‘Bardic Studies for Liturgists’ Posts


Bardic Studies for Liturgists

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Congratulations! Your Bardic Studies for Liturgists submission passes.Blessings,
Rev. Michael Dangler

I’ll be honest, I liked this. No issues with the substance of what you wrote, though I see why you had some trepidation about this one. I liked your poems, and I think that you did a good job on the comparison pieces.

Honestly, the comparison bits are best done in the original languages, but I never expect people to learn Latin or Greek to get more depth on them. I think you chose good pieces and varied pieces, which is nice to see.



General Bardic Studies for Liturgists, #3

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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)

Gnaeus Naevius was a notable Roman epic poet from 270-201 B.C., who had a very good literary career until he made some satiracle comments about a well known Roman family which landed him in prison.  He was noted for his poem on the first Punic war and his adaption of Greek tragedies for the Roman stage, but his main notability was his comedy work. Eventually he was exiled to Tunisia where he commit suicide.  But not before he wrote his own epitaph below:

Immortales mortales si foret fas flere,
flerent diuae Camenae Naeuium poetam.
itaque, postquam est Orchi traditus thesauro,
obliti sunt Romani loquier lingua Latina.

English Translation:
If immortals were allowed to weep for mortals,
the divine Muses would weep for the poet Naevius.
And so after he was delivered to the strongbox of Orc[h]us,
Romans forgot how to speak the Latin language.

One of his epic poems, Bellum Punicum, is said to have created the Roman form of epic poetry (Gnaeus Naevius) in the style of metrical chronicle.  This is the piece where he started chronicling the first Punic war with a mix of history and mythology.  His satirical nature, influential writing, and clearly arrogant thought process from his own epitaph show him as a very strong and eccentric writer.  His style is very much the storyteller, and often in third person.

Aratus is a Greek poet from around 315 to 240 B.C., roughly the same time frame as Naevius.  He is well known for a hexameter poem called “Phaenomena” which is about the constellations and various things celestial.  He was influential in regards to greek astronomy in both Greek and Roman culture.

English Translation:
Let us begin with Zeus, whom we mortals never leave unspoken.
For every street, every market-place is full of Zeus.
Even the sea and the harbour are full of this deity.
Everywhere everyone is indebted to Zeus.
For we are indeed his offspring …

— Phaenomena 1–5

Further in the Phaenomena, as translated by G. R. Mair:

[724] Let Ophiuchus setting from both feet even to his knees be a sign of the rising of the Twins in the East. Then no longer is aught of Cetus beneath the verge, but thou shalt see him all. Then, too, can the sailor on the open sea mark the first bend of the River rising from the deep, as he watches for Orion himself to see if he might give him any hint of the measure of the night or of his voyage. For on every hand signs in multitude to the gods reveal to man.

Aratus, to me, writes with more of a poetic passion than Naevius.  Less arrogant, maybe even somewhat flighty while mixing fact and fiction in his stories. Even Virgil is said to have borrowed considerably from Aratus (Full Text).  The Apostle Paul even quotes Aratus in the book of Acts, just to show an even broader range of Aratus’s subtle influence with his Diosemeia.

In the Diosemeia, he writes as translated by J Lamb:

 And as the skies above, the waves below
Signs of the rising wind and tempest show
When the long hollow rolling billows roar,
Breaking in froth upon the echoing shore ;
And through the rugged rock and craggy steep
Whispers a murmuring sound, not loud but deep.

In comparison to Naevius, they both write in a metrical style, both wrote in third person, and both were fairly respected in their society.  Greek and Roman culture were, as we know, very similar in both culture and beliefs.  It makes sense that their style of poetry would be similar if not influential on one another.  Aratus was influential across both cultures, and the stories from Naevius lead to satirical versions of some of our more well known epic Greek tales.  His adapted tragedy, “Aegisthus” spoke of Aegithus and his involvement in exiling Agamemnon and Menelaus to Sparta, where the king gave two of his daughters, one of which happened to be named Helen.  This is another example of a cross-over of tales from Greek to Roman culture.

(Word Count: 522)


General Bardic Studies for Liturgists, Citations

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  1. “Cú Chulainn.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
  2. Jones, Mary. “The Death of Cu Chulainn.” The Death of Cu Chulainn. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
  3. “Beowulf.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
  4. “Ulster Cycle.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Oct. 2013. Web. 27 Oct. 2013.
  5. Hall, Lesslie. “Beowulf.” The Project Gutenberg EBook of Beowulf. The Project Gutenberg, 19 July 2005. Web. 27 Oct. 2013. <http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16328/16328-h/16328-h.htm#page_93>.
  6. “Gnaeus Naevius.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.
  7. “PHAENOMENA, TRANSLATED BY G. R. MAIR.” Classical E-Text: ARATUS, PHAENOMENA. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.
  8. “Full Text of “The Phenomena and Diosemeia of Aratus”” Full Text of “The Phenomena and Diosemeia of Aratus” N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013.

General Bardic Studies for Liturgists, #4

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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)

The two tales I plan to discuss are the deaths of Beowulf and Cú Chulainn of both Northern and Irish lore.  Beowulf was written sometime between the 8th and 11th centuries, and the version of a story regarding the death of Cú Chulainn is written by Mary Jones.

In the final end of Beowulf, a slave wakens a dragon while attempting to steal goods.  The dragon burns much of Beowulfs kingdom, so in retaliation he moves to slay the dragon.  Upon entering the dragon’s lair, most of the men that accompanied Beowulf fled except for Wiglaf.  During the battle, Beowulf is fatally wounded, but not before being able to strike the final blow.  Shortly afterwards, he names Wiglaf as his successor to his kingdom.  This is a very summarized version of the epic tale, but it gives you the bare bones concepts

Charged on the strong one, when chance was afforded,
Heated and war-grim, seized on his neck
With teeth that were bitter; he bloody did wax with
Soul-gore seething; sword-blood in waves boiled.
Later to lessen. The liegelord himself then
Retained his consciousness, brandished his war-knife,
Battle-sharp, bitter, that he bare on his armor:

and cuts the dragon.

The Weder-lord cut the worm in the middle.
They had felled the enemy (life drove out then
Puissant prowess), the pair had destroyed him,
In these two portions, Beowulf is wounded by the dragon, but later lays the final blow.  Since Beowulf has no sons, he gives his succession to the one that stood by him in battle.  Those that fled and later came back to claim treasures, Wiglaf scorned them for their cowardice.
This particular story is a heroic tale that helped inspire much of our known influences in modern heroic tales.  It’s a story told in third person, not from an individual perspective.  This is a typical format for these types of epic tales, especially in Northern lore.  They build up a great deed and often times come to a climatic ending that helps to inspire people through story.  What boggles me the most about the story of Beowulf, is that despite being one of the oldest surviving pieces of literature we have, it was not really even paid attention to or influential until the early 1800’s when it was published in its entirety.
Because the Angl0-Saxon author is anonymous, we really don’t have any information on whether it is influenced in any way religiously.  We can assume that because of its Scandinavian background that it has heavy Scandinavian influences, but it does not appear to be Christianized.
The death of Cú Chulainn from Celtic lore, mainly the Ulster Cycle, has more of a mythological approach.  Since he is the son of a God and is told to have a massive “war frenzy” that throws him into a unrecognizable monster that can destroy both allies and enemies, he has less of a mortal take on heroic deeds than our fare Beowulf.
In the death of Cú Chulainn, he is essentially tricked into breaking one of two geasa’s or “taboos”.  One banned him from eating the flesh of dogs, and the other was the inability to refuse hospitality.  An old crone offered him dog meat, so it was his loss to have to choose which of these geasa’s to break, which caused him to be weak in his arm and thigh.  He is later given a fatal blow by one of Lugaid’s magical spears.  Cú Chulainn ties himself to a stone so that he would die on his feet.  This intimidated many of the men that came for him because they thought he was still alive.  Due the “war frenzy” that everyone feared, it wasn’t until a raven landed on Cú Chulainn’s shoulder did anyone dare to approach him, thinking he was now dead.
Then said a Crone to him: “Visit us, O Cu Chulainn.”

“I will not visit you in sooth,” said Cu Chulainn.

“The food is only a hound,” said she. “Were this a great cooking-hearth thou wouldst have visited us. But because what is here is little, thou comest not. Unseemly are the great who endure not the little and poor.”

Then he drew nigh to her, and the Crone gave him the shoulder­blade of the hound out of her left hand. And then Cu Chulainn ate it out of his left hand, and put it under his left thigh. The hand that took it and the thigh under which he put it were seized from trunk to end, so that the normal strength abode not in them.

Lugaid then cut off Cú Chulainn’s head, but when the sword fell from Cú Chulainn hand, it chopped off Lugaid’s right hand.  In revenge, Lugaid cut off Cú Chulainn’s right hand as well and took his head and hand to Tara.
So here we have what can be perceived as a more powerful character than Beowulf, but his death, while ultimately more feared by man, was not as greatly fought as I would consider Beowulf’s death.  This could be because of different reasons such as Cú Chulainn being the son of a God and giving more of a mystical and magical feel as opposed to Beowulf who is mortal.  This could also be because Cú Chulainn is killed by not a massively feared creature like Beowulf, and the fact that Beowulf had genuine struggle and courage in his final battle. Cú Chulainn, while awesome, is seen as a bit more arrogant for the Irish tales, where the Northern lore depicts Beowulf as more honorable.
Like Beowulf, the Death of Cú Chulainn, at least as posted by Mary Jones, is written in third person. I have to admit, the language used in a lot of the Irish lores is even more difficult for me to read once over than the northern lore.  I usually have to glance over them more than once to understand what is going on.  A lot of the events in the Ulster Cycle are supposed to take place around the time of Christ, so there could certainly be a Christianized influence (or vice versa) on how a lot of these stories played out.  For example, the stories of Conchobar’s birth coincide with the birth and death of Christ.  The story of Cú Chulainn and his birth and death are symbiotic to the reign of the High King Conaire Mor, who is mentioned in Lebor Gabála Érenn as a contemporary Emperor Augustus.  So there are some coincidences here to keep note of in regards to religious influence.

(Word Count: 882)


General Bardic Studies for Liturgists 1, #2

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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)

I’m focusing on three poets from the Greek culture, Homer from seventh century B.C., Hesiod from around 650 B.C. so relatively close to the same time as Homer, and Sappho around 600 B.C.E.

Homeric Hymn to Athena

(ll. 1-4) Of Pallas Athene, guardian of the city, I begin to sing. Dread is she, and with Ares she loves deeds of war, the sack of cities and the shouting and the battle. It is she who saves the people as they go out to war and come back. (l. 5) Hail, goddess, and give us good fortune with happiness!

A Portion of “The Theogony” by Hesiod

(ll. 226-232) But abhorred Strife bare painful Toil and Forgetfulness and Famine and tearful Sorrows, Fightings also, Battles, Murders, Manslaughters, Quarrels, Lying Words, Disputes, Lawlessness and Ruin, all of one nature, and Oath who most troubles men upon earth when anyone wilfully swears a false oath.

I have a daughter golden by Sappho

I have a daughter, golden,
Beautiful, like a flower –
Kleis, my love –
And I would not exchange her for
All the riches of Lydia……

There appear to be more blatant differences in style between the eras of these poets.  Sappho appears to write in a more direct and personal style.  In most of her work she uses less metaphoric wordings than Homer or Hesiod, but she does attempt to use generic metaphoric wording in this particular piece, comparing a daughter to a flower.  She’s very expressive in her poetry, there is more emotional and individual touch to her thoughts and life than the prior two poets.  Here she speaks of love for a daughter and the sharing of that love with someone named Kleis.

Homer writes in a more Epic style, but in his hymns towards particular deities, like Sappho he does write from a  first person perspective.  But his style is inherently different.  He writes with less personal emotion, less direct individualism than Sappho.  His writing is more like a ritualistic praise offering than a personal expression.  In his hymn to Athena, he offers her praise for her guardianship, speaks of her influence in battle and the protection of the people.  Hymns like this helped us to understand the nature of the Gods worshipped during this time period.

Hesiod writes in the same Epic style, but expresses in a more storytelling form and with less emotional and no direct correlation like the prior two mentions.  Hesiod, like Homer, writes more lengthy stories, less direct and more intended to tell great tales than express personal events and thoughts.  He seems to write in the direction of massive metaphoric comparisons, which don’t really make some of his writing style that easy for me to read.  However he does offer a whimsical poetic style in his wording, such as another piece that reads:

And there are shining gates and an immoveable threshold of bronze having unending roots and it is grown of itself (25). And beyond, away from all the gods, live the Titans, beyond gloomy Chaos. But the glorious allies of loud-crashing Zeus have their dwelling upon Ocean’s foundations, even Cottus and Gyes; but Briareos, being goodly, the deep-roaring Earth-Shaker made his son-in-law, giving him Cymopolea his daughter to wed.

Here again he uses his epic style to put a lot of emphasis on the greatness of the lore of the Greeks.  Words like ‘glorious allies of loud-crashing Zeus’ and ‘deep-roaring earth-shaker’ to give weight to his stories.

(Word Count: 317)


General Bardic Studies for Liturgists 1, #1

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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.

Poem #1: A Poem to Frigga in Cinquain form for a Harvest Mabon Ritual

Queen of the Aesir, Wife of Odin
You rival his wisdom, and to him you’re beholden
Keeper of  the hearth & and keeper of the home
A high seat of Asgard, rests your great throne

Through wells of knowledge, you store all things
But you tell not, what the future brings
For your gift of prophecy is yours alone
No matter the cost, you keep hidden what is known

Patron of mothers yet mother to all born
It is to you that my loyalty is sworn
You suffered greatly, the loss of your son
The spear of the berry bush, through the chest it had run

Beloved Frigga, Lady of the Marsh
Your lessons honed with love, but harsh
You keep the balance between spiritual and mundane
May we always keep kindled, your eternal flame

(Line Count: 16)


Poem #2: A Poem to my Patron Athena for use during a Midsummer Rite to Athena and Zeus, Freeform

Lady Athena, grey-eyed daughter and favorite of Zeus
Sprung from the head of your father, strong and proud
Born ready for battle, a suit of armor and spear
Skilled in crafts with yarn and cloth
Sharp with with numbers and strategic prowess
Patron of heroes and champions, winners and losers
You company with the owl of wisdom and a shield of snakes
You hold victory in your hand to give to those that you favor
You teach peace and fight wars, you protect your people and nurture their spirit
Pure as the driven snow yet fierce as the high sun
We honor you for the gifts you have given your people
Gifts of thought
Gifts of strength
and gifts of skill
Your gifts of practicality and knowledge of a thousand ages
Bless us now to open our eyes and utilize your gifts and blessing for the road ahead

(Line Count: 16)