Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The History of the Heart, part one.

First of all, I’d just like to make something clear; it may appear from reading this blog that we’re somehow ‘hot housing’ our children or forcing them to learn solely about our own religion and culture.  This is far from being the case; obviously I only write about the things we do that are relevant to readers.  Gethin is a devotee of the Gruffalo and an initiate into the mysteries of Peppa Pig as much as any other 3 year old.  We read very widely and encourage him to learn anything that interests him.  Most of all, we play.

Having said that, you must forgive me for putting much more effort and love into teaching some stories than others.  This is no accident.  The stories of the great children’s bard of our time, Julia Donaldson need no embellishment to appeal to a young child;  the same, sadly cannot be said of the mythology of our people. The stories of Cerridwen and Taliesin, Pwyll and Pryderi, Branwen daughter of Llyr, Gwydion and Lleu, King Arthur and his journey into the Underworld.  Even Sioned Davies and Marged Haycock (may they be praised) can only do so much to enliven words that were written down in the 14th century by a dusty scribe who probably understood very little of the true meaning of the words he preserved in ink and vellum.   These stories are part of an oral tradition; they were never meant to be frozen in time.  We should learn them by a fireside, from the lips of a travelling bard accompanied by the music of a harp; allowed to stay up past our bedtime, at our father’s knee we should be awestruck at the beauty and wonder and magic of these tales.   We should drink them in with our mother’s milk, act them out in play, and sing songs about them.  That this doesn’t happen is a great tragedy.

Why tragedy? Because mythology is the history of the heart.  Is it any wonder that the British people feel the need to seek answers in the mythologies of any number of cultures around the world? We have lost the heart of our own people, the stories of our land and our ancestors.  They have been suppressed, rendered dry and dull when they should be anything but.  As a child I read voraciously and was especially interested in mythology; I was well versed in the stories of the Norse, Greek and Roman gods (there are even children’s’ books about them!) and of course the Judeo-Christian myths were taught at school and in church.  Why, then, was I in my twenties and searching…and searching…for meaning before I finally learned the stories of my own people? I have Philip Carr Gomm and OBOD to thank in part, and also the delectable Kris Hughes for taking dry, dusty words and teaching me to unlock the magic that lies therein.

All of this is a very long winded way of saying; we need to be the bards for our children.  Let’s reclaim our heritage and give them the gift of their own, very rich mythology.   It is part of their birthright. 

And as I've waffled on so much, there will be a part two; how we go about being the bards for our children :-)


  1. i sooooo agree, i love the way you write...i feel its always best to leave doors open in the minds for children...let them see our interests and let them explore their own...but i sooo love history in all aspects...its good to see what all around us and learn from it. Sophia had a week of 'chinese new year'...she loved making dragons!...she came home chanting new years blessings in chinese and said 'im now chinese mummy'...thats lovely huni i said hehe ;0)...i love the way children dont have worries or walls they build - they just like to learn and embrace new traditions and other countries ;0)

  2. Marvellously put Kristal, erudite, to the point and written with passion, just as I'd expect from someone whose skill at child friendly bardism needs to be seen and heard to be believed. I've never heard such a wonderful rendition of the gruffalo as the one you perform :) I so wish that I had been exposed to our native mythology as a child, the nearest I got was the owl service and children of the stones. Both of these left me with a yearning for more which I was unable to satisfy at that time. (that's left me wanting to track down a copy of the children of the stones-amazon here I come lol) so keep on barding Kristal :-)

  3. Thanks, very true Karen I love for them to learn all about other cultures; the more the merrier really, you can't have too many celebrations. Just as long as they also know our own stories...
    Chris, another really good one is the Snow Spider Trilogy. I must keep a list of them all for when they are older!