Bardic Pilgrimage: Taliesin

Bedd Taliesin

Bedd Taliesin, Llangynfelyn, Ceredigion

Today was a big day. For years, I have wanted to pay my respects at the grave of Taliesin, Primary Chief Bard of Britain. Never mind that this is a Bronze Age round cairn and the real Taliesin lived sometime in the 6th century. If you’ve read any of Taliesin’s poetry you’ll know that such a thing would present no problem at all to this shape-shifting and time-bending master poet.

Anyway, I’m not in the mood for the dry factuality of history. Today is a day for myth and poetry. Such a monumental day, in fact, that I was actually feeling a little jittery when I pulled up to the farm; not least because it felt weird driving through the closed farm gate, past the farmer and parking outside his house. 

The cows weren’t helping either. The first thing I heard was some very indignant bellowing in the field next to the cairn. Had they picked up on my nervousness? I tried saying hello to them, but they were not to be appeased. They just kept staring at me and mooing in a most disconcerting manner. I was glad there was a fence between us.

The cairn itself is in a glorious location overlooking the Dyfi Estuary, with Snowdonia shimmering away in the distance. I don’t doubt that the location of the grave was chosen exactly for its commanding position. It also appears to be on the crossroads between two ceremonial roads: Sarn Helen and The Black Road. Both roads are associated with Welsh goddesses: Cerridwen and Elen of the Roads. I had previously read that the Black Road led to a ceremonial site associated with Cerridwen. However, when I tried to find the reference again, there was no trace of it. Sarn Helen is said to be the road built by Macsen Wledig for Elen of the Roads, after she visited him in a dream. It links South and North Wales, from Carmarthen to Caernarfon, and felt a very appropriate road to walk as part of my south-north Welsh pilgrimage.… I looked longingly along the track…and then swung right and started walking up The Black Road. As Taliesin’s initiatrix, it was Cerridwen that I had come to meet.

Sarn Elen
Sarn Elen – The Road Not Travelled

 A bit along the road I realised that I had forgotten to listen at Bedd Taliesin. How on earth did I manage to do that? I was certainly in a giddy mood and the cows had really thrown me. But, I couldn’t blame the cows. I would listen as I walked instead.

It was a bright, warm August day with a light refreshing breeze. The skies were clear, the rowans were in berry and I could see the mountains of Snowdonia ahead of me. I was totally and utterly alone and I was off on an adventure in search of Cerridwen. I couldn’t have been any happier.

Until I met the cows. They were standing on the road and there was really no way around them.

I think they must be linked on some cow wavelength to the cows back at the farm, because it looked as if they had been expecting me. When one of them took a step towards me, I did what anyone with a shred of self-preservation would do: walked sharpish back the way I’d just come.

Cows on the Black Road

Well, I’d failed to listen to Taliesin’s grave and I’d failed to find Cerridwen, all because of the cows. All because of the cows? Just Listen to myself! Ah, Listen to myself. Perhaps THAT was what I should be doing here.

Back at the grave, it was just as I suspected it would be. The cows had gone. I sat down next to it and listened to myself, really and fully for the first time in a long time. To my hopes, dreams, longings, worries and regrets. Then, I told them all to Taliesin. Just in case he was listening too.

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