Wales (6th Century) Timeline
Primal/Tribal/Shamanic : Celtic

Poems by Taliesin

Scholars question whether Taliesin was a historical person or an archetypal figure of Welsh lore. Traditionally Taliesin is said to have been a bardic poet-seer who lived sometime around the 6th century in post-Roman occupied Wales. It's difficult to say which of Taliesin's poems, if any, were actually composed by the historical figure (if he actually was a historical figure). Bardic poetry was not traditionally written down, but passed through the generations orally. The poetry attributed to Taliesin was only written down and gathered together centuries later, probably in the 13th century.

His name, Taliesin, means "shining brow" or, alternately, "great value" (tal, meaning both forehead and worth).

One legend is told of Taliesin in which he stole the "liquid mead of poetry" from a powerful sorceress. The sorceress chased him through a contest of transformations, Taliesin changing form, to be matched by the woman. Taliesin finally assumes the form of a grain of wheat and the sorceress, becoming a hen, swallows him, only to give birth to him as a baby in resurrected form. She took the baby, sewed him in a leather sack, and tossed him into the ocean. A prince rescued him and named the baby Taliesin because of his "shining brow."

This is, of course, a highly charged symbolic story. The sorceress is often identified with Ceridwen, the dark Goddess of death and rebirth, she who possesses the cauldron of inspiration that is also the night sky. The contest of transformations is an initiation process, the transformation of consciousness and identification with the multiplicity of forms of all life and the natural world -- only then is the mystic poet truly made ready to give voice to reality in verse. And the story of a child being thrown into the womblike water to be rescued by an adoptive parent is, of course, a metaphor for rebirth and initiation, variations of which appear everywhere from the Greek myths to the story of Moses.

Because of his legendary role as a bard and man of secret wisdom, Taliesin has sometimes been equated with the Merlin, the archetypal wizard of Arthurian tales.

The poems that come down to us in such works as the Llyfer Taliesin (Book of Taliesin) express a shamanic perception of the world. The poems are evocations and praises, often taking the reader along with the speaker through a series of transformations that lead to an awareness of unity.

Poems by Taliesin

Recommended Books: Taliesin

Technicians of the Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, Europe & Oceania Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman