The Deep Music (book review)

The Deep Music is an anthology of writings, some essays, some creative, some poetry, of contemporary awenyddion (for those of you not familiar with the term, an awenydd is one who is inspired. But, as this collection makes abundantly clear, the form of inspiration is quite specific.) The awen, the “poetic inspiration” as explored through the writings and experiences of these contemporary awenyddion, gives us an insight into the nature not only of this inspiration (which I will go into later) but into the way in which a community can come together and successfully fill a void in tradition with a living, contemporary energy.

The collective from which these writings were originated in a collaboration between the poets and awenyddion Lorna Smithers and Greg Hill who created the Awen ac Awenydd website in 2015 and, in Lorna’s words, “perceived a void in information and discussion about inspiration, spirit work, mysticism, initiatory experiences, and relationships with the gods in the Brythonic tradition.” This collaboration has grown into a network of people who communicate with each other and the world through various means and from this communication seems to be growing a new and vibrant understanding of awen and the awenydd, deeply rooted in a traditional form. 

In the opening chapter “The Way of the Awenydd”, Greg Hill, first shows how the bard and the poet is the stalker of the clues that lead to the Otherworld, in tales, in inspiration, in landscape. Greg’s own poetry sings of these connections to me. Catriona McDonald sings stories from the Welsh Tradition into new landscapes. Others tell of madness, and beauty, and love, and the Gods. Throughout it all, the energies, the forces that formed the tales our ancestors told round winter fires on cold nights, that shaped the great stories of the Mabinogi, that inspired the poetry of the Bards… these forces still shape us, shape our art, shape our actions.

What the book demonstrates to me as a whole is that while each of these awenyddion are working as individuals, they collectively work within a living tradition. The writings demonstrate a consistency, both about the work of the awenydd and the nature of awen. They show that poetic inspiration is a meaningful and valuable way of knowing and of engaging with the world in a collective sense, not just in some vaguely “my truth is as meaningful as your truth” sense (sorry, personal bugbear 😉 ).

Most people (in the context of contemporary paganism) are brought to awen through contemporary Druidry… through one of the courses run by one of the various Orders, or through books, and then to greater or lesser degrees (according to inclinition) through study of the works of the medieval bards. This anthology shows that there is a third way (some may say the first)… the way of the inspired ones… the way that comes when awenyddion come together and see the empty space that they must fill.

The Deep Music anthology is edited by Lorna Smithers, Greg Hill and Lia Hunter. If you are interested in reading The Deep Music, it can be found here