What is the Gorsedd?
The Gorsedd's history.
The Gorsedd of the Bards is an association made up of poets, writers, musicians, artists and other people who have made a distinguished contribution to the Welsh nation, the language, and its culture.
Gorsedd y Beirdd members are present on stage during three of the main Eisteddfod ceremonies dressed in their white, blue and green robes, being led by the Archdruid. The colours of the robes denote the different ranks. In the same way that the Gorsedd emblem has three shafts, the Gorsedd has three orders of merit:
- The Ovate Order - green robe, which includes the Bardic Ovate, the Musician Ovate and the Literature Ovate. Membership on passing the first two Gorsedd examinations. Honorary members on the recommendation of the Gorsedd Board in recognition of service to Wales.
- The Order of Bards, Linguist, Musicians and Literati - blue robe. Membership of this Order can only be obtained on passing the final Gorsedd examination. Graduates who have been successful in Welsh and Welsh Literature, or Music, in their Final Examination may also apply.
- The Druidic Order - white robe. This order is restricted to those honoured by the Gorsedd Board for their substantial contribution to Literature, Music, Scholarship, Science or Arts in Wales. Green and blue robed members can be elevated to this order. Chief Bards and Prose Medal winners are also accepted to this order.
A Chief Bard (Prifardd) is one who has won the Chair or the Crown of the National Eisteddfod and wears a laurel garland on his head-dress. The Archdruid is elected from the Prifeirdd and winners of the Prose Medal. Every applicant for membership of the Gorsedd must be a Welsh speaker (except for members of the Royal family).
Bryn Terfel, the actor Ioan Gruffudd and ex-Welsh rugby star Gareth Edwards are all members. This year in Cardiff, the actor Matthew Rhys, singer Heather Jones and Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the Welsh Assembly President, became members of the Gorsedd.
The Gorsedd first came together in 1792, not in Wales, but on Primrose Hill in London. The Gorsedd was created by Iolo Morganwg, one of Wales' most famous and eccentric bard scholars, who wanted to let the world know that the Welsh had direct links to the Celtic culture and heritage.
The Gorsedd of the Bards first became officially associated with the Eisteddfod at the beginning of the 19th century, when it was held in the Ivy Bush Inn, Carmarthen. The link has continued until the current day.
The head of the Gorsedd of the Bards is the Archdruid, who is elected for a term of three years and is responsible for conducting the Gorsedd ceremonies during Eisteddfod week. These ceremonies (the Crowning, the presentation of the Prose Medal and the Chairing) are held to honour literary achievements among Welsh poets and writers.
The bard and retired farmer Dic Jones from Aberporth near Cardigan has been elected as the Archdruid this year, and began his three year term at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff.
The chairing of the bard for the best work in strict verse and the crowning of the bard for the best work in free verse are ceremonies of great pageantry. If there is a winner - the judges have been known to deem none of the entrants good enough (this happened in the Chairing ceremonies at both Cardiff's 1960 and 1978 National Eisteddfod) - the successful bard, known by their alias, is asked to stand - and only then is their identity revealed.
Gorsedd Stones (Cerrig yr Orsedd)
Many towns and villages in Wales have a circle of Gorsedd stones, left as a mark of a National Eisteddfod being held there. Nowadays, a replica set of man-made stones are moved from Eisteddfod to Eisteddfod.
Images of the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff.