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Druids Cutting the Mistletoe on the Sixth Day of the Moon, by Henri Paul Motte [ca. 1890-1900] (Public Domain Image)
Druids Cutting the Mistletoe on the Sixth Day of the Moon, by Henri Paul Motte [ca. 1890-1900] (Public Domain Image)

The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg

J. Williams Ab Ithel (editor)

Vol. I


Contents    Start Reading    Page Index   

The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg is a collection of writings, largely forged, about ancient Welsh Bardic and Druidic beliefs. Although the author of this work is cited as J. Williams Ab Ithel, he was actually the editor, who pieced it together from manuscripts written by Iolo Morganwg. Iolo Morganwg (1747-1826), itinerant poet and scholar, was a key figure in the Druid revival of the 19th century. He was personally responsible for reviving the Welsh national poetry contest, the Gorsedd. On June 21st, 1792, Midsummer evening, Iolo and a dozen other Welsh poets gathered on Primrose Hill in London and held the first Gorsedd in hundreds of years. Iolo was a Welsh patriot and held revolutionary views; he was a personal friend of Tom Paine, and George Washington subscribed to his first volume of poetry. He is said to have influenced both William Blake's poetry and Robert Grave's White Goddess. He revived the concept that the Welsh explorer Madoc discovered America. This led to an expedition to Mandan territory in the Great Plains, which found no trace of the Welsh, but was one of the inspirations for Thomas Jefferson's Lewis and Clarke expedition.

Iolo Morganwg's contributions to world culture are still with us today; there is an extensive neo-Druid movement; and the Gorsedd (and Welsh nationalism) are still going strong. The Gorsedd is held annually during the Eisteddfod in Wales, a festival of Welsh culture. Two other Celtic regions, Cornwall and Brittany, have also adopted the Gorsedd.

Iolo Morganwg, born Edward Williams, a native speaker of both English and Welsh, spent his entire life collecting and transcribing mediaeval Welsh documents, as well as writing poetry under his own byline. He was also a first-rate literary forger of ancient Welsh; some have commented that his forgeries were as good or better than the real thing. Furthermore, he wrote much of the Barddas under the influence of laudanum (an opium-based medication which he took for asthma). Scholars have spent two centuries trying to establish which parts of his extensive writings purporting to be based on ancient manuscripts are genuine, and which he wrote personally. Our understanding is still very murky. For these reasons, Iolo's writings are considered highly controversial.

Because Druidic beliefs were exclusively transmitted orally, we have no primary accounts of it, so there is practically nothing to compare this text with. What we do know is summarized neatly in the Preface to this work, and consists of a few excerpts from classical authors. The longest account is from Julius Caesar, who was more interested in exterminating Druids, so he was hardly a disinterested observer.

However, this is one of those visionary texts which is worth reading for its own merits, irrespective of whether it is 'genuine' or not. Taken at face value, the Barddas remains a fascinating text. It has resonances with the Upanishads, Kabbalah, and Freemasonry. The Bardic alphabet presented in the 'Symbol' section is completely invented, based on Runic and Ogham, and has utility as a magical alphabet. However it is about as genuine as the alphabets of J.R.R. Tolkien. The 'Theology' section appears to be based on Iolo's peculiar Christian views (he described himself as a Unitarian Quaker). 'Theology' also contains a great number of Triads, some of which may be from authentic ancient Bardic lore. The 'Wisdom' section has a great deal of mythopoetic information, some of which is authentic, some not. The Barddas is great reading if you are at all interested in the ancient Druids, as long as you keep in mind the background of its creation.

Production notes: I have omitted the Welsh text of this book, which was printed on the even numbered pages, but retained all page numbers. The English footnotes often started on the facing (preceding) page and occasionally continue on for several pages, so I have taken care to document page numbers in footnotes. I have omitted sporadic footnotes which were only relevant to the Welsh text, except in a few cases where they also impact the understanding of the English translation. These footnotes use asterisks instead of numbers.

John B. Hare, November 6, 2005.

Title Page
Welsh Manuscript Society


Julius Cæsar
Diodorus Siculus
Pomponius Mela
Diogenes Laertius
Ammianus Marcellinus
Druids and Bards


Llywelyn Sion
A List of Documents


The Origin of Letters, Roll, and Paper.--The Virtue of Letters
The Origin and Progress of Letters.--The Name of God.--The Bardic Secret
The First Inventors of Letters.--Improvers of the Alphabet.--Invention of the Roll and Plagawd.--Obligation of a Bard to Hold a Chair and Gorsedd
Origin of Letters
The Inventor of Vocal Song.--The First Recorders of Bardism.--Its First Systematizers.--Their Regulations.--Mode of Inscribing the Primary Letters.--Origin of Their Form and Sound.--The Three Menws
The Principal Elements of Various Things.--The Gogyrvens
The Invention of Letters by Einigan and Menw.--The Secret of Bardism
Cuttings.--Foundations of Awen
Origin and Progress of Letters.--Einigan the Giant.--The Gwyddoniaid.--Systems of Letters
The Origin of Letters and Books.--Their Introduction into Britain--The Coelbren
The Primary Letters.--Improvement of the Alphabet
Primary Cuttings.--Improvement of the Coelbren.--Its Restoration
Recovery of the Old Cymraeg
The Primary Letters.--Their Augmentation.--Restoration of the Coelbren
The Bardic Secret
The Sacred Symbol
The Primary Letters.--Improvement of the Alphabet
Gogyrvens.--Writing With Ink
The Three First Words of the Cymraeg
The Primary Letters.--Names of the Coelbrens
Classification of the Letters
The Bardic Secret.--Formation of Letters
The Vowels
The Primary Letters
Variations of Letters
The Sixteen Primary Symbols
Introduction of Letters.--Original Country of the Cymry.--Their Arrival in Britain.--Augmentation of the Alphabet
Coelbren of the Bards, According to the Arrangement of Llawdden
The Symbols of Literary Sciences.--Improvement of the Coelbren.--Metrical Canons.--Dissolution of the Monastery of Pen Rhys
The Pillars of Memory.--The Symbols
The Birds of Rhianon
The Five Ages of Letters
The Three Symbols of Sciences
The Three Primitive Symbols.--The Three Coelbren Symbols
The Nine Degrees of Numerals
The System of Numerals
The System of Numerals
The Numerals
The Arithmetical Characters of the Ancient Cymry; That is, the Numerals
The Three Symbols
The Materials of Language and Speech
The Three Wreathed Bards
Coelbren of the Bards
Coelbren of the Bards
Coelbren of the Bards
Coelbren of the Bards
Secret Coelbren.--Secret Coelvain.--Coelvain of History
Burning the Letters
Coelbren of Simple Letters
Palm Coelbren
Peithyn Coelbren.--Palm Coelbren
The Three Principal Materials of Knowledge
The Herald-Bard
Dasgubell Rodd


Triads of Bardism
Theological Triads
Theological Triads
Theological Triads
Theological Triads
Theological Triads
Theological Triads
The Three Imperceptibilities of God
The Bards' Enigma
The Twelve Primary Negatives
Bardic Aphorisms
The Divine Names
Hu the Mighty
The Circles
The Book of Bardism
The Three States
The Origin of Man.--Jesus Christ.--Creation
The Creation.--The First Man.--The Primary Letters
The Discipline Of Bardism. The Creation
The Creation.--Worship.--Vocal Song.--Gwyddoniaid
The Material of the World
The Fall In Abred
God in the Sun
God in the Light
Triads of Bardism
God; and the Faculties of the Soul
Sentences of Bardism
The Ten Commandments of the Bards
The Ten Commandments of the Bards
The Rudiments of Theology
The Triads of St. Paul
The Triads of St. Paul
The Triads of St. Paul and Bardism
Triads of Bardism and Usages
Triads of Bardism
The Mode of Taking Food and Drink
The Gorsedd Prayer
The Prediction of Peredur, The Bard of Prydain
The Stanza of the Gorsedd Chair of the Winter Solstice


Triads of Wisdom
The Elements
Triads of Bardism. The Elements
The Triads of Bardism, Called the Triads of Ionabwy. The Elements
Bardism, &c. The Elements
The Elements
The Elements
The Elements
Bardism. The Elements
The Materials
The Elements
The Elements
The Materials of Man
The Eight Materials of Man
The Seven Materials of Man
The Seven Primary Materials of the World
The Eight Materials of Man
The Parts of the Human Body in Which are the Faculties
The Philosophy of the Blue Bard of the Chair
Particular Triads
Triads of Ten Numbers
Mutual Reasoning Between a Disciple and his Teacher
The Stars
The Memorial of Computation.--The Memorial of Country
Memorial and Computation
The Cycle of Time
The Months
The Beginning of the Year
The Three Circles of the Sun
The Four Quarters of the Year
The Albans
The Divisions of the Year
The Divisions of the Year
The Divisions of the Year
The Divisions Of The Year
The Divisions of the Year
The Divisions of the Day
The Divisions of the Day
The Divisions of the Day
The Divisions of the Day
The Divisions of the Day
Years of the Sun and Moon
Years of the Sun and Moon
Years of the Sun And Moon
Days of Days