By Mike Gleason
Bardic Tales from the Mabinogion, by Hughin the Bard
CD: Llewellyn, 1567186556, 57 minutes 16 seconds, 1997
This CD contains a bit less than an hour’s worth of music (57 minutes 16 seconds), and 16 tales ranging across the mythos of the Mabinogion. Some are light-hearted and stir joy in the heart, and others tells tales of heroes and heroic exploits.
The tone of the songs and the sound of Hughin’s voice remind me of two songsmiths I had the pleasure of listening to in the early days of my Pagan experiences in the Midwest, at pagan Spirit Gathering (and their predecessor – Midwest Pagan Gatherings)) – Jim Alan of Circle and Gwydion Pendderwen of Nemeton.
Although not acapella, the sound of the human voice is far and away the dominant impression carried throughout this recording. The instruments provide support, but do not overwhelm.
The CD is divided into two approximately equal parts – Tales of Olde Dyved and Children of Don, representing two different threads of myths. All of these songs, and many more, may be found in A Bard’s Book of Pagan Songs, by the same author (ISBN 1-567180603-3 © 1996 published by Llewellyn).
While you don’t need the book to enjoy the CD, and you don’t need the CD to enjoy the book, they do make a wonderful combination. I had owned the book for several years before acquiring the CD. It provides a wealth of music to be shared and enjoyed.
For those of us who grew up on either Irish or American flak music, this music draws us back to those days. But, even if you are unfamiliar with the content of the Mabinogion (a collection of ancient Welsh tales), even if you have never heard a bard sing the history of his people, even if you couldn’t name a single folk song, these songs will seem, somehow, familiar. The rhythms course through our veins and our lives.
To hear these tales told in song is to be drawn back in time when a visiting bard was a major event in the life of a village. There would be entertainment for a night or two, and the youngsters would heard of the glory of their ancestors, and dream of the glory they would win for themselves and their families.
This CD is no substitute for sitting down and reading the Mabinogion (there are a few translations out there). It is, however, a good inspiration. After hearing this CD you may find yourself looking around for such a translation. These versions of the tales are kept very simple. If they weren’t, this would be a multi-disk set.
I wouldn’t recommend it for ritual – vocals tend to be a distraction from invocations and magickal focus – but for an after-ritual potluck, as an introduction to a class on Welsh mythology or the magick of music, or simply to set an enjoyable mood for a Pagan gathering, it is certainly an appropriate choice. And, it is fun to listen to as well.