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.

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