The Role of a Modern Bard

The Role of a Modern Bard

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by Jan "Skylark" Avende

A bard in history has many faces.  They were teachers and keepers of history, entertainers and mediators, and aided in rituals by calling out to the gods and lending their energy.  This is similar to how the role of the bard translates into the modern context. 
 
The duties of the bard of Ar nDraíocht Fein in the context of ritual include a few different things.  One of them is to be present to be sure the folk are prepared with the songs, and to lead in the energy raising that is produced with music and song.  The bard is often also in charge of leading or having integral parts of the working or the Calling of the Waters.  While this may seem to be a more priestly duty at first, it is also an act which requires a great deal of “meta-physical juice” and that is something that the bard is able to create and, with practice, control and guide in workings when required.  In addition to this kind of energy work, the bard is often also tasked with being sure that the energy raised in a ritual doesn’t fade.  For instance, between parts of the Core Order of Ritual, the folk can sometimes lose focus and thus the energy level will fall, but the bard can keep all the folk engaged and the energy level high with song while the leaders of the ritual prepared for the next portion.
 
In Ar nDraíocht Fein, as well as in other neo-pagan religions, the bard continues some of the same functions as she does in ritual, but also takes on the teaching and keeper of history role.  This is something that we have not seen too much of yet, mostly I think because we are still a very young organization, and religion in general.  As keepers of history, having the bards write out our history in song and story has been toyed with, but not too much has come of it yet.  There have been a few who have written down some of the bigger happenings in ADF, but they have been on a playful note, rather than serious. This isn’t to say that the two can’t be mixed, but rather that there is a lot more that can be done to further the keeping of our own history.  I also see the bards of ADF taking on a more active role in teaching through song.  It is one of the most effective ways that young people are taught, and a method that works for many people.  As ADF grows and matures as an organization more children will have the opportunity to be raised in our tradition, and having songs to teach the young will be very beneficial.
 
As far of the modern-day, Neopagan bard in the larger community, I think there are great strides that can be made, especially using the “mediator-hat”.  Music is a universal language, and that means that even if our beliefs don’t align exactly with those of other groups, or even not at all, there is something to be said for the power of music to bring folk together.  As a larger Neo-Pagan community, we have a long way to go before equal rights are recognized for our minority religion.  If modern-day bards, from multiple traditions, can create and perform music that helps to unite us as a movement, then that’s one more step that can bring us into the mainstream religious and secular community.