Taliesin's (Gwion's) cycles of inspiration, decoded

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David Dalton
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Taliesin's (Gwion's) cycles of inspiration, decoded

Postby David Dalton » 24 Jul 2015, 03:32

Feel free to pass this information to any scholars,
particularly Welsh druids, that you know who might be
interested in collaborating with me in this research.
I am also interested in finding out if there is any
evidence that Gwion had a blue rose vision like me.

On my Salmon on the Thorns webpage
I analyze patterns and significant episodes in my mood
cycles and compare them to those of past figures.

The first such past figure I discovered, and the one I
have the most evidence for, is Taliesin (Gwion Bach),
who I define as the poet who wrote the quotes I give
below (since some work attributed to him may have been
written by others much later).

From the beginning of 1993 to early September 1994 I
three times experienced a 5.5 lunar month (162 days,
6 Carrington solar rotations) separation between a
waxing gibbous moon trial onset and a waning crescent
inspiration/high onset. (I predicted the third such high.)

In the following I refer to the book Taliesin: Shamanism and
the Bardic Mysteries in Britain and Ireland by John Matthews
(with additional material by Caitlin Matthews). The Aquarian
Press/an imprint of Harper Collins, 1991 ISBN 1-85538-109-5.

On p. 97 as part of the poem The Hostile Confederacy, several
lines read

"Seven score muses
There are in the inspiration of song;
Eight score in every score
In the great abyss of tranquility
In the great abyss of wrath..."

The seven score muses I think refers to the number of
lunar months (of 29.53 days) in an 11 year solar sunspot cycle.
As it turns out, there are 136 lunar months in 11 years
but 140 lunar months from the first waning crescent high
is equivalent to 7 years (which turns up in stories of
other celtic figures such as Amergin and Fionn) from
the time the low years begin. (So after 7 years of low
years, or 11 years and a few months after his first high,
Gwion entered into a period of sustained productive
creativity, or p.102: "Gwion has kept the cauldron
Steadily boiling...")

The eight score, in days, corresponds to the above-mentioned
5.5 lunar month separation.

I think the great abyss of tranquility is depression,
and the great abyss of wrath is paranoia.

Taliesin also mentions "three times in the prison of
Arianrhod" (p.238) which I think refers to the
waxing gibbous moon trials (with release no later
than full moon), and "three times inspired by Ceridwen"
which I think refers to the waning crescent (old moon) highs.

The 5.5 lunar month separation is also related to the
following quote from Matthews' book, p.321,

"its inspiring brew ages over five cauldrons, (brewing)."

I discuss Taliesin (Gwion Bach) some more on my Salmon
on the Thorns web page, particularly on the subsubpage
http://www.nfld.com/~dalton/celtic.html .

David Dalton
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
(but I am from Lake View, on the Avalon Peninsula)

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Welsh Mythology
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Re: Taliesin's (Gwion's) cycles of inspiration, decoded

Postby Welsh Mythology » 03 Nov 2015, 17:07

Hi David, interesting idea, but you should know that the translation by John Matthews is faulty. Refer to the more recent work by Marged Haycock, The Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin. As is common in the Matthews' works, the over simplification of the text misses the main thrust of the poetry. The 'great abyss' of the text is actually Annwfn, and the 'muses' are in fact a technical term ogyrfen. Annwfn is a very misunderstood concept these days but essentially the poem is talking about something very specific in terms of the Welsh Awen, of which an ogyrfen is one part. Check out this blog post for a fuller explanation on what Annwfn means in the Welsh bardic tradition and how it effects our understanding of Awen: http://welshmythology.com/2013/12/25/al ... ry-part-1/
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OBOD Ovate
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Re: Taliesin's (Gwion's) cycles of inspiration, decoded

Postby DaRC » 04 Nov 2015, 16:57

that the translation by John Matthews is faulty
Perhaps a bit harsh :wink: I know from my translation of A-S poems that it's particularly hard to translate multi-layered kennings, often laced with humour, into understandable & poetic English. I agree that the use of abyss does not contain the lawful aspect you refer to in the post and for me, I think this is where it gets interesting...
1. a deep, immeasurable space, gulf, or cavity; vast chasm.
2. anything profound, unfathomable, or infinite: the abyss of time.
3. the primal chaos before Creation. the infernal regions; hell. a subterranean ocean.
Which is where the classical & Christian view of the deep underworld as a chaotic, unordered, hellish place whilst (I think) you are suggesting the Celtic view of the Annwfn is a place of law, order and higher thought which perhaps says much about their world view.

BTW you mention ogyrfen on part 4, what are your thoughts on the 7 score meaning?
My immediate thought is that 7 * 20 sounds similar to the training that the Irish Fili / Ollamh underwent where knowledge would be the root of imbas/awen/inspiration.
http://welshmythology.com/2014/02/27/al ... ry-part-4/
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun;
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame. (Havamal 68)
http://gewessiman.blogspot.co.uk Image

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Re: Taliesin's (Gwion's) cycles of inspiration, decoded

Postby Welsh Mythology » 08 Nov 2015, 09:49

Hello DaRC

I was actually being polite! John Matthews 'translation' is awful IMHO. As has been said before, its a mish-mash of older nineteenth century translations, Skene and Gwenogfryn Evans all thrown together. For someone claiming to be interpreting Book of Taliesin material, missing the importance of Annwfn in that context is a bit telling. I'm not pretending translation is ever easy, but there's a basic level you need to be attaining if you're publishing a 'new reading' of something, particularly when the interpretation your proposing is so far removed from the tradition you're claiming to discuss.

Annwfn probably became confused with the Classical and Christian conception of the abyss around the time of the writing of Culhwch and Olwen, probably as a result of Church propaganda against their main competition in Wales, the Bardic Guilds. I think its also quite likely that this propagandising was a reaction to the native belief that Annwfn was, amongst other things, the realm of the Tylwyth Teg and the realm of the dead ancestors. The bardic ideals are almost always reflections of the honoured dead. No wonder this became the hell of punishment for non-Christians. But yes, as suggested in the blog posts, Annwfn is also the a positively charged place, not that dissimilar to the platonic realm of ideals. The subterranean aspect being a metaphorical description for the 'deep world', or a world within a world, as we find it in the Mabinogi.

As far as the 7 score goes, I think its difficult pinning down meanings to numbers in the text, although I can see the attraction. I think in this case it just means 'many' or 'numerous'. On the other hand, I would say there's plenty of material that shows the Welsh and Irish traditions were basically the same, with regional variations.
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