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General Bardic Studies 1, Requirement 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)

The bardic arts in the Celtic world were widely respected. In particular, our modern idea of the eccentric and poor poet is an almost complete role reversal from their status in Ireland and Wales in particular. Poets were expected to learn hundreds of stories and myths and underwent rigorous training, despite serving in a mostly hereditary position. (Rees, 16) We also find that the poets were not only entertainment, but also legitimation, as they kept the historical and genealogical records of the various kings and nobles. The poets of Ireland also acted as judges, and master-poets retained equality to kings before the law. They also were said to be able to prophecy and divine. (Rees, 17)

What we find is a huge overlap between the usual triple division of the priestly class: Druids, Vates, and Bards. This leads to the question of what, precisely, the division was between these three groups? More than likely, the division was negligible at best: like most jobs, the overlap was a considerable amount. It is interesting to note that while this tripartite division of the Celtic priesthood is very common in classical sources, it is rare in native sources. (Ellis, 207)

The role of the bard seems to be primarily influenced by the fear of mortality that all humans share. In particular, the bard holds the key to eternal remembrance. Not only can he ensure that your descendents continue to rule by retaining their genealogy (meaning that every ruler is tied to the institution of the bards to retain their own throne), but he can elevate a normal warrior who has distinguished himself in battle and also make him immortal (a similar concept to the Congressional Medal of Honor, which retains records of the heroic acts of various American service men and women, granting them a measure of immortality).


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