This is the last day to get ready for the Eisteddfod. This year it’s in Flint in north Wales. Fortunately, my twin sister lives nearby so I don’t have to take my tent. My two colleagues, Sion and Rhian, are already up there preparing for the Cytûn (Churches Together in Wales) tent. It should be good.
Sometimes, people from outside Wales don’t quite get the Eisteddfod. It’s a huge and usually welcoming cultural event but it has attached to it the little understood Gorsedd of Bards with its rather druidic and colourful ceremonies. The Gorsedd is something for lots of Welsh nonconformist ministers to do in August. It has some prominent Anglicans as well as a whole galaxy of non-believers.
There was quite a stir in Saint David’s Eisteddfod in 2002 when Rowan Williams was made a member of the Gorsedd. Those not so bright people from the London press pack thought that he was going pagan or Unitarian. Even Sky news came down to observe the event.
I’ll always remember a strange delegation of two from the Church of England (Continuing) coming down on the wrong day to challenge the Archbishop. One was tall and the other was short and both had bright yellow pamphlets. I discerned that I had upset them a bit by reminding them that key members of the UK royal family, including the current Queen, were members of the Gorsedd.
They were also a bit worried about all the Gorsedd stones. It’s all pageant and ceremony really. It happens elsewhere as well – especially England.
According to that fantastic Scottish campaigner Robbie the Pict mentioned in George Monbiot’s Captive State the famous Stone of Scone isn’t really the ancient throne of the northern kingdom. Robbie is convinced that all the kings and queens of England crowned in Westminster Abbey since Edward I have been crowned over a stolen toilet lid from Scotland. Robbie was very much of the view, however, that it was a Scottish toilet lid. He reported the stone stolen to the Chief Constable of Perthshire in 1993. Robbie then launched a private prosecution of the Dean of Westminster. If I were the Church of England (Continuing) I wouldn’t bother too much about Welsh stones. At least they aren’t stolen.
In 2002 I lost a small group of asylum seekers in the rain at the Saint David’s Eisteddfod. They were all wearing ‘S4C’ (the Welsh version of Channel Four) plastic coats the last time I saw them on the Eisteddfod site. They just got fed up and went home early. Perhaps I’ll find one or two of them at the Flint Eisteddfod if it rains a lot. If I do, I'll let you know.
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