by Bard Entertainer Gaarik
In my organization, “Bard” has a specific meaning and cultural history to the word. As stated in the assignment question, our modern conception of bards is very similar to the tribal storyteller or wandering entertainers who spread news, stories of heroic deeds, and other entertainment to those they encountered. The skalds of the Norse were a prime example of this type of storyteller; their stories were often put in poetic form, a method beloved by many of the ancient peoples.
However, there are other aspects of the Bard in ancient times that I feel still have a strong influence on today. The fili of Ireland, often considered the Irish version of bards, were credited with the ability to satirize anyone who treated them ill, and thus curse a person – and his descendants – for generations. Skalds with training in writing were supposed to have similar abilities, through the erection of nidhing poles which detailed a person’s faults and failings. Words were a valuable and powerful weapon of the ancient entertainers, and we still see this today in the form of slanted media coverage and editorials in both the newspaper and blogs.
Further, much of the Bard’s work was considered in Gaul to have a divinatory purpose: specifically, a proper poet and musician was a diviner of the past, providing the window of history to their audience; this is the reason that “Bard” was one of three levels within the Gallic Druidic society of which Julius Caesar spoke. This is even more evident in today’s bards, though divination is not considered to be what the storyteller or musician or poet is doing through their arts. While the stories themselves may not be literally true, they showcase something evident throughout the ages of humanity: emotion, pattern, the human condition.
A bard today is part teacher, part entertainer, whether their medium is poetry, prose, or music. When something is entertaining, when it holds the attention of the audience, it tends to be remembered and conveyed. Bards today bring forth the window to the past just as certainly as their more “magical” ancient counterparts. The old tales are re-imagined, re-invented, and added to newer ones; the wisdom is passed from one generation on, in a method that will continue to hold the attentions of others. Words are still power, as are images and sounds; they continue to be interpreted and re-interpreted through the ages, and they continue to inspire and inform, all through the work of bards.