Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Review: The Bardic Handbook

The Bardic Handbook: the Complete Handbook for the Twenty-First Century Bard
by: Kevan Manwaring

I had the joy of receiving Kevan Manwaring’s book, The Bardic Handbook: the Complete Handbook for the Twenty-First Century Bard as a gift, and I must say that it is one of the best gifts I’ve been given in a long time. For those of us following a Bardic Path through the forest of Our Druidry, a book such as this is like a Field Guide!

This book is set up as a practicum spanning one year’s time and is full of stories, poems, exercises and scholarly references that stand up to our high standards for research in ADF. It begins with a guided reflection on the reader/student’s “Bardic Beginnings” and quite a bit of historical information regarding the Bards of Old. There are twelve chapters, one for each month, spanning five sections, one for each, element, including Spirit. Each chapter and section begins with descriptions of the goals and principles laid forth by the author, walks the student through a series of exercises and ends with a review. The objective purpose is to declare oneself a Bard with an ultimate goal to “declare your chair,” or get yourself out there, performing and experiencing the bardic arts in more than just pen-and-paper form. But, even those of us content to remain out of the spotlight may gain mountains of experience by following the course of the book.

Manwaring, hailing from Bath, Somerset, England has spent quite a bit of time steeping British Druidry. The differences between British Druidry and American Druidry are sometimes jarring if you aren’t particularly familiar with the British version of the path, but learning about the differences and similarities between the two forms is just as rewarding to the American reader as the bardic training itself. For those of you familiar with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), you will recognize quite a bit of material from the Bardic Grade of their training program.

Looking at the content in more detail, I would go so far as to say that this book has done for bardic training what Diana Paxson’s Taking up the Runes did for those studying Runelore—Manwaring’s work scours many paths of paganism for the exercises, writing tools, and magical workings regarding Bardic Arts relevant to a functional Bard in our modern society and put them all into one cohesive whole. Manwaring is first and foremost an Actor, and he is a man who writes about what he knows. This book is heavily based on written word, such as theatre, poetry and storytelling with little emphasis on singing—a welcome addition to the myriad volumes on nothing but the use of vocal skill alone!

Overall, this is an excellent book for the beginning Bard, and his second book, The Way of Awen, is on its way to my bookshelf soon! If nothing else, check out the glossary. That alone is worth the cost of the book.

About the Author: Kevan Manwaring holds a Master’s of Arts in the Teaching and Practice in Creative Writing from Cardiff University. He currently teaches creative writing for the Open Univeristy and Skyros Writer’s Lab as well as runs freelance courses in storytelling and various aspects of the writing process. Manwaring has appeared in numerous television shows throughout the world, including USA, Italy and Malta in addition to the BBC. Finally, Kevan co-runs the Bath Writer’s Workshop and is the founder of Awen Publications. He also does correspondence work. For more information about Kevan, please visit

Manwaring, Kevan. The Bardic Handbook: the Complete Handbook for the Twenty-First Century Bard. Gothic Image Publications, Somerset, England: 2006.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Imbolc with the Cranekin

Sunday evening, the Cranes celebrated Imbolc with our customary ritual to Brigando. This rite is very special to many of us, and I definitely felt much deeper connections to both Brighid and my core grovemates. I am seeing more and more faces that I don't recognize, which is good, but the contrast between the unknown folk and the grovemates with whom I am close makes those close connections seem all the more personal and real. I left with a very full heart, even though I had to leave early. In addition, I think the fact that we do almost the same rite every year for Imbolc has a lot to do with the focus on interconnectedness. New and exciting rituals are new and exciting, but the focus of such things is always on the rite itself. When one can actually do a ritual in the dictionary sense of the word, something repeated until it becomes second-nature, the mind is free to travel into the otherworld and work the magic that lies beyond the mechanics of the rite.

I allowed Brighid to guide my song choices. I had no idea what I was going to be sharing with the folk until it was time to play, and it went very well. This is rather new for me, opening up and doing the work "off the cuff." It's not something that I am a) comfortable with or b) good at, which tells me that I need to do it more often. Funny how that works.

Our omens were very good. Shawneen pulled Oghams for us:

Have our offerings been accepted? Elder, Guidance and Shielding
What gifts do the Kindred offer us in return? Ash, The World Tree, interconnectedness between the worlds. (Yep. I felt that!)
What further needs do They have of us? Oak, Strength.
Taken together: with the guidance of our Sky Fathers and the Mothers of us all, we are shielded and protected from harm. Let none be diminished through ignorance. Connected to our community, our families and our Kindred, we are called upon to wisely weave together our strengths for the betterment of the folk.
Overall, it was a very good ritual, and I am fully recharged and ready for the work ahead of me. But, that's another post!