The Cornish Gorsedd

Gorseth Kernow is a Cornish organization, which exists to maintain the national Celtic spirit of Cornwall. It also provided examinations for language learners until that function was taken over in 1967 by the Cornish Language Board (Kesva an Taves Kernewek). The gorseth is a non-political organisation.

One can become a bard if you have been deemed to have made an important contribution to Cornish culture. Although Cornish is used in Gorsedd ceremonies today, only about one in twenty of the bards has an active knowledge of the Cornish language. Bardships are awarded for reasons like study of the language, services to Cornish music, encouraging the arts (especially amongst children).

 

The three major Gorseths in Britain are recorded in an ancient Welsh triad as being held at Moel Merw and Bryn Gwyddon in Wales and Boscawen Un in Cornwall. The revived Cornish Gorseth was inaugurated in 1928 by Arch Druid Pedrog of Wales on the request of a small group of Cornish scholars including Henry Jenner and Robert Morton Nance on the pattern of the Welsh Gorsedd.

The first ceremony took place at Boscawen-Un stone circle in 1928. It was modeled on those already established in Wales and Brittany. The Cornish language scholar Henry Jenner become their first Grand Bard. There were specially designed blue druidical robes. A crown and breastplate were made of Cornish copper for the Grand Bard, with intricate Celtic designs and sporting the Awen, the Cornish Gorsedd’s distinctive symbol of three descending rays of light.

The Cornish Gorsedd (sometimes spelled Gorseth in Cornwall) has been held annually since, and is held in different places in Cornwall each year, sponsored by local members of the Federation of Old Cornwall Societies.

The Gorsedd begins with the sounding of the Corn Gwlas (the Horn of Peace) to the four directions of the compass, followed by a prayer in Cornish. Then comes the ceremony of the Offering of the Fruits of the Earth. Bards who have passed away since the last Gorsedd are commemorated, and then new bards are initiated .

The Ceremony of the Sword closes the day’s events. The Sword Bearer holds aloft a partly unsheathed sword and together the audience declare their fealty to Cornwall, and the Gorsedd closes with another call to peace.

Since 1988 the Barthes An Orseth Kernow Yn Australya has convened its own Cornish Gorsedd every other year in Moonta, South Australia.

Award winning Gorsedd Poems book

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