <āvya>.


McCrae, John. “In Flanders Fields.” Lost Poets of the Great War. Ed. Harry Rusche. Emory University, 1919. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <>.


“Papaver Rhoeas.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <>.


Violatti, Cristian. “The Vedas.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited, 18 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Feb. 2015. <>.



General Bardic Studies

  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)

Ancient Greece was very prolific in the arts. One is able to see what types of bardic arts by looking at the gods. The Greeks honored the nine Muses as the leaders in these arts. Each had her own specialty: Calliope was the Muse of epic poetry; Erato, love poetry; Euterpe, lyric poetry; Melpomene, tragedy; Thalia, comedy; Clio, history; Urania, astronomy; Polyhymnia, sacred song; and Terpsichore, dance” (Littleton). They were well honored by the artists of their time. Most plays, epic poetry recitals and works of music and art began with an invocation to the nine muses to hear and bless the works. The first of the bardic arts to flourish in Ancient Greece is the oral tradition of poetry. This was because writing had disappeared for a time, and the stories and histories were kept alive through songs and oral poetry (Krentz). This reflects the value that the Greeks placed on remembering the past glories of their heroes and the stories that told of their people and their gods. Around 800 BC writing returned to Greece, and Homer is famously remembered for writing down two epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey (Krentz).

Once writing had returned to Greece a plethora of works began to be created, including drama, epic and lyrical poetry, philosophical essays, and histories. The dramatic plays in Ancient Greece were both tragedies and comedies. Not only were these written works of drama, but they were also often accompanied by music. Musicians also performed at festivals and private parties. “The music of the Greeks relied chiefly on melody and rhythm. Harmony was unknown to the Greeks” (Krentz). The plays told stories of the gods in such a way that they would be like the soap operas of their time. They also told of how the ethics and morals of the gods came into play in the lives of man.

The great tragic playwrights of the time were Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The tragedies explored human emotions and also how the people of Ancient Greece viewed the gods in their lives. Many of the tragedies that are described happen because the characters have offended the gods or have gone against one of the decrees or values that the society held at the time, such as controlling hubris, offering hospitality, and caring for one’s family. Aristophanes is the most famous of the comedic playwrights. “His plays reflect the spirit of Athens at that time, with the Athenians’ sense of freedom, vitality, and high spirits, and their ability to laugh at themselves” (Myrsiades). This is especially true because once Athens lost the Peloponnesian War, their freedom of speech was curbed and the comedy plays that included political satire were banned, meaning that only comedies about individuals and their personal problems could be written about. The comedic plays reflect the same types of stories that were told about the gods in the myths, making the gods lives more relatable to the humans on earth.

Another art form that Ancient Greece is known for is poetry. Epic poems, such as those written by Homer, are ones that often relate the histories of the people and the culture. In them, the reader can see how the people lived, what kinds of things they valued, and how they viewed and interacted with the gods on a daily basis. “The Iliad and the Odyssey emphasized ideals of honor and bravery and had enormous influence on Greek culture and education as well as Greek literature” (Myrsiades). The epic poems were tales that explained how intimately the people were involved with the gods, and how the gods were part of the lives of the people.

Hesiod is another famous Greek poet that wrote Theogony and Works and Days. These tell, respectively, the story of how the gods came to be, and how the Greek peasants lived. The former is an important piece of work because of how it codifies the stories of some of the gods and is where many of the creations myths of the gods are told; the latter is essential in understanding how the day-to-day lives of the people played out. It not only explained to the peasants how they should live, but also shows us now how they carried out tasks and how the gods influenced their lives everyday (Myrsiades).

One other art form that was prevalent in later Greek culture was philosophical writing. Prose became the preferred form of writing over verse. These later writings focused more on rhetoric, the art of composing and delivering persuasive speeches. These became an important part of life in Greece, especially in Athens, as a way to operate with a democracy. Famous orators, such as Isocrates and Demosthenes, used this bardic art in their political careers (Myrsiades).



  1. 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 seen in both Hellenic and Norse Indo-European cultures. The most notable examples of epic poetry in the Hellenic culture are The Iliad and The Odyssey. These were works by Homer that were excessively long (more than 16,000 verses) and followed a strict formula of repetitive hexameter using noun-epithet pairings. Homer used what is called “cumulative poetic structure,” where a verse is made up by adding phrase upon phrase, and a description of a single person or event is made up by adding verse upon verse (“Homer”). The works of Homer were likely written between the 7th and 9th centuries BC, more than 1000 years before the Poetic Edda was recorded 11th century.

Edda, meaning story or song, is what the Icelandic poet and historian Snorri Sturluson called his work, and it was later given to the Poetic Edda as well. The Poetic Edda is collection of 38 anonymous poems, with a bit of prose thrown in between, that tells the stories of the gods and heroes of Iceland. Twenty-four of the tales tell about the heroes of Iceland, their deeds and their values. The other fourteen are more founded in mythology, containing information about both the beginning and the end of the universe. The longest of the lays, “The Sayings of the High One,” is most useful in studied the medieval people of Scandinavia, because is reveals the morals they held and the wisdom they followed (Ringler “Edda”). The structure of the Poetic Edda uses alliteration and strophic, or chorus form. Like nearly all oral tradition poetry, these devices made the pieces easy to remember, and flow well off the tongue.

Both of these examples of poetry were the main ‘textbooks’ for the children and folk of their cultures to learn the legends and mythology of their cultures (Shelmerdine). The examples also hold similar worth to modern culture and studies today, being some of the important bits of written work from the culture that have been preserved and give us the same insight into those cultures as the ancient people had by reading or hearing them the first time. They differ in their writing style, Homer’s work being truly epic in size and scope while still telling a singular storyline, and the Poetic Edda being more serialized in it’s stories, much as an anthology would be. In structure, the work of Homer utilized the cumulative poetic structure in order to aid memorization, while the Poetic Edda used a variety of poetic devices.

Music & Song

Music is a truly ancient art that has its roots as deep as human history. People most likely began singing as soon as basic language was developed, and that singing has progressed and transcended through cultures and changing times and regimes. People use music and song to express feelings and ideas, like love, pain, sadness, and revolution. People use music and song in religious ceremonies and in work. Music is used to create sacred space and set a tone that separates sacred space from the ordinary world. Song is use in work to help the work seem easier by keeping spirits high and in tasks that require cooperate, keeping all the people in rhythm with each other (Tunks).

One of the oldest surviving pieces of music from ancient Greece is the Epitaph of Seikilos. It demonstrates the way in which music of the time still captured the motions and feelings of the folk then. Because the Greeks existed in a culture where writing flourished and was encouraged, the music is notated (surprising in what seems a rudimentary form of ABC notation) and the lyrics are clearly written in 4 lines of iambic pentameter. There were many other songs in ancient Greece that have passing descriptions, from work songs to songs praising a specific deity, to songs of advice, and songs recalling adventures. Most of these songs have not survived other than begin mentioned by writers like Athenaeus, Pollus, and Plutarch (Mathiesen).

The music of India first became popular in Hindu temples and in the courts of the maharajahs of India. Indian music operates very differently that Western music, using a different scale than we are used to hearing. The notes of the scale in Indian music are called ragas, and each has a meaning that is associated with certain moods, seasons, or time of day. Whereas Western music (with the exception of jazz) rarely improvises and uses written music to perform he same way each time, in Indian music that performer chooses a raga that fits with what they are trying to achieve with their music, and then improvises around the notes in that scale (Tunks).

These two cultures differ in their notation of music and the style of performing. Whereas the Greeks have many examples of written music, and perform the music as written, the Indians know the ragas, but rely on improvisation in performance rather than following a score of music.


Storytelling was a popular pastime for many ancient cultures. Oral tradition was a way to pass on information that couldn’t be recorded due to lack of writing or illiteracy. It connects generations, cultures, and societies (Carlson). Bards in ancient cultures were the transmitters of knowledge and the people who had the ability to bridge cultures as the ‘cultural paintbrush’ swept across Europe. They often did this through stories that explained how to react to different situations, taught morals, stories of the gods, and provided answers to what came before and what comes after. Early storytelling in cultures probably took the form of chants that praised the heavenly bodies and expressed joy in life. As people became curious about the world around cultures developed stories and myths that tried to explain natural occurrences, such as day and night and the earth and oceans. While many people in a community told stories, the best became the bards. They were the entertainers and historians of the group (Carlson).

In Scandinavia, there were poets called skalds. They were the court poets, and came mostly from Iceland. Most of their stories praised the kings and rulers whom they served. Much of their work is preserved in the Icelandic sags of the 1100s and 1200s. It was a formulaic form of storytelling that made it easy to memorize, thanks to regulated patterns of alliteration, consonance, and kennings (a type of extended metaphor) (Ringler “Skald”).

In the Celtic world stories were told by the filidh, the Celtic bards, who were educated upper-class men designated as guardians of their oral-based culture. They kept track of the Celtic history and mythology. Each filidh had at least 12 years of training in order to learn a huge number of stories, verse, histories, and genealogies. They were trained to maintain a deep concentration, be able to memorize easily and weave words as easily as a spinner weaves a tapestry. They were highly respected members of society, and it was an honor for people to host them in their homes in exchange for tales. The Celts believed the spoken word and the power of memory were gifts from the gods. “The spoken word held the power of breath, was literally inspiration, which was considered a gift from the great goddess Brigit, patron of poetry and divination” (Freeman). This power of the spoken word linked simple tales from entertainment to magical acts and gave words the power to invoke the deities. The title fili, which in generally translated as meaning “poet” or “storyteller,” has also been interpreted as meaning “weaver of spells.” As Christian religion came to the Celtic world the filidh survived taking over many of the roles that had once belonged to the other two groups of the three-fold division, the bards and druids (Freeman).

These two culture differ in their approach to storytelling in that the Norse skalds created stories based on how they would be received. They told of histories and conquests, and served the kings rulers. The Celtic filidh were part of the hierarchy and commanded respect and rank in their own right. They were highly trained and knew literally hundreds on stories. Another difference is the difference between stories that were written and those that were spoken. In Nordic culture the lays were more likely to be written down, even if later in history. In the Celtic world, because of the magical acts tied to the spoken versus the written word, tales weren’t written down much until Christians came and began writing things down, but influencing the written product.


The practice of law goes back far in human history, probably because fairness is universal human drive and desire, and justice is often considered an important virtue to cultivate. The important Gods of a pantheon nearly always contained one whose domain included Justice. For example Zeus in Greek mythology and Jupiter in Roman mythology both were defenders of Justice. Law is a bardic art because it was those educated people who were chosen by both the public and the will of the gods to dispense the justice that the gods demanded. The bards had the responsibility and skill to handle difficult conflicts and use the written laws to explain the consequences.

In Rome the people created their first written public code of law in 451 BCE called The Twelve Tables. It was simple and basic, printed on tablets that were attached to the speaker’s podium in the Roman Forum. The idea was that all Roman citizens were equal and afforded the same basic rights. They were based on civil, criminal and religious customs that dealt with everything from building codes, to marriage, to murder. The laws themselves were written up by decemvirs, members of a council of 10 men, and later all Roman boys were required to memorize these laws. It is thanks to this required memorization that the basic tenets of the laws were preserved (Bannon). The legal system in Rome grew and became more complex as time went by and more detailed tenets were needed to answer the growing problems. There was still a general law called jus gentium (law of nations) that was mostly common-sense ideas of fairness and took local tradition and customs into account. Rome became the first society with bards specially trained to interpret the law for people seeking counsel. These bards are now called lawyers (Nice). 

In Greece the first written code of law was introduced by Draco in 621 BCE. Before it was introduced many people in Athens were unhappy with the justice system because if was unfair and unclear. Only a few aristocratic judges knew the laws, and they often favored the higher-class citizens. When Draco put the laws into writing he made it so people could read for themselves what the laws were. It took a lot of the unfair power out of the hands of the nobility and put in back in the hands of the people where everyone was on equal ground. Draco is often criticized today for the laws he wrote because of how harsh the consequences were. “Draco’s code was said to be “written in blood” because it made almost all crimes punishable by death” (Kagan). However, even though the punishments may have seemed cruel or harsh, they were at least fair to all prosecuted. Before the written laws retribution for murder was left to the victims family, and bloody feuds between families happened all too often. The Draconian Code helped Athens become one of the first city-states in Greece because it placed the responsibility for upholding the law with the government (Kagan).

The difference in these two cultures is hard to separate due to their similarities, but exists more in the complexity of the laws. In the Greek culture, the laws were harsh, but equal. They were more a written form that clarified those customs and traditions that many knew. The Draconian laws are criticized later in history due to their harshness. This differs from the Roman laws, which are often praised for being the beginnings of modern law. The Roman laws were much more complex, probably in part because as the Roman Empire grew, so did it’s need to take other cultures into account. The Greeks didn’t have as much to worry about on that front, and so didn’t have as much need for specialized knowledge or specialized laws.


  1. 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])

Epic Poetry

Epic poems are long narrative poems. They generally tell the story of a hero and his deeds or the acts of the gods. At first epics were part of an oral tradition meaning that they were very formulaic. This allowed for the ease of memorization. The singers of these epics would play the lyre while they used the broad outline of a tale to sing their story. They used oral, formulaic writing, meaning that they had a set of memorized descriptions, phrases, and scenes that they fit into their story.

Later epics were written in a metered form, began with an invocation to a divine being for inspiration, and started in the middle of the story (in medias res). In Greek epics, such as The Iliad and The Odyssey, noun-epithet pairings were used to help the poet fit into the metered form (hexameter in this case) and to aid in memorization.

An example from The Odyssey that includes an epithet is: “So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to Orion, you precious gods were all of you furious till Diana went and killed him in Ortygia. So again when Ceres fell in love with Iasion, and yielded to him in a thrice-ploughed fallow field, Jove came to hear of it before so very long and killed Iasion with his thunderbolts” (Homer).


Lyric Poetry

Lyric poetry is called such because it was originally sung as lyrics, accompanied by the lyre. It came after the epics, as most often describes personal feelings rather than heroic acts. A famous Greek poet, Sappho, was especially well known for his compositions in melic poetry, a sub-section of lyric poetry. “No Greek love poetry has ever matched the passion and tragic feeling of Sappho’s verse” (Myrisiades). Melic poems are extremely emotional and rarely include didactic or satirical elements. It is also written for a single voice, as opposed to choral arrangements, which were meant to be sung by many voices. Melic poems were also mean to be sung in front of close friends of the gods, as opposed to in groups.

Here is a love poem written by Sappho in the lyric style, translated by Ambrose Philips:

Blest as the immortal gods is he,

The youth who fondly sits by thee,

And hears and sees thee, all the while,

Softly speaks and sweetly smile.


‘Twas this deprived my soul of rest,

And raised such tumults in my breast;

For, while I gazed, in transport tossed,

My breath was gone, my voice was lost;


My bosom glowed; the subtle flame

Ran quick through all my vital frame;

O’er my dim eyes a darkness hung;

My ears with hollow murmurs rung;


In dewy damps my limbs were chilled;

My blood with gentle horrors thrilled:

My feeble pulse forgot to play;

I fainted, sunk, and died away.


The art of rhetoric, or oration, is the art of writing and giving speeches that persuade others to the way you want them to see things using literary devices, such as similes, metaphors, and hyperbole. Speech-making began in Athens around 400 BC, and Aristotle wrote extensively on the art of rhetoric, famously divided the types of arguments one can use into three categories: “(1) ethical (the influence of the speaker’s personality); (2) pathetic (the influence of the speaker’s use of emotional appeal); and (3) logical (the influence of the use of formal principles of reasoning in proof)” (Copeland). These are still the same three categories that are taught in speech and argumentative writing classes today, where they are referred to as ethos, pathos, and logos. Cicero is perhaps the most notable orator, and is still remembered for his division of steps to prepare for a speech: “(1) invention (analysis of speech situation and audience, investigation and study of subject matter, and selection of speech materials); (2) disposition (the arrangement of the speech materials under what we now call introduction, discussion, and conclusion); (3) style (the use and grouping of words to express ideas clearly, accurately, vividly, and appropriately); (4) memory (methods of memorizing material); and (5) delivery (the oral presentation)” (Copeland). When working to write, memorize, and deliver a speech, it is still good practice to take Cicero’s five steps into account to be sure the speech carries the weight the speaker intends.

Here is an excerpt from a speech given by Cicero:

“When, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now? Do not the nightly guards placed on the Palatine Hill—do not the watches posted throughout the city—does not the alarm of the people, and the union of all good men—does not the precaution taken of assembling the senate in this most defensible place—do not the looks and countenances of this venerable body here present, have any effect upon you? Do you not feel that your plans are detected? Do you not see that your conspiracy is already arrested and rendered powerless by the knowledge which every one here possesses of it? What is there that you did last night, what the night before— where is it that you were—who was there that you summoned to meet you—what design was there which was adopted by you, with which you think that any one of us is unacquainted?”


Drama in the context of Ancient Greece fell into two very broad categories: comedy and tragedy. Both were used to both entertain and teach moral lessons regarding those who went against the laws of the gods or the customs of their culture.  Drama also often allowed the people of the city-states to examine a political situation that could not have otherwise been brought to light or been discussed. For instance, in Medea, when a match is made between Jason and Medea on questionable grounds, it all ends tragedy, with her children killed by her own hand, a reprehensible act. In the ancient version, the children were killed by the people of Corinth, but with Euripides retelling the people of Greece were able to examine the concept of the mother versus the motherland destroying her own people and for what reasons. Drama in our modern society is still used to draw eyes to situations and circumstances that could not be broached by polite discourse. Such is the case with The Crucible, commenting on the Red Scare, and Gone Too Far, commenting on racism.



  1. Bardic Figure: Describe the life, fame and general techniques of a historical or mythical bardic figure in a (preferably ancient) Indo-European culture. (minimum 300 words)

Homer is the great blind poet of Ancient Greece, blessed by the Muses and well known, specifically for his writing of The Iliad and The Odyssey. It is unknown if all of these works were even written by the same man or if two or more different men wrote them. Very little is actually known about Homer. The only things that are known about him have been gleaned from his works. He is thought to have been from Ionia, due the prevalence of the Ionian dialect in the epics, though there is no record of him having lived in any specific place. The people of Chios claim him, as his descendants and prodigies, the Homeridae, lived on Chios, one of the islands in Ionia. It is postulated that he lived sometime between the 7th and 9th centuries BC. The elements that point to this are certain technological and martial advances of that time period, as well as the slang and idioms common during that era. It was Homer who codified the epics in writing (“Homer”).

Before Homer wrote down The Iliad and The Odyssey the great bards of old were known as aoidos, or singers. Homer refers to them as such in his works, and describes them singing songs that tell stories, but could be related in one sitting to their audience. Before Homer, poetry remained an oral tradition, and as such descriptive details in the poems would change and grow with each telling and depending on who the audience was (Gascoigne).  When Homer wrote down his epic poems, he introduced a new concept: stories that could be recorded in writing, told nearly the same way every time, and told in episodes. These poems “could achieve new and far more complex effects, in literary and psychological terms, than those attainable in the more anecdotal and episodic songs of his predecessors” (“Homer”).

The style of writing that Homer used classifies him as an aoidos, though of longer works. It seems through his use of words in his work that he must have started as an ordinary aoidos and began memorizing and building his own repertoire of songs and phrases, thus it would have been easier for him to replicate the style and form in The Iliad and The Odyssey. He wrote formulaic poems, using commonly known epithets that were already being used in other works of oral poetry. These were used because they fit the requirements of hexameter, and were already accepted as the contemporary form of poetry and song at the time, and because of their easily memorizable nature.

The work of Homer is perhaps the most influential classical work in Western literature. This is in part to the sheer number of translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey, but also because of the value that the Greeks at the time placed upon the great epics. The stories reflect the values of the Ancient Greek culture, and as such were used as educational sources for teaching about morals and living in the world in general, and were viewed as a representation of the unity of the Hellenic peoples through their common heroes and acts of heroism. Homer did not only influence the writing of contemporary western society, but also many of the same things he used in his oral poetry are still observable in living oral traditions today. He was building on the ability of oral poets to elaborate and expand on existing works. An aoidos would listen to others tell a story and replace unfamiliar words or parts with some phrase, scene or theme he is already familiar with. He would also expand on the story to include parts that he knows that are missing. “Every singer in a living oral tradition tends to develop what he acquires” (“Homer”).  Homer, whether one man or many, has literature that has remained alive and viable for more than 2500 years, and as such is still considered an important part of our education today.

  1. 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).

The role of a bard in history had many faces. They were teachers and keepers of history, entertainers and mediators, and also aided in rituals by calling out to the gods and lending their energy. This is similar to how the role of the bard translates into the modern context.

The duties of the modern-day, Neopagan bard in the context of ritual include a few different things. The first of which is to be present to be sure the folk are prepared with the songs, and to lead in the energy raising that is produced with music and song. The bard is often also in charge of leading or having integral parts of the working or the Calling of the Waters. While this may seem to be a more priestly duty at first, it is also an act which requires a great deal of “meta-physical juice” and that is something that the bard is able to create and, with practice, control and guide in the workings required. In addition to this kind of energy work, the bard is often also tasked with being sure that the energy raised in a ritual doesn’t fade. For instance, between parts of the CooR, the folk can sometimes lose focus and thus the energy level will fall, but the bard can keep all the folk engaged and the energy level high with song while the leaders of the ritual prepared for the next portion.

In Ar nDraíocht Fein, the bard continues some of the same functions as she does in ritual, but also takes on more of the teaching and keeper of history role. This is something that we have not seen too much of yet, mostly I think because we are still a very young organization. As keepers of history, the idea of having the bards write out our history in song and story has been toyed with, but not too much has come of it yet. There have been a few who have written down some of the bigger happenings in ADF, but more have been on a playful note, rather than serious. This isn’t to say that the two can’t be mixed, but rather that there is a lot more that can be done to further the keeping of our own history. I also see the bards of ADF taking on a more active role in teaching through song. It is one of the most effective ways that young children are taught, and those methods work for many people. In addition, as ADF grows and matures as an organization more children will have the opportunity to be raised in our tradition, and it will be then that having songs to teach the young will be very beneficial.

As far of the modern-day, Neopagan bard in the larger community is concerned, I think there are leaps and bounds that can be made, especially using the “mediator-hat”. Music is a universal language, and that means that even if our beliefs don’t align exactly with other groups, or even not at all, there is something to be said for the power of music to bring folk together. As a larger Neo-Pagan community, there is a long way to go before equal rights are recognized for our minority status as a religion. If the modern-day bards, from multiple traditions, can create and perform music that helps to unite us as a movement, then that’s one more step that can bring us further away from having to fear prejudice in our secular community.


  1. Practical Bardry: Compose or find a bardic piece (of any appropriate genre or form) suitable for ADF ritual. Describe the process you used for discovery and/or composition of the piece and how it was (or could be) used effectively in a ritual context. (100 words [text of piece not to be included in word count])

This piece, “The Call the Brighde,” is something I wrote and use as an invocation when making offerings to Brighde in ritual space. I like using it because it addresses each of her domains succinctly, and as it praises her also asks for her blessing in those areas. As happens most often when I write, the tune came to me first, with some of the words to accompany it. I first worked out the rhythm and syllabic counts of each line (so it would fit the tune I kept hearing in my head), and then determined if I wanted to have a firm rhyme scheme. Then it was a matter of listening for the message and writing down the words that would fit with the format I’d come up with.

“The Call to Brighde”

Brighde of the Sacred Flame,

Hold me in your arms tonight.

Brighde with your healing words,

Fill me with your healing light.


Brighde of the heated forge,

Strengthen and temper me.

Brighde with your waters pure,

Let the rain wash down on me.


Brighde, you’re a poet wise.

Let your wisdom flow through me.

Brighde with you honeyed words,

Fill me with your melody.



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